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February 23, 2009 at 11:16 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

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Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band – Hammersmith Odeon London ’75 (2006)

January 5, 2009 at 2:41 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Disc: 1
1. Thunder Road
2. Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out
3. Spirit In The Night
4. Lost In The Flood
5. She’s The One
6. Born To Run
7. The E Street Shuffle
8. It’s Hard To Be A Saint In The City
9. Backstreets

Disc: 2
1. Kitty’s Back
2. Jungleland
3. Rosalita (Come Out Tonight)
4. 4th Of July, Asbury Park (Sandy)
5. Detroit Medley
6. For You
7. Quarter To Three

During their career Bruce Springsteen and The E Street Band have made a name for themselves as one of the live acts to see. Their peak of popularity and success came in the mid 80s and it all started around here. Recorded on 18th November 1975, just three months after the breakthrough album Born To Run, Springsteen and his band had yet to carve their reputation in stone. Here we have a real treat for the audience, who would mostly know of him and his records, but have yet to hear about and experience the magic made when performing on stage. This was the start of Springsteen trying to break into the UK and Europe.

We open with Thunder Road, one of Bruce’s best loved and well known songs, but here everything is stripped down to a piano and vocals. Roy Bittan really is a great pianist and here is no exception, it’s a beautiful rendition of the song, often sounding like something Jim Steinman would write. A very laid back start to the album.

Tenth Avenue Freeze-out comes next, delivering the energy that, these days, we come to expect from the band. I never really liked this track on Born to Run, but when I first heard it live it changed my opinion of it. The band seem to have a lot of fun with this track and put a lot of energy in it. The best version is on Live In New York, but this one is still great to listen to.

From here on the party never really lulls, the energy is kept cranked up, all members are on full form and are each allowed to shine, especially Clarence Clemons on saxophone enjoying the chance for some solos of his own.

The only downside to a live album such as this, recorded so early in an artist’s career, is that there are a lot of favourite not on here due to them not being created yet. Having said that though, they certainly make the most of what they have, often improving on some of the ‘flatter’ tracks (Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out as already stated).

All-in-all this is a very enjoyable album, even for those not familiar with some of the tracks. This does not read as a ‘best of’ like later live albums would be, but it certainly is an interesting look at the beginning of Springsteen’s career and the birth of his live reputation.

Lynyrd Skynyrd – One More From The Road – Deluxe Edition (2001)

January 5, 2009 at 2:39 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

  1. “Introduction/Workin’ for MCA” – 5:32
  2. “I Ain’t the One” – 3:47
  3. “Saturday Night Special” – 5:39
  4. “Searching” – 4:00
  5. “Travellin’ Man” – 4:37
  6. “Simple Man” (bonus track) – 6:56
  7. “Whiskey Rock-a-Roller” – 4:48
  8. “The Needle and the Spoon” – 4:35
  9. “Gimme Back My Bullets” (bonus track) – 4:01
  10. “Tuesday’s Gone” – 8:25
  11. “Gimme Three Steps” – 5:11
  12. “Call Me the Breeze” – 5:50
  13. “T for Texas” – 9:14
  14. “Sweet Home Alabama” – 7:29
  15. “Crossroads” – 4:16
  16. “Free Bird” – 14:25
  17. “Introduction/Workin’ for MCA (alternate & previously unreleased)” – 5:42
  18. “I Ain’t the One (alternate & previously unreleased)” – 3:52
  19. “Searching (alternate & previously unreleased)” – 4:13
  20. “Gimme Three Steps (alternate)” – 4:42
  21. “Call Me the Breeze (alternate)” – 7:27
  22. “Sweet Home Alabama (alternate)” – 5:43
  23. “Crossroads (alternate)” – 4:46
  24. “Free Bird (alternate)” – 14:55

One More From The Road, recorded at the peak of their short career in 1976 showcases Lynyrd Skynyrd for what they really were; a talented bunch of musicians who were proud of their roots, loved music and loved to perform, never ever taking themselves too seriously.

As far as studio albums go, they never did any better than their 1973 debut “pronounced ‘lĕh-‘nérd ‘skin-‘nérd “ which is a great album. However, when you hear the songs played live, the studio pressing always seem a little flat in comparison. It is this reason that One More From The Road is Skynyrd’s best album. The 2001 deluxe edition is fantastic, offering more tracks and some alternate versions, but also super sound. It contains everything I love and look for in a live album; great sound, great crowd, atmosphere, fun and brilliant tunes.

