Sunday, June 30, 2013

92. 20 Golden Greats (1978) Buddy Holly


  1. That'll Be The Day
  2. Peggy Sue
  3. Words Of Love
  4. Everyday
  5. Not Fade Away
  6. Oh Boy
  7. Maybe Baby
  8. Listen To Me
  9. Heartbeat
  10. Think It Over
  11. It Doesn't Matter Any More 
  12. It's So Easy
  13. Well...All Right
  14. Rave On
  15. Raining In My Heart
  16. True Love Ways (S)
  17. Peggy Sue Got Married
  18. Bo Diddley 
  19. Brown Eyed Handsome Man 
  20. Wishing

This is the second Buddy Holly hits compilation on the countdown and track for track it's almost identical to Buddy Holly's Greatest Hits which I reviewed here. I've literally got nothing new to say about this album that I haven't already said over there. I could also rant about the fact that albums are being duplicated on this list when other things are being left off but what's the point? I've done that to death as well.

There's really nothing further to say and no point wasting your time. I can only apologise and promise something new next week

So did you bother or not? Let me know below.

Friday, June 21, 2013

93. Sign O the Times (1987) Prince


Disc 1

1. "Sign o' the Times"   4:57
2. "Play in the Sunshine"   5:05
3. "Housequake"   4:42
4. "The Ballad of Dorothy Parker"   4:01
5. "It"   5:09
6. "Starfish and Coffee" 2:50
7. "Slow Love" 4:22
8. "Hot Thing"   5:39
9. "Forever in My Life"   3:30

Disc 2

1. "U Got the Look" 3:47
2. "If I Was Your Girlfriend"   5:01
3. "Strange Relationship"   4:01
4. "I Could Never Take the Place of Your Man"   6:29
5. "The Cross"   4:48
6. "It's Gonna Be a Beautiful Night" 9:01
7. "Adore"  6:30

I don't like Prince. I really don't like him. It's not just that I don't like his music, there are quite a few people on this countdown whose music I'm not a fan of, but I don't like the man himself. He's arrogant and annoying and what we at school used to describe as "A wanker". Seriously, Prince is a total and utter wanker. He's convinced of his own importance and self-obsessed in a way that only a true wanker can manage. I mean the man tried to change his name to an intelligible symbol for goodness sake. Even die-hard fans have a hard time justifying that sort of behaviour. The man is a tiny, shouty tool of the first order and seems to have had all the humility sucked out of him and replaced by a strange variety of narcissistic cynicism which is impossible to forgive.

When it comes to reviewing a Prince album I have to overlook my personal distaste for the guy and try and judge the music entirely on its own merits. I have to put aside my preconceptions and judge the art and not the artist; The music and not the musician; the wank and not the wanker.

And that's the problem. Sign O the Times is a massive eighties wank-fest full of lifeless drum machines, crap syths and over production. It's one of those double albums which should have been a single album and even then would have felt bloated. It's an album of tedious pop that people have tried to elevate far above its station and worth.

People keep trying to claim this is funk. These people have clearly never heard James Brown, Sly and the Family Stone, or any record the Funk Brothers played on. Funk is live, funk is groovy and funk has soul. Funk is not, I repeat not, played by a machine. Most of the drumming on Sign is played by a small box that Prince programmed to produce sounds which sound nothing like an actual drum. It's got rhythm but no soul and might as well be a shoe left in a clothes dryer for all the feeling it gives the music. I can hit the "funk" setting on a casio keyboard, does that make me a musical genius too?

I've also read people who've tried to claim Sign contains social commentary and eloquent statements on contemporary American society. Seriously? My favourite lyrics from the title track are

"Sister killed her baby cuz she couldn't afford 2 feed it
And we're sending people 2 the moon"

Sending people to the moon? In 1987? No, no we weren't. America stopped sending people to the moon in 1972 presumably because they'd stopped finding things to do. (I imagine the last guy who went up there just wandered about aimlessly for a bit kicking at stones and trying not to trip over the golf-balls his predecessors had left lying around). If anyone is looking to Prince for their biting social commentary that might want to reconsider their world-view.

Sign O The Times just heaps irritation on irritation. If Was Your Girlfriend features Prince's in character as Camille, his female persona. Prince affects a total transformation when singing as Camille by speeding his voice up in an attempt to sound like a female. The end result transforms him from small annoying egotist with a passable voice into a small annoying egotist who sounds like the chipmunk that wasn't talented enough to hang with Simon, Alvin and Theodore. Prince uses this character to sing a song called If I was Your Girlfriend which it's incredibly hard not to laugh at. At least the chipmunks knew they were a bit daft but Prince takes himself way too seriously and singing a love song in a weird high-pitched voice is impossible not to find amusing. When he sings "And would u, would u let me kiss u there, You know down there where it counts, Ill do it so good I swear I'll drink every ounce" it sounds like a small woodland creature offering to perform oral sex. Who can take that seriously?

