Saturday, 4 May 2013

#18: Brothers in Arms - Dire Straits

I'm gonna be honest guys, I really love this album. I mean I know I'm trying to stay out of my biases here and I certainly did go into this one treating it like the last two, but the thing is, when I was listening to it I just really fell in love with it again.

It doesn't seem of it's time though, it feels like it's from the 1970s rather than 1985, in fact if it wasn't for the contemporary sound of Money for Nothing or One World you'd be forgiven for thinking it was from the 70s. It's chock full of ballads though, which after the mood established by Money for Nothing and Walk of Life is kind of jarring, and there are so many different styles taken on in this record that it really shouldn't work, but for some reason it does surprisingly well.

There's some fantastic guitar playing on this record though, which if you know nothing about Mark Knopfler is a nice thing to listen to for the first time, and everything has a nice swing to it, a lot of the songs, though rooted heavily in blues, have a nice soul feel to them, and it carries even the slower songs very well.

I think it's safe to say I can recommend this one. It's diverse while still feeling cohesive, it's got one or two bona fide pop classics on it, it's well structured musically, it's just a good album guys. It definitely deserves a spot in your collection.

Next week, #17: Born in the USA - Bruce Springsteen.

Saturday, 27 April 2013

#19: Guns N' Roses - Appetite for Destruction

Appetite for Destruction is a much better album than I thought it was going to be. Considering the direction they went afterwards it's, in my opinion, a much better album than it should be.

It has a very strong old school vibe to all of it, but enough different ideas are thrown into the instrumentation to keep it fresh, and all of the songs have such a strong groove that it carries you through the whole record bobbing your head all the way. As such I don't think it's surprising that it houses many of their classics, which to be honest are really the stand out tracks. I could be familiarity but with the exception of Mr. Brownstone, Welcome To the Jungle (which is an incredibly strong opening song), Paradise City and Sweet Child Of Mine are the songs that stick out most.

Sweet Child of Mine in particular, sticks out like a sore thumb because it's such a departure from the rest of the record. While everything else has a strong metal feel, or a surf rock kind of vibe, Sweet Child of Mine is just pure commercial gold, and to be honest I have mixed feelings about it. It has a solid instrumentation and probably some of the best lyrical imagery of the album, but it's not really an impressive song, and I can't get into it at all.

Given that there are much better songs strewn throughout the entire album, that this was the breakout hit seems like a disservice to the record as a whole. The album is rich with possibility and has a good energy to it and is much greater than the one famous song on it, which feels like, as Nirvana once named a song, a "Radio Friendly Unit Shifter".

Bottom line: can I recommend this album? Yes I certainly can. While it's not really for me, if I'm being perfectly honest, It's a lot like an AC/DC record. It's a good solid album for both fans of Rock and those who aren't. It's easily a gateway drug to what else the genre has to offer.

I hope you'll join me again next week when we'll be giving #18: Brothers in Arms by Dire Straits a spin.

Saturday, 20 April 2013

#20: In-a-Gadda-da-vida - Iron Butterfly

Have you ever heard a band that had a sound, but didn't know what they wanted to do with it? That they know how they presented themselves but not what they were going to do with that presentation? That's what listening to In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida is like. The whole album is this bizarre mashup of Psychedelic Rock and Contemporary Pop music of the time, like some odd time capsule where someone got The Grateful Dead and Cliff Richard mixed up in a blender and just decided it was worth keeping around as a curiosity.

The songs all follow the same basic Rhythm and Blues structure, but don't go anywhere with it. Many of the tracks on this album feel like they were written by one person, while the lyrics were written in complete isolation from the rest. I should however point out that sometimes, that can work, but these guys weren't on the same wavelength at all.

There's some proficient and technical playing, particularly from the Guitar and Hammond Organ. They do a lot of work to keep the songs from being bogged down in their fixed structures, and it does feel like they wanted to expand on the instrumentation in a few key songs, particularly My Mirage and Termination, but were held back by the physical limitations of Vinyl. So you'd think that when you get to the titular song, a legendary 17 minute freak out of old, that they'd bring their best chops.

Unfortunately what we end up with is more of the same. The refrain, to it's credit, is remarkably dark and intense, however once again there's more of the same repetition, and when we finally dig into the instrumental sections, the Organ brings some great licks to the table, only for the song to become dominated by the Guitarist. By the time there's space for the Drum Solo I was so bored of the song that I'd zoned out a little, and almost forgot what song I was listening to by the time the final part of the song built back up.

I'd love to be able to like this album, my basic idea with this was to listen to music outside of my own comfort zone and I don't want to hate any of it really. The fact of the matter is there's no real substance here, at least for me.

I wish I could recommend picking it up for Record Store Day, but I think if you're going for Psychedelic Music you can certainly do better. Go buy Piper At The Gates of Dawn by Pink Floyd instead.

See you again next week when we tackle #19: Appetite for Destruction by Guns and Roses

Friday, 5 April 2013

New Mission Statement

I have picked up and dropped posting on this blog too much over the last two years this is getting out of hand.

So here's what I'm going to do. I'm going to reboot the whole site.

Two weeks from now there will only be this post left, all the others are going and I'm starting fresh.
This has been done. I'm listening to the first album as we speak, this is happening.

Barring Illness or injury, starting April the 20th and for 20 weeks thereafter, I will be listening to and giving a full review of the Top Twenty Biggest Selling Albums in the World.

The list is obtained from Wikipedia, so given about as reliable as Wikipedia is, it's accurate at the time of posting.

The full list, barring soundtracks, compilations and live albums is as follows.

  1. Thriller - Michael Jackson
  2. ACDC - Back In Black
  3. Pink Floyd - Dark Side of the Moon
  4. Bat Out of Hell - Meat Loaf
  5. Rumours - Fleetwood Mac
  6. Come On Over - Shania Twain
  7. Led Zeppelin IV - Led Zeppelin
  8. Bad - Michael Jackson
  9. Jagged Little Pill - Alanis Morisette
  10. Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band - The Beatles
  11. Falling Into You - Celine Dion
  12. Hotel California - Eagles
  13. Music Box - Mariah Carey
  14. Let's Talk About Love - Celine Dion
  15. Abbey Road - The Beatles
  16. one more time - Britney Spears
  17. Born in the USA - Bruce Springsteen
  18. Brothers in Arms - Dire Straits
  19. Appetite for Destruction - Guns N' Roses
  20. En A Gadda Da Vida - Iron Butterfly

To prove how serious I am about this... Metallica's Black Album is the 21st best selling album of all time according to this list, and I would gladly trade one of the Celine Dion albums to cover that one.

I will see you back here on the 20th. When I start reviewing them in reverse order, beginning with En A Gadda Da Vida, and working my way up to Thriller.

Wish me luck.