Nightman Listens To – Madonna – Music!

Greetings, Glancers! It’s Madonna time again and an album released back in 2000, a simpler, less stressful time some would say. Not me though – I was in the middle of my A-Level preparations, I was 17, drinkin’ and a druggin’ and a womenin’. As you’ll have read in my previous post, Ray Of Light had been a massive hit with me and some of my friends, but in the few years between these albums we had started to see Madonna in a less favourable light. She had a lot of stuff going on which made her a prime candidate for ridicule, not that she’d care, and her release of American Pie was met with general laughter. To many of us it seemed she had lost it. I don’t know how much, if any, this contributed to me not paying much attention to the album but Music is not one I know much about, outside of some vague memories of the singles.

The album seems like it could be short and brisk – only ten songs and the only one I can clearly recall is the title track, and that’s a song I wasn’t a fan of. William Orbit did an awesome job on Ray Of Light so presumably the same will be said for this, although I think this album has a more general dance music flavour with less focus on atmosphere and rock. There’s no point guessing, lets just get into it.

‘Music’ was the first single from the album, and I didn’t like it from the first moment I heard it – much too much focus on quirks and production than, you know, actual music. The video likely influenced me too, what with its apparent love of celeb culture and lifestyle. Lyrically of course the song is supposed to be about the power of music to bring people together and overcome… something, but when the music is mostly dire the message falls flat. I appreciate the creativity and the production, but the style is not for me, the vocals are too whiny, and the melodies grating.

‘Impressive Instant’ is… well, my instant impression is that I’ll never want to listen to this again. It seems to be like another irritating dance song, entirely manufactured in the studio with nothing tangible. The vocals are annoying, the music is repetitive, the lyrics are garbage… unless you’re into dance music there’s nothing good here.

Runaway Lover‘ is a more traditional dance track. As a general rule I’m not a fan of dance music in most of its guises, but there are exceptions. This, I don’t mind. It could be any style of song, they just happened to make it dance – take away the beats and replace them with guitars or generic pop stuff and you’ll have a decent rock or pop track. Some of the noises and drums stuff annoys me, but it moves swiftly with a tidy energy and some decent melodies.

I Deserve It’ seems familiar somehow. I’m almost certain I’ve never head it, but I’ve shared many a set of earphones with many a person, so possibly… This one rambles along never quite reaching any sort of point or peak, though based on the lyrics that in itself is possibly the point. There are moments of potential where I thought it was going to build into something more, but then it didn’t.

Amazing‘ starts with manufactured bird-like noises and bell type sounds. Before long a beat that’s unusually similar to Beautiful Stranger takes the song further along. The song has more of a rock vibe like some of the songs from Ray of Light, though in a completely different style.

Nobody’s Perfect’ begins with something that sounds like ‘I am wet when I am with you’ which seems a little inappropriate even for Madonna. This is annoying because I do like the melodies here, but they are largely ruined by the auto-tuning nonsense. The drum sounds feel too weak in places, but I do like all the robotic laser stuff going on. This would be great if it had a traditional vocal throughout, but even with the nonsense I can’t help but like it and I think it could become one of my favourites over time.

Don’t Tell Me‘ is one I’d forgotten about. I like the disjointed nature and I remember this one had fairly heavy rotation when I was in the University Student’s Union bar anytime Kerrang wasn’t being shown. It’s a decent single but clearly I’d forgotten it for a reason, gets annoying before long.

What It Feels Like For A Girl’ begins with experimental sounds, some annoying English accented speaking, lyrics about androgyny etc. I have a feeling I have heard this before. The good qualities here are buried under the production – the melodies and the backing sounds don’t go together at all, making the whole affair feel like two completed different songs which got mashed together accidentally.

Paradise (Not For Me)’ is a song that mostly goes nowhere until the second minute where a very John Carpenter piece emerges followed by a much stronger vocal (though still downgraded by auto-tune). It’s clearly an attempt at an epic and it doesn’t quite get there, though I appreciate the effort. I love the strings which join the mess near the third minute, but the opening two minutes are too uneventful – a better melody lifting towards that middle section would have improved things drastically. The final couple of minutes repeat variously the good and bad without offering a final distinct section – aimed for the stars and scraped the clouds or something.

Gone‘ begins as an unusually streamlined and simple song – only voice and acoustic guitar. I love the melodies, the vocals and lyrics are plaintive, and the chorus is great. Given what has come before I keep waiting for the big production to come blasting out of the speakers. It does come, kind of, but it’s not as intrusive or all encompassing as elsewhere on the album. This is good stuff, and a great ending – another song I wasn’t aware of that I already look forward to hearing again.

For me this was an ambitious yet disjointed album. As a sequel to Ray Of Light it tries a host of new ideas but it doesn’t have the impact, musically or emotionally, which that album had. Where one felt urgent and inventive, this one feels at times like a joke or more accurately that the people involved were just having fun without caring about the quality of the end product, while at other times it feels as if they are throwing as much sound and technique into the mix in the hope that some of it will come good. The best moments are those where the simple tune is allowed to speak for itself – some of the songs are bogged down by production to the point where the melody is drowned, while in others the production fails to disguise the dull core. There are still some great moments here, and a few songs that I’ll add to my regular rotation, but as a sequel to a great, it falls below expectation.

Nightman Listens To – Madonna – Evita

Greetings, Glancers! It’s time to check out Madonna’s third and most successful soundtrack album Evita. Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber penned all of the work here and Madonna sings most of the songs, though she does get help by Banderas, Pryce, and old Crocodile Shoes himself Jimmy Nail. As you would imagine, it sold a crapload. I’m going to be going through the double disc edition, but I’m not a sadist – I’m only listening to the ones Madonna performs on. I expect these songs will be peppered with instrumental sections and that they will lose much without the visuals. Lets get this out of the way.

Oh What A Circus‘ opens just as I imagined – lots of lovely Latin guitars. Banderas starts the singing, telling of Eva’s life. There’s a familiar melody. No Madonna yet. This is nice though, no complaints. Backing vocals. Sudden rock outburst. That was pretty funny. Decent vocals from Antonio. Now a slower section. Is this Madonna? Now instrumental. Now Madonna, doing a bit from ‘Don’t Cry For Me’.

Eva and Magaldi/Eva Beware Of The City’ begins with some weird funk. Dark tones, all very theatrical as you would expect and lots of voices, changes in pace and style. Listening without the visuals means it sounds a little messy – a confusing mishmash of genres with people chanting and singing and talking, but I think it would all make sense on screen or stage. With all that said, it’s not too bad. I do have no idea what’s going on, but the music is fine.

Buenos Aires‘ starts with a train toot and some clapping. I think. Lots of percussion now. Madonna’s vocals seem a little stronger on the album – more powerful. This one is only okay – a little jazzy, a little funky, some nice strings in the middle, but no obvious hooks. It then turns into a James Bond instrumental for the final section.

Another Suitcase In Another Hall’ starts like a traditional hit rather than a product of a musical. It’s very sweet with lyrics of uncertainty and exploration and yearning. This one does have hooks and apparently was a single, but I don’t remember it. I’d listen to this one again, very nice.

Goodnight And Thank You’ has a big brass celebration opening. This segues into a softer section before the Banderas verse. Madonna joins in for a more traditional duet. Then they sing about soap. And doing up trousers. It just about passes the listening without visuals test.

Charity Concert/The Art Of The Possible‘ has clapping, and South American rhythms. Then it ends. Then it starts again. Another duet. Well, it’s mostly Antonio. Then it ends again.

