Eminem – The Marshall Mathers LP

*Originally written in 2004

Marshall Mathers.jpg

Progressing from Guns’N’Roses as `The World’s Most Dangerous Band’, Eminem burst into middle class homes across the world as `The World’s Most Dangerous Musician’. His first album was vulgar, crass, offensive, full of foul language and obscene lyrics, it covered taboo subjects, and was full of violent imagery involving fights, drugs, and guns. Naturally it sold millions and terrified parents and politicians everywhere. The critics failed to see the underlying reasons for the success; it was clever, full of energy and invention, and packed with great music. The Blond rapper from Detroit had a lot to live up to for his second album, not that he cared, and with The Marshall Mathers LP he created a monster, surpassing his first in every way- it is shocking in its violence, hilarious in its unashamed attack on celebrity, musically intense and original, and is easily one of the albums of the decade.

`PSA 2000′ opens the album in similar style to the Slim Shady LP. It sets the tone for the rest of the album with Eminem’s trademark humour and attitude coming through. For those who don’t know it is a spoken word announcement proclaiming how he doesn’t care if you hate his album

`Kill You’ has an ominous tone throughout with it’s dark, yet funky bass and screamed vocals. It covers a multitude of topics deriding those who criticize him, especially those who see him as a violent influence to their kids. Naturally he responds by saying he will kill them. Lyrically it is much angrier than anything in the first album- the dark side of fame has struck him and he raps about the hypocrisy of radio stations, TV shows etc whose ratings are bad so they invite him on expecting controversy. This is a strong first song which sets the darker tone of the album, with only subtle hints at humour 6 foot underneath.

`Stan’ needs no explaining as it was one of the biggest hits of the decade. On first listen it was a revelation- a brilliantly clever story, flawlessly written lyrics and music, it’s haunting chorus which blends seamlessly into each verse. The story of a disgruntled and psychotic fan going too far again shows the down side of fame, how becoming an idol brings shadowy responsibilities that you either don’t want or release you had until it was too late. Unfortunately as it became such a big hit thanks to certain big Radio stations with 1 in the title who played it roughly 48 times a day it lacks the impact it once had. Of course these radio stations played a severely censored version and on top of this Dido inexplicably became popular. Her song which was sampled in Stan is bland and poor when heard on its own, but as part of Stan it works effectively. Now that her song has been played to death it unfortunately gives a second knife in the back of Eminem’s epic.

`Paul’ is another funny spoken insert, featuring someone’s reaction to hearing the album. At only a few seconds long it is throwaway material but still great fun and the album doesn’t sound whole if who skip it.

`Who Knew’ is a more juvenile version of Kill You, mixing funny lyrics and ideas with satirical and harsh ones. Again he explains his hatred of the hypocrisy of American parents, media, and politicians who have blamed him for everything to murder, suicide, and the decline of the American youth. He explains his side in a clever way, replacing the elegance of rhetoric with his own unique blend of madness. Musically it is fairly simple, with a slight bass beat in the background and some synth style strings which are reminiscent of, ironically, Psycho.

`Steve Berman’ continues the spoken interludes and features a record company producer/suit who hates the album. As always it is done in a jaunty style with some funny background music as Eminem sets himself up as a `me against the world’ figure.

`The Way I Am’ is as close to soul baring and honesty as we get on the album, another angry attack on fame, those who hate him and those who love him a little too much. He spits out the words with venom and typically doesn’t hold back. Musically it is as melodic as he gets, with piano and bass mixing together and some church bells in the choruses which add a dark tint.

`The Real Slim Shady’ was the first big hit off the album, similar to what My Name Is in commercial sensibility and melodic and lyrical content. A circus like loop repeats throughout, the chorus is a huge sing along favourite, and the verses are a hilarious destruction of celebrity. He speaks obviously of the split personality which people see in him, and of the thousands of imitators who started to appear, and his anger over being mentioned by other vacuous types now because he’s famous.

`Remember Me’ features various guest rappers, mostly rapping about themselves and their own experiences. This is more typical rap than Eminem’s own work on the album, features great lyrics but fairly bland stoner noise. Eminem’s verse is the best of the lot and raises the song by virtue of his delivery. There is more name dropping, more screaming, and more goodness.

`I’m Back’ sounds quite commercial with its memorable lead line and catchy chorus. Again the target is fame and the hounds which follow whoever is the flavour of the month. Again he dismisses all the nonsense, and injects plenty of humour into the lyrics with various imaginings and one-liners.

`Marshall Mathers’ stands out with Kim and Stan as a classic- musically and lyrically it wreaks of brilliance and is swamped with emotion. The confessional lyrics speak of further pitfalls of success- how family members he never knew now come to see him. He covers, Axl Rose style, many objects of his rage from boy/girl groups, useless celebrities and whoever else stupidly falls under his radar. Of course it is all tongue in cheek, but you can taste the annoyance from his relationships with his mother and wife and accusations of selling out now that he is `a big star’.

`Ken Kaniff’ is the final spoken word piece, and the best/worst depending on which way your wind blows. It involves a sexual encounter between 2 characters which ends badly when one mentions Eminem. Juvenile and funny the first time, but not integral to the album.

`Drug Ballad’ has a funky bass line helped along by some female vocals throughout. Eminem speaks of his love of drugs and booze which has become an addiction. He speaks of various experiences as well as what will happen/is happening if he doesn’t stop. The chorus is as catchy as the singles on the album, the lyrics are clever although will be disagreeable to most.

`Amityville’ isn’t one of the best songs on the album. Lyrically it is tongue in cheek, but this time it sounds more like it is trying to offend just for the sake of it. Rather than targeting something genuine and slicing it apart, Bizarre and Eminem find everything taboo and recite like a love of exploitation. Musically it isn’t very memorable, although the ending has some nice additions.

`Bitch Please II’ gets back on the musical tracks with some nice background sounds and catchy melodies. The guests (Dre, Snoop) are more effective this time, the lyrics are more direct with each member adding their own flavour. Silly in parts covering the pride of gangsta stories but with all the humourous content you can’t possibly take the content seriously. As with the rest of the album though, the style and music must be seriously respected.

