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Sunday, February 19, 2017

Album Review: Bob Dylan - Under the Red Sky (1990)

Bob Dylan's 1990 album Under the Red Sky is surprisingly better than what I had initially anticipated, and this is taking into consideration the purportedly haphazard and less successful decade Dylan had during the 1980s (as many might tell you, but I beg to differ, particularly in light of albums such as Infidels and Oh Mercy).  Looking at the track listing detractors of his 80s work would say he hadn't learned anything from that era, but listening to the album is something altogether different.  And yes the critics mostly bashed this album like there was no tomorrow.  But there's plenty of redeeming qualities about this album to be had too.  It doesn't come across as a collection of the cerebral, pondering lyrical cliches that Dylan is famous for and which everyone has come to expect from him, but that is an admirable attribute - it feels like an attempt at no frills, 1990s popular music, running against his own grain in the process.  And for me at least, it works.  "Wiggle Wiggle", childish by name, fun by auditory experience.  "2 x 2" might also be accused of sounding like a nursery rhyme, and it does somewhat.  But again it's fun, and it's different.  But in the end it's still Dylan.  It also reminds me of a certain Shania Twain song for some reason.  Don't ask me why.  "Handy Dandy", Under The Red Sky", "Unbelievable" are my other recommendations.  All in all, a much better album than what it looks like at face value.  A-



Thursday, February 16, 2017

Album Review: Pink Floyd - The Dark Side of The Moon (1973)

Wish You Were Here is probably my favorite Pink Floyd album, and the post-Waters A Momentary Lapse of Reason strikes a chord with me as well.  But neither found their way onto bedroom walls like The Dark Side of the Moon ever did.  It spent fifteen years on the charts, sold 45 million odd copies, and is likely the first album to pop into people's heads whenever it finds its way into musical discourses.  Moving quickly into the track analysis, "Money" is the biggest and most famous track here.  But it certainly isn't the best.  For me, that particular reservation goes to "Time."  I don't play this album very often - the aforementioned albums, plus The Wall, and even The Final Cut get most of the love.  And perhaps I should listen to it more often - its status as a magnum opus-type masterpiece is quickly reasserted as I hear the band at their best on "The Great Gig in the Sky."  "Us and Them", "Brain Damage" and "Eclipse" are the other favorites on this album.  Why I don't play this record as much as I should continues to elude me - after all, 45 million copies sold can't be wrong, can they?  A-


Album Review: Van Halen - 1984 (1984)

Van Halen is a name that frequently comes up whenever somebody tries to conjure up ideas for air guitar songs.  Well, let's be honest - nobody gets up on stage or in front of groups of people and flop about the place pretending to shred to the likes of Lonnie Donegan or heaven forbid, John Denver.  But they often do to Van Halen, on account of the fact that Eddie Van Halen is a well-known guitar legend.  Initially I took little interest in Van Halen on the radio, until I picked up a compilation CD featuring "Jump", which just happens to be track #2 on the album that I'm reviewing here, 1984, released in, you guessed it, 1984.  And from there I picked up a copy of Best Of - Volume One.  I was immediately hooked.  This was the missing link in my life as a music lover.  "Eruption" left me catatonic - it was fast, complex, brutal.  I had never heard anything like it.  And I wanted more.  Within a few years I had all the studio albums, including the legendary album I'm currently writing about.  Van Halen's 1978 album is easily their best record, but 1984 follows not too far behind.  And it's a special album too, on account of the band's decision to incorporate synthesizers into the hard rock/metal mix.  And all up they've done a pretty good job with them too.  The prelude opening track, "1984" has a sort of eerily 80s future utopian feel to it, but it sounds good nonetheless.  Some of the band's biggest mainstream hits are here on this album - "Jump", "Panama", "Hot for Teacher" all made the airwaves down here in the land of the long white cloud, and still do the rounds of the classic rock station playlists to this day.  "I'll Wait" starts off with a bit of synth overkill but settles down and plays out like the good 80s synth rock song that it is.  "Top Jimmy", "Drop Dead Legs" and "Girl Gone Bad" aren't too bad either, but still inferior to the radio hits.  Great album, and one you must own if, like me, you're into Van Halen in a big way.  A-