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Saturday, August 1, 2020

R.E.M. - Murmur (1983)

I recently decided I should listen to this album after all the praise I've read about it (that old chestnut) and see what I thought about it.  Is it good?  Yes, yes it is.  Would I go back and listen to it again?  Probably not.  At least, not in its entirety.  Murmur is a consistent album in a number of ways - tempo, flow, style, etc., and whilst it avoids being what most people (including myself) as being bad, it doesn't have that excitement factor that I hope would materialize sooner or later.  It's not bad, and the songs have the kind of tempo that usually keeps me awake.  But it fails to interest me in the way a lot of other great albums do.  I can see why people think it is a great and perhaps underrated album, but it doesn't float my boat, I'm afraid. I wanted to love this album, and whilst I do like it and respect it, I would have no qualms about giving it a miss if given the chance to listen to it again.  That being said, if there are songs I would take away as being keepers, they would be "Radio Free Europe", "Laughing" and "Moral Kiosk."  Everything is good, at least perhaps from a more objective perspective, but they're nothing that would have me dancing like a one-legged sparrow with a bung wing on a barbecue grill.  Nonetheless, I recommend that you give it a listen, especially if you're partial to R.E.M.  As for me - it could grow on me.  But then again, maybe not.  A-

Saturday, July 25, 2020

Waylon Jennings - Sweet Mother Texas (1986)

Having milked Johnny Cash for his very best, and needless to say you'll be extremely busy on that front, on account of the fact that there is A LOT of his that could be considered his best, I've decided to make the jump to Waylon Jennings for a change and find out what the other Highwayman is like.  I've known a few songs of his for a while now, most of which aren't his most famous, either.  Songs like "Nobody Knows", a song about Waylon supposedly being Elvis himself, and his impeccable rendition of Bruce Springsteen's "I'm on Fire."  It's the album from which the latter comes from that I'm reviewing right here, and needless to say that it's a mixed bag, with some good songs, and some very average songs too.  The first half is a bit heavier on the good tracks, such as "I'm on Fire", "Me and Them Brothers of Mine", and "I Take My Comfort in You", although the album finishes on a better note with "Hanging On."  I could probably get used to "Living Legend", too.  But everything else, such as "Looking For Suzanne" are worth skipping.  Even Johnny Cash's guest appearance on "Be Careful Who You Love" fails to save the song from the dustbin of disinterest.  But that Springsteen cover?  Well, that's the album's real saving grace.  B

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Dire Straits - On Every Street (1991)

So yeah, I got bored and decided to come back to blogging.  That, and I went out and picked up a Dire Straits CD whilst I still could.  And yeah, it's the third album from the band I've reviewed this year.  I try not to write reviews for the same artist within a year if I can.  But sod it, I'm gonna do it anyway.  Now, two things are certain at this point in time - 1) the world is in dire straits and 2) Mark Knopfler is not in Dire Straits.  And it's a shame in a way about the latter - Dire Straits made great music, even with the travesty of adding steel guitars into the instrumental mix on albums such as this one, On Every Street.  Otherwise, it's not a bad swansong studio record for the band - it loses my attention a bit with "Iron Hand" and "Ticket to Heaven", and I'm sure I'm one of three people who actually likes "The Bug."  The title track, "On Every Street", however, is by far the best song here, and "Calling Elvis" and "Heavy Fuel" are good enough to make their best of compilation albums.  "My Parties" is listenable too, even if it does have a "stoned Mr. Blobby inadvertently frightening small children" musical feel to it.  But as soon it ticks over into "Planet of New Orleans" I'm starting to think that this is more like it.  And the final track, "How Long", has a bit of a John Denver-meets-Postman Pat vibe going on, but nonetheless it's remarkably good, with an upbeat country-esque sound that other bands and and artists who occasionally delve into the genre would struggle to sincerely replicate so well.  Was it worth buying?  Yeah.  A-

Saturday, March 21, 2020

Album Review: Rodney Rude - Live (1984)

The first, and probably the most iconic comedy album by legendary Aussie comedian Rodney Rude, Live is probably his most tame, and yet one of the funniest albums in his catalog.  The swearing here is nothing compared to his later stuff - the C word is everywhere on anything post Not Guilty, but it still manages to pull off some piss funny gags, notably that referring to the Rambo movie First Blood as a story about a 12 year old girl, and of course, the foreign-sounding bloke who'd just fallen off the balcony at the movie theatre.  This is Rodney Rude in a more traditional stand-up style, and there isn't much in the way of shutting down hecklers, which forms the basis of most of the humor of the latter albums.  Either way, it's piss funny and bloody good.  And despite being long out of the touring scene, Rude is still the most potent antidote for whatever depressing aspect of modern society ails you.  Unfortunately, thanks to political correctness and the power afforded to the thin-skinned by the social justice brigade, you are unlikely to encounter a comedian like this ever again, for fear that the cancel culture will quickly render them without a career.  And that's a shame, for sure.  A great comedy record, by an Aussie national treasure.  A