We kick off with them being introduced to the stage and straight away they plunge in with the opener to Working For MCA, immediately demonstrating that the sound quality is perfect for a live album. All instruments are clearly heard, each lead guitar is discernable which is often not the case on the studio recordings. And this is so important with bands such as Lynyrd Skynyrd. Every member with an instrument is so underrated and often overlooked that it is tragic. The three lead guitarists all have the skill and talent to front a band of their own and they complement each other so well. During live shows they clearly love playing alongside each other making performances so electric and vibrant, often extending solos by improvising and feeding off each other’s performance. Not to mention that the piano is clearly heard throughout and also stands its own ground against the guitars, adding yet another wonderful layer to the songs and also an element that many rock groups overlook.

My own personal highlights of the album are:

Simple Man– A track I overlooked on their debut album, but this really stood out on the live album. A simple song about the advice that Ronnie Van Zant got from his mother and grandmother, overlayed with a simple yet catch guitar riff.

Tuesdays Gone– I’ve always thought that this was a good song but too long for what it was. Here it is just as long but seems more fleshed out. I adore the guitar tones at the beginning of the song, Powell’s piano sounds wonderful and I love the harmonica over the verse. Definitely ignites a song that fell flat on the debut.

Gimme Three Steps– An underrated Skynyrd song, this is what they are all about. It’s a fun song, full of energy, with catchy guitar parts all about dancing with a girl only to have her partner come in and thinks she’s cheating on him.

Call Me The Breeze– Brilliant cover of JJ Cale’s song, once again full of energy and brilliant showmanship by the guitars and piano. This almost feels like the perfect jamming track, none of the band seems to want this song to end as the rip through it.

Free Bird- Yeah, I actually like Free Bird, maybe because it is actually a good song and just because it’s always played it doesn’t mean that it’s no good. On this album we have two versions, both over 14 minutes long, but the extra time isn’t solely because of extended guitar solos in the second half as one would imagine. Although the solo is longer, there is also an extended piano solo before the second verse. In fact, it is this very interpretation of the song on piano that got Billy Powell a spot in the band.

If you are unfamiliar with Skynyrd then this album is the best place to start. As I have said, the songs here are so much better than their studio equivalents, so even if you have heard their albums this is still something you should check out.

A year later Lynyrd Skynyrd’s plane crashed killing lead singer Ronnie Van Zant, lead guitarist Steve Gaines, his sister and backing vocalist Cassie Gaines, the assistant road manager and both pilots. Lead guitarist Allen Collins was badly injured and nearly had an arm amputated. Gary Rossington, lead guitarist, broke both arms and pelvis as well as numerous other injuries. Pianist Billy Powell nearly had his nose ripped off as his face suffered many cuts.

The plane that crashed had been inspected only a few months before by Aerosmith who rejected the plane feeling that it wasn’t sfae and that the crew weren’t fit to pilot.

Obviously, the crash pretty much ended the band. The classic line-up was gone and the surviving members didn’t play for years. These days Lynyrd Skynyrd are touring again, albeit with a hugely different look. Ronnie’s brother Johnny is now lead vocals and Billy Powell and Gary Rossington are the only original members to still play in the group.

Despite only lasting four years, Lynyrd Skynyrd left their own mark on music, helping to define ‘Southern rock’, causing the most clichéd and annoying jokes in music (‘play Free Bird’) and being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Were they the best band ever? Not by a long shot but they certainly had a lot of talent and technical expertise but they chose to have fun and enjoy themselves instead of following the route that a lot of others took. Not to overlook the fact that they were more entertaining than a lot of rock acts from their time and they put on one hell of a show, which they seemed to enjoy just as well as the crowd. Not everyone’s cup of tea, but I only drink from my own mug.

The Beatles – Abbey Road (1969)

July 10, 2008 at 7:40 pm | Posted in Album Review, Albums Rated 7/10 | 1 Comment
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RATING: 7.5/10

I wasn’t going to do a review of a Beatles album for some time but as it is Beatles Day here in England then I can hardly miss this chance to pay a small tribute to the fab four.

I cannot say anything new about Abbey Road, it has had nearly four decades of reviews and praise. Just think about it, this work of art is nearly fourty years old. Compare it to the ‘best’ albums of last year. It still feels fresh and original and outranks anything that last year had to offer.

This was the last album recorded by the Beatles, after a stunning career of sublime hits and wondrous works of art they top it all off by one of their best efforts and one of the best albums ever. My favourite has always been Revolver but Abbey Road has always been second place only just. These days I think this album my just be my favourite Beatles Album.