`Kim’ is the best track on the album, absolutely brutal in content and delivery, heavy metal in style in attitude, emotion, pain, and anger dropping from every word. Every word is shrieked in a demented way, shivers will fly up and down your spine, the chorus is catchy, the guitars and piano are haunting, and the words are utterly horrific. Basically he imagines taking his wife out of the city and murdering her after she cheated on him, the lyrics delivered with frightening authenticity. There is no humour in stark contrast to the rest of the album, it is basically 6 minutes of harrowing rage ending with the sounds of a body being dragged away. Within a few seconds you will forget that you are listening to a song; one of the best songs of the decade.

`Under The Influence’ features D12 rapping along to one of the most memorable melodies on the album, and an extremely infectious chorus. The lyrics are on the `lighter’ side, full of vulgarity and humour and as with the rest of the album pretty offensive if you don’t realize the tongue in cheek nature.

`Criminal’ is another song with South Park-esque humour (and references). Eminem raps about the criminal life that certain areas of society believes he is part of. Murder, bank robberies, kidnapping etc are all flown through with jolly glee, but the message is all about freedom of speech versus conservatism and red faced commentators who have never actually listened to the music.

Eminem’s second album was a huge chart success as well as being a critical favourite. On the flip side the inevitable controversy was huge with celebrities, parents, politicians, fellow rappers, women and gay rights’ groups all ganging together in disgust. There is plenty here to offend, but whether or not it should not be listened to is a futile question given that there is so much to enjoy. It is undoubtedly one of the most important and best albums of the decade bringing hard edged rap into the mainstream, giving a well deserved slap in the face to watered-down music of all genres, and a wake up call to all artists to raise their game or get left behind. Hypnotically weaving its way through the various part’s of Eminem’s psyche it is best to simply relax and enjoy. If you are easily offended you won’t listen and probably won’t be reading this; for those who are not will be treated to an album full of force and aggression, but with a lot of heart, humour, wit, and skill too.

The Gathering – Accessories


*Originally written in 2006

This ‘between albums’ release is a large collection of live, alternate, and demo versions of some of the band’s biggest songs, as we as some covers that many fans may not have heard. This double album is interesting for the more avid fan but I wouldn’t recommend any new listeners getting this first. Some of the live versions give an idea of how the band like to have fun with their performances- changing parts, adding parts, or playing with an orchestra, and some of the demos are useful in highlighting how a song goes from initial idea to completion. Perhaps the best songs here are the few covers- they tell us of the band’s influences and when played feel like originals by The Gathering. This is a good collection but it isn’t essential by any means.

In Motion 1 Live: This live version of the Mandylion classic has an extended introduction with a sound clip which sets a tone of night time- I’m not sure of the relevance but adds something different to a song they perform every night. The song is not quite as heavy as the album version, just one guitar here and the sound quality is fairly distant. Anneke sings strongly, not showing any flaws or fear from being outside the recording booth.

Leaves Live: This blends in seamlessly from the previous song and is as good a live version as you will get anywhere. The musicians are all on top form, occasionally making a few changes and having fun on stage while Anneke again blows the front row back a few feet. The only problem is the same as the last song, that it seems too distant, maybe it’s the lack of crowd noise or maybe it’s that the volume isn’t high enough. Either way, the solo is still breathtaking and glad to see Rutten doesn’t resort to any Malmstein-esque twiddles with it live.

Adrenaline: This is the best B-Side the band has done and it’s tragic that it never appeared on any of their first albums with Anneke. I assume that it just sounds too upbeat and up tempo to fit in with the darkness of Mandylion and NB. Looking past that though, it has been a live favourite since its first play, and is one of their few songs that really gets the crowd jumping and dancing at speed. Lyrically it is nothing out of the ordinary, but melodically it is brilliant, musically catchy without being flashy- fairly heavy with crunching chords and synth but mostly free of solo work. Anneke gets a chance to wail and scatter her voice all over the place and everybody gets to smile.

Third Chance Alt: I’ve always seen Third Chance as the darker partner to Adrenaline, the album version was very good but this is exceptional. It is quick, angry, filled with urgency, but mainly stands out because Anneke sings in a higher register than on the NB. The notes she reaches and the style in which she does is enough to make me grin and shiver every time and I would recommend it over the album version every time. The quiet middle section and build up to the ending is all the more effective now because of the higher register, the ominous synth, and the urgency of it all.

Strange Machines Live: It is a bit of a come down after the energy of the previous song to hear this. The Gathering are a great band because they are constantly trying new things, not only with new songs but with their classics. Like Metallica’s S & M, they get a full orchestra involved here to play possibly their most famous song. Also like S&M, it should work brilliantly but doesn’t. Maybe it’s the sound quality, but it just sounds flat, almost empty. There is none of the energy of the album track, and certainly none of the energy from their normal live plays. Part of my problem is that the brass is the main focus, whereas I much prefer strings swelling in from all sides. This could all be personal preference and it may well work for you, but I don’t think it woks like it should.

In Power We Trust The Love: This Dead Can Dance cover is one of the few cover songs I’ve heard which makes me search out the original band- I think the Gathering version is better if only because the song suits Anneke so well. An ethereal, soothing number which builds through various phases- the type of song The Gathering have been making throughout their career except with this we get some great lyrics, something which is rarely a part of the Dutch band’s repertoire.

When The Sun Hits: Being a big Manic Street Preachers fan, I suppose I should hate this Slowdive cover. I’d never listened to that band before I heard this cover, but it’s pretty good. The Gathering is known for downbeat sounds, if not quite shoe-gazing, so again this suits them. Again it is interesting to see Anneke sing some different lyrics, the type which the band would never write. The song has a sleepy quality and is one of the better ones in this collection.

