Metallica – …And Justice for All |
| November 28th, 2008 under Album Reviews. [ Comments: none ]
Tracks: Blackened; …And Justice for All; Eye of the Beholder; One; The Shortest Straw; Harvester of Sorrow; The Frayed Ends of Sanity; To Live is to Die; Dyers Eve
Best track: could be any depending on my mood
Track to skip: none
I mentioned in the last review (Garage Days) about the bass issue for this album. Jason Newstead got his introduction on that EP, but this album was the first major release to feature him. Fun stuff – he’s nearly inaudible. I don’t know why, either. Maybe James Hetfield and Lars Ulrich instructed the guys mixing the album to keep him out of the mix? You know, it really doesn’t bother me. As a bassist, it doesn’t make me love this album any less because I can’t hear the bass player here. Sure, you can pick him out every once and a while – near the end of the title track, beginning of Eye of the Beholder & the slow part of To Live is to Die, to name a few spots. It doesn’t affect the quality of the album, however. There are so many seemingly millions of guitar overdubs that Newstead’s bass would almost get in the way. Truthfully, if I had never been told that the bass was mixed really low, I would have never noticed. There are so many great guitar parts…THAT’S what I always pay attention to. Lars’ bass drum also obscures the “bass player” in many places. There are these weird moments with his bass drums, especially when he’s doing double bass stuff, that bring this extra bit of low-end, extra “oomph”.
It’s a testament to the strength of the band – specifically Hetfield & Ulrich – that they could lose such a vital part in Cliff Burton and still come out with such a fantastic album. Really, front to back, this is such a great piece of work. It’s incredibly solid all the way through. That’s why I can’t pick a “best track” out of the bunch – every track on here is great. I originally thought, “yeah, it’s Shortest Straw or One…no, maybe it’s Frayed Ends of Sanity…no, it’s definitely To Live is to Die…aw hell no, it’s Dyers Eve…no, well, One is a pretty freaking amazing song…” Yeah, you get my point. Oh, and yes, I simply love Blackened, Justice & Harvester too. I love everything here; there’s not a bad second of music on the disc. Maybe I have some bit of bias because I’ve been listening to it for so long, but I really just enjoyed the hell out of it listening to it again. I always do.
Blackened is such a downright ruthless way to start an album. That’s one great trait of the band, always starting out the albums with a bang. Hit the Lights, Fight Fire with Fire, Battery, Blackened and even Enter Sandman – Metallica always knows how to begin an album. As everyone knows, One was the surprise hit single from this album and still one of the band’s most loved songs. Both die-hards & casual fans love the song and it’s not a surprise. One is a f’n awesome song. These guys really know how to write a good song. All of the songs on here, they’re all so well-written. There are so many intricate twists and turns in the riffs and the guitar playing in general. Nothing is remotely predictable here and that’s what I love about this album. Even in heavy metal circles …And Justice was such a hugely original and influential album…just completely unpredictable.
I can’t say enough how much I love this album. It was the natural extension of what the band had been doing since they started. Listening from Kill ‘em All onwards, it was obvious they’d end up making this album. It was clear they’d get more and more progressive until they hit the point where they were seemingly at the edge. Yeah, I think this album is that edge. Beyond it? Who the hell knows – not many bands are willing to push themselves past the edge. It’s like they push and push until they get to that place where they have mastered everything they know…and then there’s nothingness. Like the edge of a cliff, where in front of you is a vast blackness. Do you jump? Or do you turn back around? That was the decision Metallica had to make after creating …And Justice for All. We’ll see which way they went soon enough (and no, the color of the cover for their 5th album doesn’t tell you where they went).
Yes, I am giving Justice the same grade as Master of Puppets. The songwriting is better on that album, the mix is better and it features the best work from one of my favorite musicians, Cliff Burton. If he had lived to make this album with the band? Who knows how amazing it could be. As it is, they’re both excellent albums…Justice less so, but honestly not by much.
