Nightman Listens To – Madonna – Music!

Greetings, Glancers! It’s Madonna time again and an album released back in 2000, a simpler, less stressful time some would say. Not me though – I was in the middle of my A-Level preparations, I was 17, drinkin’ and a druggin’ and a womenin’. As you’ll have read in my previous post, Ray Of Light had been a massive hit with me and some of my friends, but in the few years between these albums we had started to see Madonna in a less favourable light. She had a lot of stuff going on which made her a prime candidate for ridicule, not that she’d care, and her release of American Pie was met with general laughter. To many of us it seemed she had lost it. I don’t know how much, if any, this contributed to me not paying much attention to the album but Music is not one I know much about, outside of some vague memories of the singles.

The album seems like it could be short and brisk – only ten songs and the only one I can clearly recall is the title track, and that’s a song I wasn’t a fan of. William Orbit did an awesome job on Ray Of Light so presumably the same will be said for this, although I think this album has a more general dance music flavour with less focus on atmosphere and rock. There’s no point guessing, lets just get into it.

‘Music’ was the first single from the album, and I didn’t like it from the first moment I heard it – much too much focus on quirks and production than, you know, actual music. The video likely influenced me too, what with its apparent love of celeb culture and lifestyle. Lyrically of course the song is supposed to be about the power of music to bring people together and overcome… something, but when the music is mostly dire the message falls flat. I appreciate the creativity and the production, but the style is not for me, the vocals are too whiny, and the melodies grating.

‘Impressive Instant’ is… well, my instant impression is that I’ll never want to listen to this again. It seems to be like another irritating dance song, entirely manufactured in the studio with nothing tangible. The vocals are annoying, the music is repetitive, the lyrics are garbage… unless you’re into dance music there’s nothing good here.

Runaway Lover‘ is a more traditional dance track. As a general rule I’m not a fan of dance music in most of its guises, but there are exceptions. This, I don’t mind. It could be any style of song, they just happened to make it dance – take away the beats and replace them with guitars or generic pop stuff and you’ll have a decent rock or pop track. Some of the noises and drums stuff annoys me, but it moves swiftly with a tidy energy and some decent melodies.

I Deserve It’ seems familiar somehow. I’m almost certain I’ve never head it, but I’ve shared many a set of earphones with many a person, so possibly… This one rambles along never quite reaching any sort of point or peak, though based on the lyrics that in itself is possibly the point. There are moments of potential where I thought it was going to build into something more, but then it didn’t.

Amazing‘ starts with manufactured bird-like noises and bell type sounds. Before long a beat that’s unusually similar to Beautiful Stranger takes the song further along. The song has more of a rock vibe like some of the songs from Ray of Light, though in a completely different style.

Nobody’s Perfect’ begins with something that sounds like ‘I am wet when I am with you’ which seems a little inappropriate even for Madonna. This is annoying because I do like the melodies here, but they are largely ruined by the auto-tuning nonsense. The drum sounds feel too weak in places, but I do like all the robotic laser stuff going on. This would be great if it had a traditional vocal throughout, but even with the nonsense I can’t help but like it and I think it could become one of my favourites over time.

Don’t Tell Me‘ is one I’d forgotten about. I like the disjointed nature and I remember this one had fairly heavy rotation when I was in the University Student’s Union bar anytime Kerrang wasn’t being shown. It’s a decent single but clearly I’d forgotten it for a reason, gets annoying before long.

What It Feels Like For A Girl’ begins with experimental sounds, some annoying English accented speaking, lyrics about androgyny etc. I have a feeling I have heard this before. The good qualities here are buried under the production – the melodies and the backing sounds don’t go together at all, making the whole affair feel like two completed different songs which got mashed together accidentally.

Paradise (Not For Me)’ is a song that mostly goes nowhere until the second minute where a very John Carpenter piece emerges followed by a much stronger vocal (though still downgraded by auto-tune). It’s clearly an attempt at an epic and it doesn’t quite get there, though I appreciate the effort. I love the strings which join the mess near the third minute, but the opening two minutes are too uneventful – a better melody lifting towards that middle section would have improved things drastically. The final couple of minutes repeat variously the good and bad without offering a final distinct section – aimed for the stars and scraped the clouds or something.

Gone‘ begins as an unusually streamlined and simple song – only voice and acoustic guitar. I love the melodies, the vocals and lyrics are plaintive, and the chorus is great. Given what has come before I keep waiting for the big production to come blasting out of the speakers. It does come, kind of, but it’s not as intrusive or all encompassing as elsewhere on the album. This is good stuff, and a great ending – another song I wasn’t aware of that I already look forward to hearing again.

For me this was an ambitious yet disjointed album. As a sequel to Ray Of Light it tries a host of new ideas but it doesn’t have the impact, musically or emotionally, which that album had. Where one felt urgent and inventive, this one feels at times like a joke or more accurately that the people involved were just having fun without caring about the quality of the end product, while at other times it feels as if they are throwing as much sound and technique into the mix in the hope that some of it will come good. The best moments are those where the simple tune is allowed to speak for itself – some of the songs are bogged down by production to the point where the melody is drowned, while in others the production fails to disguise the dull core. There are still some great moments here, and a few songs that I’ll add to my regular rotation, but as a sequel to a great, it falls below expectation.

Nightman Listens To – The Rolling Stones and The Beach Boys

Greetings, Glancers. As I near the end of my adventures with Bon Jovi, Bryan Adams, David Bowie, and Madonna (I’ve only started with Roxette) I’m already looking forward to which artists I should cover next. Fair enough, Bowie will take some time to finish and the Roxette posts will go on for a while – I’m also looking at the Iron Maiden solo input and Disney Soundtracks, God help me.

