Thursday, June 26, 2014

37 Hotel California (1976) The Eagles




1. Hotel California
2. New Kid in Town
3. Life in the Fast Lane
4. Wasted Time
5. Wasted Time (Reprise)
6. Victim of Love
7. Pretty Maids All in a Row
8. Try and Love Again
9. The Last Resort

As I type this the Eagles are on the road somewhere. They're engaging on a massive concert tour which they anticipate taking several years to complete. They'll tromp around the world playing to hordes of fans all of whom are over 50 and capable of paying $400 for the privilege. Somewhere you can imagine the following conversation taking place...

Hey we've got a spare ticket to see The Eagles.

Welcome to The Hotel California! Such a lovely place!

Yeah that's them.

You can check out any time you like but you can never leave.

Are you interested?

Yeah I'd love to see Hotel California performed live. That song is an absolute classic. It gets stuck in your head like nothing else. Hell yeah I'd love to see that.

Of course they won't perform it first, you'd probably have to wait for the encore. They'll do other stuff first.

Life in the fast lane! I love that song. I love the way it goes Life in the fast lane... and then Life in the fast lane and... how else does it go?

Actually I think that's it. I think that's kind of all it does.

Oh. Well they must have lots of other great songs as well.

Oh yeah. Heaps of them. Like....

Um....

Oh they have New Kid in Town. That's another one.

Isn't that the one that's kind of dull and feels like it goes on forever?

Yeah. Now you mention it that kind of sums it up.

But for memory it's not as bad as the one that follows that has the overblown strings and then feels the need to reprise itself.

Knowing them they'll have a string section with them as well. So they'll have a chance to be kind of overblown onstage.

And they'll play The Last Resort, that song goes on forever. It just doesn't stop.

Actually now you mention it I'm kind of luke warm about the whole idea myself.

They will play those short guitar solos exactly the way they play them on the album.

And there's always the chance they'll descend into a fight onstage because they really, really hate each other.

Basically what you're asking is: do I want to pay a lot of money to see a bunch of old guys recreate songs that they're bored to tears with in a live setting?

Yes. Yes I am.

But ...Hotel California.

Yeah... Hotel California.

What the hell, just let me go mortgage my house.


All over the world there are people who have paid good money to sit in an auditorium and patiently wait for some of the people who recorded Hotel California to play it for them. That's their right but I don't think many of them have gone away thinking they've got their money's worth.

Favourite Amazon Customer Review Quote: "This Album is why I started listening to Punk."

-To be honest, this album is a big part of why you have punk to listen to.

So did you enjoy your stay at Hotel California? Let me know below.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

38 The Muddy Waters Anthology (2001) Muddy Waters



Disc one


  1. Gypsy Woman
  2. I Can't Be Satisfied
  3. I Feel Like Going Home
  4. Train Fare Home Blues
  5. Mean Red Spider
  6. Standin' Here Tremblin'
  7. You Gonna Need My Help
  8. Little Geneva
  9. Rollin' and Tumblin' Part One
  10. Rollin' Stone
  11. Walkin' Blues
  12. Louisiana Blues
  13. Long Distance Call
  14. Honey Bee
  15. Country Boy
  16. She Moves Me
  17. Still a Fool
  18. Stuff You Gotta Watch
  19. Who's Gonna Be Your Sweet Man When I'm Gone?
  20. Standin' Around Cryin'
  21. Baby Please Don't Go
  22. Hoochie Coochie Man
  23. I Just Want to Make Love to You
  24. I'm Ready
  25. Young Fashioned Ways
  26. I Want to Be Loved


Disc two


  1. My Eyes (Keep Me in Trouble)
  2. Mannish Boy
  3. Sugar Sweet
  4. Trouble No More
  5. Forty Days and Forty Nights
  6. Just to Be with You
  7. Don't Go No Farther
  8. Diamonds at Your Feet
  9. I Love the Life I Live, I Live the Life I Love
  10. Got My Mojo Working
  11. Rock Me
  12. Look What You've Done
  13. She's Nineteen Years Old
  14. Close to You
  15. Walking Thru the Park
  16. Take the Bitter with the Sweet
  17. I Feel So Good 
  18. You Shook Me
  19. My Home is in the Delta
  20. Good Morning Little School Girl
  21. The Same Thing
  22. You Can't Lose What You Ain't Never Had
  23. All Aboard (Fathers & Sons)
  24. Can't Get No Grindin'


All hail Muddy Waters, the most complete blues package to ever walk the earth. There has never been, and there never will be, a man who is so completely and utterly Blues as Muddy Waters.

