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 sounds 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

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Nightman Listens To – Simon & Garfunkel – Bookends (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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There’s a vast swath of music you, but more specifically I, have never and will never listen to. Each of us who claim to be genuine lovers of music will know of certain artists and albums, and know that we should listen to them, but haven’t and may never; that is ostensibly the purpose of these posts. For me, a lot of what most critics deem as the most important and best music of the 20th Century comes from the mid 60s – mid 70s US. My base knowledge has always been from the same period, but from Britain – Beatles, Floyd, Zeppelin, Who etc, while my general love of US music comes from later periods. That means that artists such as Bob Dylan and Simon and Garfunkel have always passed me by. I know the hits, I know who they are and what they do, but not specific albums in full. I like to say I’m a US folk fan, but really Joni Mitchell is currently the only person I can claim to be knowledgeable about (and her styles changes frequently and drastically). I can say that the songs I know of from S and G I have enjoyed, but nothing has made me seek out more beyond simply thinking ‘I should listen to more of their stuff’. It changes now!

What Do I Know About Simon & Garfunkel: A folk-loving pair, known for their songs of love, loss, and rebellion, their harmonies, melodies, and hair. Lots of big selling hits everyone knows and loves.

What Do I Know About Bookends: Nothing… I don’t think I’ve even heard of it before looking at Larkin’s list. Looking down the tracklist I recognise two songs – one of their biggest, and one which The Bangles covered.

Bookends Theme: Plinky plonky acoustic guitars. A very short track always makes me think that the album is going to be a concept album. This is too short to really go anywhere.

Save The Life Of My Child: Loud throb followed by Irish style jig rhythm. Lots of stuff going on here, backing howls and vocals, whip cracks, and other effects. The guitars and vocals seem to be drowned out by all the extras. Heavier and more experimental than I would have expected. A strange one.

America: Slight electric before leading into the acoustics and vocals I know the due for. I haven’t heard this one, seems to be some sort of protest or patriotic song. Again some unusual twiddly stuff going on in the background. It’s fine, doesn’t do a lot for me though, maybe I’d like it more after a few listens.

Overs: This one has an even more gentle sound, good, sweet vocals, what I can pick up of the lyrics first time around seem interesting, but the melodies are too whimsical and loose to grab me. A lot of playing with time, pausing, and volume on this one. Feels like it’s over before it’s begun.

Voices Of Old People: Okay, so they’re being literal with the title. Snippets of what appear to be old people talking. Talking about stuff. It works well on Dark Side Of The Moon with a musical accompaniment. This is just voices. Essentially pointless.

Old Friends: I think I’ve heard this before, or parts of it. Gentle, I like the strings growing and falling and weaving. More loose vocals and construction. Then it turns into a nightmarish episode of Bewitched. 

Bookends Theme: And we fade back in to this. Singing this time. Sad, lonesome, whimsy.

Fakin It: Presumably the second half will be a little bit more commercial. We get off to an almost Beatles style folk song. A more traditional song, plenty of backing stuff in the production, good melodies and guitar. Still room for more outlandish stuff, with a spoken piece and an interesting ending.

Punky’s Dilemma: Lots of breakfast related lyrics. Nice stable beat, giving way at various points to Beach Boys harmonies. All very gentle, managing to stay on the right side of twee. More sounds and clicks and voices and whistles. All of these songs seem to pass me by though, like a whisper on a street.

Mrs Robinson: Obviously everyone knows this one, and it stands out from the rest of the album by having clear hooks. It’s a terrific song and I was expecting a few more songs like this on the album but so far nothing has come close to either sounding like this or being as good as this.

Hazy Shade Of Winter: I love the Bangles version of this, but until now I’ve never heard this original. So far, the Bangles version is heavier and has vastly superior vocals which is surprising. It’s still good and if I’d heard this one before The Bangles one I don’t know whether I’d prefer the original As it stands, I like The Bangles one more.

At The Zoo: Another two and a half minuter. Starts slowly before tumbling into a groovy pace. What’s it all about? Sounds like a skeptical attempt at poetry. Pick a thing, then write a different thing linking the first thing. Not much going on here musically, pretty simple stuff.