This is such an iconic work of the twentieth century, from the famous and often imitated cover, to the fabulous melodies and lyrics. Which brings me to ask: Why are you reading this? If it is because you do not own this album, or even worse, have never heard it then quickly get it ordered and downloaded before someone sees you. Everyone should own this, in fact, in England you are sent it in the post once you become of age. It is that important to everyday life. That may be over the top but it certainly is essential to everyone’s music collection, even if you only have a few albums.

One of the joys is that each member of the band seems to be at their best on this album. Even Ringo proves his critics wrong by showing them up with a great drum solo during the album’s closing medley. Paul belts out some cracking vocals, very powerful stuff, John rocks like never before and George presents some of his finest songs ever. Individually they all shine in their own right and when they come together (pardon the pun) they shake the earth with their brilliance.

This album has the traits of genius running all the way through it from beginning to end. It is the trait that binds every song together to deliver the world a package of true beauty that continues to inspire and move people even after all these years.

There are a few weak tracks, mainly novelty songs, but these are merely small blips on an otherwise shining record. The highs are certainly well worth the lows.

Buy it now. Listen to it forever. You will never tire of it and neither will your neighbours if you turn it up.

Come Together- Paul’s bass line opens the album, then kick in the crazy lyrics. This is a good track but I wouldn’t place it in say their top 10 songs. It is just missing something to take it beyond the norm…..for a Beatles track anyway, which means it’s still pretty good.

Something- A simple beautiful song, George Harrison really knows how to write a moving song whilst keeping it simple, even the brilliant guitar solo is just a simple and wonderful piece of music. Absolutely nothing over the top about this track. One of the best Harrison songs.

Maxwell’s Silver Hammer-The first novelty song. A tale of a serial killer who hits people over the head, told in a light and amusing way. This song is ok, it’s fine….the first few times. After a while it is certainly a track that you are going to want to skip. Even Lennon didn’t like it!

Oh! Darling-Sung by McCartney I think his voice sounds great on this, even if Lennon thought that he should have recorded this instead.

Octopus’s Garden-Whilst being quite catchy, I really do not like this song. It sounds too cheesy, childish lyrics, adequate vocals and nothing more.

I Want You (She’s So Heavy)-Overly long. That’s the first thought that comes into my head. It has some good moments but not enough to keep it interesting for 7:47. The guitar intro is great as are some little jam moments, the vocals are also very good throughout. But there is also too much that just doesn’t work.

Here Comes The Sun- An amazing song, once again written by George Harrison. From the very start it’s beauty grabs you. The guitar throughout is pure perfection, the lyrics shine and gradually the song blossoms into the work of genius that it is. It is both optimistic and uplifting. Listen to Here Comes The Sun

Because- It is not the best track, though a very solid one, on the album but it is a great showcase for the band. Stripped of all the trimmings that a lot of bands need to sound good, the fab four deliver amazing vocals and harmonies, only bettered by the Beach Boys. After all, the Beatles were primarily a vocal band and this song clearly reminds us of this. A fine performance. Listen to Because

You Never Give Me Your Money- A lovely song, sung in McCartney’s best voice. The piano in the first half is great, the harmony in the second half very pretty and the guitar is once again brilliant yet not overdone.

Sun King- Sit back and relax, here comes the mid-album chill out zone. The first minute sounds similar to Fleetwood Mac’s Albatross.

Mean Mr Mustard- Despite being a novelty song, it is much better than the previous two. Plus, it is only a minute long. Quite catchy, silly lyrics, nothing terrible here and nice little jaunt that quickly leads into…

Polythene Pam One of the few times I actually notice John’s accent. A daft song with a great intro that bursts open from the end of the previous track. Again, only a short song but very catchy.

She Came In Through the Bathroom Window- Written by Paul about a fan that did what the title says. This is a great follow on from Polythene Pam, the change is fantastic.

Golden Slumbers- Soaring strings, soft piano, gentle bass; a wonderful start to this song. Then we get Paul’s top-notch vocals come in during the chorus. Another gentle dip and then it goes straight into…

Carry That Weight- ‘You never give me your money’ makes a comeback halfway in, with different lyrics, then back to Carry That Weight and then, without looking backwards we plunge into….

The End- The band on flawless form; guitars, vocals, melody and Ringo all merge into one great showmanship of their abilities. The last great piece of music they laid down. For many this is the highlight of the entire album and it is kind of hard to disagree with them. Listen to The End

Her Majesty- 23 seconds long and a novelty song once again. I don’t see the point of this and certainly it’s position on the album. We’ve just heard a magnificent medley of several songs and then the last track would have been an awesome and perfect end to the album and then this gets put in right at the end.