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Album Review: Electric Light Orchestra - Face the Music (1975)

In thinking about what to expect from listening to this album, I must admit I was caught between two expectations - on one hand I was expecting it to be a dud, paling in comparison with the likes of A New World Record and Out of the Blue, both excellent albums and both among some of the best albums by any band or artist that you can expect to hear.  On the other hand, I was expecting some more of that Jeff Lynne magic that made the aforementioned albums so damn great.  The latter expectation quickly paid off, and what I'm hearing is remarkably good, bordering on brilliant, in fact.  If there was any one album that could best make the statement that ELO is an underrated band, it would certainly be this one.  No fillers, no boring songs, all good, sometimes very good numbers to be found here.  Weaker songs, yes.  But crap?  No.  Not by a long shot.  "Strange Magic" and "Evil Woman" are the big hits here, and as good as they are, I'm gravitating toward "Poker" and "Nightrider" as being the best two songs on this record.  "Waterfall" and "Down Home Town" are also pretty good, too.  Not a rubbish album by any means.  And you can trust Jeff Lynne to mix a classical string section, synthesizers and Beatlesque songwriting  together and create a masterpiece, as he has done spectacularly well, time and time again.  A very good record.  A-

Saturday, March 14, 2020

Album Review: Dire Straits - On the Night (1993)

My favorite live album is, and probably always will be Mad Dogs & Englishmen by Joe Cocker.  Now, I rarely listen to live albums - but this is an album that everybody should own, and with a little help of his friends, such as Rita Coolidge and Leon Russell, Cocker came up with what should rightly be considered a legendary album that is sorely underrated.  Now, after having listened to a couple of tracks from Dire Straits' On the Night, and being subsequently impressed with what I heard, I was expecting yet another cracker of a live album, and whilst it lacks the sentiment and character of the aforementioned Joe Cocker classic, it's nonetheless an impeccable live rendition of a band that, at their finest, was the best in the business.  Some of the live versions here are, dare I say it, perhaps better than the studio originals - the keyboards on "Walk of Life" capture the spirit and essence of the song far better than the studio version ever did, and I'm loving the extended saxophone work on "Romeo and Juliet."  "Brothers in Arms", too, sounds just as good as it does on Brothers in Arms.  But the biggest surprises for me here are "On Every Street" and "You and Your Friend."  Both songs come off On Every Street, an album I have yet to listen to.  But that will change soon.  Very, very soon.  I'm loving this live album, every song, every minute.  It's fantastic, no matter what others think.  A

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Album Review: Queen - Queen (1973)

I've been itching to write another review of a Queen album, and hopefully one that proves more favorable than my review of A Night at the Opera.  Whilst not quite the magnum opus I was expecting, nonetheless there are a number of noteworthy numbers on their self-titled album from 1973.  Yes, most of it is more or less filler material, which is dangling precariously on the verge of being boring.  But the heavy metal influence is what I'm most interested in here - it's most evident on "Keep Yourself Alive", "Modern Times Rock 'N Roll" and "Son And Daughter."  And of course, it's those songs that I like best.  I also find "Jesus" to be quite interesting as well.  And the album ends with a half-baked rendition of the classic "Seven Seas of Rhye", the full version of which would ultimately find its way onto their next album, Queen II.  That was perhaps my biggest disappointment, I suppose.  From my point of view, this album is very much a very average album, even when it does show signs of potentially breaking away from being consigned to filler material (i.e. "Doing Alright").  All up, it's an OK record.  You could certainly do a lot worse.  B

Saturday, March 7, 2020

Album Review: ZZ Top - Tres Hombres (1973)

I love ZZ Top.  I absolutely love them.  I especially love their eighties synth boogie stuff like Eliminator and Afterburner, both of which to this day remain my very favorite albums of theirs.  I also have their Greatest Hits album with some of their earlier hits on it (a very good record too, I should add).  But today, I've only just got around to listening to their earlier blues-based stuff.  And boy is it good, or what?  Great musicianship, great riffs.  Great songs all around.  "La Grange" is the hit that brought me here - much better than the remixed version from Greatest Hits, and "Waiting for the Bus" and "Jesus Just Left Chicago" are two of the better ways that you can open an album on.  And "Beer Drinkers & Hell Raisers" and "Sheik" are two more ditties that you can proud to say that you enjoy listening to.  Weaker points?  I'd probably say "Have You Heard?" and "Precious and Grace" are the less fulfilling tracks here, although they're not bad by any definition.  Another great album by one of the best, perhaps underrated bands out there.  A-

