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Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Album Review: Yngwie Malmsteen - Trilogy (1986)

In light of my lukewarm reception of Eclipse back in 2016, I'm finding listening to the better appraised Trilogy to be more or less in agreement with the general critical consensus, and of course, it is proving itself to be a much better album.  In this instance, I'm somewhat less mesmerized by Malmsteen's ever brilliant guitar prowess and more interested in Mark Boals' badly underrated, near-operatic metal vibrato, which is perhaps best emphasized by songs like "Liar", "Queen in Love" and "Magic Mirror."  The first three songs - "You Don't Remember, I'll Never Forget", "Liar", and "Queen in Love", are already familiar to me, and I'm warming rather quickly to "Fury", "Magic Mirror" and the instrumental "Trilogy Suite: Op 5."  There's another instrumental, "Crying", which is OK, but inferior to the former, and "Fire" is probably the weakest point on the record, but it's far from being filler material.  I anticipated a very good album, and again, I got one.  One of the finest albums neoclassical metal has to offer.  I personally recommend you give it a chance.  A-

Saturday, October 12, 2019

Album Review: The Rolling Stones - Sticky Fingers (1971)

The Rolling Stones, for me at least, were a band that were massive, always there, but I never found the time to get around to listening to them, outside of traditional media streams such as the radio, of course.  I always liked their hits to varying degrees - "Brown Sugar" and "Emotional Rescue" are the top two for me - but like some other megastar artists-slash-bands I never felt compelled to listen to any of their albums.  Up until now, that is.  Initially  I was looking to check out Exile on Main Street, but instead found myself listening to Sticky Fingers instead.  Waking up half asleep does have its surprises, I must admit.  But I'm glad my sleep-deprived proclivities led me down this path, as Sticky Fingers can only be described as bloody brilliant, energetic and yet comfortably sluggish and borderline melancholic at the same time.  Surprisingly, it was easy to pick the weakest song on the album - "Moving On" is good, but it's not quite in the same league as the rest of the album.  Taking "Brown Sugar" and "Wild Horses" out of the equation, despite being as good as they really are, what's ultimately left is still a pleasurable glut of songs well worthy of crawling their way up the billboard charts like they should have been doing.   "Sway", "Dead Flowers" and "Bitch" are the best of a brilliant bunch of songs, again, save for "Brown Sugar."  "Sister Morphine", "I Got the Blues" and "Can't You Hear Me Knocking" all make for mandatory listening as well.  An excellent album if ever I saw one.  I'm buying this one.  If you haven't already, you should too.  A+

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Album Review: Paul McCartney and Wings - Band on the Run (1973)

One of my favorite greatest hits albums is Wingspan: Hits and History by Paul McCartney and Wings.  Granted, there is a ton of songs to be found on that album, and a lot of them aren't that brilliant.  On the other hand, a lot of them are.  My fondness for it isn't because it's filled with non-stop A grade hits - rather, I played the shit out of it for most of the year 2005, a year for which I have many, many fond memories.  And many of those songs took me back to a time where life was much more fun, even when I was doing things at the height of my own personal idiocy.  Not content with relegating myself to the hits, I thought I'd have a go at one of his/their more notable studio works - Band on the Run from 1973.  I very much like it.  I wouldn't say I love it.  But I could've easily have found myself a bit disappointed with it.  On the contrary, there are some remarkable unknown numbers buried on this album.  "Mrs. Vandebilt", "Country Dreamer", "Picasso's Last Words (Drink to Me)" and "Nineteen Hundred and Eighty Five" are rather pleasant, and then of course you have the hits - "Jet", "Band on the Run" and "Helen Wheels."  I'm also somewhat 50/50 on "Mamunia."  Yeah, I'd definitely say I like it.  It may even grow on me even further, who knows?  Give it a go I say.  B+

Saturday, October 5, 2019

Album Review: Santana - Abraxas (1970)

