Ranking The Manics Songs – Send Away The Tigers

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After the mainly piano-based and electronic antics of Lifeblood, the band headed once more back to their guitar roots with the straightforward angular rock of Send Away The Tigers. Generally well received at the time, it’s an album which is mostly forgotten now beyond its major single. The band itself has once again been critical of certain songs but also credited it as getting them back on track and helping them to fall in love with making music again. Here’s my ranking of the ten tracks and the one hidden song:

  1. Your Love Alone Is Not Enough
  2. Autumn Song
  3. Send Away The Tigers
  4. Winterlovers
  5. Imperial Bodybags
  6. Underdogs
  7. Rendition
  8. I’m Just A Patsy
  9. Indian Summer
  10. The Second Great Depression
  11. Working Class Hero

Essentially everything above is a few steps below Your Love Alone Is Not Enough in terms of quality, with at least 7 of the lower ranked songs being interchangeable for me. No bad songs at all, just high average or thereabouts. It’s a short album but still garnered four singles, so that means we have plenty of B-Sides and alternatives to add in for my ideal version of the album:

  1. Send Away The Tigers
  2. Underdogs
  3. Your Love Alone Is Not Enough
  4. Anorexic Rodin
  5. Fearless Punk Ballad
  6. Rendition
  7. Morning Comrades
  8. Autumn Song
  9. Leviathan
  10. Boxes And Lists
  11. Imperial Bodybags
  12. Little Girl Lost
  13. Winterlovers
  14. Umbrella
  15. Ghosts Of Christmas

Both of those last two would be hidden tracks, naturally. That’s actually a pretty great album right there. I’m sure the order could be switched around to flow better. Let us know your ranking and picks in the comments!

Nightman Listens To: The Rolling Stones – The Rolling Stones

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This could be a slog. Similar to my Beach Boys post, I’m going to go through all of the studio albums – no compilations or live albums etc. That still leaves 30 albums, of which I’ve already heard… less than 10? Like I mentioned in my announcement post, I started going through Rolling Stones albums many years ago but found them too samey and with not enough standout tracks. Listening to them alongside The Beatles I found myself going back to The Beatles more and more and eventually giving up on The Stones. Maybe I didn’t give them a fair chance. From a blues rock perspective, they paled in comparison to Zeppelin, and from a songwriting stance The Beatles were just more enjoyable in every way. Still, you gots to listen to these things to know, so I may as well go back to the start.

This debut album came out in 1964 and like most of the other bands at the time consisted of a bunch of covers. It took The Stones longer to get the most out of their songwriting partnership, so many of their early albums had lots of covers, and that’s going to be part of the slog for me. I’m more interested in the original compositions once they come along.

Route 66: You won’t enamour yourself to me by having hand claps in your first song. Standard US Blues rock, played by a British white guy who at this point had probably never been to any of the places mentioned. It’s played with a youthful intensity and energy, but without much edge. Jagger’s vocals have a persona of their own, if not completely unique.

I Just Want To Make Love To You: The Etta James version takes some beating, so instead The Rolling Stones go for a breakneck pace. Musically it is very scaled back and simple. Those handclaps are back though they are mostly drowned out by the frenzy. Good harmonica and Jagger gives it all in a manic vocal performance, all in all a furious cover.

Honest I Do: A much slower song in standard blues timing and with simple blues riffs, punctuated by slightly more unusual jangling pieces. When you think of the Blues, it’s something like this that you think of. It’s mostly boring, all told.

Mona: Craig Mclachlan anyone? I suppose the echoing guitar was innovative at the time. As with most of these songs, there are so many covers of each one that it’s not the easiest job to find a favourite or one which sticks out. There’s no need for this one to be three and a half minutes long since it is so repetitive and would likely be served better shaving 30 or 60 seconds off.

Now I’ve Got A Witness: This speeds things up again. Standard blues scales and rhythm again, piano led this time, but the band are still giving their all. I think there’s something too laconic about most of the Stones songs which have always kept me from being a full blown fan. That and probably growing up in the 80s and 90s with rock music which felt much more vibrant and full blown and complex meant that I didn’t have as much affinity for the more stripped back stuff.

