Wednesday, April 28, 2010

414 James Brown’s 20 greatest hits.

Album: 20 greatest hits.
Artist: James Brown
Year: 1991
Genre: Soul

Tracks

  1. I Got You (I Feel Good)
  2. Get Up (I Feel Like Being a) Sex Machine, Pt. 1
  3. I Got the Feelin'
  4. Mother Popcorn, Pt. 1
  5. Give It Up or Turnit a Loose
  6. Make It Funky, Pt. 1
  7. Papa's Got a Brand New Bag, Pt. 1
  8. Think
  9. It's a Man's Man's Man's World
  10. Try Me
  11. Night Train
  12. Cold Sweat, Pt. 1
  13. Get on the Good Foot
  14. Papa Don't Take No Mess, Pt. 1
  15. The Payback
  16. Say It Loud - I'm Black and I'm Proud, Pt.
  17. Super Bad, Pts. 1 & 2
  18. Hot Pants, Pt. 1
  19. Get Up Offa That Thing
  20. Please, Please, Please

Good funk/ soul music is actually surprisingly easy to make. All you need is a good beat given extra oomph by a bass and rhythm guitar with some horns for added colour. Then the final ingredient is a vocalist who can sing meaningless tosh over the top of it. Lyrics chosen at random and punctuated by yelps, howls and screeches are all a soul singer needs. Don’t bother writing anything profound when you can easily fill in time with stuff about a parent’s recently purchased luggage, directions for your band and single word non-sequiters: “Yaaaah! Wooo! Papa’s got a well stacked toolbox. That’s what I’m talking about, play it again, yeah! Toast, I said toast! Hatracks. Whoa yeah!”

As a formula it might sound easy but that doesn’t stop some of the tracks on this release from being some of the most exciting stuff committed to vinyl. (I got you) I feel good is one of the most instantly magnificent tracks you’ll find anywhere. It’s a testament to how good this song is that you can still be possessed by an insatiable urge to boost the volume and dance when it comes on the radio even though it’s been overused on soundtracks and commercials for the past twenty years. Is there anyone out there who can honestly say this song doesn’t make them feel good? I’m not suggesting that a quick listen can cure chronic depression or turn an Emo Kid into a mousketeer but having I feel good as your alarm clock in the morning would definitely perk you up no end.It's like audible cocaine that you sniff through your ears. And unlike some compilations there is more to appreciate on this release than just the biggest hit single. (Get up) I feel like being a sex machine is funk at it's finest, It's a Man's Man's Man's world proves that Brown is as great a singer as he is a showman and Papas got a brand new bag is the best song about a scrotum transplant I've ever heard in my life (well possibly second behind Sing sing sing with a swing).

This is one of those albums that struggles to put a foot wrong. It's the sound of a master doing what he does best. Nobody did this as well as Brown and because he was the best he could get the greatest players to back him. From all reports Brown was a real tyrant to work for. He demanded perfection from his band and refused to settle for anything less than 110%. The fact that people stayed around and played with him is testament to what an absolute blast it must have been to be backing the hardest working man in showbusiness. When Brown was on stage there was nobody who could touch him for showmanship. He gave his audiences the most exciting concert experience of their lives and being involved in that spectacle would have been indescribable. You could endure working for a fascist with enormous hair if your nights were spent receiving a tiny fraction of the adoration he commanded from the audience.

While this album is a dud-free experience I definitely responded better to the more upbeat and funkier numbers. The slower ballads like Try Me, which strayed perilously close to doo-wop territory weren't really my cup of tea. It's not to say they were bad tracks but when sandwiched in amongst some of the greatest dance grooves ever committed to a vinyl groove they were slight flat spots. But then in a concert environment he needed some slower songs to give his audience a chance to catch their breath.

Highlight: I'll give you a clue, it will make you feel good.

Lowlight: Try Me.

Influenced by: The Blues.

Influenced: Aerosmith.

Favourite Amazon Customer review Quote: "Apparently Mr. Brown doesn't articulate very well, however, he makes up for it by screaming the "lyrics". "

-Clear diction. We all know it's the most important part of any musical experience.

So does the Godfather of Soul make you an offer you can't refuse or does he just leave a horses head in the bed of your music tastes? Let me know below.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

415. Van Halen- Let there be shred.


Album: Van Halen.
Artist: Van Halen.
Year: 1978
Genre: Metal.