Metallica – The $5.98 EP – Garage Days Re-Revisited |
| November 23rd, 2008 under Album Reviews. [ Comments: none ]
Tracks: Helpless; The Small Hours; The Wait; Crash Course in Brain Surgery; Last Caress/Green Hell
Best track: Helpless or Crash Course in Brain Surgery
Track to skip: none
You can hear the bass! Certainly a cause to celebrate being that it’s barely audible in the recordings after this EP. I don’t think this was anything pre-planned, but I’m guessing that the band felt they needed to re-ground themselves after losing Cliff Burton in a bus accident in 1986. I think they also knew the direction the next album (…And Justice for All) would take and probably felt that they needed to lighten things up a bit. Just as with the original “Garage Days Revisited” in 1984, they threw together this batch of covers to give some time before the next album and, in this case, to introduce the new guy in the group – bassist Jason Newstead. I think it’s a good introduction to Newstead and his style of bass playing. I mean, he’s not even in the same league as Cliff Burton and it’s pretty obvious that while they brought in someone who was clearly competent, he’s not an amazing technical force like Cliff was. He’s good, he’s solid and he does the job. I’m honestly just happy that you can hear him on this, because Lars and James completely buried him in the mix for Justice. We’ll get to that issue next time, though.
The EP starts off with a Diamond Head tune, Helpless, that’s possibly the best of the bunch. Lars does some great double-bass work on this song and it’s a lot of fun to listen to. Truthfully, all of these songs are fun. Some are pretty dark (The Wait, The Small Hours) and everything rocks hard on here, but the overwhelming feeling here is fun. I love the raw-ness on this album, how you can hear the buzzing of the amps and hands moving around the fretboard at various times. It’s not something they took overly serious and it’s clear how relaxed they were at these sessions. It literally sounds like they set up their gear, hit the record button, recorded a take live, and then went on to the next song. I love the carefully-produced stuff like Puppets & Justice, but I have to say it’s nice and refreshing to hear the band play like this.
The other 4 songs on the EP go through tracks by Holocaust, Killing Joke, Budgie & the Misfits (with a very short bastardization of Iron Maiden’s Run to the Hills at the very end). I think that Crash Course in Brain Surgery is another candidate for “best track” here, but in reality everything is good. The songs are tight, but also retain that loose quality. Overall, yeah, it’s a fun release and it provides a nice bit of levity after the loss of Cliff Burton. Not to mention before the brutality of the following release. This EP/CD has been out of print for many years, but thankfully the band included this in their “Garage Inc.” album that gathers all of the rare tracks they recorded over the years.
Ozzy Osbourne – Diary of a Madman |
| November 23rd, 2008 under Album Reviews. [ Comments: 1 ]
Tracks: Over the Mountain; Flying High Again; You Can’t Kill Rock and Roll; Believer; Little Dolls; Tonight; S.A.T.O.; Diary of a Madman
Best track: Diary of a Madman, barely edging out S.A.T.O.
Track to skip: none
Great album. Diary of a Madman is the second and unfortunately last studio album that paired Ozzy with guitarist Randy Rhoades. I think this album is very slightly over-produced, but there’s no denying that the band is significantly more confident on this release than on Blizzard of Ozz. In a way, this is like Led Zeppelin 1 vs. Led Zep 2 – they come out on this follow up with such authority that you can’t help but be awed by the power of it. I mean, as far as a 1-2 punch, I can’t think of any other metal bands that did it as well as Ozzy did. Speaking of playing with authority and confidence – check out Randy’s guitar playing on Flying High Again, esp. the solo. Great song and a deserved classic. Actually, Randy Rhoades’ guitar playing is all-around better on this album. You know, if that’s even possible. I should probably mention that Rhoades is one of my favorite guitar players EVER and I’m probably a little biased.
There are no skippers here, even though there are a couple of moments of “less-than-greatness”. I really like You Can’t Kill Rock and Roll as a song, and there’s some fantastic playing on there, but the chorus lyrics confuse me a bit. I’m not one to love “pro-rock” songs and I’m not sure what the chorus of the song has to do with the rest of it. Is it about music critics? Did people think Ozzy was some sort of prophet? I don’t get it. I just kind of ignore the chorus because it’s kinda cheesy. Still, on the whole I like the song. Little Dolls is a song I’m torn on – I absolutely love Rudy Sarzo’s bass playing on here and I certainly like the song, but it’s never one I go out of my way to hear. I have to say, though, that the song construction is quite cool. I love that the pre-chorus is where the title is sung, not to mention Sarzo’s great bass work in that part. I’m also torn on Tonight; sometimes I think it’s kinda cheesy, but then sometimes I just love it. I think that this song in particular is one of the songs that suffers from the over-indulgent production. There’s just too much going on there.