Wednesday, March 4, 2020

Album Review: The Rolling Stones - Exile on Main Street (1972)

For a while I was somewhat hesitant to get into the Rolling Stones.  Yes, they are one of the biggest acts on the planet, and have put out more records than Mick Jagger has porked women.  But then I listened to Sticky Fingers and I loved it to bits.  It was sensational.  Then I swore to myself that I would get around to listening to the even more acclaimed Exile on Main Street.  So I finally did, and whilst it's a very good album, I wouldn't say it was for me, save for a handful of tracks - "Shine a Light", "Sweet Virginia", "Torn and Frayed", "Loving Cup" and "Tumbling Dice."  All great songs that I would be more than happy to revisit.  Songs like "Turd on the Run" and "Ventilator Blues" narrowly miss the favorites cut too.  There are nothing like what you would call "fillers" here, although I find this album a bit difficult to listen to when tired, even admittedly, somewhat tiring on its own.  But I can appreciate why this album is considered to be their best - the songwriting, the production, the music of course, all top quality, typical of a band at the top of their game.  But in terms of "shining a light", this album for me, at least, doesn't quite hold a candle to the real magnum opus - Sticky Fingers.  Listen to it nonetheless, it's not rubbish, it's a quality record, and it's definitely worth exposing your eardrums to it when you've got the time.  A-

Saturday, February 29, 2020

Album Review: Pink Floyd - Animals (1977)

I've finally got around to listening to Animals by Pink Floyd.  It's an album that I probably should own, but I don't, and should've bought a long time ago.  Like its phenomenally good predecessor, Wish You Were Here, there are only five songs in total, and three of them are a bit of a stretch time wise.  Not bad, though, mind you.  But not the best songs to try and listen to when you've got a short attention span.  I struggled a bit with "Shine On You Crazy Diamond", but its lengthy nature (long enough to be broken up into separate tracks) was overshadowed by the fact that it was brilliant tribute to Syd Barrett, a stark contrast, in some ways, to the more pessimistic numbers we usually hear from that era of Pink Floyd.  But the musicianship of David Gilmour is at his best here, particularly on "Dogs."  My pick for best track here would be "Pigs", followed by "Dogs", and then "Sheep."  The bookend tracks, "Pigs on the Wing 1 + 2"  are merely supplementary.  Not a bad album at all.  But I still think I'll be sticking to Wish You Were Here and The Wall.  Oh, and perhaps A Momentary Lapse of Reason - those are my favorite Floyd albums, and most probably always will be.  B+

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Album Review: AC/DC - For Those About to Rock (We Salute You) (1981)

Back in Black by AC/DC is without a doubt one of the best comeback albums ever made.  Despite losing an iconic vocalist, the band decided to trod on and carry on making music, as opposed to calling it quits.  Unlike other first albums with new vocalists (such as Van Halen III), it was unexpectedly brilliant, and Brian Johnson's voice only got better and better.  The followup album that I'm reviewing here, For Those About to Rock (We Salute You), isn't quite as good as its legendary predecessor.  The first few songs are good, but the album moves on into tired and boring numbers soon after that.  The second half of the album is more or less dismissable.  "I Put the Finger on You" and "Snowball" are my favorites from this album, and of course there's the title track that gets played often at their concerts, which is of course, good, but will never hold a candle to the likes of  "Shoot to Thrill" or "Hells Bells."  Still, the fact that I don't own this album in my AC/DC collection yet is even less excusable - average as the album is,  I still feel obligated to go out and get this album.  Now that I've heard it, maybe I have a bit more motivation to do so.  An average album, but worth owning nonetheless.  Streaming services just won't cut it.  B

Saturday, February 22, 2020

Album Review: ABBA - Arrival (1976)

