Nightman Listens To – Marvin Gaye – What’s Going On (Top 1000 Albums Series)!

What's Going On (Marvin Gaye album) - Wikipedia

Greetings, Glancers! If you’ve been following this series you’ll know I’ve had a torrid time of it. The quest to find an album I genuinely enjoy has been difficult and any fans of the albums I have dismissed likely think I’m a complete tool bag. I’m hoping the tide will change today, because it’s Marvin Gaye. Without really loving anything I’ve heard by Gaye, I’ve liked it all and his smooth vocals, Motown melodies, and political sensibilities all point towards me liking this album. I imagine this will be a straight down the line collection of hits with no bullshit – many of the albums I’ve listened to recently seem to have so much acclaim because of cultural relevance or influence rather than how good the music actually is and while I already understand the relevance of this I just want to hear some decent tunes.

What Do I Know About Marvin Gaye: I soul/r’n’b/rock vocalist who also dabbled in some session music and writing jobs for other artists before finally finding solo success. I think he was murdered, like a few other notable contemporaries. I know quite a few of his bigger hits.

What Do I Know About What’s Going On: I know that it is frequently listed among the best albums ever by pretty much any critic or publication you can find. I assumed that it contained most of his well known hits, but looking at the tracklist there are only two I know. Also, I see it’s another 9 track non-metal album. Interesting.

What’s Going On: We open with some spoken voices before a brief and sultry brass flits over some soothing beats. Then that glorious voice takes over, allowing room to feel the plaintive lyrics. The song takes a loose approach to standard verse chorus structure and the violins quietly compliment the vocal melody. The song obviously has an important message for what was going on at the time but it’s a prescient one for today’s chaotic world too and I find it interesting that the song isn’t played more often.

What’s Happening Brother: This leads in directly from the previous song and feels very Motown in its approach – a lot of string and brass, backing female vocals, a bit of a groove. Lyrically it treads the same paths as the opener, with more questioning and pleading, and even references the first song by name leading me to think that this song was originally an outtake of the first, eventually expanded into its own thing. Musically similar too, it is brief enough that any repetition doesn’t get the time to take hold.

Flyin High: I like the ‘prog’ approach so far – each song bleeding into the next without a pause. This is slower and more free-form. Interesting bass doing its own thing in the background while the strings set an airy tone. The voice is smooth and angelic as you would expect, and melodically it reminds me of someone like Jeff Buckley – just jazzy enough without being needlessly complex or off-putting, but never reaching a peak and I assume staying quite uniform on purpose.

Save The Children: This blends in from the last one too, nice layered vocals between the spoken part, the backing ahhs, and the accompanying sung call and repeat. I assumed that format was going to just be an intro but it seems the entire song is going this way which is pretty cool. Unusual at least. It’s still political, this time questioning how future generations are going to cope with the fallout of current actions. Each line comes with a new instrument or slight twist on what came before – keeping that interesting tone where it’s uniform but free-form at the same time. At least until the final minute or so where the music reaches an instrumental crescendo before a more funky commercial climax.

God Is Love: That little commercial piece becomes the intro of this one. I had/have no idea of Gaye’s religion but this seems pretty straight forward and a liberal take on what should be the most important tenet of Christianity, or any religius or moral group – love one another. Musically it isn’t much of a stretch from anything else we’ve heard.

Mercy Mercy Me: This comes straight in from the last one and its power and quality are as clear today as they ever were. It’s the most obvious hit on the album with its infectious hook and swaying swagger groove. No matter how many times I hear it, that ending is still unexpected and seems to take the song off in a new and bizarre and downbeat direction.

Right On: Now, this is funny to me because the intro instantly makes me think of Anything Goes by Guns N Roses – a song about all sorts of kinky sex. I’ve no way if that was intentional but it wouldn’t surprise me. There’s quite a bit of piano and some sort of flute going on and it feels like a smooth backing track for a chilled gathering. There’s still a cultural message if not quite a sermon and again it has the loose melodic quality where Gaye puts down vocal riffs over the rhythm section instead of following a set pattern. Just when it seems like the piano is going to really come in and go off on one the song shifts to an even more quiet and smooth section. The sax tears off a couple of face melters but doesn’t hit a full stride. Just as it looks like the song will fade it, a thumping beat kicks in and the instruments jam on. I don’t know if this really needs to be over seven minutes long – I would have cut it somewhat but it mostly avoids needless repetition and stretching.

Wholy Holy: Continuing the no pause between tracks of the first half, this one blends in but quickly establishes a hymnal quality. There are more strings and sparkling and twinkling sounds, more religious lyrics, more hope, and more free-form vocal riffs. The message of love stands, if we love then violence and bullshit drops.

Inner City Blues: We’re at the closer already and it has flown in. Piano and hand drums, then more drums. It’s a little more funky than what has come already, but very much in the same format musically and lyrically. I like the double vocals and it’s a nice approach to old school blues. Some nice breaks and screams and recalls to previous songs.

What Did I Learn: That this didn’t contain the load of hits I assumed it would and that it was more in line with jazz that the Motown hit-making machine. It’s a very consistent album with not much variety from one song to the next. Normally I don’t like that sort of thing and rely on heavy melodic variance to differentiate songs. The album builds upon this by removing the standard silence between tracks so that the whole thing feels like one long piece.

Does It Deserve Its Place In The Top 1000 Albums Of All Time: On sheer cultural power alone it’s a yes but I would have preferred a couple more hits. I realize coming from me – I am fairly anti-commercial and listen to all manner of noise – that this statement is contradictory, but certain genres lend themselves to commercialism more than others. The songs I knew are bonafide classics but I’d need a few more listens for any of the other songs to take hold – on the surface quite a few blend too much into the other for me to identify each one specifically. Taking on board the sales and the acclaim and the fact that the two big ones at the very least are still loved today, it deserves its spot.

Colin Larkin’s Ranking: 39/1000

Let us know in the comments what you think of What’s Going On – is it one of your favourites, were you around when it was released?

Nightman Listens To – The Stone Roses – Second Coming (Top 1000 Albums Series)!

Greetings, Glancers! I continue my never-ending adventure through the best albums of all time, with a band I’m familiar with but an album I have never heard. As a side note – you see how popular all these Youtubers are getting with song reactions? I especially listen to a lot of the ‘first time reacting to Metallica’ or Metal in general videos, and while they were fun at the start, every other dick has jumped on the bandwagon meaning we get copy and paste ‘personalities’ reacting the same way to the exact same songs. There are a few good ones, but the general format is ‘cute girl/gangsta rap fan listens to Metallica/Iron Maiden/Nightwish/Megadeth and is amazed that people can play instruments/write those lyrics/sing that way, and how they have never heard of it before. With each new reactor it’s getting more false and less likable, but it’s essentially what I’m doing with these posts. The difference being that I’m listening to the entire album and that you don’t get to see my face or my ‘reactions’. Which is probably for the best as I don’t have the most expressive face and it would be even more boring than reading this, as impossible as that sounds. If I ever did do a video reaction, I think it would be less repetitive than when I write – when writing off the cuff like this I tend to take less care in what I write, but when I speak off the cuff I’m much more creative. It’s strange, because it’s the complete opposite when it comes to planning – when I plan, my writing is much more interesting but when I speak it sounds like a sleep inducing speech. Enough!