I’d Be Surprisingly Good For You‘ is another duet with lyrics overlapping closely. The music is mostly in the background, leaving breathy vocals. Madonna then takes over and it becomes a decent ballad – not as strong as that hallway song, but still good.

Hello And Goodbye‘ is light and fluffy in its opening moments, a little like elevator music. Then it’s a little sultry, then tender, then more tender as it calls back a previous song.

Peron’s Latest Flame‘ has a brass, war era sitcom intro. It sounds like the rich don’t like Evita’s antics. Now the rich are singing. I’m not hearing Madonna yet. Drum collapse. Future sounds. Now Madonna. More chanting. More future sounds. This is very ‘musical’.

A New Argentina’ has a mysterious in tone beginning but finds its feet when Madonna sings – the melodies by this point are familiar – it’s the ‘I’ll Be Good For You’ tune again. It breaks away eventually for a heavier sound with choir and guitars. Madonna belts out the vocals well in several places. This one goes on for ages. It’s mostly good, but it does stretch the patience when listening without the benefit of seeing what’s going on.

Don’t Cry For Me Argentina‘ is the one we all know. We’ve already heard motifs in the songs up to this point, but now it’s going all the way. If I’m honest I don’t remember too much about the song about from Madonna singing the title and a few more words. Big string intro, soft, mournful vocals. The verses stretch out, teasing the listener and getting the lyrics across. It’s one of Madonna’s better vocals. The chorus is fine, more understated than what I remembered and it balances well with the verses rather than outstripping it.

On The Balcony Of The Castle Rosada (Part 2)’ begins with some excited whispering. We get crowd noise and choir singing which builds in pace and urgency. We then get a spoken section, an inspired speech. We finish with a brief choir blast and short Madonna line.

High Flying, Adored’ is a gentle ballad starting out with Antonio’s smooth vocals. It’s another good performance from him. Madonna comes in briefly at the end to mirror what Banderas has just sung.

Rainbow High‘ starts suddenly, Madonna’s quick vocals giving over to further choir voices – these two flit back and forth throughout. It’s another good performance by Madonna, giving it her all even as the timing and style transform.

Rainbow Tour‘ features more male vocals. This one is a little more cheesy, feeling very ‘Dr Zeus/Dr Zeus’. There’s a little bit of Madonna in the middle before returning to the blokes.

The Actress Hasn’t Learned The Lines You’d Like To Hear‘ starts with trumpets and annoying chorus vocals – like Greek Play Chorus, you know? Madonna comes in with some meandering vocals and lyrics. Familiar melodies come at last – there’s really only a handful of recurring motifs here, a few more wouldn’t have gone amiss for such a huge score. There’s some horror movie sounds for a while to change it up.

Pardito Feminista‘ features more crowd noise and speeches. Some singing too, quite a bit for a song shorter than two minutes long actually.

Waltz For Eva And Che‘ is just as it sounds. Antonio first. Madonna next. Melodies are largely sacrificed for the sake of lyrics and plot. Big waltz in the middle with splashing percussion.

Your Little Body’s Slowly Breaking Down‘ opens with a morbid and sad piano line and vocal deliver. Madonna joins in to give a more positive spin for this short track.

You Must Love Me’ is another short track. Man, all those ‘were do go from here’ lines are just reminding me of Buffy. This is a decent ballad, plaintive, and understated with just piano and violin along with Madonna’s voice.

Eva’s Final Broadcast’ seems like a downer. We know what is happening, so obviously it’s not a barrel of laughs. Madonna’s voice gives way to some sort of chanting, then she comes in again to add new words to the same old melodies. Then the big chorus comes back with a slight change. This one is theatrical, with wavering vocals, soundbites, and all the rest of it. We close with a few mournful minutes of choir voices.

Lament‘ closes the album, at least from my perspective. Madonna and guitar. Another good one. We get a jump scare surge of strings and full orchestra blasts before calming down and Antonio takes over.

Jeebus, that was long. But it was better than I was expecting. It doesn’t feel like a Madonna album, though her imprint is there. It feels like a musical, but there are songs which seem to live and breathe on their own. All the silly trappings of the stage are there, though they are not as annoying as I thought they would be and while there is an awkwardness in listening to the soundtrack without following the screen, plenty of the songs are good enough to warrant listening. There is quite a lot of repetition, and some songs are too long for purely listening to, but on the whole it’s a decent album and I could easily cut it down to a more respectable length and listen through it again.

Let us know in the comments what you think of the Evita soundtrack. Next time we see Madonna we’ll be going through Ray Of Light – an album I liked a lot when it was first released but haven’t heard since (actually, I stupidly posted Ray Of Light before posting this, so next time it will be Music)!

Chart Music – 1992

Yes! Back thanks to an almost universal lack of demand, I stretch back the scalp of time and feast upon the mushy innards of the past – in this instance I return to the UK music charts. If you’re interested, you can read my original post here – https://carlosnightman.wordpress.com/2015/10/22/the-uk-top-40/

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Greetings, Glancers! It’s time for me to think of another absurdist metaphor concerning looking to the past, as we look to the past – 1992 to be precise. In 1992 I was already a bite-size metal and grunge kid, watching Headbanger’s Ball and reading Kerrang magazine. Thanks to my love for those genres, even by that point in my life I was pretty miffed at the state of UK music charts. The bands I liked never got any credit or praise from the mainstream media and the radio would play the same shite. Sometimes of of course they were forced to bow to audience pressure and play something with a rock vibe – I remember many times that certain stations would play something like Sweet Child O’Mine or Smells Like Teen Spirit, yet cut the song short before it had ended. Even when the genres were at a commercial peak, they were shafted and pushed to the side.

But what else was happening in 19 and 92? George Bush senior disgraced himself and his nation by barfing all over the place, then officially ended The Cold War, The Maastricht treaty was signed, The Bosnian War kicked off, LA had some riots, Barney The Dinosaur appeared, Denmark won Euro 92, the Olympics were held in Barcelona, and Slick Billy prepared to become President. In music, Nevermind was number 1 in the charts, Mariah Carey went unplugged, John Frusciante left the RHCP, November Rain became the most expensive music video ever, James Hetfield got burnt, and The Bodyguard became the biggest selling soundtrack ever.

  1. Tasmin Archer: Sleeping Satellite

This was everywhere in 1992, and is still one of those songs that you can’t forget once you’ve heard it. I did like it then and listening now it’s still pretty great. Those gruff vocal parts are funny… I don’t think I’ve heard another Tamsin Archer song so I’ve no idea if she was a one hit wonder. I don’t remember the wacky organ solo.

2. Boyz II Men: End Of The Road

Speaking of songs that were everywhere, this thing was at number 1 for about 12 years. I’m not sure why it was so popular – I get why it was successful – but not why it was such a monster. It’s a decent ballad, but it’s cheesy as fuck and that video is horrific – four funny looking blokes with incredible voices moping about in funny looking clothes. This is what women were into in 1992 apparently.

3. Bizarre Inc: I’m Going To Get You

From the name alone I don’t remember this so I’m going to guess it’s a one hit wonder chav mess. Aaand, with the first second I remember it. Okay, I managed the first minute, that’s all you need to hear. I mean, it is dreadful. The singing, the repetition, the music, and the theme which seems to be rape.

4. Madonna: Erotica

We’ve covered this on the blog before.

5. Bon Jovi: Keep The Faith

We’ve covered this on the blog before.

6. Doctor Spin: Tetris

Now we get into the really bad shit. This wanky dance music was seriously popular at the time and if today’s charts are anything to go by, wanky dance music won the race. It’s basically the main Tetris theme tune with some weird voice in the background and other Nintendo noises zooming around. Just think for a second – someone actually made this, and enough people bought it that it reached the Top 10 in the UK charts.

