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Old 12-06-2011, 05:54 AM   #571 (permalink)
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A good boppy one to bounce around in your ear for some time today, this was quite controversial when released back in '73, dealing as it does with the touchy subject of police brutality. It's 10cc with one of their all-time classics, “Rubber bullets”.
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Old 12-06-2011, 06:04 AM   #572 (permalink)
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Tuesday, December 6 2011
Midnight blue --- ELO --- from "Discovery" on Jet


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Old 12-06-2011, 09:02 AM   #573 (permalink)
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Cold winds on timeless days --- Charred Walls of the Damned --- 2011 (Metal Blade)


Now there's an album title and band name that belongs right up there with the greats! The brainchild of ex-Iced Earth's Richard Christy, “Cold winds on timeless days” is the second album from this kind of spinoff from that band, with their former vocalist Tim “Ripper” Owens also involved. The name of the band, it appears, came from a phrase used by the host of one of those fundamental Christian radio stations, on whom the guys had played a telephone prank; it's a reference to Hell, of course, as seen by the Moral Right, a place where the ungodly will apparently be putting their “nails in the charred walls of the damned”. Nice.

It starts off with deceptive laidback guitar before the title track, as such --- it's actually titled “Timeless days”--- kicks in with exploding guitar solos and stomping drums, Owens' vocals cutting through the cacophony with the power of Dickinson and Dio combined. There's great melody though, and it's clear this is no hastily-thrown-together project, all musicians complementing each other and melding together almost as one as Steve DiGeorgio lays down solid basslines alongside Jason Suecof's burning guitar, Christy's pounding drums hammering out the rhythm as the song, actually the longest on the album, goes along. It's followed by “Ashes falling upon us”, another fast pounder, with a real anthemic chorus --- I can imagine this going over well live. Great guitar solo from Suecof, like the metal gods of old. Don't hear that too often these days.

This album is odd in that it really has two title tracks: there's “Timeless days”, as already mentioned, and then you get “Cold winds”, so either could lay claim to being the title track. Good stuff, but nothing is really standing head and shoulders above the rest yet, marking itself out as truly great. “Lead the way” is a lot faster than previous tracks, veering close to speed metal territory, with a pretty dramatic feel about it --- speed metal opera? “Guiding me” is also a decent song, but so far I'm waiting in vain for anything special, something that lifts this album out of the ranks of the ordinary and makes it something more than just another metal outing.

Okay, for just a minute “The beast outside my window” sounded like it might have been the track I was waiting for. Started with nice acoustic guitar intro and seemed like despite the title it might have been a slow song, but then kicked into high gear and became another more-or-less-indistinguishable from the rest. Ah well. “Bloodworm” has some nice ideas and an interesting melody; probably qualifies as the best track so far, though to be fair that's a pretty short list, sadly.

And that's about it really. The closer, “Avoid the light”, comes and goes without making any real impression on me, and the album is over, having had a similar lack of effect. A real pity, as I had hoped this would be a great album. But I guess sometimes a great name and title and a decent pedigree doesn't necessarily guarantee that the product is going to live up to that promise. Not a bad album, per se, just nothing special. I wouldn't say avoid it like the plague, just as I wouldn't advise anyone to rush out and buy it.

TRACKLISTING

1. Timeless days
2. Ashes falling upon us
3. Zerospan
4. Cold winds
5. Lead the way
6. Forever marching on
7. Guiding me
8. The beast outside my window
9. On unclean ground
10. Bloodworm
11. Admire the heroes
12. Avoid the light
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Old 12-06-2011, 02:04 PM   #574 (permalink)
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It's particularly depressing when an album starts out really well, and you get yourself all geared up for a really great experience, then like a football match with one spectacular goal in the second minute, the rest is as boring as watching paint dry. But you keep watching, just in case something good happens. And now and again there's an individual flash of brilliance: a close shot, a great tackle, an incredible save, but the end result is the same. The score remains at the final whistle the same as it was when that wondergoal was scored, and though yes, it's been worth it just to see that moment of genius, you could really have just switched off or left after that, as nothing that followed has ever come anywhere close to emulating that one moment of magic.

So it is with certain albums, this being a case in point. The first track is great, then it dips seriously sharply in quality, and the next few tracks are nothing great. Halfway in or so there's another pretty good track, but by the time it's over your opinion is that the album was not worth listening to all the way through, and had you hit “stop” after that one track you probably would feel a lot better than you do now, having suffered through the rest of it.

