Nightman Listens To – Madonna – Confessions On The Dancefloor!

Greetings, Glancers! So, I’ve been dreading this one. Based on the title alone, and the album cover, and the song I know from it, and the other information I have on the album – namely that it’s very dance heavy – all adds up to make me wary of it. I don’t generally do dance music, unless it’s clever or exceptional. Most dance music to me has always been repetitive, brain dead garbage. I have not interest in listening to music for dancing or moving in any way, shape, or form. I want emotion from music or creativity or quality or technical ability, and I almost never get that from dance music. The only confession I would ever give on the dancefloor would be that I despise everyone around me. Having said that, Madonna has been successful before in merging music you can dance to with feeling and quality. If anyone can do it, she can.

Hung Up: This is the one I know – I remember ridiculing it quite a bit when it came out and annoying some of my Madonna superfan friends by proclaiming that she hadn’t been relevant since Ray Of Light. Come to think of it, I don’t really see those friends anymore. Was it something I said? To give it its due credit, that main refrain is stupidly catchy – the vocals and the musical piece both standalone and work together. It’s just that it was so overplayed at the time that I can’t separate my feelings about it and the idiots who played it constantly from how good or bad it actually is. On the plus side it feels like Blondie and it isn’t completely dumb – it isn’t hampered by novelty studio sounds which would date it or piss me off. The verses aren’t bad, same goes for the bridge. If I was only hearing this song for the first time I would probably have a better opinion of it, but it still has that stench of over-saturation around it.

Get Together: This begins pretty much from where the last one let off, and expands itself in an encouraging way. It’s clearly in the realms of dance but not so far gone to keep me at a distance. Once the verse comes through I remember hearing this. I don’t recall where I heard this, presumably at some clubs or on radios. I don’t even remember if I knew this was Madonna at the time. It didn’t have that much of an impact on me. I like it well enough – I wouldn’t go out of my way to put it on, but I wouldn’t turn it off the second I heard it. I wouldn’t call this a nice surprise per say, given that I’ve heard it before, but I had forgotten all about it, so it’s a nice reminder.

Sorry: Again this merges with the previous track, opening with a swell of strings and some French words. Then the underswelling of dance stuff begins to grow and again I remember this one. I’m not sure how I forgot this one as it was pretty huge too. You still hear it now. It’s another stupidly catchy chorus, and the verses aren’t bad either. Maybe enough time has passed now that this and the last song aren’t as annoying to me now as they were then – unlike the opener. It’s another good song, and not the sort of thing I usually listen to. A very consistent album so far, in terms of quality and sound and theme. The middle could have had 30 seconds shaved off as it begins to become too repetitive, though I get this is meant to be an album to dance and lose yourself to so you have to allow for some repetition.

Future Lovers: It goes without saying that this merges with the last. That helps with the consistency and making the whole thing feel like a journey or one big orgiastic trip. I can see people getting off their tits and putting the whole record on in a single take like the hippies would have done with DSOTM. The Blondie feel is there too. I was worrying this was all going to be spoken, but it’s just an extended intro for 90 seconds. It feels pretty familiar, but I don’t think I would have ever heard this. Decent enough melodies and there’s a cyclical nature to it all which aids in the trance-like tone of the whole. The most experimental track so far, but also the one which would benefit most from being cut a little.

I Love New York: You know the drill. This one has the feeling of rocking out onto the dancefloor, or maybe walking out of the club and heading down the street with all the smells and sights and sounds of city night in the air. Who knows. When I listen to stuff I get transported to imagined places. The lyrics are a little crappy. It’s an ode to New York, but the words are very juvenile – basic rhyming for kids. It’s not great and I’m probably enjoying it more because it’s shiny and new to me. Inconsequential, but fine.

Let It Will Be: You should by now that I love a string section in pop/rock music. That’s how this one starts. When it comes to dance music, I prefer the lower, darker, pulsating stuff over shouty, high-paced stuff. This ticks both those boxes, while also producing a tidy, repetitive melody. Madonna is singing about fame again, though I’m not paying much attention to the lyrics first time around. As I’m such a big lyrics guy, I should probably watch the lyrics videos when I’m listening for these posts. This is a better than average album track – it doesn’t go far enough in terms of melody or emotion to knock it into the upper echelons of her music, but it’s still better than I was expecting when I saw this album was up next in my journey.

Forbidden Love: Another point about me and dance music – I really only appreciate that type of music if it’s something I can enjoy listening to on its own merits – not in a club, not as a means to throw yourself around in some strange mating ritual. Dance music made only to make you dance is useless to me. Again, this song and album is more or less striking the balance. I could see myself, or at least my younger self dancing to this, and I can enjoy listening to it too. The consistency strikes once more – the tone, energy, feeling, melody, atmosphere staying true from song to song. I could do without the effects on the vocals, but it’s not as bad as some. It’s great that Madonna is still able to concoct melodies which speak to me after all this time.

Jump: A nice countdown from the last track into this. You know I don’t like spoken parts in songs, and Madonna’s lower tone vocals usually don’t work for me. They’re fine here. Actually, I may have heard this before, it sounds familiar, unless it’s similar to an older song. Pretty sure I have heard that chorus before, maybe it was used in some movie or TV show. The lyrics seem to be about sisterhood/family and not being afraid to take chances – basic inspirational stuff. Another ‘almost good song’, like B minus territory for me.

How High: Digital sounds and beats and synth voices. A growing beat. Robots on the march. Interesting vocal choices. I assume she’s singing about herself and the sacrifices made in the pursuit and achieving of fame. Then it all goes a bit existential. Melodies are okay for simple pop, but they’re bolstered by all of the studio trickery going on around them. More like a C grade song. She mentions how people bitch about her – that’s always going to be one price of fame, but I’d wager many more people love her than hate her. I bitch about her too, but only when she’s rubbish. She’s made a career out of being awesome, so why should she give a shit.

Isaac: Looks like a long one. Oh no. I’ve never liked that Asian/Arabic/Hebrew type of singing. I’m not sure why, it’s always felt, well, like crap to me. The beat builds and the verse starts so lets hope that Asian stuff doesn’t come back. Verses are good. Oh no, the crap is back for the chorus. I assume this is meant to add some sort of mysticism or oriental feel to the song, but it loses me. It sounds like a guy forcing out a particularly cumbersome turd while a wasp enters his eye socket. Everything else in the song is good – not great, not up to the standards of her experiments on Ray Of Light, but at least approaching that quality. For a six minute song, there isn’t much to it.

