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Old 12-20-2011, 09:47 AM   #631 (permalink)
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Old 12-20-2011, 09:48 AM   #632 (permalink)
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The worm always loved this one from James, it's a real classic.
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Old 12-20-2011, 12:08 PM   #633 (permalink)
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Time for some Christmas cheer. Cheer!
Seriously, (or not) this is a little piece I wrote some years ago, based on the “Police Squad!” TV series --- or if you prefer, the “Naked Gun” movies --- so you kind of need to be familiar with them to fully understand and appreciate the sketch. Anyway, hope you enjoy it.

http://www.trollheart.com/The santa caper.html
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Old 12-20-2011, 12:37 PM   #634 (permalink)
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Full moon fever --- Tom Petty --- 1989 (MCA)


What happens to Tom when you take away his Heartbreakers? Why, he records his most commercial and successful album ever. Which is not to say that the backing band were holding him back --- he achieved his fame up to this with them, after all, becoming a respected figure in the world of rock. But when he struck out on his own, pure gold resulted.

Well, in fairness, not entirely on his own. His success on “Full moon fever”, his debut solo album, was largely down to ELO's Jeff Lynne, who not only played on the album and co-wrote most of the songs, but arranged and produced it too, giving it an inescapable ELO feel. Although he had been going, at this point, for over thirteen years and released seven albums with the Heartbreakers, and had indeed had a number one single with “Jammin' me”, he was not that well known outside proper rock circles. Albums like “Damn the torpedoes”, “Long after dark” and “Southern accents”, great though they are, largely passed the public by, and even “Let me up (I've had enough)”, from which “Jammin' me” was taken, barely broke the top twenty on the album charts. Petty was a name people knew, but ask them to name a single by him, or even a track, and other than "Jammin' me" (and possibly even then), many were stumped.

But that all changed when he released “Full moon fever”. With a slicker, more commercial (and therefore bankable) sound, it spawned five singles, three of which were hits, and now people knew who Tom Petty was! It's unfair and inaccurate to say that Jeff Lynne was the sole architect of Petty's solo success, but there's no denying he had a huge hand in it. The album is still regarded as one of Petty's best ever, and you'll find even people who don't have a single Heartbreakers album in their collection have this on their shelf. In 1989, it really became one of the must-have albums.

Petty (and Lynne) rarely puts a foot wrong from beginning to end. It kicks off with one of the big hit singles; “Free Fallin'” is a slow, moody song recounting Petty's conquests and laughing at the girls who fall for his charms: ”All the vampires/ Walkin' through the valley/ Move west down/ Ventura Boulevard/ And all the bad boys/ Are standin' in the shadows/ And all the good girls/ Are home with broken hearts.” Great song, but really one of the most selfish I've heard since Robert Cray's “Strong persuader”. Immediately you can hear the influence of Lynne, on the far more restrained guitar, the dominance of the keys and the vocal harmonies. Still, it got him a hit. And it's a great song.

Another hit comes next. “I won't back down” is sort of a hybrid of the sort of raw rock he purveyed with the Heartbreakers on albums like “Long after dark” and “Southern accents”, mixed with a very ELO-like feel. It's a song of defiance as Tom sings ”In a world that keeps on/ Pushin' me around/ But I'll stand my ground/ And I won't back down.” Maybe a little hypocritical, as although the album was extremely successful, Petty did consciously change his style in order to achieve that new sound, effectively handing the reins over to Lynne, who, it must be said, did a great job reinventing him.

“Love is a long road” is the first song on which Lynne has no writing input --- Petty writes it with his Heartbreakers guitarist Mike Campbell --- and it sees a marked shift back to the way he used to play, a harder, rockier edge on it with nothing of the commercial appeal of the preceding two tracks. Naturally, it was not chosen as a single, but it's more real Tom Petty, as his fans would see him, than either of the first two. Great guitar solo, possibly from Campbell, who does play on the album, though it's not made clear on which tracks.

Lynne tightens his control after briefly letting it slip, and the result is yet another hit, this time the ballad “Face in the crowd”, one of about four standouts on the album. It's a lonely, mid-paced lament, with great drawled vocals from Petty, really nice jangly guitar, and some really nice solos. Although it was not a big hit, chances are you know it, as it was played extensively on the radio and became a favourite from the album, so not too much point in my describing it that much more.

