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Saturday, January 25, 2020

Album Review: Dragon - Bondi Beach (1989)

Dragon, a band perhaps torn by identity depending on the nationality of the person you are asking.  Some say they are Kiwi (they started off in Auckland, after all).  Others say they're Australian (they hit the big time in Australia).  Some say they're both.  But no matter which team you side with, there's no question they had some great hits.  Their seventies work is their best known and most successful stuff.  But even in the eighties they were still putting out quality songs - "Rain" is perhaps the best known example.  I'm listening to Bondi Beach from 1989,  and I never initially planned to review it at all.  I looked up the opening track "Young Years" in Spotify and the rest of the album showed up.  So anyway, I was sidetracked by the time the song finished, and I let the album carry on.  And I'm kind of glad that I did - sometimes there are good accidents, and this is one of them.  Lyrics wise, it's not the best.  But the music is pretty good, and the ratio of good songs to duds weighs heavily on the good side.  There are only four tracks that I'm not too thrilled about here - "Here I Am", "Family Man", "Runaway" and "Good Time Girl."  Not bad, but not interesting, either, and the album finishes off with their own rendition of "Celebration" by Kool & The Gang.  And it's not too bad, either.  A good album.  A-


Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Album Review: Johnny Cash - At Folsom Prison (1968)

Not quite as appealing to me as At San Quentin, and no doubt many will disagree with me on this point, but despite some great numbers here, this album still manages to get blown out of the water by the aforementioned album.  For me, At San Quentin feels like the prison recording that this album should be - I'd be bored shitless if I were in the clinks and "Dark as a Dungeon" was being played - but nonetheless, it's still one of the great live albums, even if I do feel it would be somewhat more at home at a music festival than a county clink.  Johnny Cash's uncanny knack for narrative singing is on point here with the likes of "Cocaine Blues" and "25 Minutes to Go", and as far as I'm concerned ,they are the highlights of the entire record.  A very select few popular favorites have been given attention here - "Folsom Prison Blues" and "I Got Stripes" the obvious ones here - and "Jackson" and "I Still Miss Someone" are likewise thrown in for good measure.  Some of the best songs from the Man in Black, on one of the best live albums ever put out.  Johnny Cash fans ought to own this album.  Even if you're not one, it's definitely worth checking out if you want to know what all the fuss is about regarding Johnny Cash's music, and it should be mandatory listening for anyone whose experience of Johnny Cash is restricted to his celebrated cover of "Hurt."  A great album, but not his best live offering.  A-


Saturday, January 18, 2020

Album Review: Megadeth - Peace Sells...But Who's Buying? (1986)

For me, at least, Megadeth is sounding better each time I play their music.  Despite being one of their best known albums, Peace Sells...But Who's Buying? never used to do anything for me.  I always loved their debut album - Killing is my Business...and Business is Good! - it's easily one of the best thrash albums ever made, in my opinion.  But this album only really held any value for me for two songs - "Wake Up Dead" and "My Last Words."  In retrospect, I was overly critical of it to begin with.  Thrash metal by and large was never an acquired taste for me, and I remember getting hooked on Metallica almost instantly the moment I fired up Kill 'Em All.  But Megadeth took some getting used to, and now I'm fully appreciative of the fact I took the time to really get used to them.  I'm very impressed by this album now, not quite as appreciative of it as I am Rust in Peace,  but if "Good Mourning/Black Friday", "Peace Sells" and "The Conjuring" (as well as of course, the two earlier mentioned tracks) are anything to go buy, this album deserves a lot more respect than what I gave it to begin with.  A good album.  A-


Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Album Review: The Police - Reggatta de Blanc (1979)

What can I say about the Police?  A great band, but underrated?  Perhaps not, but I sure as hell don't play their material enough.  Not with the same degree of rarity of the likes of Led Zeppelin, of course.  But in either case, I should be firing up an album or two of theirs on a more regular basis, even if it is just a greatest hits compilation album.  Now, I love both Synchronicity and Ghost in the Machine, so it was only a matter of time, really, that I checked out Regatta de Blanc.  And I must say that I really am better for having taken the initiative.  Eleven mostly solid tracks of reggae-tinged new wave and rock numbers, and not a bad number among them.  Of course, I have my allocated least favorite numbers.  On here, it is "Bring on the Night."  And "Does Everyone Stare" is pushing it a little bit.  But I could quite easily find myself playing this album right through without pushing the forward button once.  My initial conservatism was soon quashed as soon as the album ticked over into the titular "Reggatta de Blanc", and "It's Alright for You" helped to carry on the momentum for a bit.  "Message in a Bottle" and "Walking on the Moon" are also here for those familiar with their hits compilations.  Yet another album that proved to be better than what I was expecting.  Damn, I'm going to have to buy this one, I'm afraid!  A-


