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Friday, January 28, 2011

Album Review: Ozzy Osbourne - Under Cover (2005)

Production wise this album is adequate, and Ozzy with his trademark vocals sounds as good as he always does, however the album's Achilles heel lies in its concept. It just doesn't sound right when Ozzy Osbourne tries to cover the Beatles' "In My Life", or "All The Young Dudes" with the same level of finesse of the originals. And when initially reading the track listing, I could quite easily visualize listening to some potentially great covers - "Rocky Mountain Way" and "Sunshine of Your Love" show some of this potential, but still fail to fully meet expectations, especially so with the former. But the latter is most certainly one of the highlights on this album, and truth be told should've been released as a single rather than the flaccid "Mississippi Queen." Despite the inclusion of several guest musos and it's competent production, this album I'm afraid isn't a strong point of Ozzy's. Low points come from his hero Lennon, "Working Class Hero" and the slightly better "Woman."  B-

Monday, January 17, 2011

Album Review: Bruce Springsteen - The Rising (2002)

My favorite album of the 80s is Born in the U.S.A. by Bruce Springsteen. And why? Because I love nearly every song on the record, and the ones that I don't love I like. There is not one single filler on this album. And until I can find something to top it, an unlikely event at this rate, it will remain my personal favorite. 18 years after its release, The Boss once more proves he's still got the touch with his 2002 effort, The Rising. Coupled with his E-Street band, Bruce demonstrates that getting on doesn't necessary mean getting old. "The Rising" sends the same chill up my spine as "I'm on Fire" did when I was merely four years old, and "Waitin' on a Sunny Day" reminds me of what made "Born to Run" the great song that it was and still is. "Lonesome Day", "Into the Fire" and "Nothing Man" are worthy mentions. The rest are, well, average. But not bad either. My verdict -not on par with the legendary "Born in the U.S.A., but still much better than the rubbish produced by many post-2000 artists. B+

Album Review: Michael Jackson - Invincible (2001)

In the late 70s, Michael Jackson, the child star of the Jackson Five, was once again a star in the making, and this time it was on his own terms; in the 80s he was by far the world's biggest and most popular pop star, putting out top-selling albums such as Thriller and Bad, and becoming a household name and a familiar face to young, aspiring pop music fans everywhere (including me). However, in the 90s his star began to fade and an ill-deserved reputation of being a child molester would, until his death tarnish his public image badly. In 2001, he released his final, proper studio album in six years, called Invincible. Never to be the best-seller that Thriller was, and after listening to the album a dozen times and putting aside my bias toward modern music in most of its forms, the album most certainly has its charms and that perfectionist aura characteristic of most MJ albums. It is well made, it sounds good, and most importantly, it still sounds like Michael. Tracks like "Heartbreaker", "Heaven can Wait", "Threatened" and "You Rock my World" all do it for me, and are worth playing at least ten times each. As for the rest of the album, I wouldn't regard them as being fillers - some of them are good enough for relaxation purposes, which, all in all I guess, makes for an adequate album. B+

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Album Review: Johnny Cash - American III: Solitary Man (2000)

Johnny Cash made fantastically good country music, so good that someone like me who usually can't stomach the stuff thinks it's some of the best music ever made. He had a good voice, he could cover a song, he could even write one when he fancied it. And he was prolific, making many albums, writing many songs and covering dozens more to good effect. And he came out with some of the best Gospel and Christmas music you'll ever hear too. But since no one is perfect, including him, he also came out with some career low points as well, and I'm sad to say that American III: Solitary Man is unfortunately one of them. Not a bad album as such, there is a good sense of competence to this album, and tracks #1, #2 and #4 are great, but the rest of the album is in ways a desert wasteland - flat and desolate, yet just short of completely dull. "Country Trash" is a bold, slightly un-PC high point, and "Mary of the Wild Moor" is just aggravatingly melancholic. The others, such as "The Mercy Seat" and "Would You Lay Me Down (In a Field of Stone)" sound like they are about to hit the climatic gravy stroke, but never quite seem to get there. Sadly, an album of mostly fillers. B

Album Review: Johnny Cash - American IV: The Man Comes Around (2002)

Johnny Cash's final record whilst alive is proof that being past what many may perceive as being your vocal prime doesn't bar you from making a respectable album. And many music lovers, Cash fans and (some) critics all universally agree - American IV: The Man Comes Around is one of his most triumphant efforts. His voice may not be what it once was, and some may have to adapt to its gravelly, slightly depressed texture, but after listening to it from start to finish, I'm certainly pleased with my investment. And yes, Trent Reznor's "Hurt" is on this album, at #2. But don't forget about the rest of the record. "Bridge Over Troubled Water", originally by Simon & Garfunkel, still holds (albeit to a lesser degree) that emotional resonance that the original projected, and "Tear Stained Letter" is a reminder that Johnny can still sound like Johnny, even if, as I've mentioned 10,000 times before, his voice is no longer up to it. "The Man Comes Around" also proves that he can still write a song well. "Personal Jesus", "I Hung My Head" and "Danny Boy" all beg to be listened to. So having said that, go ahead and do so. A