Tracks.

1. Runnin with the Devil.
2. Eruption.
3. You really got me.
4. Aint talkin bout love
5. I'm the one.
6. Jamie's cryin.
7. Atomic Punk.
8. Feel your love Tonight.
9. Little Dreamer
10. Ice Cream man.
11. On Fire.

On his debut album Eddie Van Halen invented a concept that didn't exist up to that point. Some call it two-hand tapping, some call it shredding, others refer to it as "guitar wizardry" personally I think of it as "guitar playing for guitar playing's sake". It's most obvious during Eruption- a two minute guitar solo. At the time (and to this day) it caused guitar players all over the world to drop their plectrums and say- how the hell did he do that? Those of who don't play guitar weren't asking "how" as much as "why?" Eruption doesn't really have a melody and doesn't move you as a piece of music- it exists primarily to show off Eddie VH's "two hand tapping" technique which involves...tapping... with two hands... presumably both his- Look I don't know, I'm not a guitar player, but apparently it's very good, I just don't need to hear it again. I'm not even sure what the sound of one hand tapping is but it reminds me of a philosophical cliche. It sounds difficult to do but then so are my brother-in-law's physics equations and that doesn't necessarily mean I want to hear them on record. But for guitarists everywhere it's the greatest thing ever. According to Guitar World magazine it's the second best guitar solo of all time.

Personally I prefer Eddie's work when he's soloing in the middle of an actual song. The standout track on this album is You really Got me, a Kink's cover which shows off everything that Van Halen do well- it's a great rock song with some fantastic soloing that doesn't overtake the song. Much the same can be said for Aint Talkin Bout Love the best of the original songs on the album. It's a pity the rest of the release doesn't live up to these two tracks. As songwriters the band wasn't really up to very much frankly. Show Me Your Love is vaguely interesting but most of the rest of the album is infinitely forgettable. Runnin with the Devil was a big hit for the band but it's hard to see why. It plods along at a tempo that should only be used by washing machines on a rinse cycle and has a really annoying and repetitive chorus. The main thing to commend or condemn it, depending on your viewpoint, are the vocal stylings of Mr David Lee Roth. There are those who believe "Diamond Dave" is the greatest vocalist to ever don a pair of tight pants and strut across a stage. There are others who think he's the most annoying and self indulgent singer in all of Rock- a genre which is fairly well supplied with self-satisfied vocalists. You really Got Me shows off his vocal talents where as Running with the Devil highlights everything that is annoying about the guy. He could clearly tell that the song itself isn't up to much and between Eddie's guitar flourishes the band doesn't have much to work with. Dave decided to fill this void by shrieking like a schoolgirl at every opportunity. There are 18 "waaah" "Yeah" "Wooo" or other extended vowel noises scattered throughout the track. That's one every 12 seconds. I counted them. What a strange way to spend an afternoon- sitting with a pen and paper listening to noises made by a man over thirty years ago.

Anyway the point is that if you like Lee Roth then you will love his vocal interjections. "Greatest showman in rock" you can say to yourself while enjoying every one of his shrieky outbursts. If, however, you find him a bit of a prat then he will sound more like a guy desperately trying to gain some attention over the guitar noodlings of his undeniably talented bandmate. In the end the massive egos of Lee Roth and Van Halen split the band and Dave went his own way. Only to return after his replacement also clashed with the guitarist and then leave again only to return again. Look I don't have time to go into all the ins and outs of Van Halen's later career. I'm not interested and to be honest nobody else was after about 1986. They might be about to release another album for all I know but the chances of it actually charting are fairly slim.

Van Halen the album may have been hugely influential on generations of future guitar-shredders but the lack of decent songs makes it a pretty tedious listen. Frankly I'd be happier if the band decided to ditch all their original material and just do a whole bunch of Kinks, Yardbirds and Stones covers.

Highlight: You really Got me.
Lowlight: Jamie's Cryin they should have dropped this track like the drop the G of all their song titles with an ing Runnin, talkin and cryin.

Influenced by: The Kinks, Led Zeppelin and Hendrix.
Influenced: Dweezil Zappa along with Satriani, Vai and all those lads.