What Do I Know About The Stone Roses: Only released two albums – the first was a huge success, influential, and has a few songs I enjoy. John Squire played guitar, Mani was on Bass, and Ian Brown started the whole strutting about Manchester singer thing. I’ve seen Ian Brown live several times, though not by choice – he just always seems to be there.

What Do I Know About Second Coming: It wasn’t a flop, but didn’t have the success or praise of the first. Looking at the tracklist, there’s only one song I definitely know but I know I’ve heard some of the others because my best mate in school was a massive fan.

Breaking Into Heaven: An intro heavily reliant on feedback, distortion, and looping, followed up by water sounds – a river, and is that a bird. I think I’ve heard this before but it’s not stirring any memories at the moment. Some voices lingering in the background, like a train announcement system. Tribal beats and lasers and bird calls. Sudden guitar wankery. This goes on for a few more minutes. The shift into the song proper doesn’t quite work – the drums come in perfectly but there’s this little gap in the guitar where it feels too jarring – it should be a clean break or a fade but this is neither. Brown’s familiar vocals waft in – as I’ve said elsewhere I’m not a fan of the Manchester scene and a lot of the samey vocal styles which came with it. It feels like a band in full command of their abilities and bursting with confidence. The vocal melodies are too wispy and light – slightly better for the chorus and bridge but nothing which really grabs me. It’s all about the guitar, with Squire tearing it up and turning a non-eventful tune into something more epic than it may genuinely be. The middle melody is stronger, followed by another instrumental and kicking solo, before it fades out.

Driving South: This opens with a beast of a riff, phat and thic and other misspelled, well-meaning adjectives. The drums don’t do much for me – they’re too static and rigid – again like much of the Manchester stuff of the era. Brown’s vocals don’t match the bite of the guitar and instead he goes for an air of cool – that worked for most people of the time but I never bought into it being much more on the grunge side of the fence. Really this is all guitar and the words and melodies are so far in the background as to render them pointless. If we had a good melody then we would have a much better song. As it stands it’s still good – easy to move to, easy to listen to, but it may as well be an instrumental.

Ten Storey Love Song: This is the one I definitely know as my mate played it for days. It has a famous noise fade in, with a lot of bits which swirl around in conflict with each other, sometimes joining, mostly breaking, until the lead guitar line and vocal comes into view. We finally have a decent melody and the band matches it. It’s a fantastic, underrated song, but I imagine how good it would be with a vocalist really belting it out – Bono or Bradfield would have a whale of a time with this. The drums are even more interesting, filling out the spaces and leaving a few well intended ones of their own.

Daybreak: This doesn’t start out well – more of the same whispered, accented vocals and shuffle drum beats, with riffs relying on old Blues tropes. The little instrumental section between verses is great – drums included – but then the verses come again and leave me flat. The guitar acts as a better drum in the verses. It’s weird, because those instrumental pieces are excellent, guitar, bass, and drum all loose like the best Zeppelin jams. Vocals in the middle are a little better. It closes out with an organ of all things and a big guitar and drum sped up jamming session which is good fun. A song of highs and lows.

Your Star Will Shine: Is this going to be the hippy track of the album. A gentle acoustic intro with hand clap style drums and some backwards stuff at play. A better attempt at melody. This suits the vocal approach better. It’s short and it doesn’t progress much and still a bit light to make an impact on me.

Straight To The Man: A brief tribal intro morphs into a Seventies porn rhythm. This is probably the most straight and simple song so far, it doesn’t stray from the norm, and it hits all the established notes of the album except for the more creative experimental leanings.

Begging You: A fade in of throbbing and swirling guitar bits before the same old drum beat drops, albeit in a slightly faster pace. The vocals are marginally more aggressive, but this one feels repetitive. There’s a lot of distortion and the guitar parts are noise based rather than your standard hooks, chords, or riffs, disparate parts coming together to form a mass. It has a few moments of interest, namely more instrumental or any time the drums cut out. Another which doesn’t do much for me.

Tightrope: A second hippy track? A lazy vocal with single chord strums, and tapping beats to give a campfire singalong feel. I thought it was going to explode, but instead it became even more campfire. Feels like a Youth Mission on a beach. I see what they’re going for, but it’s flat, dull, and boring. More like a demo written and recorded inside 5 minutes while the producer was taking a dump/snorting coke.

Good Times: This is becoming a slog now, waiting for a better song – a bit of invention. This starts with harmonica, so that’s different. Vocal with drums, or cymbals I should say. This is a fine example of Brown not being the most appealing vocalist. The guitar comes in – great, but the drums do too, and that’s not so great. This is little more than a middle of the road old fashioned rock and roll song with the Manchester sound cumming all over it, and a dashing of Squire goodness. A better singer would take it up a notch, but it’s distinctly average. At least there’s more energy, but you feel the band lost all their creative writing the two best songs.

Tears: A third hippy song. This has a very folk Zeppelin vibe in the intro. Any comparison ends the moment Brown opens his gub. It just keeps going on, at the same level, with no variety yet without hitting the hypnotic quality, until finally the volume strikes and I have a giggle at Brown’s awful attempts at keeping up. Honestly, any other singer would have made 90% of these songs 70% better. The Zep vibes continue as the heavier parts suspiciously mimic the heavier parts of Stairway to the extent that this is surely a knowing homage. Squire plays a blinder again, even the drums are decent. I’d quite enjoy this song with another singer, or with Brown actually putting in some effort.

How Do You Sleep: Good guitar intro, cool lyrics. Brown’s vocals… well, we know what we’re getting by now. This feels like an anthem – it’s straightforward and has a more obvious melodic quality from start to finish. It’s that lazy/laid back drawl which still holds it back for me. I know plenty of people who love that, but my personal preference is for vocalists with power or urgency. Sweet, simple solo in the middle. I’d happily listen to this one again, but that only makes it three or four from the whole.

Love Spreads: Ha, for the briefest second this sounded like Radiohead’s I Might Be Wrong. It’s groovy, great production as always, and it has that foot tapping rhythm. I know it’ll fall over once Brown comes in. And yes, it does. I realize I’m being harsh on him, but it’s just no my thing. The problem with some of the vocals, not in this song, is that he is quite severely out of tune. Drums are much better here. The last couple of minutes are needlessly stretched out. A decent end but stamps again how little the Madchester scene means to me.

There’s meant to be some Untitled stuff at the end of the album, but I’m not going hunting for it now.

What Did I Learn: That the one band with the greatest chance of making me enjoy the whole Madchester thing… couldn’t. The whole look, style, the spidey wee glasses, the awful hair, the ‘look at me everyone, I’m taking drugs’ arrogance, the strutting about like you’ve shit your pants… it’s embarrassing and hateful, and produced a hell of a lot less good music than people think. I already knew Squire was a great guitarist, but this reminded me and taught me that he was the main driving force in the band. It also reminded me of the importance of having a strong singer in the group; it doesn’t matter how good the band is – if your singer is muck, then the whole temple tumbles to ruin. Oasis remain the only Manchester band I regularly enjoy. I love the song names, if that’s any consolation.

Does It Deserve Its Place In The Top 1000 Albums Of All Time: Based on the usual criteria – no. I don’t believe it sold well, critical reviews have always been mixed, and by the time this came out their time of influence had already passed. Had this been their first album then maybe, but this isn’t as good as their first. There are a couple of great songs, a few which could have been great with a decent singer, but the rest are middling. The overriding feeling I got from this is that Squire wished he was in a metal band. I understand why people will love it and will dance to it and get mad for it or whatever, but beyond the guitar there are a hundred other Indie bands from the same time doing stuff exactly like this and it fails to stand out. Change the singer, keep the drums away from that repetitive style, and I’d enjoy this a lot more. Even with all of that, I imagine if I was drunk or listened to this more I’d get into more by pure familiarity. I have no desire to.