Saturday, January 11, 2020

Album Review: Iron Maiden - Piece of Mind (1983)

The last two Iron Maiden albums I reviewed were The Number of the Beast and Powerslave.  Not that there was anything hugely special about them, really - aside from the fact that they're both considered to be magnum opuses of the band, and the former in particular is regarded by most metalheads who are familiar with the band to be one of the all time great metal albums ever made.  And for good reason.  Now, for some reason I've recently decided not only to fire up Piece of Mind from 1983, but to review it as well.  And it is actually good.  Surprisingly good.  Not quite up there with the former two, of course, but you won't doze off whilst listening to it, either.  Songwise, there's a couple of biggies here - "Flight of Icarus" and "The Trooper", and whilst the latter is a bit boring to be honest, the former is always a welcome staple of any Iron Maiden playlist rotation.  Other than that, "Die with Your Boots On" and "Still Life" are the weakest links here, although certainly not weak enough to break the album.  And you can't go wrong with an opening track like "Where Eagles Dare", either.  Or finish with "To Tame a Land" I should add as well.  A remarkably good album if I must say so myself.  A-


Wednesday, January 8, 2020

Album Review: Chris Rea - Water Sign (1983)

Water Sign by Chris Rea is yet another Chris Rea album that is an unexpected joy to listen to, full of great songs, all commandeered by that great raspy voice that has become synonymous with the man himself.  It's very much a case of one side of the album being better than the other on this one - side one is the weaker side, which is usually the opposite of what I normally hear.  Side two is packed with great songs - "Let it Loose", "I Can Hear Your Heartbeat", "Midnight Blue" and "Out of the Darkness" all make up the best of side two, if not the best of the album, while the first half only has "Deep Water", "Candles" and possibly "Nothing's Happening by the Sea" going for it in terms of songs that will keep me interested.  Everything in between is still OK, mind you.  They're not my cup of tea.  "Texas" (not to be confused with the track from The Road to Hell) and "Hey You" might grow on me with enough playthroughs.  But who knows?  Anyway, a very good album, by a sorely underrated and very great artist.  A-


Saturday, January 4, 2020

Album Review: Rod Stewart - Foolish Behaviour (1980)

I was initially expecting this album to be bad - A half-baked contract filler replete with weak songwriting and dull melodies, another album from a 70's superstar that struggled seemingly desperately to keep with the sounds of the new era of the eighties.  And there are numerous examples of weak songwriting to be found here - "Passion", "Foolish Behaviour" and "So Soon We Change" feel like they were added to the album because they were the best of a bad lot, although to be fair, "Passion" sounded a bit promising, even perhaps, a tad Pink Floyd-like, and I can respect it for that.  The biggest surprise for me here was "Oh God, I Wish I Was Home Tonight", a notable improvement on the previous trio.  "She Won't Dance With Me" is quintessential Rod Stewart, and is my favorite here.  "Better Off Dead" and "Gi' Me Wings" are actually not bad, and "Somebody Special" is better than what my listening habits would tend to argue.  Some people might think this album is terrible, others may argue that it's somewhat of an acquired taste - I tend to think it's a bit of both.  Hell, even "Say it Ain't True" has begun to grow on me a little bit.  B



Wednesday, January 1, 2020

Album Review: Bob Dylan - Infidels (1983)

The eighties were not kind to Bob Dylan.  Like many artists who peaked in the sixties and seventies, Bob for the most part struggled to keep up, although he too had his highlights.  Knocked Out Loaded, Empire Burlesque and Down in the Groove are regarded by most as being among his most forgettable works, although I admittedly find myself indulging a little too much in the cheekiness of its very existence.  And many will surely find some degree of forgiveness in the likes of "Brownsville Girl."  But all wasn't lost for Bob in the era of decadence and greed - Infidels is in fact one of my favorite Bob Dylan albums.  Precisely why, I don't know.  Maybe it's the Knopfler-esque "Sweetheart Like You" or the steady-as-she-goes rhythm of "Jokerman."  And as much as I hate political songs, I'm more than prepared to make an exception for "Union Sundown."  At the butt-end of the album, Dylan leaves the worst for last - "I and I" and "Don't Fall Apart on Me Tonight" are the least preferable songs here, although they're well and truly far away from delving into crap territory themselves.  This album, along with Oh Mercy from 1989, proved that there's always a glimmer of hope, even when everything else, it seems, has turned to the proverbial.  A great album.  A


