Nightman Listens To – Charles Mingus – Black Saint And The Sinner Lady (Top 1000 Albums Series)!

Oh man. It wasn’t enough to have a Ray Charles Jazz album last time around, but now we follow it up with what I can only guess is another Jazz album. Most of my knowledge of Charles Mingus comes from his work with and influence on Joni Mitchell, an influence to my mind which turned Joni Mitchell from a unique and wonderful folk performer and writer to just another jazz noise disturbance. I don’t know much about Mingus as an artist, but I’m going to assume this is going to be highly experimental, there’s going to be trumpets, and I’m not going to like it. Open your mind, Nightman, open your mind!

The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady by Charles Mingus - Fonts In Use

What Do I Know About Charles Mingus: He was a jazz guy, experimental, and worked with Joni Mitchell and others.

What Do I Know About The Black Saint & The Sinner Lady: Nada.

Oh man, look at the album cover. Is it a dude parping on a brass? Is he merely kicking back and enjoying a pipe? Is he in prison? In which case, why is he dressed in the blue of a comfortably numb Secondary School English teacher? Is that is hair, or is it one of those Russian hats that movies have told me Russians wear? Wikipedia tells me it’s a forty minute album – so hopefully shouldn’t hurt too much, but it’s a single composition split into four tracks… interesting? Lets just get on with it.

Solo Dancer: Look, I’ll be honest. It’s going to be difficult for me to actually add anything of worth in this review. I’ve listened to the album in full a few times now, but still the best I can do to differentiate each of the four tracks is to say that one is long, one starts with piano, and the other two are a bunch of trumpet waffling. I lack the musical expertise to break down any real differences and I lack the willpower to give a shit about music which feels so empty and bland to my ears.

This is the opening trumpet waffle. Try as I might to get into it, to feel the groove, to enjoy the faffing about, to appreciate the artistry and creative fuel behind it, I just can’t. Jazz is not for me. You could play me a hundred pieces by a hundred geniuses, and they’d all sound like the amateurish ravings of a drunk you picked up a horn for the first time.

Duete Solo Dancers: It’s just so dull. I’m sure the guys playing are having an absolute fucking blast. But this music feels like a relic of another world. A dead world. A world which found newer, better forms of music and passed the fuck on leaving all this muck in the past where it belongs. There’s a wailing bit. There’s a faster bit which also wails and depresses. There’s a slow bit which is worse, and which wails and moans. There’s some amusement to be found near the end where some of the horns sound like a monster trying to speak.

Group Dancers: This one at least feels different. It’s more than just horn parps. It has piano clangs too. It has flute or something. It seems Eastern inspired. It’s the amazing sounds of orgy. It still goes round and round without saying anything. It’s still as vapid and emotion free as the others.

Medley: This one throws in some guitars too. Spanish guitars. That was a nice break from all the trumpets, but none of it is particularly interesting. It’s the sort of thing anyone can play after a few lessons and just bashes out while you’re waiting for the bass player to stop fingering his girlfriend and get back to practice. Elsewhere, it’s more horrible, chaotic, tuneless noise.

What Did I Think: It’s never good when I feel like I need a lie down after a single track. There’s four of those tracks here, and one of them is almost 20 minutes long. There’s barely a note of difference between any of them. Regardless of the inspiration behind it all and how capable the musicians actually are, it’s so empty. There’s nothing interesting, there’s not a melody to be found, and each track is as haphazard and soulless as a talentless jam session. It’s music with absolutely nothing to say and in terms of my personal enjoyment as a listener who admittedly places melody and emotion above all other things, it was a slog to get through once, never mind multiple additional times as I hoped for a revelation. If Jazz is only for cultured types, then oil me up and call me a Love Island watching, chip eating lounge lizard.

Does It Deserve Its Place In The Top 1000 Albums Of All Time: Are you insane? It didn’t even deserve to be recorded in the first place. If there was ever an album which did not deserve to be on this list, it’s this one. An abject horror show.

Well, that’s another jazz masterpiece checked off the list and I’ve already forgotten what any of it sounds like beyond the after-trace revulsion I continue to feel whenever I hear a brief snippet of trumpet coming across the airwaves once upon a night sky. I read some of the bewildering five star reviews of the album and can only conclude that everyone is insane apart from me – and I’m this craziest kid this side of camel town.

Nightman Listens To – Ray Charles – Genius + Soul = Jazz (Top 1000 Series)!

Greetings, Glancers! We’re back with another exploration into one of the so-called Top 1000 albums of all time. It’s Ray Charles, who I am at least aware of though never considered myself a fan or ever felt any desire to seek out his work, influential as that work may have been. Most of you will know that I’m not a Jazz guy – I’m not a Maths guy either, but I would query whether Genius + Soul actually = Jazz. Probably more accurately, it would add up to Geniouls. Man I’m bored.

What Do I Know About Ray Charles: Singer, pianist, blues, soul, and jazz man. Blind. Is in The Blues Brothers. The subject of Ray, a somewhat overrated but enjoyable movie.

What Do I Know About Genius + Soul = Jazz: It’s an album by Ray Charles.

From The Heart kicks us off and immediately fills me with dread because it has all the hallmarks of Big Band Swing – possibly my least favourite genre. I never have much to say about this sort of music – it either completely turns me off in the worst cases, or in the best cases makes of think of Tom & Jerry. This is more on the Tom & Jerry side. It certainly moves, there’s a near wall of sound barrage of brass, and it’s clear the guys can play. But none of it speaks to me in any way, doesn’t leave me with any melodies to recall, doesn’t make me want to move, doesn’t inspire my musical curiosity or emotional intellect.

I’ve Got News For You has a brief Blues swagger to its opening, brash percussion in places, and we actually get some vocals. The vocals live up to the mythos – pained, sexy, smooth and a little shake of threat. The instrumentation, particularly the bass and brass, are par for the course and may as well not be there, but the organ stuff is great. I’ll give the band and the production credit for sounding absolutely huge – this must have blasted out windows back in the day.