I've always wanted to listen to one of ABBA's studio albums.  The problem being, of course, is that I simply couldn't be assed.  I mean, with Gold, you more or less have everything you really need to hear from the group, bar a couple of other tracks, such as "Super Trouper" or "Honey, Honey."  Finally, I can now be assed listening to an ABBA studio album.  And I'm now glad that I did, because Arrival isn't a bad album at all, except for the Australian/NZ version, which contains "Fernando", which is by far my least favorite ABBA song.  Personally, I think the very impressive opening track, "When I Kissed the Teacher", should've been on Gold.  It is vastly better than "Fernando", in my opinion.  The only time I think they really cocked up on this album is with "My Love, My Life."  Too soppy, methinks.  "Tiger", "Happy Hawaii" and "Arrival" are also worth listening to on a semi-regular basis.  And let's not forget about the staples here - "Dancing Queen", "Knowing Me, Knowing You" and "Money, Money, Money."  A better sounding album than what I was expecting.  A-

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Album Review: Kate Bush - Hounds of Love (1985)

Kate Bush has never done things by the book.  Her songs have always been a tad on the eccentric side - eccentric in a good way, I should add, in a way that shows that she could pull off a sound that's radically different to the norm of a given era and get away with it, whilst at the same time receiving glowing accolades instead of derision and repulsion.  I loved her debut album - "Wuthering Heights" and "Kite" will forever remain my two favorite songs from that album - and I've been busting to review this album for quite some time now.  And it's not bad at all.  I wouldn't say I love it - I can appreciate its outstanding quality, even if most of the songs here don't exactly resonate with yours truly.  "Running Up That Hill (A Deal With God)" aside, there's a few songs I could find myself listening to a few times or more.  "Hounds of Love", "The Big Sky", "Jig of Life" and "Morning Earth" are my top picks here, with the middle of the album being very much hit and miss from my standpoint.  That being said, again, its credentials for quality are certainly well deserved.  A good album indeed, even if it doesn't quite float my own boat.  B+

Saturday, February 15, 2020

Album Review: Duran Duran - Rio (1982)

Got bored today.  Fired up Rio by Duran Duran.  Got a bit disappointed, to be honest.  I was expecting something good other than the hits that are "Save a Prayer", "Hungry Like the Wolf", and "Rio."  But alas, most of the songs here barely manage to be categorized as "decent", or "good enough."  And only the hits are really worth mentioning here - "The Chaffeur", "New Religion", "Hold Back the Rain" are about as interesting as crochet knitting, and "Lonely in Your Nightmare" just might grow on me one day.  And I mean "might."  Despite this album being one of their most successful, if not their most successful, it's done nothing to hold my interest.  I can always listen to "Hungry Like the Wolf" on Greatest, as is the case with "Save a Prayer."  Will the next Duran Duran album make for better listening than this one?  Hope springs eternal.  Meh.  B-

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Album Review: Icehouse - Man of Colours (1987)

Icehouse is a band that should have received more coverage and accolades than it ever actually did.  Much of the songwriting is superb, the lyrics spot on.  All around, a great, yet underrated group.  Listening to Man of Colours, I haven't been disappointed at all - the first three songs - "Crazy", "Electric Blue" and "Nothing Too Serious" - most people in Australasia will have heard those on the radio, and the rest - well, generally bloody good, as I was hoping for, and happily, what I ultimately got.  "Heartbreak Kid" begins sounding a tad like Phil Collins and moves onward sounding more like mid-eighties Heart, to my unexpected delight.  "Anybody's War" is a bit of a tease, with verses that build up to choruses that peter out with near immediacy.  Much to my unexpected disappointment, of course.  I'm even hearing titbits of Chris Rea in here, as "The Kingdom" seems to suggest at points.  "Man of Colours" is good, but of little interest to me, and what's left of the album, whilst competent, doesn't do a huge amount for me, either.  In summary, would I consider this to be a good album?  Absolutely, even if anticipation lets me down from time to time.  Definitely recommended.  A-

Saturday, February 8, 2020

Album Review: Led Zeppelin - Led Zeppelin IV (1971)

Some big name albums are what I would like to call 'half hits, half shit' - half of the album is full of hits songs that everyone knows and that everyone knows from every hits compilation that particular band put out.  The rest, of course, is either bollocks, or utter bollocks.  Led Zeppelin IV isn't one of  those albums - opening with the well-known personal fave of mine "Black Dog" and finishing with the unspoken gem "When the Levee Breaks", the two songs that come closest to sucking are "The Battle of Evermore" and "Four Sticks."  But whilst they're not the kinds of songs to get my head moving, not by a long shot, they're nowhere near rubbish territory, either.  "Stairway to Heaven" is the hit I listen to the least, not because it's bad, but because I more often than not have the attention span of an insect.  But when I am in the mood to expose my ears to it, I'm quick to fall into a state of appreciation and respect for it and its legacy.  "Black Dog" and "Rock and Roll" are ultimately the top two songs here - but I'd suggest giving the likes of  "Going to California" a bit of your ear time as well.  A very good album, probably not as good as Physical Graffiti for me, but owning this album is a definite must for any classic rock enthusiastic who prefers a more physical approach to collecting music.  A-

