Pink Floyd – The Piper at the Gates of Dawn |
| March 27th, 2010 under Album Reviews. [ Comments: none ]
Tracks: Astronomy Domine; Lucifer Sam; Matilda Mother; Flaming; Pow R. Toc H.; Take Up Thy Stethoscope and Walk; Interstellar Overdrive; The Gnome; Chapter 24; The Scarecrow; Bike
Best track: Astronomy Domine
Tracks to skip: Bike especially. I don’t care for The Gnome either
I did my listening of this album from the 40th Anniversary set that came out in 2007. Disc 1 is the mono version and disc 2 is the stereo version (same songs, obviously). There was a 3 CD version that came out at the same time, with the 3rd disc being the 3 non-album singles from this time and their B-sides along with 4 alternate versions of songs. For information purposes, the songs on this 3rd disc are Arnold Lane, Candy and Currant Bun, See Emily Play, Apples and Oranges, Paintbox, two different edited versions of Interstellar Overdrive, a different mix of Matilda Mother & the stereo version of Apples & Oranges. I think it’s really lame that they decided to release the extra tracks in a special 3 disc edition, when there was clearly space for it on the 2 CD version. The album’s around 42 minutes long, so that extra 30 minutes would have NO problem fitting, either on 1 disc or spread between the two. As it is, if you wanted the extra tracks you had to spend a lot more money for it. I already had the 5 singles/B-sides so I just ended up buying the other 4 from iTunes. Oh, the B-side for See Emily Play was Scarecrow, which is obviously on this album and that’s why it wasn’t included on the 3rd disc.
In comparing the mono vs. stereo mixes, I greatly prefer the stereo. I think by 1967 engineers and musicians had figured out what to do with stereo and made the most of the technology. While the mono mix of this album sounds a lot more jumbled and chaotic, the stereo features a cleaner sound that esp. comes through with headphones. I did notice that the mono mix of Flaming had some extra cool effects that aren’t in the stereo version. Reminds me of a lot of the sounds that are spread throughout The Beatles’ Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite. This doesn’t surprise me one bit, because producer Norman Smith was the Beatles engineer up through Rubber Soul and both bands were recording at Abbey Road at the same time (Piper for Floyd and Sgt. Pepper for The Beatles). There are about 20 extra seconds of music on the mono version, but that doesn’t matter to me. It’s no contest which I like listening to better – stereo all the way.
I think it’s very interesting how this is clearly Syd Barrett’s band, but once Syd was gone Roger Waters stepped up and became the leader and primary songwriter. Waters’ contributions here songwriting-wise are pretty uninspiring. Only Take Up Thy Stethoscope is a sole Waters composition and it’s a pretty weak song, lyrically especially. I think Waters does a good job with his bass playing on this album, so that’s a nice thing about it. Besides Waters’ 1 song and 2 by the whole band (Interstellar Overdrive & Pow R Toc H), all of these are written by Syd Barrett. I really like some of these songs, while a few just don’t cut it. My favorites on this disc are Astronomy Domine, Lucifer Sam, Chapter 24 and Scarecrow. Astronomy is the perfect choice for the opening track and the best song here. I like that it’s Space Rock without all of the childish lyrics like most of the others have. Barrett was most definitely an unconventional songwriter and that’s one of the main things I really love about his work here. It’s unpredictable and between that and the balls-out attitude the whole band possess here it makes the album an enjoyable listen. I really like the arrangement of Scarecrow – very unconventional.
Obviously one of the main tenants of Psychedelic music is the use of child-like lyrics. Barrett’s stuff is no exception – he seems to thrive on those kinds of lyrics. While I think they can be amusing, it gets old after a while. Songs like The Gnome and Bike especially just annoy the hell out of me. OK, I do admit, on Bike the utter stupidity and childishness of it do make it fun at times, but mostly it annoys me. I also have to say that Interstellar Overdrive gets really tedious after a while. However, I do like the blues guitar licks thrown in the middle of this otherwise psychedelic madness. While some of this album I don’t care for, there is quite a bit (Astronomy Domine & Rick Wright’s cool keyboard solo on Matilda Mother) that I really do like and *that’s* what brings me back to this album. I think it’s a good start for the band, very imperfect, but enjoyable and set the stage for their later greatness.