Favourite Amazon review qoute: "I can't believe people listen to this junk. This lame hair crap was never cool. There's a reason the great musicians you see on MTV don't dress or look like this. Anyway, the guitar work sucks. This Van Halen thinks he's so great. People say he pioneered a so-called "technique" (a REALLY bad one) called "two handed tapping" or something. When was the last time you saw great guitar players like Avril Lavigne, Ashlee Simpson or Kurt Cobain use this "technique"??? Never, because - like Van Halen - it sucks. This song "eruption" or whatever the hell it is, is nothing more than amateur wannabee guitar playing. Now for REALLY good guitar playing, check out the aforementioned artists. However avoid losers with guitars such as:

Van Halen
Andres Segovia
Allan Holdsworth
Eric Clapton
Steve Vai
Joe Satriani
Megadeth (especially Marty Friedman)
John McLaughlin
Paco De Lucia
John Petrucci
BB King
Al De Meola
Jeff Beck
Yngwie Malmsteen
Greg Howe
Chet Atkins
Michael Romeo
Robert Frip"

-The best thing about this review is that it's clearly a large joke that most people in the comment section failed to get. Sarcasm is tricky to do when it's written down.

So were you two-hand tapping your desk with delight or did it cause an eruption of bile in your stomach? Let me know below.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

416. Mule Variations- Tom Waits for no man.

Album: Mule Variations.
Artist: Tom Waits.
Year: 1999.
Genre: Rock
  1. Big in Japan
  2. Lowside of the Road
  3. Hold On
  4. Get Behind the Mule
  5. House Where Nobody Lives
  6. Cold Water
  7. Pony
  8. What's He Building?
  9. Black Market Baby
  10. Eyeball Kid
  11. Picture in a Frame
  12. Chocolate Jesus
  13. Georgia Lee
  14. Filipino Box Spring Hog
  15. Take It with Me
  16. Come On Up to the House

I was really pleased to see this album crop up on my listening list. To my mind Mule Variations is what this project of mine is all about. Tom Waits is a guy who I’ve always wanted to get into but never really known where to begin. He’s got a wide and broad catalogue which apparently is full of atypical releases and eccentricities. Penetrating the musical world of Waits requires a bit of guidance and direction. Which is why it was nice to have someone like Rolling Stone magazine suggest a starting point.

Not that I didn’t know anything about Waits before I started on track one. I knew of him through his work as an actor. I’ve always loved Short Cuts and quite like Bram Stokers Dracula, even though I’m not supposed to apparently. Waits is great in both. I’m also aware of his work as the guy who wrote the theme tune for The Wire, although I have to confess his version isn’t my favourite. The only other song I knew of his was Big in Japan, which coincidentally turned out to be track one on Mule Variations.

Big in Japan begins with a noise that may or may not be created by a human being. It’s an odd sort of percussive sound that resembles a distorted drum except for one part when it clearly sounds like a human voice. It’s possible this was created by a machine but then I wouldn’t be surprised if it was generated by Waits himself doing some beatboxing, or more accurately off-beat boxing because his voice is unlike any other I’ve heard. Tom’s voice is deep, raspy and deeply strange. He doesn’t so much sing as growl in a southern accent. Its Rock music in the sense that it sounds like it’s being sung by a piece of granite. His vowel sounds could sharpen blunt knives and his consonants don’t form words as much as henges. You know those orc things that spend most of the Lord of the Rings arguing and bickering? When they have sing alongs they sound like Tom Waits in a romantic mood. When their uglier leaders belt out a tune they would be a dead ringer for Waits in an expressive mood. Tom makes Captain Beefheart sound like Paul McCartney.

If a recording artist is blessed/cursed with a voice like Waits he better be capable of writing a good tune. Nobody is going to bother acquiring a taste for his vocal style if the songs themselves aren’t up to anything much. The good news is that Tom is a talented guy. When he sits down to sing a ballad it’s worth hearing. He’s quite capable of producing the sort of music that the masses enjoy. If you don’t believe me then check out the number of people who have not only covered his tunes but released entire albums made up of his songs. Waits produces a body of work that others are capable of mining for hits.

But while his ballads might be conventionally accessible when sung by other people his more up tempo songs are in a world of their own. Big in Japan is a song unlike any other I’ve ever heard. It’s got it’s own sense of style and doesn’t sing to anyone else’s songsheet. It would be impossible to cover and I know because I’ve tried. Not in any professional sense but I’ve listened to the song quite a bit and attempted to belt out my own rendition in the privacy of my own home. I’m fond of a bit of a sing when the mood takes me and if a song is stuck in my head I think it’s a crime to keep it bottled up. It would be a worse crime to subject anyone else to it but when I’m alone I see no reason not to let the old vocal chords out for a play. I’m no singer but when I try most songs you can at least recognise them as a tune. When I’ve sung Big in Japan it sounds for all the world like someone trying to verbalise the noises a washing machine makes. Waits is the only one who can give the song any sense of structure and purpose.