Can't look away --- Trevor Rabin --- 1989 (Elektra)


On the face of it, this should be a good album. Guitarist with Yes on three of their biggest later albums, "90125", "Big Generator" and "Union", Trevor Rabin brought a freshness to that band that had for some time been sorely lacking, and there's no doubting his ability as a guitar man. Nothing wrong with his voice either, and though he didn't sing on any of the aforementioned albums, this is his fourth of seven solo efforts, and he has gone on to compose the music to literally dozens of films, including the likes of “Gone in sixty seconds”, “Con Air” and “Enemy of the state”. In fact, that seems to be where he's plying his talent mainly these days, and good luck to him.

The opener and title track just hits all the right spots. Starting off with a powerful guitar intro, as you might expect, it ploughs into a big cinematic opening, betraying Rabin's leanings and future career as a composer of movie soundtracks. When the singing begins it's through some sort of vocoder, which catches you offguard and you think this could be a problem if all the vocals are like this! But then after just two lines it settles down and Rabin's voice is clear and strong. The song is a joy, packed with guitars, keys and pumping drums, and ending with a great guitar solo and dramatic close to fade. Oh yeah, bring it on! More of this please!

Unfortunately, that's not what we get. Not at all. As an opener, "I can't look away" is also the high point of the album, and it's all pretty much downhill from there. After such a powerful start, the only way the rest of the album can be described is as anticlimactic.

The rest of the songs on “Can't look away” are, for the most part, pretty dire. Naturally, being a guitarist first and singer second, he includes a few instumental workouts on the axe, like “The cape”, which is lovely and reminds me of Mike Oldfield

though I find “Sludge” a little confused

While “Etoile noir” never gets a chance to get going, being only a few seconds over a minute long.

But the only other really good track on the album that stands out and makes it worth having plugged on is the excellent “Hold on to me”

(This, and the title track, both incidentally co-written with someone else). But then you have “Something to hold on to”

“Promises” I find quite weak

and “Sorrow (Your heart)” just doesn't work for me. I know he's a South African, but this is too Peter Gabriel for me.

“Eyes of love” is okay, but could have been so much better

And when he tries to be like Robert Palmer in “I didn't think it would last”, he's right...


It's not that it's a terrible album, but with a pedigree like Rabin has, and with the promise of the opening track, I just expected it to be so much better than it turned out to be.
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Old 12-06-2011, 05:54 PM   #575 (permalink)
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Wednesday, December 7 2011
Have a nice day --- Bon Jovi --- from "Have a nice day" on Island


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Old 12-06-2011, 05:58 PM   #576 (permalink)
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Hah! The worm guarantees you'll never get this tune out of your head! A
n boppy little instrumental from way back in 1972, could it qualify as the first ever techno song? Make up your own mind. It's called “Popcorn”. Yum!
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Old 12-07-2011, 05:09 AM   #577 (permalink)
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Windows and walls --- Dan Fogelberg --- 1984 (Full Moon)


Okay, I've been threatening to review a Dan Fogelberg album for some time now, and it's about time I did so. Trouble is, it's so hard to choose. Almost everything he's put out is exceptional, but I've decided to go for this one. Can't say why: I could have reviewed almost any album by him and been happy, but I've gone for “Windows and walls”, and here we are.

Like most of Dan's music, this album explores the human condition, from the title track, which considers the aching loneliness and sense of abandonment and futility that comes with advancing old age, to the craving to leave a pointless, unfulfilled life behind, if only for a while, as in “Tucson, Arizona (Gazette)”, or even the love which is only found through enforced absence, in “Sweet Magnolia (and the travelling salesman)”. Love, of course, is a strong current that runs through most of Fogelberg's songs, whether it's the quest to attain same, the loss of it or even the glorying in having it, but he was also very strongly eco-active, as the closer, “Gone too far” shows.

But I get ahead of myself. Let's go track by track, shall we? It opens with “The language of love”, a rocky, powerful track which explores how contradictory a thing love can be. ”I say leave” he sings ”When I mean stay/ But she don't see/ And so she moves away/ And what we really mean/ We rarely say.” It's got some great guitar, nice piano and organ, and a great drumbeat that just makes you want to tap your foot. A heavier track than perhaps people unfamiliar with Dan, and only aware of his ballads such as “Run for the roses” and “Same old lang syne” might expect, but he could rock with the best of them.