7. Dr Alban: It’s My Life

The second medical practitioner turned shit music maker in our top ten this year. This one at least is less repetitive and has a weird, creepy, industrial vibe. I don’t think that was intentional. The overlapping beats are actually cool and this one has held up much better. Only the vocals really date it.

8. The Shaman: Ebeneezer Goode

Congrats, it’s another one that I refuse to link to because it’s an absolute abomination. One of undisputed worst songs of all time.

9. Take That: A Million Love Songs

And this is one of Take That’s less annoying songs.

10. Arrested Development: People Everyday

I’ve no idea what this is, so I’d better give it a listen. I don’t think I’ve heard this before, but I could be mistaken. It sounds so generic that any of these type of songs from this period all sound similar to me. It is quite annoying, all the call, response stuff, and weird backing vocals stuff, plus the kind of rap which was successful in the UK at this time was so tame.

So, a mixture of dreadful and bearable. 1992 saw plenty of major, genuinely good releases – Generation Terrorists, Vulgar Display Of Power, Little Earthquakes, Somewhere Far Beyond, Countdown To Extinction, Dirt, Tourism, Automatic For The People etc. For a much more invigorating and lovely list of songs from 1992, have a gander at these boys.

  1. Alice In Chains – Nutshell
  2. Del Amitri – Always The Last To Know
  3. Manic Street Preachers – Condemned To Rock And Roll
  4. Soul Asylum – Runaway Train
  5. 4 Non Blondes – What’s Up
  6. Nirvana – Aneurysm
  7. Dr Dre – Fuck Wit Dre Day
  8. Mr Big – To Be With You
  9. Richard Marx – Hazard
  10. Shakespears Sister – Stay

Feel free to share your memories, musical or otherwise, of 1992 in the comments below!

 

Nightman Listens To – Madonna – Ray Of Light!

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Greetings, Glancers! I’ll get this out of the way at the outset – I love Ray Of Light. I listened to it quite a lot when it was first released and even though I have slagged Madonna after and before it was released, it still holds up as a great record. Or I think it does – I haven’t listened to it in years. It’s the first Madonna album I can remember being released; I was 15 at the time and hadn’t paid much attention to anything Madonna related beforehand other than her singles and videos. Now that I was a teenager I was actually earning and spending my own money on things and of course was more knowledgeable about music. Until roughly this age most of the albums I owned were either metal, hard rock, or Michael Jackson. I remember a lot of people in school talked about Ray Of Light – people who were exclusively into shitty dance music, rock kids, chart kids, etc. Madonna essentially kept herself relevant by tapping into a variety of sounds and styles and by above all releasing a bunch of great songs. Moving on…

Drowned World/Substitute For Love‘  is a fairly creepy sounding name and the song starts in a fairly creepy way – wind sounds, laser electronic sounds, some bloke speaking, until Madonna’s plaintive vocal flows in. When the beat comes in it all makes sense – the beat and overall sound is chilled, we get plenty of additional beats and backwards sounds. I can’t say it sounds dated now, there’s something old about it though. It did feel revolutionary at the time but I loved most and still do is how dynamic it is – instruments drop in and out, the song dissolves into momentary tangents, and at the core is a brilliant Madonna performance.

Swim‘ opens with some guitar. That’s another point which I always remember about the album – people see it as this big dance record, but it’s filled with guitar too and one of my friends who was just learning guitar at the moment always listened to this album specifically for the guitar parts. This is a pretty good album track, a funky mixture of riffs and warbling dance parts. Again the production is terrific, music building and withdrawing, and there’s always something new and dynamic happening to distract from an otherwise simple structure. 

Ray Of Light‘ is the biggie, and it was a hit for years. This one does sound very 90s now and yet still has a modern flavour. I think that’s because today’s commercial pop and dance is so technically bland. This has energy, it flickers and bounces on many levels while today’s chart stuff feels flat and hollow – no depth to the structure or production. The music video is pure Trainspotting jittery nonsense though – good at the time but severely dated now.

Candy Perfume Girl‘ starts with electronic humming, then guitar, then wet beats, then assorted sounds and vocals. It’s very much your standard album track and has the same drum sounds and backing noise that appeared in hundreds of songs around the time. There’s still plenty to discover here, but it’s easily the weak link so far.

Skin‘ gets us back on track. It begins suddenly, yet is slow and smooth. The way the backing noises descend into a chaotic swamp of whispers and noise, and then how the fast beat suddenly comes in – this is very much my sort of dance music. I love the central vocal melody, again there is a tonne of atmosphere and smart production, and again the song never wants retain the same sound, varying and morphing as it goes. Great for night driving. Great for anything really.

Nothing Really Matters‘ is an atmospheric ballad. I almost dread to think what a song like this would have sounded like had she recorded it in an earlier era. The New Jack or 80s pop versions of this likely would have been a disaster. Don’t get me wrong, the drum beats for most of the song are too generic and weak, but everything is perfect – love the chorus, love the little piano and string moments. Yeah, just a pity about the beats.

Sky Fits Heaven‘ continues the atmosphere, bringing a more organ based ethereal sound. Again, I somehow don’t mind the fact that this is a dance track – let is be said I love dance music when it’s done right – it just so rarely is. This combination of William Orbit and Madonna though was just one of those moments when the stars are aligned. I’m not overly fond of the middle section here, at least not until it smooths out, but the rest is great, the beats are much better, the distorted guitar noise is fantastic, and I enjoy the little melodic callbacks to Till Death Do Us Part. 

Shanti/Ashtangi‘ goes a little weird. This is definitely Madonna’s Revolver album – the most obvious example of her music becoming art and transcending, so it’s quite apt she throws in this Eastern based mess, just like The Beatles did. It’s fine but does come off as self-indulgent. I think the best part of the song is how people I knew would make up their own English translations for the lyrics. This was before all your internets and googles, kids!

Frozen‘ was always my favourite  song from the album. I love atmospheric music – something a little chilling and emotional, and this hits all of those notes. It’s still fantastic now, and the video’s great too. It’s easily one of Madonna’s best vocals, easily contains some of her best melodies. I love the strings – goes without saying – I love the little instrumental pieces which return us to the verse either any time there is a pause or from the chorus. Mysterious, haunting, and unquestionably beautiful.

The Power Of Good-Bye‘ is another classic. It’s definitely a 90s track with those beats, but it’s a marvel. For me this one is all about the melodies, as pop music almost always is, and here verse and chorus are exceptional. It’s actually one of the more simple songs on the album, but it’s still dressed up in electronica and strings – it doesn’t need anything additional and it doesn’t need any part taken out – perfect the way it is. An interesting titbit (so much better than tidbit) – part of the verse melody is identical to a part of the Family Ness theme tune.

To Have And Not To Hold‘ comes in cold – moody, dark, with growling beats. I feel that in a previous era she would have gone the Spanish route for this one. I do prefer the chorus to the verse and as a whole the song doesn’t get me as much as others on the album. Still good, but in the bottom half for me.

Little Star‘ is Madonna’s dedication to her new born bambino. I think. It opens as if it is going to be some super fast dance track but once the vocals start it’s all very slow and tender, even though the backing beats are moving quickly. It is mostly plain and the melodies don’t do much for me even if the sentiment is moving. I feel like this one should have been a more traditional ballad with a changed melody, but what do I know. I do know this one is too long, even if some of the string pieces near the end are lovely.

