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.

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