He also plays just about every instrument it's possible to play. On this album, in addition to singing he plays guitar, bass, percussion, piano, synth, electric piano and tambourine. That's a lot of instruments! He still has a full band backing him though, and the sound is certainly full, though on the title track, up next, it's as sparse and fragile as the lyrical content of the song demands. Already featured in our "More than words" section last month, it's a truly heartbreaking account of how one old woman, left behind and forgotten by her family, tries to fill her days, it's a sobering tale of how people can be “out of sight, out of mind”, but they still have their feelings. Carried on a gentle plucked acoustic guitar accompanied by low organ and gorgeous violin and cello courtesy of Katherine Burden, the lyric speaks for itself:

”The clock on the mantle/ Chiming the hours/ Must be the loneliest sound/ She washes the dishes/ Waters the flowers/ And afterwards has to sit down/ Sometimes she still can remember a child/ Playing with china dolls/ Now all that's she's left are these memories/ And windows and walls.” The fade-out low chorus of ”Day after day” and the ticking clock (he uses a real clock in the song!) serve to underline the crushing loneliness old age can be. After hearing this song, you experience a sudden urge to ring up your old mother, or go check on that elderly neighbour, and that can't be bad.

Back to rocking then for “The loving cup”, and an exploration of the reasons people fall in, out of and back into love, the things they'll do for it and the sacrifices they'll make to attain it. ”Still the lovers in the backseats crawl” Dan observes wryly, ”And still their wives wait up.” Some great guitar work in this song, particularly at the end, with the rather mad, intense scream of the guitar to its very abrupt end. A depiction of frustration, perhaps? Or just a guy enjoying himself letting rip on the guitar?

Like most, if not all of his work, every song here is composed by Dan, and they all contain his trademark humanity and honesty, something that tended to single him out from other songwriters in the same field. Although his songs may not always have been autobiographical, you always got the sense that he was putting something from his own life, some experience, some observation, some part of him into every song, so that each one sounded personal and intimate in a way others' songs often do not. A true craftsman.

The other standout on the album comes next, with the tragic “Tucson, Arizona (Gazette)”, which tells the story, to a rather incongruously bop-a-long beat and uptempo melody, of two lost souls, a girl who has come out from her hometown to make it big in the movies, but has never got any further than the desert town of Tucson, and a boy, who spends his nights cruising the lonely streets in his Chevy, the one true thing he loves. These two meet up and go for a drug-fuelled ride in his car, which ends in tragedy. The song's principle vehicle is acoustic guitar and piano, with a vaguely folk feel, Dan's anguished voice relating the tale of these two doomed lovers as he picks out the chords on his guitar, like some sort of latter-day Rod Serling telling one his many cautionary tales.

At just over eight and a half minutes, it's not only the longest song on the album by far, but also one of the longest compositions Dan has ever written. And yet, with its storytelling style, typical of Dan's songs, it doesn't seem that long before we're hearing the fade-out, as ”The neighbours speculated/ On what could make a good boy/ Go so bad” and Dan advises ”It might have been the desert heat/ It might have been the home he never had.” Powerful stuff, great orchestration and a fine, desperate piano melody during the denoument and then to the fade.

After that, “Let her go” sounds like a rather ordinary rock song. Dan ramps it back up, cranking up the guitars and the keyboards, the thumping drums as he tries to convince his lady that his past love affairs mean nothing, and should remain in the past. Yeah sure, Dan, we've all tried that one: “Honest honey! She meant nothing to me!” They never believe you --- why should they? At the end he throws up his hands, declaring to his lady ”I told you the truth/ How much more can I do? /Now my love it's up to you.” I'm sure she appreciated that! I, however, do appreciate the rather tasty guitar solo that takes the song to its fade-out. Nice.

Two ballads follow, the first the bittersweet tale of a man on the road who longs to get home to the woman he loves. “Sweet Magnolia (and the travelling salesman)” is carried mostly on a piano melody with lovely string arrangement, with some really nice clarinet --- not that often you can say that! --- a simple song as many of Dan's are, but sincere and heartfelt, as is the penultimate track, “Believe in me”.