Dah-veed – Blind Hips in Motion |
| March 23rd, 2010 under Album Reviews. [ Comments: 3 ]
Tracks: Core; Grab; Basilica; Succinct; Your New Man; Last Kiss; Maria; Emotional Grind; Sigh Bye Sigh; Come On; Go Full Circle; I’m Only 4; Fairgrounds (hidden track)
Best track: either Your New Man, Go Full Circle or Maria
Track to skip: none
Grooves and guitars, that’s what the album is about. Blind Hips in Motion explores Davíd Garza’s interest in ambient sounds and further expanding what he did with the electric guitar in his music. This album continues the excellent production from Conmigo, but turns it up to 11. It’s a very bass-heavy album with lots of slow, deep grooves. I mean, it’s called “Blind Hips in Motion” for a reason!
Blind Hips was Davíd’s first album without a keyboardist (though there are a few tucked in here and there, I’m sure that Davíd played them himself) and pared down the band to guitar, bass & drums. It’s too bad bassist Clay Pendergrass left the band after recording this album, because I would’ve loved to hear what he’d do to these bass parts in a live setting. After taking that initial step on Conmigo, Davíd decided to go all out with the guitar overdubs & production here. It’s really amazing how much within the span of two albums the sound changed. I mean, this sounds nothing like the poppy and clean sounding stuff from 1992/1993. Like a completely different band. Most of the songs here feature a lot of electric guitar, but there are a few acoustic songs in the mix. Your New Man is very sparse on production (stands out on this album otherwise drenched in it); there’s only one guitar, one voice and percussion courtesy of Mike Hale and Clay Pendergrass. It’s definitely a highlight of this disc on one of his best-written songs. Basilica has an acoustic base with electric stuff on top while I’m Only 4 is a mostly acoustic instrumental.
The rest of the album is beautifully saturated with layered guitars and deep grooves. Core starts us off with many layers of feedbacked guitars. I love what Davíd did with the sonic sculpture on this song. It’s a wonderful song. Both Grab and Come On are similar songs in their grooviness, although Come On has that awesome 6/4 groove that I just love. Man, that groove on Sigh Bye Sigh is just super slinky! If your butt doesn’t move when that song comes on then there’s no hope for you. Succinct is the weakest song of the album. It has a good groove, but as a composition it’s only decent. I consider this song to be basically a hypnotic rhythm with heavy percussion. Not much else is there. The album closes with another instrumental, the hidden track Fairgrounds. It’s a really meditative, ambient piece – just Davíd playing an effect-drenched guitar riff for 5 minutes. It’s actually a cool wind-down after the frenzy of the rest of the album.
I have to make a special mention to possibly my favorite song on the disc, Maria. It’s such a fantastic song. Beautifully composed and Juliana Sheffield’s voice on here is amazingly melting. I could listen to her sing the “Maaariiiiaaaaaa” part continuously for the rest of my life. She’s always amazing in what she does, but her work on this song is by far the greatest thing she’s ever done. So gorgeous!
I hope all my comments about this album being “guitars and grooves” aren’t taken to mean I dislike this in any way. Those are two of my favorite things in music and to have this album be so steeped in them is heaven. Davíd Garza certainly has never made an album like this one since then. It really is a feast for your ears and a feast for your hips. He’s never really approached the dense production like this album since then either. It certainly stands out in his catalog. This stretch in the early-mid 90’s for Davíd was such a great one: Eyes Wide Open, Culture Vulture, Conmigo & Blind Hips in Motion are the defining albums of his career for me. I’m certainly not discounting This Euphoria, his major label debut. That’s a definitely a great album. For my ears, though, this is the core of his material and (so far) he’s never had a stretch quite like it.
Dah-veed – Conmigo |
| March 22nd, 2010 under Album Reviews. [ Comments: 1 ]
Tracks: Conmigo; Baptiste; Who is Sylvia; Almost There; Long Walk Home; Slave; You’re Not the One; Blue Green; 19¢ Expatriots; I’d Rather Be Lost; Lady of Guadalupe; Little Star (hidden track)
Best track: 19¢ Expatriots, Who is Sylvia, Slave, Long Walk Home, I’d Rather Be Lost…
Track to skip: nothing at all
I’ve loved this album since the very first listen, but somehow in listening to it now, it’s become even better. I’ve always said that Culture Vulture is my favorite Davíd Garza album. I’m not so sure now. Listening to Conmigo today it completely blew me away. And it did that in such a way I’ve never experienced before. It’s too bad more people haven’t been able to hear it, being that only 5000 copies were made. According to Garza, he didn’t think people would like it. He was a bit wrong, as it sold out in a few months and has been highly sought-after ever since.