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Nirvana – Nevermind (1991)

July 7, 2008 at 3:16 pm | Posted in Album Review, Albums Rated 9/10 | Leave a comment
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RATING: 9/10

OK, so I have set myself the task of reviewing the second most overrated albums of the 90’s (the first being OK Computer) whilst trying not to offend anyone and also trying to be fair.  It has been quite some time since I have listened to Nevermind all the way through.  Back in the day I listened to it endlessly and loved it.  It is a great album, certainly a very important album, maybe the most important of the 90’s.  However, it is also a very ‘cool’ album.  Many people give this top marks without thinking about it because it’s cool to like Nirvana isn’t it?  Cobain was such a tortured genius wasn’t he?  My friends will think less of me if I don’t like this album won’t they?

I personally am not bothered about what is cool, what is not, about being pretentious etc.  If I like something then I like it, not because I’m expected to like it.  The same goes for if I dislike something.

Having said all that, I really enjoy this album.  It is a very solid piece of work; there are no problems at all with running through this from beginning to end, each song ranges from good to great and the power and energy runs throughout.  Add that to the nostalgia I feel, remembering listening to it as an 11 year old, then a few years later when everyone started listening again after Cobain’s death, then it surpasses being just an album; it becomes part of my coming of age.

Smells Like Teen Spirit- Straight off the bat we get a cool riff and then BAM, the power hits us.  Like the album, this track is overrated and overplayed.  We shouldn’t let this detract from the fact that it is still a fantastic anthem, which the so-called Generation X embraced.  A very powerful opener for an album, everybody’s attention was grabbed and all eyes were on Seattle.

In Bloom- This next track is as every bit as good as Teen Spirit.  Cobain’s guttural vocals, a big fat baseline and a great solo combine to bring us a superb song that sometimes gets forgotten, wedged between two better known titles.

Come As You Are- Featuring some of the best lyrics on the album and a hugely famous intro, Come As You Are is only second to Teen Spirit when it comes to popularity and fame amongst the Nirvana catalogue.  For me this is the best track on the album, Nirvana’s best song in fact.  Absolutely incredible. Listen to Come As You Are

Breed- Grohl’s drums propel Breed throughout the next three minutes.  Cobain is great on vocals, the lyrics are once again very good and a middle eight that loses none of the songs fire and tempo.

Lithium- ‘I’m so happy cos today I’ve found my friends, they’re in my head.  I’m so ugly, that’s ok cos so are you’ are my favourite lyrics from the album.  The chorus is the very essence of the grunge movement.  One of the best crafted songs on Nevermind. Listen to Lithium

Polly- Not as innocent as it first sounds, this acoustic track has darker undertones.  A slight change in mood here as we have a softer song with no loud moments, just Kurt, his guitar and minimal background.

Territorial Pissings- Pure energy is the only way to describe this song.  The drums, guitar and vocals all strain together to give this odd and almost novelty song a brute force that almost smashes it’s way through the speakers.

Drain You- Another underrated track on an album with so many highlights.  The balance between all elements is spot on, including the brilliant lyrics.

Lounge Act- The intro starts with a big fat meaty bass line and then the track develops quite an upbeat tempo.  The vocals show off both sides of Kurt’s abilities; in the first half we get his singing voice which is low and rough, then in the second half we get his scream and yell which makes his voice even more gravelly.  His voice IS grunge.

Stay Away- ‘Rather be dead than cool’ perhaps the most fitting and revealing lyrics that Kurt Cobain penned.  A good solid track with brilliant drumming by Dave Grohl.

On A Plain- One of my favourite nirvana songs; everything about it, once again, fits together just right.  I just love the way the lyrics kick in at the start. Listen to On A Plain

Something In The Way- We started off with a heavy anthem but know we end the album on a quiet note.  This is even more laid back than Polly and it is so much better.  A very simple tune with a very simple yet beautiful harmony on the chorus, this is the most understated track on the album and, hence, the most underrated.

There is a hidden track called ‘Endless, Nameless’.  It doesn’t really fit with the rest of the album and isn’t a great track, however there is some good musicianship going on and a few good melodies intertwined with the rawness of the singing.

Paul Wellar – Stanley Road (1995)

July 5, 2008 at 11:36 pm | Posted in Album Review, Albums Rated 8/10 | Leave a comment
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RATING: 8/10

With Stanley Road Paul Weller has managed to prove to his fans and his critics that he is still an important musician even in his solo days. He hasn’t just written 12 good songs, instead, he’s written one great album. A factor in any great album is the overall feel that perpetuates each song, making them all feel as though they deserve their place and complimenting the songs that come before and after them.