A few nit-picky things, but that’s it for any points taken off. The rest of the album is absolutely stellar. Over the Mountain and Flying High Again make a perfect 1-2 punch to open the album and Believer…oh, man, what a fantastically evil song. Those riffs sound so demonic and are pure awesomeness. It’s just a great heavy song. Man, I especially love that verse riff. Brilliant. When we get to the last two songs of the album, SATO (stupid periods) & Diary of a Madman – WATCH OUT. These two songs are so absolutely awesome and two of the best songs Ozzy’s ever done. SATO is a constant stream of bad-assness. That main riff is excellence in songwriting. This is one of those songs that you’ll never hear on the radio, but for me it’s got a similar feel to Steal Away from Blizzard – which just happens to be my favorite song Ozzy & Randy ever did. SATO merges perfectly with the album’s closer, Diary of a Madman. Holy crap, that guitar intro to Diary is one of the coolest things Randy Rhoades ever wrote. One of the many things he did that makes guitarists have to pick our jaws off the floor. Diary of a Madman is such an excellent song and an unexpected closer. I mean, you think that it can’t get any better than what you’ve already listened to for 35 minutes and then this absolutely magical piece of music comes on and completely redefines this already great album. I love the addition of the strings on this tune; I just wish they were placed a bit better in the mix. Still, the subtleness works in their favor.
So what’s the verdict? I don’t know. I love both this and Blizzard of Ozz. I think the compositions are better on Blizzard by a hair, but the actual performance and attitude on this album is better. I think that both are absolutely essential metal albums and each are representations of the perfect blueprint for heavy metal albums. Everybody shines on this album and there’s so much to love here. I have no idea which is a better album, this or Blizzard. They’re equal in my eyes and really are parts 1 & 2 of this slab of greatness.
Black Sabbath – Heaven and Hell |
| November 22nd, 2008 under Album Reviews. [ Comments: 1 ]
Tracks: Neon Knights; Children of the Sea; Lady Evil; Heaven and Hell; Wishing Well; Die Young; Walk Away; Lonely is the Word
Best track: Heaven & Hell
Tracks to skip: Lady Evil, Walk Away
Damn, they’re not messing around here. Right out of the gate the revamped Sabbath comes storming out and it’s clear they’re going to kick your ass. Neon Knights is a great track and a perfect introduction to the Dio-fronted Black Sabbath.
Ronnie James Dio had previously played with Elf and, more popularly, Richie Blackmore’s Rainbow before joining with Black Sabbath, who had recently kicked out Ozzy Osbourne for a 2nd time. I think the general perception is that Sabbath had lost their way on the previous two albums, Technical Ecstasy and Never Say Die. It’s true (and admirable) that Sabbath was never content to be “just a heavy metal band” and once they gained popularity in the early 70’s they experimented quite a bit with instruments, composition styles and production throughout the decade. Still, I think there was a desire from the larger Sabbath fan base that wanted the heavy stuff, since that’s what Sabbath was best at. Is it fair to pigeon-hole them into being “just” a heavy metal band? Not really, but I think the fans wanted it and the band did too. The band had grown and experimented, but really weren’t what they used to be. So, the solution is get a new singer who brings a completely different presence and talent and essentially re-define yourself.
The Ozzy vs. Dio comparisons are naturally going to happen. Rainbow had been a very popular band in the 70’s so people knew what Dio was capable of. I think both singers were “good” for Black Sabbath and they each brought good things to the band. What I like about Dio is that he’s more of a true vocalist than Ozzy is. I think Ozzy has the charisma and personality, but Dio has the qualities that make him a better singer. For one, Ozzy can’t write lyrics and his melodies aren’t terribly creative (see Iron Man). Dio’s lyrics are…interesting…and even though I don’t think he’s a lyrical genius, he brings out a world (circles and rings, dragons and kings…not to mention rainbows and pleas to LOOK OUT!) that is quite poetic at times and the fantasy lyrics work perfectly for heavy metal. I think Dio sounds great on this album and he really reinvigorated the band. They seriously needed this kick in the ass.