It's followed by the bombastic “Runnin' down a dream”, yet another big hit single. It's power and rockin' all the way, with energetic, excited guitars and layers of keyboards, courtesy of Lynne's production, and playing, and it's been said to be the ultimate driving song. Certainly, the lyric reflects this, as Petty sings about ”Felt so good/ Like everything was possible/ Hit cruise control/ Rubbed my eyes.” There's really unbridled joy and a sense of freedom about the song, and it could be theorised (and I do) that perhaps it's the freedom Petty felt from being released from the restrictions of playing with the Heartbreakers. It's the only one on which Lynne, Petty and Campbell co-write, and is in fact Campbell's last writing credit on the album. Terrific solo to end the song to fade!

The only cover on the album, Gene Clark's “Feel a whole lot better” is a mid-paced rocker with a lot of jangly guitar and a very Smokie sound about it, a la “Needles and pins” in the guitar riff. There is, of course, a whole lot of the Byrds in it too, and it's a nice change from the hard rockers and ballads we've had up to now, with some nice semi-country guitar from Petty halfway through. Hmm. Could be mandolin, in fact: it is used on the album at some point by Campbell...

That's it for the hit singles, and therefore essentially the first part, or indeed side, of the album is better than the second, but there are still good tracks on “side two”. The boppy, uptempo “Yer so bad” is a simple song of love without being anywhere near a ballad, with some very tongue-in-cheek lyrics: ”My sister got lucky/ Married a yuppie/ Took him for all he was worth/ Now she's a swinger/ Dating a singer/ I can't decide which is worse!” Great fun all round.

Petty takes control of the songwriting for the next three songs, and they're in fairness a mixed bunch. There's the boppy, Beatles-like simplicity of “Depending on you”, with some sobering advice: ”Maybe you can't change the world/ Maybe you should just change yourself?” Not the first time such advice has been offered, true, but it doesn't make it any the less valid. “The apartment song” is also good fun, very rock and roll and dealing with the idea of the dreaded bedsit, probably best explored by Pulp on “Common people”. Again, nice jangly guitar and interesting drums make this song, and without Lynne's influence on the songwriting Petty can really stretch himself and let his own creative juices --- which are far from inconsiderable --- flow freely.

He really comes up trumps though on the last of his self-penned tracks, the gentle, introspective ballad “Alright for now”, almost a lullaby with its simple melody and even simpler but universally understood lyric. Beautifully understated acoustic guitar and lovely backing vocals help to craft a real gem. A short song, in fact the shortest on the album at exactly two minutes, its honesty and realism are implicit in even the opening bars, where Petty either deliberately or accidentally has to restart the song. It either gives a fairly rare insight into an artist allowing us to see a less than perfect side of them, or else it's a sly dig at those who record and re-record their songs until they consider them perfect, perhaps in the process bleeding out the soul and meaning of them. This is, in a word, perfect.

The next one is an out-and-out rocker, with acoustic guitar but harder than on “Alright for now”, again quite Beatles or even Monkees in feel, “A mind with a heart of its own” gets things moving again, and although Lynne is back collaborating on the writing for this one, it feels more like a Petty song than a Lynne one, or even a Lynne/Petty. And just where you expect there to be a guitar solo, there … isn't. Clever, and it really catches you off guard.

I could probably live without the closer. “Zombie zoo”. It's a rocker, and has a lot of keyboards and piano in it. It's not at all bad, I just find it a little below the quality of the previous tracks. But as I say, it's not bad. Just would rather have been humming something else when putting the album away.

After “Full moon fever” Tom Petty began to be taken as a serious, commercial artist, and his next effort, released in 1991, also did very well, spawning more hit singles. Although this was with the Heartbreakers, it was generally seen more as a Tom Petty album than a Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers one, and it set him on the road to even more commercial and chart success. No doubt hardcore Petty fans will moan that he sold out on this album --- and maybe he did --- but there's no denying that after it, to many more people than before it Tom Petty was now a name that meant something to them.