Moanin’ has more life as an instrumental, feels more dirty, sensual, at least in its opening salvo. It continues to grow into your standard Big Band Balls – various brass parps which do nothing for me. It’s the sassy, unhinged organ I want more of, or at least the solo horn squeals. The backing is, sad to say just noise.

Let’s Go lives up to its name, a breathless hurrah of noise, a spinning frenzy with more of that zany organ playing. You almost can’t call it playing because it’s right on the edge of being tuneless – the speed, like a cliched Power Metal solo, feeling like its smashing notes randomly without any care for articulation or phrasing. But sometimes all you need is speed, and I’m sure I’m discrediting its accuracy. It’s shit, melodically, but it’s all about getting people on their feet and sweating.

One Mint Julep takes the speed down a few notches and adds in a few choice motifs – sassy again, almost samba like, but hardly memorable. It reminds me of The Bottom theme tune.

I’m Gonna Move To The Outskirts Of Town is pure Tom & Jerry – it sounds exactly like any scene where there’s a girl cat or mouse and Tom or Jerry feel a dose of the horn coming on. More subdued vocals and organ this time around. Feels like the album has said everything it possibly can.

Stompin’ Room Only opens like an old TV Game Show or Variety Show episode – if I close my eyes I can see the horrible title screen followed by some white guy in suit come bowling out onto stage to rapturous applause. It doesn’t give me the dancing/shagging/fighting vibes which the title suggests. More parping at this point. Getting bored of it. It goes on a whack too.

Mister C is more of the same – mid paced parping, static bass, whispered percussion, no melodies to latch on too. If the last track felt long, this one actually is. Well, it’s only four and a half minutes, but when you consider a three minute track to be torturous, anything longer is a nightmare. The madcap organ comes in too late for me to care, and it’s not as furious as in earlier tracks.

Strike Up The Band is more fun, faster, more interesting organ again. But it does nothing that earlier tracks didn’t do. Nice racing finish though.

Birth Of The Blues closes us out, the longest track on the album, annoyingly. It’s more Soul, more Jazz than Blues to me, but I’m not huge on any of those genres. Brass based music just leaves me cold and this is 90% brass.

What Did I Learn: That Ray could play pretty quickly at times. That I still don’t like this kind of music.

Should It Be In The Top 1000 Albums Of All Time: It’s a no from me. I mean, if you’re on a quest to absolutely include at least one album from every sub genre or somehow show-horn every influential performer of the 20th Century, then sure, you need to find something Big Band, something Ray Charles. Is this the bet thing Ray Charles ever did? If so, I’m not impressed. Some snazzy organ playing, but that never felt like the centrepiece. And I think only two tracks had vocals? I have no doubt people out there went wild for this back then, and it probably has its vociferous supporters now, but it’s mostly forgettable for me – at best mildly interesting in places while listening, some talent on show – at worst, painful and had me reaching for the stop button in multiple places.

Let us know your thoughts in the comments!

Nightman Listens To – Mike Oldfield – Tubular Bells (Top 1000 Series)!

Greeting’s Glancers! We all know this, right? Tubular Bells – one of the most famous pieces of music of the 20th Century, possibly one of the most recognisable instrumental works ever written. Iconic. And yet, most people, myself included, only know the pieces from The Exorcist. I think I’ve heard this album before – being a horror fan, I listen to the soundtracks of my favourite movies, but beyond the bits used in Friedkin’s classic I don’t really remember much about the music. It’s only two tracks though, so this should be a shorter post – huzzah!

What Do I Know About Mike Oldfield – An obscenely talented multi-instrumentalist and composer. Beyond Tubular Bells, he did that Christmas song everyone loves.

What Do I Know About Tubular Bells – Famous for appearing in The Exorcist, and famous for being one of the few pieces of 20th Century instrumental music to have a wider cultural impact and success. I believe Mike wrote, played, and recorded the whole thing himself.

Tubular Bells Part 1: This is the piece that everyone knows. While the central motif (love it starts on the off note) runs throughout the whole piece in some form, it’s really the opening 2-3 minutes which people recognise as The Exorcist music. Afterwards, the accompaniment shifts to guitar and woodwind, often drifting into beautiful and poignant fantasy/folk sections which sound like they would fit more in an Animated fairy tale than the most famous Horror movie ever made. Each transition feels natural and gives a sense of endless progress – the bass charged, scratchy guitar led section is almost Metal, this is followed by a spacey, throbbing manic phase, and on to more introspective clanging, organ-based sections. The layering is extraordinary, with new instruments fading in to take up barely a supporting role before expanding to being the lead, motifs revolving around, fading, and returning; the patience and thought and focus it must have taken for one person to build this is impressive to say the least. There’s even a touch of the Morricone in places – you can hear snippets of influence in many moments, but above all this is a maddeningly confident solo extraordinaire. You can slice this up a hundred ways, and each piece will be captivating. I could do without the spoken pieces telling us what the upcoming instrument is.

Tubular Bells Part 2: The second half of the album is tonally very similar to the first – multi-instrumental, loose yet tight, with seamless transitions and a wealth of information. While the first half ended with some slight vocalisations, this half begins with the same. It’s a guitar heavy opening, reminiscent of the folk meanderings of something like The Wicker Man. It’s another piece to be swept away be or get lost in. There’s a section in the middle which feels like a precursor to some of the music from Ocarina Of Time – Lon Lon Ranch, Zelda’s Theme and all that, before moving into a more stirring, rousing piece around the 34 minute mark led by booming drums and scorched guitars like a demented Medieval march. Both pieces are beautiful and a joy to hear. Then it goes all funky and weird, with growling and Zeppelin riffs and musical theatre pianos. It would be difficult to find another instrumental with so much invention and nonsense and having it all work. Then it closes with a random rendition of Popeye, because why the hell not.

What Did I Learn: I can’t say I actually learned anything, but it re-iterated just how much of a genius Oldfield is and how shameful it is that other popular musicians will never approach anything as jaw-dropping as this. I always knew it was good, I just didn’t remember it being this good.

Does It Deserve Its Place In The Top 1000 Albums Ever: Absolutely. If ever there were an instrumental album to hold a single spot in such a list, this is it. Every metrci you could have for being a ‘Best Ever Album’ is met – sales, influence, critical acclaim, skill, impact – it’s all there, plus it still sounds great decades later.