Ideally I want to cover those artists that I’ve always kind of liked, but whose albums I’ve never heard. The Beach Boys are a band you just can’t avoid. You hear there songs at an early age – certain songs are simply part of Western or even World culture – you’ll hear them in movies, on TV shows, on adverts, or of course on the radio (or whatever passes for radio these days). I want to cover artists who have been around for a while – those who have had more than 5 albums – ideally more than 10. They should be people I know with a few songs I know, but who for whatever reason I have just never got into. I thought about Bob Dylan, but then I’ve never heard a Dylan song (performed by him) that I’ve really liked (I’ll admit to only hearing a tiny amount). I thought about Elvis, but Elvis is too much of a cover artist. I pondered over ABBA and The Bee Gees, but I’m not convinced on their credentials on having great albums – they’re always seen as Singles bands, right?

Anyway, I’ll probably get to those guys some day, and maybe some of their albums are covered in my Top 1000 Albums Quest. For now, I’ve picked two bands who have stood the test of time – emerging in the 1960s and still playing and recording today (sort of). It’s time to be honest – I’ve never listened to a single Beach Boys Album. I know a tonne of their songs, even ones that weren’t singles to my knowledge, but I’ve never stuck on an album and listened from start to finish. The Rolling Stones however, I have listened to many of their albums, around the same time I started properly listening to The Beatles. At that time, to my mind, there was no comparison – The Beatles were smart, funny, talented, innovative, while The Rolling Stones seemed to be playing the same old blues songs over and over with the odd exception. It’s time to go back and listen again.

Both bands have written some of my favourite songs ever, but still I’ve never been fully sucked in. It’ll be interesting to see if I find any new favourites or a new appreciation. Everyone else loves them, so it’s about time I gave them their due respect. Why not join me on my adventure and share your thoughts and memories of their albums and songs? Because you don’t like me or my musical taste? I suppose that’s fair enough….

Nightman Listens To – David Bowie – Let’s Dance!

Greetings, Glancers! Ugh, I’ve been dreading this one. Not for any understandable reason you know, but I’ve still been dreading it. Like when you went to a school disco when you were a kid and you got all concerned and sweaty even though you’d be seeing the same friends and classmates you’d seen a few hours earlier? I don’t know. Maybe it’s the title of the album that’s had me wary, along with the fact that we’re now well into the 80s – the decade when good musicians forget how to make good music. I’ve never liked the Let’s Dance song either, and I’ve been concerned the rest of the album will be similar. China Girl sounds familiar, but other than that I don’t recognise any of the songs listed. We’ve been hear many times before, but let’s dance once more.

Modern Love: Well, it starts with guitar at least, so that’s good. Uh oh, repetitive and crappy drums. Talking with accent. Garth Marenghi. Better singing, and I like the minor stuff. Neat melodies. There was this terrible pop song a few years ago which had a very similar beat and rhythm to this and now that I’m hearing this it’s clear the pop song ripped this off. It was this overplayed twee mess with… were there two singers? Thankfully I’ve put it mostly out of my memory, but did it have someone singing ‘infatuation’ over and over? Something like that. The guitar is mostly gone now, leaving jagged piano and prodding brass. It’s very poppy, but it’s good.

China Girl: Okay yes, obviously I know this one. I quite liked the main riff but the song doesn’t really lift off for me until Bowie belts out the vocals after the halfway point. It feels like a curious one-off pop single till that point – I like it, though not a favourite.

Let’s Dance: Ugh, I never liked this one. It just sounded too 80s cheese, mixed with a faux 50s rock swagger and disco sound. It’s not a bad song or anything and I like the parts of the song outside the main ‘Let’s Dance’ vocal and riff. I find it quite overplayed too.

Without You: So, this is a new one on me yet it feels familiar. I like these unassuming songs which don’t try to show off or be some big hit yet quietly do a better job. Like the previous two songs there is a prominent repeating riff, and as this is new for me it doesn’t feel annoying or overplayed. The vocals are gentle, the song is short, and it has an unexpected finish.

Ricochet: Clapping and jungle beats – two of my least favourite things. A stuttering beat and near spoken vocals. It’s certainly doing its best to not endear itself to me. Smokey jazz horns play over dissonant sounds and soundbites. It’s a bit of an experimental mess. I know what he’s going for here, but it’s nowhere near interesting enough for me to be anything more than a one time curio.

Criminal World: Another new one for me, but wait, isn’t this just China Girl again? That riff is very similar. It’s lucky the verse is slow otherwise it would have been nearly identical. There’s some deep bass funking along, the vocals are quiet. The chorus speeds up and brings the melody. Rinse and repeat, though I liked this one.

Cat People: Ah yes. I saw the remake when I was in my early teens and liked it okay if it has boobs and blood when you’re that age, it automatically gets a thumbs up. It starts with simple cymbal snaps, then a growing synth purrs its way into view. Bowie does his best deep voice – it’s all very slow and somber, like a proto-industrial piece. The build up is slow, then there’s an explosion of vocals and sound to take us into the second phase of the song – basically a heavier take on the first with added energy and drums. It’s great. We follow this with a funky instrumental section before the vocals return – this is one of Bowie’s better vocals for me. We end on a nice synthetic guitar solo and choir rendition of the chorus.

Shake It: Umm… Prince? This is very 80s and the lyrics seem like the sort of silly stuff you got back then. It’s not quite New Wave pop, but it has that vibe, tone, and sound and feels like it could have been recorded by any number of 80s groups. That’s not always a bad thing – it’s fun and it would probably be catchy after a couple of listens, but on this first hearing it doesn’t have enough to pull me in.

A mixed bag then – some good ones, some I knew, some new ones. There aren’t any songs I didn’t like, title track notwithstanding as I knew it already, but there are a couple which I didn’t care for. Mostly on the positive side then – maybe a couple I’d choose to listen to again and which would potentially be added to my playlist, but nothing immediately jumped out at me and landed on the playlist. What are your thoughts on Lets Dance? Is this the best of Bowie’s 80s offerings, or does he get better through the decade while his peers suffered? Let us know in the comments!

The Nightman Scoring System(c) – A Hard Day’s Night!

 Remember the Nightman Scoring System ©? My system for reviewing music as fairly as possible, an attempt to remove as much inherent bias as possible? That system where I break up an album into twenty evenly weighted categories so that when you score each one out of five, trying to base the score as much on fact as on opinion, you get a fair total out of 100? It’s the best scoring system in the world and you should use it. So should I in fact, hence this post. Anyway, if you want to read the rules about the system click this link and it will reveal all. There’s one for movies too, at this link. Check them both out – I say with absolutely no hyperbole that it will unquestionably change your life, make you an astonishingly brilliant human being, and also get you the ladies (regardless of your gender or orientation).