TRACKLISTING

1. Free fallin'
2. I won't back down
3. Love is a long road
4. A face in the crowd
5. Runnin' down a dream
6. Feel a whole lot better
7. Yer so bad
8. Depending on you
9. The apartment song
10. Alright for now
11. A mind with a heart of its own
12. Zombie zoo

Suggested further listening: “Damn the torpedoes”, “Long after dark”, “Southern accents”, “Let me up (I've had enough)”, “Into the great wide open”, “Highway companion”
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Old 12-20-2011, 12:52 PM   #635 (permalink)
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Well, the original intention I had was to review Meat Loaf's “Hang cool teddy bear”, which up to yesterday as far as I knew was his most recent album, even though it was last year's release and would therefore not fit into the “Meanwhile...” section. However, as I searched for information on that album, it came as something of a surprise to me that he actually has a new one out this year! But --- and here's the interesting bit --- it's only been released in Australia and Germany (the latter only two weeks previous to my writing this), not scheduled to be out here or anywhere else until next year.

But using my contacts I was able to source a copy of it now, and therefore my plans have obviously changed. So I now present for you, possibly the first ever review outside of Germany or Oz (or possibly not, but here's hoping) of the brand new Meat Loaf album, which you can't buy until next year.

(Note: due to its very limited availability, YouTubes from this album are pretty rare. Now, I could make my own, but it seems YT are under some sort of instruction to disable audio in any files that refer to the new album, so chances are mine would suffer the same fate. For now, I've included the only ones I can find that still work. If anyone wants to hear the whole album, pm me.)
Hell in a handbasket --- Meat Loaf --- 2011/2012 (Sony)


First off, some bad news, which may in time become good news. As on last year's effort, there is again no contribution from Jim Steinman on this album. He writes no songs, plays no instruments and is not involved in the production. The potentially good news is that, as the album is not slated for release around the world until next February, Meat Loaf has publicly indicated that it is possible Steinman could be involved before then, so that the world-except-Australia-and-Germany release in 2012 could turn out to be a beast of a very different nature. Should that occur, we will re-review the album as it is then released, but for now, as I say, no Steinman input at all.

So in his absence Meat Loaf has assembled a plethora of songwriters, much as he did on previous album (which I haven't listened to yet) “Hang cool teddy bear”, and indeed the previous ones, but he doesn't get involved in the songwriting himself. He has had a stab, on various albums going back to 1983's “Midnight at the lost and found”, but even then they were co-compositions and it's clear Meat's talents lie in other areas. But I'm glad to be able to report that the Neverland Express, who have been with him since 1995's “Welcome to the neighbourhood”, are in place again.

“All of me” opens the album on slow choral vocals, then Meat Loaf's unmistakable voice cuts in and he's sounding as good as ever. Nice piano fills come in, drums slowly keeping the beat until the guitars snarl into the mix, and the song gets going. For Meat Loaf it's oddly restrained, in fact sounding more like something you'd expect from Bon Jovi, but it's a nice opener, if not the powerblast you get with albums like “Dead ringer”, “Bad attitude” or indeed the classic “Bat out of Hell”. Lovely piano outro from Neverland Express's Justin Avery, then “Fall from grace” gets the party started with a hard rocker with AOR and stadium rock tones, nice fluid guitar from Paul Crook, who also produces the album, and again some great piano work from Avery.

They're probably all well known and respected, but I know none of these songwriters. There's no Diane Warren, no Kara DioGuardi, Desmond Childs or even Nikki Six, as on previous albums. It would appear Meat pulled in some country writers to help, like Wade Bower and Dave Berg, but in fairness I don't immediately see the country influence on the songs that was very obvious on, for instance, Bon Jovi's “Lost highway”. Another rocker in “The giving tree”, a real stomper in the mould of “Life is a lemon (and I want my money back)” off “Bat out of Hell II”.

The trend these days seems to be to have a rap on your album, no matter the genre. I don't personally think it always works, but for “Mad mad world (The good God is a woman and she don't like ugly)” --- surely a contender for the longest even Meat Loaf song! --- Meat ropes in Public Enemy's Chuck D to perform the rap, and it works quite well. The song itself is dramatic and powerful, with a great sense of almost panic in the melody, lots of hard rock guitar and pumping drums, Avery's piano again adding another layer to the music, as does Crook's organ.