I've tried listening to Santana's music in the past and I never got past the likes of "Smooth" or "Black Magic Woman."  However, now that I've listened to one of their albums in its entirety I'm more than prepared to explore Carlos Santana's music even further.  I've just been listening to Abraxas, an album that I have been curious about for some time now.  It's one of Santana's most revered albums, and it's not to difficult to see why.  If you love a solid album with plenty of great guitar riffs and the like, then look no further.  Looking beyond their average-ish cover version of Fleetwood Mac's "Black Magic Woman" there is so much here that I would consider to be rather good (albeit mostly instrumental jobs, save for the likes of the aforementioned "Black Magic Woman", "Mother's Daughter" and "Hope You're Feeling Better").  Santana is revered as a guitar god of sorts, and there is certainly no shortage of his guitar virtuosity on display.  My favorite here is "Incident at Neshabur", followed by "Se a Cabo" and "Hope You're Feeling Better."  The weakest point of this album for me is the opening track, "Singing Winds, Crying Beasts", which perhaps isn't the best song to open the album, but then again, one should never judge an album by its opening track.  I'm not too sure if this album would compel me to go out and buy a physical copy (assuming I can actually find one, of course), but I'm quite happy to admit that I'm more than prepared to listen to it again and again if the mood strikes me.  Well, onto the saved list it goes, I guess.  A great album, full of great songs.  A-

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Album Review: Supertramp - Breakfast in America (1979)

I've long been intrigued by the band Supertramp.  Their songs were sort of odd, eclectic perhaps, and Roger Hodgson's voice was unlike anything I've heard before.  Rick Davies also did vocals now and then, most notably on "Bloody Well Right."  And beyond the radio, I've all but ignored them.  I used to hear the likes of "The Logical Song" all the time on the air, and "Breakfast in America" always had me reach for the volume dial.  Having said that, I've decided to take my historically intermittent foray into Supertramp one step further by writing a review of their acclaimed 1979 album Breakfast in America.  It's not a bad album at all - although, much to my bemusement, one reviewer reckoned it was the fourth best album of all time.  To that, I would respond with a resounding no.  But there's some very good songs on here - "Breakfast in America" is my number one, with the very Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons-esque "Goodbye Stranger" following rather closely in second place.  "The Logical Song", despite being played to death on radio playlists, is still an uplifting and enjoyable ballad, with "Take the Long Way Home" being the borderline snooze-fest that it always has been.  The rest of the album plays on as a series of fillers until you get to the closing "Child of Vision", which is remarkably good, even reminiscent in some aspects of The Alan Parsons Project prog rock numbers.  Like I said earlier, there is no way this album could be considered anywhere near being the fourth best album ever, not by a long shot.  But it deserves respect, and a listening to every now and then is certainly well worth you taking your time to do so.  B+

Saturday, September 28, 2019

Album Review: Michael Jackson - Off The Wall (1979)

My childhood love of Michael Jackson extended largely to the Thriller and Bad era albums - most notably the latter, as I was getting into Michael Jackson in a big way when that album was still fresh.  I always loved some of the material from Off The Wall, the album that I'm reviewing here, as well, especially the opening track, "Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough", given that my gutter mind always gravitated to entirely different subject matter altogether whenever I heard the opening monologue.  Plenty of top notch disco ditties going around here - the aforementioned opening track aside, of course, and omitting the classic "Rock With You", as everyone knows that song, I'm loving "Get On the Floor" and "Off The Wall" as much as I always revered "Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough." And Jackson's cover of Paul McCartney's "Girlfriend" is always good listening to boot.  The last three tracks on the album - "I Can't Help It", "It's the Falling in Love" and "Burn This Disco Out" are the only real duds to be found here.  A great precursor to the legendary Thriller album, this is definitely an album worth checking out, if you haven't done so already.  A-

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Album Review: Eurythmics - Touch (1983)