Push: There are the remnants of the oriental stuff here in terms of the drum and the rhythm – there’s that consistency again. It’s among the slower songs on the album. The music is very clipped – it surges in and withdraws like a suction cup. The vocal refrain goes on and on and over and over and the song barely changes over it’s four minutes. There’s a better song here, or at least parts of this could have been used to create a better song, with all the rest abandoned.

Like It Or Not: Lets hope we can close with a banger. It’s off to a good start with a swell of strings and some, dare I say it, Iron Maiden-esque riff melody. Then the beat drops and I wonder why the hell they would do that. The music and melody surrounding the beat do their best to make me ignore how silly the drum sound is. It’s all quite slow paced. There are still parts I like – the building of the pre-chorus and some of the guitar and string pieces. The chorus melody is almost something I like – not something I dislike, adding up to another high C grade song.

Overall another pleasant surprise from Madonna. I was not expecting to like this at all but the fantastic first half of the album made me look like a fool. The second half steadily withdraws into more mediocre territory as she tries to experiment – I appreciate the attempts, but they didn’t succeed where I’m concerned. I think a lot of people will like the second half as much as the first, but it wasn’t for me. Even with the album being of two halves, it is still consistent. While the songs get weaker in the back end they still commit to the same tone and atmosphere making this clearly a concept album, or more accurately an album designed to be played in a single sitting. Like the best albums of that kind, many of the individual songs are also good enough to stand on their own too. I’ve no idea where she goes from here. Let us know in the comments what you think of Confessions On The Dancefloor!

Nightman’s Playlist Picks: Get Together. Sorry. Future Lovers.

Nightman Listens To – David Bowie – Never Let Me Down!

Greetings, Glancers! Now this is interesting – it’s a Bowie album I haven’t even heard of. Therefore I’m assuming the worst. Plus it was released in the 80s, so assuming ‘the worst’ may be too positive. Hardcore fans may notice that I skipped over Mr Bowie’s Labyrinth Soundtrack album. That’s correct. I’m familiar enough with it that I don’t need to listen to it for the blog. Never Let Me Down though, I don’t recognise a single song from looking down the tracklist. Life is all about new experiences, people, even if they’re shit. Lets hope this isn’t shit.

Day In Day Out: A heavy synth and guitar crunch gives way to a horrible 80s sound. Bad drums, bad beat, bad horns. Backing vocals aren’t so bad. Bowie’s giving it some welly on the mic. I can see plenty of people grooving to this, but equally I can see Bowie fans hating this. It’s just a bullseye shot of all the things I don’t like about 80s music.

Time Will Crawl: This gets off to an immediately better start – the drums are absolutely huge and don’t quite have that 80s sound I don’t like. Much better verse melodies this time, and they carry through to the chorus. I like the keyboard pieces – even though they’re repetitive they are quite atmospheric and aid the pumping, urgent rhythm. This is a song I’ve never heard before, but on first listen it flies up my personal Bowie song ranking.

Beat Of Your Drum: A beeping synth intro, then drums and sounds which make me think of a hundred 80s action movie soundtracks. That’s a good thing. Some extra synth omes in when Bowie begins singing and completely changes the tone of the song, which is not a good thing. The pre-chorus is better than the verse, offering yet another style, the chorus is okay but gets boring quickly, then we return briefly to the intro. A bit of a mixture of things I like and things I don’t then.

Never Let Me Down: Another good intro, starts almost like a power ballad then the harmonica wipes those thoughts away. Then the verse and vocals bring it back and feels as close to a mainstream love song as Bowie has ever done. It’s actually quite sweet, but I get the impression that he’s taking the piss. The chorus doesn’t quite do great things – it starts well but veers too much into funk instead of continuing the maudlin melancholy pop. Still, it’s one I’d like to hear again.

Zeroes: Starts with weird crowd noise. Is that even crowd noise? No, it’s some sort of effect to make it sound as if it’s a live performance. Once the main beat comes in the song picks up and gives me hope. Great, simple verse melody with nice backing vocals and sitar type stuff. A pretty fantastic chorus – not sure I’d remember it after one listen. There’s enough for me to enjoy here, but the melody isn’t something which will latch on easily. That’s a few songs here already I’ve liked, surprising after that terrible start. The final couple of minutes of this one are unnecessary.

Glass Spider: An atmospheric intro. A spoken intro. At least Bowie has a good voice for speaking theatrically. Feels like it could have been on the Labyrinth soundtrack. The music is nifty. Then it all goes wrong when the spoken part ends. Silly bouncy bass synth and strained vocals. The backing music tries to keep things from falling off the cliff into garbage. Miraculously it is saved and dragged back from the cliff edge and gets pretty good again. Bits and pieces of greatness, diluted by some nonsense.

Shining Star: Another strong, atmospheric intro. Then it descends into pure 80s silliness. Yet it works, for me at least. The verses are funny and energetic, the pre-chorus is bland, and the chorus is okay. That muted guitar sound and pace drives the song – the drum sounds are like someone stomping on a bag of crisps. The spoken piece makes me think of Miss Europa Disco Dancer – Nicky’s part.

New York’s In Love: This one starts more like the first song, stepping into dodgy territory. It’s very reminiscent of other 80s dance/pop hits. Some of the twinkling synth and guitar stuff makes it bearable but it’s not for me. It does have an extended guitar section at the end but the song feels much longer than it is.

87 And Cry: Now what the hell is this. It definitely reminds me of another 80s song…. Danger Zone? Footloose? Some sort of Loggins? The main riff is also quite similar to G’n’R’s You’re Crazy. Verses don’t have much going on, the chorus a little better.

Too Dizzy: Oh no, there’s the horrible 80s drums. Then it has some hilarious horns to make it sound like an 80s sitcom or game show. The verse is fun, light-hearted nonsense, and the chorus continues the theme. I’m not sure what’s going on with this album, it’s all over the place. It’s fine, just feels like another pop song, with extra sax.

Bang Bang: Throngs, then big 80s drums. Some words. Then good guitar and atmosphere. Then horns. Lets hope we close on a high. One of my famous chord sequences in use here. He flips it around by including unusual pauses. I probably like this so much because of that chord sequence which makes me think of one of my one songs. Great guitar in there. Oh, turns out this is another Iggy cover.