In listening today I noticed the production of this album, and how there are many more guitars (overdubs) than on previous albums. More guitars and more drums, with less emphasis on keyboards. While Culture Vulture was the culmination and perfection of the prior four years, Conmigo really was the first instance of Davíd stepping out of his comfort zone. True, it’s not something WAY out there like 2002’s Summer Songs 4, but it still shows him being restless and doing something he hadn’t really done before. There’s a stronger connection to the electric guitar here, his classic red Gretsch, and he’s definitely exploring the sonic possibilities that a non-clean tone can bring. Songs like Who is Sylvia, Slave, Baptiste and Blue Green really show this in particular. Some of the other quieter songs, like Almost There & 19¢ Expatriots (yes, it’s misspelled) also feature a few layers of guitar work that makes for such a beautiful sound palette on this album.
There are no bad songs on this album, not even any “decent” ones. Everything is top-notch, and that’s not something most bands can ever hit upon. If I have to pick a favorite, I’d say 19¢ Expats (which was renamed Maybe This a few years later). It’s a very simple song, but it’s such a beautiful composition. It has the perfect mix of bass, percussion & delicate guitars, with a very subtle organ in the background. It’s definitely one of his best compositions. Who is Sylvia features some excellent thunderous percussion courtesy of Chris Searles, while Slave is an infectious reggae that’s become Garza’s most popular song. This is the original version of the song, which I prefer due to the more authentic reggae-ness and the production. This album features a couple of live tracks that show off how hot the band was in the 90’s – Long Walk Home & I’d Rather Be Lost. This album was very nearly a live album, but only these two songs made the cut onto the final disc. Both are powerful songs and instant ass-shakers; two of my favorites.
Some other brilliant moments from the album: DG’s Gretsch tone on Almost There is beautiful; Juliana Sheffield’s voice on this You’re Not the One gives me shivers & the guitars here are a feast for the ears; Lady of Guadalupe has haunting organs and an awesome bossa nova feel, while Conmigo busts out some hard core Latin grooves; I love Clay Pendergrass’ bass part underneath the guitar solo in Blue Green – 1 note! But it’s such a great groove that it becomes the perfect rhythmic bed. The hidden track on the disc (this was the early-mid 90’s after all) is called Little Star and starts about 2 minutes after Lady of Guadalupe. It’s a really nice solo piece and a great way to end the album.
Conmigo is a phenomenal album. I really like that Davíd took some sonic and compositional chances with this album. He likes to do it every few years, so it’s cool to witness the first one within his solo career. Every note of this album is wonderful and I highly recommend it. It’s really hard to find a copy of this, but you might get lucky somewhere. Depending on my mood, this is the best thing Davíd Garza has ever done.
Journey – Next |
| March 21st, 2010 under Album Reviews. [ Comments: none ]
Tracks: Spaceman; People; I Would Find You; Here We Are; Hustler; Next; Nickel and Dime; Karma
Best track: Nickel and Dime
Tracks to skip: Here We Are, Hustler, Karma
Well, I was wondering how this one would fare after reviewing the previous album yesterday. Wow, pretty big drop in quality. The reception to this album signaled once and for all that their progressive tendencies just weren’t working out and they needed to go in a much more mainstream direction. So they brought in vocalist Robert Fleischman and forever changed pop music history. Oh wait, nothing changed! Fleischman didn’t work out so they canned him after only a couple of months and then brought in Steve Perry. Then…well, you know the rest. Before Perry comes on the scene, though, we have to take a look at the last “pre-Perry” album, Next. That’s a horrible title! “Here’s our next album, it’s called Next”. Come on, guys, try a little harder!
This album’s a mess. Really, it is. It starts off in a good direction, with the first two tracks pointing more towards the fusion feel of the first album, though with more of an emphasis on vocals. It’s definitely a lot less heavy than Look into the Future and features much more keyboards. Spaceman’s a pretty decent track with some nice guitar work. It’s obvious up front that the production is much more involved on this album, so that’s a bright spot. There’s certainly a much wider sonic palette in the music; the acoustic guitars throughout are a nice touch. People is a pretty cool track with some nice proggy bits in there and while Neal Schon’s lyrics for I Would Find You are really weak, the song has quite a few cool moments. I think this song is where they start to lose it, though. It’s a good track, but it just goes on way too long and I honestly got bored after a while. Then it kept going and going. Then we get to Here We Are with its HORRIBLE keyboard intro and it doesn’t get much better. This is a tremendously boring and plodding song. I don’t get it, Side 1 of this album starts off pretty strong, but it just fades down into this boring, slow mess.