Lyrically he's way left of centre as well. Chocolate Jesus is a song about... well about a Jesus made of chocolate which the singer claims is the only thing his spiritual life needs. Filipino Box Spring Hog, with it's "Cooking up a Filipino Box spring hog" refrain is about cooking up a FIlipino box spring hog. Take it with me when I go is possibly a tender love ballad. In the final lines when the singer says he's going to take his lover's heart with him when he goes he could be talking metaphorically or he could possibly be narrating the tale of a twisted, internal organ-stealing psychopath. I'm assuming it's the former but Waits is sufficiently offbeat that it's just possible the latter is true.

Once again I’m thankful for the guiding hand of the editors of Rolling Stone. I’ve listened to a Tom Waits album and liked it. True he might look like a cross between Ron Pearlman and a rug and sound like a cross between Bruce Springsteen and a quarry- but he’s a talented guy and I think I’ll become a fan.


Highlight: Chocolate Jesus.
Lowlight: Not sure. Nothing is bad it's all just different in different ways.

Influenced by: Nicotine, liqour, heartbreak and the crossroads.
Influenced: A lot of people. Nobody has tried to copy him but a lot have learnt at his feet.

Favourite Amazon Customer Review Quote: "Maybe one day when you're walking among the fields you'll come across this album on the floor, pick it up, and swallow it in one gulp."

-This is a five star review but it could have been a one star for all the sense it makes.


So do you get behind the Mule or would you rather Tom buggered off to be Bigger in japan? Let me know below.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

417. Boy- The first of many.


Album: Boy.
Artist: U2
Year: 1980
Genre: Rock


1. I Will Follow
2. Twilight
3. An Cat Dubh
4. Into the Heart
5. Out of Control
6. Stories for Boys
7. The Ocean
8. A Day Without Me
9. Another Time, Another Place
10. The Electric Co.
11. Shadows and Tall Trees

Sometimes I'd love to be able to travel in time. It would be great to jump into a machine (preferably one bigger on the inside than the outside so it could also help with storage issues around the home) and pop back a few years. It would be fantastic to attend Woodstock and hang around at the Cavern club and check out the scene at Haight Ashbury. I'd also love to take a copy of the Times newspaper from December 12 2003 back 35 years to the English house of Lords and say: "Those Rolling Stones you guys all hate so much- if you're still alive four decades from now you're going to address him as Sir Mick Jagger." And it would be great to hang around Dublin in the late 70's and early eighties and tell people that the four guys gigging around town would one day be the biggest band in the world. Not only that but I'd quite like to show Bono some video of his later performances and see what he thinks. I'm fascinated by what the young Bono would think of the older Bono. Would he take one look at the strange get-up he chooses to wear on stage and the ever present sunglasses and dismiss him as a prat or be enraptured by the huge crowds and adoration he receives? In 1980 there would have been dozens of bands considered more likely to succeed than U2 and in 2009 many of them are forgotten by their fans and possibly even by several of the bandmembers. But Bono, The Edge, Larry and Adam took less than ten years to become the biggest band in the world and have pretty much stayed that way for another two decades.

So is there much on Boy that shows what was to come? Is it obviously the work of a band destined for greatness or something the future Rock gods would be ashamed of years later? Actually I have to say I was pleasantly surprised by U2's debut. As someone who got into the band in 1987 when The Joshua Tree came out I've always grouped the first 3 albums into an indistinct lump of tracks that pretty much sounded the same. They hadn't discovered the U2 sound by then and were basically just a more melodic variety of punk with vocals that weren't trying to save the world. Sitting down and actually listening to Boy from start to finish as an album in it's own right revealed a lot that I actually enjoyed hearing. The first thing that hit me was Larry Mullen Jr, U2's drummer, who gets a chance to really shine on a lot of this release. He's clearly a powerful thumper of skins and you can see why he lists Led Zeppelin's John Bonham amongst his heroes. The drum sounds really kick on this release and give the songs a lot of oomph. Also fairly oomphafied is the Edge's guitar tone which is given a lot more reign in these early releases than he has later on. I've often wondered what happened to the Edge and his guitar. Early on he was trying to stamp his place as a guitar god and a possible rival to Bono's dominance as a frontman but somewhere in the nineties he seemed quite content to slip into a more supportive role. Lead breaks pretty much disappeared from his repertoire and when he does solo live he's prepared to play the exact same thing that appeared on the original album and he's cranked out in every concert since. It's like his passion for the instrument left him at some point but on Boy he's clearly loving the chance to play Jimmy Page.