Nightman Listens To – Stevie Ray Vaughan – The Sky Is Crying (Top 1000 Albums Series)!

Greetings, Glancers! It feels like an age since I’ve listened to one of Colin Larkin’s Top 1000 albums of all time. I’ve posted a few of my reactions recently, but most of those were written one or two years ago – the series had been somewhat left behind as I picked up on Marillion and closed out some of series. It feels good to get back into this, and it feels doubly good to be listening to an artist I’m already sort of familiar with. You see, being a guitarist in my younger days and hanging around with likeminded guitar fans, certain instrumental maestros would always come up in conversation – the Satriani and Vai speed merchants, to the more blues oriented guys like Vaughan. These were the people we looked up to and wanted to emulate. I don’t think (at the time) I’d ever heard a complete album by most of these people, Vaughan included, but instead knew various solos or individual tracks. So today, for the first time I’ll be listening to an entire album by SRV – The Sky Is Crying.

What Do I Know About SRV? As mentioned, a guitar hero who mainly stayed within the Blues sphere, and who died at an early age in a Helicopter crash. Another person we are left to wonder what they could have achieved and released had they not died so young.

What Do I Know About The Sky Is Crying? The name sounds familiar, leading me to believe I was probably aware of it once upon a time but have since forgotten anything about it. Looking at the tracklist, most of the songs seem to be covers, which isn’t unusual for guitar heroes – especially of the Blues variety.

Boot Hill: I’ve mentioned it elsewhere on the blog – while I enjoy Blues music, increasing as I get older it has to be in small bursts because it feels so limited in scope. I worry that, even with Vaughan’s performances, this album could wear out its welcome for me long before it’s over. This song is perfectly fine, but it’s like any other slower Blues track you’ve ever heard. I enjoy it more as a standalone listen rather than as the opening track to a Blues album. I suspect I’ll be repeating that sentiment through this post.

The Sky Is Crying: It’s a slower 12 Bar Blues song. I need to focus on SRV instead and not get so hung up on the limitations of the genre. SRV goes off on an absolute melter which takes up the bulk of the song, playing string bends which have no business being in the song but forcing them to work. His tone is so crisp with just the slightest hint of scratchiness to compliment the pain of the lyrics.

Empty Arms: A more up-tempo song, feels more jazzy, though we can immediately dismiss the lyrics – you already know what you’re going to get before any of these songs begin – various variations of ‘baby gonna be gone/baby done me wrong/ain’t got nowhere to run’ etc. Lets just focus on Stevie. A chaotic middle is the highlight, blistering between the ragged lead riff and frenetic, confident licks which dance the length of the fret board while playing with the allotted time signatures.

Little Wing: A cover of the Hendrix classic, and the song I’m most familiar with. This is both a more stripped back version and expanded at the same time. Stripped back in terms of arrangement and its focus on Blues compared with the more psychedelic and visionary aspects of the original. The introduction of harmonics in the intro here as very nice, going some way to evoke similar moods to the original. It’s also a fully instrumental cover meaning some of the emotion is lost, but it does fully free Stevie to interpret the vocals through his guitar, leading to some interesting translations. It’s not a disservice to either to say that Vaughan tops Jimi’s performance here.

Wham: Thankfully that little interlude from traditional Blues continues with this supersonic rendition. There’s barely a breath’s escape between notes here, a marvellous display of Vaughan’s talents – not merely a display of pacing and technique under strain, but of interpretation, consistency, and nuance. It really comes into its own after the 40 second mark, then doesn’t let go. A ridiculous cover every guitar lover should slap their ears around.

May I Have A Talk With You: This has a scratchy Hendrix intro, but soon devolves into another dirty Blues crawl. The licks are somewhat more traditional here, aside from their lead ins and the way they tail off – those are infused with little SRV flourishes. The lead solo is comparable – it’s firmly based in traditional roots but the little flourishes, from bends to slides, give it a harder modern oomph.

Close To You: Kicking off almost like Helter Skelter, this again becomes your traditional Blues standard shuffle. The verses have less input from Stevie and feel lackluster and repetitive – even the transitions between verses are riffs you’ve heard a hundred times. We have to wait for the solo for some life to be breathed into the song, but the solo is brief and the song ends quickly after, giving the whole thing a filler vibe.

Chitlins Con Carne: A jazz instrumental leading us away from the Blues standards once more, this has the slightest hint of Santana in tone and rhythm. As the focus is on Stevie, it’s a more interesting piece, and the change of framework away from Blues allows him to be more creative.

So Excited: A Vaughan original, this is a another neater blending of traditional Blues and Vaughan’s creativity, bringing only the barest Blues underpinning so that Vaughan can fire off a collection of tasty licks. It’s not going to change anyone’s world, but it showcases his control and style.

Life By The Drop: The most interesting song closes the album – it’s a more pop-oriented Blues number, but twisted by the acoustic approach. For the first time the vocal melodies are worth mentioning – it’s unfortunately missing any sort of solo which would have been neat to hear using the different guitar and sonic timbre.

What Did I Learn: I suppose this was a case of remembering rather than learning – just how tasty some of SRV’s interpretations could be having not listened to him in many years. I remembered how I can only take so much traditional Blues in one sitting, no matter how skilled and experimental the playing, but I also learned that the album wasn’t entirely Blues based.

Does It Deserve Its Place In The Top 1000: I’m veering towards not – I don’t know how many guitar hero albums are on this list – ones more focused on the guitarist than the band. If you have to include one, is this the best? What about the Vais, Malmsteens, Satrianis of the world? Buckethead releases about a hundred albums every year, some of those are bound to be good. What about the earlier and later Blues masters? Was this really influential enough as an album over and above others of the same ilk? No discredit to Vaughan, but these are the questions you need to ask if you’re including an album on a Best Ever List. For me, the virtuoso is always going to be lacking in the songwriting department, and no amount of technical skill and influence is enough to warrant a place on my list, without a solid basis in songwriting, and likely without a band to transform the works into songs and the songs into an album.

Let us know in the comments what you think of The Sky Is Falling!