I’m not sure what to make of this one – some really embarrassing stuff, some very 80s pop songs, but also some really good stuff too. I’d like to know what Bowie fans think of this – I’m probably not as negative towards this album as some will be, mainly because I’m not a big fan of the glam stuff which his fans love. He’s gone again for some new sounds and styles, while still keeping his brass and harmonica close by. Some songs I’ve already forgotten, but a few I’ll be adding to my playlist. Let me know what you think of Never Let Me Down in the comments!

Nightman’s Playlist Picks: Time Will Crawl, Never Let Me Down, Zeroes, Glass Spider, There Goes My Baby.

Nightman Listens To – A-Tom-Ic Jones – Tom Jones (1966 Series)!

Greetings, Glancers! It’s only two posts in but I’m already regretting this decision. Old snake hips himself, the man with the thunder balls and golden tonsils – Tom Jones – who has been accepting thrown panties in his face for 6 decades now. Imagine your grandad up on stage, belting one out while a size twelve silk thong plops onto his cheek and drapes down his chin. It’s tough being a star, folks.

So Thomas Jones… I can’t say I’m a fan. I’ve nothing at all against the big lad (apart from that awful ‘burning down the house’ song he did) and all of his big songs – Delilah, It’s Not Unusual and the like are good for singing when you’re six bottles down and halfway to gutterville. He even did a song with the Manic Street Preachers, which isn’t half bad. This will be the first time I embark on a full album by him though and I’m not sure I can cope with his booming voice for so long. Maybe the songs will be good, who knows. Hilariously, the US cover for this album had to be replaced to remove the nuclear mushroom cloud in the background which Tom has presumably unleashed from his sphincter as he forces out a particularly high note, because in 1966 the US were scared of bombs. Pff, try living in Belfast guys – I can’t get to sleep if there isn’t a bomb going off.

Dr. Love: Well now, this gets off to an explosive start with booming horns and young Tom turned up to twelve. The lyrics are pretty saucy too. The chorus is too plain for his vocal approach. He’s spicing up the vocals in the verses with a series of growls and whispers. The backing vocals try to give the whole thing a Motown feel for the chorus, but still too plain. Ha – love-itis. A good start.

Face Of A Loser: Opens with a Dusty Springfield swing. A softer vocal approach. Slightly. Plenty more horns. More backing vocals for the chorus. It’s a better chorus this time, except I wish they would have continued down the scale when singing ‘lo-oh-oh-oh-ser’. That would have opened up the melody a little. Good verse melodies though, I could see myself singing this in the shower or to the bald train conductor whose face looks like the back of his head. Ah right, that’s a personal reference. Belts out those final notes.

It’s Been A Long Time Coming: I expected a lot of brass in this album, and boy am I getting it. I’m not a brass fan in general, hasn’t got on my nerve yet. This has a clear blues feel. I assume all of these songs had been recorded by others before Tom, but I don’t know any of them. It’s hard hearing this without thinking of Long Time Coming by The Delays. Check out that song, it’s great. This is too slow for my liking, those slow blues numbers never really work for me unless there’s some devilish guitar to slice my skin off. He lets off a great screech though, Little Richard style.

In A Woman’s Eyes: Horns, you know it. A touch of guitar. More of a rambling verse this time, with the melody held for the chorus. Great bridge though. ‘In a woman’s eyes I’m everything a man should be’. Watch that ego there, Tom, you’ll poke your eye out.

More: Hmm, reminiscent of a young Michael Jackson song. Violins to accompany the horns. Ahhh, that’s why I know this – it’s from Mondo Cane. I always thought that was a bizarre piece of music to accompany a film about force-feeding and tit-showing, and other strange human practices, but then the lovely music Riz made for Cannibal Holocause doesn’t exactly fit the story, at least on the surface.

I’ll Never Let You Go: Slow horns. A plain and simple verse melody. There hasn’t been a bad song yet, that’s good. A little samey maybe, but that’s the audience. This is middle album fare and doesn’t challenge. None of the songs are over three minutes, so they’re straight to the point and gone before I can get too pissed off. With a weaker voice the songs would feel much less significant.

The Loser: Another slow one, come on I want the up-tempo boy-os. Quite a few of these songs feel like they should be performed by women instead. I don’t mean that in any sort of condescending or sexist way – I just mean that in the climate of the mid-sixties these songs are exactly what solo female vocalists were singing so they feel strange coming from Tom. This is another rambler.

To Make A Big Man Cry: I’m going to get annoyed soon, it’s another soft and slow one. Come on, mix it up. Credit to Tom for trying to blast it out in the chorus, and the strings swell nicely to join him. That’s a pretty good chorus, the verses aren’t bad. I think I would like this a lot more if it didn’t come in a string of slower songs. Probably the best chorus on the album.

Key To My Heart: Speed! The album definitely has the swinging sixties feel, the arrangements and tone all remind me of other songs from the era. This is fun enough, some surprise guitar in the background and mostly string led rather than brass. As a flip-side to the previous song I would probably enjoy this song less if it hadn’t followed a series of slow ones.

True Loves Comes Only Once In A Lifetime: What the balls is this? An almost oriental intro. Very slow. Very brass. Weird backing vocals. An aimless verse leads to a plain chorus. That intro keeps coming back as a refrain, weird. Yeah, not great but didn’t hurt.

A Little You: This one starts out, if not quite like The Beatles, but some sort of 60s pop rock. A dinky, fun verse with plenty of backing vocals leads to an inconsequential chorus of sorts. It keeps that loose rambling style (when I say a song rambles, it usually means it doesn’t have an obvious verse/chorus structure – not a bad thing, or that the two entities are so similar that it’s difficult to distinguish between them – a bad thing) and never gets to where it wants to go.

You’re So Good For Me: Another mix of guitar horns, this feels like something Elvis would have done. The lead horn part is cool but again the chorus is more like a full stop – a recital of the song’s name followed by a hard stop. Nice long note to finish.

Where Do You Belong: I’m not sure how I feel about this one – the verse starts well but doesn’t take the melodic turns I want it to. It’s just nice, easy listening stuff that I’m not going to remember in a song’s time.

