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Monday, October 2, 2017

Album Review: Prince and the Revolution - Purple Rain (1984)

I finally got around to reviewing this album - it's been on my Spotify saved list for some time now. And despite its status as a classic album and featuring some of Prince's greatest hits, the album has a few problems for me.  Some of the songs clash with my more conservative proclivities, in particular, "Darling Nikki" - I'm not quite sure what to make of it, strange yes, awful, not really.  Others, such as "Take Me With U" isn't bad, but it doesn't make me jump for joy either - that's the titular "Purple Rain's" job, and it does a sterling job too, because it is one of the best songs I have ever heard,  period.  "I Would Die 4 U" is another great Prince track, and you simply cannot say no to "When Doves Cry" - although I do prefer the shorter version.  The title track, "Let's Go Crazy" ain't too bad either.  I can see "The Beautiful One" growing on me, and "Computer Blue" is worth listening to, although like "Take Me With U" it's not too exciting either.  But despite my disappointment at this album not being as good as I would like to have hoped, there is obviously some consolation to be taken away from listening to it.  And of course, I'm very sad that the legendary Prince is no longer with us.  B+

Monday, September 25, 2017

Album Review: Johnny Cash - The Mystery of Life (1991)

Johnny Cash was a legend, no matter which particular era you subscribe to.  Younger people will likely be more familiar with the Rick Rubin-era recordings, thanks to his epic cover of Nine Inch Nails' "Hurt."  But I've always maintained that in order to understand, and indeed appreciate Johnny Cash, you must have heard him at each chronological point in his career.  The Mystery Of Life is one of his more unappreciated and underrated albums, at least in my opinion anyway - Cash always had a way at adapting to new styles and new times, even during his American Recordings tenure, when it was clear that his voice wasn't what it used to be.  His covers and re-recordings were almost always spot on too - as exemplified here by the favorite "Hey Porter" and the Dylan-penned "Wanted Man."  The best versions too, in my opinion.  "Beans For Breakfast" "The Hobo Song" "The Greatest Cowboy of Them All" are awesome as well, as is the title track "The Mystery of Life."  I'm so glad this album is on Spotify.  Check it out, I say.  A-

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Album Review: The Highwaymen - Highwayman 2 (1990)

The Highwaymen.  Another fine supergroup that you ought to be listening to.  Some of outlaw country's greats are all here - Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings and Kris Kristofferson. And together they made some great songs too, such as their best known "Highwaymen."  I'm listening to (and reviewing, of course) their second album, Highwaymen 2 from 1990.  Not a bad album at all - a bit better than their more critically receptive debut album as far as I'm concerned.  I was hoping it would be perhaps a wee bit better, but nonetheless I'm not going to complain.  I've always loved Johnny Cash, and he shines on this album, as do Willie and Waylon, both of whom wrote some great songs as well.  I must admit I'm not so familiar with Kris Kristofferson, however, aside from Cash's exemplary version of "Sunday Morning Coming Down", which quickly became a staple of every reputable Johnny Cash hits album.  Two songs stand out for me here - "Silver Stallion" and "American Remains."  The rest is OK, and are certainly worth exploring.  But they have nothing on the aforementioned two.  Not too shabby at all.  B+

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Album Review: Judas Priest - Painkiller (1990)

Grew to like British Steel.  Loved Screaming for Vengeance from the beginning.  And I eventually learned to appreciate (a lot) Ram it Down too - even its fatal mistake, a cover version of Chuck Berry's "Johnny B. Goode."  Painkiller from 1990 has some kick ass tracks on it as well - it's fast, furious, metallic, angry, and vengeful.  Which is everything a good speed metal record ought to be.  And Rob Halford's voice never fails to mesmerize - and mesmerize it damn well should, as it is easily one of the best in the heavy metal business.  Along with Screaming with Vengeance, Painkiller is a stereotype of the heavy metal sound, something you'd expect non metal fans to think of when they think of heavy metal music (and usually, quite unfortunately, despise).  Of course, it's a good stereotype.  There's some big hits on this album - if you've owned a best of compilation album (such as The Essential Judas Priest), you'll instantly know "Painkiller", "Hell Patrol", "Night Crawler" and "A Touch of Evil."  And they're the best songs on this album of course.  "Leather Rebel" and "Metal Meltdown" will get some love too on the next few play throughs - the rest will get the play button treatment every now and then as well.  All up, a sterling effort by one of metal's giants.  Love it.  A-