Colin Larkin’s Ranking: 338/100

What I Learned: Simon and Garfunkel can be more experimental in their sound. I knew them for their light folk infused rock and I suppose I should have expected them to be more than just that.

Does Bookends Deserve To Be In The Top 1000 Albums Of All Time: I’ll have to defer to the old favourite maxim of this presumably being influential and a product of its time for it appearing in the Top 1000 albums of all time. Personally, upon first listen there is almost nothing here which would make me recommend this or include it in the Top 1000 albums. A couple of obvious stand out tracks and one or two more which would probably grow on me after multiple listens, but it’s too light and airy and doesn’t speak to me on any personal level as a whole.

So, aging hippies out there – what am I missing? Is this truly a product of its time, or do its reaches extend beyond the realms of space and time? Let me know what other albums from Simon And Garfunkel are good. I did like this, but not enough for me to want to go and listen to it again – I wish I did as previously I’d liked everything I’d heard by them. Sound off in the comments!

Nightman Listens To – REM – Life’s Rich Pageant (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! In today’s edition of Nightman Listens, I, Senor Carlos Nightman, listen to an album by indie, enviro-weirdos REM. REM always pop up on best album lists and they are generally spoken of by bands and artists I like. I’ve never felt a desire to listen to them much beyond the few singles I’ve heard, and although a few friends rate them very highly, most of the people I know who are big fans, are dicks. It’s time for me to learn a bit more abound them and decide for myself, and the best way to do that is to have a gander at one of their albums.

What I Know About REM: For a while in the mid nineties, REM were one of the biggest bands on the planet. They were around long before then, and have been around since. Michael Stipe is the lead singer and both his face and voice annoy me. They are a little too preachy and whiny for my liking, but they have made a number of songs that I’ve enjoyed. I admit I know very little of their catalogue as a whole, and have only heard one complete album – Automatic For The People – it’s good, but not as amazing as people like to say. That should do it.

What I Know About Life’s Rich Pagaent: It’s an album by REM. Looking down the track list I don’t recognise any of the names.

Begin The Begin: Riff. Strangled chords. Annoying Stipe voice. Fine melodies. Everything a little tinny or plain. Growing. Hiccups. Birdy. More music. End.

These Days: Fast. Sounds like The Bangles. Annoying Stipe voice. Nice drums. Annoying Stipe howl. Again okay melodies, but nothing grabbing, nothing emotional, nothing memorable. Attempt at a solo. Back around for repeat. End.

Fall On Me: Softer and acoustic mix. Lower vocals. Attempts at emotion. Failed attempts. Ok chorus, but nothing great. The best moment was the opening 8 or so seconds. Decent middle section, but too light. Sounds like faux hippy happy balls.

Cuyahoga: Decent opening. Ruined by appearance of boring drums, usual guitar, and annoying Stipe voice. Crappy idealistic lyrics. Bell. Bored already. Same melodies churned out on each song so far. Decent middle section. More whining.

Hyena: Laughter. Smiths-esque pacing. These drums are horrendous. Stipe howls. Jangling guitars. This is probably the least interesting, least inspired album I’ve listened to so far in this Top 1000 run through. I just feel into a mini-coma during one of the verses, then yawned and re-emerged for the final chorus.

Underneath The Bunker: Nice rip off riff. Is this an instrumental? The guitar isn’t great, there are quite a few notes which don’t quite connect. Voice. End.

The Flowers Of Guatemala: Nice intro, but oh so twee. Sounds like a One Direction ballad. Not long before Stipe’s howls come along. One trick Stipe. How much more of this crap is there? Ok, very basic solo. I get the simple solo thing, I do, but here it sounds like people who can’t play their instruments thinking they’re amazing.