Another sumptuous ballad, it's a real love song where the orchestra get to really stretch themselves, while the main melody is kept by Dan on his acoustic high-string guitar (it says on his website) and a lovely little acoustic piano. Keep it simple was often Dan's way, and it certainly works here, where the pure love shines through in a ballad that manages not to be trite, sugary or formulaic (Boybands, take note!) and retraces the theme of “Let her go”, when he sings ”Those other loves that came before/ Mean nothing to me anymore/ But you can never be quite sure.” Finally, Dan declares that as a songwriter the one thing he would like to do is calm his lady's fears through song: ”If I could only do one thing/ Then I would try to write and sing/ A song that ends your questioning/ And makes you believe in me.” Sublime.

That would probably have been a nice enough ending to the album, but then the electric guitars churn and crank with a truly heavy rock opening to the closer, “Gone too far”, where Dan bemoans the waste of natural resources and what we're doing to our planet. There are some really heavy moments on this, and it rocks along at a great pace, with some great slants on the lyric: ”Or have we gone too far?/ Are we just wishing on a dying star?” later changes the second line to ”Are we just living on a dying star?” Effective. With just one word, he changes the whole meaning and strikes a note of fear into our hearts.

The track ends with a lot of cacaphony and noise, winds and the sounds of a perceived coming destruction, which I believe makes the point admirably.

Never less than honest, not afraid to take chances, always with his finger on the pulse of human emotion and always championing good causes, the world lost a real gentleman, a rare talent and a wonderful singer, songwriter and musician when Dan Fogelberg died in 2007. This is just one small part of the huge legacy he left for us to remember him by, and it's a fitting tribute to the man and his music.

TRACKLISTING

1. The language of love
2. Windows and walls
3. The loving cup
4. Tucson, Arizona (Gazette)
5. Let her go
6. Sweet Magnolia (and the travelling salesman)
7. Believe in me
8. Gone too far

Suggested further listening: “Souvenirs”, “Phoenix”, “The innocent age”, “Nether lands”, “The wild places”, “Exiles”
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Old 12-07-2011, 09:27 AM   #578 (permalink)
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Thought it might be time to have another look at the first album released by an artiste, go right back to the beginning of their career and see either if the debut album foreshadowed their later work, or if it was completely different. We'll be looking at the first album and anaylsing the differences or similarities between the band's other albums that followed this, and seeing just how their musical style has changed, or remained the same, over the span of their career.

Parachutes --- Coldplay --- 2000 (Parlophone)


These days, it seems Coldplay have been around forever --- especially to those who hate the band! --- and you can't turn on the radio or MTV without hearing their songs. They feature in many television advertisements too, so there really does seem no escape. Yet they only released their debut album eleven years ago now, and at the time, although it went to number one, it's probably fair to say that no-one expected Coldplay to become the gargantuan music force and commercial property they turned into over the course, really, of two albums. Their second, “A rush of blood to the head”, released only two years later, catapulted them to international stardom and spearheaded a serious assault on the charts. Soon, everyone was playing or listening to --- or avoiding! --- their music, and whether you liked them or loathed them, Coldplay were quite obviously here to stay.

The album starts (and indeed, for the most part, remains) low-key, with Chris Martin's now instantly-recognisable drawl, with that East European lilt that belies the fact that he was born in Exeter and seems to have no foreign blood in his family. Not sure where that came from, but it's always been very evident in his singing. “Don't panic” is a short, mostly piano styled song, quite laidback and easy, while “Shiver”, one of the singles taken from the album, is more upbeat (though not a lot), and more guitar driven, but always with Martin's shimmering piano in the background. Johnny Buckland's signature guitar licks come more to the fore in this track, and Martin's voice is more a falsetto at times than on the previous.

Initially released as the lead single from the album, “Shiver” did not do well, and even on its re-release only just about made it into the top forty, while “Spies” gives something of a hint as to the greatness this band were to achieve, with a tight, dour little song that's mostly acoustic. Despite its somewhat sad and at times drab production, it's quite infectious, especially when the electric guitar, and drums from Will Champion punch in, giving the song a vaguely U2 feel. Six out of ten of the tracks on this album have one-word titles, allowing perhaps the perception that the band didn't put much thought into them, but the songs themselves are all expertly crafted, and for a debut album there are few if any duds.

“Sparks” --- perhaps an odd choice to follow “Spies”, being so similar in spelling, or maybe that's just me --- is another signpost to the development and evolution of this band, with a lovely, waltzy ballad on acoustic guitar, Martin's lonely vocal sounding like someone composing the song in a bedsit. The addition of some choice organ notes just before the chorus is inspired, and does a lot to fill out the song, which then falls back on the guitar, joined by rhythm guitar to add an extra dimension to the music as the organ fills come back in later, giving the sense of a tightly-written and controlled song; the instruments are used sparingly, but with proper economy, never overdone.