Heaven and Hell is far from a perfect album, though. I love Neon Knights and Children of the Sea is another excellent composition that features some great bass playing by Geezer Butler. After these two great songs, what’s the next move? Lady Evil….wait, really? Man, this song is bad and it sounds like a KISS song. It doesn’t seem like a coincidence to me that the two worst songs on here (Lady Evil & Walk Away) not only sound like KISS, but they’re both about women – “relationship” songs in a sense. In an otherwise amazing side 1, Lady Evil sticks out and makes you wonder what the hell they were doing. The song bites, there’s not much more to it. Finally side 1 closes out with the title track and probably the best song on the album. H&H is an excellent and very well-written song. It perfectly captures the darkness and light of this band, not to mention completely enveloping the listener in this fantasy-metal realm. Besides the lyrical imagery, the song just flat out kicks ass.
The rest of the album, side 2, is decent, but nowhere near as solid as those 3 songs from side 1. Wishing Well is a pretty good tune and there are some nice changes in the chorus of Die Young, even if the song as a whole is only OK. Walk Away, bleh, more KISS-a-like stuff. Lonely is the Word, again, is decent and features an interesting jazzy guitar solo (lots of guitar playing on this song, actually), but it’s still just an OK song. The keyboards on this one are especially annoying. So yeah, the second side has some moments (Wishing Well is the best complete song), but mostly it’s forgettable. That’s disappointing coming off the mostly excellent side 1. Then again, I’m looking at this almost 30 years after its release. Some things will age better than others and something that may not appeal to a 32 year-old guy in 2008, might have totally kicked ass to a 15 year-old kid in 1980. Another thing is that I didn’t grow up listening to this album, I heard it for the first time a couple of years ago. Still, my opinion is that the 2nd side doesn’t hold up to the first and that’s where the classics are. I do think the band succeeded in reinventing itself and with the recent reunion of the band (known as “Heaven & Hell” to avoid any problems with Ozzy & Sharon Osboure) they’ve reconnected with people’s love for this material. You could probably spring for the “best of” from this lineup and cover the best songs, but there’s always the chance you’d dig the other stuff on this album.
An Hour of Music |
| November 19th, 2008 under blog. [ Comments: none ]
I decided to do an experiment tonight and simply listen to my iPod on shuffle for an hour and make notes about the songs that pop up. Enjoy!
10:04 – Davíd Garza – Drone (alt. take) – Underdub
This is an exclusive track to the vinyl issue of Underdub. The story: for Davíd’s 2001 album, Overdub, he first released a vinyl called “Underdub” which was demos for the upcoming studio album. Attached with the CD of Overdub were the Underdub tracks on the CD-ROM portion…except for 3 tracks. 3 songs were exclusive to the vinyl. But then, after more research, it was found out that the version of Drone from the vinyl was different than on the CD-ROM. This is that version. It’s a lot more “bare bones” than main version, but I dig it. A nice blueprint.
10:07 – Bruce Dickinson – All the Young Dudes – Tattooed Millionaire
Bruce Bruce doing a version of Bowie’s song. I really like this version, much better than Mott the Hoople did. Janick Gers has some nice guitar playing on here – surprisingly melodic for him. Bruce sounds great on this.
10:11 – Rush – Resist – Test for Echo
One of the good tracks off this album, which is half-good and half-crap. This is a *very* pop song, but I’ve always liked it. I don’t mind when Rush goes into pop territory and does a ballad-type thing like this. I can’t remember which tour it was, but they did an “unplugged” version of this with both Geddy & Alex playing acoustic guitars. Neil got a break, I suppose. A nice and unexpected treat. It’s been a while since I’ve heard this song and it’s good to hear it again.