Mer Girl‘ closes the album, beginning like a phone off the hook – a tantalizing, unfinished conversation. An ending both slow and sudden. There is a lot of silence in this song but still there is a lot going on musically. Lyrically, this is basically a short story, melodically it isn’t very interesting. It’s an experimental end – fine, but I prefer albums to close with a bang.

Even though there are some songs that feel like standard album tracks and don’t do much for me, the highs on the album are such sky-scraping highs that they reach far beyond any parts you may not be so keen on. Add to that fact that those highs far outweigh the lows (and that the lows are still fine) and we have probably Madonna’s best album. It’s this and Like A Prayer that we’ll still be talking about in a hundred years. Well, I will – you’ll all be gone. This is one of the best albums of the 90s, and it’s basically the last thing Madonna did that I liked. Having said that I have heard very little, if any, of her last few albums so my next few posts will be interesting for me. I still hold out hope that someone who can make an album as brilliant as this can still make a few good songs per album, so I expect to hear a few more favourites before we reach the end of our journey.

Ray Of Light – were you around when it was released? Where do you rank it beside Madonna’s other albums? Let us know in the comments!

Nightman’s Playlist Picks: Drowned World/Substitute For Love. Ray Of Light. Frozen. Skin. Nothing Really Matters. Sky Fits Heaven. The Power Of Goodbye.

Nightman Listens To Madonna – Bedtime Stories!

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Greetings, Glancers! The last time we spoke of Madonna, she had released her most controversial and sexually charged album to date – Erotica. It was fine, and while I loved many of the ideas, most of the music didn’t make my nuts tingle. With Bedtime Stories, Madonna wanted to remind fans and the population at large that she wasn’t merely some orgasmic vixen but that she had other layers and furrows – like we all have. As you would expect, the album was yet another major success and proceeded to break new ground for Madonna while influencing later artists. But what do I think of it? Looking at the track list I see the album garnered four singles, though only one of them I can remember from the name; I’m sure once I hear some of the others I will remember them too. As always, listen along, weep at my thoughts, and drop your comments below!

Survivor‘. Beeps. Drum sounds. Voices. I don’t think I’ve heard this, but it’s very 90s RnB. Different sound from anything she had so far. It’s quite plain and tame actually. I don’t think the melodies would lodge in my head.

Secret‘. Guitar. Noise. Vocals. Better melodies. I was about to type that I don’t recall this, but the chorus sounds familiar, pretty sure I have heard that piece at least. I do like the different direction of sound, but neither of these two songs are emotional or melodic enough to grab me on first listen.

I’d Rather Be Your Lover‘. Portishead. Falls apart at vocals. Better in verses. Sexy without being as obvious as the last album. It doesn’t make the melodic impact again. Disaster rap. As I mentioned earlier, I didn’t recognise many of the song names, possibly that’s because the album didn’t have any obvious hits that I would remember 20 years after the fact – and we tend to most readily remember songs with melodies which have an impact.

Don’t Stop‘. 90s RnB pop beats. Oh dear. Terrible lyrics. No, absolutely awful lyrics. This one is trying to be sexy, I think, but it’s juvenile and clueless. Nothing positive to say about this one I’m afraid. There’s about 100 seconds of material here, yet the song is almost five minutes long. Sort it out.

Inside Of Me‘. Sex breath. Let your mind conjure some images from that phrase. At least this one feels sexy. A strange girly voice. Better melodies. Lyrics don’t appear to be about sex, more about sadness and hope. This is the best song yet, though that isn’t saying much. Still, it’s another good Madonna song that I wasn’t aware of.

Human Nature‘. Screeching RnB. Express yourself, don’t repress yourself. Yes, but more importantly – don’t be a dick about it. Sweary lyrics. Another new voice. A reaction to the public reaction to her last album? Or related to some relationship? So, good lyrics, silly music, melodies of no consequence.

Forbidden Love‘. More slow, smooth beats. Even though I don’t like a lot of these songs, the Production is always right on the money for the period. It’s another case of bland versus followed by a marginally better chorus. She sings with a more traditional Madonna voice this time around. The first part of the chorus hints at something great, but it fizzles out. This is one of the better songs on the album so far.

Love Tried To Welcome Me‘. Hiss. Strings. Good? Guitar. Jangles. Promising. Smooth RnBeats. I feel like this would have had more impact if it had a different production or backing music. It’s already stripped back, but those beats don’t really work. This one is quite sad, quite good, and the chorus is fine. Doesn’t reach the heights. Feels like a good one for a rainy day window view.

Sanctuary‘. Words. Familiar melody. More beats. Odd pipes. Bass. Quite unusual, though quite nice. Mysterious. A lot of songs on the album don’t feel like Madonna songs, maybe because these are not straightforward, simple pop songs like we are used to. More spoken words. The melodies are a little repetitive here, but still hypnotic.

‘Bedtime Story’. Throb sounds. Sex sounds. Portishead again. More threatening tone. Back beat. Feels like a centerpiece. There’s the dated beats. It does feel sort of dreamy in a warm, sultry, heroin snuggly way. It’s all monotone though. I don’t mind this one, has the shadows, has the nice dark tone I love for night driving with the warm air grooving, or drifting off to sleep in a daze.

‘Take A Bow’. Ah, I know this one. It’s quite sweet. It feels like a tacked on song to the end of a darker album. Still it ends up being a highlight for me. It’s quite funny how different this is in tone from everything else. I like this one – I can’t see it changing anyone’s world, but there is an innocence, a Michael Jackson vibe, and easy hooks.

Looking at the cover art and with the backlash from her previous album I was expecting this to be a more mainstream, melodic, pop-based affair, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. This is a dance album, ‘bedtime’ simply means sex, and none of the songs really work as obvious singles, outside of the final track. Credit for continuing to experiment and try different things but it’s not to my tastes. Most of the songs are too… empty? There isn’t any emotion or enough variance – experiment all you want, but you still need something to pull people in and keep them. The album was a success so clearly I’m in the minority. Since when has anyone listened to me anyway?

Let us know in the comments what you thought of Bedtime Stories. Is this one of Madonna’s best, or are you a n’fan (not a fan)? Next up it’s ah… it’s Evita. Don’t cry for me, but I really don’t know much about the music from it, aside from the pun I just made. I think I’ll listen only to the actual songs, not the other guff that is probably included too. Adios!

Ranking The Bond Women – The Middlers

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Welcome back, you sad, lonely perverts. Why are you even here when you could be watching the movies for yourself, or even better, hiding in the neighbour’s bushes and pretending to be a spy yourself? I promise you get caught this time. Well, I suppose I should continue now that you’re here. Pull up a pew and make sure the door’s locked in case someone should stumble in and see what you’re up to. That would be embarrassing now, wouldn’t it?

22: Verity – Die Another Day

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It’s hardly a surprise that Verity appears at the bottom of my list. As you’ll see elsewhere on the blog, I like a lot of Madonna’s music. Her acting…. yeah, I like her in some stuff. This is just product placement of the worst kind, in a movie littered with toys screaming ‘buy me buy me’! Die Another Day gets almost everything wrong, Madonna flirting and swinging swords is just one of many sins.

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21: Ruby Bartlett – On Her Majesty’s Secret Service

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Part of me would love to stick Ruby at the absolute bottom of the Bond girl’s list, except that there isn’t really anything wrong with her. She just irritates the hell out of me – that face, that voice, that hair. Most people have OHMSS as one of the best Bond films, but Ruby, along with Lazenby and the dreadful Louis Armstrong song knock it way down my ranking. Angela Scoular, who also appeared in the original Casino Royale and various other British movies, had a troubled life and killed herself in 2011 after swallowing and dousing herself in acid. Makes me feel bad for not liking her Bond girl now. Shit.