These Things You Don’t Forget: Anytime I see the words ‘these things’ together, it makes me think of Homer’s ‘this things I believe’. A slow, soft one to finish. At least until Tom unleashes a throat grenade. It’s not a great finish – verse is promising, those booming vocals in the pre-chorus are great, but the chorus is a let down.

There you go, my first Tom Jones album. It wasn’t anywhere near as horrible as I thought it was going to be – in fact, I can see now why he’s had such a long career, beyond being a generic male singer. He really does let rip in some songs and it’s abundantly clear that he is bigger than the songs he has been given. With better songs you could tell he would be a force to reckon with… but beyond the few hits of his that I’ve already mentioned I don’t know if he ever got material worthy of him. I get another chance to find out as September 1966 saw the release of his next album From The Heart. I go into that with less apprehension than I had earlier today.

Let us know in the comments what you think of A-Tom-Ic Jones!

Nightman’s Playlist Picks: Dr. Love. Face Of A Loser. To Make A Big Man Cry.

Nightman Listens To – Wonderwall Music – George Harrison!

Greetings, Glancers! Here we are, my first full (fool?) foray into the world of non-Beatles music by members of The Beatles. For a few years in my youth I was an Oasis fan – that’s the first time I heard the word ‘Wonderwall’. I wasn’t much of a fan of the song, but I loved the album it appeared on. Shortly after, Travis asked the question ‘What’s a Wonderwall anyway?’ in their hit ‘Writing To Reach You’, but I was none the wiser. I knew by this point that the Oasis lads were massive Beatles fans and as time went on they were repeatedly accused of nicking off the Liverpudlians. It must have been around this time that I heard about this George Harrison album. This was still before the days of downloading, at least for me, and I had no intention of forking out my pocket money on a Beatles’ bloke’s solo album when I hadn’t even heard a single Beatles album all the way through.

It turns out Harrison was the first to release solo material. In late 1968, The Beatles were already crumbling – Harrison’s rise as a songwriter and desire to do his own thing possibly one of the factors of the band coming to an end. I’ve always had a middling opinion of Harrison’s work with The Beatles – his writing contributions – some good, most average, and certainly not up to the standards of Lennon or McCartney’s day to day stuff. Maybe he felt constricted by them, and going solo would let him soar? I was going to say I had middling hopes for this one – more positive than negative – but then I saw that this is actually an instrumental only album, a soundtrack to a movie nobody has ever seen. My hopes have plummeted. Still, it can’t be much worse than Lennon’s experimental stuff, can it? CAN IT?

Microbes: We begin, as expected, with some sitar. Other Indian instruments too. I’ve never been much of a fan of Indian instruments, but something about the way George uses them does create a trance-like tone and atmosphere. That atmosphere people say they get in general from Indian music, but in most cases it just annoys me or makes me think of Mario 64. This though…. I like it. It very much works in conjuring up images of the movie which I haven’t seen – I’m making up my own opening scene in my head.

Red Lady Too: A plodding piano piece, like someone walking slowly or footering about the house. Credit for making it sound unlike anything The Beatles had written.

Tabla And Pakavaj: As the name suggests, this is mainly a drum led piece, with some sitar in the background. Picks up pace near the end, short enough to not get boring.

In The Park: More Indian strings. Maybe my problem with India music is that I’m so heavily invested in melody, Western melody, and emotion that India stuff typically feels like it has no melody and just a chaotic random selection of notes with no discernible emotion. I’m not saying that’s how it is, that’s just how it makes me feel. For me, this goes nowhere and does nothing.

Drilling A Home: A jaunty, more Western tune. Sounds like something you’d hear in a saloon in a Western movie, only with more dancing. Sounds like something McCartney would write.

Guru Vandana: Lots of horns and sitar.

Greasy Legs: A much nicer tune, with lots of… I don’t know – keyboard stuff of some description. Sounds like a child writing a song on a child’s toy.

Ski-Ing: Finally some honest to goodness electric guitar, with India stuff lurking ominously in the background like a strange stirring pot. It’s just the same riff played on a loop by different instruments with a lot of stuff blasting off around it. Pretty cool.

Gat Kirwani: Fast beats and Indian guitar stuff. If it’s fast, it’s good.

Dream Scene: Backwards stuff and some vocals. India vocals, so I have no idea. Changes halfway through, merging piano with Indian horns. Chaos drums. I assume this is the clash of East and West. Then is suddenly changes again, becoming hungover. Then it goes buck nuts. Sounds nice enough, not sure I need to hear it again.

Party Seacombe: Harry Seacombe? Sounds like the start of Across The Universe. Funky enough. Guitars, wall of sound, piano, drums.

Love Scene: More of what you would expect. I don’t have anything insightful or useful to say about most of this. I’m listening to it, maybe that’s enough. Don’t worry, I’ll have more to say once we get to a more familiar style. Still, it works as a melding of East and West.

Crying: A strange whining piece which almost sounds like a woman wailing in pain – not as bad as it sounds.

Cowboy Music: This is exactly as it sounds. If someone told me to write, in five minutes, a typical cowboy instrumental, this is exactly what I would write. Except it seems to have a slight Caribbean twinge.

Fantasy Sequins: There’s that whining again. This one is a little more jaunty. Like a scene at a fair or a market or a party in a palace.

On The Bed: A bit more of a groove and a tune to this one and the way the drums fade in is something The Beatles would play with.

Glass Box: Another short piece, jangly.

Wonderwall To Be Here: A Western opening, with pianos and triangles, and a vaguely threatening soap opera tone. So this prompted one of the biggest songs of all time, eh?

Singing Om: Organs and voices doing an ‘ahhhh’ mantra. Works as an end credits, I guess.

So what did I think? I’m happy I’ve heard it, but I don’t think I need to ever hear a single track again. It didn’t make me overly interested in ever seeing the movie of the same name. There isn’t a stand out piece but George does a fairly good job of slapping together Eastern and Western instrumental music – at least as he envisioned them at the time. If you’re a regular on the blog you probably know I’m not big on instrumental music, at least when made by ‘regular’ artists or bands, and they rarely feel anything more than an experimental aside, a curiosity to be heard once and forgotten. Pretty much sums this up. What did you think – let us know in the comments!

Nightman Listens To – Just Like Us – Paul Revere And The Raiders (1966 Series)!