Colin Larkin’s Ranking: 920/1000

Let us know in the comments what you think of The Second Coming!

Nightman Listens To – Talking Heads – Speaking In Tongues (Top 1000 Albums Series)!

Greetings, Glancers! Lets keep this run of first time listens going. I say first time listens, but I have a feeling I’ve heard this before, or most of it. Or at the very least it has been on in the background or people have tried to make me enjoy it and failed. It could be this album or it could be another by Talking Heads. In many ways I should like Talking Heads, as they have inspired bands I do like and people say they have a similar sense of humour and lyrical style as I have/had. The songs I’ve heard have never been more then meh for me, and most less than that. I don’t like the vocals and I don’t like the sub Shakin’ Stevens stage presence.

What Do I Know About Talking Heads: Led by David Byrne, I always thought they were English when I was younger, only later finding out they were American. They merged punk and pop and New Wave 80s stuff and always felt like an offshoot of New Order to me. I’ve never heard anything by them which sounded like punk, whatever people made me listen to was always dancey or quirky or poppy. I know most critics and serious music fans like them, so I’m in the minority. Or I just haven’t been converted yet – we’ll see.

What Do I Know About Speaking In Tongues: Nothing concrete. I know it reviewed well and I have heard the name. I may have heard some songs from it or the whole album in passing, but if I don’t remember it it didn’t make an impact. Looking at the track-list – no bells a-ringing, my first thought is ‘how dare you have only 9 songs – only metal bands can have 9 songs on an album’.

Burning Down The House: Hello? Right, there’s the music. I had an inkling this was going to be this. I’ve gone on record before saying that the Tom Jones version of this is one of my least favourite songs of all time. Musically I like this a little more, but vocally it’s horrendous. The music is all blippy blappy moonman stuff and that prevents the main melody from grating as much as the cover does. It doesn’t become repetitive, like the cover, as the music differs enough from one moment to the next but it’s still not something I’d need to hear again.

Making Flippy Floppy: Moonman fade in. Terrible beats and worse vocals. Now this one is repetitive. It sounds like a bad Prince song. At least the bass and instrumentation are sometimes interesting, but it sounds very dated. There’s a whole tonne of lyrics but from one I can pick up without studying, it sounds like random nonsense. Some sort of snaking solo in the middle, sounds nice but the drums ruin it. Nothing hear to make me want to listen again. I assume a lot of people will like to dance to this, and the lyrics give the appearance of intelligence so it’s okay for people who don’t like generic dance music to get into it. Could have a minute shaved off and not lose anything.

Girlfriend Is Better: Listen – the whole 80s synthesized drums thing has always been a problem for me. I’ve never liked it, and I still don’t. That funky staccato guitar is almost identical in every song so far. The vocals are never going to be for me. A lot of the other musical stuff going on is okay, but the songs themselves and the lead melodies don’t deserve the pieces that I do enjoy. In other words, the songs are crap but there are little pieces int he background which should have been cut and paste into a better song. Once again, if I was off my face and dancing this would be fine, but then someone’s vomit hitting the bowl is enough to make me dance when I’m off my face. Haven’t the time or patience to study the lyrics but they seem the most interesting part. In summary – bits I like, but not enough.

Slippery People: The drums are better in this so far. More blips and blaps. The the same guitar. Then the same vocals. I can’t really say ask to replace the vocals and guitar, and in most cases the drums, because then it would be a completely different band apart from the one everyone else seems to love. Backing vocals spice things up a bit, but unfortunate the whole thing is so monotone. That’s always one of the issues I had with a lot of punk – the lack of vocal melody – but at least it was backed up by sheer force or emotion. This has plenty of groovy backing musical parts which are nice – probably my favourite song so far but that’s hardly saying a lot. I guess I’m interested in what sort of person really loves this. Plenty of people in the comments on Youtube are proclaiming each song as the best ever (standard for any video), but I can’t see your standard punk person getting it. Post-punk yeah, but post-punk rarely works for me, people who like pop and dance stuff I would guess this is too strange for them. For me, it’s both not strange enough, lacks emotion, lacks melody, and it’s too repetitive.

I Get Wild/Wild Gravity: Here come the bad drum sounds. Same guitar, but with echo effects. Sounds like something from a Karate Kid knock-off. I’d appreciate this more if I could see it freaking more people out. I love weird for the sake of weird, but it only works for me when it’s either a complete failure or no-one cares. When it tries to hard to be offbeat and ends up sounding just like everything else, but with a slight twist, then it doesn’t work for me. I think that’s part of the issue with this band and me. It’s commercially weird. It’s not buck nuts. That and the repetition and ‘fake’ nature of the music kills it for me. And the melodies just pass over me like they’re not there.

Swamp: Actually, I’m thankful this is only nine songs. This intro reminds me of one of Rod Stewart’s 80s songs. You know, that one where he’s walking towards the camera with his sleeves up. That’s probably all of them, but anyway. Different vocals and different guitar this time. Still no melodies worth mentioning. It’s funny how all the Youtube comments on these songs are like a secret club It’s funny how those comments are more interesting than the songs. Hand clap drums are the spawn of Putin. The vocals remind me somewhat of Bowie – there’s a range but the execution leaves a lot to be desired. For me, I qualify again. You like them, good for you, but they’re not for me. I like my vocals to be ripped from the guts of Hell.

Moon Rocks: Reggae start? Hope not, because that shit rarely flies with me. Why is every song 5.45? Is that intentional? It’s certainly funky, but I don’t think the vocals fit. The music keeps being more interesting than the melodies. The jangled guitars are back. Nice bass going on. Some sort of moonman interlude. Messing in the studio. Making noise from nothing. This one is so overtly funky that it’s hard to not get down. Probably the best one so far, benefits from the occasional melodic turn. Is there enough for me to care?

Pull Up The Roots: More hand clap beats. Come on – how did know one hear this and immediately think it was a terrible idea? Here come the vocals, all over the place again. Better melody for chorus. More Youtube comments saying how ‘normal’ people won’t get it. That’s just what I’ve been saying. It’s not weird or unusual. If you’re enjoying it and blasting it from your car, it isn’t weird enough, it’s 100% normal. It’s not the vocal style of most bands, but that doesn’t mean normal people don’t get it as much as it means it’s not good. And many many vocalists from the era adopted this style – not sure if this was first but Bowie was at it long before this was released. The best thing I can say is that it is funky or you can dance to it. I rarely consider a song’s ability to make you want to dance as a compliment. A better compliment would be that something like this would never chart today, because everything is so bland – credit for not being bland, but I’d never consider it weird.

This Must Be The Place: It’s just… it sounds so weak. I know I’m a metal and rock fan and am used to songs existing solely to blow my head off, but that’s not all I listen to. I listen to plenty of gentle music in traditionally softer genres, but even those feel more vibrant and energetic than this – not weak. Maybe it’s the artificiality of it. I don’t know. It sounds like standard middle of the road pop to me. Maybe because it’s my first and only listen, but this song just blends in with the others and doesn’t stand out. I know it’s different and even has a different approach, but at this point in the album that central vibe is a plague. Criticism at its best, folks!