The Voice.

Muddy's voice is a beautiful thing. It's deep and expressive and it sounds like it's had pain. It speaks truth. The problem with a lot of white boy blues artists is that when they sing they don't sound convincing. They can talk about how their woman left them with nothing and they're starving, lonely and sad but their voice sounds like they're rich, happy and a few minutes away from stepping into a room full of groupies. Muddy sounds like he has the blues. He sings like a man who has never had a happy relationship  and staggers through life relying on cheap booze to get him from gig to gig. Unlike a lot of his contemporaries, Muddy sounds great when accompanied by himself on a guitar or when he's fronting a big band. He only needs six strings to accompany his music but even if you throw in drums, bass, piano and horns, his voice is still the most powerful instrument in the room. When Rolling Stone made a list of their top vocalists of all time, Muddy came in at number 53, personally I would have put him higher.

His guitar

There aren't too many artists who make Rolling Stone's top vocalists list and at the same time earn a place on their list of top guitarists. Muddy Waters is one, coming in at 53 on the first and 49 on the second. While this chronological release starts off with his earlier low key blues outings it moves into his band era which provides an opportunity to showcase his stinging lead guitar work.

His Songwriting

Waters wasn't just a guy who recorded the blues, he helped to shape it. His songwriting ability has provided us with some of the most recognised and remembered Blues staples. Rolling Stone, Rolling and Tumblin, Trouble no More, Honey Bee, Got my Mojo working,  and many others are great Blues tracks which have inspired generations. There may be those who want to quibble and claim they're based on earlier songs but then so is every damn blues song anyone ever wrote. That's what the Blues was.

His Band.

Muddy Waters was enough of a talent in his own right but he had an ability to gather great musicians around him and bring out their best. The anthology features the guitar talents of Jimmy Rogers and Buddy Guy, the piano of Otis Spann and the harmonica of Little Walter and Junior Wells. It's also got the bass of Willie Dixon but more importantly features a lot of Dixon's songwriting skills. Willie gave us Hoochie Coochie Man, I just want to make love to you, You Shook Me and dozens of other great blues tracks.

His Life.

Nobody knows how old Muddy Waters was when he died. He grew up not knowing his birthdate and how many years he'd been on the planet. That's very blues. That's authentic blues right there. If you want my respect then tell me you don't know how old you are and you don't care and your woman left you and you've got no money so birthday's don't matter much no how.

His name.

Muddy Waters. The guy's name is Muddy Waters. Obviously it's not but that doesn't matter it will always be how we know him and it's perfect.

Muddy Waters had a long and distinguished career as a blues pioneer, innovator and all around genius. There are a million compilations out there but this one is easily the best. It showcases all his greatest moments in two discs. If you want to hear the music that influenced Led Zeppelin (You shook me), The Grateful Dead (Good morning little schoolgirl), The Rolling Stones (I Just want to make love to you), Bob Dylan (Rolling and Tumblin), Elvis Presley (Got my Mojo Working), The Allman Brothers Band (Hoochie Coochie Man), Aerosmith (I'm ready) and thousands of others then this is the place to start. It's blues and it's the real deal.

Favourite Amazon Customer Review Quote: "McKinley Morganfield - a.k.a. Muddy Waters - started out playing acoustic Delta blues in Mississippi. But when he moved to Chicago in 1943, he started with an electric guitar."

-That's the entire review. Not so much a review as a factoid.


Thursday, June 12, 2014

39. Please Please Me (1963) The Beatles




After several years of trying, John, George, Paul and Ringo were let into a recording studio in 1963 to record a full length LP. It was something they'd dreamed about for years and when they finally had the chance they not only had access to a great recording studio but were also lucky enough to have an understanding genius as producer and mentor. The pain of the failed Decca audition and the many rejection letters was finally erased as they spent a day in the studio running through selected highlights from their repertoire. A few weeks later the album was quickly rushed out to the British public who lapped it up and demanded more. The rest of the world followed suit except for the US who took a lot longer to realise they had something worth enjoying on their hands.