As far as songs go the most recognizable on the album is I Will Follow which is familiar to anyone who has seen a U2 show ever. It's an old chestnut they don't seem able to drop and crops up in every tour they play. Electric Company is also fairly well known to the later fans of the band thanks to it's appearance on Under a Blood Red Sky, the live album which acted as an early best-of and saved people from listening to the early albums in their entirety. But there are some great tracks on Boy that the band themselves have long forgotten but are worth checking out. Twilight shines more than a vampire in sunlight, An Cat Dubh is much easier to listen to than pronounce even if it does feature some glockenspiel that sounds like a small child let loose in the mixing room, Out of Control is one of The Edge's finest moments on Vinyl or whatever CD's are made of; the same could be said for Larry Mullen Jr on Stories for Boys.

The album is not without misfires however- The Ocean is one of those small and pointless tracks that just takes up grooves on vinyl and the final track proves that it was only later in the career that they learned out to play ballads.

I was surprised to find there's more to like on Boy than on most U2 album's released in the last decade. Since Achtung Baby I've regarded most of their albums as a good rocker or two surrounded by forgettable filler material and a cringingly bad ballad. Boy on the other hand rocks. It's not an attempt to reinvent popular music as we know it, it's just a really simple concept done very well. I think the main difference is that when they wrote songs in the eighties they wrote them for clubs and pubs. They recorded them with their instruments in mind because that's all they had. Today U2 seem to write material based on their huge sets and lighting displays. They crank out tunes with stadiums in mind and it affects the quality of what they produce. I'd love to take a copy of No Line on the Horizon back to the U2 of the eighties and say: "One day lad you'll turn into this, try not to let it happen."

Highlight: I will follow is a great song.
Lowlight: Shadows and tall trees, putting it at the end of the album was a wise move.

Influenced by: Led Zep and post punk British rock.
Influenced: Future U2

Favourite Amazon customer review qoute:
"It often sounds like a band member is choking the singer who has the clown name. Kinda like James Taylor on a bennie bender, like he's been jogging for hours in a chicken suit in the desert while sucking on sandpaper."

-I think he and I were listening to very different albums.

So will you follow U2 or would you rather keep this album in Another time and another place.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

418. Band on the run- "You idiot! He was the most talented one!"

Album: Band on the Run
Artist: Paul McCartney and Wings.
Year: 1973
Genre: Rock

Tracks.

  1. Band on the Run
  2. Jet
  3. Bluebird
  4. Mrs. Vandebilt
  5. Let Me Roll It
  6. Mamunia
  7. No Words
  8. Picasso's Last Words (Drink to Me)
  9. Nineteen Hundred and Eighty-Five

I've never fully understood how I could be such a huge fan of the Beatles and yet be completely indifferent to their respective solo careers. For some reason the four on their own produce music that does precisely nothing for me. Almost all their solo efforts leave me cold and uninterested. Is it because they're not as good or because I've elevated the Beatles to a magical level that none of the band could hope to replicate? As someone who wasn't born until the band fell apart I wasn't one of those people who eagerly awaited their solo releases and was subsequently disappointed. I can view the seventies releases of John, Paul, George and Ringo in the same dispassionate way I can look at any other album released in a time when the only music I knew came from sesame street and play school.

There's nothing on Band on the Run that deserves a place on any album by Paul's former band. I can't find a single song on this release that is a quarter as good as even some of the more mediocre Beatles efforts, which only goes to prove conclusively that the Beatles were greater than the sum of their parts. Well no it doesn't but still the point stands- this is a bit crap. In fact lots of these songs are just plain annoying.