One of the bigger hits from the album then comes in the form of “Yellow”, which you probably know, as it's remained one of their most well-known songs, and has been used in some ad campaigns, promos and so on. It's a harder song in ways, opening on sharp insistent guitar, with Chris Martin's voice more lifted from the often murmur or mumble he evidenced on the previous tracks. Almost a case of Martin --- and Coldplay --- coming to life, waking up in fact. It's the most upbeat of the songs so far, very catchy and not at all surprising that it went into the top five on its release, and was instrumental in making Coldplay's name in the early days.

“Trouble” turned out to be another huge hit for them, not only from its chart placing of number ten, but for its use in everything from teen drama background music to promotional videos, particularly for charitable causes and so forth. A much lower-key song than “Yellow”, it's the turn of Martin's piano to again take centre stage, his vocal almost lost and lonely on the song, plaintive and yearning. The main riff though is on the piano, and has become very iconic as part of the Coldplay sound. There's also a hint of country in the use of the guitar, which sounds like pedal steel, but isn't, I think.

The title track is extremely short, less than a minute, and consists of a simple acoustic melody with a short vocal by Martin, then we're into “High speed”, which starts off with a very ELO-themed sound, another low-key song with Martin singing much louder and more insistently than on other ballads on the album. “We never change” sort of revisits the melody of “Sparks”, another laidback mostly acoustic ballad with Martin back to drawling the vocals, while closer “Everything's not lost” (an upbeat message to finish on, if ever there was one) is in fact two songs, one of which is a “hidden” one, making the total song length over seven minutes, but really it's two songs of about five and two minutes each.

“Everything's not lost” itself is sort of a piano blues song with a touch of gospel in it, nice guitar cutting in and a precursor to the sort of songs we would see later from Coldplay, while the “hidden track”, which isn't really hidden as it comes in one second after the closer fades out, “Life is for living” has again quite a strong country flavour, and in fact comes across to me as similar to the very early work of Tom Waits. Nice use of what sounds like an accordion to end the track, and therefore, the album.

“A rush of blood to the head”, their next album, and the one that would once and for all break Coldplay commercially, sees a move away from the acoustic, low-key numbers and more into high-powered pop/rock, and after that they would of course never look back. While “Parachutes” is not immediately indicative of the sort of work that would follow it, you can certainly see the seeds beginning to germinate, and as a debut, while not perfect, it's pretty darn close.

The odd thing I find about the album is that a lot of the songs, once you've heard them --- with a few notable exceptions --- tend to go out of your mind, but remain in your ear. That is to say, when you look at the tracklisting on the album at a song like, say “Spies” or “High speed”, you find it hard to remember what the song was like, and yet, when you spin the album it all suddenly seems very familiar again. Which is just one way I guess of saying that the songs from “Parachutes”, while perhaps not making a huge first impression, stay with you and reverberate around inside your brain, even if you're not consciously aware that they're there.

You may not hum some of the songs from this album, but they're in there, waiting to get out again. One way of getting into the national --- and later, international --- musical consciousness. Since the release of “Parachutes”, Coldplay have been nominated over a hundred and thirty times for various music awards and have won over forty of those, including six Brit Awards, seven Grammys (with three more pending for this year) and eight MTV awards. Their albums have sold a combined fifity million records and their last four albums all went straight to number one.

Whatever you think of them, Coldplay are not about to go away any time soon.

TRACKLISTING

1. Don't panic
2. Shivers
3. Spies
4. Sparks
5. Yellow
6. Trouble
7. Parachutes
8. High speed
9. We never change
10. Everything's not lost (incorporating “hidden” track “Life is for living”)
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Old 12-08-2011, 05:21 AM   #579 (permalink)
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Thursday, December 8 2011
March of time --- Helloween --- from "Pumpkin tracks" on Noise


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Old 12-08-2011, 05:25 AM   #580 (permalink)
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Before Trevor Horn went on to produce a whole new sound for Yes, he was in a duo with ex-Yes and Asia man Geoff Downes. Together they were known as the Buggles, and had a huge hit single in 1979. But why is the worm telling you this? You all know the song!
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