It’s number 3 and the album I consider to be when the band truly found their stride and their own voice. Check out my original review here.

Sales: 5 (Another smash hit)

Chart: 5 (Another smash hit)

Critical: 5 (The first truly great Beatles album, loved by all)

Originality: 4 (The signs of originality in playing, recording, and writing make sudden, small leaps on this record. There are no covers, giving the band the chance to show off their own abilities in full flight, though they are still finding their direction. Here they move away from the blues laden tracks on the first two albums, and make a selection of pop hits instead but give new twists and flavours on the sounds and content of such songs).

Influence: 5 (Like most of the Beatles albums, this is a huge influence on everything that came after, but this was the first album which showed that a band could do everything themselves without relying on exterior input. The variety of styles, the look and feel, the sound, the lyrics, everything here has influenced countless works since).

Musical Ability: 5 (Not only do the band solidify their playing, but they expand with new ideas, instruments, and they cement their ability to play as a group).

Lyrics: 4 (Although most of the songs still are based on love and romance, there are the odd moments and perspectives which eschew conventions and show that the writing was greatly improving).

Melody: 5 (There is a huge leap here from the first couple of albums, possibly by moving towards a more pop oriented sound, and by having free rein to write whatever they wanted. The harmonies shine through meaning that depending on whose voice you choose to listen to, each song can be heard in completely different ways).

Emotion: 4 (The band step up the emotional content bravely here by baring themselves like few groups had before, not only showing their cynicism but their unabashed love).

Resilience: 5 (Again, 50 years later it still sounds better than much of what is around today, more vital, more important, and will still be discussed in another 50).

Vocals: 4 (Each member excels again, while there are a few moments which drag my score down from maximum such as John’s eunuch moment).

Coherence: 4 (The band’s first fully original album holds together wonderfully, nothing sounds out-of-place, and the overall sense of a romantic chase and the ups and downs within is potent).

Mood: 4 (The record makes you want to dance, to sing along, to write, to pick up an instrument and play along).

Production: 5 (This is the first Beatles album which sounds like a unique Beatles album – no other band could have made these songs in this way. Everything is just right).

Effort: 5 (A lot of effort went into this, especially considering the film was being done around the same time, as well as continual writing and touring, and the mix of breathless endeavor and weariness is apparent).

Relationship: 4 (Fits nicely with the previous albums, stands on its own, and blends seamlessly into the next).

Genre Relation: 4 (It’s pop, it’s rock, it sounds like many of the bands of the time, but more importantly it sounds like it is improving upon, and almost making a mockery of those other bands).

Authenticity: 5 (It’s the sound of a band coming into their own, throwing off the shackles of convention, embracing expectation and confidently acknowledging that they will surpass all expectation. Some may go 4 here, I couldn’t accept anything lower).

Personal: 5 (Not my favourite Beatles album, but it can’t be anything less than a 5).

Miscellaneous: 5 (Great stories from the recording, an oft-imitated cover, a film which should have won several Oscars, a classic).

Total: 92/100

I mean… I’m surprised by that score. It’s by no means my favourite Beatles album but that score is almost perfect and you wonder how anything could get any better. If someone asked me to give a score out of 5, I’d say 5, out of 10 I’d probably say 10, out of 100 I suppose 90 or late 80s would have been my answer. So far my scores are on track with my personal feelings, so that either means I’m a genius or the system is balls. Or somewhere in between, who the hell knows. At the very least, this mirrors the general critical consensus, but that’s not saying much either. No matter which way you slice it, this is one of the best albums of all time and the score reflects that.

Chart Music Through The Years – 1994

Nineteen and ninety four. A year of change, for me and for the world. It was my first year in big school, meeting all these new weirdos and saw me trying to find some new people with similar tastes in music and movies. Most of my closest friends did not pass the good old 11+ exam (a British transfer test which miraculously ensures whether you get into a good school or crap school, though many could cheat and pay for the privilege) and those were the friends that I listened to Guns’n’Roses, Nirvana, and Alice Cooper with. Luckily I met a few like-minded folks, but in April Kurt Cobain decided to kill himself. After that, music sort of seemed shit. Even music I had previously loved. I went through a bit of a faff, listening to nothing, or more accurately I listened to stuff but felt no connection. Naturally that didn’t last and I fell back in love with music again.

The charts of 1994 were an odd place – we had the grunge from the US, the tail-end of 80s rock still hanging on to relevance, europop, boy bands, the continuing emergence of homegrown bedroom DJs and lady singer-songwriters singing about their lady problems. It was a wonderful diverse world away from today’s chart of Tosspot Feat. Wanker taking up every position. There was good and bad, as it should be. Elsewhere in the music world, Blur released Parklife and Oasis released Definitely Maybe, Tupak went to jail, Michael Jackson married a Presley, Jeff Buckley released Grace,  and Woodstock 94 happened. In the rest of the world, Clinton and Yeltsin made sure no nukes would be flying, Lillehammer had some Olympics, Ayrton Senna crashed and burned, The Channel Tunnel opened, and a bunch of my favourite movies were released. What of October’s Top Ten Singles?

1: Pato Banton: Baby Come Back

This is one of those one hit wonders that was everywhere this year, and another which is almost entirely self contained within the year of its release. To add to the annoyance, it was a cover too, of a song from twenty years earlier. Make things worse by throwing in people from UB40 – one of my most hated bands ever. If there’s one thing I can’t stand in music, it’s anyone who isn’t Bob Marley doing reggae. So you get all these British guys adopting this culture and accent that they may or may not have anything to do with, and making shitty sub-standard knock offs with faux accents. In short – this is terrible. The only good thing about this is that I still will randomly shout ‘but a bye bye bye bye, bada bye bye by bye’.