What Did I Learn: When people say punk I still immediately think of angry young people screaming over three minute guitar based songs, but there’s more to it. I’ve always known that, but I think this and a lot of other stuff got erroneously labelled punk too. It’s entirely something else, but if people have deemed it punk or post then fine. This was exactly the album and style and sound I anticipated it would be, and my feelings about the band haven’t changed. It’s a sound I don’t enjoy, though I can see why some people do. I don’t understand why it’s held in such high esteem even though I should be the target audience. To me it’s too weak, it’s not weird enough, it’s not as adventurous as it either thinks or as it once was, and the monotonous looping of it all keeps me at arm’s distance.

Do I Think It Should Be In The Top 1000 Albums Of All Time: My opinion is an easy no. To me it sounds like every other Talking Heads work I’ve ever heard and sounds a hell of a lot like many other 80s bands. That sound is so ingrained that it could be a one-hit wonder act or an established artist or Talking Heads – too similar. Of course I’m aware I’m missing most of the nuances which come with dedicated listens and familiarity, but these posts are all about first time, one time listens. I can’t say how influential this was over any other Talking Heads album but Wikipedia tells me this is their fifth so I can only assume their earlier stuff was more influential? There’s not enough I’ve enjoyed here to spur me on to investigate further, but if you’re a fan fill me in in the comments. As is increasingly the case with these albums, I feel like I should apologise for not liking it and if any fans are reading this they’re probably frothing at the beak at how fucking stupid I am for not getting it. You like it? Great. Not for me. Did I say that already? It’s better than most modern chart stuff, I’ll give it some credit.

Colin Larkin’s Ranking: 965/1000

Let us know in the comments what you think of Speaking In Tongues!

Nightman Listen’s To – Harvest Moon – Neil Young (Top 1000 Series)

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Greetings, Glancers! Another day, another album to expose myself to. Yes, as I sit here completely bollock naked in front of my screen, I am ready to absorb some good tunes into my many orifices.

What Do I Know About Neil Young: All the grunge kids liked him. All the grunge bands too. As a grunge kid myself, I’m sort of surprised it’s taken me this long to get here. I’ve heard some of his stuff, I know he’s experimented with a variety of styles, but I’ve never sat down and listened to a single album. Naked or otherwise.

What Do I Know About Harvest Moon: It’s a series of games which merge farming simulator with RPG and dating antics, played at a gentle pace yet oddly addictive. Heh, you saw that one coming, right? I’ve been aware of the album for a long time and I’m surprised Larkin didn’t have it higher on his list given that other critics seems to rate it higher.

Unknown Legend: I like the main riff, but I’m immediately on guard because it sounds country. You know I can’t stand country music. The lyrics, the way they rhyme sounds very forced and overly simple. Musically simple, nevertheless there are dynamic qualities like the female backing vocals in the chorus. The lead vocals aren’t great but I was kind of prepared for that..that country guitar though…. nothing will ever convince me that it it’s good, and I’m not a huge harmonica fan either.

From Hank To Hendrix: Doesn’t bode well starting out with harmonica and the exact same rhythm as the first song. I do appreciate the laid back nature but I get the sense this is essentially a period piece from a specific time in the USA which means nothing to me – I wasn’t there, though it’s nothing like what I remember of the era – grunge. I like the effects on the harmonica, giving some sort of twisted futuristic feel to what is at its core an old fashioned song. I think I could like this one a lot with additional listens, but I also think I could tire of it quite easily – maybe only one for a certain mood.

You And Me: The vocals…. I know what he’s going for, but it’s clearly not his range. This reminds me of The Wicker Man, which is always a good thing. This is nice, too repetitive for me, also reminds me of The Battle Of Evermore. 

Harvest Moon: Hmm, I believe I know this one. I was going to say it reminded me of Close To You. Yeah, I’ve definitely heard this before, but I don’t know from where, possibly a movie or a friend. I checked out the video for this, and it’s cheesy as hell – terrible. I’m still not a huge fan of the vocals, they do break at points and fall out of tune momentarily, though this doesn’t appear to be done for effect. It’s sweet and gentle, but comes a little close to being cloying and twee.

War Of Man: This also seems familiar. I enjoy when the beat picks up in the intro giving things a more stomping, urgent feel. I’m not paying much attention to the lyrics, but I’m guessing from the vocal refrain it’s anti-war. Actually, that’s not much of a guess, it’s 100% clear. The vocals are still weird, a mixture of tone and accent and delivery.

One Of These Days: The vocals are all over the place here, not good. More terrible pedal guitar which I can’t stand. There’s a good song in here, but I can’t get past the vocals and pedal both which verge on and often soar past dreadful.

Such A Woman: This is more encouraging, orchestral, piano, something different. The vocals are fairly deep in the mix here, almost being swamped by everything else, which is probably a good thing. I think I could love this song if there was a decent singer getting stuck in and wrenching out every last piece of the emotion, because the music is beautiful.

Old King: No no, country is one thing… weirdo country is another thing entirely.

Dreamin’ Man: Didn’t we hear this one already? Sounds very similar to one of the earlier songs on the album. Identical rhythm, almost identical chords. The album got, well, crap, very quickly after a decent start. Too many samey songs, too much country. This is just way too simple, way too boring.

Natural Beauty: Not sure why the album is ending with a ten minute live performance. Assuming this is a live version of an older song? He doesn’t sound any better live than he does in the studio… in fact, he sounds identical. This song also sounds almost identical ot something from earlier in the album, the melodies are heavily borrowed, that sloth rhythm is still lingering, and the old trick of backing female vocals was overplayed by the third song. How can you have a ten minute song where almost nothing happens – no change in pace, style, anything?

What Did I Learn: Not much… Neil Young can’t sing for shit and he loves country shit.

Does It Deserve To Be In The Top 1000 Albums Of All Time: I think you can guess what I’m going to say in summary – some good songs, but needs the country whacked out of them and needs a decent singer to take control of them. The album sounds like it was made in the 70s, but was actually recorded in the nineties, so it can’t have had much influence on anyone significant. All of that adds up to a resounding no, which is a shame as I think this had potential to be much better than it is.

Let us know in the comments what you think of Harvest Moon!

Nightman Listens To – My Fair Lady – Original Broadway Cast (Top 1000 Albums Series)

Oh, dear Lord, no. This is one giant WTF and should not be on a Top 1000 Albums list. Yes, yes, I haven’t heard it yet, but I already know what it’s going to sound like. I’ve seen the movie, hell, I even kind of like the movie. But musicals, in general, suck balls while simultaneously sucking the life out of me. Musicals… you’re lucky if you get two or three good songs, usually at least one centrepiece. My Fair Lady, as far as movie musicals go, has a few songs which the general public will know even if they haven’t seen the movie, but none of the songs are outstanding. Lets just get this over with.

What Do I Know About My Fair Lady: Musical, based off book, which later became a hit movie. Audrey Hepburn is awesome. She’s not here though.

Overture: It’s frantic and fast. It’s a textbook overture. You already know what you’re getting here. There’s about four seconds here to differentiate it from any other musical.

Why Can’t The English: Ridiculous talky singy. There’s only person who should be murdered here, and it’s YOU. This is just an embarrassment for all concerned. Fine in a film musical – pure torment in literally any other form.