Side two starts off with loud guitars, but even the rockin’ Hustler can’t save this thing. Wow, another crappy song with awful lyrics. Ugh, bad song. Between Here We Are & Hustler (back to back, no less) we have what are probably the two worst songs the band has ever written. I couldn’t wait to make it through these two, just torture. The title track continues on with the rock and while it has a VERY strong Who influence and some good moments, it also has a lot of weak ones that tend to obscure the good parts. The chorus in particular is pretty bad. Nickel and Dime is the true saving grace of this album. The band’s first instrumental since the first album and, shock, it’s a wonderful jazz fusion track! This is a really cool song and one of my favorite of Journey’s instrumentals. Great song. The “Dime” part of the song was later stolen by Rush for the middle of Tom Sawyer (they just changed the time signature from 10 to 7). This song really reminds me of the Mahavishnu Orchestra. Great tune. The album ends with another Schon-sung tune, Karma. It’s very Hendrix-influenced, certainly, but ultimately it’s a boring song and pretty useless. And it never ends! Ugh, painful.
While Spaceman & People are pretty good tracks, the highlight is definitely Nickel and Dime. A few enjoyable moments are scattered around, but mostly this album is really disappointing. It’s quite bad in places. I mean, for me there are 3 of 8 tracks that are just outright bad. That never bodes well for an album. My biggest problem with Next is that so much of it is just boring and it sounds like the band is completely lost. Really, thank goodness they brought in Steve Perry. He’s not only an amazing singer, but he’s a great songwriter and that’s also what the band needed. Granted, it took a while before they became *really* good with Perry up front, but it’s at least a big step forward from this album.
Journey – Look Into the Future |
| March 20th, 2010 under Album Reviews. [ Comments: none ]
Tracks: On a Saturday Night; It’s All Too Much; Anyway; She Makes Me (Feel Alright); You’re On Your Own; Look Into the Future; Midnight Dreamer; I’m Gonna Leave You
Best track: Look Into the Future
Tracks to skip: You’re On Your Own, Midnight Dreamer
For Journey’s second album they decided to really tone down the jazz fusion/prog stuff and are essentially a heavy rock band with a lot of blues, jazz and late-60’s influences. Instead of being a weird, hybrid half-fusion, half-blues rock band, on this album they’re more like a normal (although heavy) rock band with slight progressive leanings. Even here on their second album, and really from track 1 on, it’s obvious which fork the band decided to take. I don’t think this is a bad thing, because you’re certainly going to get more exposure by being a rock/pop band with progressive leanings rather than a prog band with pop leanings. It’s the way of the world. I’m obviously pointing it out here, but it doesn’t really bother me. I like the idea of a band being “subtly subversive” rather than hit you over the head with it. You’ll certainly reach a bigger audience that way.
I don’t think this album helped the band reach a bigger audience, though. I mean, there’s a reason that in another year the band specifically wanted to hire a Lead Vocalist who wasn’t trapped behind the keyboards. They wanted a focal point after this experiment with Greg Rollie as the primary singer didn’t really translate to success. Steve Perry, as well as a WAY more toned-down presentation, was that catalyst. The band also tends to ignore these first three pre-Perry albums, another obvious sign this early stuff didn’t help them reach the audience they wanted.
As for the songs here, and the album itself, I generally like it. Certainly I miss the fusion stuff, but this is a fairly solid album. It’s very safe, but it’s solid. I really like the inclusion of The Beatles’ It’s All Too Much on here. It’s a great song anyway and they do such a fantastic arrangement here. They make it sound like a Journey song, and a damn good one at that. Neal Schon busts out with some great guitar tone on the solo here. It would be my favorite on the album if it wasn’t for the title cut. Look Into the Future is really the only “proggy” moment on here and has a nice Pink Floyd influence. It’s a great mood piece with excellent riffs/changes and a ton of excellent guitar work. The song Anyway was one I didn’t care for too much before, but in listening to it this time I have a new appreciation for the piece. It’s not my favorite song by the band, but I definitely don’t dislike it anymore. There are some cool chords throughout the song, esp. in the verses.