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20: Bianca – Octopussy

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Bianca briefly helps Bond in Octopussy, using all her disguise – applying and thigh-showing skills. Another character who could have been more interesting with a bigger role, but as it stands she’s just another object to look at unfortunately. More unfortunately, Tina Hudson who performed here never appeared in another film or show as far as I can tell.

19: Miss Taro – Dr No

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The first henchwoman we meet in the series, Miss Taro is suitably sultry and wicked, but she is of course no match for 007 and fails to lure him into a trap before failing to seduce him. Miss Taro was played by South African actress Zena Marshall who sadly passed away in 2009, an actress who started out in the 40s before retiring in the late 60s and appeared in many movies and shows including Those Magnificent Men In Their Flying Machines and Helter Skelter. 

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18: Pola Ivanova – A View To A Kill

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There isn’t anything wrong to say about Pola, she’s just another agent (KGB) who Bond gets the better of, after some sexy times of course. It’s a case once again of a character that I’d like to see more of, either in the movie or recurring in other movies, but of course the Bond series typically doesn’t do such things. Plus I’m not a fan of short hair. Sorry. Fiona Fullerton started out as a child actress before landing the role of Pola, and since then has become a Property Developer with the odd reality TV appearance or TV movie- Strictly Come Dancing, A Ghost In Monte Carlo etc.

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17: Lucia Sciarra – Spectre

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When I first heard that Monica Bellucci was going to be a Bond Girl, I was more than a little excited. Bellucci is a fantastic actress who I have been a fan of for many years, as well as being gorgeous, and on most days she should be near the top of any lady list. Her appearance in Spectre is disappointingly underwhelming to the the point that she doesn’t really need to be there at all. Of course the series has a history of throwing in a random hot woman just to facilitate a joke or movie the plot forward ever so slightly. But this is Monica Bellucci, and if anything she deserved to play in the lead Bond girl role. She’s there, and then she isn’t, and for most of the movie I was waiting for her to come back.

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16: Pan Ho – A View To A Kill

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One of many henchwomen in A View To A Kill, but probably the least impactful. A partner to Jenny Flex and underling of Mayday, Pan Ho helps Zorin and Co kill and cause general carnage. As loyal as she is, she unfortunately forgets that Zorin is a complete loon, and loses her life because of it. Papillon Soo Soo stars as the ill-fated mistress, a model and former actress who also appeared famously in Full Metal Jacket (‘me so horny’).

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15: Patricia Fearing – Thunderball (and Never Say Never Again)

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Fearing is played by two different actresses, most notably in Thunderball and later in the mostly awful Never Say Never Again. It’s Thunderball that we care about here, where Fearing is a bit of a silly character – first saving Bond’s life and then having sex with them because she’s afraid she will lost her job. Still, she appears in multiple scenes and gets the odd uncomfortable laugh from the audience. Fearing was played by Molly Peters, a model who made a string of appearances in the 60s in minor movies and shows before giving it all up in 1968.

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14: Jill Masterson – Goldfinger

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Famous for dying in one of cinema’s most iconic ways, poor Jill Masterson was immortalized after betraying her boss and being covered in gold paint from head to toe -both as punishment for her actions and a warning for Bond. Shirley Eaton is fine in the role, but aside from her brief early scenes it is her corpse which steals the headlines. Shirley Eaton had been acting since the early 50s in many British TV series and movies such as the Carry On movies, but in 1969 she retired to look after her family instead.

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13: Caroline – Goldeneye

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When I first saw Goldeneye, I mistakenly thought that Caroline was Moneypenny, such was the flirtatious banter between the two, as well as the character’s coy mannerisms and the fact that she didn’t really look like a typical Bond woman. She appears mainly to remind us that Bond is a bit of a lad, likes racing cars, and of course to introduce us to Xenia Onatopp. Caroline is fine, gets in a little bit of dialogue, and is another character who you would mind making frequent appearances throughout the series as a world weary spy evaluator. Unfortunately we don’t get to see her again. Serena Gordon stars as the first Brosnan Bond girl, known for British TV shows such as The Bill and Other People’s Children. 

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12: Molly Warmflash – The World Is Not Enough

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‘Faith, a word of advice – you’re an idiot’. It wouldn’t be a post on this blog without some sort of Buffy reference – it’s quite funny seeing a one-off Buffy actress popping up as a one-off Bond character – she even dresses in the same stuffy manner as her Sunnydale counterpart. Played by Serena Scott Thomas, who you may know as the sister of Kristen, Molly succumbs to Bond’s charms as his doctor, and later tells us that Robert Carlisle is basically Superman.

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11: Rubavitch – The Living Daylights

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Played by Virginia Hey of Farscape and The Road Warrior fame (two of my favourite things), Rubavitch doesn’t get a lot to do aside from lose her clothes and cry when she thinks General Pushkin has been killed. Hey is a terrific actress as well as being gorgeous, and therefore earns a higher spot on the list than others who may be more iconic or have a larger role.

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10: Jenny Flex – A View To A Kill

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Jenny Flex. JENNY FLEX. There’s jsut something about the character names in A View To A Kill which are unforgettable to me – Max Zorin, Mayday, and Jenny Flex. There isn’t anything special about the character, and in truth it is a bizarre name that isn’t as obviously memorable as many others, but for whatever reason that name and by extension that character are stuck in my head for ever more. JENNY FLEX. Flex was played by Irish actress and model Alison Doody, famous for starring as the ill-fated Dr Schneider in The Last Crusade.

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9: Nancy – On Her Majesty’s Secret Service

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The least annoying, most attractive of the women Bond meets in Piz Gloria in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, Nancy is a porcelain-doll looking woman who appears in numerous flirtatious interludes with Bond throughout the film, eventually popping up in his bed. Best known for her recurring role in Space: 1999, Catherine Schell has appeared in many shows and movies including Return Of The Pink Panther and Wish Me Luck.

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8: Solange Dimitrios – Casino Royale

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Casino Royale was by no means the first Bond movie to show the character in a tragic light, but it does one of the better jobs of highlighting the fact. Solange is the latest in a long line of women who meet their end (at least partially) due to meeting Bond. A victim of her husband’s abuse she hopes that perhaps Bond could be her way out, but she is murdered in an ugly message to Bond, and a sign of things to come for 007. Caterina Murino is another model turned actress who has appeared in a mixture of European TV and film.

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7: Corinne Dufour – Moonraker

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Speaking of tragic and ugly ends as a consequence of meeting Bond, Corinne gets one of the darkest deaths in the series when Drax allows his hunting dogs to chase and rip her apart. She works for Drax as a pilot but is seemingly innocent of his evil ways and when she shags Bond and inadvertently betrays her boss, her death is inevitable. Most famous for playing the title character in the controversial Story Of O, Corinne Clery also appeared in many French and Italian cult movies.

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6: Tilly Masterson  – Goldfinger

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Although it is Jill Masterson who grabs the headlines thanks to her Golden murder, Tilly is the more interesting character which the bigger role. She tries to kill Goldfinger several times as revenge for her sister’s death but in the end is killed by Oddjob. Tania Mallet made her sole big screen appearance in the movie, returning to the successful modelling career where she made her name.

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5: Saida – The Man With The Golden Gun

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Another character that I always remembered from my childhood, mainly for the amusing scene where Bond keeps trying to remove a bullet from her belly button. In fact, that’s her only scene in the movie but it’s all very funny and oddly sexy in that uncomfortable Moore way, and Carmen du Sautoy acts along playfully. She has appeared on stage in many roles, as well as appearing in many sitcoms and minor movies over the decades.