The Eurythmics put out some great hits back in the day - "Here Comes the Rain Again", "Would I Lie to You?" and "Who's That Girl?" will all be familiar with people who have been listening to the radio for the last 39 years or so.  All are good hits, although not so good as to get you too excited whenever you heard them.  They're certainly staple listening for any budding 80s music enthusiast, such as moi.  I've decided to go beyond listening to the greatest hits and try out one of their greatest albums, Touch.  And it's very much an average album.  There's only three songs here that I would consider listening to - ""Here Comes the Rain Again", "Cool Blue" and of course, "Who's That Girl?"  Everything else here is rather bland, with tedious synth riffs that do nothing to get your attention, and in some cases, are borderline awful. "The First Cut" just might get better if I listen to it enough, and that's IF I listen to it again.  Nope, this album is definitely not for me.  You might beg to differ, however.  Check it out at your own leisure/peril.  B-

Saturday, September 21, 2019

Album Review: Kate Bush - The Kick Inside (1978)

You haven't heard anything if you haven't heard "Wuthering Heights" by Kate Bush.  Eccentric, different, melodic - the song plies its trade on its weirdness and simultaneous brilliance.  And the music videos (there are several versions) can all testify to this.  Having played it so many times now, I feel that now is the time to see what everything else on The Kick Inside, the album from which the song is taken from, is like by comparison.  And yet, I find not just more of these idiosyncratic ditties, but also just how damn good they are.  The album opens well with "More", and just as well with "The Kick Inside."  There's plenty of goodies in between these two as well - "Kite", "Strange Phenomena", "James and the Cold Gun" and of course, "Wuthering Heights" are the best songs here, making up roughly half of the album, and "The Saxophone Song" and "Room for the Life" are pretty good too.  Everything else is OK.  Not stellar, but not really bad either - "The Man With the Child in His Eyes" is the weakest song for me, but that being said, its theatrical style and form isn't quite to my liking.  In spite of the recurring eccentric style of the album there's enough musical diversity here that will hopefully stop you from becoming bored.  I'll be back for more listening, that's for certain.  A-

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Album Review: Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble - Texas Flood (1983)

Stevie Ray Vaughan, the blues maestro that I never get around to listening to, aside from when I'm hearing him on the radio every now and then (back in the days, of course, when I did listen to the radio) or once every couple years via streaming music services such as Spotify.  Well, I'm back listening to Stevie on Spotify, and this time, I'm going to write a review on his 1983 album Texas Flood.  There are three really good gems to be found here - "Love Struck Baby", my absolute favorite, as well as "Pride and Joy" and "I'm Cryin'."  There's a great instrumental to be found with "Rude Mood", and I'm not particularly struck with the more eccentric "Dirty Pool." I do like "Tell Me" and "Texas Flood", and "Mary Had a Little Lamb" is quite tolerable, but I could easily see myself getting sick of it after a while.  This album is the closest to proper blues music that I've ever listened to (I do have a bit of penchant for blues rock outfits, such as ZZ Top and George Thorogood & The Destroyers, and note the 'rock' part) and if it weren't for the late Stevie Ray Vaughan's well known and well respected mastery with an axe, I probably would have gotten bored pretty damn quickly had it been recorded by anybody else of a lesser pedigree.  Yeah, I'd call it a good album.  B+

Saturday, September 14, 2019

Album Review: Kevin Bloody Wilson - Let's Call Him...Kev! (1991)

I make no apologies for my love of bawdy ballads - Kevin Bloody Wilson got me through the more challenging moments in my life than a bottle of Jim Beam ever did, and ever will, and I consider it to be a defining moment in my life that I first discovered the joys of Kevin Bloody Wilson, all the way back in 1996/1997.  The album that I was first exposed to was Let's Call Him...Kev!, and I hadn't laughed so hard in some time when I first heard it.  It's not an album that gets a mention very often - Kev's Back (The Return of the Yobbo) tends to get that honor - but it's my favorite of all his albums.  It's my go-to Kev album for whenever I need to offload my innate predilection for foul language and dirty humor somewhere else, leaving me free to be the "angel" some people apparently see me as (cue lots of laughter).  "Festival of Farts", "Jacko Can't Get Up" and "This One's Just For You" are my choice picks here, the best of a great lot.  This album needs to be mentioned more often whenever the subject of Kevin Bloody Wilson is ever brought up - it is his finest album, no doubt about it.  On ya, Kev!  A+