2: Whigfield: Saturday Night

This was a beast when it arrived, a one-hit wonder which transcended that odious nomenclature and permeated into pop culture. As a pop song it’s still perplexing as to why it became such a monster, but these are questions we’ll never find answers to. I suspect it had something to do with ecstasy. And yet, it’s a perfectly good pop/dance song. It’s repetitive as hell but there’s a cheery likeability to it, no doubt partly due to Whigfield’s smiling Scandinavian otherness. You can usually gauge a song’s true quality in direct relation to how much young girls dance to it – I have clear memories of roaming the streets near my house with my friends shortly after this was released and stumbling upon a group of girls from my school dancing and ‘doing makeup’ to it in their living room. Zoe – I’m looking at you. Somehow it remains both dreadful and not bad at the same time.

3: Bon Jovi: Always

I’ve been going through the Bon Jovi albums elsewhere on this blog and this was always one of my favourites. I loved it upon release and I happily defend it now. Yes it’s cheesy and yes it’s Bon Jovi, but as far as well written effective rock ballads go, there are few better.

4: Take That: Sure

I mean, I avoided Take That as much as I possibly could back in the day, so looking at that song name I don’t have any memory of what this is. Watching the video in the link above for the first time presents a rather creepy introduction, with the lads swarming around a child and asking if she’s ready for bed. Why in God’s name is it seven minutes long? Was this the group trying to channel Michael or Madonna and make a video which was something more than an excuse to smile and unbutton their shirts? I’m gonna have to skip forward because this is painful. Oh fuck, here comes Robbie. Three minutes and still nothing has happened. Finally the song begins and what the balls is this? What in the name of all that is holy went wrong in peoples’ lives that made anyone this happen? Arguably the most bland song I’ve ever heard – and I’ve heard Dido.

5. Michelle Gayle: Sweetness

The 80s gets all the credit for being a decade of WTF, but with stuff like this you’d be forgiven in thinking the 90s should take the hotspot. Michelle Gayle was an actress in Eastenders who had a brief series of hits after leaving the soap. That kind of thing used to happen a lot, but to her credit at least she had more than one. I never liked this, but ironically I find myself singing the chorus every so often. The weird thing is that I don’t really remember the verses and when I sing the chorus I always do it with a strange accent and a faster pace which makes me think it must have been parodied somewhere and I’m doing that version instead. Otherwise I created my own parody when it came out and that’s what’s stayed with me. It’s not very good, just your typical slice of British 90s R’n’B – read – standard pop but with a black singer instead of white.

6: R Kelly: She’s Got That Vibe

Well. I’m not sure what we can really say about R Kelly these days. If I’m honest, I don’t remember him being all that relevant before Space Jam. Or after. I didn’t know that’s who did this song. Your typical light, commercial rap bollocks. Give it credit for a catchy chorus, but keeping things honest – it’s balls.

7: Cyndi Lauper: Hey Now

I like Cyndi Lauper. This is her basically remaking her best known song Girls Just Wanna Have Fun, but with added ‘hey nows’ and a slower pace and more annoying production.

8: Snap: Welcome To Tomorrow

Snap. Is that who I’m thinking of? No. No it’s not. And once again, what the balls is this? Look at the state of that video! Even in 94 this looked worse that Liza Minelli’s feces. There aren’t strong enough words to describe how bad this is – musically, visually. I don’t remember this at all, thank fuck, and I hope by tomorrow I’ve forgotten it again. Ladies and Gentleman, may I present to you, the Human Race. Yes, this actually happened. Someone wrote this, someone made this, and people actually paid money to own it. Looking at the comments, people still enjoy it. Reasons we should get nuked #42319877. The only positive thing I can say about this is ‘hey look, that lady has her legs spread’.

9: Sting: When We Dance

Sting was apparently still alive in the 90s. Who woulda known? I do remember this one. It was okay then and it’s okay now. Still bland and uneventful, but then it is Sting.

10: Lisa Loeb: Stay

Finally, one I actually liked at the time. What’s not to like, for younger me? A hot girl with that not-quite grunge look looking at the camera and singing sweetly. It’s not great or anything, but it does have that 90s grrl charm which bled into other artists and shows I enjoyed more.

That’s definitely a snapshot of parts of my childhood right there, and definitely a look at what was popular on these shores. It’s not a great depiction of what was actually good in 1994 though – it was genuinely an excellent year for music – so here’s my alternative playlist.

1: Alice In Chains – Nutshell

2: Green Day – Basket Case

3: Oasis – Live Forever

4: Jeff Buckley – Lover, You Should Have Come Over

5: Portishead – Roads

6: Soundgarden – The Day I Tried To Live

7: Mariah Carey – All I Want For Christmas Is You

8: Tori Amos – Baker, Baker

9: Pantera – 5 Minutes Alone

10: Pink Floyd – Lost For Words

What are your favourite songs and memories of 1994? Let us know in the comments!

Nightman Listens To – Maiden Solo/Other Output

Greetings, Glancers! As many of you may know, I’ve always been a bit of a metal fan and rank Iron Maiden as one of my favourite bands. One thing I’ve never actually bothered to do though is listen to the other work by the various band members – solo or with other bands. And why the hell not? It’s probably crap, as is usually the way with these things, but I’m going to do it anyway, and you can come along for the ride. Oh yeah, I’m not going to bother with the Blaze Bailey or Paul Di’Anno stuff. I can’t be arsed. Maybe one day. For now, here’s a handy list of the albums I’ll be covering:

Bruce Dickinson: Tattooed Millionaire. Balls To Picasso. Skunkworks. Accident Of Birth. The Chemical Wedding. Tyranny Of Souls.

Samson: Survivors. Head On. Shock Tactics.

Steve Harris: British Lion. Calm Before The Storm.

Urchin: Black Leather Fantasy. She’s A Roller.

ASAP: Silver And Gold

Psycho Motel: State Of Mind. Welcome To The World.

Primal Rock Rebellion: Awoken Broken.

Streetwalkers: Downtown Flyers. Red Card.

Fish: Vigil In A Wilderness Of Mirrors

Gillan: Double Trouble. Magic. Gillan’s Inn.

Any favourites, let me know!

The Nightman Scoring System © – With The Beatles!