Wouldn’t It Be Loverly: Starts horrifically. Gets gradually worse. At least this one has a memorable main line. The backing vocals are shocking. Some of Julie Andrews’ notes are ear cancer too.

With A Little Bit Of Luck: One of the things I hate most about musicals is singing with forced accents. Which means I’m basically buggered where this album is concerned. It’s so false and theatrical – I want my music, in most cases, to be honest, not acting. Of course, this is a musical so I get it’s meant to be the other way around – but as I’m listening with no visuals it just doesn’t work. The song needs to be extraordinary to get its point across. This is tripe. As far as accents go, Cockney is near the top of the list of ones I can’t abide. YOU SOUND LIKE A COCK.

I’m An Ordinary Man: More talking. I don’t care. You may as well be describing the peristalsis which occurs in your anus as your squeeze one through. Posh rapping. Women, eh, amirite? You’d prefer the Spanish Inquisition to letting a woman into your life? Hardy har. I’d prefer you and everyone you’ve ever met being skinned and set on fire than listen to this for another millisecond.

Just You Wait: Oh fuck off.

The Rain In Spain: Abortion.

I Could Have Danced All Night: I don’t mind the ‘chorus’ of this one. All else is pain and two minutes too long.

Ascot Gavotte: Noises. Marching. Then the singing starts and we all wish we were dead.

On The Street Where You Live: This one would be fine without the terrible vocals.

You Did It: Nice flutey opening descends into farce. And not good farce. The sort of farce where you’re trying to get somewhere on time but you can’t find your keys, then the car won’t start, then you get stuck behind eight cyclists who CYCLE IN A GROUP BESIDE THE FUCKING CYCLE LANE, then you get by them only to meet a tractor, before an ISIS appears in the backseat and beheads you.

Show Me: More travesties.

Get Me To The Church: Nope.

A Hymn To Him: Unlistenable.

Without You: Every single song and every single vocal delivery is identical.

I’ve Grown Accustomed To Her Face: Starts with ridiculous aplomb. It’s all words words words spoken in the same dumb way. Once we finally get to the ‘good’ bit it’s too little too late.

What Did I Learn: I’m fairly competent that several thousands brain cells died while listening to this.

Does It Deserve Its Place In The Top 1000 Albums Of All Time: Are you seriously asking me that with a straight face? Every copy of this wank should be wiped from existence.

Colin Larkin’s Ranking: 559.

Yeah, don’t even comment. In fact, forget I even mentioned it.

Nightman Listens To – Jackson Browne – Pretender (Top 1000 Albums Series)

Greetings, Glancers. We’re up through the Sphincter of Musical Past once again and ironically have stumbled across some Brown. Or Browne. Jackson Browne, that is. Isn’t Jackson Browne a painter? What a loads of Pollocks. If it wasn’t clear already, I’m completely new to this boyo and this album, at least from a listening perspective, so I’m not sure what to expect. It’s about time I found something I’ll love though. These are supposed to be the best of the best, but so far this experience has been kind of like hearing your neighbours have sex when you’re a teen – you think it’s alluring and hot, and you want to listen more, but you remember they are both disgusting and frighteningly obese and too hairy. Or less alarmingly, it kind of feels like when you’re stuck with a roommate or friend who insists on playing you ‘their music’ and you just know you’re going to hate it but have to pretend otherwise. Anyway, on the surface this sounds more promising, more than all that Jazz muck anyway.

What Do I Know About Jackson Browne: Another folk singer who popped up in the sixties or seventies and probably sang about love and loss and hippies. I know I’ve heard some of his bigger songs.

What Do I Know About The Pretender: Nada

The Fuse: Tst. Tst. Tst. Piano. Shadows, nice, already my sort of thing. Vocals. Sorts very traditional American. And right on cue there’s the country sounds. Drum sound isn’t great. And right on cue he talks about a drum. A little bit of Disco in there too. Quite a lot going on here, speeding up, pausing, different sounds and styles. On first listen I like it, but it’s not quite ticking all the boxes for me. I love the main piano part, the faster pieces not so much. It then turns into Baywatch. It then turns into Welcome To The Machine. 

Your Bright Baby Blues: Slow. More Springsteen stylings. Organ. People going places fast, that old trope. It’s nice, not a lot to this one. But it’s nice. Sounds like a bunch of other average songs though – those songs you know you know but can’t name. Guitar solo. Maybe it’s a bit too close to country or something. Again it’s good but it’s lacking whatever it is that makes me truly love a song. That being said, both songs so far I’d happily listen to again and presumably they’d grow on me.

Linda Paloma: Harps and weirdness. Or some Spanish equivalent. Was going to say it sounded Greek or Italian as it makes me think of The Godfather, but then he said something about Mexico. Easy chugging chords in the background. Nice again. There’s a little vocal move he’s done in every song so far, you know, turning the last syllable into three. That’s the sort of thing I pick up on and get annoyed by. I can’t think of anything better word to describe than nice – it’s not doing anything for me emotionally, but it’s pleasant to hear.

Here Come Those Tears Again: Nice start. Piano mixing with guitar and drums again. Beats. Organ. Disco beats again. Backing vocals. Good guitar. I’m not sure if this is supposed to emotional – the lyrics suggest it is, but the music is pretty cheery. Maybe it’s his voice – it’s never strained and rarely varies. I prefer a little more distinction in my vocals.

The Only Child: You already know. Nice. I like this one in its opening few seconds better than the others though. Maybe it’s the strings and slower pace. Oh dear, it’s sped up. Most of lyrics are fine. I think his voice is definitely part of why it’d just not clicking, along with the weak drums and the country twinge. It feels like the sort of song Southern State US jocks don’t mind shedding a tear or two to. Heh. Tutu.

Daddy’s Tune: Same again, waiting for the drums and speed. Something about regretting relationship with dad, and not saying what you should when you could. This doesn’t really sit well with me because I regret everything I’ve ever said to anyone, usually the instant it’s out of my mouth. Oh God, where did those trumpets come from? It’s all a bit cheesy. It’s starting to annoy me now, this need to suddenly kick off the drums, almost as if he’s trying to appease an audience that isn’t interested in softer music. Or maybe this was his Daddy’s music and he’s doing it on purpose. I don’t think so. That’s two songs in a row which started perfectly well then fell apart completely.

Sleep’s Dark And Silent Gate: Cool name. Good opening. He knows how to start a song and suck you in. But he also knows how to kick you in the nuts and then laugh in your face for thinking it was going to be something you’d enjoy. At least there’s a bit of gruff in his voice in this one. This one is more pure, no backing drum shite. Phew, made it to the end without any bullshit, good job.

The Pretender: Sounds like the opening track, or what I remember of it. More lyrics. I suppose this spoke for a generation, it doesn’t really speak for me though even though we face the same struggles. This one is a little too plain and again I don’t feel the emotion.

Colin Larkin’s Ranking: 509/1000

What Did I Learn: That Jackson Browne isn’t just a folk singer with a guitar and has packed in much more depth from a musical perspective. That he’s a good lyricist, but that I don’t love his voice or connect emotionally with his songs as others no doubt will.

Does The Pretender Deserve Its Place In The Top 1000 Albums Of All Time: Well, I want to like it and given time I’m sure it would grow on it. But when comparing it something equally lauded by Springsteen or Joni Mitchell it fall short for me. The country hues never sit well with me so we’re already on a tumbling scale and Browne’s voice is too plain for me – it lacks the anger or sadness or raw power or rasp or unique quality that affects me on a personal level. On first listen, I’ve liked it more than some other albums I’ve encountered on the journey but it feels less important or revolutionary than those. It’s a no from me, but it’s fine.