Confusion: This demo from the EROC sessions isn’t too dissimilar from the final version on NB. The sound is slightly more tinny, and Anneke’s voice sounds like there are more effects on it. Aside from some additional synth and slight differences you are on familiar territory.

Shrink Alt: This version of Shrink is played on strings rather than piano, has lots of background sound clips, and has a dual vocal from Anneke.

Frail Live: This live version of Frail is pretty similar to the album track, soothing guitars and flawless Anneke vocals.


Cyclist: This instrumental theme for ‘The Cyclist’ movie is interesting as it doesn’t particularly sound like anything the band has done before. Having not seen the film I can’t see how well it works, but as a stand alone piece of music it is fairly good, lots of brass and percussion with a lead piano part. I like the string section coming in towards the end, but it isn’t a track I would listen to often.

Leaves Orchestra: Like the earlier Strange Machines this doesn’t always work, although it has a much more bombastic feel to it. It sounds like Anneke enjoys competing for prime position with the full band behind her, and some of her vocals are strained to extremes. I’m not a big fan of brass taking the lead so personally this isn’t a favourite, plus this cuts my favourite part from the original- the middle guitar solo and end.

Life Is What You Make It: This Talk Talk cover is the weakest cover in the collection, mostly because the original material isn’t as strong as the others. Nevertheless it is a decent song which sounds like a slight departure from what the band would usually play. There is a nice messed up guitar part in the middle, and lots of drum based effects and Anneke sings as well as always without having to try too hard.

Amity Live: This is an average live version of Amity let down mostly because Anneke sounds drained and here vocals aren’t great, especially towards the end. Mostly it is musically the same as the album version, with some different effects.

New Moon, Different Day: This opens the second disc- rarities. There isn’t anything too startling or exciting here, a slightly different version of the one we all know.

Kevin’s Telescope: This instrumental abandons the darker intro of the final cut and instead focuses on the light melodies of the verse and the emotion of the chorus. If the vocals were added it still wouldn’t be too different.

Shrink: This seems to be a slightly more up tempo take on the song, and the piano tone isn’t as dark. This is pretty good but again not anything surprising.

The Earth Is My Witness: We are on familiar ground with this one as not much seems unusual. There are a few differences- guitar parts, effects etc, but the structure of the song is the same.

Diamond Box: This is quite an odd one – an instrumental with plenty of effects and sound clips. The main part reminds me of a computer game level set in a dank sewer, or something with a slightly Eastern twist. For some reason it reminds me of Banjo Kazooie. It’s worth a listen but it isn’t one I come back to often.

Nighttime Birds: The main difference here is some background guitar work and less dense effects. Otherwise the song is the same length, same style.

On Most Surfaces: Again this is very much the same as the main version, a slightly more swirling and extended introduction and background guitar work being the main differences.

Hjeimar’s: This is a strange instrumental piece which consists entirely of some eerie guitar work. Just as it sounds like it is building towards something it is cut short. I’d like to hear what the band could come up with by extending this short piece.

My Electricity: This is a strange version of My Electricity with low sound quality but some nice dual vocals. The accompanying guitar seems too metallic though to fit (even though it is acoustic).

Probably Built In The 50s: This is another odd take on the original with Anneke’s voice being heavily cropped, and with some extra distortion on the guitars. This is quite a bit different from the original and is worth a few listens to appreciate the differences. Some great singing and a high tempo middle.

Illuminating: This version is slightly shorter than the main one but is mostly similar in sound and style. The introduction features different drum sounds and the synth isn’t as deep and brooding.

Red Is A Slow Colour: This is a much more distorted take on the original, with clipped vocals and less subtlety. The chorus is different as the guitar tone changes from distorted to a twang, and rather than the effects beats we get some interesting chord strumming and odd background phaser sounds. There is also a strange middle interlude with all manner of noises clashing together- a nice sign of the experimentation which would go on to make the finished album a classic.

Travel: The band like trying different things with their songs, especially when played live and Travel is one which is constantly tweaked. This version is completely different from the final one- it sounds like a very early version as many of the lyrics are missing. Mostly it sounds like a heavier take on the second half of the complete song, but extended to over 7 minutes.

This is definitely a collection for existing fans only as I don’t see anything here which would particularly charm any new listeners. Most of the demos and alternate takes are the same, with a few additional instruments and lower sound quality, but some of the outtakes and B-sides are interesting as they show the band’s creative process. For the live versions I would stick to the main live DVDs and CDs, or better yet catch them live if they ever come to Britain again. For a band with such talent I wish they would have recorded more B-sides and covers but that seems to be a dying art. This is a good album, but too long to listen to repeatedly- just pick your favourites.

If you have heard Accessories, let us know your thoughts in the comments!

Nightman Listens To – Simon & Garfunkel – Bookends (Top 1000 Albums Series)

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

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

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

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

D: Because there are a tonne of albums which always appear on best of lists which I have never heard. As a musician, music fan, and human with working ears, I feel that I should give these a go.

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Colin Larkin’s Ranking: 338/100

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

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

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

Nightman Listens T0 – Bryan Adams – On A Day Like Today


Greetings, Glancers! Today I listen to Bryan Adams’s final album of the 90s, and his last great success (at time of writing) – On A Day Like Today. I remember this one based off the power of a couple of its singles, which saw Adams branching out into unfamiliar territory – a pop number with a girl group singer and a dance influenced song, both of which I quite liked. Adams released two other singles from the album – the title track which I vaguely remember liking well enough, and another track which I don’t recall at all just by reading its name. That gives me pretty much 10 songs I won’t know, so lets get on with it.

How Do Ya Feel Tonight: A soft opening to the album, nice melodies and gentle building. Eventually a heavier guitar comes in giving things a boost. A good opening song which I didn’t know existed five minutes ago.

C’Mon C’Mon C’Mon: Starts atmospherically, merging intriguing guitars with the odd bit of studio trickery. Again the guitar and drums come in after about a minute for a heavier chorus. Two pretty good songs so far, this one in particular. Some backing, sighing vocals in the middle but I can’t tell if its Adams or a woman or a Spice Girl. Nifty key change towards the end, I’d say this is one of the best songs from Adams I’ve heard so far which I didn’t previously know.