I Believe: Banjo. Finally, someone can play. And replaced with more Smiths licks. Same old tempo, same old melodies, same old drums. Come on, raise the bar. Give me a hook. No no, not a howl Stipe. Jeebus. More dodgy lyrics culled from other places. It’s isn’t clever. France. To be fair, I can’t say that any of the songs have been bad, but I certainly can say that every one sounds like a copy and paste of the one before, and that none stands out. It’s as coherent as a blood spill.

What If We Give It Away: Drums. The Drums, as Brando once said. Moaning about money. What if you did give it away? Another howl. You know, if they changed the tone of the guitar, changed the drums completely, and replaced Michael Stipe with a singer, some of these songs might be good. This is what we have though. Another middle section which is better than the rest of the song. YAWNING.

Just A Touch: Shit, I was doing something else and didn’t realise this had started. Faster, drums finally better. There’s about 1% of Nirvana in the chorus. Organs and by God more murderous howling from Stipe. Who the fuck handed this eejit a microphone? Someone needs to Delorean that shit. I give up. Even when it’s different it’s the same. Is this them thinking they are being heavy? I’ve taken heavier dumps.

Swan Swan H: A little different, but the same effing melodies and Stipe balls.

Superman: Bla bla bla.

Colin Larkin’s Ranking: 162/1000

What I Learned: Not a lot. 80s REM sounds an awful lot like 90s REM, and Stipe’s voice is still as annoying as a wasp behind your eye.

Does It Deserve Its Place In The Top 1000 Albums Of All Time: Absolutely not. There is, for me, nothing original, nor anything memorable here. It sounds like a thousand other half-assed soft rock albums. Out of the few albums I’ve virginally listened to from Larkin’s list, this is the weakest, and to think it appears at number 162 (and that there are 3 REM albums higher on the list) is a shocker. Does this hold some cultural significance? I can’t think of any reason why this should be included in any Best lists. And I am right.

Let me know in the comments why you think I’m wrong and why this does deserve a place in the Top 1000 albums of all time. Is it one of your favourites? What happened to you to make you say such things?

Nightman Listens To – Blur – Blur (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. Today we return to Colin Larkin’s Top 1000 albums and our first Blur entry. I’m hopeful that I’ll enjoy this one as by and large I’ve liked what I’ve heard over the years from Blur and they are a pretty large missing piece from my musical knowledge, outside of their biggest songs. I just hope the accents don’t annoy me.

What I Know About Blur (Band): Britpop darlings, massively successful, one half of the infamous Oasis versus Blur Civil War in the 90s, built around Coxon, James, Albarn, and probably another one. I know most of their singles pretty well, but I’ve never owned or heard any of their albums in full. I was always on the Oasis side of the argument. Something about Blur in the early days seemed too cheery, too happy and silly, and Damon’s face and singing style/voice annoyed me. Later songs I enjoyed more and the band grew on me, but still I never actually went back to listen to any albums.

What I Know About Blur (Album): Nothing, I wasn’t even aware they had a self-titled album. I would have assumed this was their debut, until I saw that it wasn’t. Looking down the track list I recognise, and like, two of the songs, but aside from that I don’t know anything else about the album.

Beetlebum: Has a short scratchy intro before the famous distorted riff comes in. The vocals and melodies have a Beatles feel, a drowsy post-grunge appeal with an exuberant melancholy pop chorus. I’ve always liked this one.

Song 2: This one everyone knows. I remember mocking and appreciating the Smells Like Teen Spirit stylings of the song when it was first released, and the song has continued to hold worldwide popularity, always popping up some movie or TV show. Good start to the album, but that’s the two songs I recognise out of the way.

Country Sad Ballad Man: Another scratchy opening. Twangs and drums. Eventual tune. Distant vocals. Weirdo vocals. More droopy, sleepy vibes. Interesting enough. Solo with unrelated string bending. Alien noises. Explosion. Wasp trapped in an eye socket. Flipping a pancake into a toilet.

MOR: Nice guitars. Building. Bowie vocals. Chorus. It’s certainly loud and bouncy. The vocals and singing accent don’t do it for me. Chorus is okay, I’d say after a few listens of this this would either completely piss me off or finally click with me, not sure which but I’m veering towards being pissed off.