Prince is a massive tool and far and away the most over-rated performer on this countdown. I have one more album of his to listen to and once that's done I will never voluntarily hear another note of his as long as I live.

Favourite Amazon Customer Review Quote: "I couldn't then nor can I now get past the image of a guy sitting in front a bunch of machines/computers producing music in the vein of JB,Sly etc... those were bands and when hearing that music it was SO much fun imaging the incredible interplay and tightness of those musicians.... that lustre is gone in this release...."

So are you a fan of Sign O the Times and if so which other chipmunks albums did you find emotionally involving? Let me know below

Friday, June 14, 2013

94 Bitches Brew (1970) Miles Davis


Disc One

1. Pharaoh's Dance 20:06
2. Bitches Brew 27:01

Disc 2:

1. Spanish Key 17:34
2. John McLaughlin 4:22
3. Miles Runs The Voodoo Down 14:04
4. Sanctuary 10:59
5. Feio              11:53

All Miles Davis needed to be great was a trumpet. He didn't need other musicians or percussionists or anyone else around him he just needed his instrument and he could produce wondrous things. He was one of those rare people who was just so musically gifted that great music just poured out of him.

But Miles liked to be challenged. He liked to pushed. It was like he knew he only had a limited amount of time on earth and he wanted to revolutionise jazz as often and as comprehensively as possible. The best way he knew to gain inspiration was to surround himself with talented people who could latch onto his vision and run with it. When I say "surround" I'm usually offering up a figure of speech but in the case of Bitches Brew it was literally true. Davis packed the studio and at times had 12 musicians playing with him which means he'd moved beyond quartets and quintets and into whatever you call a group of 13 people. And as a legacy the sessions left an imprint on the world almost as big as that other guy who hung around with 12 disciples.

I'm not exactly a jazz aficionado. I have a selection of jazz albums that I enjoy and I voluntarily listen to Miles and others from time to time but even someone with only a passing interest like my own recognizes some of the names present. Wayne Shorter on saxophone, Chick Corea on piano, John McLauglin on guitar and Jack DeJohnette are all giants of jazz and household names if you live in the kind of house who really likes jazz. The rest of the less familiar appearances on the roll call are no slouches either and there was more talent gathered together in that one studio than anywhere else on the planet in 1970.

Ironically a lot of the talent in the room wasn't related to what the players played but what they didn't play. It sounds strange to think of not-playing as a skill, I've personally been not-playing jazz for my entire life and nobody has ever complimented me on it ("Hey Dave! Fantastic not-trombone playing! Mad skills!), in fact I've not been playing every instrument at the same time which technically makes me a multi-instrumentalist. The point is that when the room is full it's best if some space is given for the music to breath. In addition to Miles' trumpet, most tracks features a sax and clarinet along with two bass players, two electric pianos, a guitar, two drum kits and an additional two percussionists. If everyone played at the same time the whole thing would be a mess. But the talent in the room knew when to sit back and play a little, when to play a lot and when to play nothing at all. There's a lot going on to be sure but it's never overwhelming, in fact it's outstanding.

Bitches Brew is just magnificent even though nobody really knows what it actually is. There are people out there having long debates about whether this is jazz, jazz-rock, jazz-fusion or something else. They're all raising their voices to put their case and could probably take a lesson from the musicians and learn when it's appropriate to keep quiet. If you can sit outside the debate about where this fits then you'll be able to appreciate how rich and full it is. Bitches Brew isn't such a departure from the jazz that went before it that it's not recognizable but it's definitely steps away from what preceded it. It's got a groove and a rhythm and while it's melodic you won't find yourself humming it in the street. It's not atonal and discordant but there's a reason trumpeters don't busk its tunes outside your local supermarket.

It's crap music to put on at a dinner party and hard to work to but if you give it your time there is so much to reward you in repeated listenings. The drumming and percussion alone is worth hearing for the complexity of the interplay, thats if you can keep your ears from getting distracted by Miles and his trumpet or Mchlauglin and his guitar. Bitches Brew is wonderful played loud on a good system in a darkened room where the music can be enjoyed and experienced in its entirety.

Columbia Records have recently been mining the Miles legacy in a series of boxes sets which collect all available recordings from certain eras which are a joy for the serious collector and also the casual Miles fan who really loves a particular phase of his career. The Bitches Box contains the original album in a remastered form and augments it with similar recordings from around the same time period. Some of them have been released before but others were debut recordings. There's nothing that's as good as the original Bitches but I do really enjoy Guinnevere, which in theory is a cover of a song David Crosby wrote on the first CSN album but is really a launching point for Miles and band to stretch out for 21 joyous minutes.