Let us know in the comments what you think of The Pretender. Does this album hold special value for you, or is it one you’ve never heard?

Nightman Listens To – Incredible String Band – Hangman’s Beautiful Daughter (Top 1000 Albums Series)

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Greetings, Glancers and what the balls is this!? Lets not beat around the bush here – I have no clue what this is. Is this literally a string band? Or is it some proto-hipster name? Dear Lord, I have visions of some marching band monstrosity. I’ve never heard of the album, I’ve never heard of the artist…. I… I don’t have high hopes for this one. Prove me wrong boys/girls/strings… prove me WRONG.

‘Koeeoaddi There’: Arggh, instant vocals. Wavering all over the place. Wicker Man. Guitar. Sitar. What’s going on? Hippies. Didgeridoo? Too many things. Can’t focus on the lyrics as there’s other stuff happening. Loose structure. Now some sort of bells. Loose. Freestyle. Feels like a bunch of boys playing whatever the hell pops into their head in one take with no previous planning. Odd accent. People. Now trying Bollywood vocals. Lots of words. Other voices. Claps and clicks. Fish on a dish. Means?

‘The Minotaur’s Song’: Piano. More singing. Sounds Irish (yes, I know it’s Scottish) so that instantly puts me off. Still, it’s pretty funny though I’ve no idea if that is intentional. Lots of emphasis on certain words to give more comedy theatrical parts. Backing voices. This one has a more traditional structure, I guess. Jaunty. One of those songs I’d stick in a playlist for a party – once everyone is lulled into a false sense of security by other songs, this pops on and generates a collective ‘WTF’. Funny high pitched ‘can’. Claps. End.

‘Witch’s Hat’: Guitar. Minor. Major. Certainly. Clearly Wicker Man. Spooky. Flute jump scare. La la la. Monkey. One for drugs. The Witch’s Hat part is cool. I’m not a fan of the wavering vocals though. More la la las. Clearly taking the piss. End.

‘A Very Cellular Song’: Thirteen minutes, oh goody. Strings and things. Parts. Nice bit. Catchy bit. Goodnight refrain. They should play this in Church instead of, you know, ‘New born baby you’re a sinner and you’re fucked’ or whatever they actually play. Actually, that sounds pretty cool too. Too many goodnights. Silence. Michael Jackson. Who would Bruce? Hilarious mess. Kazoo. Saying things. Prancing hippies. Scratchy violin. Organ. More guitar mandolin stuff. Who would mouse? Burn some into muffins, chomp, 20 minutes later, and you’re on your back with your feet in a box reciting whatever random fragments pop into your head. Then laughing because someone said ‘Thierry Henry’. Voices. Talking. It’s not great guys, lets be honest. Slithering and squelching. I’ve recorded this sort of thing before and I’m fairly certain anyone with the slightest musical ability, drugs, and a 4 track has done the it to. Yeah, it goes on for a few more minutes.

Mercy I Cry City’: Falling bits. Guitars, flutey stuff, yeah, more of the same chaos. Snakes. Yeah, pollution, that’s bad. Litter, that’s bad. Neon, that’s… bad? Yeah, everything’s bad. Apart from drugs. And shitty countryside, freezing cold, cattle-corpse stained pastures where only pneumonia and desolation lies – that’s great though. Fools.

‘Waltz of the New Moon’: Singing. Wavering. Harp or something. Music fine, vocals ridiculous. Man it just keeps going and going until you buck the cd out of the car. There’s a fire king’s daughter – there’s always a fire king’s daughter.

‘The Water Song’: Someone failing in their attempt to flush an enormous dump. Wicker Man again. Praising the little brook while sacrificing a Christian child. God made a song when the world was new. It certainly wasn’t this shite. I need a slash.

‘Three Is a Green Crown’: Starts brilliantly. Then the vocals start and it falls to shit. Beatles. This is probably the best song so far, ominous. But sort out those vocals, jeebus. Right, wrap it up, 5 minutes was plenty.

‘Swift As The Wind’: Guitar. Plant voice. Sex noise. Slapping. Again it would be nicer with some regular vocals, but that ain’t the point. Chant the demons away. Repeat.

Nightfall‘: Voice. Sitar. Nightfall. It would be lovely if it wasn’t so crap. Some nice string bits. End.

What Did I Learn: Nothing really, aside from who the band are and what it sounds like. If someone says ‘Stoned hippy poets with too many instruments make music’ then you already know exactly what this will sound like without listening.

Does It Deserve A Place In The Top 1000 Albums Ever: Once again I’ll have to defer and assume that this was influential. Indeed I can hear later bands who were possibly influenced by this. But does that mean it’s actually good? Good then and good now? No. The answer is no. I appreciate it for what it is, and I like the loose feeling. But it’s mostly junk that I have no doubt anyone else could record with similar results. By all means make the music, absolutely make it, that’s what it’s for… but best ever? Ha. HA!

Colin Larkin’s Ranking – 408

Nightman Listens To – Steve Wonder – Fulfillingness’ First Finale (Top 1000 Albums Series)

When I started writing this series of Listens To! posts, my idea was to:

A: Listen to the tonnes of albums I have acquired over the years that I hadn’t bothered to actually listen to yet and give my thoughts as I listened for the first time.

B: Catch up on those artists that I was aware of/liked certain songs by, but whose albums I had never listened to in their entirety.

C: Potentially get some new favourites based off what I heard or by recommendations from my billions of readers.

D: Because there are a tonne of albums which always appear on best of lists which I have never heard.

As a musician, music fan, and human with working ears, I feel that I should give these a go. To get some focus, I decided to go to 2000 Edition of ‘Colin Larkin’s All Time Top 1000 Albums’ because it looks fairly comprehensive (and there are a few extra sections listing top 100 albums by genre which cover selections left out of the main 1000 which I will also try to cover).

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Well, that post title was a mouthful worthy of Ron (porn). Exciting times, people! This will be the first Stevie Wonder album I have ever listened to from start to finish. When I was young I knew Stevie Wonder as ‘that guy Michael Jackson sometimes hung around with’ and as I grew older I began hearing a few singles by him. The few songs I heard, I mostly liked, but never enough for me to go buy one of his albums. Time passed, and here I am, about to embark upon what will presumably be a funky journey.

What Do I Know About Stevie Wonder: Blind musical prodigy, Wonder has been around for roughly three hundred years and influenced basically everyone who is in the music ‘business’ today.

What Do I Know About Fulfillingness’ First Finale: Nothing. Never heard of it. Difficult title to say aloud.

Smile Please: Feels like Santana for about six seconds. Low, almost drawled vocals. Reminds me a little of Chinese Restaurant music. Bum diddy bum. Summery stuff. Not especially buoyant or exalting.

Heaven Is 10 Zillion Light Years Away: Nice blend of keys and guitars and weird rhythms. This is better. There’s the bass. There’s the drums. Vocals still fairly deep. Good lyrics, questioning, still relevant. Growling backing vocals. The hand claps kind of work, and you know how much I hate hand claps. I can safely say I like this one, even if some of the percussive sounds aren’t the best and even if some of the backing vocals aren’t necessary.