For a Meat Loaf album, the songs on this are all quite short: only three of the twelve tracks go above the five minute mark, and one of those only by a few seconds. There are, in other words, none of the epics we've become used to. In fact, it's the shortest since 2003's “Couldn't have said it better”. The songs are short and snappy and I guess many of them will be slated for single release. “Party of one” is another sharp rocker with a nice keyboard intermission, as it were, backed by nice, er, backing vocals, and for a heavy track there's some really effective violin --- yeah, I said violin --- from Ginny Luke.

And then some fiddle on “Live or die”, another hard puncher, and it's interesting that so far we haven't heard one single Meat Loaf ballad. His albums are usually famous for them --- remember “Objects in the rear view mirror”? Or “Surf's up”, though admittedly that was a cover of a Steinman song. But you can usually expect him to slow down the action at some point. We shall see. For now, Caitlin Evanson's soulful fiddle adds a very celtic feel to this song, toning down the hard rock just a little, then we're into a cover of the Mamas and the Papas classic “California dreamin'”. If you know this song (and if not, why not?) there's nothing more I can say about it, other than that Meat does a good rendition of it, taking the gears down just a little, and performs a really interesting duet with Patti Russo, while saxophone from Dave Luther paints the picture better than any words ever could. I have to say, I've always preferred Colorado's version above all, including the original, but this is not a bad cover.

“Another day” starts off with echoey, rolling drums and a lovely little piano line, and perhaps the first ballad has arrived? Meat does, as ever, a great job wringing out the last drop of emotion and passion from the lyric, and great keyboards from Paul Crook add another layer to the story, the drums getting louder and more persistent as the song gets into its stride. Another song about homeless people, the subject is certainly not new, and will always continue to be a blight on our countries until something proper is done to tackle the problem, so it's nice to see another established artist taking on the theme. Not that singing songs will help, but perhaps awareness will be heightened, if only for a little while. Meat certainly sings with conviction, almost tears in his voice, and yes, in case it wasn't clear, this is the first ballad, and a very good one, worth having waited for.

There's a great stride rocker then in “40 days”, with pulsating organ (ooer --- yeah, yeah I know!) and angry guitars as Meat sings of the End of Days, another popular subject for songs as we head towards the year we find out if the Mayas were full of sh1t. Or not. Great little stabs on the mandolin too, courtesy of Glen Duncan. But come on, Meat: rain for forty days? That's a light shower here in Ireland! There's another duet with Russo in “Our love and our souls”, a kind of semi-ballad, with this time a definite country flavour. She certainly can sound like Cher on occasions! “Stand in the storm” kicks everything back up to high gear with its tearing guitar riff that opens the song, and guest appearances by country star John Rich, Mark McGrath and rapper Lil John. So yes, of course, that means it's the second track on the album to feature a rap, but like Chuck D's contribution on “Mad mad world”, John's performance fits in very well with the theme and mood of the music, and the song as a whole works well. Again there's a country style to the song, with pedal steel guitar from Bruce Bowden, and given that dichotomy Meat Loaf does well to meld the three genres: rock, country and rap, into one cohesive song which really is more than the sum of its parts.

The album closes on the acoustic ballad “Blue sky”, with Meat singing for the angels, his voice almost cracking with emotion, a volcano of hurt just held in check. It's a short, but very powerful and evocative song, and really all things being equal quite an effective and worthy closer.

Though the world at large won't get to hear this album until February next, I'm already impressed and I think you will be too. Even without Steinman's input it's already heading towards another classic from the man with the biggest voice in rock, and should the master songsmith decide at the eleventh hour to climb onboard, this album could be even better. As it is, it stands as a really excellent effort from Meat Loaf, and I have no doubt that once it's released across the world it will sell in its millions.