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4: Manuela -Moonraker

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Manuela doesn’t really do much in Moonraker to warrant being so high on my list, but she does appear in multiple scenes including one memorable one where she is almost gobbled by Jaws. She’s a Secret Service Agent, so you’d assume she’s bad ass – or at least bad ass cheek. She’s high on the list I guess because of potential – she’s another character that could have been someone who was recurring over other movies. But as we know by this point, part of the charm of the Bond movies are that they throw in needless one-off Bond girls in parts which could have been played by a smaller pool of actresses. Emily Bolton stars as Manuela, an actress who has appeared most famously in TV shows such as Tenco and Capital City before seemingly retiring and disappearing like so many other Bond Girls.

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3: Paula Caplan – Thunderball

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One of the earliest, if not the first instance of the tragic Bond girl, Caplan seems like a capable contact for Bond to work with. She flirts with Bond, as you do, but when she is later captured by the bad guys she seemingly kills herself to avoid torture and giving up valuable information. Caplan was played by Martine Beswick who we have already covered here due to her appearance in From Russia With Love. 

2: Helga Brandt – You Only Live Twice

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Is Brandt genuinely a Bond Girl, given that she is also a villain? Who cares, it’s my list. She shags Bond, tries to kill him on a few occasions, and appears in quite a few scenes. She also gets one of my favourite deaths, and favourite moments in the series when Blofeld feeds her to his piranha. Karin Dor played the part, a prolific German actress who is still acting today, mostly on stage, but still popping up in movies and TV. She is also known for Topaz and The Face Of Fu Manchu.

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1: Bibi Dahl – For Your Eyes Only

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I’m sure this will raise a few eyebrows, but I love Bibi Dahl. Or perhaps more accurately, I love Lynn Holly Johnson. I loved her in The Watcher In The Woods, and I love her in this. Okay fine, yes she is an annoying character, but she makes it so believable. And she’s hot as hell too. Her role in the movie is bizarre – she’s some horny kid who wants to get it on with James, but she’s also being trained as an Ice Skater by the bad guy, who does genuinely seem to care for her. She gets a lot of dialogue and screen time for a minor character but I enjoy every scene she’s in as she brightens up a pretty dark movie. She’s a fairly unique character in the Bond canon, and for that she gets my top spot. Yippee! Lynn quit acting in the 90s after refusing to do nude scenes, but returned in 2007 before suffering a stroke and it seems she is again retired now.

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Tune in next time when we’ll be getting the big guns out. And by guns I mean boobs. And by boobs I mean women. And by writing, I apologize.

Nightman Listens To – Erotica – Madonna

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Greetings, Glancers! We’re back with Madonna today, back to her main studio albums and hopefully a return to form after the poor (in my mind) soundtrack album I’m Breathless. If you read my post on Like A Prayer you’ll know that I thought it was a fantastic album, brave, controlled, cultured, and most importantly packed with great music. Erotica was another well received album, and the first one where she began to focus more directly on sex from all directions. She had touched upon the subject frequently with previous albums, but with this one she takes sex and turns it into a concept album. It was at this time that she released her controversial Sex book, and presumably with this album she pushed a lot of boundaries for mainstream pop. Looking at the track list, I think I only know four of the fourteen songs, so I’ll be hoping once again for a few new gems. There’s no sense in waiting any further, lets strip off and get down to business.

Erotica‘ opens with record static, followed by quite tribal beats, heavy percussion and spoken lyrics. There’s a bit of Jungle Boogie in there, a heavily experimental sound unlike anything she had displayed before. The verse lyrics are good, lots of innuendo, but little melody – the chorus switches things by focusing on melody and dropping the lyrical intensity. I remember being not 100% fond of this one at the time, but I appreciate it more now. It does seem a little long, if only from a single perspective, but maybe the single version was cut down a bit.

Fever‘ is of course a cover. When I looked at this on the track list I couldn’t quite remember if this was a cover or one of her own which I couldn’t recall, but as soon as the song started I remembered hearing it. I’ve never been a huge fan of any version of this song, but I suppose this is as good as any, with a bit of New Jack, and a bit of club. There isn’t enough going on to warrant the five minute running time and it does feel dull and dated, even if the beat is infectious.

Bye Bye Baby‘ has similar drum beats to the previous songs, so there is a consistency. Unfortunately this sound feels dated now and reminds me of Vanilla Ice or PJ and Duncan or some such balls. Madonna does sound different, adopting a vicious Betty Boop persona and voice. Good production, lots going on, but it is dated. What excites me? The little pieces of synth which threaten to grow, but then they go away. Lyrics are okay, but melodically it’s poor and doesn’t grab the attention. Surprise end.

Deeper And Deeper‘ opens with a mix of synth and piano before dance beats come in to make us know where we stand. I was always a bit partial to this and even 9-10 year old me would have danced around the house to it like a weirdo, but again it has dated badly. A return to better hooks. An updated version of this one (there’s probably one out there) would presumably improve matters. It feels quite long, but there is some variance with the Spanish instruments joining the din. Vogue surprise.

Where Life Begins‘ starts a little differently – light on percussion, high on instrumental tinkering. This is momentary as a sultry beat soon takes over as Madonna whispers about her special area. It does manage to sound sexy and interesting, not tacky. Some of the lyrics are a bit on the nose (matron), others are funny, but I think I quite like this one. At least she’s being direct, most pop music now which deals with sex does so in a roundabout way or just dives in like cheap porn.

Bad Girl‘ has a slow beat and twinkling piano, before a heavier beat comes in over some delicate melodies and thoughtful, thought-provoking lyrics. I don’t remember ever hearing this one so it’s another surprise. Not the most memorable song but good enough on the first listen.

Waiting‘ is another song which tips past the 5 minute mark, and it’s another bass and drums laden track. I appreciate the length of the songs as this hints at ignoring the standard 3-4 pop single standard and doing whatever the hell she wants. Of course, sometimes songs need to be 3-4 minutes. This one tries to be sultry, has more spoken vocals and is low on melody aside from the chorus, so it feels like forgettable mid-album stuff. Again, there is a certain amount of variance, great production, but I’m not a huge fan of the drum and bass heavy stuff. This has good moments, not enough though.

Thief Of Hearts‘ has more Twin Peaks synths at the start before a series of faster beats take the lead. It’s another I haven’t heard, the drums are a little too weak here, there is some dated stuff, but I like the energy, the dark atmosphere which the synth brings, and the melodies. There’s another couple of R’n’B breakdown in the middle with something not quite rap emerging, leading to some comedy swearing and the final verse, chorus run which threatens to run out of steam.

Words‘ opens like a movie about an apocalyptic wasteland, the silence suddenly broken by a mass desert orgy/rave. It’s another which relies to heavily on the beat and that’s something I personally am not very interested in. Some of the sounds are annoying here, but again there are good moments – snippets of melody, a few lyrics here and there. This one is definitely overdone and almost 6 minutes long, not adding enough variance to justify that length.

Rain‘ has always been one of my favourite Madonna songs – I loved it upon release, and I’ve gone back to it several times over the years. Musically, it’s a massive departure from the rest of the album, but in terms of lyrics, tone, and atmosphere it retains the darkness, sadness, and anger. The opening begins in the same vein, with prominent beats before flowering into a luscious ballad. I’m listening now to the album version and wondering if the single was a little different. I must check on that. There are a few unnecessary instrument and sound choices which should have been dropped in favour of a more streamlined approach.