Rolling Stone magazine rates this album as the greatest of their original "Beatlemania period," which I'm not sure I'd agree with, but it's hard to argue that it's still a joyous musical moment and 50 years after it was released it still holds up.

Track by Track...

I Saw Her Standing There

Standing is just perfect. From its raucous opening to "Well my heart went boom" and everything else in between. It's just joyous and it sounds great on a crap old radio or a shiny new system or headphones or even in your own voice in the shower.

Misery

Not the dynamic duo's finest songwriting hour and nobody's favourite Beatles song. It probably doesn't help that the Beatles don't actually sound miserable. You could change the opening line to "The World is treating me grand, Happiness" and they wouldn't sing it any differently. They sound like a band who are just delighted to be in a recording studio.

(Anna) Go to Him

One of the criticisms levelled at the early Beatles was that they took the music of black artists and made it white and acceptable for white audiences. Anna was the first time anyone heard this trick pulled off and you can kind of see why some people were annoyed. It does sound awfully white. I've got no doubt John listened to enough Black music to understand it but he sounds very white while he does it. There must have been people with the original Alexander Armstrong version in their record collection wondering why they needed to hear the song being performed by white kids. As the first cover on a Beatles album it's not an especially auspicious start. Anna is one of the songs that makes Please Please Me one of their lesser early albums and not one of the great ones.

Chains

George Harrison takes the lead vocals in their second cover. The Beatles didn't just record cover versions of songs by blues and soul singers, they took the unusual step of recording music by girl groups. They took songs originally written for female groups and made them rock and roll hits. It was a rich vein of songwriting that not many of their contemporaries were tapping into and made a welcome addition to their repertoire. Their ability to harmonize perfectly suited a lot of girl pop ballads.

Boys.

Another girl group hit only this time with lyrics that were slightly harder to make gender neutral. Not that anyone really cared at the time. Ringo takes his turn at vocals and does a great job of nailing this Shiralees track. Ringo had a limited range and wasn't the world's best vocalist but the band and Martin knew how to get the most out of it. His track on every Beatles album is always a treat but never enough to make you wish he had more.

Ask Me Why

One of those great little Beatles tracks which shows off their ability to harmonise, rock and just add a touch of joyous to any room they're playing in. It's a neat little gem tucked away on their first album and totally overlooked by anyone who doesn't actually listen to Beatles albums in their entirety. It's reason enough to give this album a listen if you've only heard the Fab Four on the radio or on compilations.

Please Please Me.

This is the track that everyone points to whenever anyone asks how much of a contribution George Martin made to the Beatles legacy. Apparently PPM was originally a slow, croony ballad written in a Roy Orbison style. George told the band to speed it up and their first number one hit was born. George really was the perfect fit for The Beatles. All hail George.

Love Me Do.

The Beatles first single and definitely their most boring. Love Me Do is a slow dirgy plod that sounded a bit like a breath of fresh air when it was first released by quickly became turgid compared to what followed.

PS I Love You

An early McCartney ballad and a very pretty one. It's proof that Paul could write a genuinely effective love song that didn't descend into mawkish. In his later years he would mawk a lot more easily but early on he was capable of being comparatively mawk free.

Baby It's You

One of those early Beatles songs which was more Brian Epstein's idea than the Beatles. Brian didn't really know how to market the Beatles at first because they were breaking new territory. He was keen for them to try and straddle both worlds and do rock and adult numbers from musicals. Baby It's You is a Bacharach number and while I'm sure there are people who like the original it's nobody's favourite Beatles song.

Do You Want to Know a Secret

At this stage in their career everyone was applauding George just for trying. Well done George you wrote a song! Good for you. It would be a few years before he was churning out great material but when he did it was definitely worth hearing.

A Taste of Honey

Another song that Brian wanted them to record. Apparently John hated this song so much he used to change the words to "A Waste of Money" when he sang it live. He certainly sings it without any kind of conviction on the record.