On Your Own: Spaceman intro. WipEout. Robots eating and crapping guitars. More Bowie vocals. ‘Ooooh-ooooh’ harmonies. It’s all a bit too drunken and chanty for my liking, one to sway about to with ‘the lads’ as you fall out of ‘the’ pub. ”.

Theme From Retro: Throb in. Drums. Circus funeral. Ghosts bobbing for apples. This is just one big Bowie wank fest, innit?

You’re So Great: Better start. Basic stuff at a pleasing tempo. Vocals not quite right of course. Nice bonus guitar. Rinse and repeat.

Death Of A Party: More distortion and organ mishaps. Okay verses, more drowsiness. Chorus is better but misses a trick by not going on for another few moments, another line and another progression from ‘gently on the shelf’. It goes on for another verse, then goes on a bit more, then stops.

Chinese Bombs: Faster guitars. Drum disaster. Clearly a joke song, but it’s better than most of their serious ones on this album.

I’m Just A Killer For Your Love: Funk. Drum mess. Scratchy guitars, why not. More drowsy verses and chorus. Getting sleepy. More noises for the second half of the song. Sounds like a bunch of knobs let loose in a studio for a few hours with no idea what they’re doing.

Look Inside America: Another acoustic start. Big vocals. Strings bonus. Rest of band appears. Bowie chorus. Can’t shake off those drowsy tones and melodies. There are a few good moments here, but outweighed by the guff. Surprise harp and guitar ending. Because we haven’t had a song with a harp on it yet.

Strange news From Another Star: Continuing the loose tonal theme. Change to acoustic, much better. Good verses, lets hope it doesn’t get thrown away. Much better chorus, still drowsy, still Bowie, but keeps the best moments of both. Easily the best song since the 2nd track. Even gets the ending right.

Movin On: Good intro. Jaunty riffs. Fun enough, doesn’t go anywhere but not too offensive. Comedy ending.

Essex Dogs: Apparently this includes ‘Interlude’. That should be good. Throbbing. Tin cans. Like an old Spectrum racing game. Words. Is it about Essex? I’ve no idea, but I know I never want to go there. Guitars and lasers. More words. Distant singing and bass. Robot orgy. Bits and pieces. It’s fine, works well as an experimental piece. Here come Interlude. It’s okay too, repeating the same weirdo sounds.

Colin Larkin’s Ranking: 271/1000

What I Learned: That the first Blur album I listened to contained far fewer pop and commercial songs than I was expecting. That singing in your speaking accent will always annoy me, especially when it’s wanky posh English. That Blur tried to experiment and, well, failed.

Does It Deserve A Place In The Top 1000 Albums Of All Time: Not in my opinion, no. I understand now, after reading some of the album’s wiki page that this was a departure for the band in almost all departments. It seems like a strained attempt at a magnum opus, of being something they were not, or at least had not been. They tried, but it doesn’t work for me. There are maybe three or four songs here I’d gladly hear again, with another one or two being passable, but the rest is pretension by a group who don’t appear to have the skills to be pretentious.

Is this your favourite album? Do you think it deserves a place in the Top 1000 Albums of all time? Let us know in the comments!

Nightman Listens To – Queen – A Night At The Opera (Top 1000 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).

Greetings, Glancers! Today in the never-ending Nightman Listens To series, I visit my first Queen album. Are you excited? I certainly am, and I’m looking forward to discovering some new favourites. You may know that I’ve never been a massive Queen fan, I don’t have anything against them and I do love plenty of their hit singles. Maybe after I listen to one complete Queen album, the floodgates will open and I’ll be a convert.

What Do I Know About Queen: What a silly question. One of the biggest rock bands on the planet, even decades after their peak and after the death of vocalist Freddie Mercury their popularity endures and their music has lost none of its power.

What Do I Know About A Night At The Opera: I have heard a few people name this as the best Queen album. Does it feature Bohemian Rhapsody? The title suggests a concept album, or songs loosely tied together with an operatic approach or theme? In other words, I know nothing about it. It will take some beating to be better than Blind Guardian’s masterpiece of the same name. Insert link to top 15 albums.