Little By Little: A harmonica intro leads to more standard blues stuff. It’s still played with energy but there’s only so many times you can hear the same riffs and scales before you get bored. The solo is good, the handclaps aren’t… I would have loved this at the time but all these decades on music has progressed so much for this to sound almost redundant. Using The Beatles comparison again, their songs from the same time just had that bit more creativity and something special. None of these songs are bad by any stretch, just even though they are new (ish) to me they feel like I’ve heard them a hundred times.

I’m A King Bee: Back to the slow Blues again. There’s a simple recipe – set your blues rhythm, select any random noun or subject, and write barely hidden simple euphemisms about love and sex and you’re done. It was fine in the 20s, 30s etc, but once we reach the 60s  with white guys adding their touches it doesn’t work as well. The repetition makes it feel more like mind-numbing dance music than soulful rock. That’s a huge part of the problem I always had with ACDC too.

Carol: And now we’re back to the faster blues. No difference in playing style or rhythm or anything really here. Still good as a standalone, or if you’re into that sort of thing, but an album full of it gets boring quickly.

Tell Me: Now this instantly feels different, and lo and behold when I check it turns out this is the first Jagger/Richards composition on the album. It doesn’t feel connected to The Blues in anyway and in more like a soft rock ballad or simple love song. It’s not quite the same style as what other British Invasion bands were writing – it has its own quality and is easily my favourite song on the album. I can’t say how much I actually like it, it’s probably made better by the fact that it’s so different from every other song so far. It’s sweet and simple and has a great chorus.

Can I Get A Witness: This song is almost always fun, this version is no different. As a standalone it will work great but surrounded by all the other similar songs it’s too much.

You Can Make It If You Try: The slower songs don’t even work as well as what I mentioned for the previous track. At least the faster ones have that effervescence, these ones sound too tired even if Jagger is spicing up the vocals.

Walking The Dog: More of a strutting rhythm. More annoying hand claps. Again.. pick your noun or subject and away you go. Even in 64 it sounds cliched, though I imagine the band brought this style to a much larger audience.

Pretty much what I remembered and what I was expecting – typical blues songs played well, but with not enough of a voice to make them stand out from any other version. The one original piece is good, the covers themselves are good, but there’s only so many of them I can take. I don’t have much to add – it’s not lackluster, it just seems that way, and there’s probably only one song I’d pick to listen to again. When I have my pick of cover artists and the originals, there’s nothing here to make me pick a Stones version over anything else.

Let us know in the comments what you think of The Rolling Stones!

Nightman’s Playlist Picks: Tell Me

Nightman Listens To – Samson – Head On! (Iron Maiden Solo Output Series)

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Greetings, glancers! As I warned you previously, it’s time to listen to some more of the Iron Maiden side-output. So where is the Iron Maiden connection you ask? Keep reading and you’ll learn. Samson were another NWOBHM band emerging in the late 70s and featured at various times both Clive Burr on drums and Bruce Dickinson on vocals. Dickinson joined as their first album (Survivors) was released, but played no part on it. We’ll skip that one. Head On was their second album, released in 1980, features Bruce on vocals and an early version of The Ides Of March which would appear in a different format on Maiden’s second album. It’s all very confusing, as is much of metal. How about I shut up and listen before the executioner on the album cover fulfills his wish and fists me?

Hard Times‘. I listened to the first track of Survivors first – As imagined the production isn’t stellar, but gives a very raw, garage feel. The bass was very prominent, has a very rusty feel (I mean that as a positive), and was overall a fine punk influence track. This has a similar production, possibly a little thinner, and Dickinson has a weird and unnecessary effect on his vocals. He sounds young here, but not unrecognizable. The song itself is fun, a clear enjoyable riff, but the whole thing is let down by very tinny drums which sound more like someone tapping a pen on a table in places. The drumming itself is fine, the guitar solo is serviceable following a descending rhythm, and it feels fairly commercial. I’m guessing it’s named after the Bronson/Hill movie based on the lyrical content.