It’s not all perfect though. I actively dislike both You’re on Your Own and Midnight Dreamer. Midnight Dreamer really reminds me of Hendrix’s Band of Gypsies stuff and contains a middle section that’s a total ripoff of Third Stone from the Sun. As for You’re on Your Own, it’s one thing to pay tribute to a band (in this case it’s the Beatles’ I Want You (She’s So Heavy)), but it’s something totally different when you blatantly rip it off. It really sounds like they took the song and just re-wrote it. I mean, it rocks, sure, but it’s a pretty poor composition. The ripoff factor totally pisses me off. She Makes Me Feel Alright isn’t that swell of a song either. It’s decent, but doesn’t compare to the good tracks here.
The album closes with a song that totally sounds like the old theme music to the “World’s Most Dangerous Band” (David Letterman’s band in the 80’s and early 90’s). I’m Gonna Leave You is a solid song, but when I hear this I’m completely reminded of Kansas’ Carry on My Wayward Son. Many of the riffs and sections on Carry On are almost identical to stuff found here. I’m not outright saying that Kansas ripped Journey off, but this album came out in January ’76 and Carry On didn’t arrive until October ’76. While Journey wasn’t very popular in the charts, they certainly were with other bands during this time. It’s WAY too similar for me, but you can make your own decision.
Overall I like this album. It’s difficult to rate because some of the first album is so excellent, but some is just standard blues-rock stuff. They tone a lot down here on the second album so it’s definitely more uniform. I think it makes a better listen as an “album” because it’s a lot more consistent sounding. The crap songs and ripoffs kinda drag it down a bit, but I definitely like that this is a more guitar-driven album than the first. OK, I think overall it’s slightly less-good, but that doesn’t mean there’s not a lot of good stuff here.
Bruce Dickinson – Alive in Studio A |
| March 17th, 2010 under Album Reviews. [ Comments: 1 ]
Tracks: [Alive in Studio A] Cyclops; Shoot All the Clowns; Son of a Gun; Tears of the Dragon; 1000 Points of Light; Sacred Cowboys; Tattooed Millionaire; Born in ’58; Fire; Change of Heart; Hell No; Laughing in the Hiding Bush; [Alive at the Marquee] Cyclops; 1000 Points of Light; Born in ’58; Gods of War; Change of Heart; Laughing in the Hiding Bush; Hell No; Tears of the Dragon; Shoot All the Clowns; Sacred Cowboys; Son of a Gun; Tattooed Millionaire
Best track: Marquee Tears of the Dragon
Track to skip: nothing
I’m not too big of a fan of Bruce’s Balls to Picasso album so this album is a welcome addition to Bruce’s catalog. This album features the “Skunkworks” band (Alex Dickson, Chris Dale & Alessandro Elena) performing live versions of these Picasso tunes. And, wow, they’re really good! When the songs are played by the right musicians and in the right frame of mind (and being performed live doesn’t hurt either) they become super good. It was such a revelation hearing this for the first time, because I really liked hearing these songs. They were good! Even the ones that I had previously skipped on Balls to Picasso (things like Change of Heart & Hell No) are just stellar here. It shouldn’t surprise me, because that Skunkworks band was absolutely on fire and a phenomenal group of musicians.
Disc 1 of the set is live in the studio and disc 2 is recorded in front of an audience. Between the two discs we get all of the songs from Balls to Picasso (with quite a few repeats, which is fine because the band’s so good) and a trio of songs from Bruce’s first solo album, Tattooed Millionaire. The band completely breathes new fire into these songs and I’ve frankly never heard them sound this alive. The songs from Studio A are excellent, but of course the band steps it up even further once they’re in front of an audience. I particularly love the Marquee version of Tears of the Dragon. Holy crap is this song ripping! Best version of this song by far. Alex Dickson is such a great guitar player and he brings out so much of his own style in these songs. It’s a huge step up from Roy Z’s playing of this material on Picasso. One that stood out (besides Tears of the Dragon) was Dickson’s extra bits & solo at the end of Cyclops. Alessandro Elena also adds his own excellent touch to these songs and his drumming is fantastic in Hell No particularly.
I enjoy both discs equally, to be honest. All of these songs sound good when performed by this band and once Maiden hangs it up I hope Bruce goes back to these guys to make more music. As a live unit, they’re absolutely on fire.
In 2005 Bruce Dickinson released Expanded Editions of all of his solo albums. This double-disc set was merged with 1999’s Scream For Me Brazil into a 3CD set called “Alive”. It’s usually cheaper to buy them together in this new set. No extra material, but there are some new liner notes.