10:15 – Bill Frisell – Remember – The Intercontinentals
Very mellow track from this cool album. I absolutely love Bill Frisell’s guitar tone on this album. Maybe he has this tone all of the time? I don’t know, this is the only album of his I’ve ever heard. The album’s weirdly eclectic – he brought together musicians from all over the world and they created some very interesting music. Great track, but too short.
10:17 – Bryan Dunn – Postmodern Love Song – Shackle Melodic
Oh man, I love this EP and this song especially. It’s a typical Bryan Dunn song, but it manages to be outright excellent while being traditional. I LOVE the organ on this song. It totally makes it. I think Shackle Melodic is a hell of an album. The production on it is freakin’ stellar. Bryan’s voice sounds great on this song.
10:20 – Mike Keneally – Party Poopers – Pup!
Holy crap, this song cracks me up. It sounds like a commercial for some business called “Party Poopers”, but after a minute of comedy it devolves into overall weirdness. I love the line, “it smells like a basketball”. Weird-ass track, but totally Keneally. I dig this little EP thing – it was a bonus CD from the Dog album.
10:23 – John Coltrane – Countdown (alternate take) – Giant Steps
If such was possible, one of the cooler tracks off Giant Steps. The main version of the song just smokes, but this alt version, while great, can’t hang with the take that went on the album. The beginning part of this song, where Coltrane solos in his super-speedy way, is extended in this version before the band hits the melody of the song. Once the bass comes in, look out, the band takes off. I think this alt version is twice as long as the main take. Great playing on this, even if that transition to the melody part is a bit jumpy.
10:28 – Frank Zappa – Zoot Allures – Zoot Allures
Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh. I *love* this track. Instrumental guitar-led title track from this otherwise disappointing album. But this song? Holy crap, one of the most beautiful things he ever composed. No one plays guitar like he does on here. Both Terry Bozzio & Roy Estrada play a fantastic background counterpoint to FZ’s perfect playing and graceful feedback experiments. Such a beautifully-composed song.
10:32 – Stevie Ray Vaughan – May I Have a Talk with You – The Sky is Crying
I think this is my favorite SRV album. This is a nice slow and dirty blues and of course it features some great guitar playing. His tone sounds great on here. Man, I just love that deep, slow-ass grove that Tommy Shannon does on the bass. Oh man, SRV’s solo is excellent. He’s really reaching down and grabbing some dirty-ass notes. This isn’t a “pretty” track one bit. This is pain. Beautiful.
10:38 – Mike Keneally – Never Ever Wrong – Wine and Pickles
W&P is an album of outtakes and rarities from Mikey. I believe this track was a left-over from Dog. There’s some nice guitar playing on here, but it’s not my favorite song. I don’t think it really works as a song. It’s a ballad, which is kind of odd for Keneally to do. I think the lyrical transition to the “never ever wrong” feels a bit forced. I just think it’s a weak track. Most Keneally fans love it, but I’m not in that camp.
10:41 – Led Zeppelin – Tea for One – Presence
Ah, a rare Led Zep song. I don’t care for that beginning, but once it gets to the slow and bluesy part, watch the hell OUT! These guys could just nail the blues in a way that a lot of people can’t imagine doing. I’m not a huge blues guy, even considering my love for SRV and this stuff…but when it’s done right, it’s excellent. This is a great song that’s forgotten by most people, and never played on the radio, but it’s definitely a cool track. I mean, Presence is almost a forgotten album by them. Some great music on there, esp. this one. Love Page’s guitar playing on here.
10:50 – Tori Amos – Hotel – From the Choirgirl Hotel
I really liked the experiments she did on this album. It’s got a strong techno/dance influence which produces some interesting results. This song has a very interesting structure and composition. I dig the techno/electronica elements in this song, but it also has some good slinky guitar parts that I like. This is a very weird song if you’re just used to hearing the “female singer with a piano” stuff that comprises much of her early material. This entire track is out of left field it its construction. She seamlessly drops the electronica and the full band comes in, before everything but her voice and the piano drops out. Very, very interesting stuff.
10:56 – Van Halen – One Foot Out the Door – Fair Warning
That surely doesn’t sound like Mike Anthony on the bass here! Sounds like Eddie to me. This is a weird track in that the guitar doesn’t come in until half way into it – it’s just bass, drums and David Lee Roth. This song is almost like filler in that it’s just under 2 minutes. Kinda cool, I like it.