 

As it’s my music month, I’m going to post a few of these. Remember the Nightman Scoring System ©? My system for reviewing music as fairly as possible, an attempt to remove as much inherent bias as possible? That system where I break up an album into twenty evenly weighted categories so that when you score each one out of five, trying to base the score as much on fact as on opinion, you get a fair total out of 100? It’s the best scoring system in the world and you should use it. So should I in fact, hence this post. Anyway, if you want to read the rules about the system click this link and it will reveal all. There’s one for movies too, at this link. Check them both out – I say with absolutely no hyperbole that it will unquestionably change your life, make you an astonishingly brilliant human being, and also get you the ladies (regardless of your gender or orientation).

I continue going back over The Beatles’ albums, again, with their second UK release With The Beatles. Click this link for my original review. It’s not my favourite album of their’s – the weaker rushed out cousin to the first, but it’s still the bloody Beatles. Check out my scores below.

Sales: 5 (Like all of their albums, this was a smash hit).

Chart: 5 (Like all of their albums, this was a smash hit).

Critical: 5 (Like all of their albums, this was highly praised at the time, and is still voted as being one of the best albums of all time today. Retrospective reviews have been less positive so some people could go 4 or even 3 on this. I’m tempted to go 4, but I’ll leave it).

Originality: 3 (This is really more of the same after Please Please Me, hardly surprising when it was recorded 4 months after their debut. There isn’t any progression, which couldn’t really be expected, but even so I have to give a more average score in this category. The more lenient may go with 4 but 3 seems like the best choice).

Influence: 3 (Similar to their debut, but again the impact is decreased simply by virtue of the fact that Please Please Me was recorded first. If you’re being extra nice go 4, but I think 3 is most accurate).

Musical Ability: 4 (Again, there can’t be much progression in playing in four months, but here they solidify their various styles and ability to play together).

Lyrics: 3 (Like their debut, there isn’t a lot to speak of here for the eight original songs – another collection of love songs, this time with more focus on the darker side. They fit the music, they rhyme when they need to, and do everything else expected of simple pop tracks, and verge close at times to being much too cliche).

Melody: 3 (The original tracks here don’t quite match up to those on the debut, though there are still plenty of wonderful moments, but the covers are hit and miss. 3 -5 is the range here, but the lower ebb seems more reasonable).

Emotion: 3 (The tracks are given the full Beatles energetic treatment, and again the tracks are mostly pleasant without truly gripping us in a vice grip of emotion – no highs or lows, just playing for the love of playing).

Resilience: 5 (Again, 50 years on this is still being discussed, although the covers are not seen as definitive and the originals are not as strong as on other albums. Can’t go lower than a 3, surely).

Vocals: 4 (Lennon has stronger output here than the others, McCartney getting minus points for Till There Was You, Harrison does a good job in his first solo performance, while Ringo does a great job on his lead performance).

Coherence: 3 (This one does suffer from sounding more like a random collection of hits, although most of the tracks fit together in a gentle rock style rather than the full on energetic blast of the debut).

Mood: 3 (The mood is less distinct here than in the debut, with less of the spirit of the time coming through, and less of the japes of being a band made clear to the listener).

Production: 3 (For some reason this one sounds a little more tinny, twangy, cheaper than the debut, although every part is clear).

Effort: 3 (Not as high a score as the debut as many of these tracks were leftovers or basic covers of already oft covered hits, but by and large the band give it their all in the playing).

Relationship: 3 (The songs here don’t clasp on to the listener as firmly as those on the debut, although this does sound like the slightly uglier twin of Please Please Me and fits well with the early set of Beatles records).

Genre Relation: 4 (More of the same, with the band treading familiar water to other bands of the time, yet not truly striking out on their own).

Authenticity: 3 (Unlike the debut, this sounds and feels more like a cash in on recent success rather than a true Beatles album, although there are enough twists and moments to prevent it from sounding like any other band or a band at odds with themselves).

Personal: 3 (It’s not a great album in any respect in my eyes, with much less punch than the debut, less ideas, less passion, but still plenty of strong songs. Hardcore fans will go 4 or 5, I can understand the 4 but 5 seems like a lie. Only haters will give less than a 3).

Miscellaneous: 3 (Nice cover work again, not much else to say here. As always, this will range from 1-5 for the individual).

Total: 71/100

A lesser album in my eyes than the original, and the overall score reflects that, knocking it down to a mid-B grade if we’re talking more traditional scoring. I should have said in the previous post that some people will disagree with the 20% per grade scoring. Usually I wouldn’t do things that way either, and most schools etc don’t follow that pattern, but that opens a different can of worms;  Should A grade only be 90-100, or 85-100? Should it fall like 0-30 is an E, 31-45 is a D, 46-69 is a C, 70-84 is a B? Who knows? What I will say is that you can’t give a 0 in any category, so even if you score 1 in each category, you still score 20/100. That’s the lowest possible, and I can’t see anyone getting it so maybe an E grade should be 30? Regardless, that’s not what we’re here for – I’m just giving a score out of 100 so I’ll leave any grading to your personal tastes. Once I’ve scores a few more albums, you’ll see a pattern emerge between them.

In any case, this score seems okay. If I wasn’t using these categories and was asked to give a score out of 100 for this album, depending on the day I think I’d give anywhere between high 60s and high 70s. I don’t think I’d ever go 80 or above. Let us know in the comments how you would score the album based on the system – I’m curious to see how other scores fit and if any patterns emerge.

Nightman Listens To – Blood, Sweat, And Tears (Top 1000 Series)!

Blood, Sweat, And Tears – are they a spin off of Earth, Wind, And Fire? Nobody knows. One thing is for sure, it has been blood, sweat, and tears listening to some of these so-called best albums ever. Hilarious! Now that the shite is out of the way, I’ll be honest and say I don’t know anything this band or album and I’m not sure I’ve even heard of them. That should make the next piece easy…

What Do I Know About Blood, Sweat, And Tears (band): Nowt

What Do I Know About Blood, Sweat, And Tears (album): Less than nowt.