A mostly guitar driven album, Weller fuses good solos and riffs with his usual effective lyrics, often ending a song with a long instrumental that gently ushers in the next song, which gladly and competently carries the album along. However, there is the occasional song that primarily uses the piano evoking another great feel. Though these songs are quite different from the guitar based ones, they seem to come at just the right points in the album so that, not only are they a nice change of direction, but also they effortlessly fit in.  To truly appreciate this fine album start at the beginning and just let it play on to the end. It far outweighs the sum of its parts, and as these parts are so good, you’re in for a great journey.

The Changing Man This was a hit in the UK and is a good indication into how this album will sound.  There are some great little examples of guitar work going on here, more will follow throughout the rest of the tracks. Listen to The Changing Man

Porcelain Gods- This songs brings the mellow vibe with its gentle electric guitar opening.  The highlights are the lyrics; ‘How disappointed I was to turn out after all, just a porcelain god, that shatters when it falls’.

Walk On Guilded Splinters- Another slow bluesy track that follows on nicely from the previous.  Again, the lyrics shine above all in this song.  Wellar really does have a way of writing some interesting lyrics and his delivery of them are always great.  The track ends with a slow jam that trickles to the end.  Not a great tune, more of a little jam session that made it onto the album.

You Do Something To Me-From the beautiful piano intro we immediately know that we are going to hear something different in this song than wat was heard in the previous tracks.  Simple and effective lyrics and likewise in the piano and guitars make this song so beautiful.  A major standout on the album, absolutely heaven. Listen to You Do Something To Me

Woodcutter’s Son-Back with a rocking guitar intro, a piano quickly joins in and we’re back with a more upbeat tempo.  This tune is quite catchy, and Wellars gruff voice shines throughout.  Again, another track that ends with a long jam.

Time Passes-A lovely intro, great lyrics and a lovely mellow feel to it.  I always forget about this track whenever I think about this album, but when it comes on I just fall in love with it all over again.

Stanley Road-The intro will have you tappin your feat to the piano and drum, another catchy little number.  Despite the fact that this is the title song, it isn’t anything too special.  There is nothing wrong with it but there isn’t that certain somethin that makes it stand out.

Broken Stones-Broken Stones is another simple yet beautiful track.  Wellar can write great songs with great guitar parts that rock and groove but songs like this prove he can strip it all down and write a track that has the beauty and passion that other artists can.

Out Of The Sinking-A very bluesy song and once again some good lyrics.  This song really suits Wellar’s style of singing, I find he has a really underrated voice.

Pink On White Walls-I really like this song, though it is by no means one of the best on this album.  It surely is underrated, it is borderline mediocre but i think it just manages to get on the right sode of the line.

Whirlpools’ End-Overral I dont rate this song, but there are some good parts to it.  I find it really gets good about 2 minutes in.  I do love the jam that appears at the end for at least 4 minutes.  Would be nice to play along in the studio.

Wings Of Speed-The final song is a strange one to end with, it has a gospek feel and almost sounds like nothing else on the album, save for the piano that was present in some of the songs.  I really love this song, again simplistic and beautiful, Paul’s voice holds it’s own and the background singing is just fabulous.  This song is too short, it needs to have a few more minutes of it.  I just love it. Listen to Wings Of Speed

Kula Shaker – K (1996)

July 3, 2008 at 8:15 pm | Posted in Album Review, Albums Rated 8/10 | Leave a comment
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RATING: 8/10

If a group of people were to start reeling off names of British bands that had hits in the mid-nineties, it would probably be a while before Kula Shaker got a mention, if at all.  However, the four piece band fronted by Crispian Mills (son of actress Hayley Mills) released K in 1996 and it became the fastest selling debut album in Britain since Oasis.  Despite it’s acheivement a decade later it has become a hidden gem of the ‘Brit-pop’ movement.

A mixture of rock and Indian influences bring about a very interesting album and one that should be more well known and appreciated than it sadly is today.  Clear influences are felt throughout, especially from The Beatles’ later work and The Greatful Dead.  Mills’ vocals are nothing amazing but they are good throughout and have their really good moments.  The band are also well adept, especially using some great guitar riffs and melodies, at times sounding almost like a Jimmi Hendrix tribute act but in a good way.  This is a very enjoyable album, and whilst not the first time to mix popular music with an Eastern flavour, it certainly does it in a way that really works.