Greetings, Glancers! Here we go, the first post in a series I am sure to never finish – listening to every album released in 1966 (at least as listed by Wikipedia). That’s somewhere in the vicinity of three hundred albums, but taking out the compilations, EPs, ones I know, and ones which I already plan to listen to outside of this series we’ll hopefully get a less daunting figure. If you plan to follow along with me like a weirdo, I’m going from top to bottom on the 1966 In Music page on Wikipedia, and the first album on that list just happens to be a Compilation by James Brown – a singer who I haven’t listed to a full album by, but who I’ve always liked. We skip over him, and on to Paul Revere And The Raiders. Who?

Released on January 3rd 1966, it’s obviously one of the first releases of the year. It’s one I know nothing about, but according to Wikipedia was their fourth album and that they were a pop rock group. Hopefully we’ll get some nice 60s pop rock along the lines of The Beatles or The Beach Boys then. It’s not on Colin Larkin’s Top 1000 list and I can’t think of any other reason I would want to listen to it beyond this series of posts, so lets do it!

Steppin’ Out: Okay, gets off with a blast. Tambourines and a bluesy riff and Jagger swagger. Yes, this is much more like The Rolling Stones. There’s a switch in pace that comes out of nowhere and the song flies along before reverting back to the previous tempo. I’m not a huge fan of the vocals or vocal style, very much trying to capitalize on Jagger, but fine. It’s not what I was expecting, quite fun.

Doggone: Apparently a Smokey Robinson song. Continues with the Stones theme. The vocals are deeper and more controlled, theatrical, and vicious than Jagger. As it’s a Robinson song, there’s a lightness to the melody. Layered vocals give it a unique flavour. Central riff is simple but effective. So far a nice start to 1966 and exactly the sort of rock approach I was expecting bands to be producing, if a little heavier than what I thought.

Out Of Sight: Was that a shouty German intro? Ah, I see now that this is actually a covers album. I didn’t really want to include cover albums in these posts but we’ve started, and it’s good, so I’ll leave this as an exception. This is my least favourite track so far, but still more of the same – straight forward blues rock.

Baby, Please Don’t Go: Well, I know this one, natch. It’s a straight cover without much additional flourish. It’s a fun, quick song, but I was never a huge fan of it in any form. I always find it bizarre that these albums exist – even after The Beatles obliterated the model, multiple artists were still releasing multiple covers albums. Money drives, I guess.

I Know: I DON’T know this one. Heh. Lots of silly voices and laughter and background chit chat. Well played, but completely uneventful.

Night Train: It ain’t G’n’R. Nice intro with drums and brass as a fake train arrival. This is followed by your typical Blues stuff but the guitar tone is very flat and everything sounds like it was recorded in a tin of beans. It’s a mostly boring instrumental.

Just Like Me: Apparently this one isn’t necessarily a cover, but they bought the song from someone else. It has a similar rhythm to ‘Louie Louie’. Simple lyrics, lots of shouting. Too repetitive within its brief running time and lacking in the melody department to make any impact.

Catch The Wind: Not the first time I’ve heard this song on the blog, but of course my preferred version is the Susannah Hoffs one. Due to that, most other vocals sound flat to me. This one is especially lifeless – all the additional inflections and hooks and emotion Hoffs adds are absent here. The vocals on this version are almost as if he’s just reading them off the page having never heard the song – in fact it seems like he’s deliberately taking the piss, adding ‘da da das’ in a ‘who gives a shit’ way.

Satisfaction: More Stones. This is basically identical to the original, in other words, what’s the point? If you’re going to cover something, you have to add your own flavour and twist – in today’s sad parlance – you have to make it your own. This adds almost nothing, yet sounds less energetic and sleazy than the original. Still, it’s a classic song and it’s difficult to get it wrong.

I’m Crying: A count in intro like I Saw Her Standing There gets this one underway. It’s another famous British Invasion song, and again it’s not all that different. It’s all a bit pointless – here’s a bunch of songs other people wrote a few years ago, and look – we can play them too!

New Orleans: A marginally older song now, one with a famous ‘hey heya’ intro and a smooth swaying rhythm. There are countless versions of most of these songs out there, this one rocks a little more than the original thanks to the intervening years since it was written, but it’s mostly the same.

Action: I don’t know what this is, but it definitely has a Beach Boys vibe – similar harmonies and vocal style and even the lyrics are sunny and surfy. Like the rest of the album it’s all played with talent and energy.

That’s one album down, two hundred odd to go. I’m a little peeved this was just covers as its clear the band know how to play and how to rock. The early songs are the best as they capture a fun and youthful spirit, but it all wears thin quickly with the same range of songs that everyone else was covering at the time being played with a lack of invention and imagination. There’s nothing here to recommend any of the songs over the originals, unless you’re a die-hard of the band. There’s enough here to make me want to hear more by the band, but I want original material. With that being said, the band released three more albums in 1966 alone so I assume at least one of these is original material. We’ll get there, team, we’ll get there.

Let us know in the comments what you think of Just Like Us!

Nightman’s Playlist Picks: Steppin’ Out.

Nightman Listens To – 1966 – By Everyone!

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Greetings, Glancers! Yeah… you… you read that right. If you’re not really sure what the title means, then let me enlighten you; I’ve listened to all the Bryan Adams albums, I’ve almost finished the Bon Jovi albums, and it won’t be long before I’m through with Madonna, Roxette, Bowie. I’ve started with The Rolling Stones and The Beach Boys, and those are going to take some time. I’ve also started to work my way through the albums by each member of The Beatles, and that’s going to take even longer. I’m still messing around with the Iron Maiden members non Iron Maiden work. I’m working my way slowly through the Best 1000 Albums Of All Time, and listening to chart singles from every year. My plate is full, in other words. Still, one idea which has been gnawing away at me for quite some time is to listen to every single album (or at least the official studio, non-live, non-compilation) released in a single year. It’s a ridiculous undertaking, considering any year from at least 1960 has at least one thousand album releases.