Megadeth – Killing is My Business…And Business is Good |
| March 16th, 2010 under Album Reviews. [ Comments: 1 ]
Tracks: Last Rites/Loved to Death; Killing is My Business…And Business is Good!; The Skull Beneath the Skin; Rattlehead; Chosen Ones; Looking Down the Cross; Mechanix; These Boots (censored); Last Rites/Loved to Death (demo); Mechanix (demo); The Skull Beneath the Skin (demo); (These Boots)
Best track: Skull Beneath the Skin
Track to skip: nothing really
I didn’t even hear this album until much later in life. As in, just a few years ago. I was a pretty big Megadeth fan back in the early-mid 90’s and I had every other Megadeth album except this one. None of my friends had it either. I think I never bought because the artwork was so bad! Compared with the art for Peace Sells & Rust in Peace, it’s no contest. I guess I was just perfectly happy with what I had and buying any new stuff that came out (to a point). So I finally got it a few years ago and I was surprised at how it is. I’ll say it up front here, it doesn’t compare to the greatness of Rust in Peace or Peace Sells. Not even close. Still, it’s an enjoyable album and should be an essential purchase if you like Megadeth’s 80’s output. Let’s dig in!
This album came out in ’85 and 2 albums had already been put out by Metallica. Yes, Dave Mustaine and Megadeth will always be compared to Metallica. It’s too easy, sure, but I think if a dude is kicked out of a band and then forms a new band that’s the exact same style of music as the old one, they should be compared. I mean, they were usually right near each other in the record/CD bins (with Merciful Fate in between) that it’s hard not to compare them. Anyway, even though the band had been playing lots of shows the previous two years, this was Dave Mustaine’s first recorded output after being ousted from Metallica. I’ll always think, overall, Metallica was the better band, and while Kill ‘Em All certainly rages, Mustaine certainly upped the ante with this album. It’s definitely faster than Metallica and while Met was comfortable being in the “thrash” area, Mustaine headed for the “speed metal” area. There’s a slight difference, but really it’s about the fast playing, both in rhythm and guitar solos.
For me, it’s not even a contest that Dave Mustaine was faster and definitely better than Kirk Hammett. It’s no contest, sure, but for those of us who were fans of both bands, we always compared the two. Mustaine wins, hands down. Chris Poland (guitar) and Gar Samuelson (drums) also sound great on here, as they do on Peace Sells. David Ellefson is his usual rumbling self, always making the bass sound wonderfully menacing. From the beginning and until today, Megadeth is Mustaine’s band and he’s great here. The guitar playing isn’t as precise everywhere on this album as it is in later albums, but it’s still damn good. I think the guitar playing at the beginning of Skull Beneath My Skin is actually a bit sloppy, but the rest of the song more than makes up for it. It’s an excellent song and one that I wish I had known and loved all these years. I was excited to finally hear Mustaine’s Mechanix, which is his version of Metallica’s Four Horsemen. While I think this is a great song, Dave seems to squeeze too many words into the melody lines. It’s very cool, but Four Horsemen is better as a full composition. OK, the last Mega/Met comparison comes into Rattlehead. Kinda cheesy, this one is the same subject matter as Metallica’s Whiplash. Both songs are about how the respective band, in this case Megadeth, will rock your socks off at live shows. It’s not a bad song, but the subject matter is LAME. Stick to the death/satanic/political stuff, Dave.
Overall, this album is solid, but the songwriting chops aren’t as great as they’d be even on the next album. Still, the good songs (Skull Beneath the Skin, Mechanix, Loved to Death, the title cut) make this an essential listen for fans. The other songs are all decent enough. Nothing amazing, but nothing really crappy. I have the 2002 remix version of this album so that’s what I based my listening from. It sounds SO MUCH better than the original mix. Except for the cover of These Boots. Seems that after 10 years of receiving royalties on this song, songwriter Lee Hazlewood didn’t like how Mustaine changed the lyrics (nothing too bad) so in order to keep the song on the album, Dave bleeped the changed lyrics. So, yeah, there are a lot of bleeps on this song. There are no curse words on the song (as I have the original tacked on to the end of my version), so it can either be amusing or annoying depending on my mood. I think it’s lame that Hazlewood wouldn’t let him keep the uncensored version for this remix. The new version also features 3 demos which are enjoyable, even though the quality isn’t the greatest. Nice to hear though.