Take It Like A Man‘ starts with some distant whistling, what sounds like someone chucking a milk bottle, then the crunching guitars come in nicely. The intro is at odds with the eventual verse – it has an early Di’anno era Maiden feel actually, a rough edge, a joyful intensity, and a sense of fun and ambition. Dickinson sounds pretty different here, the drums are excellent, if again a little under-produced, and the guitars are good. Bruce does let out a trademark screech at one point. Good song.

Vice Versa‘ opens with cascading drums before shifting into some bizarre slow tempo, otherwordly verse. It’s interesting, and I like it, and as it progresses the effects give way and a more traditional vocal and sound emerges. The drums here are hilarious, going off on their own Keith Moon or Mastodon style, using it as a lead instrument rather than providing a beat and fill. There’s a lot of phasing on the guitars, Bruce singing ‘vice versa’ actually sounds more like ‘bite faster’ or ‘fight bison’. We get a groovy instrumental section in the middle followed by a very abrupt stop and return to the verse. PS: I know what this reminded me of – One Track Lover from Garth Marenghi’s Dark Place. 

Manwatcher‘ opens with another dirty riff, Bruce’s vocals following its melody. There isn’t a chorus so it feels a little repetitive, at least so far. Samson loves those sudden pauses. It’s moving off into a new section now which bears little resemblance to the first part aside from the obvious. Again the drums are maybe the best part, good guitar solo, but its still let down by the production – listening through Youtube certainly isn’t helping. Bruce doesn’t sound like himself here – less force, less volume.

Too Close To Rock‘ gets straight to the point, big riff and hanging backing chords, the riff feeling a little Zeppelin-esque and having little changes each time. Bruce really sounds like Bruce here, though the drum sound is again a let down. The song suddenly shifts around the minute mark for what I suppose is a chorus, but feels like a random charging increase of pace. There is another verse and chorus, followed by an electric, energetic instrumental/solo section. I like how without warning these shifts are – no pre chorus or change of beat, just straight in almost as if there was something edited out. It’s refreshingly short, and closes on a trademark Brucie ‘WAOOW!’

Thunderburst’ reminds me in its opening moments of Alice In Chains – acoustic, mysterious, ominous. Then the thunderburst comes in, crushing guitars, tumbling drums. As Maiden fans will surely note, this is an early version of The Ides Of March and in all honesty it isn’t much different.

Hammerhead‘ starts with a little drum snap before another cool riff. This does suffer from those silly group vocals shouts that I always hate but the melodies, especially in the chorus are reminiscent of some 80s Maiden tracks – just commercial enough to widen the listening net. The drums are good again, but you know by now the production lets things down. There seems to be some sort of breaking glass noises in the background too. There is a sort of middle 8th or change in the middle where a lot of the distortion is withdrawn – it changes things up just a little before the obligatory solo. It’s another good New Wave metal song that I had no idea about previously, not too sure about the fade out ending though.

Hunted‘ sees the band almost breaking out into a bit of funk. There’s a prominent bass line and some Di’Anno style verse vocals. Nice reverb on the guitar gives the song an air of mystery, the backing guitar lines have a nice crunch to them. The chorus is a bit of a let down, musically and lyrically, but we can forgive it as the song as a whole is short. Interesting ending too.

Take Me To Your Leader‘ has a weirdo intro, effects and flange, but it’s only for a few seconds before the speed pounces on you. This one sounds much more like the Bruce we know, lots of screams and yelps, and the pace is relentless. You know the score by now – drums, playing – great, production – not so great. Nifty bass again here, and the lyrics are amusing. This one seems like it had a bit more thought in the construction, it’s more dynamic, and it has another interesting ending. The band had ideas, weren’t merely playing hard and fast.

Walking Out On You‘ opens with a plodding single bass note, like someone flicking an elastic band. Then a lot of weird stuff happens – noises, distorted choir vocals, creaks, alien guitars – I wasn’t expecting anything like this, so props to them. This goes on for about a minute before a more traditional song structure emerges. It’s heavy, slow, then the volume withdraws and we get a more subtle verse – still lots of effects on the vocals and guitar, and the drums are still doing their own thing. The whole quiet verse, loud chorus thing had mostly been perfected by Zep, but it’s nice to see an actual metal band giving it a go. Nice instrumental section in the middle with guitar parts I quite enjoyed, the beat remaining steady throughout. The final minute goes a bit crazy, with Christmas bells, spoken parts, kids, all sorts of weird effects and oddities.