Getaway: More merging of guitars with studio sounds and a funkier beat this time. It seems the whole album has a more dance or pop influenced production so far, and it has all been to its credit. This one feels like a standard country rock song with the twang replaced with mysterious clanging guitars and knob-twisting. Ahem. A good enough chorus but I don’t think I’d remember this one by the time the album finishes.

On A Day Like Today: Starting out like another typical Adams ballad this one benefits from decent melodies and the inclusion of strings. The chorus is a good one too, with subtle guitar parts and a few changes in melody to keep things interesting.

Fearless: Nice intro, not sure about the organ or the country guitar touches. I like the guitars, the verse, and again the production. Oh hey, good chorus too. Looking at the track list before listening I was worrying that they’d put the best songs in the middle and that there would be too much filler around the edges, but so far we haven’t even reached the big singles and there hasn’t been a bad one yet. This does tire a little before the end, but still good.

I’m A Liar: Big drums, and another slow to middling beat. I think the key to this album so far is that they’ve abandoned a lot of the cheesier sounding 80s rock that popped up frequently on Adams’s albums but didn’t work alongside the big singles. Everything here feels more on an equal level and they all feel they could have been singles, if not hits. Another decent chorus follows another good verse. This one does drag a little towards the end too.

Cloud Number 9: I can’t remember of this was the first single from the album, and I can’t be arsed checking, but I do remember this raising a few eyebrows upon release. The remix worked well, not sounding like traditional Adams with the electronic beats and lack of guitar. Melodically and vocally it’s all classic Adams and when you hear the album version you’ll see there aren’t really many differences. We have soft guitars here, pianos too, but the chorus is pretty much the same.Uplifting, happy, bouncy stuff.

When You’re Gone: This one raised a few eyebrows too. Never a fan of the Spice Girls, because why would you bethey never the less had some decent solo songs. Skinny Spice was the best (only) singer and her voice works well with Adams’s more gruff vocals here. But it’s all about the melodies – fun, light, and catchy as herpes.

Inside Out: More electronic style beats, and sounds like another ballad. I don’t think I’ve heard this before. Okay verses, a little plain, a little static, feels like it’s building something. No big chorus comes though, a chorus yes but it feels like an extension of the verse rather than a pay off. Thirty seconds could have been shaved off this boyo too.

If I Had You: A squiggly opening few moments gives way to verses with only a drum and swirling sound backing.The guitar comes in for the second verse, all the while Adams breathes through simple, inexpressive melodies – it’s another one where the difference between verse and chorus is negligible making it feel a little repetitive.

Before The Night Is Over: This one gets off to a faster start, a more stripped back foot tapping rock song which does have a more prominent chorus. Decent verses, but overall nothing you won’t have heard Adams do before. It’s glossy and clean and perfectly listenable, just a tad forgettable.

I Don’t Wanna Live Forever: More fast beats and organ backing. I believe I have heard this one before, but I’ve no idea where unless it appears on one of his Greatest Hits albums.This one falls back on the filler type tracks of his earlier albums, but it keeps from being completely average thanks to the fun vibe and crisp production. It reminds me a little of Foo Fighters. The ending is interesting though.

Where Angels Fear To Tread: It seems like we’re closing with another ballad. Good airy production again. Drums a little tinny, sparse guitar and piano, and is that some strings I hear? Nice melodies, good vocals. There are a few odd sounds fading in and out in the background. I think this one doesn’t make an immediate impact but I could see it growing on me and others after a few listens.

Overall I’m surprised at how consistent and good this one was. The second half does tail off a little but there aren’t any bad songs and fewer filler songs than what we’re accustomed to. On the flip side, there are fewer obvious big hitters but a number of the songs are just as strong as the more well known ones. A good effort to close out the 90s with, and from here I will be entering entirely unknown territory. I remember laughing when his next album, the one about horses was released, and sneering that it couldn’t possibly be any good. I think I maybe heard the main single from it… was there a single? Anyway, I’ll find out if I was wrong next time.

Let us know what you think of On A Day Like Today in the comments and where you rank it out of your favourite Bryan Adams albums.


Nightman Listens To – The Verve – Urban Hymns (Top 1000 Albums Series)

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

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

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

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

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

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


Greetings, Glancers! Today we go back to the height of Britpop, the time when a younger Nightman was in school, playing N64, drinking beer between classes, and carving lyrics into school desks with a compass.

No, the other type
No, the other type

Today’s album is an odd one in that I don’t really understand how I missed it, given that I’ve liked every song from it that I’ve heard, and with two of them being two of my favourite songs of the decade. I may well have heard it all, as chances are that it would have been played in the background at a house party or shared on a school bus trip, but I can’t confirm this one way or the other so here we are.

What I Know About The Verve: After a number of unsuccessful albums (which I believe had quite a different sound from the one they converted to on Urban Hymns), The Verve struck gold and became one of the biggest acts in Britain. it didn’t last and they split up shortly after their biggest success with singer Richard Ashcroft going to a solo career (though they returned a decade later with another album). Incidentally, Ashcroft’s Song For The Lovers was one of my favourite songs of that decade too. The had a number of big singles in the late Nineties, and though lumped in with other Britpop acts, they didn’t truly fit that genre.

What I Know About Urban Hymns: Most of my friends had it, and I almost bought it myself a few times. With songs like Bittersweet Symphony and The Drugs Don’t Work, the album was a monster hit winning several awards and becoming a staple of indie house parties and school bus trips all around the country.

Bitter Sweet Symphony: Hmm, you know I never really enjoyed this one, possibly because it was overplayed to ridiculous levels and appeared on everything from TV Ads to movie soundtracks to probably political campaign messages and sports broadcasts. Maybe it’s because I preferred the similar The Chad Who Loved Me by Mansun. Maybe the video was also endlessly played and irritated me. It’s clearly a good song, but I find it way too repetitive and a good minute, if not two minutes too long.