Let me Roll It is a slow and ponderous dirge that plods along like a turtle trying to escape from the incredibly annoying guitar riff that follows it constantly. What's up with that guitar break? It's an atonal collection of notes that just appears randomly throughout the song. Did Paul forget how music works? He spent years writing great songs and then suddenly he unleashes irritation on us as if the music buying public deserved to be punished for screaming when he was trying to sing Yesterday. Almost as inexcusable is Bluebird which is a terribly sappy ballad with treacle-laden backing vocals and a dreadful melody. Again you have to wonder what's going through Paul's head. It's one thing to write a naff song that nobody wants to hear but why name it Bluebird and remind everyone of the infinitely superior Blackbird which he'd written a few years before? The only song I really liked much was Helen Wheels which I've discovered isn't really a part of this album. Apparently it was tacked on to the American release and shouldn't really be there. The final song on the album is an odd hodge-podge called Nineteen Hundred and Eighty-Five which contains every instrument and motif Paul could fling into it in order to make up for the fact that it doesn't really have any original melody worth getting excited about. It recalls songs that have gone before but not in a good way. An annoying "Ho- Hey Ho" chant that marred Mamunia is revisited to remind you of how much it annoyed you the first time.

The most celebrated song on Band on the Run is the title track which has always mystified me. It's definitely the best song on the album but I still don't know why it needs two false starts before it gets going. Before the song starts properly there are two other passages that aren't developed enough to call equal parts, they're just odd things tacked onto the beginning. The most frustrating thing is that both are actually better than a lot of the rest of the album. He could have exorcised them and developed each into full-blown tracks that would enable him to dump some of the duds and have a stronger release. Instead he was content to let them linger as weird intros to Band. The rest of the song is okay but nothing I could get excited about in the way that... well there's no point in me continuing that sentence. Nobody has approached the Beatles since they broke up but you'd expect the Beatles themselves to come closest.

Influenced by: The Beatles (except John, George and Ringo)

Influenced: Lots of people who started saying John was definitely their favourite Beatle

Highlight: Band on the run.

Lowlight: Mamunia

Favourite Amazon Customer Review Quote: Of the ten songs on this record (not counting "bonus CD") I've only heard four, "Band On The Run", "Jet", "Bluebird", and "Helen
Wheels". For aught I know the other six are brilliant, but I don't care: the title song is so absolutely awful, it would sink a collection including Mozart's "Jupiter Symphony". Can you imagine McCartney proposing the song "Band on the Run" for a Beatles record? Martin, Harrison, Lennon, and Starkey would club him to death. ("Jet", "Bluebird", and "Helen Wheels" are pretty sickening too, especially "Bluebird".)

-Sorry but anyone who hasn't actually heard more than half of the album has no place writing a review of it.

So do you think Paul took flight when he formed wings or did he crash and burn? Let me know below.


Friday, April 9, 2010

419. Dummy- a trip hop down memory lane.


Album: Dummy.

Artist: Portishead

Year: 1994

Genre: Trip Hop.

Tracks

  1. Mysterons
  2. Sour Times
  3. Strangers
  4. It Could Be Sweet
  5. Wandering Star
  6. Numb
  7. Roads
  8. Pedestal
  9. Biscuit
  10. Glory Box

There are lots of great things that were discovered by accident- fire, penicillin and the slinky to name a few. One of these is definitely not the musical concept of scratching. I can imagine how it happened- some guy heard the sound a needle made when a record was knocked and thought- I could use that. A DJ decided to repeat the phrase of a record while he was “performing” his “set” and thought he’d embrace the sound of the vinyl made when it was reversed quickly by hand. Scratching became cool, hip and groovy and DJ’s gained a level of respect that allowed them to hang around with actual musicians.

Personally I put people who scratch on a par with human beat boxes both of who should just shut up. Saying “Boom tish, baboom boom tish” a lot is no more skillful than replicating a bout of flatulence by sticking your hand in your armpit. And making a scratchy noise on an album isn’t cool at all. It isn’t cool now and it wasn’t cool in the nineties but back then nobody had realized.

Portishead are a strange collection of musicians. Nobody could deny that singer Beth Gibbons is a true talent. She sings in a way that suggests she’s not reciting lyrics but giving you the truth as related to her by gods the night before. The strings she performs with help to enhance the effect and make her even more godlike. Sadly the scratching and samples prove she’s all too mortal. If Gibbons really was divine then something as inherently evil as a DJ would be unable to survive in her presence. She’d open her voice and the horrid, scurrying thing would shriek and turn to ash. The fact that Gibbons could stand to be in the presence of monkeys clearly shows her mortality. Even if she couldn’t turn them into a small pile of DJ dust she could at least have clonked them on the head with a mike stand. Sadly she didn’t so this record is marred by scratching.