Lets go.. the tracklisting doesn’t fill me with confidence but as the timeless saying goes ‘don’t judge a song by its shitty name’.

Variations On A Theme: Soft. Flutey, guitary. Quite nice. Feels like I’ve heard this before, once upon a dream. That it? Twinkles.

Smiling Phases: Jazz explosion. Organ. Drums. Funky. Vocals like Baywatch. Chaotic. Drum collapse. Good piano in middle. Lots of shifts. I actually typed ‘lots of shits’ first. It’s all over the place now, but just clinging on – I can dig this amount of jazz. Not much brass so far, so I’m good. Here come da brass. Regal. Back to vocals. Slowing. Drum disaster. End.

Sometimes In Winter: More standard soft jazz into. The flutey stuff gives it a smoother edge which I prefer. Not sure about the vocals, not very exciting or expressive – then I’m not a fan of smooth vocals. This is okay, a little plain, would be served better by a different singer. Some nice parts, lyrics better than vocals, but average all round.

More And More: Trumps. Funky. James Brown. Vocals okay. This has a harder edge, no doubt influenced by the rock of the era. Drum breakdown. Guitar jump scare. Lots of screams. See, again I can enjoy this level of jazz because its so infused with other styles. Sudden end.

And When I Die: Harmonica. Then turns into a jaunty circus pirate song. Faster. Tempo bouncing around. Funny organ. More. Yee ha. Happy songs about dying are probably hard to come by. Slower. Faster. Slower. Faster. End.

God Bless The Child: Slower. Swing. Too many trumpets. Religion. Everyone has covered this. Still not convinced by the vocals. Too slow and dreary for me. Piano shift. Foot tapping time. Turned into a completely different song. Crazy trump solo. More brass. Back to slow and harmonica. End.

Spinning Wheel: Honk in. Pretty sure I’ve heard this before. Vocals better again when gruff. Superman. Fart Trump. As commercial as such a mixture could possibly be. Flute weirdo moment. Going A Day In The Life. Laughs.

You’ve Made Me So Very Happy: More dodgy vocals. Whispery organ and sudden trump blasts. He’s better on the big notes. Not bad, just not my style. Seems a little cheesy, but the edge keeps it on the straight and narrow. More organ bits. The mix of jazz and funk and rock somehow works.

Blues Part II: 12 minutes, eh? Lets be havin’ ya. Organ, obviously, you’ve gots to start a 12 minute song with some organ. Tune’s struggling to come through. Meandering for now. Tune now. Ascending. Swirling. Faster. Where’s the beat. Trumpet disaster. Now beat. Bass. Very loose. Drums. Everyone’s getting a turn. Brass and bass. It goes on. And On. Sunshine Of My Love. Vocals.

Variations On A Theme: Is this the same thing again? Sure sounds like it.

What Did I Think: So, I see now that this was actually mostly a covers album, or at least features several covers.  That explains why some parts seemed familiar. Looking down the page on Wikipedia I see that a few of the songs were either outright covers or included some piece written by someone else. I’m not overly familiar with any of the originals so I can’t speak for how they have been adapted and translated. In the end though, I mostly liked it – no-one is more surprised than I am. It’s not something I see myself ever coming back to, but I enjoyed the energy. I do think the vocals could have done with a shake up, but that’s just me.

Does It Deserve A Place On The Top 1000 Albums of All Time: It’s another instance of the album not being immediately amazing to me to justify its inclusion, yet not obviously bad or average enough to cast it down outright. I can’t imagine this being massively influential – at least from a long-lasting perspective, but I can understand why it was a hit and is highly regarded. Not my thing, but when I can still enjoy something that is not my thing, then it must be doing something right.

Let us know in the comments if you have any particular love for Blood, Sweat, And Tears, and if you have any special memories attached to it.

The Nightman Scoring System © – Please Please Me!

 

February is music month for The Spac Hole, for no reason other than I’ve written a crapload of posts about music and what to clean out my drafts section. As it’s music month, I’m going to post a few of these. Remember the Nightman Scoring System ©? My system for reviewing music as fairly as possible, an attempt to remove as much inherent bias as possible? That system where I break up an album into twenty evenly weighted categories so that when you score each one out of five, trying to base the score as much on fact as on opinion, you get a fair total out of 100? It’s the best scoring system in the world and you should use it. So should I in fact, hence this post. Anyway, if you want to read the rules about the system click this link and it will reveal all. There’s one for movies too, at this link. Check them both out – I say with absolutely no hyperbole that it will unquestionably change your life, make you an astonishingly brilliant human being, and also get you the ladies (regardless of your gender or orientation).

This time I’m doing the first album by those purveyors of peace, The B Sharps, and their first album Please Please Me. If you want to check out my actual review of their album – check this link. We start with The Beatles because – everyone knows them, and they are kind of the benchmark for all modern music and for the album as a format. Every band is measured against The Beatles in terms of success and acclaim, so if I can score all of their albums we can see how everyone else competes. As for my score, based on the system, read on my friend.

Sales: 5 (Like most Beatles albums this sold roughly a bazillion copies, and while it may not have sold as well as their others, I don’t think you can score this less than a 5).

Chart: 5 (Like most Beatles albums, this went to Number 1 in roughly a bazillion countries, at least where the concept of charts existed. Again, no way you can score this less than a 5).

Critical: 5 (Although later releases garnered much greater critical success, this was lauded at the time, and is still praised now, 50 years later, so it can’t really be any less than a 5. If you’re being very strict and comparing it to their other work in terms of critical consensus, then maybe you can go with a 4).

Originality: 3 (The band, even on their debut, were experimenting with what it meant to record, release, and BE an album, but still the old tropes of including covers to bump up the number of tracks were used. The idea of a band writing all their own tracks and playing own instruments was not quite there yet, but we can see the beginnings here. As for the songs, there isn’t a huge much of originality. I can see people going higher than a 3, but in truth this echoed much of fifties rock, albeit with a new sensibility).

Influence: 4 (The first Beatles albums were released in such quick succession, so it’s difficult to determine which album truly was the most influential. Nevertheless, the whole idea of the band, the recording, the playing style etc etc is on display here and primarily went on to influence a whole host of local and international imitators. People who think their stronger influences came later may go lower).