Hey Dude– A fine intro, the drums and guitar kick off and show how the ‘rockin’ side of this album will feel.  A very catchy song with interesting lyrics, great guitar work and one of the rare songs where I like the verses more than the chorus. Listen to Hey Dude
Knight On The Town- Guitars once again lead this song, the main riff opens the tune and slight Indian tones are felt for the first time in this album as well as a prog-rock feel as the track goes on.
Temple Of Everlasting Light-A more trippy and Indian song next.  I don’t like the first half of this but once it builds up and the extra voices kick in then I am fully there even when it mellows back and resumes its semi-trippy vibe.
Govinda-This is where we get into full traditional Indian music mode.  A surprise hit back in the day, it is the only top ten hit in Britain to be sung entirely in Sanskrit.  however, it is very catchy and it certainly rocks out in the second half.  This song shows how two styles of music can mix and still be brilliant, the guitars go so well with the beat and the tamboura etc and the public embraced it, even if they didnt know what they were singing. Listen to Govinda
Smart Dogs-We’re back with rock, though the vocal melody retains the Indian vibe.  Yet another great guitar riff as it whails its way through the track, lyrically it is weak but this song is more about fun than meaningful messages.
Magic Theatre-A more mellow track follows.  Some people will like this, but i don’t really care for it much.  I feel it is not only in the wrong place, but it spoils the mood that has been set up by the previous tracks.
Into The Deep-Probably my favourite track on the album.  I love the piano intro, love the middle eight, love everything about the track. Listen to Into The Deep

Sleeping Jiva-This is a purely instrumental tune, purely made up of traditional Indian instruments.  It’s kind of ok but not really my thing, its more of a lead up to the next song but feels slightly too long for it’s purpose.
Tattva-Another hit here in the UK, this time with English lyrics in the verses.  Slightly less catchy than Govinda, but still a really good song.
Grateful When You’re Dead/Jerry Was There-A clear reference to one of this album’s greatest influences.  Another great guitar riff leads the song in, good lyrics, a strong vocal perfomance and a catchy ‘Ba ba baaaaa, ba ba baaaa’ in the chorus.  This is another fun song.  Unfortunately, the second half, a tribute to Jerry Garcia fro the Greatful Dead, is the opposite.  It is another slow, trippy track that just plods it way to the end.  Nothing exciting here, which is a shame as the first part of this combo is great.
303-Here we have some very cheesy and cliche lyrics and yet the song is catchy, fun and full of energy and life.  This song is nothing amazing, but when it comes on it’s hardly one to skip.  Enjoy it for what it is, don’t spend time thinking about the words, especially if you do not like them.  Great guitar work throughout though and a very good peformance on the vocals.
Start All Over-I really like this track, it must be a bit understated as I always forget about it until it plays.  Good lyrics, good performance by the band.  There’s something missing that prevents it being a great song, but not all dongs need to be great.  The song is perfectly placed in the running lost, fits fantastically with the feel and mood that the album bathes itself in.

Hollow Man-We close with a slow intro, piano based.  This is a lovely gentle two and a half minutes which leads into the songs acoustic guitar and vocals.  After a simple song the electric guitars make their final appearance on the album, bringing it to a rocking end, not as catchy as the better songs but still pretty good.  There is a thirteen minute silence followed by a brief recording of a holy man speaking about his guru…..not worth the wait.

Sam Cooke – Live at the Harlem Square Club, 1963 (1985)

June 26, 2008 at 7:50 pm | Posted in Album Review, Albums Rated 7/10 | 1 Comment
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RATING:  7/10

Here we have one of the greatest voices in music playing to a small live audience. The fact that he is singing live doesn’t have an affect the quality of his sound. This is such an enjoyable performance to listen to, full of soul, energy, enjoyment and banter. Recorded only about one year before his death, this is Mr. Cooke at his best.

One can only wonder what it would have been like to be there that night, to see him in person, to get involved in the show. The people there must have treasured that experience forever. Not all the tracks are the best from his career, but it is the pure quality of his voice, performance and the atmosphere of the audience that makes this album stand out.

1. Feel It: After getting the crowd warmed up he leaps into his first song which just carries flawlessly to the end. ‘Don’t fight it, don’t fight it, don’t fight the feeling’ he sings and it’s hard not to. Such an easy track to get into, nothing amazing, but the beat and the soul that pours forth sets up the mood for the rest of the album.