There's a Place

Anyone who disregards the Beatles as bubblebum pop obsessed with hand-holding and dances needs to sit down and listen to this track. It's mature song writing about a mature subject matter and is a genuinely grown up song. They didn't need to wait to get long hair and a psychadelic wardrobe to start being introspective. It was all there on their first album.

Twist and Shout 

I've heard dozens of versions of this song and nobody had managed to do it this well. Twist and Shout is simply fantastic and some of the best flat-out rock and roll anyone recorded in 1963. People forget that while the Beatles might have been novices when it came to a recording studio, they were seasoned pros when it came to playing the music they loved. They'd been doing it for years and despite a drummer change, were a tight unit when George Martin came to finally record them.


Favourite Amazon Customer Review Quote: "This is monkee music. Don't listen to it. The Beatles were only good after 1965 with HELP! and RUBBER SOUL. After that they had talent."

-Quiet! Silly person.

So does this please you? Let me know below.


Friday, June 6, 2014

40. Forever Changes (1967) Love


1. Alone Again Or
2. A House Is Not A Motel
3. Andmoreagain
4. The Daily Planet
5. Old Man
6. The Red Telephone
7. Maybe The People Would Be The Times Or Between Clark And Hilldale
8. Live And Let Live
9. The Good Humor Man He Sees Everything Like This
10. Bummer In The Summer
11. You Set The Scene

Love's Forever Changes is apparently better than Dark Side of the Moon which is arrant nonsense. There's no way this is three places greater than Pink Floyd's massive debut. So why is it here?

When Dark Side of the Moon was released it was immediately a massive smash hit which spent over 700 weeks on Billboards album charts which is an incredible achievement. Long after the band had released other albums, Dark Side was still selling in the shops. Forever Changes however spent 10 weeks in the top 200 and only managed to get as far as 154. It was a commercial flop.

At the time nobody cared but decades after its release everyone seems to love it. In addition to Rolling Stone's decision to include it on this list at number 40, it,s apparently the 6th greatest album of all time according to NME magazine and the second greatest psychedelic album according to Mojo.

Clearly it's cool to love Forever Changes but does it really deserve all the accolades it receives? Is it as good as everyone thinks it is?

I'd say no. It's an okay album and certainly not a screaming dud but as a set of songs its not as strong as a lot of other albums on this list. The opening two tracks are catchy and enjoyable and the closing two are interesting but the middle of the album really drops in quality. It's well produced and extravagant but they're not exactly songs that make you stand up and pay attention. They sound like they're taking up space a bit and just filling up vinyl. Would the Beatles, Yardbirds, Stones, Who, Cream or Hendrix Experieince have included them on their albums? I'd say the answer is no, they'd record a version but discard them in favour of something better.

So why is this so well regarded? Whose loving Love?

I think a big part of it is the fact that people can enjoy it while appreciating something that still has an air of mystique attached. Love doesn't get much radio play and their music isn't included in compilations or used on soundtracks for movies, TV shows or commercials. Mention them to most people and they've never heard their music. Even if you sung them a tune they wouldn't light up in recognition. They're still an obscure underground hit despite their presence on lists like this. They can appear in between the Sex Pistols and The Beatles and still have people scratching their heads when they see their name. People love being part of a secret and Love is this list's best kept secret.

Which is not to say that there isn't some merit. Please don't go thinking that this is all a case of Emperor's New Clothes. There is a genuine attraction to Forever Changes but I think it's more to do with mood than songwriting. Arthur Lee's gentle vocals, combined with the band's trippy ethos and the orchestral overdubbing serves to create a perfect atmosphere which says "psychedelic 1967" like few other albums can. It perfectly captures the hippie mood and ideology of the time. It's not so much about tunes you can whistle as a mood you can experience. If you feel nostalgic for the Summer of Love (whether you were there or not) then Forever Changes works as the soundtrack to that heady time and evokes the sun-drenched hopefulness of the era. It's enticing to a lot of people, especially backed by its aura of shared secret treasure.

It's definitely not better than Dark Side of the Moon though.

Favourite Amazon Customer Review Quote: "This album sounds like generic 60s oldies that you hear every time you go to the dentist or when your aunt is driving."

-Where is this person from? What country has dentists that play this sort of music?

So do you love this? Let me know below