Sonnet: This is more like it – even though this was a single I don’t think it got the recognition it deserved. This is one of my aformentioned favourite songs – not only because it is brimming with personal nostalgia, but I remember absolutely loving it at the time too. The mixing between the weird, almost country bass, the acoustic and electic guitars, Ashcroft’s gorgeous vocals, but most importantly that epic chorus all blend to make four minutes of bliss. Unlike the first track, I have a a feeling I could listen to this multiple times every day and never tire of it. It’s filled with so many moments I savour – the repetition of ‘my head is gone’, the twinkly piano after the first chorus, the middle section, and of course the strings. Give me strings and there’s a 90% chance I’ll love you.

The Rolling People: Funky intro, with wacka wacka guitars. This sounds more like your typical Britpop song. I don’t recall hearing this one before. Ashcroft sounds like a much deeper vocal version of Robert Harvey here. Sounds like a fairly standard plodding rocker. Spacey middle section, only half way through. Becoming a little like an Oasis track, and sounding a little like Liam. Groovy extended ending for dance purposes only. Pretty average album track – I’m looking for lost gems, remember!

The Drugs Don’t Work: Well, what can we say about this one? Brooding, heart-breaking, addictive, beautiful perfection. It’s obvious I adore everything about this song, one of the finest songs of the decade. Give me haunting melodies, strings, and emotive lyrics and performance and I’m yours.

Catching The Butterfly: Swirly guitar distortion. Uppy downy vocals. Fluttery. Lucid dreams. Another loose, trippy song which hovers along without any major hook but decent enough to cruise or sleep to. Unnecessarily long.

Neon Wilderness: Fading in with guitar effects. Spacey, distant, near spoken vocals. Drums. Nothing in time with anything else. Fine. Overlapping vocal bits. Is this going to turn into a more traditional song or continue in this vein, as this sort of thing gets boring after a couple of minutes. Fading out. At least it was short.

Space And Time: Acoustics. Interesting. Nice verse. Nice chours. Yay, it’s a song I don’t know which I love! And it manages to take me back to the mid-nineties even though I haven’t heard it. Give off an Oasis vibe. Melodies are good, nothing overly emotional but still good stuff. Changes subtly enough over the running time to keep from going stale.

Weeping Willow: Piano and swirls. Drums and the rest. Indie vocals. Another promising one which I don’t think I’ve heard. I have vague memories of people talking about this one. Slight Stone Roses vibe. A bit grittier and heavier, whilst retaining that overall swirling trippy tone. Catchy enough chorus. Last vocal part is exactly same melody as part of Champagne Supernova. 

Lucky Man: I was never overly in love with this one, when up against the two biggies it always felt a little too plain. Still a good song though. It’s the same feeling I have for Karma Police – I am aware it’s a great song, I just don’t get the feels for it the same as I do for others.

One Day: Organ. Gospel. Pleasant, very nice. With a stronger melody in the chorus this would be a classic, but they choose a more dreamy approach then going all out for something with an obvious hook. It works in the verses as I expect a glorious pay off in the chorus after all the build up.

This Time: Wibble wobble. Rapping. Regret. A different sound. Nice chorus melody, if only it had some strings or a bit more force behind. Wah wah. Should have ended it after the second chorus or gone in a different direction, as it stretches off too much into nothingness, but again this is short-lived.

Velvet Morning: Country. Another soothing ambient song merged with the more obvious Indie angst guitars. Soft, and yawning, and always seems just on the verge of getting louder. It breaks into a more traditional section a couple of minutes in with good vocals to offset the dreamy parts. Good stuff, good ending.

Come On: Drums. Higher pitched vocals. Sounds like what many Indie bands of the time were putting out. It’s an okay rock song, but not exactly inspired. Possibly the heaviest, most energetic song on the album, but that isn’t saying a lot. Of course the album isn’t going for that sound, but this song clearly is yet it still feels a little lethargic or over produced rather than simply letting loose and playing. A bit of shrieking and swearing at the end to spice things up, feels a little silly, but whatever. It’s a foot-tapper.

Deep Freeze: Oh, it’s a good old hidden track. The previous song was a decent enough way to close the album, but lets see what this one is all about. Noises. Sounds. Baby crying. So, standard extra track fare then – pointless.

Colin Larkin’s Ranking: 213/1000

What I Learned: That it’s good to catch up on history; this missing piece of my teenage years has finally been filled in. I expected the album to be more akin to the rest of the Britpop scene, and while much of it does fit in to that ilk, The Verve have retained their own sound throughout. The better songs are still the singles, and there are a few fillers for my ears – songs which meander too much and go nowhere. Likewise there are a few strong tracks which I has not previously heard which I enjoyed and will gladly listen to again. I can’t recall if any of the other The Verve albums appear on Larkin’s list, but I’ve always wanted to hear those too, so I’ll search them out.

Does It Deserve Its Place In The Top 1000 Albums Of All Time: It’s obviously an integral part of the closing stages of Britpop and was one of the most commercially and critically successful albums of the year, with a host of singles which spanned the globe. On that basis, as well as the fact that it did a lot to influence later artists who wanted that looser, baggier indie rock feel, it feels justified to see this in Top 1000 albums of all time. However, I can’t commit to saying that it would be high on my personal list given that only two of the songs truly resonate with me. I was never a huge fan of the Britpop scene, finding an awful lot of it too samey and reeking of tramps, and instead went for the bands who were either on the fringe, offered a little more, or went in a completely opposing direction. If I listen to the album a few more times I know that a couple of other songs would continue to grow on me, which may make me rethink my ranking.

Let us know in the comments if you feel this deserves a place in the Top 100 Albums Of All Time – is it one of your all time favourites, or did you despise it upon release. Feel free to share your opinions on the album and the review below!