2. Chain Gang: One of his more well known tracks is next and the transition to live performance is great. Sam has the chance to really get into his zone, grunting and ‘Ah’-ing and the crowd responds to it as you would expect. Listen to Chain Gang

3. Cupid: One of my favourite Cooke songs, Sam here makes it a little funkier and it works. Probably his best vocals of the night.  Listen to Cupid

4. Medley: It’s All Right/ For Sentimental Reasons: This is a lesson from Sam to guys about how to talk to your woman. After a brief intro he cracks into this gentle and soulful tune, his vocals as perfect as ever. A seamless link into the second half, as he sings you can imagine him picking out certain women and singing directly to them. He then gets the whole crowd to sing along. Throughout the album he is constantly talking throughout the songs, at the right times, getting the crowd involved and showing us that he is enjoying himself.

5. Twistin’ The Night Away: My favourite Sam Cooke song of all time, this is perfect for a live performance and he delivers it with style and class. What a showcase for his vocals and his ability to sing live and retain that quality in his voice. If the dance floor was sparse before then this song would have guaranteed it to be packed be the end. One of the highlights of the album. Listening to Twisting The Night Away

6. Somebody Have Mercy: A cool sax, upbeat rhythm and a great voice carries this so-so track through and makes it fit.

7. Bring It On Home To Me: There is a slow intro that lasts just under 3 minutes, it’s not really something that fits but when the song begins we have the groove and soul back. It feels as though this may be one of Sam’s favourites to sing live, something in his voice and interaction with the crowd shows that there is something more there. Then the track ends with the crowd getting involved once again, they clearly love their evening.

8. Nothing Can Change This Love: Again, top-notch singing is the highlight of this enjoyable track. Not the strongest track on the album but the performance is one of the strongest.

9. Having A Party: This song aptly sums up this album. Everybody’s singing, dancing to the music and they certainly were having a party. Everyone gets involved, you can also picture them swinging away with their friends and partners. A fitting end to a great performance.

U2-The Joshua Tree (1987)

June 25, 2008 at 4:23 pm | Posted in Album Review, Albums Rated 8/10 | Leave a comment
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What can you say about U2? Quite alot apparently. There are those that love them and those that loathe them. Whatever you say about them, there is no denying that The Joshua Tree is something special. No doubt this is the album that put them firmly on the map despite being around for about ten years and releasing considerable efforts such as War and The Unforgettable Fire. Most people knew them but when Joshua Tree was released tens of thousands actually owned a piece of their work.

Over twenty years old the album still holds its own and actually starts off sounding like a greatest hits album. Such classic singles such as With or Without You, Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For and Where The Streets Have No Name are just so good and well known that its easy to forget that they all come from one album. I believe that this is the point that Bono found his true voice. In earlier releases he sounded like every other new band to come out during the early 80’s, but here his vocals are spot on and the start of the Bono that we have all come to recognise and, most of us, love. This in itself breathes freshness into the bands sound but add that to superior song writing and The Edge’s new guitar sound and we have a giant leap forward from the Irish lads.

There is a nice mix of songs here but they all help with the overall feel of the album. It’s easy to emagine being in the desert that is pictured on the cover as the sound perpetuating every track give off that feel of the desert. Every song seems to fit perfectly after the previous one taking us alone through this journey of the desert. All great albums should have this sense of wholeness within it, rather than being just a collection of songs, even if they are great ones. To me this is what Joshua Tree does. Put any other U2 song in and it wouldnt fit, take one of these ones out and the album would collapse. Each track relies on the others to balance out this mood.

However good your music collection may be, if this is not included then you having a glaring chasm in it. This is U2’s best. Even if you do not like U2 then you should at least try this album. It may change your mind and, if not, then at least you are being open minded.

Where The Streets Have No Name: A great opener for an album.  This track slowly builds up to the hit that it is well known for being.
I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For: Another classic single, this track can be read on many levels.  Perhaps this is one reason why it was so popular.  People identified with it in different ways, people’s questioning life and answers, looking for that special someone or that drive in life.  All or none of these can be applied to this song.  Bono surely has his own interpretation of it but he purposely leaves it ambiguous for the listener.
With Or Without You: Maybe the best known, and over played, track of the album, and perhaps their entire career.  Listen to With Or Without You