You see, often when my brain drifts off to fantasy lands of sleep and booze induced nonsense, I imagine being transported to another world or a parallel universe where the music of our 20th Century doesn’t exist. I then bring our music to that world either as a DJ of some sort, or by starting my own band and pretending to write the songs myself. Either way I become a beloved billionaire. It’s great – you should try it some time. In these flights of fancy, I try to imagine myself releasing the best songs in some sort of chronological way and replace the crap with the good – this means that, for example, The first Beatles album (as written and recorded and performed by me in this parallel world) would feature Del Shannon’s Runaway and BB King’s Stand By Me instead of some of the crap that actually appears – Boys, Chains, Anna etc. To cut a very long and depressing story short, I simply don’t know enough of the music released in the 20th Century to say what I would nick and claim as my own so I want to go listen to everything. Naturally, in these silly imaginings time wraps around itself meaning when I’m in the other land I don’t age even though weeks, months, and years pass, while as that time passes over there, in our world mere seconds have passed. You get it. It’s all balls.

That’s my reasoning. Or some part of it. Who knows – maybe as a music fan I just feel there are too many gaps in history that I want to fill in, and even with all of my other series those gaps are still too wide and varied. By listening to everything in a whole year I’ll be forcing myself to listen to artists I normally avoid and artists I’ve never heard of. Hopefully I find a lot of great stuff. Me being me, I’ll probably hate a lot of it.

Why 1966? Why not, really? Our current musical landscape, or at least up to around 2000, was defined by the emergence of The Beatles and the bands which followed in their wake. I feel like it took until around 1966 for the rest of the world to catch up. The Stones, The Beach Boys, Elvis, and many others had been making music at the same time and before, but in 1966 other artists were either forming or releasing their debuts or getting into their stride – The Doors, Them, The Who, The Kinks, The Animals, Dylan, Cream, Hendrix, Yardbirds, James Brown, The Supremes, Nancy Sinatra, Dusty Springfield, Otis Redding, Cher, Stevie Wonder, Johnny Cash, Marvin Gaye, Aretha, Donovan, Mamas & Papas, Tom Jones, Streisand, Bee Gees, Herb Alpert etc etc etc. It wasn’t exactly the beginning, but it seems like the beginning of the peak. If I somehow survive this challenge, I’ll move straight into 1967 and would aim to just keep going. Obviously there’s no way I’m getting through this, but I’m a fighter. And a lover. And maybe I do have access to a parallel world or a device which can stop time. You can’t prove I don’t.

I’m not going to bother publishing a list of all the albums I’ll be covering as that would take almost as much time as it would to listen to them. I’ll let you know what I’m doing when the day comes, but I’ll probably use Wikipedia and go through it in chronological order. I’m not going to listen to any albums I’ve already heard – which will be a lot, but in the grand scheme of things quite minuscule. I’m also going to pass over any albums which are already on one of my other lists – Stones, Beach Boys etc. If one artist repeatedly comes up who repeatedly offers nothing for me, then I’ll skip them. Otherwise, I’ll be listening to pop, rock, blues, gospel, folk, and gasp – even Country. Pray for my soul. Why not join me on this ride – pop on the records and see where they lead us?

Nightman Listens To – The Rolling Stones – No.2

Greetings, Glancers! It’s time to dive down into some deep and dirty delta cuts and covers as we look at the second UK release by The Rolling Stones. Like the first album this is bolstered by a host of energetic covers of Blues and rock standards although this time we get multiple Jagger/Richards originals. I know a few of these songs and I know most of the covers, so this should be an easy enough ride. Lift-off!

Everybody Needs Somebody To Love: This is among my favourite Blues compositions, mainly down to its appearance in The Blues Brothers. It thumps along, Jagger gives his usual swagger to the opening spoken proceedings and his vocals rarely stray into what you would consider singing. It’s as good a cover of this one as you’re likely to hear. There’s no need it needs to go over four minutes, never mind five.

Down Home Girl: Not an original I’m overly familiar with. A mid-paced to slow Blues song about some dude’s obsession with some gal. A gal of a particular type from a particular place it seems. The lead riffs are catchy enough but I’ll have forgotten them by the end of the album. Some harmonica and piano thrown in there too – one to good effect, the other not so much.

You Can’t Catch Me: A speedy outing, as the name suggests. Another simplistic and formulaic structure, but the energy and cool carries it through. Jagger’s vocals are too monotone, not entirely his fault as the song doesn’t allow for much in the way of melody. Great solo and build to it though. This one is famous for The Beatles nicking some of the lyrics for Come Together. 

Time Is On My Side: I can’t say for sure which version I heard first, but either way the first time I heard The Rolling Stone’s play this I assumed they’d written it. They didn’t. Aside from the chorus and main hook, the song is a grittier version of the original, with a little more hammer to the drums, more punch to the guitar, and an edge to the vocals.

What A Shame: This now is an original composition. It follows your standard Blues structure, timing, and lyrical content to the extent that this could have been written forty years earlier. Richards is playing a little in the studio, those string bends have a character, but elsewhere there’s little to suggest the band are anything more than talented cover artists and copycats. Still, it gets the foot tapping.

Grown Up Wrong: The second original composition has a touch more individuality, while still treading familiar Blues paths. I can’t go so far as saying there’s anything inherently British in the lyrics or approach but something makes it different. It’s a quickie too, and under a couple of minutes.

Down The Road Apiece: This is a full-blooded blues rocker which gives Jagger a chance to stretch his cords more than usual. Hearing a lot of these on their own is a more enjoyable experience for me than hearing them in a sequence. This is probably the most fun song so far and would get the most reaction from me if heard standalone. Still, aside from the energy, there isn’t a lot to recommend it above any other Blues rocker – it hits the same beats and notes as many others.

Under The Boardwalk: This is one everyone should know, in some form or other. Jagger manages well enough with the softer, higher patched vocals and the rest of the band add what little flair they can. This is one of those songs it’s difficult to get wrong and every version I’ve heard has been good – here it breaks up the flow of the album nicely by being a distinctly pop song rather than the Blues tracks.

I Can’t Be Satisfied: After that brief interlude, we’re right back in the Blues heartland with a Muddy Waters cover. This one has some Country influence, the lead riff is a fun example of the standard ascending Blues riff, but elsewhere the song is quite sparse.

Pain In My Heart: One of the more interesting Blues covers here, this has more in common with 1950s rock ballads than Southern Blues. Jagger enjoys this one, grunting, sighing, and screaming at various points.

Off The Hook: The final original composition is the most unique of the three. It takes time in its intro and blasts into a verse with Beatles style verve. It’s a shame the melodies aren’t great, going for repetition over quality. This sounds like any number of British and American rock bands who emerged in the 60s, yet keeps Blues roots.