Saturday, December 28, 2019

Album Review: Van Halen - Women and Children First (1980)

Last album review of 2019 and I'd thought I'd go out with a review of an album from one of my favorite bands, Van Halen.  Women and Children First is an OK album - it feels more "metal" in parts than the other albums by Van Halen, including the legendary debut to a a certain extent - and it is unmistakably Van Halen in its sound, but some tracks are, well, dull. "Fools" and "Could This be Magic?" have nothing to offer me, and whilst "Take Your Whiskey Home" and "In a Simple Rhyme" certainly aren't what you would call crap, they still fall short of the standard of excellence I expect from a solid VH record.  I can listen to "Romeo Delight" now where I once couldn't, and "Loss of Control" I've always had an abiding respect for, perhaps more so than even the opening hit "And the Cradle Will Rock" could ever hope to muster.  "Everybody Wants Some!" is great too.  I'd probably give this album a fifty-fifty in terms of how well this album sounds and feels.  Still, every true Van Halen fan is obliged to possess this record in their collection, no excuses.  Everyone else, well, just give it a whirl.  It won't hurt you.  Just don't expect it to be on par with the likes of Van Halen, 1984 or even the Van Hagar era 5150B+


Wednesday, December 25, 2019

Album Review: Green Day - American Idiot (2004)

I meant to review this album some time ago, but never got around to it and my intention to do so was subsequently put on the back burner.  Well, now is the time, almost ten years after my last review of a Green Day album, Dookie.  It's actually not a bad album at all - when it first came out I found myself liking the hits a lot.  In fact, I thought they were so good I went out and bought the album.  And now, despite it having sat in my collection for a good 15 years now, I've finally got around to reviewing it.  The first "side" or "half" of the album is easily the best part, like Hotel California by The Eagles, except the second side, whilst been the less exciting half, isn't bad or even dull.  Most of the radio hits like "American Idiot" and "Holiday" are in the first half, with "Wake Me Up When September Ends" is situated toward the end of the album.  All the hits, including "Boulevard of Broken Dreams" I still like, and "St. Jimmy" has been popular with me for some time now.  I've started to like "Letter Bomb" quite a bit, and even the aforementioned "Wake Me Up When September Ends" has started to grow on me.  It's pretty good for a concept album, especially a 21st century concept album, and whilst my regard for it has waned a bit over the years, I'm still very glad I bought this album when I did.  A-


Saturday, December 21, 2019

Album Review: Phil Collins - Face Value (1981)

Loved ...But Seriously.  Very much liked No Jacket Required.  And of course, I would be mad to not have a copy of ...Hits in my possession.  But I've never got around to listening to Face Value, the album that effectively launched Phil Collins' solo career.  And it's a bit of a yo-yo kind of affair in terms of quality.  Everybody knows the opening track, "In the Air Tonight", which is easily the best song on this album.  The following two tracks, "This Must be Love" and "Behind the Lines" are nothing short of boring, and the album waits until "The Roof is Leaking" for things to really start picking up.  I hear fragments of "That's All" from his Genesis tenure among several tracks, including the respectable "Thunder and Lightning" and "The Roof is Leaking", and "Hand in Hand" is actually pretty good, as is the instrumental, "Drone."  I also kinda like "I'm Not Moving", and "I Missed Again" seems like a somewhat appropriate song title if the song is anything to go by.  The album once more ends on a duller note with "Tomorrow Never Knows."  Yeah, it's really a mixed bag this album, with some potential on display, but otherwise marred by too many lackluster numbers.  I'd by this album as collector's piece, but nothing more.  Otherwise, stick to streaming if you want to hear this album.  Overrated and not his best, in my opinion.  B


Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Album Review: Testament - The Legacy (1987)

The last review that I did was of a thrash metal album, The Dark, by Metal Church.  And it was an OK record.  I've decided to do another review of a thrash metal album by yet another slightly obscure thrash metal band, Testament.  Their debut album, The Legacy, is a very generic thrash album - not bad, of course, but it offers nothing in the way of listening that listening to the likes of Anthrax and early Megadeth does.  I felt that it was simply too monotonous, as if each song were repeating itself and over and over.  If I were to name a couple of songs here that I felt stood out the most, I would go for the opening "Over the Wall" and "Curse of the Legions of Death."  But that's about it for me.  For me, a great thrash metal album gets me kinetic every time, but this fails to do anything of the sort.  It's a thrash metal album, Jim, but not as I prefer it.  Meh, not my cup of tea ,to be honest.  I hope you beg to differ.  B