Def Leppard – High ‘n’ Dry |
| March 15th, 2010 under Album Reviews. [ Comments: none ]
Tracks: Let it Go; Another Hit and Run; High ‘n’ Dry (Saturday Night); Bringin’ on the Heartbreak; Switch 625; You Got Me Runnin’; Lady Strange; On Through the Night; Mirror, Mirror (Look Into My Eyes); No No No
Best track: Switch 625 or Let it Go
Track to skip: No No No
That’s more like it! This album is a complete 180 in terms of quality from On Through the Night. Damn. High ‘n’ Dry is Def Leppard really hitting their stride and perfecting their sound. They’re really tight and focused on this album. The songwriting is so much better than on the debut. Although it does tend to go down in quality on side 2 a little bit, there’s no denying that this album is light years better than the debut. And to be honest, it’s probably light years better than most everything else they’ve put out. I’ll get to all that eventually, though.
The fantastic guitar playing continues here with Pete Willis and Steve Clark stepping it up even more. The great thing is that while they solely carried the first album, everyone else steps up here too. This album rocks like nothing you’ve ever heard from Def Lep and the songwriting is incredibly solid here. And the production! It’s just great here. I mean, really, everything is in place here: the killer riffs that the band is known for, their trademark background vocals, the production…all of it. I’m sure there are some keyboards buried in the mix here somewhere, but I’m not hearing them jump out at me. I like this aspect!
Let it Go starts it off with bang and features some great guitar playing, esp. in that middle section. Killer. This song was definitely a template for Quiet Riot’s Bang Your Head. Lots of similarities here. The remainder of the first side is great song after great song. Two more excellent rockers (Another Hit and Run & the title cut) scorch the land before we hit Def Lep’s first hit single – Bringin’ on the Heartbreak. This is a great song and one of the band’s best “ballads”. I actually don’t think they ever bettered it, ballad-wise. Side one closes with perhaps the best song on this album, the ruthless instrumental Switch 625. This is a tremendous song with excellent guitar playing. Dammit why did they have to kick Pete Willis out of the band during the sessions for Pyromania? Between he and Steve Clark, this band was such a feast for those of us that love great guitar playing.
As I said earlier, side 2 is a bit of a let down and contains the only true skipper of the bunch, the closing track No No No. More great guitar riffs here, but the poor songwriting can’t be saved by them. Got Me Runnin’ is a bit weaker, but it’s still a pretty good song. Good riffs in there. The highlight of side 2 for me is definitely On Through The Night, another great song. Both Lady Strange and Mirror Mirror are decent enough, but are held together mostly by the production and guitar work.
So we have an excellent side 1 and a decent side 2. Regardless, this album is such an improvement from the debut. Not even close. I love that the band rocks enough here and hasn’t yet fully jumped into the pop territory they’d begin to get into on the following album, Pyromania. I mean, yeah, it was a huge hit, but they lost a good bit of what makes this earlier stuff so good. I guess it’s the trade-off. I love the hell out of this album and it just might be the best thing they’ve ever done.
Def Leppard – On Through the Night |
| March 14th, 2010 under Album Reviews. [ Comments: none ]
Tracks: Rock Brigade; Hello America; Sorrow is a Woman; It Could Be You; Satellite; When the Walls Came Tumbling Down; Wasted; Rocks Off; It Don’t Matter; Answer to the Master; Overture
Best track: Rock Brigade
Tracks to skip: It Could Be You, Satellite, When the Walls Came Tumbling Down, Rocks Off
I have to admit, I’m not as familiar with this album as I am with later stuff like Pyromania & Hysteria. I mean, there’s a reason I didn’t listen to this as much as the others when I was a kid – it’s just not that great. On Through the Night is Def Lep’s debut album and has a similar sound to a lot of other NWOBHM albums that came out at the time. It’s quite a bit more polished than Iron Maiden’s debut which came out about a month later. Still, for Def Leppard, this album is really raw.
What I enjoy most about this album is the guitar playing. Nearly every track has something worthwhile guitar-wise. Both Pete Willis & Steve Clark show off their skills quite nicely here. Their playing all throughout the album is the highlight. I really like the guitar breaks in both Sorrow is a Woman and Answer to the Master. The problems I have with the album are the vocals (in places…there are some nice harmonies in Overture), vocal melodies and songwriting in general. A lot of hot shot guitar playing can’t save bad songs – It Could Be You, for instance. A lot of the songs, specifically the ones mentioned above as “skippers” all feature cool guitar parts, but the songs themselves just aren’t very good.