Nightman Listens To – Blur – Blur (Top 1000 Albums Series)

When I started writing this series of Listens To! posts, my idea was to: A: Listen to the tonnes of albums I have acquired over the years that I hadn’t bothered to actually listen to yet and give my thoughts as I listened for the first time. B: Catch up on those artists that I was aware of/liked certain songs by, but whose albums I had never listened to in their entirety. C: Potentially get some new favourites based off what I heard or by recommendations from my billions of readers. D: Because there are a tonne of albums which always appear on best of lists which I have never heard. As a musician, music fan, and human with working ears, I feel that I should give these a go. To get some focus, I decided to go to 2000 Edition of ‘Colin Larkin’s All Time Top 1000 Albums’ because it looks fairly comprehensive (and there are a few extra sections listing top 100 albums by genre which cover selections left out of the main 1000 which I will also try to cover).


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Colin Larkin’s Ranking: 271/1000

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

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

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

Nightman Listens To – Keep The Faith – Bon Jovi!

Greetings, Glancers. Today we fluff up our mullets, stick a torch down our pants, and join the Poodle bunch as they embark on a mysterious new adventure into the 1990s – the decade when wuss rock was momentarily ripped to shreds by a new wave of young upstarts, only for them to implode and open the door for – well, nothing. There hasn’t been a single interesting advance in rock music since the grunge era. Regardless, we’re not here today to talk about such things, we’re here to listen to Keep The Faith, another monumental hit record for Bon Jovi which did see them shift in their musical direction to a more streamlined, mature rock approach, albeit one with many, many more ballads. It’s an album that I’m pretty familiar with, in that it has a hefty number of famous songs, but there are probably a few in there I have never heard so lets give it a shot and see if there are any goodies in the bunch.

I Believe: Warbling. Chugging guitars fading in. Swirling riff with building drums. A slice of cheese on the side. I don’t recall this one so far. Deeper vocals than usual in the first verse, with a touch of U2. Turns to usual rock vocals in second verse. Decent chorus, going for the stadium approach but lacking in the melody department.

Keep The Faith: A big, throbbing rocker with great build up in the verses and pay off in the chorus. We all know this one, fairly groovy as Jovi songs go, and the usual memorable melodies. It does take a strange military march/spoken approach near the end, but amazingly this doesn’t do any damage.

I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead: An unnecessarily cheese-laden intro with silly drums, hand-claps and yeah-yeahs almost makes this a complete mess, but luckily the melodies are sharp enough and the chorus is strong enough to pull things back from the brink. Everyone remembers the chorus melody and forgets all the other crap, so it must have something going for it – the second verse does get rid of most of the crap (and adds in some new crap) – it’s okay but could have been much better if they had just gone with a more straightforward rock approach.

In These Arms: The band channel U2 again and go for their first epic of the album. Luckily it pays off as this is a great track with powerful vocals, infectious melodies, and decent lyrics. Like a few others on the album the build up from verse to chorus is flawless.

Bed Of Roses: This is probably still my favourite Bon Jovi song, the rare Power Ballad which avoids being cheesy and has all of the important elements – atmospheric verses building to emotive, explosive chorus, and filled with melodies that you’ll be humming for hours after hearing. Perhaps unusually for the band, the lyrics are very strong but as expected the songwriting and playing is top-notch. A lighters in the air classic. I love the screeching guitar intro against the soft piano intro, the harsh middle section, everything really.

If I Was Your Mother: Starts with a phat riff. I don’t know this one. Chugs along heavily enough. Odd lyrics. Not much to say about the verses, and the chorus is fine – just plain and album filling stuff.

Dry County: I was always a bit partial to this one, but like many other people it seems that I forget about this one easily. Not sure why, I assume because I haven’t heard it often. I like the main melody, as kicked off in the intro – it has that atmospheric, burning ballad quality that I always fall for. I will say that the verses don’t do a lot for me, the lyrics are pretty odd for a Bon Jovi song, but the chorus is pretty good. There’s a pretty good Sambora solo, into musical interlude, into faster solo section which adds some icing to the cake. I suspect this is popular in Texas.

Woman In Love: I don’t remember this one, it feels a little like re-treading some of their 80s album filler tracks – sleazy, not much of a melody (the chorus attempts to go for glory but falls flat) or hook, and fairly standard rock playing from the group. It’s under four minutes so it doesn’t out stay its welcome but is instantly forgettable.

Fear: Continues the style and approach of the last song, though it’s a bit more robust. It has a better melodic quality but still isn’t memorable.

I Want You: An 80s sounding epic power ballad opening. The verses are more restrained, with soft guitars, piano and organ, and John singing at his most urgent. The chorus is fine but doesn’t reach the heights of their most famous work. I don’t remember ever hearing this one, and as it’s quite similar to many ones that I do know and like, it’s a pleasant surprise to catch this one finally. There are a few bridge type sections which stretch the song, but don’t add anything much of value.

Blame It On The Love Of Rock And Roll: I think I’ve heard this one before, but nothing about it sounds familiar. It has your standard rock stomp, but the verses and chorus are incredibly plain. Decent playing and vocals, ok lyrics, fun and upbeat, but very average stuff.

Little Bit Of Soul: Noises and chatter. Is this another experimental attempt? Electric and acoustics. Organs and piano. Finally singing. Light-hearted blues. More average melodies. Building, but more of the same. It’s another plain song which needlessly goes over the five-minute mark without actually saying anything.

So, Keep The Faith comes to a close and gave the band another bunch of hits. The first half of the album is peppered with brilliance, while the second half doesn’t have any standout moments with the exception of Dry County. Those five or so songs which keep the album afloat are among the best the band have recorded and prove again that they are gifted hitmakers. Yet again though, much of the album is simply treading the same old rock and roll ground with mid-tempo, blue jean forgettable hits, good for playing 8 ball and sinking beers to, but nothing else. The band would next release their greatest hits Cross Road, which I won’t review, but which could be considered their best album given that it contains their best songs up till this point as well as adding two personal favourites in Always and Someday I’ll Be Saturday Night. Next time, I’ll be reviewing their mid-nineties effort These Days.

