It seems it’s been forever since I wrote one of these entries. It has been over a month, for sure. I’ve iterated that I’ve been busy and that’s certainly the case. I’ve missed sitting in the studio doing some research or travel work or maintenance and letting some music flow over me. Eugene and I had a conversation about this list (you know he hates lists) and we discussed how I listen. I do take it in. I listen to the beginning to get a “feel” of the album and then let it play in the background, whilst keeping the editor for this blog open so I can come in and type some thoughts about it as it’s going. I do agree with him that subconscious listening can be beneficial and more apt for absorption. All that being said, let’s jump in here. The last segment was really fun for me, let’s hope this one is, too.
#370 – Mott by Mott the Hoople. All I knew about Mott was Ian Hunter and Bowie’s song “All the Young Dudes.” “All the Way From Memphis” is fantastic and chugs along like a roving party and it is fun. There is total soul from Hunter “Hymn for the Dudes.” Soul you can feel, even. AND, you get Thunderthighs (the female backing vocals from Lou Reed’s “Walk on the Wild Side”) providing their fabulous airs. “Violence” is rocking but the chorus reminds me of the theme song to the Spider-Man cartoons from the mid- to late-60s. Listen and when he says “vi-o-lence, vi-o-lence. It’s the only thing that’ll make you see sense” see if it doesn’t make you think “Spider-Man, Spider-Man does whatever a spider can.” Not complaining, really, I just think it’s funny. And more emotion with “Ballad of Mott the Hoople.” Hunter shows some vocal depth here, too. “I’m a Cadillac/El Camino Dolo Roso” is a musical escape and well done at that, with guitarist Mike Ralphs taking the lead vox responsibilities for a song. Overall a really good album. I wouldn’t turn it off if it came on. Dug!
#369 – Louder Than Bombs by The Smiths. Thanks to The BCPF, I had already gained an appreciation for The Smiths. That is NOT to say that I’m a huge fan as there’s something really annoying about Morrissey’s insistence of talking through the songs. What I mean by that is: even though he technically “sings,” he’s just basically talking in key. His phrasing is quite unique, though. Ultimately, I’m torn with The Smiths. I appreciate them and I’ll even admit I do like most of the songs but at the same time it is bothersome and other than the point I made earlier, I can’t pinpoint what it is about it I don’t really care for. Another thing, I am, for all intents and purposes, breaking my own rule as this is a compilation, albeit mostly B-sides and such beyond a few A-side single releases. It’s a throwing together of tunes to appease to US audiences. So instead of reviewing the album, really, I’m going to just point out some faves and move on. “Sheila Take a Bow,” “Shoplifters of the World Unite,” “Panic,” “Ask.”
#368 – Eagles by Eagles. Let me say up front that, like Doug Davis, I too, can’t get into much of Glenn Frey. He’s a sap and his songs are mostly boring, at least to me. Don Henley, as I’ve stated, I love. “Chug All Night” is complete crap. “Take It Easy” is okay and yes, it’s a Frey song (co-written by Jackson Browne), just not my favorite stuff from this band. The next album, Desperado and later disc, Hotel California are much better albums. Bernie Leadon, I do like him. Give me him and leave Frey out. Same with Randy Meisner. “Witchy Woman” is one of my all-time favorite Eagles songs. “Earlybird” has great vocals and that banjo from Leadon is fantastic! “Most of Us Are Sad” and “Take the Devil” are also good songs. Dug.
#367 – Ray of Light by Madonna. This is not the Material Girl. This is some serious stuff. Serious as in seriously good. First off, anyone who purchased this get their money’s worth. 13 songs and the shortest one (“The Power of Good-Bye”) is 4:10. The average length is around 5:10 or so. The ol’ gal shows she still has chops as her voice is still silky and sultry. This is more a dance album as it’s more electronica-based and well written. I’ll say it’s catchy but nothing really stands out as awesome. Somehow, though, even saying that, there’s not really any filler. Is it possible that it’s just a good album without distinction? Well, it’s my review and I’ll say, yes. The title track was the only thing I’d heard from this album prior to listening and will probably still be the only one I’d recognize. William Orbit (producer) is a mad man with the ambience and structures, though. Dug.
#366 – American Recordings by Johnny Cash. I love the fact that Rick Rubin approached John and asked him to do this project, stripped down, like he likes it. And, I love the fact that the album was named for the record label, being the first on it since changing its name from Def American. “Delia’s Gone” is a great opening number. The stripped down aspect of this album along with the song selection (some of which were written by others specifically for JC) makes this a beautiful listen. JC is honest with his voice, without all the twang, and in the style that got him the notoriety in the first place. “Oh, Bury Me Not (Introduction: A Cowboy’s Prayer)” is classic Cash storytelling, even if it wasn’t written by him. That’s another thing about him: he takes and owns what he records. It’s his; him. Dug.