Angel With A Machine Gun‘ gets this back to basics – simple riff, Brucey vocals, tight playing, fact pace, standard British metal lyrics. As seems to be the case with the band, they add the occasional little twist – a brief drum interlude or twist on the existing guitar riff. Otherwise, this is straightforward stuff, nothing startling, but plenty of energy and fun.

Kingsway Jam‘ is apparently a bonus track. It’s near 10 minutes long too  – will it be instrumental? We get stuck in straight away – a fade in to chaos, drums blasting and distant guitars twiddling. Bruce unleashes one so we’re not in instrumental territory. This feels like a live track from the production, the vocals are noticeably less polished on this one, but I could attribute that to them simply arsing about in the studio with this one. Guitar and drums are good as always. This ostensibly follows a verse and chorus format, just that there are longer jams between each, at least until the 4.30 mark where the pace slows and Bruce starts talking hilariously. He’s laughing as he does it, adding to the banter. This settles into a more routine steady slow jam, along with some fairly funny lyrics, and more instrumental pieces. It’s your standard bonus track jam in other words.

Overall I would say this was a pleasant surprise. I enjoyed it a lot more than Bruce’s first solo effort, and I think I was relieved that it didn’t succumb to many of the tropes and ‘mistakes’ of early 80s metal. There’s a lot of ideas, if not full blown ambition on display, and there is that unmistakable quirky sense of fun which comes from the band being British – there are a lot of tongues in cheeks, but the band prove they can play with the best of them. It’s a shame the production isn’t the best – the overall sound has a lot of hissing and the drums lose the impact which they no doubt would have had with a fuller sound. Nevertheless, this is one I’ll listen to again and one I’d recommend to any fellow metal heads who enjoy this era or are looking into the past.

Let us know in the comments what you think of Head On and if you have any special memories of the band or the time!

Nightman’s Playlist Picks: Take It Like A Man. Take Me To Your Leader. Hammerhead.

 

Ranking The Manics Songs – Lifeblood

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Perhaps more than any other album the band recorded, Lifeblood has been unfairly criticized. It seemed like critics and fans both agreed that it was a little bland, lacking both the political conviction, the rage, the creativity, and the tunes of anything else they’d done before. I’d argue each of those points, though I’d agree that the rage has been muted or transformed and concede that while the lyrical creativity was decreased, the musical inspiration was high. It’s an album I like a lot, though the funny thing is that most of the tracks which the detractors agree upon liking, are the ones I’d cut. Here’s my ranking:

  1. Glasnost
  2. Cardiff Afterlife
  3. To Repel Ghosts
  4. I Live To Fall Asleep
  5. Emily
  6. A Song For Departure
  7. Empty Souls
  8. Solitude Sometimes Is
  9. The Love Of Richard Nixon
  10. 1985
  11. Fragments
  12. Always/Never

Luckily, the band had been going through a particularly productive period of novelty releases – Greatest Hits, B-Sides, EPs etc, so there are plenty of songs from this time which I would much rather have on the album instead. The good thing is, most of them fit the tone and musical landscape of the album. Like these:

  1. Happy Ending
  2. A Song For Departure
  3. I Live To Fall Asleep
  4. There By The Grace Of God
  5. Automatik Teknicolour
  6. To Repel Ghosts
  7. Everything Will Be
  8. No Jubilees
  9. Emily
  10. Door To The River
  11. 4 Ever Delayed
  12. Everything Will Be
  13. Glasnost
  14. All Alone Here
  15. Cardiff Afterlife

Fifteen songs is likely still too many – I could cut it down to 12, say drop All Alone Here, Automatik, and one of your choice and we would have a damn near perfect album. Let us know your picks in the comments!

