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 – 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?