Nightman Listens To – Bob Dylan – Blood On The Tracks (Top 1000 Albums Series)!

Greetings, Glancers! Here we are, my first ever Bob Dylan album (note – I originally wrote this at the start of 2020, only getting around to posting it now – after hearing Dylan’s most recent album). He’s made about fifty of them, right? When I was in my early twenties, I recognised Dylan as one of those untouchable sacred artists I had to listen to, but the few songs I’d heard performed by him I didn’t like. That voice, I couldn’t get past it. This frustrated me on a number of levels – songs he had written but which were performed or covered by other artists I did like, and I knew he was a clever and insightful lyricist. I’ve always viewed lyrics as potentially equally important as music within the construction of a song – I can’t enjoy a song without lyrics or with bad lyrics, just like I can enjoy a song with great lyrics but crap music. I know I’m in the minority on this, but it probably goes back to me being a big reader – someone who enjoys the use of semantics, language, fiction, poetry, and as a songwriter myself I put genuine effort into my lyrics. Not like these posts I write which are spur of the moment thoughts, I did try to make my lyrics personal, not cookie-cutter. I can’t say they were good, but I did try.

So with my background, Dylan is an artist I should have heard a lot more from by now. Whatever final push or attraction which draws people of my generation and later to him, I have lacked. Other music fans I’m friendly with came to him in their early twenties and were converted, while I nodded my head, muttered something profound, and got back to downing another shot. I knew I would come to him eventually, but it’s with a certain amount of trepidation given how I feel about his vocals and how my Bowie journey has gone so far, considering I was anticipating I would like Bowie’s more than I have. That’s enough of an intro for now.

What Do I Know About Bob Dylan: I think it’s covered in my intro.

What Do I Know About Blood On The Tracks: It’s one of about four or five Dylan albums which always appears on lists like these. Is this the one where he went Electric? I don’t know. I don’t recognise any of the ten tracks.

Tangled Up In Blue: This starts out pleasantly enough, there’s certainly a touch of folk about it but the music brings a sense of stepping out, moving on. The vocals aren’t good – it’s not just the fact that I don’t like his voice, I also don’t like the faux Blues, faux spoken approach, as well as the hackneyed ‘every word must end on a down note’ – you know, the modulation of his voice decreases with every single line. So on top of me not liking his voice or his vocal approach, he’s simply not a good singer on top of it all. But I think I simply have to acknowledge that and move on. I’m only picking up whispers of the lyrics as I try to listen and type at the same time – there’s certainly a lot of words to wade through so I’ll have to listen again or follow the words along. I quite liked the song though – it has a swift pace even if it is overlong – I know I would like it a lot more with a singer I liked, or you know, a singer who can sing.

A Simple Twist Of Fate: Opens with a gorgeous set of chords, all very promising. The vocals drop and I try my hardest to imagine someone else singing. Those sudden high, loud notes almost work perfectly, like a disjointed emotional outburst. The middle feels more chaotic, I rarely enjoy harmonica but I can tolerate it. I can dig this, but again would prefer another vocalist.

You’re A Big Girl Now: This opens beautifully again, neat and sombre piano to accompany the guitars and it fills me with emotive 80s vibes. It doesn’t sound 80s in the slightest, that’s just my feelings. It also reminds me of Wild Horses. I like his vocals here more, his howls are great when they land but there’s a few times when they don’t. This one is very good.

Idiot Wind: This has no need of an intro and we get straight to it. The organ doesn’t add much, the rest of the music feels stilted and mere background noise for the vocals. The vocals are very shouty, and they’re the most painful example so far of that downwards intonation which pisses me off. Dire Straits do this too and it annoys me, but not as much. He sounds angry at least, and the lyrics mirror the venom. His pronunciation of “idiot” quickly grates. Man, it just keeps going too. Oh God, here comes the harmonica.

You’re Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go: We start with harmonica. I think Harmonicas sound uniquely American. This one is short, vocals are bad as we already know, and it feels little more than an off the cuff ramble.

Meet Me In The Morning: Almost a more laidback, summery feeling. His vocals are better here, not so shat out of the nose, not so ‘look at me I’m a Blues guy’. Of course, it still very much follows Blues rhythms and formulae. Repetitive riffs and lyrics. Still, it’s not so bad.

Lily, Rosemary, And The Jack Of Hearts: Oh God, it’s almost 9 minutes long is my first thought. My second is, fuck, not more Harmonica, followed by, ‘what if it’s 9 minutes of Harmonica. It’s certainly bouncy even if the mix is pretty crap. Rhythmically it all reminds me of one of the songs I absolutely can’t stand – that Paul Simon shitmess You Can Call Me Al, man I hate that song. Well, we’re three minutes in and there has been absolutely no variance in the music so far so lets see if we can pick up some of the lyrics. Big Jim. Mexico. It’s all storytelling, not the sort of lyrical approach I usually enjoy. It’s talking about people I will never care about, fictional or otherwise. So we’re not going to even get an instrumental break? Some slight variance? I suppose that’s unique in a way. But there’s a very good reason why songs aren’t written or performed in this way – because it’s stupid. It’s very much an Eastern or Ancient approach to songwriting and storytelling – but when the story and music are about as far from interesting as your balls are from Pamela Anderson, it means the song is aural torment. Well, that was horrific.

If You See Me, Say Hello: I don’t want to say it’s like Zeppelin, but the intro does sort of remind of something like Zep’s Tangerine or That’s The Way. That’s another way of saying it’s a sweet acoustic piece, but not quite top tier. The vocals are better too – he’s mostly singing without accouterments. He does fall back on bad habits when going for the bigger notes. The melodies don’t tug at my heartstrings enough, which is a shame as the lyrics are more straightforwards and universal.

Shelter From The Storm: This opens like a thousand folk songs, which I don’t mind as I generally like some folk every now and then. For me, folk music always succeeds or fails based on the strength and purity of the vocals. You see where I’m going with this. Early folk can very easily fall into the trap of being musically bland, which is exactly what happens this one. It’s the same handful of chords over and over with no variance while Dylan attempts to sing. The YT comments on this song are amusing, the diehards jumping on anyone suggesting Dylan isn’t a good singer. I mean, if so many people are saying he isn’t a great singer…. maybe he isn’t? I don’t buy most of the defensive arguments his fans present here, most which try to subtly move away from the physical act of making sound come from your throat. I’m sure his lyrics are good, if not great, but his vocals and approach aren’t giving me enough reason to care.