Death On Two Legs: Piano. Twinkling. Sounds like an opera so far. Flash Gordon noises. Threatening. Growing. ALien attack. Scream. Gone. Soft. Guitar fun. Guitar madness. Vocals. Doing a Hetfield. Narrow minded cronies. Unusual pauses. Has the Queen sound, harmonies, May’s signature guitar. Great stuff. Surging and fading vocals. Actually reminds me of Blind Guardian, so I assume this was a template for them in more than name. End.

Lazing On A Sunday Afternoon: Jaunty piano, arcade music. Ringo. Weirdo vocals. London town. Louvrrrre. Weirdo guitars.

I’m In Love With My Car: Revs. Future sounds. Clean machine. That ain’t Mercury. Duet? No idea. Plodding but heavy. More good stuff. Odd ending. End.

You’re My Best Friend: I know this one, of course. I always thought this was a little twee, but damn catchy any. Too many adverts have used this. Just a nice, happy song to put a smile on your face without being crap.

39: Led Zep 3 esque. Roy Harper. A little bit country, a little bit folk. Bonzo thump. Nostalgia. Is this a dedication to Zep, or folk in general? Howling. Protest song melodies. I think I’m converted. Not Mercury either. I didn’t realise others sang on their albums, is it a guest or one of the other band members?

Sweet Lady: Riff. Drums. All present, sir. Stones. Catchy again. I’m amazed I haven’t heard more of these. Cheese, but not that. Funky breakdowns. Howls. Faster. Solo. Woo. Headbang. Yay, Queen rock!

Seaside Rendezvous: Jaunty. Seaside. Clementine. See, they could probably do without these fun throwaway songs. Mouth mess. Weeeeeee. Whistle.

The Prophet’s Song: Twinkies. Guitar. Western. Atmosphere. Brooding stomps. Some sort of story. Flash Gordon. More words. People. Plant vocals. Voice collapse. Now I know. Indeed. Lalallalalalalalala, broken ears headphone disgrace. Man man. Crunch. Guitars return. Noise. Growth. Harp. Wind.

Love Of My Life: Piano and acoustic guitars. A classical feel. I believe I’ve heard this one before, yes yes. Lovely melodies, and feels a little like the quiet moments of Bohemian Rhapsody. Ghost voices. Guitar like a cello. Very nice, though a strange amount of instrumental moments without vocals for such a short song.

Good Company: Teeth. Cleaning windows. Faster. Drums and guitars. Sounds like a lost McCartney. Phasing. Moon man. Singing through a tube. Weirdo guitars. Jam. End.

Bohemian Rhapsody: I think we all know this one, right? Nothing more to say really.

God Save The Queen: Rushing in. Guitar anthem. I see. An odd ending, but apt.

Colin Larkin’s Ranking: 96/1000

What I Learned: Queen knew how to rock, and fairly heavily. I knew this of course, but most of the songs I was familiar with always had that pop edge and I didn’t think they’d really gone beyond that. This album showcases both the commercial pop side, a heavier side, and a lot of experimentation with guitars and vocals. I’m not sure if the album does all tie together in some sort of single concept and I’d need to go back and listen to the lyrics of each track. Overall, I learned that this is a fantastic album.

Does It Deserve Its Place In The Top 1000 Albums Of All Time: Well, that’s easily my favourite album out of the few I’ve listened to since kicking off this endeavour. A very fine album indeed, with only a couple of tracks I knew of, and a bunch I’m already looking forward to listening to again. I can’t say how influential this particular record was, but for the mid seventies it was pretty heavy and featured a lot of harmonic vocals in a wall of sound which it appears had an impact on Blind Guardian. Quality wise, this is a solid rock album and one I thoroughly enjoyed, and it is a lot better than other so-called great albums at least on first listen.

What you think of this album – when did you first hear it? Does it hold a special place in your musical history? let us know in the comments section!

Nightman Listens To – Cocteau Twins – Heaven or Las Vegas! (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).