#365 – Rage Against the Machine by Rage Against the Machine. Mighty politico against a very talented riff-cranking guitar master in Tom Morello. “Bombtrack” starts off the album and is subdued and you get the feeling of a train rolling toward your face. A racing drum build and the now-signature RATM sound comes through. OMG! “Killing in the Name.” I learned that song for a band once and that bass line is one of my all-time faves. So much groove and angst in that song. Powerful and perversely elegant at the same time. This is a ball buster and you smile the whole time. Very unconventional musicans. Some call Morello a noise maker, one who plays with the guitar more than actually playing it. They’re stupid. He’s very versed in the ways of guitar wizardry and riff magic. Other notables are “Township Rebellion,” “Freedom,” “Bullet in the Head.” Dug!
#364 – L.A. Woman by The Doors. Not the biggest Doors fan, but this doesn’t suck. The 12 bar blues crap on “Cars Hiss By My Window” I can do without. “Love Her Madly,” “Riders on the Storm” I’m okay with. As far as the title song goes, I actually think I like Billy Idol’s overplayed version of it better. Jim Morrison was just not my cup o’tea. I do, however really admire and appreciate Ray Manzarek’s abilities and what he meant for their sound. I guess I’m saying I enjoy the sound but something about them overall – I can’t put my finger on it – really bugs me. Maybe it’s just Morrison himself? I do like that they used a real bass player for some of the tracks, although, again, Manzarek was a beast. Mostly dug.
#363 – Substance by New Order. Caveat: I didn’t listen to this specifically for this list. I own this because I know The BCPF likes New Order (to a degree) and that I had gotten more and more into them, at least the radio hits. That being said, I have listened to it several times as of late; both straight through and through the various shuffles on my iPod. Again, I’m going against my own rules as this is technically a compilation album of 12″ versions of New Order and older Joy Division songs, including what my wife, The BCPF, has proclaimed to be her favorite song of all-time: “Ceremony.” That’s a strong proclamation. I do like “True Faith,” “Blue Monday,” “Bizarre Love Triangle” and “Thieves Like Us.” I could do without all the B-sides and such, like “The Beach” which is basically an instrumental/remix of “Blue Monday.” I guess it’s great for N.O. fans but casual listeners, like moi, I think it’s overkill. The first 12 songs? That’s a great compilation. The whole, to me is excess. First half I dug. The rest, I abstain.
#362 – Siamese Dream by Smashing Pumpkins. This album’s era was my first exposure to Billy (Corgan) and the gang. At that time. I was in a hair band. This music “killed” that music; at least that’s what I felt at the time. I have grown up and stopped thinking that way. I think “Today” was the first song I heard. Then, it was “Disarm,” I believe. Back then, I hated that “crap” and now I can enjoy listening to it. My feelings about the Pumpkins was changed after watching some behind-the-scenes doohickey about the next full album, Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness. This is great driving music or great background music. It’s heavy and hard but it’s plenty laid-back, too. This album is a good representation of things to come and, to me, showed that the Pumpkins were just getting started. Dug!
#361 – Stankonia by Outkast. Okay, so I’m listening to the opening track called, appropriately, “Intro,” and I am laughing. I really don’t know a lot about Outkast; I couldn’t name one song without looking at track listing. This doesn’t really do anything to change that, but I have to say that the album as a whole is an easy, if long, listen. I was dreading it for the reasons of most hip-hop music in the earlier parts of this countdown. I thought it was going to be a lot of “N” word this and “N” word that and condescension of “respect” left and right but this wasn’t that. There are a few instances of the “N” word showing up but it’s not driven like a hammered nail into your ears. “Ms. Jackson,” “So Fresh, So Clean,” and the title track, “Stankonia,” are show melodic elements that were really fun to listen to. “B.O.B.” was was a bombastic, rhythmic flight to Funking-It-The-Hard-Way. I’ll admit that I enjoyed this album. Would I listen again? Probably not to the whole thing but parts of it, I wouldn’t turn off. Dug.
Wow! By my estimation, I see 8 1/2 “dugs” up there (no rating for Smiths and only half of the New Order and I’m counting all of The Doors). That’s one of the biggest liked sections of the countdown I’ve had. I actually believe that I’ll have a good bit of likes from now on as we’re getting more into the meat of the countdown. I’ll say the beginning was a bit shaky but we’re getting better. Some of the stuff is really surprising me and some of it is right where I thought I’d be, while only a bit of it is disappointing. More perplexing than anything else, in most cases. Anywhat! My time for this segment is done! What are your thoughts on these reviews?
Until tomorrow, same blog channel…
“Today is the greatest day I’ve ever known. Can’t live for tomorrow, tomorrow’s much too long. I’ll burn my eyes out, before I get out” – “Today” by Smashing Pumpkins (Billy Corgan) from Siamese Dream (1992)