Buckets Of Rain: A stronger acoustic intro. Then the awful voice starts once more. Literally any other singer who has experience love and loss in their time could make this better. I don’t doubt the emotion behind it, it simply doesn’t come across in his voice for me and I can’t get past how nasal and lazy it sounds. Again it’s all quite simplistic musically, and melodically it’s ultimately too plain to enjoy. Now I do enjoy simplicity and plain melodies, but for those to work there has to be something else interesting to fall back on – the vocals for example, and the song usually needs to be short to cover up the shortcomings from the lack of complexity. This ticks the short box, and the lyrics are certainly a notch up from mot of the junk you hear – with a good singer I’d be much more keen.

What Did I Learn: Nothing much that I didn’t know before – I don’t like his voice and the style he adopts. Whatever emotion is in his thoughts, and whatever feeling is in the lyrics, gets clouded out by the toxic cloud of his vocals. I didn’t know much about the actual music before, but truth be told this was all fairly bland and uninspiring.

Does It Deserve Its Place In The Top 1000: Honestly, Dylan is an artist that always gives me hope – not because I think he’s amazing, but because he has had so much critical and commercial success while being a crap vocalist that I hope for all the other not so amazing singers out there who have a unique voice or perspective or who are exceptional melody or lyric or songwriters might achieve something. If he can do it, why can’t all of the other ‘okay’ singers? The issue I have with this as an album – it’s just too much Dylan in one sitting. When I already dislike a vocalists style and voice, at least if it’s one song I can relax knowing that it’s only one song, but when there’s another 10 coming down the line then I grow more agitated, pissed off, and eventually disinterested. I don’t know what is so different about this album than his others that it deserves a place on the list above his other work and I can’t see clearly who this would have influenced directly, given that there were already a raft of singer songwriters of the era doing it better (at least to my preferences). Obviously he has influenced hundreds of successful artists – but I don’t get that from this album. So if you love it, that’s wonderful for you, but it’s nowhere near strong enough to make it on to my Top 1000 list.

Nightman’s Playlist Picks: If You See Her Say Hello. A Simple Twist Of Fate. You’re A Big Girl Now.

Tell me why I’m wrong in the comments!

Nightman Listens To Leftfield – Leftism (Top 1000 Albums Series)!

Greetings, Glancers! It’s another trip into supposed musical goodness today as I listen to an album I know absolutely nothing about but an artist I’m not sure I’ve even heard of. Yet it’s like 59th in Colin Larkin’s Best Albums ever. I have a feeling this was a 90s Dance act, something is stirring in my brain and saying ‘of course you know them, you noob, you’ve just forgotten them because they were crap’. So before I type the next sentence, I’m going to head to Wikipedia and grab the tracklist – that should confirm or disprove my inner monologue. Ah ha – there was a typo in my list – the group is actually called Leftfield. That doesn’t help me in any way, but as I discovered that I saw in fact that they are (were?) a 90s Dance act. So my brain was correct for a change. Somewhere in the recesses of my sub-conscious there must be a buried memory of this act or one of their tunes. I have no idea what that could be, but clearly I knew something of them once upon a time. I have nothing to add, aside from to remind you that I didn’t like most 90s Dance music. Lets do this.

What Do I Know About Leftfied: I assumed correctly they were a 90s Dance act.

What Do I Know About Leftism: It’s an album by Leftfield

Release The Pressure‘ opens with twinkling and blips and blaps. It’s eerie and evocative. It has that feeling of building up to something that I enjoy. Afrikaans whistle. Bloke voice. This is somewhat familiar. This section ends and a collection of throbs somewhere between Reggae and typical rave emerges. This part isn’t as interesting to me, it sounds a little… cheap? Certainly dated, but I can’t really criticise it for being over twenty years old. It does however have that Shaggy-esque accent vocal crap going on in the background. I like the atmosphere, but it feels too slow. What a minute. Did Leftfield do a Manics remix? Maybe that’s why I know them. Let me google…Nope, can’t find anything. The track goes on for another couple of minutes.

‘Afro Left‘ has some jangling strings and African voices, then a tribal drum, then a full on 90s beat. It has a beat, I’ll give it that. But it’s a bit shit. I’m not a dance guy. This to me is just some bloke talking, your standard 90s beat, with irritating clap quality alongside it, and some throbby bits. Now there’s a Dalek. I’m sure this would be the best thing ever if you were off your tits on pills, but literally anything is the best thing ever when off your tits on pills.

Melt‘ sounds like the start of the Second Delays album. Jazzy bits, laid back. It’s relaxing, feels like it was used in a movie. Hoo hum. Not much to say, it’s just plain, nice, nothing wrong. Just a little meh.

Song Of Life‘ like a blob of jelly wobbling downstairs. More ethnic voices. Drums drop. Again, it’s nice, relaxing. I can see this being seen as a higher art form than your standard dance garbage. I mean, it hasn’t pissed me off yet, so it must be doing something right. But it doesn’t excite me in any way. Now, I like the strings which have just joined, but it’s another song which feels more like a mood, like relaxing in the middle of an unknown land. Nothing wrong with that, but plenty of other music makes me feel the same way but more readily and with more feeling. I don’t get much emotion from this, as much as it is making me feel, or absorb that mood. Good bass drop to spruce things up. This is more like it, if only that bass drop and thumping beat had come earlier in the track. Then it goes a little crazy. Okay fine, a good tune, I could listen to this again.

Original‘ opens with beeps – Morse code? Then computer game loading screens and sirens. Then ethereal female vocals. Good so far. The vocals drop away and a series of beats drops. This feels a little The Matrixy. I suppose I still have a bias against Dance music that I expect it all to be, something pill heads and/or idiots dance to in clubs. Though I know that’s not the case, just the majority of what I’ve heard. I don’t really imagine anyone dancing to this, this is much more chilled and not repetitive like chart junk. But because of the bias, I do still wait for a bigger bass blast or for the speed to kick in, and it feels strange when it doesn’t.

