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Monday, March 29, 2010

Album Review: Journey - Greatest Hits (1988)

I try to avoid writing reviews on Greatest Hits compilations for a number of reasons, most notably because to talk about one in high regard shows that you've got about as much taste as someone who's had their tongue cut out. It can also show that you're financially tighter than a fish's sphincter and that you know about as much about music as an aborted fetus. Unless, of course, it's a corker, or it's the only record a band puts out that contains any reputable material on it. In other words, classic tracks from otherwise crappy albums.

Journey is one of those bands that make people want to go out and buy their Greatest Hits or Very Best Of albums, and skip buying the rest of their discography. In fact, their Greatest Hits collection from 1988 has well and truly outsold the rest of their back catalog, and for a good reason. Because it contains their signature ballad, "Don't Stop Believin'." Which is an excellent song I might add, legendary, in fact. But don't stop there - you've got the rest of the CD to deal with, full of songs that strategically capture that emotionally empowering Journey sound all on one disc. Except for "Wheel In The Sky", a song ruined by its introduction, which, annoyingly, got stuck in my head for about a year and almost turned me into a slightly fat version of the Incredible Hulk. And, in keeping with an unshakeable Journey tradition, the album cover is fantastically beautiful, detailed and exceptionally colorful.

So, if you want to know what the fuss is all about, go and buy this album. It wasn't until 2008 that I first discovered this album, and I'm kicking myself for not having discovered them years earlier. In a nutshell - they're basically Santana, but this time they're on cocaine. A-

Monday, March 1, 2010

Album Review: Pink Floyd - The Final Cut (1983)

Pink Floyd isn't exactly renowned for its uplifting, feel-good songs about brotherly love, world peace and the pursuit of happiness that doesn't involve smoking copious amounts of weed, which is incidentally, one way or another, the source of most of the former. On the contrary, many of the songs have a cynical, pessimistic, and somewhat dark mood to them that'll have a Valium-addled Barney the Dinosaur turn his left arm into a makeshift cutting board. Take 1979's The Wall for example, and an excellent example at that. A concept album revolving around a central character who's basically a personification of the band name, it progressively takes on pessimistic, dark themes, from fasicism, sadistic headmasters, hubby-beaters to suicide and depression. And even if you couldn't speak a word of English, you'd still find the album to be a gloomy state of affairs, that, weren't it not for its otherwise musically brilliant conception, would be enough to make you want to go bungee jumping by the neck from the nearest bridge.

The follow-up album, The Final Cut, largely carries on in this aspect, but instead applies it using war as a theme. But unlike its predecessor, it fails to carry on in its projection of brilliance and appeal, despite sounding very similar. Roger Waters knows how to make a great rock opera, and make it work, and it's this particular quality that spares the album from a potential bollocking on my part. Amongst all the war-bashing and Thatcher-bashing though (which isn't a bad thing, I must add), lies some Floyd classics, such as "The Final Cut", "Not Now John", "The Post War Dream" and to a lesser extent, "Your Possible Pasts." All of which make up for what would've been a somewhat bland and disappointing album otherwise, and perhaps, dare I say it, the soundtrack to your own suicide attempt. B+