Nightman Reacts To The Greatest Artists (in music) Of All Time (According To Rolling Stone)! 100 -71

Greetings, Glancers! In my quest for always looking to post at least one listicle every couple of weeks, I’m having to take the coward’s way out and look at what other more reputable publications are posting. Now this one is a pretty obvious idea so I wouldn’t class it as stealing – everyone has their own list of favourite artists and opinions on these things. Still, it’s a regressive, lazy, click-bait type of post so you’ll have to bear with me until I can come up with something better.

There are a lot of these lists out there – every music rag and site will have their own take on it and I’m still toying with the idea of reacting to a few of them. However, I imagine most of them will be very similar and have a large crossover of artists. I went for Rolling Stone because they at least have a certain calibre of Writer, a certain respectability, and a level of talent and history which many more recent publications lack. The magazine has been going since the 60s and at least cares about music and talent rather than image and sales. Here is the link to their original article if you want to absorb it yourself and form your own opinion. What I have done is simply read the article and give some brief thoughts on each artist. I’m not going to get too hung up on placement.

Rather than let their Journalists give their thoughts on the best artists – likely factoring in influence, sales, quality, personal opinion, talent, originality, writing, technical proficiency etc, their list was based off actual industry insiders – the artists themselves, producers, writers, singers, musicians from a wide array of genres and eras. Without looking at the list then, I imagine there will be a few surprises and acts I’m not familiar with. Due to that fact alone, I’ll probably look at one more list, by a different site, for another post for comparison’s sake and because I want a more traditional list too. Also, this list apparently focuses on ‘The Rock Era’ so I don’t know if that means artists before a certain date wont be used or if certain genres are out of bounds. I’m more interested in a list which covers any genre and era, so that I can rant more.

Remember, the below selections are not mine, but I am going to give my thoughts on each. Here we go.

100: Talking Heads

I’m not going to doubt their influence, I’d have some doubts concerning their musical talent, I’m not going to question their lyrical prowess or ability to write songs which people seem to enjoy. I don’t like them – from what I’ve heard, which isn’t much – and I don’t like David Byrne’s vocals. Personal opinion, they’re not for me.

99. Carl Perkins

I only know the songs which other artists have recorded that he wrote – Elvis and The Beatles most notably. I’ve probably heard his original versions of those songs but I can’t say much more than that. Seems like an influential guy.

98. Curtis Mayfield

Much of what I referenced regarding Perkins could be said here too, although I know Mayfield through his famous work on Superfly. Remember when African American artists used to write and play with soul, and were some of the best musicians around? The white guys took all of that over in the late 50s – it’s time to share it around again I think.

97. REM

I’m surprised they’re so far down on the list, given the usual adoration and ball-fondling they receive. Maybe people are finally forgetting about them and realizing that the majority of their stuff doesn’t have staying power. Outside of Automatic For The People, there are very few REM songs I personally enjoy, mostly down to how I feel about Michael Stipe’s voice. That and the fact that I’m fairly certain a light breeze could strip them to their bones and shatter their skeletons. Still, they do have a number of pretty good songs which I can’t argue against, and every so often they’ll concoct an interesting lyric.

96. Diana Ross And The Supremes

I’m glad this is a single entry – Ross has the odd solo song which I don’t mind, but with The Supremes they were unbeatable. Classy and with the right group of writers backing them, they had hit after hit and I’m sure they broke down some racial barriers which is always good. Lets keep it focused on the music though – they have a strong of nothing less than masterpiece pop hits. Ross has some good vocals, but it’s the song selection and the quality of melody and harmony which keeps them so revered today, as well as some top session musicians backing them up. I wouldn’t call them influential any longer, because today’s female pop groups and artists seem to have forgotten that melody matters.

95. Lynyrd Skynyrd

That band that you have to keep spell-checking to make sure the Ys are in the ryte places. I don’t know much about them – I’m not big on the Southern US rock scene. Still, there’s no denying the skill on display and staying power of Sweet Home Alabama and Freebird. I’m sure they have other songs too.