Musical Ability: 4 (While there isn’t anything terribly difficult or complex here, the playing is almost brutal in its energy, showing an extreme ease and comfort to the playing – signs that they could do a lot more if called for, even if it was not called for here. I can see hardcore musicians going lower on this, and general fans who may not have a technical background going higher).

Lyrics: 3 (The original songs are mostly a collection of love songs, either highlighting the joys, pitfalls, or depressions of the feeling. The lyrical genius was still brewing, but there are moments which show what was around the corner. Not to sound condescending, but those with less of a literary background or who don’t usually pay attention to lyrics may go higher, likewise snobs may go lower).

Melody: 4 (With neat twists on the covers, and a solid run of infectious originals, the melodies are strong, but not yet reaching the peaks which would come later. I imagine most will go four or five here, I don’t think you could go lower than three).

Emotion: 3 (There isn’t a great amount of emotional content here, most of the focus being on raw energy and the sheer joy of playing, but again there are moments of cynicism and tenderness. The soppy and the big fans or those with nostalgia will go higher, but 3-4 seems the most accurate).

Resilience: 5 (I’ve changed the name of this category – basically means how long does the music last over time – do we still care one or five years later? Fifty years on we are still listening to it, and although it doesn’t hold up as well as some other Beatles albums, how many other fifty year old albums do so many people still listen to? If you’re being harsh and saying most people only listen to a handful of songs rather than the whole album, you could go with four but I can’t see anyone going lower).

Vocals: 4 (There are a few tame, lame moments here, but on the whole this is powerful stuff, from McCartney’s stonking opener, to Lennon’s growling closer. The harmonies work well, still a work in progress, but all the hallmarks of their best moments are on display. Hardcore fans will likely go five regardless, and I doubt anyone would go less than four).

Coherence: 4 (Whilst not yet an album as an art form, this is definitely more than just a collection of hits and covers largely held together by the group’s energy and synergy – having played and toured together for some time, these songs roll out of the studio easily and almost feel like a set list. While some of the covers can sound out of place, it is the original hits which pull the album together, highlighting a growing writing partnership. This category will be difficult for some to understand and could garner some anomalies, but three to five should be the norm).

Mood: 3 (I don’t think the band set out to create one mood or style with their debut, again that would come later, but most of the tracks succeed in what they want to achieve – the rockers make us want to rock, the pop ones make us sing along, while the more downbeat tracks are the weaker link, leaving us uncertain).

Production: 4 (Again this feels loose, almost like a live record, and the little touches and ‘mistakes’ left in lend a charming quality where they would normally grate. The frenetic pace of the album soaks through, partly down to the lightning fast recording of the album. Nothing is drowned out, and this feels like one of the first true, raw, rock albums, leaving behind the crooners of the past. Like some of the categories, Production can be reliant on personal taste so the scores here could vary).

Effort: 4 (Most of the effort which went into the making of this album came in the preceding months and years of touring and perfecting their craft, meaning that the recording, while fast and frantic, was largely problem free. Then again, the schedule was frantic, and the band were able to decide upon the likes of Twist And Shout as new entries for the album. This one is a difficult one to gauge without a lot of investigation so people will most likely go with gut feeling and what info they have).

Relationship: 4 (This is the atypical early Beatles album, and the surrounding releases are in the same vein. Being born two decades after it was released means it’s not the easiest thing to relate to, but for those around at the time, this was symbolic of the spirit of swinging 60s Liverpool and of the many bands who were plying their trade in the clubs and pubs around the Mersey. Four or five seem the most obvious votes).

Genre Relation: 4 (Many merseybeat bands were trying to make it big around the time this was released, and while many had regular gigs, fans, and the occasional hit single, Please Please Me took the genre to the next level. It is a merge of pop, rock, and blues, combining a variety of styles to create what would become one of the first true rock albums. The Beatles would continue to improve upon this with each release, and many people took this as their inspiration to start a ‘rock band’).

Authenticity: 5 (Possibly the most authentic album in the Beatles catalogue, this is the true sound of a band eager to make an impact, to make it big, and to play for the love of playing. They take no prisoners with their style, the ‘mistakes’ mentioned earlier are left in to give a more true account of what it is to be an artist. It would look unreasonable to give this less than a 5).

Personal: 4 (This is unlikely to be picked by many as the best Beatles album, but as a debut there are few better, or with such an impact. If only some of the lesser covers had been replaced by some of the stronger original material which was left off, this would have been a 5 in my eyes. I do skip quite a few songs when I listen, so it can’t be a five for me).

Misc: 4 (Memorable album cover, interesting liner notes, a lot of history and background, make me give a 4 in the vague, miscellaneous category. I imagine this category will be used by most as an additional personal category/cheat and an excuse to bump up an album they love or hold back one they don’t.)

Total: 81/100

There we have it – our first baseline – the first album by the band most consider as the best ever, gets an 81. I think I’ve been fair and logical in my assessments and while 81 sounds low, I think it is valid. If we break down our score into standard even A-E grades, 81-100 would be classed as an A, or an overall 5/5. I personally think it’s only a B grade Album, both in terms of their own work and music in general, and that most scores are inflated by the band’s significance, an 81 or A grade is fine. They just scraped in. Of course with this hitting the highest grade, I imagine my scores for most of the subsequent albums will also fall within this tier, with probably two or three falling slightly lower.

What do you think of the album? What do you think of the system? How do you grade, and how many minutes will it take you to realise the error of your ways and adopt my system instead? Let us know in the comments!

Chart Music Through The Years – 1964

Yes! Back thanks to an almost universal lack of demand, I stretch back the scalp of time and feast upon the mushy innards of the past – in this instance I return to the UK music charts. If you’re interested, you can read my original post here – https://carlosnightman.wordpress.com/2015/10/22/the-uk-top-40/

Greetings, Glancers! We go back approximately 20 years before I was born to check out what the kids were listening to in October 1964. 1964, if you know your music history, was a seminal year. The Beatles landed in the US for the first time, TOTP was shown for the first time in The UK, Keith Moon joined The Who, The Rolling Stones released their first album, Sam Cooke, died, and a bunch of hit songs were released, some of which we’ll cover below.