Greetings, Glancers! It’s time once again to marvel at my ignorance and give me a pat on the back for trying, as I listen with virgin ears to an album that has thus far passed me by on my listening travels. Today’s should be interesting as I don’t really know anything about the band, I haven’t heard of the album, and I’m not even sure what the genre of music is. I apologise in advance to any fans who may be reading this, but you never know, maybe you’re about to be joined by a new recruit. Alls I gots to do is hit ‘play’.

What Do I Know About The Cocteau Twins: I’ve heard the name, I believe they are Scottish, but I don’t know if there actually are twins in the band (I assume not).

What Do I Know About Heaven or Las Vegas: Absolutely nada.

Cherry-Coloured Funk: Hold on, postman just came to my door….Ok, he’s gone. Soft, My Vitriol guitar sound. Oh Lord, I hope it doesn’t become like My Bloody Valentine. Hmm, lady vocals, nice. Is this all female-fronted? If so, I think it’ll be the first female fronted album we’ve covered so far on Larkin’s list. Dreamy pace. High pitch, can’t make out the lyrics, something about tigers and colours. Soft and sort of catchy, I may get into it after more listens, nothing overly memorable, but good start. Sudden end.

Pitch The Baby: Warble. More fairground effects on the guitars, wavey and watery. More lady vocals, still can’t quite make them out. A sultry song for drunken dancing or stoned ceiling stares. Again, it’s sort of catchy in its repetition, and waves of sound bouncing around have their charm, but no obvious melody that would stick with me.

Ice-blink Luck: 80s pop sound. Uppy downy vocals. Defo an MBV vibe, but without all the crap. Interesting melodies, just wish the vocals were more prominent in the mix, too much swirling getting in the way. Bass has similar tone to New Order. Lots of words. Cherry cola. Drum interlude. A traditionally commercial structure buried under wall of sound. That was nice.

Fifty-fifty Clown: Throb and drum. More drums. Dark underwater. I see much of what would influence How To Measure A Planet by The Gathering here, which is one of my favourite albums – that period they were influenced by Slowdive, Dead Can Dance etc, and this sounds pretty similar. I guess people will call this ethereal, and it is. I appreciate the vocals and the melodies, but still waiting for something to really grab a hold of me.

Heaven Or Las Vegas: Some sort of cascading riff. Title track. More vocals I can’t understand. Lots more swirling and plenty of sound trapping out space. I imagine there are some disasters with people not knowing the lyrics and trying to sing along or guess. Again it is catchy, but more in an airy way than an obvious way, which means it will likely take me a few listens to remember anything in particular.

I Wear Your Ring: Slight Eastern sound. Something looming on the sun-kissed horizon. Ha ha, sunrise sunset lyrics. Now, this is more like it, wonderful stuff. Can slip away and never want to come back. Slight trumpet or some such. Gone. Slight no clue what is being said. Some of vocals sound a little off, especially on the lower vibrato, like one of those wheels you used to get on the side of a keyboard to bend notes up and down.

Fotzepolitic: Surge. My dreams are something. A lot of these songs have similar melodies in the vocals – build up to very high point then immediately drop to low note. Still, it’s nice enough. La la las. More jangling guitars. All very pleasant. Refrain. Repeat. See and saw and me back to ya? Oh Lord, a guitar solo of some description. Fade.

Wolf in The Breast: Riff sounds like something else I know. Can’t place it. This is all a refreshing change from other stuff I’ve been listening to recently, and more importantly, from the drivel in today’s charts. Soothing. Again dreamy melodies that flutter away before they take hold. It’s very easy to get caught up in this and forget to write, but then I don’t really have much to say about it.

Road, River And Rail: Jangling guitars. A bit more ominous and atmosphere. Lets try the lyrics…. Eddie fell away, and his choices can’t be toes, making clothes on the hill where I sent him. Road river rail, something something century. Can’t keep up. Floating through ancient flaps of light.. lay on a crapper of bless. Seeing an apple and pants…. from out of the barnyard. Seventeen. I don’t know. Am I close with any of this? Mother’s daughter. To a tissue falling? This is nice as well.