Dummy is one of the pioneering albums in a genre known as Trip Hop, which is one of those slightly nebulous genres that nobody is really capable of pinning down to a precise definition. It's probably best described as Moody, sample ridden, atmospheric and trance-like. It's also apparently over and anything that is vaguely similar is described as Post-trip hop, which to my mind is just really lazy journalism "I can't describe this album so I'll just add a post to whatever came before it". Trip hop came and went. While nobody seems especially eager to try and reclaim it there are those who still hold Dummy up fondly as it's finest hour. Personally I see it as possibly a genre we needed to have but not one I feel any need to revisit.

Influenced by: Pre Trip Hop

Influenced: Post Trip Hop


Highlight: Biscuit

Lowlight: Wandering Star


Favourite Amazon Customer Review Quote: This is my first ceedee in the trip-hop genre. It wuz recommended to me by a friend who likes this kind of stuff. At first it wuz a little scary to listen to. But wen it got to track #2, it wuz so haunting. "nobody loves meee...its truu"
Haha that stayed in my mind for a long time so i kept on listening to the ceedee. The vocal is great and the songs sound mysterious. I like to listen to it when i'm doing art and also when it rains. haha i dont knoe why. I know i grew to like this ceedee tho :D. Its great.

-That's brilliant. I love they way they shorten "though" to "tho" but types "ceedee" instead of "CD"

So are you a dummy for this sort of music or is it all just a bad Trip hop? Let me know below.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

420. With the Beatles- Because being without them is too horrible a concept to contemplate.


Album: With the Beatles

Artist: The Beatles.

Genre: Greatness.

Year: 1963

And so at at 420 (appropriately enough) comes the first of many Beatles albums that from now on will crop up regularly on this list. No artist has more entries in the top 500 than the fab four. I’ve heard some criticism about this but I’ll defend The Beatles presence here to the death. The list is the 500 greatest albums and they deserve all their places here. The fact that the Beatles are the only major artist (with ten or more releases to their name) to have more of their work included than left off goes someway to proving how good they were. If you think they were over rated then you don’t understand what music was like before they came along.

With the Beatles was the second album released by J,P, G and R and came out in 1963. It’s one of a quartet of early Beatles albums often referred to as the Beatlemania albums. It follows the blueprint for most of the early releases- some covers along with a collection of original songs. The only way to address this is to go track by track, something I don't often do but Beatles releases deserve.

1. It won’t be long.

A song John wrote to try and replicate the success of She Loves you. This song is so damn… Beatley. A catchy chorus, harmonies, yeah yeahs. It even finished with a big “oooo” sound the likes of which drove kids wild. You might not know it but if I played it in your house you could identify the authors within the first four bars and your toes would be tapping four bars later. The album version is Take 17 with some overdubs recorded in the same day.

2. All I’ve gotta do.

A song John wrote two years earlier and had lying around. A Slower number but still oozing fab-fourness. If beatleness was liquid this would flood your bedroom before the second verse started and you’d have a great time drowning. They laid down the entire track in under an hour. After a few false starts they played the track six times, chose the best version, recorded an overdubed backing vocal in one take and then moved onto something else.

3. All my loving.

This is coming up to 50 years old but it’s fresh and sparkly and new and fab every time you hear it. Try not to sing along. Go on try! Put your hand over your mouth and clench your teeth and try not to join in. Futile isn’t it? Paul wrote the lyrics while shaving and then later put it to music. They recorded it in the same session that produced It won't be long with only 13 takes required.

4. Don’t’ bother me.

After three Lennon/McCartney songs a Harrison original. Early on in his career George couldn’t write as well as the others but in only a few short years he was cranking out something like Something which is really something. It’s like great song-writing is contagious and over constant exposure to two carriers George caught it (but somehow Ringo was immune). Unlike most of the rest of the album the Beatles took two days to record this track instead of one. They weren't happy with it after a run through on September 11th so they returned to it on the 12th. The final version on the album is Take 15 which they overdubbed with Claves, tambourine and bongos. Personally I prefer Take 10 without any overdubs at all.