Black Flute‘ is much more what the biased part of my brain expects Dance music to be. It’s marginally faster, the beat is insistent and consistent and constant, and a little tinny. This is the sort of dance music which doesn’t do much for me – it’s too repetitive and doesn’t lead anywhere. The beat will fade out at points, then come back in, but that’s about it. About as generic as Dance music comes.

Space Shanty‘ is a name which almost forces me to like the song. It’s another tinny beat, feels like WipEout, adds some Eastern string fun, and feels like it’s building to something. Waiting (again) for a big bass drop. Now warbling noises. Now fatter beat. Better. This one changes itself up more than the previous track, adding a little something different on each rotation. It’s still repetitive at its core, most music is, but Dance especially, but yes this does add a lot more and keeps morphing into something slightly different while retaining the pounding beat.

Inspection‘ has a fade in and some preaching. I’m not a fan of a lot of spoken word stuff in the middle of songs, or Jamaican type accents. This has both, and the surrounding music is very sparse and uninteresting. Mostly assorted throbs and percussion. Possibly the most boring track so far.

Storm 3000′ sounds like WipEout again. A little spacey, a little morphy. A bit of pace, too much percussion which to me is generally tuneless and unnecessary. A little more melody drops eventually. Then we get some synth stabs before it all pulls together nicely. The last couple of minutes are better than the first two, a lot more going on.

Open Up‘ fades in, then follows with more African voices. Then beats and throbs. Bits of this feel familiar. The vocals seem familiar. Ah, it’s Mr Rotten himself. They seem like they have been artificially heightened. Burn Hollywood Burn. This ones okay, I can see this one being played in clubs, though I’m not sure what people would have made of the vocals. Near the end it changes to another whispering percussion phase and then morphs around back to the intro. Lydon sounds like Spongebob.

21st Century Poem‘ closes the album. It’s a slow build. Chimes. Some bloke speaking in whispers. Some throbbing stuff in the background. At around the two minute mark it opens up with a lot of wobbling and flopping synth stuff. This promises to go somewhere, then doesn’t.

I don’t think I’m ever going to be someone who just decides to stick on Dance music for pleasure, but I am trying to appreciate it more. There are typically only a small handful of DJs and Dance Acts and tracks I revisit, and even those select few are rare revisits. But this is one of the better Dance albums I’ve hear – it doesn’t become annoying or make me want to stab a bunch of chavs, and it has enough variety to keep me interested, at least with a first listen. I’ll add a few tracks to my playlist, but I can’t see myself listening to them more than a couple of times. The time for me to really enjoy Dance music has passed – in my late teens, early Twenties, when you were obliged to go to places and parties which played this type of music because some of your friends enjoyed it. Now that I’m stuck at home and can’t be arsed going anywhere, the chances of me listening to this stuff have evaporated and I’m only exposing myself to it through this blog. Still, it wasn’t bad, it has more musical merit than much of the Dance Music I’ve heard, and I can see why fans view it as a classic.

What Did I Learn: That Dance music isn’t always for dancing. It’s sometimes for sitting there and wondering why it’s not for dancing too.

Does It Deserve A Place In The Top 1000 Albums Of All Time: I’ll plead ignorance again and assume it was some big hit at the time or influenced a bunch of later stuff or is the peak of whatever sub-genre of Dance it is. For me, there’s very little here I’d choose to listen to again and it didn’t affect me personally in any notable way. It wouldn’t make my personal list.

Nightman’s Playlist Picks: Song Of Life. Original. Space Shanty.

Nightman Listens To – Violent Femmes – Violent Femmes (Top 1000 Albums Series)!

Greetings, glancers and man have I been looking forward to this one! I’ve always felt that this band was one I should have heard a long time ago given their affiliation with punk, grunge etc. Plus, I’ve always loved the name. And yet I’ve never bothered my arse ever listening to them. Plus, I always thought they were an all female band when I was young, until I actually saw a picture of them. They also popped up on one of my favourite movie soundtracks ever – The Crow. It wasn’t the greatest song in the world, but hey. Let’s do this.

What Do I Know About The Band: An alt rock/punk band who have split and reformed several times.

What Do I Know About The Album: It’s their debut, it’s from the 80s. That’s about it. I’m going to guess it’s more punk/raw than later stuff?

Blister In The Sun‘ is one I know. It’s a pretty great riff but you can’t avoid how cheap it all sounds. I generally don’t care about such things and with punk it’s a given, but it’s worth mentioning. It’s a song which sounds like it could be from era – 60s up to today – it could just as easily be from a modern hipster band as a 60s folk artist. I think this used to get played quite a bit in the rock and metal bars I haunted. Good bass, great drums, decent vocals, catchy as hell if a little repetitive. The riff is borrowed by Radiohead in Maquiladora.

Kiss Off‘ is very folk-driven. I admit I was expecting a lot more distortion than the style we’ve had so far. I love the bedroom production tone and feel – it reminds me of stuff I would record, not musically, and gives me hope for future artists. Although given this was released when I was a baby I suppose it shouldn’t count. It just has that youthful, no fucks given approach, while very clearly giving a fuck. Plus it’s just as good a song as the first, if not better.

Please Do Not Go‘ opens like Big Yellow Taxi. Then a fat bass riff dives between the military beat. There’s no way I’ve heard this before, and yet it fills me with nostalgia for some time and place I can’t put my finger. Not as good as the first two songs, a little more loose and rambling, the vocals and lyrics particularly, but still good.

Add It Up‘ starts vocals only. Like an old-timer on his rocking chair in the Wild West. Then it goes garage rock with Beach Boys bass. Boy’s got a dose of the horn (needs some luvin’). It’s catchy again and definitely the sort of thing I would have enjoyed in my teens. A nicely chaotic finish.

Confessions‘ feels a little different. A slow, spirited, more electric intro. More laid back lyrics. Of course once the lonely lyrics hit the tone changes. Bass follows the guitar riff, drums blast throw in waves. It sometimes lashes out then withdraws. They go all in with the noise at various points, then elsewhere it’s a whisper. Pretty cool stuff.