Too Shy To Say: Soothing piano. Dreamy, wavey, Hawaii. All very lovely. Feels like a Bond song. Builds to a not-chorus. Simple love lyrics, yearning. I like the change in notes in the ‘I really love you’ line. Very nice.

Boogie On Reggae Woman: Fart beats. Drums. Funny noises. Sweetly funky. All very catchy and it pleads you to dance along. Harmonica. The keyboard noises are excellent – funny and interesting and funky. More harmonica.

Creepin‘: Slows things down, entrancing synth. Pause. Verse and vocals. I like the melodies and music, otherworldly. I like the structure – the pauses and shifts and changes, the addition of female vocals and other instruments etc. I can’t really add more to this, hypnotic night driving.

You Haven’t Done Nothin‘: Twinkles. Very superstitious. Good vocals and nice thumping in the background. Melodies good. Political. Angry. Dense. Brass. Doo do wop.

It Ain’t No Use: Starts as a ballad. Female backing vocals? More soothing melodies and sounds. These tracks are all good and I’d happily listen to any of them again, but none have really leaped out and grabbed and shaken me yet. This one drifts along nicely too even though the words appear to be about love irretrievable. Too many voices interweaving at the end.

They Won’t Go When I Go: Slow piano. Sounds like a sad one. Great piano melodies. Again the sound is hypnotic – a lot of sounds and ideas so it isn’t practical to type my virgin thoughts while listening at the same time. Good emotional outburst after the third minute. Is it about religion? I’m only paying attention to 20% of the lyrics.

Bird Of Beauty: Drums and weird laughing instruments. Backing vocals sound like mocking. Aside from the interesting, this one feels a little tame and samey. Sounds an awful lot like a song about drugs. Language change. Percussion too chaotic.

Please Don’t Go: Nice piano again. More farting synths. So many of the vocal melodies sound similar to one another. Still good though. Harmonica again. More vocals, growing, gospel, pleading.

Colin Larkin’s Ranking: 413/1000

What Did I Learn: I always knew i would like Stevie, but i was skeptical over how big a fan I could truly be. On the basis of this album it’s clear he has made a lot of great stuff which I didn’t know existed. None of the songs really grabbed me as instantly and as long-lasting as something like Superstitious, but there are a few I would like to listen to again to see how they sink in, while most of the others were pleasant and/or funky enough that I wouldn’t mind hearing again.  There’s a wide array of sounds and imagination, I can’t see there were too many truly emotional moments, and I do feel that some of the songs, melodies, and vocals overlapped too much between songs. Above all, it’s made me keen to hear more.

Does It Deserve Its Place In The Top 1000 Albums Of All Time: I don’t know how this compare’s to Stevie Wonder’s other albums or how influential this one was, how many copies it sold or singles it spawned. It’s the first album of its type that I’ve heard in my rundown of the Top 1000 albums and while it is consistent, and while it is good, it lacks those few songs which interact with me on a personal level. It’s only a few moments since I’ve stopped listening, but I can’t recall one truly great song that I want to instantly play again. My personal thoughts then would be a solid maybe, tending towards a yes – it should be included. There’s no way I could give it a definite no, but based on my own flawed personal tastes, I know I have heard better, and hope I hear better as my journey continues. Feel free to comment if this is one of your favourite albums, and let me know of any other Stevie Wonder records you would recommend.

Nightman Listens To! Eurythmics – Savage (Top 1000 Albums Series)

When I started writing this series of Listens To! posts, my idea was to:

A: Listen to the tonnes of albums I have acquired over the years that I hadn’t bothered to actually listen to yet and give my thoughts as I listened for the first time.

B: Catch up on those artists that I was aware of/liked certain songs by, but whose albums I had never listened to in their entirety.

C: Potentially get some new favourites based off what I heard or by recommendations from my billions of readers.

D: Because there are a tonne of albums which always appear on best of lists which I have never heard.

As a musician, music fan, and human with working ears, I feel that I should give these a go. To get some focus, I decided to go to 2000 Edition of ‘Colin Larkin’s All Time Top 1000 Albums’ because it looks fairly comprehensive (and there are a few extra sections listing top 100 albums by genre which cover selections left out of the main 1000 which I will also try to cover).

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Greetings, glancers. It’s time for you to wail and gnash your teeth once more as I proclaim the greatest albums ever to be kind of crappy. Today I tread into the terrifying land of 80s synth based pop, ginger-headed melodies, and regrettable fashion choices. It’s another album I know zero about by a band who have had a few singles I’ve enjoyed and a few I have not. It’ll be interesting for me to hear if they can make a coherent whole album, or if they are the singles band that I know them as. Synth music, especially a lot of the chart stuff from the 80s has never sat well with me, partly because it came out of Disco (which I never loved) and eventually became today’s generic dance music (which is terrible). For a while when synths were first used, they had a purpose and a focus, but songs soon became overburdened by the instrument to the point of ridicule, or were not used with any sort of smarts, or just sounded crap. Maybe there isn’t any synth on this album, I have no idea. Only one way to find out.

What Do I Know About Eurythmics: Lennox-based pop duet who had a string of hits in the 80s and early 90s, employing Annie’s big mouthed vocals and lots of electronic sounds.

What Do I Know About Savage: Zilch, never heard of it. In fact, looking down the track listing I don’t recognise a single song.

Beethoven (I Love To Listen To): 80s drum beats with a slight squeak. Wind noises. Growing. More drums. Disaster. Ridiculous, laughable, dated sounds. Repeated vocals. Silly speaking. Fading from ear to ear. Additional silly bleeps. It sounds so tame and feeble and horrendously outdated. At least the lyrics are interesting. Shift towards fake strings, better for a few seconds. Laughter. And on it goes.

I’ve Got A Lover (Back In Japan): Bits of guitar or something. Beat and simple set of notes. Catchy enough chorus. Vocals like a yawn. Middle bit. Didn’t go anywhere. Goes on for a bit more with a few additional swerves and throbs and vocal bits.

Do You Want To Break Up: Clicks and twinkles. Guitar bend. Nuts. Baywatch. Beats mess. Vocal disgrace. More yawning. Low bits. High bits. Playing with the tempo. Ridiculous chorus. Repeat with assorted bits.

You Have Placed A Chill In My Heart: Sigh. More wafery fluffy beats. Keyboard bits and bassy bits and vocal tics. It’s oddly infectious though, but pretty plan and not very interesting. Enough.

Shame: Non-Tubular bells. Louder. Shame. Cersei’s breasts. Thumpy beat noise. Better melodies. Wondering if I’ve heard this, but probably not. Rolling Rs. Best song so far, I could listen to this again. Not too much though.

Savage: Organs. Churching. More soft beats. Anti-things lyrics. Gentle. Savage. Harp sounds. Drums and guitar kick up a notch. Aircraft flyby sounds. Guitar solo. Air. Ooohing. Fading out.

I Need A Man: Harsher vocals. Bluesy husky. Sexy? It has a different sound from the other tracks so far, but isn’t as heavy as it could have been. Better vocal delivery. Funny Status Quo guitars. Bababababababay.

Put The Blame On Me: Funky disco guitars. And funky disco beats. A sound more suited to me. More interesting melodies, especially on the title line. Piano falling downstairs. Weirdo noises and speaking. Unnecessary words. Howl. A good song, but like most others here the song seems to run out of ideas long before it ends and has a minute or more of filler at the end – throw in a few more variances or twists, don’t simply let the song fade to nothing like a watery fart.