Frou-Frou Foxes In Midsummer Fires: Dark and atmospheric opening again. Funeral march, nice. Howling guitars. Swirly swirls. Vocals more prominent now. Building to something. No. Again. Now. Explosion of sound and Spac words. Scatman. Sounds like Family Ness theme tune. Rounder. Rounder. Back to start. Good stuff. If I listen to this again I imagine it will have more of an impact.

Colin Larkin’s Ranking: 218/1000

What I Learned: That Cocteau Twins have a lady singer, that they make ethereal pop that sounds like anything from mid 80s to late 90s. That the lyrics are either indecipherable or nonsense or both. That they, at least on this album, have a very distinct sound and never veer away from it. That it’s all very nice, soothing, and repetitive in a good way.

Does It Deserves Its Place In The Top 1000 Albums Of All Time: It’s another strange one because I can’t imagine this would have sold bucketloads as it doesn’t strike me as particularly commercial, unless it was released in one of the indie peak periods. I don’t recall hearing any of the songs before so I don’t think any of the singles were hits, and I don’t remember hearing any of it on TV shows or movies, so I don’t know how influential it is, or was. There are a few bands who have a similar sound, so maybe these guys were first, or its one of the best examples. Musically it is strong, though I don’t usually go for the wall of sound when it so clearly crushes everything else. I’d definitely listen to it again, and I imagine that it is indeed something I could easily get hooked on. So in short, upon first listen, for me it’s a MAYBE.

Did I get this right, or have I missed the point? What are your memories of this album – feel free to share some stories, and recommend some other stuff by the band. Have you seen them live? What’s your favourite song by them, or on this album? Let us know in the comments!

Nightman Listens To – DJ Shadow – Entroducing (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).

Greetings glancers! It’s time once again to delve into some of the nearest music ever made according to one critic to see if I agree land find something new to love, or if I disagree and add another be to the ‘avoid swamp’. Today’s album takes us into the murky world of dance music, a loose term for sure, but one which best suits our purposes for now. It’s a genre I am not overly familiar with, knowing mostly the chart and club trash which is inescapable these days.

What I Know About DJ Shadow: He’s a DJ. I know some of my friends who aren’t traditional listeners of dance music listen to him. I don’t know if they are doing that because the music is genuinely good or because it’s a cool name to drop. I usually avoid anything with DJ in the name as everything I have since been exposed to has been awful. I’m cool. I’m also aware that his albums are frequently critically acclaimed.

What I Know About Endtroducing: Absolutely nothing. Is this his most critically acclaimed album? I’ve heard friends talk about one of his albums in particular, but I’ve no clue if this is it or not.

Without further Apu, let’s get listening.

Best Foot Forward: Speaking. Samples. Too many. Am I going to have to guess all of these? End?

Building Steam With A Grain Of Salt: Piano. Nice. A Pink Floyd vibe from the merging of music and speaking. Sounds like this may have appeared in a movie. Or a BMW advert. More talking, not quite loud enough to make out. See, I appreciate this sort of thing but not if it’s repetitive. Ok, some shifting. Drums collapsing. Shaft guitar sounds. More piano. More words. Fading. Fine.

The Number Song: Counting. Drums. I know that thrumming. Scratching and some rap words. Good enough to blast from car, not quite as good as blasting my own screeches. Shift. Sesame street. Echoes. Metallica thrumming. More counting. Collapse. Bubbles and gulps and drums.

Changeling/Transmission#1: Bong bing boong. Bong bing bonnng. More drums and hissing symbols. Radiohead beats. Collapse. Classical. Smooth. It’s all very mellow so far, not a full on bass attack. Some sort of singing. Trumpets. Collapse again. Stutters. Sudden guitar. Fading. Strings. Astronauts. Lasers. Ha ha, John Carpenter, one of my faves.

What Does Your Soul Look Like (Part 4): Funk and smooth. Sex trumpets. Sooty and Sweep. Dalek. Shouting. Piano and other mistakes. Fading.