94. Nine Inch Nails

No doubt influential in the metal and rock arena, Nine Inch Nails, or more acurately Trent Reznor, is generally held up as one of the genre’s best lyricists. Cutting and introspective and dark, the industrial experimental sound fits the words like a worm in your soul. I think he’s a better writer than a vocalist, though he certainly has a way with creating atmosphere. I always feel like I never give NIN a chance and I always mean to, but then I remember the  songs I don’t like – most of the obvious songs like Closer and Hurt are ones I don’t enjoy – then I abandon the idea.

93. Booker T And The MGs

Yeah, no doubting their influence or songwriting or playing. Just not a group I pay much attention to.

92. Guns N Roses

Now we’re talking. Hair metal was an extension of the more glamourous, self confident rock which came out of the 70s, but had too much focus on ego and image and sales and all too quickly allowed itself to transform from something about technical proficiency into something mass marketed and pussified. G’n’R was the antithesis of hair metal, the up-turning of that umbrella. They took the skill and swagger of what the genre should have been and added a raw 70s punk edge and effortless cool – these guys looked and performed like Hell’s demons were on their heels while the other hair metal bands suddenly looked like Belinda Carlisle. The band looked and felt like a gang, like a family, and their playing wasn’t overblown (at least in the beginning) yet remained vicious, rebellious, fast, and sexy – they played how animal fucking sounds and feels. Axl is an underrated songwriter, and Duff and Izzy don’t get the credit Slash gets.

91. Tom Petty

Another artist I don’t know much about – I know more about him than his music would be more accurate. What I’ve heard… I’m not a fan of the drawling vocals or Southern Sound, but I’ve heard single figure % of his work so I’m not the best example of someone accurately commenting.

90. Carlos Santana

I always found Santana suddenly finding widespread fame (again) in the 2000s quite bizarre. Here was a guy renowned in the 60s as a hippy free spirit and for playing loose, jazz infused Latino experimental rock. It was a commercial stroke of genius to link him up with some of the pop darlings of the day, and Supernatural remains a fantastic album. But you have to go back to his earlier days to find some of his truly killer playing. Carlos is a beast on the guitar with a style and tone you know is instantly his – for people who don’t really know much about guitar playing or guitarists, he is one of a very small handful of guitarists that the uninformed hear and recognise. From lightening fast breaks to soulful slow-dances, his music is perfect for a Summer afternoon beerathon, for howling at the moon afterwards, and for the come-down the next day, plus he’s a genuine, cool guy.

89. The Yardbirds

I always say that The Yardbirds existed so that later, better bands could. That’s a little unfair even if it is true, but in their short existence they set up the new rules for those later bands to follow – what can you do when you truly master an instrument? What sounds and songs will follow from feeling, what can you achieve when you don’t focus on writing a hit or looking a certain way or sounding like anyone else?

88. Jay-Z

Sorry, kids, but I’m going to go on record and admit that I can’t name a single Jay-Z song. I’m sure I’ve heard plenty, but I don’t know them. I’m going to assume that of all the rap and R’n’B to come out of the late 90s he’s among the most respectable – I have friends who know their stuff and whose musical opinions often fall in line with mine who love him – that’s usually good enough for me to give someone a chance. I haven’t yet, and probably won’t. There’s just too much stuff ahead of him on the list.

87. Gram Parsons

I don’t like Country. You know this by now. Parsons at least fused Country with other stuff – but then it was the 60s and everyone was fusing everything with everything else while at the same time being out of their fucking minds on whatever mind-altering goodness they could get their hands on. Was it the music that was good, or the drugs? In any case, I mostly know him from a few songs by The Byrds. I’m sure he could have achieved more if he’s lived longer.

86. Tupac

Similar to Jay-Z, except that I actually know some Tupac stuff. What I know I generally like but again I probably know more about the man and the myth than what he actually created and left behind. It seems like a lot of people on this list influence others, but the influence becomes reductive. Usually an artist is supposed to inspire others to be and do better, but in this case those were born out of Tupac’s success and skill have turned into everything which is shitty about music today – pre-packaged, mass produced, safe, repetitive garbage with no great message or meaning. Tupac is rolling in his grave over what you have become.