What do you think of Keep The Faith? Do you have any fond memories of the album? Did you think the band successfully left the 80s behind and became a 90s band? Let us know in the comments!

Nightman Listens To – Tracy Chapman – Tracy Chapman! (Top 1000 Series)

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

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

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

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

D: Because there are a tonne of albums which always appear on best of lists which I have never heard. As a musician, music fan, and human with working ears, I feel that I should give these a go.

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


Greetings, Glancers! It’s time for another round of ‘point at the idiot’ as I wrap my ears around an album that I’ve never heard. Today, it’s the turn of Tracy Chapman to prove that she is worthy of a place amongst the greats. Colin Larkin seems to think she is, but as I’ve never met the dude I’m going to decide for myself, so Tracy, do your best – and if yo best ain’t good enuff, then do your worst.

What Do I Know About Tracy Chapman: She’s a singer, and I used to get confused over whether she was a man or a woman. I only ever saw the briefest of snippets on TV, and from the look and the sound, I couldn’t tell. She has a song called ‘Cars’ or something like that? Is her genre some mix of soft blues, light jazz, and easy pop? I’m pulling teeth here. All I know is that what I heard made me think I’d never have the desire to listen any further.

What Do I Know About Tracy Chapman: She’s a singer, an- what? Oh right, what do I know about the album…. nothing. Maybe there’s a song called ‘Cars’ on it.

Talkin’ Bout A Revolution: Acoustic guitars. Nice. Weirdo vocals. See, is it a man or a woman? I still have no idea. I like the melodies, I like the politics, but I just can’t stand the vocals. Better in the chorus. Repeat. Organ. A decent enough song, I’d probably like it more if it was covered by someone else.

Fast Car: Ahh, yes, this is the one I was talking about. Near Joni guitars in the intro. Nice melodies, more nice ideas about running away. The vocals are still annoying. The riff is overplayed with no break – needs a chorus or something else to give us a rest from the twiddly dee dee, doo do doo. More. Finally, I knew there was another part of the song. I-e-I-be someone. Hmm, didn’t last long, but still some respite. Yes, I realize the irony in the lyrics. Good song, a little too plain or empty or something – there’s definitely something missing here for me, but I understand why it’s so loved. Seems a minute too long.

Across The Lines: Another good riff. Ooh, backing instruments too, see this is what was missing from the last track – needed somthing extra, a violin, a cello, something. Even here it isn’t used to its fullest potential. Good messages. Nice melodies again, the vocals may be getting less annoying with each track. Lyrics a little repetitive.

Behind The Wall: Sounds tribal, melodically. Well, there is no music, yet. Someone’s getting a slap and sounds like no-one cares. Sounds like she has heard my complaints about not enough backing music and is flipping me the bird. Good on you.

Baby Can I Hold You: Chords softer. Wait a minute. I know this. It ain’t Ronan Keating’s warbling out the side of his neck. So she wrote this, or is it a cover too? It doesn’t fit with everything else so far, lyrically. Still it’s a nice song, still a little plain and bare, though there are some humorous Motown things going on in the background. It’s a good song, but I don’t think anyone has done it justice yet.

Mountains o’ Things: Plinky plonk. Maybe going for the full instrumentation here. Samey melodies. Here the backing music is too 80s and doesn’t work. Lets keep things classy, please. Yes yes, dreaming of the things which she no doubt has now. Lets hope she hasn’t forgotten her own message. Only halfway through this one… not great people, not great. Things are wonderful. It’s always better having things. A complete lack of anything catchy makes this a painful five minutes, like hearing someone with an awful voice speaking loudly beside you on the bus for five minutes.

She’s Got Her Ticket: Drum surprise. No guitar, only vocals again, and that is not a good sign. Guitars. Country. Dire Straits. Reggae. So this is basically another version of Fast Car. Just a bunch of lyrics with no real melody and some guitars slapped on in the background.

Why?: Groovy enough. Again, easy thoughtful lyrics. Nothing new that hasn’t already been said in a hundred songs, but that in itself is a travesty. Better melodies in a couple of places. All of this sounds very amateurish – just, like someone heard a demo and thought they would have a hit single then said go ahead, have an album written and recorded by next week.

For My Lover: Drums. Guitar. Sounds familiar. Different guitars. Too many yous. It’s ok, one of the better ones so far, but still I see nothing here that makes me want to listen again.

If Not Now: Softly softly. Piano. Similar melody followed by beautiful melody. Surge. Drums. This one is better, but again it just doesn’t go in the direction I’d like it to. Probably my favourite here.

For You: Samey guitars. She ain’t much of a player, at least what’s on display here. Vocals and nowt else again. I don’t mind that, but I need to like the vocals, and the melodies need to be present, but for too much of this album there are no melodies worth speaking of and the vocals are irritating. Nothing interesting here, just more of the same, I’m afraid.

Colin Larkin’s Ranking: 273/1000

What I Learned: That after finally listening to a whole song, and a WHOLE ALBUM by Chapman, that I still don’t like her voice. That I’m probably a horrible person for saying such things. That songs with a message need to be catchy enough so that message is conveyed and spreads. There’s no point in singing a protest song if it’s just a bunch of words strung together like worms in a toddler’s mouth.

Does It Deserves Its Place In The Top 1000 Albums Of All Time: Absolutely not. I was really looking forward to this one, hoping that it was going to deliver some hidden joy to me, but it’s boring, repetitive, plain, empty of music, hell it almost feels like its empty of soul and emotion even though I’m sure that’s not the case. There are a few good songs in here but the production is all wrong, and the vocals are worse.

You may now commence the name-throwing in the comments section, though I imagine Tracy Chapman fans wouldn’t stoop to that level. Tell me what I’ve missed? What makes this so special? Does the album hold a special place in your heart, or a hallowed spot on your shelf? Pray tell.