TRACKLISTING

1. All of me
2. Fall from grace
3. The giving tree
4. Mad mad world (The good God is a woman and she don't like ugly)
5. Party of one
6. Live or die
7. California dreamin'
8. Another day
9. 40 days
10. Our love and our souls
11. Stand in the storm
12. Blue sky
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Old 12-21-2011, 05:48 AM   #636 (permalink)
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Old 12-21-2011, 05:50 AM   #637 (permalink)
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Well, no doubt over the last few weeks everyone's been making plans for Christmas, but what about Nigel? Here's XTC...
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Old 12-21-2011, 05:54 AM   #638 (permalink)
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Juggernaut --- Frank Marino --- 1982 (Columbia)


Frank Marino is best known for his association with Canadian rock band Mahogany Rush, but this is his second solo album. Sadly, "Juggermaut" is, well, not. It's not a powerhouse of an album that kicks you in the teeth and demands attention. There are a few bad tracks on it, but the good ones make you forget the bad. "Free", "For your love" and the title are great songs, the latter a real triphammer of a song, powering along like an out-of-control truck ploughing down a freeway in the night. Even "Strange dreams" is not bad, but hardly deserving the accolade afforded it by Howard Johnson of being the ONLY good track on it, reviewing the album in "Kerrang!" back in '82.

For me, the best track is definitely the eight-minute ballad "Stories of a hero", with its intense guitar work, its impassioned vocal and its simple yet powerful anti-war message. The way it gets heavy at the end perfectly gets across Frank's anger at the senseless waste of life and the futility of war. Deserved to be a classic.

"Ditch queen" I could have lived without, ditto "Midnight highway", but overall not bad. More workhorse flatbed than juggernaut, though.

TRACKLISTING

1. Strange dreams
2. Midnight highway
3. Stories of a hero
4. Free
5. Maybe it's time
6. Ditch queen
7. For your love
8. Juggernaut
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Old 12-21-2011, 08:44 AM   #639 (permalink)
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Time to sample one more great band from Ireland before Christmas descends upon us. Tragically in a way, some of the very best bands from here never made it, or else did but only for a short time, blazing like comets before fizzling out like dying sparklers. What is that they say? The brightest light burns the shortest? Certainly true in the case of many an Irish band. I'm sure it's not a phenomenon confined to the Emerald Isle, either, it just seems there was so much talent here that could have been shared with the world, that it's a pity that really only a handful of Irish acts ever truly made it. I mean, ask anyone outside Ireland (or, sometimes, in Ireland) to name off five top Irish bands and you know who will come up usually (no, Westlife do not count, madam!)

But there have been some great bands who should have done so much better. I've already featured Something Happens! And In Tua Nua, and hopefully soon when I get my USB turntable from Santy I'll be introducing you to the mighty Stars of Heaven, but today I want to let you in on what is probably now one of Ireland's best-kept secrets. Though they were popular and indeed successful in their short day, they've faded away now sadly into the mists of musical history.

Plug it in --- Mama's Boys --- 1982 (Pussy)


The perfect idea of an Irish band, Mama's Boys featured three brothers, Pat, Tommy and John McManus, who began their music career playing Irish traditional music in Co. Fermanagh in Northern Ireland. Heavily influenced by Horslips, they changed their focus to rock and were in fact then discovered by Barry Devlin of Horslips, who offered them a support slot, and they never looked back after that. Well, for a while.

Their first album, “Plug it in”, self-published and financed as it was, has a hard, rough edge that you just can't manufacture or fake. Opener “In the heat of the night” is a straight-ahead rocker, John McManus' Northern accent coming across quite strongly so that you're in no doubt this is an Irish band you're listening to. Guitars from brother Pat are sharp and powerful, and other brother Tommy bashes the skins with a precision surprising in one so young. “Burnin' up” is another rocker, faster this time with a good hint of Lizzy in the guitars but also a smattering of Ritchie Blackmore when he was in Deep Purple, with a really riproaring solo from Pat, and one hell of a powerpunch ending.

It's the next one though that did it for them. The boogie-styled “Needle in the groove” was their first (and only) hit single, at least on this side of the water. With John's vocals sung through a voice box it gives the song a kind of older feel, almost vintage rock, though there's nothing old about the guitar work, and again you're reminded of early Thin Lizzy.