5. Little Child.

Possibly the album’s second weakest moment. For the Beatles this is just an album filler but for any other act in the sixties an original composition like this would have been an instant single. And it would have charted as well. I may be spoiling some illusions here when I tell you that this track is constructed rather than performed. The basic take was taken from the seventh take. They then included some harmonica from the 13th take, the harmonica solo from take 18 and some piano from take 15. They were talented guys but John had yet to master singing while playing the harmonica at the same time.

6. Till there was you.

The Beatles were so damn good they could even cover tunes from musicals and make them good. That’s true talent. This song is a ditty. I don’t know what makes a ditty and what makes a song but this is definitely in the ditty camp. Paul’s voice suits it perfectly and George’s solo is so good there were many who assumed it was played by a session musician. Thankfully the band included it in their live repertoire which gave George a chance to prove who was really responsible. The take on the album is from the second session they attempted this track but I prefer live versions without overdubs.

7. Please Mr Postman.

This was originally a hit for the Marvellettes, a girl group whose only claim to fame is to have recorded this song. When they performed it after this album came out people thought it was a Beatles cover. This sort of stuff was pretty much unknown to white audiences before the Beatles came along and introduced it. They'd been doing this live so when they came to record it on July 30th they only needed a few takes for John to master his vocals. Backing vocals and handclaps were added immediately afterwards.

8. Roll over Beethoven.

Although they had fun doing it, the Beatles were always outclassed in their Chuck Berry covers by The Stones who could do Chuck better than anyone. But it’s still great and their playing even makes you forget how terrible the words are. Berry owes a huge debt to the Beatles and the Stones who helped introduce him to generations of white record buyers. Can’t type…anymore… must dance…

9. Hold me tight.

The lowest point on the album. An unconvincing song that Paul sings without any sense of conviction. It’s like he knows this isn’t going to make it on the album. Imagine his surprise when it did. The band actually tried to record this for their first album but decided it wasn't worth pursuing. I wonder what made them change their mind a few months later? I've got a version which has been remixed slightly Out Of Phase which highlights the bass but still does nothing to redeem it as a song.

10. You really got a hold on me.

A slow ballad that gives you a chance to examine those famous Beatle harmonies in all their glory. Great aren’t they? You Really Got a Hold on me was originally recorded by Smokey Robinson and the Miracles who John had a bit of an obsession with at the time.

11. I wanna be your man.

A song that Lennon and McCartney knocked off quickly in the presence of the Rolling Stones who were trying to learn to be song writers. They gave it to Jagger and Richards as a gift and then to Ringo as his song to sing on the album. Letting Ringo out from behind the drums for one song on every album was a masterstroke- he always sang as if he was so happy just to be given a microphone.To be honest he was probably thrilled to be in the band at all. He strikes me as the sort of guy who would be delighted just to be let into a lift. The version included on the album was recorded within a week of it being finished. I prefer live versions recorded later when the band and Ringo were more confident and capable of making it rock.

12. Devil in her heart.

Another ballad not written by the Beatles and a bit of a slowing down at the end. An odd choice for a cover song as the original wasn't a hit anywhere and was a pretty obscure track to cover. George probably sings it better than the original version but since the original has pretty much faded into obscurity we'll never know for sure.

13. Not a second time.

More piano than in the other tracks and a nice showcase for George Martin, the fifth Beatle and justifiably the most famous record producer who ever lived (or at least the most famous record producer who didn't attract fame by killing people). This track is the source of the famous Aeolian Cadences quote that gets mentioned a lot. A music critic from The Times praised John's songwriting especially his use of Aeolian Cadences. John said years later that he still had no idea of what an Aeolian Cadence actually was claiming they sounded to him like a kind of exotic bird. It's a great example of how the Beatles caused professional music critics to witter about their abilities even though they had no formal musical training.

14. Money.

An absolutely barnstormer of a closing number. A magnificent thumping gem which John belts out and the band nails completely. That’s what I want!

Original Highlight: All my Loving. Sing it with me now.

Cover Highlight: Money. Nobody has ever done it like they have.

Lowlight: Hold me tight. Not a bad song just not as good.

Influenced by: Chuck Berry, Smokey Robinson and Motown.

Influenced: Music.

Favourite Amazon customer review quote: “All of these songs are so trite and silly its easy to see that the Beatles were the Hansons and the Backstreet Boys of their generation”.

-You massive, massive, massive twat.


So are you with the Beatles or against them? Let me know below.