Heaven: Uppy downy bass. Synth. Whispers. Heaven. Falling back on boring sounds and habits. A third of the song done and nothing doing. Too much of this feels like music for dickheads to dance to. No further substance or interest. Into the final minute we get a slight change, marginally better, but too little too late.

Wide Eyed Girl: Rain on a caravan roof. Faster. A View To A Kill. More yawns. More squeals and tics. Live bit. Attempted crazy guitar. Gets more raucous towards the end.

I Need You: Bits. Acoustic blast. More bits. Guitar repeat. A little bit of blues. Faking. Laughter. All very basic, but shows you don’t need all the blips and blaps.

Brand New Day: Last song up. Vocals only. A brave thing to do when you’re known for your synth and backing music. Grunts and backing vocals. We all know Lennox can sing, it’s a pity she arses about too much on too many of the songs. In comes the synth and noise. At least this one does feel like it was well planned beforehand. Drums now. This feels more like an opening track than a closing one. Gospel. End.

Colin Larkin’s Ranking: 367/1000

What Did I Learn: Not really anything I didn’t know about the band already, except that the lyrics are more interesting than I’d previously paid attention to.

Does It Deserve A Place In The Top 1000 Albums Of All Time: I would say no. Of course maybe it was another important step for electronic pop. The first songs drag on as the sound and style don’t appeal to me personally, and it all feels rather bland and dated. It doesn’t help that many of the vocals are grating and the melodies are not memorable. Once we get over that bump there are a few songs with greater quality, providing more ideas. I was expecting plenty of big choruses and tunes I that would have me whistling along instantly, but that never happened. As always with these albums, first listens are not the same as subsequent listens, but having gone through it once there isn’t enough to make me want to go through it again.

Another album down, and another which didn’t quite make the grade for me. But what about you? Is this one of your favourite albums and are you seething that I have failed to understand it? What makes it special for you? Let us know in the comments!

Nightman Listens To – Duke Ellington At Newport (Top 1000 Albums Series)

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Greetings, Glancers. We’re back once again to treat our ears and inferior minds with music to make us better people. Having said that, I immediately don’t have a good feeling about this one; it’s jazz, and jazz and me go together like Israel and Palestine. What can I say, I’m just not a fan of the brass.

What Do I Know About Duke Ellington: He was (is?) a Jazz musician

What Do I Know About Live At Newport: It’s a live show? At Newport?

Well, that was quick. Before I hit play, I will say that as I was typing this I saw that there is the original recording and a 1999 remaster clocking in at over 2 hours. I… I think I’ll stick with the original for now, thanks. There’s only five tracks, which probably means they’re all ten minutes long. Yippee!

‘Festival Junction’ opens with clapping and a very polite and unnecessary introduction. More clapping. A new thing. Tom And Jerry. Smooth. Fast and uppy downy. Mad skills. Piano. More. Drums. There’s the beat. More claps. Here we go, cats. I can imagine both weird 50s dancing and weird 50s hoodlums tipping their caps. In sync. Sounds like they’re having fun. It’s not annoying me in any way, but it’s just background noise for me. I’m sure if I’d been there I may have been swept up in the live atmosphere. it sounds like twelve different TV gameshow themes being played at the same time. Some squeals now. Those high notes do nothing for me, sir, but the crowd seem to be creaming all over them.

‘Blues To Be There’ starts with another spoken intro. Are all these new or improvised pieces that no-one has heard before, so they need to walk them in with words? Or was that just the style of the time? Slow, bluesy piano. Cymbals. Brass. It, and most jazz, still makes me think of Tom And Jerry, and I don’t think that’ll ever change. Halloween moment. Again it’s fine for me to have in the background, but I’m not a fan of music for background purposes. Who keeps shouting ‘yeah’? More twiddly now. Clapping. Oh, wait, not over yet. I wonder if anyone is going to move into the house across the road. It’s been empty for a year, and the sold sign has been up for about three weeks now. Actually, the sold sign split in half thanks to the wind the other night. It’s Friday January 27th as I write this, people usually move in on Fridays, right? More clapping. No, still going. People still write and listen to and release jazz, right? Young cubs I mean. It’s not about to die out. Every time I hear a car engine pausing outside I think it’s going to be someone new moving in over the road. End.

Newport Up‘ sees another introduction, man these hip cats sound so square. Fast, bouncy, skirts swirling, feet kicking. This one builds a frantic pace and has plenty of solo moments backed by exuberant backing blasts. Sorry guys, but again by non-jazzy ears are looking out for hooks rather than freestyle, so I can’t be the most objective about this. I like it, sure – it isn’t annoying and I appreciate the speed and skill of playing. But technical artistry is one thing, crafting memorable music that I can recall at a moment’s notice is another. Now it sounds like Archer. 

Jeep’s Blues‘ is immediately sex music. Tom And Jerry sex music that is – you know, one of those moments when the girl cat comes in and turns her eyelashes into a beckoning finger. It also sounds quite a bit like The Pink Panther in places. Yes, 99% of jazz music I know comes from cartoons – that’s why I’m listening to this – to increase my knowledge and better myself. What exactly are you doing? Yeah exactly, so shut up. It ambles and rambles on, nothing to see or hear here I’m afraid.

Diminuendo and Crescendo In Blue‘ is apparently two tracks merged together for this live outing. Piano and percussion. Then crazy horns. So this is ticking along nicely, I can’t really differentiate it from any of the previous tracks, probably because I’ve already forgotten them. It’s softer now, someone is clapping their hands, and someone keeps yelling. The shouting is quite annoying because I’ve no idea why he’s doing it. Is this good? Is that why? The crowd is damn well into though, maybe he’s just stoking the fire. Again, great skills on display, but the music isn’t my sort of thing and I’ve never been able to stand too much brass. That beat just keeps going on, this guy keeps playing, and the crowd is getting louder. It’s funny as he seems to be playing whatever the hell he likes. But again, it’s minutes and minutes of what my philistine ears determine to be the same few notes. Obviously it’s not that, but that’s how it seems. How hasn’t this guy fainted yet? Now the pianist is doing weird shit. Must be his turn now. Now they’re all at it. It still sounds like gameshows and cartoons and Dick Van Dyke movies. I’ll admit my foot got tapping in literally the final minute, and those final screeching notes are horrific and brilliant, but it’s over now and I can’t say I’ll ever listen to it again. Someone’s talking now. End.

What Did I Learn: I still don’t like jazz. Or ‘get’ jazz. Whatever. This is fine but doesn’t sound any different from most other jazz I’ve heard. All I can say is thank God they invented the guitar and the amp and all the rest.

Does It Deserve Its Place In The Top 1000 Albums Of All Time: Well, it sure as hell wouldn’t appear in mine. But presumably this was a landmark for jazz, or live albums, or a combination of both. I’d love to see the crowd as it sounds like they are losing their minds. Again, I don’t really have any frame of reference to compare this with. Show me some bad jazz and let me see how it makes me feel, and then I’ll listen to this again to see if it’s any different. That’s always a good marker for getting into a genre you’re not familiar with. Show them a turd, then show them a diamond. As I have no clue what I’m talking about, this gets a 2 for maybe as I simply can’t give it a definite yes because I didn’t really like it, and I can’t give it a no because people who know better would throttle me. With their feeble jazz hands.

Colin Larkin’s Ranking: 460/1000