Elsewhere in the world, Charlie And The Chocolate Factory was published, Cuba and the US arsed about, Cassius Clay beat Sonny Liston, the first Ford Mustang was created, Nelson Mandela went to prison, and many riots and protests abounded all around the globe. It was a British invasion in most areas of culture – from music to movies to fashion and sport. I’m actually shocked that the Top 10 below doesn’t contain a single Beatles song but it does contain a mixture of new rock groups, Motown, and holdovers from the era which was on its way out. I know a few of these and as always I’ll probably recognise others once I hit play. So let’s hit play!

  1. Roy Orbison: Oh Pretty Woman

Oh right. I thought it might be this, but I never realised it was actually called ‘Oh Pretty Woman’. Isn’t it just ‘Pretty Woman’? Either way, it’s a timeless pop song. Obviously it’s routed in the 50s, but it’s basically perfect. What more could you need from a pop song – you can sing along easily, you recognize it by hearing any single second, it’s instantly catchy, and there isn’t a note out of place.

2. Herman’s Hermits: I’m Into Something Good

I bet this is the ham song, right? Denny’s ham? That’s an Irish reference which only Irish readers are going to get. It’s happy clappy anyway. Everyone knows this though, another timeless one, more flawless pop. It’s a little bit Beach Boys, what with those harmonies, but there’s something a bit more quirky to it. Apparently the scum sing this at their games. Yeah, like they have anything to sing about these days. Anyway, another good song.

3. The Supremes: Where Did Our Love Go

It’s pretty woman again, with that steady clappy intro. Seriously, compare these three songs with any three songs int he charts today. No comparison right? Sure they’re a little twee and innocent, but musically, melodically, vocally these songs wipe the floor with any of today’s chart wank. Plus, you already know this song. Even if you’ve never heard it, you know it. Today’s songs won’t last. For proof of that, the chart songs of 10 years ago haven’t lasted. This shit is over 50 years old and it’s still awesome. Too short though and doesn’t have a lot of (any) variety.

4. 

Julie Rogers: The Wedding

I have no idea what this is, so I’ll assume it’s Country. Nope, doesn’t sound Country. Well, the vocals could be, musically not really. Musically this is incredibly old fashioned. There’s a slight touch of Shirley Bassey here. Ave Maria. Strings. Explosion. Yeah, I’ve never heard this. Love how the drummer is going batshit. Vocals blasting away. I’m not sure what this is, but I can’t help but enjoy it just because of the sheer power of the performances. It’s not as catchy as the ones above but the gal and her gang knock it out of the park.

5. The Four Seasons: Rag Doll

Bum bum-bum. Bum bum-bum. More Beach Boys. What movie is this in….it’s all lovely. It sounds familiar but I don’t think I’ve heard it. Those highs are just on the right side of grating. Those oohs are damn catchy. The guitars are weird, can’t really hear them in this mix. The highs are making me think of Jim Carrey in The Cable Guy – the Star Trek bit? yeah, you know.

6. The Bachelors: I Wouldn’t Trade You For The World

Jeepers, more ooh-oohs. Ha ha, even trying to sound like The Beatles vocals. For about two seconds. It’s a little bit Country. Throw in some strings and I don’t care. The lyrics are cheesy as a tramp’s toe. Instrumental. Vocal disaster for last note. Yeah, fine, it’s another decent song but a little (bit) bit too simpering and soft.

7. The Searchers: When You Walk In The Room

Should this be ‘walk into the room’. Or is this just about someone walking around in a room. Like ‘when you walk in the room you keep blocking the TV, sit the fuck down cos I’m trying to watch Jessica Jones’?  BassThere’s the guitar. I know that riff. More harmonies, more melodies. It’s another toe tapper alright. The Youtube comments on these songs are hilarious – ‘this is REAL music, not like today’s crap’. I’ve already made that point too of course. The difference is I don’t care, or don’t want to care about the age or the genre – I just want it to be good – doesn’t matter if it’s a day old or five decades – good is good. This is good. There is less good in today’s charts. But it’s okay, as there is plenty of good outside the charts.

8. The Animals: I’m Crying

Ha ha, this guy’s Youtube channel is ‘Back When Music Was Good’. What’s the point in even being alive if you believe that? Yeah, go back to the 60s with your wars, rampant unemployment, lack of rights, and no internets. Actually that sounds exactly like 2017 apart from the internets. It’s a fast paced boyo, with organ and deep vocals, and yet it isn’t The Doors. It has an edge, as you’d expect from The Animals, it’s a little bit manic, but it lacks some melody outside of the ahh ahhs. Still, another good’un.

9. The Hollies: We’re Through

Everyone loves The Hollies, right? Listen to that guitar, great stuff. A fast paced rocker like early Beatles covers, this is frantic in every sense – the vocals wobble all over the place, the guitar and bass wrestle for attention, and the drums chatter away like the teeth of a frostbitten fool. It’s isn’t their most catchy or immediate song, but still good.

10. Jim Reeves: I Won’t Forget You

Well, I knew it couldn’t last. Still, this isn’t as horrible as I was forgetting. It’s pretty bleak even with the sentiment. Pure, clean vocals. It’s very plain and easy, a little bit Country, a little bit Calypso, very slow and simple, and there’s always going to be a market for it. Not my thing, but it’s harmless.

Well, that was very good – probably the best Top Ten I’ve covered yet in this series of posts. I’m not going to bother posting an alternate Top 10, partly because I don’t know enough about the other songs released, and partly because any alternate top 10 would include some of the artists above anyway. The obvious other recommendations would be The Beatles – take your pick from I Want To Hold Your Hand, A Hard Day’s Night, Can’t Buy Me Love – and also throw in some Beach Boys, Stones, Kinks etc. There’s something for everyone up above, except idiots, and even then some of the songs here are good enough to even interest the most staunch idiot.

Let us know in the comments which of the songs above you love, and if any other hits or otherwise from 1964 float your yacht!