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Album Review: New Order - Low-life (1985)

Expecting a lukewarm album, and yet strangely simultaneously expecting something good, given New Order's good reputation and legacy as a new wave band, my surprise upon listening to this album is nearly palpable.  Prior to this, my only experience with New Order's music was with their smash hit, "Blue Monday."  I'm getting a lot of The Cure vibes listening to this album - The Cure are a band that, when I do listen to them (on the very rare occasion, I might add) - I quickly find myself glued to and enveloped in their sound, which is of course brilliant, and for me sometimes often feels like the better and more carefully crafted sound of the popular music aspect of the eighties.  Most of this album is pretty damn good - "The Perfect Kiss" and "Sub-culture" are my faves here - "Love Vigilantes" and "Face Up" are runners up, with the rest of the album, particularly "Sunrise" getting the "OK" recommendation from yours truly.  Like so many other albums and bands, I'm wishing I had sat down and listened to this earlier, because there's some great stuff here.  7/10 would recommend.  A-

Saturday, February 1, 2020

Album Review: Dire Straits - Dire Straits (1978)

Dire Straits' eponymous debut album is a masterpiece for many, and rightly so.  So much skill is on display on this album - notably more so than the likes of Making Movies and Brothers in Arms.  And it's far more upbeat and fast-paced than their latter works too, and that's something I always look for in what I consider to be a great record, or a great song, for that matter.  Thus, there are many great songs here as far as I'm concerned - "Setting Me Up", "Switch Blade Knife", "Southbound Again" and "Wild West End" are jostling for first position in the "Dave's favorite songs on this album" ranks, and with "Sultans of Swing" and "Down to the Waterline" being the choice picks for their greatest hits compilations, finding a song that is even remotely rubbish is not going to happen here.  This is the first time I've listened to this album, and I now see why there is so much reverence for it.  Yet another important lesson for those who were, or still are, stuck on believing that Brothers in Arms is the quintessential Dire Straits, because whilst it is good, it isn't that good.  This album, however, is.  Go listen to it, damn it!  A

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Album Review: AC/DC - Highway to Hell (1979)

In my intermittent quest to put more Bon Scott-era Acca Dacca albums on my review page, I've gone and done a review of one of their all-time greats - Highway to Hell.  Like all AC/DC albums, monotony is the modus operandi here.  But AC/DC pull it off with competence and ease.  B grade songs are in scarcity here - "Get it Hot" is a bit cold for my liking, and "Love Hungry Man" is a bit on the snooze side.  And there are better ways to finish an album than with songs like "Night Prowler." Everything else, ranging from the titular, occasional novelty funeral dirge "Highway to Hell" through to "Girls Got Rhythm" and "Shot Down in Flames" is good old-fashioned AC/DC rock and roll, through and through.  Bon Scott's last studio album with the band, and one of his best, if not THE best.  Bogans should, of course, own this album.  Casual classic rock fans should be aware of it as well.  A bloody good album, indeed.  Not a lot can be said about this album, apart from the fact that it's great.  You really need to listen to it for yourself to get the full benefit.  A-

Saturday, January 25, 2020

Album Review: Dragon - Bondi Beach (1989)

Dragon, a band perhaps torn by identity depending on the nationality of the person you are asking.  Some say they are Kiwi (they started off in Auckland, after all).  Others say they're Australian (they hit the big time in Australia).  Some say they're both.  But no matter which team you side with, there's no question they had some great hits.  Their seventies work is their best known and most successful stuff.  But even in the eighties they were still putting out quality songs - "Rain" is perhaps the best known example.  I'm listening to Bondi Beach from 1989,  and I never initially planned to review it at all.  I looked up the opening track "Young Years" in Spotify and the rest of the album showed up.  So anyway, I was sidetracked by the time the song finished, and I let the album carry on.  And I'm kind of glad that I did - sometimes there are good accidents, and this is one of them.  Lyrics wise, it's not the best.  But the music is pretty good, and the ratio of good songs to duds weighs heavily on the good side.  There are only four tracks that I'm not too thrilled about here - "Here I Am", "Family Man", "Runaway" and "Good Time Girl."  Not bad, but not interesting, either, and the album finishes off with their own rendition of "Celebration" by Kool & The Gang.  And it's not too bad, either.  A good album.  A-