Prove My Love‘ opens like The Cure… or maybe like Toni Basil’s Hey Micky. That all gives it a humourous air on top of the general levity on display. It’s another good song.

Promises‘ adds a further touch of electricity which makes things feel just that little bit heavier. The vocals here are a little too talky for my liking. I like rap vocals, I like ‘traditional’ vocals, I’m not a huge fan of the in between style. There’s more Hey Micky drumming in the middle, just after a more melodic vocal. Great bass once again.

To The Kill‘ starts in twiddling made up on the spot fashion. The twang and the tone reminds me of Gallons Of Rubbing Alcohol… and various others from In Utero. Some good moments, a little too loose and a little too much of the talky style again, but I could see myself liking more with further listens.

Gone Daddy Gone‘ is different again, thanks to the… is that a xylophone? The style and beat and rhythm is pretty similar to the rest. It very much retains the bedroom production quality and I can just imagine someone walking in to the room drunk one day with a xylophone under their arm, laughing, and saying ‘what about this’. We even get a full blown xylophone solo so it’s not like it’s just their for the bants. It’s good again.

Good Feeling‘ closes the album. It’s slower, sweeter, a goodnight kiss. It’s all very lovely, and you know how I feel about well places strings. A great ending and one which isn’t really in line with the rest of the album, yet still fits.

What Did I Learn: It’s one of those albums which is so highly regarded, yet I know for a fact I could (and have) made music just as good as this. That gives me a strange dualism – hope that this sort of music will live on in the face of all the shite which hits the charts, yet disappointment that I never had the real impetus/bravery/skill/luck/person to push me to get my own stuff out there. I’m not saying this to make me look like some sort of untapped talent, it’s simply a fact – I liked this album and I have demos of songs which I think others would like. I had no real interest in being a star, I just wanted to make stuff that I liked and knowing that my musical tastes aligned with plenty of other people then it seemed likely that plenty of others would like some of it too. Don’t worry, once I get my new DAW set up on my new laptop and some more pieces of equipment, I’ll record my stuff and then y’all can rip it to shreds. Spoiler Alert – I can’t sing for shit. Well, I can, but my voice is not something I would choice to have or hear, so there is that.

It’s not the distorted noise I usually look for in punk and goes for a much cleaner sound. It’s still angry, but not so much focused on politics or the bigger picture as much as daily teen life.

Does It Deserve Its Place In The Top 1000 Albums: I can taste its influence in a lot of other bands and artists – some of which I love and others which I don’t. Outside of that, many of the songs are great and deserving of whatever praise has already been heaped upon them. In that respect I wouldn’t have any argument against this being included.

Nightman’s Playlist Picks: Kiss Off. Blister In The Sun. Confessions. Prove My Love. Good Feeling.

Nightman Listens To – Stan Getz – Jazz Samba (Top 1000 Albums Series)!

Stan Getz, Charlie Byrd: Jazz Samba | Jazz Journal

Greetings, Glancers! I have no idea who or what a Stan Getz is but I’m assuming from the title that this is going to be something I am going to dislike. Jazz almost immediately turns me off, but I’m trying, while Samba is fine if I’m on holiday or about to go on holiday. As music to sit and listen to, neither are high on my list of ear candy. The whole point of the series was for me to learn, to listen to music I may not ordinarily choose to, and to see if I agree that the albums on the list should be considered the greatest of all time.

What Do I Know About Stan Getz: Absolutely nothing. I assume he’s a jazz guy.

What Do I Know About Jazz Samba: Never heard of it.

Desafinado: Bass and a soothing shuffle suggests a samba beat. Then more percussion followed by smooth lead lines. It’s very nice, but feels to me like restaurant music. Like elevator music, but better for digestion. Bearing in mind I know nothing about jazz, take anything I say understanding that I’m a Philistine when it comes to this topic. I do appreciate good playing, and there’s some silky guitar here. It’s all very smooth and relaxed, even if the percussion feels frantic. In terms of my feelings on Jazz, this doesn’t annoy me so that’s a tick in the plus column. Would I choose to listen to it though – no.

Samba Dees Days: Still smooth, but a more upbeat higher tempo piece. This one I can imagine people dancing too, maybe with a grass skirt on, maybe Business men and their wives on vacation in the 60s trying something new. Decent playing all round once more. Both tracks have had little guitar interludes which makes things more appealing to me. This reminds me of Mario Kart music.

O Pato: Another relaxed, summer vibe track. Again, if this was playing in the background while I sipped a Miami Vice while my legs burned and my toes dipped into the sand, I wouldn’t mind. Even outside of that situation I don’t mind listening to it. I can’t see myself ever lifting it off my shelf and putting into stereo, or choosing from my iPod.

Samba Triste: The guitar adds more of a Mexican vibe, something about those minor arpeggios. It’s a slower piece, maybe not melancholy but more reflective. It’s nice, I get it.

Samba De Una Nota So: This longer track opens with a similar shuffle sound and similar vibe to most of the others. Aside from the previous track, most of the pieces do sound very similar. This has a neat little funky ascending and descending piece just before the minute mark. I wonder if there will be a guitar led section. Almost everything I’ve said about the other tracks applies here too. Here’s the guitar section.

E Luxa So: Another faster piece, more laid back dancing and lazy drunkenness.

Bahia: The closing track. Also the longest track. I was going to say this one lacks the shuffle, but then it came in. It’s another more languid track – I use the term in a positive way. It follows the same format as the others – shuffle, horn piece, guitar piece, horn piece, end. The guitar here is faintly reminiscent of Ren And Stimpy. And The End by The Doors.

What Did I Learn: That I didn’t hate this. Maybe smoother, more chilled jazz is more my style? I’m sure there’s a name for whatever this is, beyond Jazz Samba. I feel no compunction to ever listen to this again, but if it was playing and the situation was suitable, I wouldn’t switch it off.