Suzie Q: I think I knew the name of this song long before I heard it, and it’s another I always assumed was a Stones original. In truth, I’m not sure why the song is held in such high-esteem. It doesn’t stand out from any other late 50s rocker, and this cover gives it a little more grit without making it any more or less appealing.

More of the same then. I think I enjoyed this more than the first album – maybe the songs chose to cover are better, maybe I’m feeling different today, or maybe it’s the inclusion of more original Jagger/Richards songs. Really, there isn’t a whole lot of variety between this and the first album, but if you’re into early blues rock there’s bound to be plenty to enjoy here.

Nightman’s Playlist Picks: Time Is On My Side. Under The Boardwalk.

 

Disney Songs – Saludos Amigos

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Saluso- Salad ass – que? ‘What the balls is Saludos Amigos’, I hear you bellow. It’s a Disney movie, you ignorant! Yeah, some guy who didn’t like the fact that some other guys were allowed the same rights and freedoms that he was afforded decided to tear up most of the world back in the 1940s. Ha! How we all laugh now, nothing like that could ever happen again because no-one like that would ever rise to power agai- yeah, you see where I’m going with this. Everyone was strapped for cash in those days, even the mighty Disney, and while the rest of the world was being sent to die or being killed in their homes, somebody had to keep making entertainment, albeit on a tighter budget. Step forward the rarely remembered Disney package films – movies which were really a series of existing and/or new shorts, bundled together to keep the kids slightly less terrified of the mess adults make of the world until Uncle Sam and Squinty Old Churchill had sent Mr Hitler off to the Shite Gig In The Dirt (killed him).

Saludos Amigos was the first of these such films, a weird one which clearly panders to South American audiences and attempts to ease frictions, while reminding insular US patriots that those south of the border actually had running water, electricity, and weren’t still herding around in the jungle undergrowth eating each other or whatever. It also has some songs. These ones:

Saludos Amigos‘ opens with dramatic violins but rapidly descends into the usually torrid male vocals of the time singing about friendship, before fading out of sight and mind.

Aquarela do Brasil’ features Donald getting pissed on the local sauce, his hiccups setting the beat. There’s then a bunch of trumpets and samba stuff and singing – if you live in Britain and watched any of the 2012 World Cup, you’ll have heard this song – ‘Brazil! Brazil!’ etc.

Tico-Tico‘ is more hyperactive Samba, with rolling beats and whistles and all the rest. There’s a lot of other instrumental music in the movie, but this one stands out a little more.

Not a lot to say about these then, and only worth another listen if you’re into South American oldies. They’re never going to make anyone’s playlist outside of the most ardent flag-waving Disney cultist but like all of Disney’s stuff it’s worth a one time watch or listen.

Let us know in the comments what you think of this one!

Nightman Listens To – Lennon, McCartney, Harrison, and Starr!

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Greetings, Glancers! I know they don’t get nearly as many views as my movie or TV posts, but I’m trying to keep up to date with my musical posts too, bringing you the worst the net has to offer in terms of my opinions on Bowie, Madonna, Jovi, The Stones, The Top 1000 Albums ever, yearly chart music et cetera etc. Many years ago I posted my Amazon Beatles album reviews and recently I’ve been posting updated versions of those along with my Nightman Scoring System (c) comments. In doing all of that I realized that I was missing out on the vast array of non-Beatles work that each of the four members created. Therefore, I’m going to start listening and reacting to all of those too. It’s a massive undertaking but I always planned on listening to them at some point so I may as well write about my experiences too.

It’s obvious that Paul McCartney has done the most out of each member – he has been extremely prolific since 1970, releasing with Wings, other bands, and on his own. Lennon died in 1980 and only managed a handful of albums, while Harrison released here and there up until his death. Ringo, I’ve honestly no idea. What I can say is that I haven’t listened to any of their non-Beatles albums all the way through. Actually, I have listened to Lennon’s experimental records with Yoko, and will not be doing so again for the purposes of this blog or otherwise, thank you very much. I know I’ve heard many of the individual songs by each artist post-The Beatles, but no albums. So I’m going to go through them in some sort of chronological order, I hope I get to listen to some great music for the first time, and I hope you’ll join me on the journey. Coming soon (probably not)!

Feel free to let me know in advance which solo/non-Beatles albums by John, Paul, Ringo, and George I should look forward to in the comments.

Nightman Listens To – Roxette – Have A Nice Day!

*Note. This, and at least three subsequent Roxette album posts were written before this week and the news that Marie had passed away after her long cancer battle. I typically write these posts many months before I actually post them (I have already listened to and written about Charm School by September this year – who knows when I’ll post it). It’s strange to think we won’t get another Roxette album now, but we still have a collection of songs to look back on and enjoy.

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Greetings, Glancers! Between 1994’s Crash! Boom! Bang!  and 1999’s Have A Nice Day the music world had moved on. While the band had released a Greatest Hits, a Rarities compilation, and an album of Spanish covers of their own ballads, five years is a long time to go without new material. Did anyone still care about Roxette on the eve of the old millennium and were they still capable of making instant pop classics? With regards to the first question, the album charted well and still sold a couple of million copies, though it wasn’t as large a success as their previous albums. Looking at the 14 songs on the track list, I don’t recognise any of them although given that ‘Wish I Could Fly’ was apparently the most played song of 1999 I assume I have heard it and somehow blanked it from my memory. I assume the album will be all new to me, but possibly bring some surprise nostalgia.

Crush On You‘ opens with a different sound for the band. Not jarring, as we know Roxette like to play around with their sound a little. It’s a heavy percussive opening before descending into a cheesy dated rave sound before stabilizing a little in the verse. Per sing talks the vocals with Marie filling in for the chorus. That chorus is pretty simple, a nice counterpoint to the plain melody of the verse. It is designed to feel hectic, a rap quality to the verses and a lot of synth and drums bouncing around. Nice enough production – a lot of switching around and different sounds, each couple of lines has a slightly different accompaniment to keep things varied. Stripped down it would be quite simple and straight, but all together it’s an okay opener, should get the blood pumping.