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Album Review: Bob Marley & The Wailers - Exodus (1977)

Legend by Bob Marley & The Wailers is, as far as I'm concerned at least, the best hits compilation album ever made.  And by an easy margin, too.  Playing the album from start to finish, there's just something remarkable about how the album flows.  I've just started to listen to this fine record again after a while, and I'm loving every moment of it.  It has also led me to write a review for one of their studio albums.  I've already done Catch a Fire, and that was a pearler of a record, so now I've decided to write a review of Exodus.  An album with an interesting pedigree, this album was recorded whilst Bob Marley was in self-imposed exile in London after an assassination attempt.  I was expecting something good out of this album, and I wasn't disappointed.  A few favorites are here, such as "One Love/People Get Ready", "Exodus" and "Jammin'", and there's a couple more here too - "Natural Mystic" and "So Much Things to Say" are among the better songs on the album, and that's a difficult assessment to make, because the album on the whole is excellent.  But for brevity's sake, I won't go on about all of them - and I could easily do that - but needless to say this album is an essential for an respectable reggae music collection and mandatory for any Bob Marley/The Wailers fans out there.  Definitely give this album a chance is what I would like to say.  A-

Saturday, September 7, 2019

Album Review: The Band - Music From Big Pink (1968)

I love the music of Bob Dylan, both in his folk and electric eras.  To begin with, he wasn't the best singer, or even the best guitar player, for that matter.  But damn, could he write songs.  If Roy Orbison was an opera singer, Bob Dylan was a poet.  And whenever I think of The Band, I think of Bob Dylan.  The Basement Tapes is perhaps one of their better known collaborations, and contained a good number of great songs.  They made a great team if that album was anything to go by.  But despite the entrenched link between Dylan and The Band, The Band were well known for a couple of classic albums themselves - The Band and Music From Big Pink.  The latter is the album that I'm reviewing here.  And it's an OK album.  Not as good as what I was expecting it to be.  I mean, you've got "The Weight" as the big number here, and there's a couple of other good songs - "Tears of Rage" and "To Kingdom Come" immediately spring to mind.  And their version of "Long Black Veil" is certainly noteworthy, but still couldn't hold a candle to Johnny Cash's version.  ""We Can Talk" sure isn't bad, either.  I've also heard better versions of "I Shall Be Released."  In conclusion, would I recommend this album?  I'd tell you to listen to it if you've got the time, but there's no hurry.  Frankly, I'm more eager to listen to The Band, their second album.  "Okay" would be the best word to describe this album.  B

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Album Review: Willie Nelson - Stardust (1978)

I was blown away by Willie Nelson's gospel album The Troublemaker.  I knew Willie liked to venture a bit into the unknown music-wise (as did Johnny Cash), but the end result of his foray into gospel left me near-on awestruck.  After listening to The Troublemaker, I decided that someday I would have a crack at one his most regarded recordings - Stardust from 1978.  Well, that time has come.  And I'm not surprised as to how good it is - in fact, the best word I can think of to describe it is simply beautiful.  More jazz/pop in style instead of Nelson's usual country forte, there's some poignant, dulcet numbers, a couple of upbeat, countryesque offerings, and a couple of great versions of older popular songs to boot.  His version of "Unchained Melody" is fantastic, his rendition of "Blue Skies" well done to say the least.  The opening title track, "Stardust", is a masterpiece, complemented by the poignant closing song "Someone to Watch Over Me."  I'm not a patient listener of music - songs with faster tempos tend to hold my attention better - but this album has me all ears, even as it takes its time.  Make no mistake, this album is a masterpiece, and if you don't like what I'm saying - you, me, caretaker's shed, three o'clock Friday.  Damn it, I'm gonna have to get this album!  Absolutely epic.  A

Saturday, August 31, 2019

Album Review: Toots and the Maytals - Funky Kingston (1972)