A short album, “Plug it in” only has the eight tracks, but most of them are pretty top-notch. “Reach for the top” is a fast, pounding rocker with the usual sentiments you expect from a band just starting out, but it's infectious in its enthusiasm and wide-eyed wonder. The fresh-faced naivete of the guys is reflected in the lyric ”It's a long way/ And you don't know if it's gonna pay/ But we'll never stop!” Words sung by many a rock band indeed. There's a definite likeable honesty about the guys though. Self-releasing your first album is quite a step, and throwing down a marker as to your intentions, that you're not just going to play the club circuit for years in the hope some label will sign you. I guess you would have to say that Mama's Boys' motto might have been “Make it happen”. And they did.

The production on the album is, understandably, raw and quite low quality, but even this just adds to the sense of genuinity of the band: this is real rock and roll, unfettered and as it should be. The powerful slow ballad “Belfast City blues” is a sincere nod to their hometown and their simple beginnings, and reflects the thoughts and aspirations of three guys living through what we colloquially called “The Troubles”, over thirty years of sectarian violence, death and fighting before Northern Ireland was finally at peace. Beautiful, plaintive solo from Pat underscores the hurt of living through those times, and I can only imagine what it was like, as we here in the south watched the daily news reports and became inured and numb to the horror taking place only a few hundred miles away from our comfortable armchairs, over the border and a galaxy away.

When John sings ”I'm giving up/ There's no future here for me/ Why can't I stay/ In the town that I love?” you really feel a lump in your throat, and there's nothing senstationalist or bandwagon-jumping about such lyrics. U2 may have written “Sunday bloody Sunday”, but they're from Dublin, like me. These guys lived with the pain and the anguish on their doorsteps, every day a fight to survive, every morning the fear of reading a friend had died or been arrested. Thankfully that has largely been put to rest now, but I feel for anyone who had to grow up in those troubled times in Belfast, or any of the Six Counties.

It's the standout track without any doubt, and fittingly, “Belfast City blues” is also the longest on the album, clocking in at just under six minutes, ending with an impassioned fadeout guitar solo from Pat.

“Straight forward” then, is a more upbeat, hopeful song, as the title suggests, with some great rockin' guitar from Pat and John at his raunchiest and defiant. “Getting out” is another song that underlines the desire to leave the Troubles and Northern Ireland behind them --- and who could blame them? --- and head for the bright lights, fame and a better future. It's a real stride rocker in the best tradition of Rory Gallagher or Gary Moore --- in fact, in places on this song John does a passable impression of the late ex-Thin Lizzy man --- while Pat does both the sadly-missed guitar heroes proud, although at the time they were recording this both men were still alive and gigging.

The album closes on “Runaway dreams”, possibly quite appropriately, given that this was the first album from a trio of young Irishmen ready and willing to give it their all and make it big. There certainly was no faulting their workrate, supporting bands like Hawkwind and Lizzy, and of course Horslips, and releasing five albums over a ten-year period, not counting a live one in 1991. Starting with a really evocative guitar solo, the closer turns into another striding, strutting rocker with a strong blues element, with some excellent fiddle from Pat at the end, recalling their traditional Irish roots. It's a powerful finale to an album that sort of passed by on the edges of the NWOBHM, and should have been a lot bigger.

Tragedy however dogged the boys, and Tommy, who had suffered from leukemia as a child, eventually succumbed to the disease in 1994, which was of course a hammerblow to the remaining brothers, who broke up the band and formed a new one. Nowadays they play in separate bands, but for a while there the world was on the cusp of being at their feet. But sometimes it just isn't meant to be, and sadly Mama's Boys, though they will always have a place in the heart of all Irish rockers, are generally largely unknown beyond these shores.

TRACKLISTING

1. In the heat of the night
2. Burnin' up
3. Needle in the groove
4. Reach for the top
5. Belfast City blues
6. Straight foward
7. Getting out
8. Runaway dreams
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Old 12-21-2011, 08:58 AM   #640 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Trollheart View Post

Well, no doubt over the last few weeks everyone's been making plans for Christmas, but what about Nigel? Here's XTC...
You know, I love that song, I really do, but that album annoys me to no end. "Helicopter" makes me want to punch my computer screen and go on a murderous rage. Perhaps I should give them yet another chance one day, but Jesus Christ...

By the way, have you heard the Nouvelle Vague cover? It's quite good as well:

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