Wish I Could Fly‘ doesn’t ring a bell for me at the moment. I was listening to the radio in 99 so if this was such a big hit I should remember it. The verse feels marginally familiar, but I think I’m searching for a memory where there isn’t one. The chorus sounds like a couple of other Roxette songs and is strong enough that I should remember it, so I’m confident that I haven’t heard this. I’m not sure why it was such a hit as it feels like a pastiche of other Roxette songs… maybe it’s exactly what fans wanted after five years, but it’s definitely a lesser version of what they’d already achieved.

You Can’t Put Your Arms Around What’s Already Gone‘ starts with DJ scrapes and crappy digitized beats. Per delivers the lead verse melody – it’s fine, lots of effects on his voice. It’s the backing stuff which is more interesting – the band clearly having fun messing in the studio but the unfortunate result is it sounds very dated. I have a feeling a lot of this is intentional, as if they were going for an already dated sound in 1999, but that sound isn’t one I’m keen on so it sounds very juvenile.

Waiting For The Rain‘ has a McCartney feel. The piano rhythm and the vocals feel very much like mid-career Beatles. The overall tone is very 60s to me, there’s a little bit of brass and flute stuff going on, and again the vocals have some effects over the top. It’s catchy enough, and each repetition builds a little something extra on, but it never gets better than okay.

Anyone‘ opens with a nice piece of piano, then a big string section gives me hope for an unknown ballad. This is much more what I prefer from Roxette – heart tugging melodies and vocals. Yes, it’s easily my favourite so far but you should know by now I love a good ballad. The verses stretch out, making me wonder if there is a chorus. The chorus, extended as it is, or split up as it is, doesn’t work as well as the verse and I’m happier once we get back to the verse. That return is short lived as we’re quickly back to the chorus. That’s a bit of a letdown as we were heading for one I’d quickly listen to again. As it is, it’s one I wouldn’t mind hearing again but not one I’d look for.

It Will Take A Long Long Time‘ is a rest from the over produced nature of everything we’ve had so far. A simple acoustic guitar intro and Marie’s vocals. Then some keys. Then the production comes with the chorus, but it’s not overbearing. Simple hopeful lyric. That’s a better chorus too – this one feels more even musically. The bridge and instrumental are as by the numbers as you can get and simply lead to another chorus before the end. Usually I say these ones are lazy and thrown together in a matter of hours, but it’s one of the better ones due to its simplicity. Nothing bad so far, just a range of middling songs.

7Twenty7‘ brings the production back with a digitized howl of noise, I guess signifying the 727 airplane. The song is another lackluster one built up by the wall of sound. I always say – can a song be stripped down to just a voice and a single instrument, and still be as powerful as the original, and this case I don’t see it. Very mundane melodies and aside from the odd Marie moment the vocals are plain. Of course, many songs are supposed to be that wall of sound and the stripped down theory shouldn’t apply, but this isn’t one of those. The song isn’t four minutes long but I’m bored long before that.

I Was So Lucky‘ seems a little more stripped down, maybe another ballad. Better melodies, better music. It’s still not reaching those top levels, but it’s better. The main feeling I get from the album is just that it’s plain, white music. I’m not sure the songs could be transformed to something better than what they are – what you hear is what you get and none of it is terrible or amazing. I still like this, but I can’t see it reverberating in my head after it’s done. Better than meh and in cases like this, quite good is the most positive I can be, but still waiting for one I’d really want to hear again.

Stars‘ opens like a terrible cheesy Europop rave up, one of those one-hit wonders from the late 90s which had the braindead bopping in droves. It ends up being better – the verse melodies and the kid choir stuff is good, but the backing beats and sounds are generic and weak and I dismiss them entirely within milliseconds of hearing them. It’s a bit annoying then when they finally get a better selection of hooks that they surround them with garbage.

Salvation‘ keeps the improved melodies running, with a wispy organ sound accompanying Marie. It’s all going well until that dreadful 90s drum sound comes in. That sound alone is almost bad enough to ruin the whole song for me. There’s a religious bent to the lyrics which the instrumental choices mirror, with angelic voices filling in, and we get another good chorus. This is easily one of the best songs – I don’t think the bridge does anything – but the verse and chorus do nothing wrong aside from the drum sound. Take that away and I’d gladly listen to this again.

Pay The Price‘ seems to go for a more traditional rock sound. It still has a lot of studio shenanigans going on instead of going for a pure live sound, but this is Roxette we’re talking about. It’s jumpy and fun, feels like a nice Summer song – something you’d have in the background of a 90s movie beach scene. Harmless fun and I don’t have any complaints – just not the most memorable. That’s maybe the best two songs in a row – can we keep the trend going?

Cooper‘ is the name of my cat. He’s named after Alice and Dale, not this song. His middle name is Michael Jackson, according to my kids. I don’t know who this Cooper is they are referring to, seems to be a lady. Per’s vocals are good here, maybe because of the good melodies, interesting lyrics, and tone suggesting something sinister. It’s a ballad, but has something akin to Little Susie. Cooper was sleeping as I started to play this song, but he’s now sitting up and staring at me so I have to console him and let him know it’s not about him.

Staring At The Ground‘ opens with more interesting drum sounds then some more summery guitar. It’s another light and fun song, inconsequential, but one which really tries to slap a smile on your chin. It even has harmonica. It’s almost like a 3 minute chorus.

Beautiful Things‘ opens with strings – always good. Good breathy vocals, sad tone. I’m good with the melodies, drum sound isn’t great but not too distracting, and the chorus works nicely as a counterpoint. Good transitions between the two tones and parts, blends well. The bridge isn’t the best, but that’s par for the course on this album. Yeah, good song, good ending to the album.

It’s a shame the start of the album isn’t as fun as the end. There are four or five good songs worth mentioning in that run in which are better than everything else. I wouldn’t say there are any bad songs but there is too much that is middling and either never hits top gear or is brought down by over-produced fluff. Albums which sound over-produced to me usually suggest a void of ideas or lack of creativity, or alternatively show an artist excited about a new box of toys but with not a clue how to use it to make a good time. Many albums throw a lot of these tricks into the mix and it pays off, because it either compliments the song’s purest form or elevates that song to something even more special. When it doesn’t work, it’s either vapid noise or highlights how uninteresting the music actually is. There isn’t a true standout song for me here, but those few towards the end warrant another listen – I’m not sure whether I’d include them on a personal Roxette compilation, but maybe after another few listens.

Let us know in the comments what you thought of Have A Nice Day!

Nightman’s Playlist Picks: Beautiful Things. Salvation. Pay The Price.