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Album Review: J.J. Cale - Naturally (1972)

Listening to this album brings me to Bob Dylan by way of two separate chronological references - The opening track, the brilliant "Call Me The Breeze" hails back in some ways (albeit more polished) to several Bringing It All Back Home numbers - perhaps in particular, "Subterranean Homesick Blues" and "Outlaw Blues" (with a dash of Clapton's "Lay Down Sally" in there for good measure, of course).  Likewise, the rest of the album reminds me of Dylan's more contemporary offerings, especially with regards to his voice.  And how is the album?  Well, it's not a bad album, but for the most part it isn't my cup of tea either.  "Call Me The Breeze" might have me dancing like an epileptic sparrow with one leg and a busted wing that's perching on an electric fence, and "After Midnight" is a classic that belongs on any respectable classic rock play list.  "Clyde" appeals to my need for tempo, but only enough to be played on a few occasions.  The rest of the album, whilst not rubbish in any sense, just doesn't have the momentum to keep me focused.  "Crazy Mama" is certainly worth listening to, although I probably won't be listening to it that often.  All in all, it's not a bad album, but aside for the tracks mentioned earlier, it's unlikely to get much love from me in the long run.  B

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Album Review: Chris Rea - On The Beach (1986)

I bought the album that I'm presently reviewing for two reasons; 1) it was cheap ($7.99 to be exact), and 2) it was the only Chris Rea studio album they had on sale.  But for the eight bucks I paid for this album it is fair to say I got something worth ten times that.  It was very much what I was hoping the album might be, and in the process of listening to the album I couldn't help but get excited by my semi-unexpected discovery.  I'd heard all of his greatest hits before - "Let's Dance", "Josephine", "Ace of Hearts" and of course, "On the Beach."  Both "On the Beach" and "Let's Dance" are of historic relevance to me - I remember listening to them, and enjoying them, of course, back in the late 1980s when I was just a wee lad.  I must say however, I do think that the New Light Through Old Windows version of "On the Beach" is vastly superior to the original studio one as found on here.  But I'm not interested in this one anyway - there are some really superb tracks to listen to here.  "Giverny", "It's All Gone", "Freeway" and "Bless Them All" are all my favorites.  I'm very, very glad I picked this album up when I did.  A

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Album Review: Dire Straits - Making Movies (1980)

I've always joked that, instead of playing the same old tired, poorly selected local music over the dole department phone system, they should play Dire Straits instead.  Specifically, of course, "Money for Nothing."  And I would still dearly love to see someone actually fulfill my wish.  Even more, I would love to see people's ensuing reactions.  But there's a fat chance of that happening, unfortunately.  But as consolation for my disappointment that such a fantasy is somewhat unlikely to be realized, I nonetheless revel in my surprise and pleasure in listening to Making Movies from 1980.  I liked Brothers in Arms a lot less than I perhaps should, given some of their biggest hits are on that album, and then some.  But in listening to this album I was expecting something a bit more lethargic and less polished than the aforementioned magnum opus.  Of course I knew "Tunnel of Love", "Romeo and Juliet", "Solid Rock" and "Skateaway."  Good songs, all of them.  But I unexpectedly found myself in favor of "Expresso Love", refreshing and yet simultaneously consistent with the previous tracks, the aforementioned trio.  It took round two for me to click with "Hand in hand", but I wouldn't be fooled by the tepid opening to "Les Boys."  It reminds me, and perhaps it should serve as a reminder to everyone else, to not judge a song by the first few moments.  And "Solid Rock" is a reminder to both myself and others that Mark Knopfler, in spite of his critics, knows a good rock 'n roll ditty better than many of his peers.  A-