Bullet The Blue Sky: My least favourite of the ‘big songs’ on here, this track is still quite powerful and deserves its place.  The guitar and drums in the intro again evoke the desert feel.
Running To Stand Still: It’s a tragedy that this track isn’t more well known.  This is such an understated song, Bono tempers his voice well here, not overdoing it but putting the exact amount of feeling into it.  A beautiful and simple pleasure, easily one of the best U2 songs ever. Listen to Running To Stand Still
Red Hill Mining Town: Some of Bono’s finest vocals are present on this track.  Bono screams ‘I’m hanging on, You’re all that’s left to hold on to’ and you can feel it in his voice.
In God’s Country: A catchy song that doesn’t quite impress but is a good listen nontheless and should never be skipped when listening through the album. Listen to Red Hill Mining Town
Trip Through Your Wires: The harmonica that opens the song seems a bit out of place, especially this late on in the album.  There is nothing really special about the song, it’s pleasant enough but too mediocre to follow the previous great tracks.
One Tree Hill: Again, another understated song.  Whilst this isn’t as good as other tracks, it is still a good solid piece.  Just about everything is underplayed, the guitar, the vocals but the lyrics are really quite good.
Exit: For me, this is the weakest of the album.  It doesn’t fit as much as the other songs and it sounds more dated, harking back to a sound of the early 80’s. The slow build up really doesn’t end with anything worthwhile.
Mothers Of The Disappeared: A simple tribute to the women who lose their children to kidnappers and slavery.  A beautiful guitar riff plays gently behind Bono’s soft singing.  A slow track but definitely one to listen to several times before being judged.

Pulp-Different Class (1995)

June 25, 2008 at 12:28 pm | Posted in Album Review, Albums Rated 9/10 | Leave a comment
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RATING: 9/10

In 1995 Pulp managed to do three great things. First off, they gave a fantastic performance at Glastonbury that put the other acts to shame. Secondly, they released Different Class and thirdly, Jarvis Cocker invaded a Michael Jackson performance at the Brits. Well, ok, maybe two great things.

In the mid-nineties the media, and thousands of ‘sheep’ trying to be cool by following everyone else, were hyping the battle for best album between Blur and Oasis. Unfortunately, both bands failed to deliver anything thought provoking or different. What’s The Story (Morning Glory) was a good album, filled with anthems for a generation, but lacked any real depth to it and was weaker than Oasis’ debut effort.  The Great Escape by Blur again was weaker than its predecessor Of course, those thousands rushed out and bought them and raved about them in all the ‘cool’ music magazines.

However, 1995 produced at least two better albums. One was Stanley Road by Paul Weller and this one.

The first thing that makes this album stand out is the lyrics. Cocker is a master of writing witty lyrics that make you laugh and smile and are also a brilliant observation on everyday life. He writes about anxiety, struggles, frustrations, excitement, love and bewilderment and his singing pushes this to an extra level where you can feel all of this emotion in his performance. A clear contrast to when he is talking in a near-monotone voice. The songs and Cocker’s singing contain so much energy where needed and the quality of the vocals can be surprising sometimes.

All the songs are truly fantastic, over ten years on and they still sound just as good. It was a breath of fresh air when it was released and maybe it is because it doesn’t sound like the rest of the ‘Brit-pop’ that it doesn’t sound dated.
Pulp go to show that it is ok to look nerdy and to be different than what is considered cool. Cocker is a vast contrast to Liam Gallagher and yet he displays a presence whilst performing on stage that Liam could never achieve, with a voice that can portray more emotion than most of the ‘cool’ bands around at that time. Different Class? Yes. Better Class? Definitely.

Track listing:

1. Mis-Shapes: A catchy anthem for people who look ‘different’ saying how it’s ok to look geeky and not as cool as the rest of the crowd, and how these people are going to take over someday. Listen to Mis-Shapes

2. Pencil Skirt:  A pleasant little tune about Jarvis, a girl and the problems of young love.

3. Common People:  This tune was the anthem in Britain during the summer of 1995. Common People quickly became the ‘anthem’ of the year, and rightly so. It was more infectious than anything Blur or Oasis had to offer that year. Awesome lyrics, fantastic vocals and brilliant melodies.  Even the amount of times this was over played on the radio couldn’t kill its effectiveness and brilliance. Listen to common-people

4. I Spy:  More great lyrics, haunting undertones and another excellent example of Cocker’s vocal prowess, his low tones give this song its edge.

5. Disco 2000:  Very catchy disco tune that you can’t get out of your head, more great humorous lyrics.

6. Live Bed Show: A song that grows on you, tells an interesting story.

7. Something Changed:  A run of the mill love song that sounds a bit out of place but still a nice little tune.

8. Sorted For E’s & Whizz:  A song about going to raves and the morning after, lovely tune and interesting images left in the mind.

9. F.E.E.L.I.N.G.C.A.L.L.E.D.L.O.V.E:  An odd song that isn’t without its good points, takes a while to get going though.

10. Underwear:  The angst of teenage love is expressed in this great song.  Great lyrics and stunning vocals. Listen to Underwear

11. Monday Morning: Catchy upbeat tune, lyrics are top notch.

12. Bar Italia:  This one really grew on me, a nice end to a fantastic album.

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