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

When I started writing this series of Listens To! posts, my idea was to: A: Listen to the tonnes of albums I have acquired over the years that I hadn’t bothered to actually listen to yet and give my thoughts as I listened for the first time. B: Catch up on those artists that I was aware of/liked certain songs by, but whose albums I had never listened to in their entirety. C: Potentially get some new favourites based off what I heard or by recommendations from my billions of readers. D: Because there are a tonne of albums which always appear on best of lists which I have never heard. As a musician, music fan, and human with working ears, I feel that I should give these a go. To get some focus, I decided to go to 2000 Edition of ‘Colin Larkin’s All Time Top 1000 Albums’ because it looks fairly comprehensive (and there are a few extra sections listing top 100 albums by genre which cover selections left out of the main 1000 which I will also try to cover).

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Colin Larkin’s Ranking: 96/1000

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

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

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

Nightman Listens To – Madonna – True Blue

Greetings Glancers! We’re back in familiar 80s Pop territory again, with the Queen of sex herself, Madge!

After the monumental success of previous album Like A Virgin, Madonna was on top of the world. Gaining fame in the music world is easy, but maintaining that level of success is something few artists achieve. Madonna had already launched a few non-album singles and outtakes from a variety of movies, and had branched out into acting too. True Blue had the difficult job of following up an album which has since been named as one of the defining albums of that decade, but it succeeded – at least in terms of sales. True Blue was an absolute monster, becoming the biggest selling album of the decade by a female performer, and still ranks among the biggest selling releases of all time. It roughly followed the same power pop/dance oriented pop as her earlier work, but also saw her trying a few new styles. Looking at the meagre nine tracks of the album, I instantly recognise four of them, but I’m sure I’ll remember a couple of the others too. Lets see if this one holds up well today, and maybe I’ll catch something new that I’ll enjoy.

Papa Don’t Preach: Strings! I’m a big fan of strings in music, so yay to Madonna. I must not have heard this in a while as I don’t remember the song starting this way. The vocals are deeper than usual, the music is still funky, and the lyrics are interesting. Of course, it’s the chorus I remember thanks to great melodies. The vocals are quite strange, being so deep. The bridge into chorus is excellent too. The song loses a little of its steam towards the end due to a little unnecessary repetition, but all in all it’s still great, one of her best.

Open Your Heart: Big drums and 80s crystalline synth. Funky guitars and weird sounds. The verse isn’t great, but I do remember the chorus and bridge. It’s a straight forward rinse and repeat song, catchy at certain points, but not as strong as some her more recognisable hits.. still good though.

White Heat: Okay, that’s why it’s called White Heat. An odd opening, and when the music starts it gets even weirder. More 80s synth and funky beats which has high nostalgic value, for me at least. It’s a bet of a mess though, not particularly catchy or anything of note in verse or chorus. More sampling appears in the middle before a final chorus repeat leads to the end.

Live To Tell: A slower, more sombre, yet eminently atmospheric 80s opening. The music is fine, but the vocal melodies don’t go anywhere – too soft and drifting and one-note. The melodic change after the three-minute mark picks things up and it becomes much more interesting, with the lyrics meeting the music nicely. It all sounds very Roxette in these moments, and it’s a pity that the melodies of the first half aren’t as strong as those in the closing moments.

Where’s The Party: This one sounds very upbeat and silly. Yes, so far nonsensical lyrics about going out and having fun at the weekend, yawn. Musically it’s the usual 80s sounds and synthetic beats, and the melodies again aren’t very strong. I suppose the chorus may be catchy enough if you’re singing along while boozing it up, but that’s not much of a compliment. Weird sounds and words and effects come in at one point, serving to extend the song by another minute. Not great, but dumb fun for kids.

True Blue: Aah, another favourite of mine. A pastiche of some of the 60s pop which ladies were making, it’s a fun song with great melodies throughout (take note Where’s The Party). It’s almost too happy and twee and cheesy, and certainly nostalgia is playing a part in me liking it so much, but it truly is a well crafted piece of music that will glue itself to your psyche for days. The middle piece is also good, and proves that you can extend a song for an extra minute without making it feel cheap.

La Isla Bonita: A cynical attempt to cash in on another market? Well, obviously, but still a great song once again – verse and chorus melodies folks, that’s the key. Much of the annoying 80s stuff is stripped back to give this a more pure, timeless feel. The best simple songs can be stripped back to only their vocals, or a single accompanying instrument and still retain their power, and that I imagine is the case with this one.

Jimmy Jimmy: How many of the songs on this album start with a rapid-fire drum blast? All of them? I think it’s all of them. A fast paced one here that seems to be a love song or dedication to some Jimmy or other. Melodically fair at best, the chorus approaches something good but doesn’t quite get there. Decent middle section. Unlike the previous song, this is exactly the sort of track that would not sound good stripped back, relying on all the 80s crap to give it an identity.

Love Makes The World Go Round: Two seconds of funky bass before the drum blast this time. Strange timing on this one, so plus points for being different. It’s quite jarring, all those sudden pauses, but they work. This one has a Spanish rhythm too, and the chorus again is only okay, not reaching the high points. Verses are pretty average. A nice message, not quite MJ or Lennon or whoever, but at least it’s something different from singing about your humps or whatever. Okay middle section. Quite an apt album closer, fun and uptempo and fresh enough to make you want to flip your cassette over to side 1 again.

A selection of obvious big hitters, a few average, forgettable tracks, and one or two duffers. On an album with only 9 songs you can’t really afford a couple of duffers. Not that anyone cared of course given how many copies it sold. Even the worst songs aren’t terrible, but only a few are truly special. I was hoping for a few good surprises, but the songs I wasn’t familiar with weren’t particularly interesting for me. A few of those non-album tracks of this era were pretty damn good and would have made this a more robust effort. We’re getting towards the stage now where I’ll be less familiar with more and more of the songs on each album, and we’ll be moving into the 90s, a decade in which Madonna continued her wild success.

Let me know in the comments section what you think of this album? Is this Madonna’s peak? Does this contain any of your favourite songs, or do you have any special memories of True Blue?

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/