Why’s It So Hard‘ has a slight rock edge, with guitar parts deep in the mix, but again at the core is the percussion. The central beat is slow, contrasted by the speedy vocals, and the lyrics question the issues preventing unity among people. It has a few catchy moments but like quite a few of the songs on this album it lacks your standard immediate pop chorus. This one does feel stretched, again meandering past five minutes.

In This Life‘ is one which goes beyond 6 minutes, so it better be good. An uppy downy line opens things, with some drunken piano playing simplistic, repetitive notes while Madonna sings melodies which don’t seem to sync with the music. It creates a hypnotic tone and once it comes together for the chorus it feels powerful. It’s obviously a personal lyric, I must say I prefer the vocal melody to the verse piano antics. It is overlong, but the spoken word parts do well, as they do for the most part on the rest of the album, and I usually don’t like spoken parts on songs.

Did You Do It‘ begins with some mumbled spoken parts, then the same old horns and percussive beat begins. Some guy begins rapping and this one for a change actually sounds quite modern. Madonna only comes in for the chorus (which seems to be a reprise), a lot of the lyrics are funny, explicit, and it feels like this could have been a single (if they’d been able to get away with the lyrics). It’s quite interesting to include this, as so much of the album is a woman’s perspective of sex and love while this is clearly from the man’s side. What does it mean with respect to the rest of the album – mocking the male approach to sex? Showing that men and women aren’t that different in terms of sex?

Secret Garden‘ opens with piano and some sort of throbbing beat. The drums come in which sound a little Beatles and a little Massive Attack. And she’s singing about her special area again. More whispered verse vocals, more melodic chorus. The vocals are a little too low so I can’t make everything out. Jazz interlude.

This was clearly groundbreaking stuff and there are some very good songs here, but much of it feels dated and I’m not a huge fan of the same beat and percussive style which is used on almost every track. Having said that, there are nods to a wide array of genres – jazz, rock, but at it’s core this is a thinking person’s dance record – introspective yet shamelessly extrovert, personal yet universal, and isn’t frightened to lay opinions bare or question taboo, or expose itself. With more musical variance in terms of production and instrumentation, I think I would have enjoyed this more – on several occasions the melody or idea is sacrificed for the sake of mood or beat, something which works best in small doses – here is as as unsubtle and all-pervading as someone walking into your room in a gimp suit. Even with it being dated musically, the ideas are fresh and challenging and it is clear that Madonna the artist was operating on a level apart from any of her supposed peers.

Let us know in the comments what you think of Madonna’s Erotica – were you there when it was released, what is your favourite song from the album, and where do you rank the album alongside her other releases?

Nightman Listens To – Madonna – I’m Breathless

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Greeting, Glancers! I know, I know. I said I likely wouldn’t listen to this one due it being a soundtrack album in a genre I don’t like for a film I didn’t enjoy. But here we are, I am the Prince Of Lies. Madonna teamed up with Stephen Sondheim and Mandy Patinkin to work on the soundtrack album for Dick Tracey in which she also starred (alongside Warren Beatty and Al Pacino). Looking down the tracklist, there is only one song I know for sure, with one more I may remember but could be confusing with something else. No point in beating around the old bush, lets dive in!

He’s A Man‘ seems to begin with a sound clip of some sort. Madonna singing differently than she usually does over a slow, sultry  beat. Decent lyrics, some backing vocals, not much going on melodically. This ironically would have been a much better Bond song than Die Another Day was. Nothing special though.

Sooner Or Later‘ starts with a softer jazz tone and swooning beat. This I imagine is all supposed to be sexy, in the same way that Monroe was supposed to be sexy, but both do nothing for me. Some unfortunate lyrics with ‘the more you resist, the more it excites me’ sounding criminal.Nothing memorable here either.

Hanky Panky‘ has some okay piano in the introduction which never goes where I want it to. Then all hell brakes loose and we collapse into some weird 1980s 1920s cheesy mashup. This is the one I thought I may have heard, but I wasn’t sure. I think I have, but I don’t remember much about it apart from the rhyming of Hanky Panky and Spanky. I think this was something we used to shout at each other in the schoolyard. It’s sort of catchy but incredibly silly.

I’m Going Bananas‘ makes a mockery of my ‘incredibly silly’ comment. Madonna adopts some bizarre accent and squeaks and squeals incomprehensibly while Cuban horns and beats buzz around. At least it’s short.

Cry Baby‘ sees another change in vocal style, going for that Betty Boop cutesy shite. I was dreading something like this. Annoying and twee and pointless.

‘Something To Remember‘ at least sounds like a song, and possibly a serious one. It’s another slow burner, the melodies ramble a bit without anything standing out. It does have violins doing what violins should do though, but it’s a couple of minutes longer than it needs to be.

Back In Business’ sounds the same as the other slow ones, but builds up a more melodic and sultry vocal in the verses. Again it collapses into hilarity for the chorus with silly dated drums and twiddly saxomotrumps shooting off. A song of two parts then, the first fine, the other disastrous. It’s also over five minutes long for unknown reasons, and it does get worse as it goes along with trumpy solos and Madonna burping out assorted vocal ticks.

More‘ opens with plinky plonkey piano so we know we’re in jaunty territory again. So we have two basic songs on this album – jaunty ones and slow ones. Take your pick, they’re both poor. Jeepers, this one is almost five minutes long too. No, please, no more.

What Can You Lose‘ starts nicely, with Saul giving a different spin to what we’ve heard so far. Finally, a song that isn’t a pain in the soul to listen to. It’s pretty short too, probably for the best because once the duet begins in earnest it starts to fall apart.

Now I’m Following You Part 1‘ returns to the jaunty stuff. Another duet with some tap dancing sounds and other crap wafting in the background. Nothing worth recommending this one.

Now I’m Following You Part 2‘ is basically the same as Part 1, but with added dated 80s noises. It does its hardest to turn you into a serial killer in the final minute.

Vogue‘ is completely unrelated to everything that has gone before, and has no right being associated with this album. I’ve never been a huge fan of this song, but it’s light years ahead of anything else on I’m Breathless in terms of quality. It has a melody, has its own sound, and while it does sound dated there is still something fresh about it. Plus is has a classic Madonna chorus. What a bizarre album.

Well, that was terrible. Only the most hardcore Madonna fans should listen to this, or those with a fetish for shit jazz. It hasn’t made me want to watch Dick Tracy again, probably a good thing as I remember it being crap. Thankfully Madonna returns to form (I think?) with Erotica which features at least one of my favourite Madonna songs, some I have probably heard but can’t remember, and some I won’t have heard. I’ll be looking forward to hearing that one next time, but for now I’m away to band my head with a beer bottle until I’ve wiped away every memory of I’m Breathless. Good times, LOLAMIRITEWTF!

Let us know what you thought of this album – was it a misstep for Madonna or another interesting experiment?

Nightman Listens To – Madonna – Like A Prayer

Welcome back, Glancers, to my review of Madonna’s final 80s album. I’ve been looking forwards to this one as a few of the songs I know from it are probably my favourites from Madonna, and I’ve heard that this is both her best and most experimental album. I’m hoping therefore there will be some lost gems in here for me to enjoy. It was Madonna’s first true album in three years, skipping over a soundtrack and remix album which had not been as well received as hoped. Selling over 15 million albums worldwide, this is obviously a massive success and contains some of the most popular songs of all time.