The most solid song here is the opening track, Rock Brigade. Yeah, it’s cheesy. But you know, it rocks and is a great introduction for the album and band. It’s definitely my favorite one here. Some other ones like Wasted, Answer to the Master and Hello America are pretty good, even if they’re a tad silly. I really hate the keyboards and synth on this album, on Hello America in particular. When you have such great guitar players like Clark and Willis, you’ve got to ditch the synths. Unfortunately, the band quite likes those synths and have kept them in the band all through the years. I also have to say, the band’s art rock tendencies are ridiculous. While Overture is significantly better than When the Walls Came Tumbling Down, all of that arty stuff isn’t very believable.
Overall, this one is best left for hard core Def Leppard fans. As I said, the guitar playing is really good throughout, but the songwriting is generally pretty weak. Good thing is they get better when it comes to songwriting over the next few albums.
Dream Theater – Falling Into Infinity |
| March 13th, 2010 under Album Reviews. [ Comments: none ]
Tracks: New Millennium; You Not Me; Peruvian Skies; Hollow Years; Burning My Soul; Hell’s Kitchen; Lines in the Sand; Take Away My Pain; Just Let Me Breathe; Anna Lee; Trial of Tears (It’s Raining/Deep in Heaven/The Wasteland)
Best tracks: Hell’s Kitchen/Lines in the Sand
Track to skip: Just Let Me Breathe
One of the first things I noticed in listening to this, Dream Theater’s fourth album, is how dark it is. It’s certainly a very different feeling than Awake. Awake has plenty of dark bits there, but Falling Into Infinity really expands on that. Even the production seems darker. It’s like there’s more rawness here, like they’re playing with more abandon. They’re…kind of pissed here. There’s definitely a more mature outlook on this album. I think for a lot of bands when there’s maturity and introspection it gets more boring. Not that way with Dream Theater. They always seem to get heavier! They’ll lose the lighter shades of prog and dive into the darker material. I like that, because it’s not always the safest way to go.
This was the first (and only, unfortunately) full album to feature keyboardist Derek Sherinian, the first DT album to feature prominent background vocals (esp. evident on Hollow Years), James LaBrie’s first set of lyrics for the band and the debut of John Myung playing Chapman Stick (starts off New Millennium). So yeah, there are a lot of new wrinkles swirling around this album. The band also used an outside songwriter for the first time – hitmaker Desmond Child co-wrote You Not Me with guitarist John Petrucci. For years I really didn’t like this song too much, but it’s grown on me. It wasn’t the massive hit that that band or record label hoped it would be. That’s probably one of the reasons this album was ignored by anyone but Dream Theater fans.
I don’t think this is DT’s best album by any means, but I definitely enjoy it. The only weak spot is Just Let Me Breathe. It’s not very interesting musically and lyrically it’s weak and whiny. I can certainly identify with the thought of MTV and commercial radio pushing crap down everyone’s throats, but this song could’ve presented this frustration in a better way. I skip this song whenever I get the chance; it’s one of the few DT songs I just outright don’t like. The rest of this very long album is solid. The chunk in the middle from Peruvian Skies through Take Away My Pain is an incredible stretch of 6 songs. All of these feature fantastic songwriting and the brightest spots of the album. Both Hollow Years and Take Away My Pain are fantastic ballads that give this part of the album enough levity. My favorite tracks here are definitely the instrumental Hell’s Kitchen and Lines in the Sand. Hell’s Kitchen is a great instrumental that’s very unassuming. It’s almost like a mood piece; very understated, but there’s so much good music there. This song leads perfectly into Lines in the Sand. I love the addition of Doug Pinnick from King’s X on background vocals here. It’s the perfect touch. There’s a cool guitar solo in this song – very David Gilmour/Neal Schon. Outside this group of 6, there’s also another great guitar solo in Trial of Tears.
I’m not sure why I tend to think down on this album. I certainly like the vast majority of it. I do honestly think it’s too long of an album. Dream Theater tends to cram as much into albums as possible. While that’s certainly commendable (and often enjoyable), sitting through 78 minutes of dark, heavy, progressive, thought-provoking stuff does get pretty tiring. Even with the lighter spots on the album, the three slow songs, there’s still a major dark cloud over this album that also makes it a little bit harder to listen to often. I love the songs, but it’s not quite the most comfortable album DT’s put out. Still, I like it. A good chunk of this is absolutely fantastic.
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