Saturday, December 14, 2019

Album Review: Metal Church - The Dark (1986)

Branching out beyond the traditional 'big four' thrash metal staple of Metallica, Megadeth, Anthrax and Slayer, I'm once more venturing into lesser known metal territory with the album The Dark by Metal Church.  An interesting album, the first half is more or less fillers, and feels somewhat genre-confused at times, although I can't help but notice the demonstrably strong Iron Maiden influence on "Method to Your Madness."  "Start the Fire" is by far the best of side one, with side two picking up the pace and reverting to the thrash metal style that the album is meant to represent.  And it's much better too - "The Dark", "Line of Death", and "Western Alliance" make up the best of side two, and "Psycho" isn't exactly slack, either.  And just as a side note, David Wayne's vocals are most notably reminiscent to an extent to that of Motley Crue's Vince Neil.  All up, it's an OK album that can only get better once things hit the half-way mark.  Would I get it?  Yeah probably.  B+


Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Album Review: Bloodhound Gang - Hooray for Boobies (1999)

My purile, more juvenile proclivities just love the Bloodhound Gang, even when the critics don't.  Too much filth, they say?  To hell with them!  Any realist who isn't a pretentious prick will tell you dirty jokes are funnier than clean ones, and this band just loves dabbling with the filthy and politically incorrect.  I loved One Fierce Beer Coaster when it first came out - schoolyard smut, clever lyrics and some OK rapping to boot - critics sure didn't like it.  But I did, and so did millions of other people.  That was back in 1996.  I finally got around to listening to Hooray for Boobies in its entirety, 20 years later.  Starting off great, it begins to falter as it approaches the half-way mark, only to make a comeback with the likes of "A Lapdance is So Much Better When the Stripper is Crying" and "Along Comes Mary."  "The Bad Touch" is guaranteed to get people's heads moving, and "Hell Yeah" takes me back to One Fierce Beer Coaster, specifically "Your Only Friends Are Make Believe" and perhaps "I Wish I Was Queer so I Could Get Chicks."  In wrapping up, it's not quite at the level of its predecessor, but still, it's uncouth, funny, and a thorn in the side of puritan snobbish types.  So, based on those attributes alone, it's fair to say that I like it.  A-


Saturday, December 7, 2019

Album Review: Thin Lizzy - Bad Reputation (1977)

Thin Lizzy.  A hard rock band that fits in rather well with the heavy metal crowd, a little bit like AC/DC.  And I can see why even some of the most purist metalheads may warm to the band - songs like "Bad Reputation" and "Killer on the Loose" have that passion and motivation you would otherwise only find among the likes of bands like Motorhead.  Bad Reputation from Thin Lizzy certainly doesn't live up to its namesake - it sure as hell ain't a bad album, and it's reputation is well cemented within the hard rock/heavy metal community.  The opening track, "Soldier of Fortune" is initially a bit on the bland song but funnily enough gets interesting about 3-4 minutes into the song.  From there the record starts to get good, beginning with the title track at number two, and "Opium Trail", "Southbound", Killer Without a Cause" and "Dear Lord" make up my list of personal favorites here.  Things begin to slip again once you get to "Downtown Sundown" and "That Woman's Gonna Break Your Heart."  In closing, I think it's a good album, a bit more mellow at times than the title track that brought me here would perhaps have led me to believe.  Next stop - Live and DangerousB+


Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Album Review: Bee Gees - Trafalgar (1971)

The Bee Gees are a band for whom I feel utterly compelled to be in possession of one of their greatest hits compilations.  In fact, I have two for good measure.  They are a band that, when they made a hit, it hit hard.  Sure, they sound all too alike at times, but they pulled it off so well that, at the very least, you wouldn't care about that fact.  In fact, some, like me, actually appreciate that.  But as much as I like their greatest hits stuff, their album stuff needs a bit of a attention every now and then as well.  I loved Main Course, and Still Waters I felt was good for an album panned by many as being rubbish.  But I've given another early Bee Gees album a go, this time Trafalgar, as it is listed in the book 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die.  And it's an interesting mix.  The Beatles' influence seems to stick out a bit on parts, especially "It's Just the Way", with Maurice on vocals, it's a completely new listening experience for me.  "Israel" and "The Greatest Man in the World" are the top two for me here, and whilst the first side of the album tends to hold my interest well, it does slip a bit on side two, with "Walking Back to Waterloo" bringing things back into momentum.  All up, it's a good album, even when it does begin to sag two-thirds of the way in.  B+