Does It Deserve Its Place In The Top 1000 Albums Of All Time: It wouldn’t make my personal list and on the surface I don’t see why it be on anyone’s unless they love this style of music. Therefore I can only assume it was influential and culturally significant – something which always seems to wield more importance when it comes to critical lists. I get that the best of the best can’t simply be good music, or high selling, or critically acclaimed and that they need some sort of wider reaching importance. In my scale of reviewing a piece of work all things are equal, so if you were influential, but didn’t sell and are not musically interesting or engaging then your not going to get a high score from me.

Let us know in the comments what you think of Jazz Samba!

Nightman Listens To – Steely Dan – The Royal Scam (Top 1000 Albums Series)!

Steely Dan: The Royal Scam Album Review | Pitchfork

Greetings, Glancers! I’m back once more to embark on a voyage of discovery and listen to a classic album which I have never heard before. I have a story about this one – well, not about the album, or even the band, but just bare with me. Back in the early 2000s I was recording a variety of demos on cassette with a primitive four track recorder – most of these involved getting very drunk, eating muffins of an illicit nature, and recording myself (and a friend) playing instruments we didn’t know how to play. Inspired nonsense in other words. We would give each ‘track’ a name, and give each recording session/cassette a name. One of these was called The Steely Dan Sessions. I’m fairly certain neither of us had ever listened to Steely Dan so I have no idea where this name came from, but based on what little I know of the band I believe the name to be apt. That’s about it really. Um, thanks?

What Do I Know About Steely Dan: They play experimental/prog rock? Eclectic? I don’t know.

What Do I Know About The Royal Scam: Absolutely nothing.

Kid Charlemagne: Funky Stevie Wonder start. Nice shifts in tone. Love the shifts between minor and major. Clean and crisp production. Loose and free. Good melding of sounds and instruments. Good solo. I realise I haven’t been paying attention to the lyrics, but they’re taking about someone, not sure if it’s a fictional figure or based on a real person. Ends with another solo, fading out. Good stuff, I like it.

The Caves Of Altamira: That funky sound and production continues. I didn’t mention the vocals before, they’re not standing out to me but that’s not always a bad thing – here they slot in with everything else for a very suitable and coherent whole. Good use of the backing vocals too. It always takes something special for heavy use of brass to not tick me off, and these songs haven’t annoyed me yet. This even has a brass solo. It’s fine but I prefer the opening song.

Don’t Take Me Alive: A distorted guitar intro hints at a different sound, but then the song begins in earnest and follows the vibe of what has come before. Nothing wrong with that, and it starts out with a badass solo. The vocals feel a little low in the mix, like they’re behind the instruments? This was a stylistic choice as a lot of 70s music did something similar. Without paying specific attention, the lyrics sound more interesting than what you hear today – though that isn’t saying a lot. I suspect I’d have to delve further and read them word by word then listen again, sounds like someone on the run or making a last stand.

Sign In Stranger: A slower jazz piece, heavy on the keys, still playing with that funk. Seems to be about a guy who can hide your mistakes or flaws or give you a new life/clean slate? It’s exquisite piano/keyboard playing, just about held in place by the repetitive guitars. There’s a big brass breakout towards the end where the guitar gets to cut loose and shred for a minute but this fades out too. Not a huge fan of every song fading out without a clean cut finish.

The Fez: More funk, this one feels more like a disco track than anything else so far. There’s a blues vibe too, somehow. This is probably the most repetitive and simple track so far, not a lot to it and repeated lyrics too. It’s fine, probably my least favourite so far.

Green Earrings: I think I know what we’re getting now. Yes it’s more funk so that seems to be their style, at least on this album. The vocals here remind me somewhat of Floyd’s Animals. I can easily see me grooving along to this in the future – music which makes you want to dance or move which uses actual instruments is always preferable to me over digitized stuff, especially when it’s actually intelligent and/or inventive. Some great guitar work here again.

Haitian Divorce: They’re going for something closer to a Reggae sound. I’m not usually a fan of that sound when it’s diluted or adopted by other genres, but this is okay. It’s more laid-back and smooth than most of the other songs, good use of the wah and other effects. Some vocal parts remind of Bowie – very pronounced words and a similar delivery. I’m not sure this long needs the extra couple of minutes over most of the other songs – seems a little stretched when the same effect could have been delivered under five minutes, and it has an especially long fade-out.

Everything You Did: This is one of those songs which reminds me of cheesy sitcoms. Something about the combination of tone, instruments, and speed. It doesn’t start out like that, but the verse and by extension the chorus definitely conjure up images of smiling American faces turning around to the camera in freeze frame, green lawns, and wood panel cars. The song is just okay for me, one of the weaker ones on the album.

The Royal Scam: So we close with the title track. Starts out with lots of tinkling and twinkling. To continue the unique to me feelings, this intro makes me think of 70s US movies, cars driving down city streets at night. Once again, no idea why, except to say that’s the first thing I thought of when the song started. I’m still no in love with the vocals, too close to Bowie for my liking. The lyrics actually seem to be talking about streets so my feelings can’t have been too far off. It rises and falls, stops and starts, there is guitar, brass, and organ throughout. I’m not a huge fan of this one either but still another couple of minutes to go. More of the same really.

Does It Deserve Its Place In The Top 1000 Albums Of All Time: It has a very rich and full sound, no doubt aided by both stellar production and skilled musicianship. I was expecting it to be prog and while there are progressive elements, I would in no way class this as being part of the prog genre – it’s important to remember than many 70s bands had that sort of expansive, adventurous vibe and were willing to experiment with sound and timing without actually becoming prog. If I can say anything negative it’s that it stays fairly rigid within its own constraints – no song is particularly faster, slower, heavier, softer, than any other. By and large the songs are all of a similar length and most of them end with a fade out, which I’m generally not big on. This contributed to the second half of the album not being as strong or interesting for me. On first listen it’s difficult to gauge quality or feelings, but there’s definitely enough here that I’d want to listen to it again and see what else the band has. I can’t speak to the band’s influence and I’ve no idea how popular they were or still are or how many sales this had, but it sounds like something which should be on the top 1000 albums.

Colin Larkin’s Ranking: 868/1000

What are your thoughts on The Royal Scam? Is this one of your favourites, or do you recommend a different Steely Dan offering over it? Let us know in the comments!

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?