10:57 – The Who – Call Me Lightning – The Ultimate Collection
I dig the track, but I don’t care for that “dom dom dom durrain” refrain that the background vocals do. Nice bass solo that emulates My Generation. Actually, this track is WAY similar to My Generation, with the multiple key changes in the exact same spots. Oh well.
11:00 – Stereolab – Contact – Switched On
Last song of the experiment tonight. I have to admit, I haven’t really listened to this album but a couple of times so this track is a bit of a mystery for me. Very Doors-like in the beginning. Ah, now I remember it. I really like the haunting vocals on this one that come in after a few minutes. It’s very meditative. Of course, after 5 minutes of the same riff it gets a little bit old. It still has that meditative quality, but I’m ready for it to be over so I can get to bed. It’s making me sleepy.
Posting music: XTC – Earn Enough For Us – Skylarking…LOVE IT.
Gig Thoughts – 11/16/08 – The Cave, Chapel Hill, NC |
| November 17th, 2008 under blog. [ Comments: none ]
Setlist: Surrounded By Trees, Travelers Merchants & Masters, The Storm, Snow, She Waits By The Sea, Mr. Raleigh’s Dilemma, Hanging Up the Dream, Abused’s Song, August, 10K
Raleigh was a debut. Also this was the first gig with Matt, first gig in Chapel Hill & first gig at the Cave. Lotsa firsts.
The show was decently attended. I think it’s the best we can hope for. Julie, Eric, Bryan Younts, Brooke & Travis, Don & Lizzi and Chris & Andrea, plus some regulars. We made pretty good money and that was a total shock. I forgot to bring the mailing list & CDs (and setlist, thankfully Matt had a copy), but we managed.
Jenn wasn’t completely present tonight, kinda disconnected. Matt did a great job of setting her levels and I could hear her voice wonderfully. While her voice sounded great, her guitar playing was a bit off on a few songs. The Storm started out so awful, like that one show at Pheasant Creek. It eventually got better, but it just wasn’t there at the beginning. She played better for Abused & Hanging, but it was still REALLY quiet during those. During all of her guitar playing, actually.
While she contributed a few guitar-clams, I certainly contributed my share, which is usually pretty significant. Overall, I thought it was a good show, though. A good number of mistakes, but good overall. We were stupid to open with Surrounded. It was a trainwreck and Matt had a tough time with it. I tried with all my might to hold it together, actually. I like Travelers as a song, but I don’t think it fits in with our set on an every-show occurrence. We need more material before we can start playing others less. Ideally? If it were me, I’d cut Abused’s, Snow & Travelers down to “not very often”. Same with Amnesia, but we’ve already kind of done that. Abused’s is currently one of our major songs, and one of our few up-tempo ones at that. I just feel that it doesn’t reach people. There’s no reaction to it. I think it’s a pretty good song, but really, no one cares. Mr. Raleigh’s Dilemma got a good reaction tonight. I thought we played it WAY fast, but Brooke & Bryan specifically really liked it. I have to say, it was very nice to play again and except for my horrid bass solo it was good. I thought my backup vocals in the chorus sounded good.
My singing? Overall I’m still too afraid of the mic and when I’m not singing, I just stay away from it. I thought it was decent. I still can’t hear myself well enough when singing, so we’ll have to work on it. We’ve talked about having some specific vocal rehearsals with all 3 of us. I think it’s a good idea.
So, Matt. It was a lot to try to have him learn 10 songs in 3 weeks. For the most part he sounded really good. Songs like Raleigh, She Waits, Snow, Hanging and Storm really sounded good with him. He did good on August too, specifically. Surrounded was a mess; he’ll get better. 10K was still a bit too scatter-shot, esp. the chorus. Travelers was good, but it just needs a bit more on the verses. The “heartbeat” thingie. He made some real nice, subtle touches to the music that I loved. I think with a few more weeks/months of good practice we’re going to be a hell of a band.
I think it was a good showing all around and I’m pretty happy about it. We have a lot of things to work on, so that’s good.