I never thought I would hear a band that would give The Wailers a run for their money.  Well, here I am.  A great reggae band, with a great reggae album.  Funky Kingston by Toots and the Maytals is nothing short of brilliant - each song a catchy reggae hook, and not a single song on it to find fault with.  Yes, Catch a Fire by Bob Marley & The Wailers is often considered to be the best reggae album, and it really is a great album.  But as far as I'm concerned, it's nowhere near as good as this. I could almost play Catch a Fire from start to finish without skipping a track - almost, but this album deserves your attention from the beginning of "Time Tough" to "Sailin' On."  There's also a remake of John Denver's "Take Me Home, Country Roads" in the form of "Country Roads" - same basic song, but with lyrics reworked to reflect the band's Jamaican roots.  Deciding which songs here are the best is really a difficult decision to make - "In the Dark", "Time Tough", "Louie, Louie" and "Country Road" are my picks, after a bit of deliberation.  If you're keen on getting into reggae, or perhaps delving even further into it, this album is a great starting point, along with the aforementioned Catch a Fire.  A brilliant album.  A

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Album Review: The Doors - L.A. Woman (1971)

It's high time I did a review of a Doors album.  They're a bit like Led Zeppelin to me - a lot of great songs - but I seldom find myself listening to them.  And like Led Zeppelin, I often finding myself savoring the moment in my inadvertently self-imposed disconnection from the band's music.  It's not that I have any beef with the band, however.  Rather, I simply find myself lacking any impetus or tendency to gravitate toward them whenever I'm in the mood for that style of music (and yes, I'm a big, big classic rock fan, so I'm almost always in the mood).  Pink Floyd, AC/DC, ZZ Top, Van Halen are all big name bands I crank up whenever I need to rock out.  But never The Doors or Led Zeppelin, for some reason.  No matter, I'm not just savoring my time listening to L.A. Woman - I'm actually quite enjoying it.  The first side of the album is particularly strong - "The Changeling", "Love Her Madly", "Been Down So Long" and "Cars Hiss by My Window" make up a sterling first half.  Smack bang in the middle, you have the all-time classic "L.A. Woman", which is always a good song to be hearing.  Side two, however, gets a bit rougher, but always manages to stay respectable.  "L'America" is a bit of an oddball, if I'm being honest, but "Crawling King Snake" and "The WASP (Texas Radio and the Big Beat)" bring me back into the game.  "Riders on the Storm", another classic track, bookends the second half of the album.  I was expecting to hear a decent album when I first started listening to it, and I wasn't disappointed.  A great album, one that everybody should listen to at least once.  Now, to the record store!  A

Saturday, August 24, 2019

Album Review: Creedence Clearwater Revival - Cosmo's Factory (1970)

Hooray, I finally got around to reviewing a CCR album, and it's a good album at that.  It should be - it's considered one of their best, if not their best, and is packed full of hit songs that most people who are basically familiar with the music of CCR should know about.  It's not quite as exciting or enthralling as I thought it would be, or should be, but don't let that put you off listening to it. Yeah, you've got the "best of " compilation songs here - "Lookin' Out My Back Door", "Travelin' Band" and an excellent version of "Ooby Dooby", to name but a few.  But the "fillers" aren't so bad either - the album is book-ended by two choice cuts, namely "Ramble Tamble" and "Long As I Can See the Light", both of which serve to wrap up an album that I feel is a tad overrated by many critics, but is still in no way a bad or average album.  But the delicious question here is simply this - would I go out of way to buy a physical copy of this album?  Probably not.  There's so many good songs on here that the The Ultimate Collection already covers, and what's left is good, but not good enough to warrant importing the album, unless of course, I somehow find the album on sale for around the 10 dollar mark, give or take a couple of bucks.  Otherwise, I'll keep it on my Spotify saved albums list for the time being.  As for you - yeah, I think you should give a whirl, or spin.  A-

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Album Review: U2 - The Joshua Tree (1987)