Saturday, November 30, 2019

Album Review: The Ramones - Road to Ruin (1978)

The first four Ramones albums are probably the most revered and respected, and I can see why - musically, their sound was so simple, and yet so captivating.  And to begin with, they weren't very good at playing their instruments either - their debut album is a bit sloppy in that regard - but nonetheless this was quickly overlooked in favor of the simple, yet surprisingly innovative sound that'd just arisen.  The first and third albums really do it for me - the debut, despite only having gone gold a mere few years ago, is one of the best debuts I have ever heard, and by the time Rocket to Russia came about, they'd quickly become more polished and more competent in their playing.  But of the first four albums, their fourth is my least favorite, although of course, this doesn't mean I would go so far as to consider it bad by any means.  "Don't Come Close", "I Wanna be Sedated", and "She's the One" are the songs I go to when I can't be assed playing the album from start to finish, and if I were really pressed to cherry-pick another song, I would probably go for "It's A Long Way Back."  "Needles & Pins" sticks out like a sore thumb with it's acoustic guitar, and everything else in between just sounds far too alike this time around.  In summary, this isn't a playthrough album, but there's certainly some good enough numbers here for me to cherry-pick at my own leisure.  B+


Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Album Review: Metallica - S & M (1999)

I've never been big on live albums, really.  I've long felt that the live versions of songs were vastly inferior to the original studio recordings.  I'm far more forgiving of live versions than re-recordings, however.  Some live albums are in fact bloody great - Mad Dogs & Englishmen by Joe Cocker and Rust Never Sleeps by Neil Young and Crazy Horse are two of my all time favorite albums, and I'm quite partial to Live by AC/DC.  S & M by Metallica is another live album but with a unique twist - there is a supporting orchestra to boot - the San Francisco Symphony, to be exact.  Classical music and heavy metal music appear on paper to be very odd bed fellows, but in practice the two are quite capable of mixing quite well.  I must confess here, despite having owned this album since 2001-2002 I have only just recently listened to it in its entirety.  And I'm glad I finally got around to doing so.  I'm particularly enamored with the songs from the first four albums, such as "Master of Puppets" "Whom the Bell Tolls", and "One."  These songs always do well when performed live.  But the ones from Metallica, Load and Reload are likewise surprisingly good as well.  A rendition of "The Memory Remains" without Marianne Faithfull on backup?  I suppose the audience did well enough.  But somehow that song loses that sting it had.  All up, a pretty damn impressive collection of live renditions here.  A-


Saturday, November 23, 2019

Album Review: The Who - Who's Next (1971)

Not every classic album is a good album, and I've most likely said that a million times before.  Hotel California by the Eagles is most notably my least favorite, and Music From Big Pink by The Band is another dud classic that springs to mind.  I've been listening to Who's Next by The Who, and to be frank, there's not a lot going for it, either, despite its overwhelming critical appraisal.  Bookended by hits "Baba O' Riley" and "We Won't Get Fooled Again", the only other songs that show any real sign of promise from my point of view are "The Song is Over" and "Behind Blue Eyes", and even then they're not enough to get me up and dancing about.  Everything else in between - well, I wouldn't call them bad, put it that way.  But they're hardly exciting, either.  Like every classic album I listen to, I enter expecting greatness, and for the most part they seldom fail to deliver.  But sometimes there are exceptions, and this album sadly just doesn't float my boat.  It might prove to be a different kettle of fish as far as you're concerned - hence, I would still recommend people listen to it for their own reference.  Otherwise, meh.  Next please.  B


Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Album Review: Blondie - Parallel Lines (1978)

It's rather difficult for me to explain exactly what I think about Parallel Lines by Blondie.  I've heard most of these songs, albeit in alternate variants - "Sunday Girl" has a French verse on the Greatest Hits version and "Heart of Glass" is shorter and of a different (and frankly better) mix as well.  But Blondie's punk roots show up much better on this album than they do on the aforementioned Greatest Hits compilation - just listen to "11:59", for instance, and you can clearly hear the Ramones' sound starting to rub off on them. "Will Anything Happen" is perhaps even more pronounced, in that regard.  "Hanging on the Telephone" and "One Way or Another" are the other two singles that I'm quite fond of, and I just might consider playing "Just Go Away" a few more times, and then perhaps go away.  I was expecting something better from this album - if it weren't for the hits, it'd be a tad tepid, to be honest.  But the hits are what make this album worth listening to, even if they're in their inferior, original forms.  A-