Untitled: Hmm. Funky. Ass. Jolly Ranchers. Pointless.

Stem/Long Stem/Transmission #2: Oh, I know this of course. But is this the original, or Shadow’s take? Assuming it is Shadow messing with the piece that I know. Sudden funky shift. Violins. Beer adverts. More funk. Speed collapse. Headbang. Silence. Organ. Dings. Outstanding warrants. Guitars. Soothing. Sunrise. More beer. Fading. More soothing wavey sounds. Pianos. Prince Of Darkness again.

Mutual Slump: Drums. Organ. Chaos. Xanadu. Vader. Trumpet screeches. Brrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr. Robots eating spaghetti. Lasers bouncing around a U-bend.

Organ Donor: More ghetto bits. More organ. More drums. Organ solo. Funhouse drunkage. Back around for more.

Why Hip Hop Sucks in 96: Seventies cop shows. LA skyline. Flat streets with faded yellow marking.

Midnight In A Perfect World: Soothing synths again. I sense a pattern here. Guitars. Woman singing. Clocks. Midnight!

Napalm Brain/Scatter Brain: Grunting. Laughter. Checkers. Drums. Silence. Drums. Guitars and throbbing. Typewriter drums. Tribal bongs. Knocking. Faster. Groovy. WipEout. Funky sounds return. Nice strings. Nice guitars. Saying goodbye, Hollywood style. Sounds familiar.

What Does Your Soul Look Like (Part 1 Blue Sky Revisit)/Transmission #3: Guess what? Soothing sounds and hissing symbols. Repeatrepeatrepeatslightshiftrepeat. Scratch. Carpenter again. Great film. Oh, Twin Peaks Mr Giant. Twin Peaks – a sampler’s wet dream. End.

Colin Larkin’s Ranking: 208/1000

What I Learned: I know a thing or twelve about sampling (I don’t). If you’ve ever visiting my Youtube Channel (and may God have mercy on anyone who has) then you’ll know that I have created a number of mega hits entirely built from samples of other tracks, my own voice, and text to speech software. I needed no fancy software or skills, in fact the only tool used was a simple Windows Media Recorder with record, slow down, speed up, and reverse capabilities, absolutely nothing else. But I do that for my own amusement and to satirize exactly this sort of music. All sorts of music really, but particular the good old bedroom samplers. I haven’t done one a while, I must make another (Here’s a handy link if you want your ears to be scarred – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iPvfbVJtjfw note – I have hundreds of these things made already, but when uploading to Youtube I usually make a silly accompanying video too). Anyway, the guy likes to use samples from a variety of places, and here has created a set of soothing tracks that don’t have a lot of variety. I imagine you can gleam whatever meaning you want from atmospheric music such as this; I’m leaning to wards urban alienation. I can understand why people love this. It’s fine for me, just not my bag.

Does It Deserve A Place In The Top 1000 Albums Of All Time: Once we again we’ll have to fall back on the old ‘importance’ argument rather than the quality of the music. Samples had been used in music for decades before this, but I assume this took things to a new level. The production sounds superb, and there is a terrific range of samples. To me though, each track merges a little too neatly into the next and it’s difficult to differentiate each track from the other. That may have more to do with my tastes and the fact that I’ve only just listened to it once in a single sitting. I can credit DJ Shadow for mashing it all together, but still much of the credit has to go to the original writers. If anything, these types of albums and tracks make me want to go back and listen to the original. That’s no bad thing, but I wouldn’t consider it a plus for the remix/sample mash-up/whatever the term is. Would it appear on my list of top 100 albums? Not a chance, but then I weigh qualities evenly (See my Nightman scoring system – https://wordpress.com/post/10989249/632/) so that importance and influence are equally important to a variety of other categories. If this was indeed influential and creating a number of new recording and sampling techniques, then good job. It’s not the sort of thing I can see myself listening to again, but at least now I can say that I have heard a DJ Shadow record. Yay me!

Let me know what a Neanderthal I am in the comments for not appreciating how groundbreaking and provocative this album is and offer some suggestions on what I should do to better my life.