As I write this I only own two U2 albums - The Best Of 1980-1990 and Pop.  The first I own for good reason - pretty much everything you need to hear from U2 is on that album, and the second - well, there's a couple of good tracks on it, and needless to say I was a bit more reckless with regards to my spending back in those days.  Having recently decided to exponentially increase my review output, I figured now might be a good time to review what is considered to be their best album - The Joshua Tree.  It is actually very good.  Three of my favorite U2 songs are here - "With or Without You", "Where the Streets Have no Name" and "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For."  A few more have just been added to my list of U2 songs I like and respect - "In God's Country", "Mothers of the Disappeared" and "Running to Stand Still."  There's not a bad song in sight, and whilst I'm not a fan of mellowed out songs, the more mellow songs, such as "Running to Stand Still" still managed to keep me hooked.  People like to put shit on U2 these days for a number of reasons, but there's no reason whatsoever that they should be putting shit on them for this album, because it is seriously good.  Do I recommend it?  Absolutely.  Hell, I may even go out and buy it!  A

Saturday, August 17, 2019

Album Review: Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young - Deja Vu (1970)

Half of the songs here I've already heard on the band's Carry On double CD compilation - "Teach Your Children", "Our House", "Almost Cut My Hair", "Helpless" and "Woodstock", so in a way I'm already partially familiar with this record.  I've always wanted to check this album out for some time now, but of course, never got around to it, so now's my chance.  It's an OK album, I guess - "Our House" and "Teach Your Children", the songs most people would be most familiar with, are the go-to songs on the album for me, and "Woodstock" and "4 + 20" are quite enjoyable to say the least.  It's an overrated album as far as I'm concerned - 8 million copies in the States alone suggests that it was a hugely popular album - but I can't really see much here to justify the fanfare that it received.  Still, it is comparatively much better than Hotel California by the Eagles, which is certainly overrated, my least favorite of the classic rock albums, and one that's most likely to see my life cut short by it's most adherent fanatics if I'm not too careful.  My biggest surprise about this album, however, is the remarkable guitar work on certain songs, such as "Woodstock" - as a hard rock/heavy metal nut, this isn't quite what I was expecting to hear, but then again, given the song's context, I probably shouldn't be so surprised, I suppose.  Not quite what I was expecting a magnum opus record to be, nonetheless it is definitely an album you should check out sometime.  B+

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Album Review: Motley Crue - Dr. Feelgood (1989)

When I first reviewed Girls, Girls, Girls I thought it would be a great album, but in the end all it had going for it were the hit singles, one or two surprise goodies and that was it.  It wasn't bad, but it wasn't crash hot either.  I was hoping that the album that came after it, the acclaimed Dr. Feelgood would be better.  Well, it certainly is.  A lot better.  There's a lot of hits here, and mostly good songs to boot.  "Dr. Feelgood", "Kickstart My Heart", "Without You", "Same Old Situation (S.O.S.)" are the ones every one knows and hopefully likes.  "Slice of My Pie" and "Time For Change" are the hidden gems, and the self-explanatory "She Goes Down" isn't bad.  You could probably find yourself getting "Rattleshake Snake" confused with the Skid Row song in your mind, thanks to the same name, but the Skid Row song is much better than this one.  All up, this is a great album, and its a no-brainer as to why the album is regarded as being their best.  A great starting point for anyone looking to check out Motley Crue.  A-

Saturday, August 10, 2019

Album Review: Tool - Aenima (1996)

It's so difficult to describe Aenima by Tool.  It's an epic album, so different, so metal, so experimental.  Going through the songs on the album, the aesthetic similarity flows brilliantly between songs - sounding alike, but not sounding the same - broken up by the occasional interlude track.  But damn, is it so good!  So many A grade tracks to select from here - I'm most familiar with "Stinkfist", "Forty Six & 2" and "Aenema" (sic).  But I'm also going a bit ape over the likes of "H.", "Hooker With a Penis", "Jimmy" and "Pushit."  There really is an epic selection of songs on here, the impeccable craftsmanship of each song coming together to form one of the most artistically brilliant, if not THE most artistically brilliant album of the 1990s.  Yes, you had Nirvana's Nevermind, but that's not artistically brilliant in the same way this album is.  If you can get hold of this album, I strongly recommend that you get it.  Epic.  A