If you haven't heard Bitches Brew and worry that it's Miles at his least accessible then think again. There's a lot to enjoy without having to steel yourself for something too avante garde. I don't know if it's jazz-rock, jazz fusion or some other genre. I just know I like it.

Favourite Amazon Customer Review Quote: "The elect few get it? No they don't, they just happen to be deaf, stoned, and easily led. Period"

-It always annoys me when someone assumes that their inability to appreciate someone else's music is because everyone who does is impaired by mind-altering substances.

So is this a Brew you'd happily consume or one you'd rather Bitch about? Let me know below.

Friday, June 7, 2013

95. Green River (1969) Creedence Clearwater Revival


1. Green River
2. Commotion
3. Tombstone Shadow
4. Wrote A Song For Everyone
5. Bad Moon Rising
6. Lodi
7. Cross-Tie Walker
8. Sinster Purpose
9. The Night Time Is The Right Time

This isn't Creedence's only 1969 album. It's not even one of their two 1969 albums. It's amazing to think that Green River is the 2nd of a trio of albums that they released in the final year of the 60's. Today bands can easily go for five years between releasing albums. Putting out two new releases in successive years is considered prolific and releasing two albums in the one year is a rare thing indeed.

But Creedence put out 26 new tracks in 1969 spread over 3 LP's which is no mean achievement made even more impressive by the fact that they're all worth hearing. You could forgive them if the three were padded with filler tracks and lesser compositions but there's not much that's weak on Green River.

The title track starts with the distinctive Creedence sound that always makes me wonder why the hell I don't listen to them more often. Green River isn't the first song that comes to mind when I think of the Fogerty brothers and friends but it's a perfect little two-and-a-half minute rock song which makes you want to hear it again and hear the rest of the album at the same time. It's a great album opener which puts you into a "Want to hear it again but want more" state of indecision. 

Side two opens with Bad Moon Rising which achieves exactly the same thing. It's rock with added swamp and sounds dirty but clean at the same time. I've never understood how Creedence can rely on the same guitar and drum sound that other bands of their day did but still manage to appeal to non-rock fans. There are countless copies of Creedence best of's sitting in CD collections along with Billy Joel and Bette Midler greatest hits. It's a feat that only Creedence and Queen are capable of pulling off. 

Bad Moon is followed by Lodi which is Green River's other great original and it concludes with The Night Time is The Right Time an inspired choice of cover popularized by Ray Charles and later played by The Rolling Stones live. Listening to the original it doesn't sound like a good fit for Creedence but their version is fantastic and a suitable album closer.

The lesser songs on Green River aren't going to rank among anyone's favourites but they're definitely not disposable filler and not even the impending attraction of Bad Moon Rising will have you reaching for the skip button to pass over Commotion or Tombstone Shadow.

I have to confess however that I've got no idea why this is so much higher than Willy and The Poor boys, which they released a few months later. Willy has Down on the Corner which is the equal of anything on Green River and Fortunate Son which is their best song. It's got a cover (Midnight Special) every bit as good as Night Time and the remaining tracks are as good as the rest of Green River. So why is Willy at number 392 while this cracks the top 100? Baffling.

Either way I recommend this along with Willy and Bayou Country which was released before it. Enjoy all three but ponder this for a moment: if the record company had let Creedence release one album in 1969 instead of three then they could have chosen the best of the songs they recorded that year onto two sides of vinyl. How does this look for a track listing...

1. Born on the Bayou
2. Proud Mary
3. Down on the Corner
4. Fortunate Son
5. Green River
6. Bad Moon Rising
7. Lodi
8. Keep on Chooglin

If that album had hit stores somewhere in the middle of 1969 then I wouldn't be writing about it now I'd be singing its praises when it appeared somewhere in the top ten.

Enjoy Green River in whichever way you find it, whether in its original form, as a compilation of your own devising or as selected tracks on the Creedence best-of which is the only acceptable thing to listen to in your friend's middle-of-the-road CD collection. It's great stuff.

Favourite Amazon Customer Review Quote: "I wish I could give it an 8 to offset the three 4 star reviews, none of which give a reason for the downgrade."

- I love the fact that someone has actually done some maths to work out what they'd need to do to bring the average up to the point where they want it. Thankfully Green river only has 44 reviews. Can you imagine what would need to happen if it had 444? He'd probably want to give it a 78 star review.

So is this the best album Creedence released in 1969 or is it only number three? Let me know below