‘Like A Prayer’ opens with an experimental edge, weird guitars echo and bounce around for a few seconds before the haunting backing vocals and lead verse melody come in. I wouldn’t want to say there is anything spiritual going on here, but it is a special song, even if Madonna isn’t the greatest singer, and even if the instrumentation has dated a little. I do enjoy the Man In The Mirror style extended ending, as well as the great middle section. Nevertheless, it’s a breathtaking song and one of the finest of the decade.

‘Express Yourself’ begins in a much more fun and bouncy way than I remember. Naturally the ‘Come On, Girls’ is silly, but the chorus is ultra catchy, and the verses are very strong too. I think there are various versions of a few of the songs on this (and other) album. This is the sort of thing that may not have worked as well on her earlier albums, but she has clearly grown as a songwriter and adds that mystery ingredient which makes the song both clearly of its time, and timeless.

‘Love Song’ has some French at the start, and is apparently an experimental duet with Prince. It has a Prince influence, it is rather odd, slow, stuttering, not quite sexy, more like watching a primitive robot masturbate with a spanner. It doesn’t have any memorable hook, instead memorable because of how bizarre it is. It isn’t bad, but it certainly isn’t good.

‘Till Death Do Us Part’ begins at a quick pace, sounding first like another cheesy early Madonna track, but it infuses some U2 style moments, the pace remains high, and the vocals sound both honest and emotional. The melodies in the verses are pretty damn good and I’ve never heard this one before so it’s a nice surprise to hear something I like. The spoken/near spoken parts in the middle could have been scrapped though.

‘Promise To Try’ starts with nice piano and some decent vocals and melodies. Hmm, this could be another surprise if it keeps this sort of quality. Never heard this one before. Damn, this one is pretty great, and of course it has some strings just to endear itself to me more. Quite an emotional performance, a simple song, but beautifully rendered and with raspy vocals and good lyrics. Woo hoo, two good songs in a row that I’ve never heard before! And a few of my favourites coming up next!

‘Cherish’ is a silly, light song but one with catchy lyrics and a memorable video. Naturally for someone who grew up in the 80s and 90s there’s a lot of fond nostalgia for songs like this, but it holds up okayish. It’s not a great song by any stretch, but the chorus is unashamedly joyful.

‘Dear Jessie’ may be my favourite Madonna song (that or You’ll See). Yes, I know that makes me sound like a weirdo, but this is a glorious mix of pure pop, art, experimentation. It showcases the best of her vocals, and the melodies throughout are exquisite. It has that style I love where different sounds all blend together, where tones shift, and yet it all holds perfectly. The middle section change, the strings, even the trumpet, everything pulls together wonderfully. Great string ending. Yes, her best song.

‘Oh Father’ continues the strings and merges them with some odd sounds before the big gospel pianos come in. I haven’t heard this probably since the early 90s, though I have listened to My Vitriol’s good cover since then many times. The original is better though, sounding eerie and honest, weird and coherent.

‘Keep It Together’ starts with some strange noises I didn’t quite catch, a count in, then a funky 80s riff. I’ve never heard this one before, and so far it’s okay – steady, groovy rhythm backed with some jangling guitars and keeping the more cheesy and dated 80s stuff to a minimum. Verse and chorus ok, nice harmonies but not a lot going on melody-wise. It’s maybe a minute too long on first listen, seems like average mid-album filler, but not as bad as the fillers on previous albums.

‘Spanish Eyes’ has good, atmospheric Spanish guitars – for the first 10 seconds it could almost be a metal song, then the drums and pianos and melody come in. Good start. Her vocals sound like they are not up to scratch for the chorus, although the scratchy nature adds to the emotion. It’s too much of a stretch between the deeper vocals of the verse and the higher range of the chorus, quite clear that a better singer would do a better job here. It’s very slow, but pretty good – nothing really wrong here, though I don’t know if the trumpets really work here. A little long again, hitting the five minute mark.

‘Act Of Contrition’ starts with manic guitar. Backwards stuff and clapping. Orgy sounds and spoken words. Can’t quite make out the words but sounds like a rant. Oh, an actual melody comes in, I thought this was just going to be an experimental mess ending. Jump scare. End. An interesting way to finish the album – was this meant to be a hidden song. Not quite a stuttering finish, lyrically and thematically apt, just not as strong as what has come before.

Easily Madonna’s strongest, most consistent album so far, this is the first that hasn’t had a bad track, though a couple of songs would fall into the average category. It’s definitely a more mature and experienced album from a songwriting perspective, with a much more intelligent approach. The hit singles are each very strong, and a few of the songs that I wasn’t familiar with I will be happy to listen to again until I know them by heart. Madonna followed this up quickly with her second soundtrack album to the film Dick Tracy. I’m in two minds as to whether I should cover this album – I don’t like jazz or swing, I don’t like the movie (though haven’t seen since I was a kid) and it’s maybe not an ‘official’ Madonna album. Then again, Who’s That Girl only saw her perform on four of the songs, while with I’m Breathless I believe she performs on all of them? If that’s the case then I’ll give it a shot. Hopefully the creative streak she was going through in 1989 carries over to it. If I don’t post about it, then I’ll be moving on to 1992’s Erotica – another one I’ll be looking forward to as it again was touted as being adventurous, experimental, and contains another of my favourite Madonna songs.

Let me know in the comments section what you think of Like A Prayer – has this album stood the test of time? Were you around when it was first released, or is it something you have only discovered recently? What’s your favourite track from the album? Let us know below!

To catch up on my feeble musings on Madonna’s previous albums check here: https://carlosnightman.wordpress.com/2014/03/27/nightman-listens-to-madonna-madonna-1983/

and here: https://carlosnightman.wordpress.com/2015/05/19/nightman-listens-to-madonna-like-a-virgin/

and here: https://carlosnightman.wordpress.com/2015/09/03/nightman-listens-to-madonna-true-blue/

Ranking James Bond Songs # 25 -24

Greetings, Glancers, and welcome to the first post in my countdown of James Bond songs. While I feel that each Bond song (except for one) contains something worthwhile, and that there aren’t really (except for one) any bad songs, there are clearly ones which I feel are naff, others are simply meh, while a handful are excellent. As always, don’t forget to insult my choices in the comments and help me find the true path by enlightening me with what you feel the best (and worst) songs are.

25 – Die Another Day (from Die Another Day) – Madonna

 This thing. This monstrosity. Rarely has something so apocalyptically awful been wrought upon the ears of the honest movie going public as this not-song. Madonna had not been relevant since (the superb) Ray Of Light and felt that one of the longest lasting franchises in entertainment could be her way back. There aren’t enough swear words in human language to describe this turd – it’s the musical equivalent of eating yourself, ass-first. The only compliment I can give it is that it is a fitting noise for the worst film of the series, proving that faeces, like the T-1000, sucks in all other surrounding pieces of shit. I’m not even going to post a link to it, instead I’ll post a link to one of the worst things you’ll ever hear – it’s still infinitely better than Die Another Day: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wW7xTz38eiA

24. We Have All The Time In The World (from On Her Majesty’s Secret Service) – Louis Armstrong

ohmss2

A dirge by any other name is still a dirge, and this is one of the most overblown, overrated, viciously depressing scabs ever recorded. The opening 2 and a half seconds seem ok, but then it all goes wrong, like when you unwrap a gun for Christmas but blow your brains out trying to disengage the tag from the trigger. Held in high esteem by people I hold in low esteem, this is drivel source down to its lowest common denominator. You know what? I’m not going to link it either, instead here is another aural masterpiece by your’s truly: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O9Fpvcqy9AQ

Shocked by my picks of the two crappiest Bond songs? Let me know in the comments section below!