85. Black Sabbath

They essentially created metal. There were bands before and around the same time, but Sabbath brought all the vital ingredients together first. How you feel about metal will determine how you feel about Sabbath – do you like loud, heavy music? Do you enjoy frenetic rhythm sections, wailing vocals, solos like a volcano erupting and riffs like a shotgun cocking and firing? If not, you probably won’t like Sabbath – that’s fine, go listen to George Michael – but if you do, then you’ll love Sabbath. I’ve mentioned before that I’m more of a Sabbath individual songs listener, but they have enough individual songs regardless of their influence to make them a great band.

84. James Taylor

Fantastic voice and some gorgeous melodies. A nifty guitarist too. I think most metal fans have some sort of affinity with folk music, or at least the more introspective side of folk. Maybe it’s that both genres place so much value on emotion and musical ability. Taylor was at the forefront of folk, but he’s still someone whose music I haven’t heard very much of considering how prolific he has been.

83. Eminem

It seems more and more likely that Eminem is the musical genius of my generation. How many other artists have been as prolific and as critically and commercially successful as he has within the time when he started to today? The guy’s lyrics are flawless – insightful and brutal with the same couplet, hilarious the next. No-one is safe from his tongue or his pen, not least himself, and there may not be a finer lyricist on the planet. His knowledge and understanding of music doesn’t get enough credit and unlike so many of his peers – no matter the genre – he’s never content in being one thing; he wants to get better, he only wants to prove to himself that he’s still got it.

82. CCR

Yea yeah, I get it, I have to listen to them. Again, the few songs I’ve heard I like – don’t love, and they’re deep within that Souther US rock style I’m not a huge fan of.

81. The Drifters

I’m not sure how The Drifters ever qualified as a single group, given how many line-up changes they had ((like the article references). What remains consistent is that the voices are always strong, no matter who was in the group they all knew how to harmonise and perform together, and the melodies were smooth and timeless.

80. Elvis Costello

He’s been going for a hell of a long time, I’ll give him that Another case of knowing the artist more than the music, though what I’ve heard I never gave a second glance.

79. The Four Tops

Like The Drifters, these guys knew how to sing together; Once they had the right writing team behind them it was a money making machine. More importantly, the music was great.

78: The Stooges

Even though it always seemed like there was a lack of focus in that they apparently hated everyone and took the piss out of everyone meaning you couldn’t take anything they said seriously, they still had raw power and energy (pun intended). It was punk which was more intellectual than most and wasn’t afraid to be sexy as well as dirty and angry. I’m not overly well-versed in their stuff but much of it you can’t help but like thanks to the urgency with which they play.

77. The Beastie Boys

One of the most notable instances of rock and rap working together, The Beastie Boys have an array of hits to their name but if you look at what mostly came out of their ideas – groups like Limp Bizkit and shite of that ilk – you have to wonder was it worth the effort? Still, the band’s early stuff sounds more fresh and vital than any nu-metal or rap inspired rock band now, and the less said about current rap artists attempts to merge with rock, the better.

76. The Shirelles

Arguably the greatest girl band of all time (obviously I still hold The Bangles in the top spot), The Shirelles may not have played their own instruments or wrote many of their own songs, it was the girl next door appeal of their vocals and performance which made them stand out. They were sexy without flaunting it, honest, open, and the vocals weren’t trying to blow out the speakers. One of the few bands to truly influence The Beatles in the early days, once they had a writing team behind them they dropped a number of hits which remain unbeaten today in terms of quality.

75. The Eagles

Like a few of the other mainly US oriented bands above, I only know a handful of their songs. Maybe it’s the Country music relationship that put me off. I’ll get to them in one of my other series.

74. Hank Williams

It’s Country, so I already have a low tolerance. It’s not whiny old crap Country though.

73. Radiohead

You already know they’re one of my favourite bands. Even if they have been the Thom Yorke And Friends band now for longer than they’ve been Radiohead. When they’re good, nobody comes close to touching them, and when they’re not good they’re still more adventurous and interesting than almost any other act. I just wish they were good again. Still, when they’re live even the songs I don’t like become something special.

72. AC/DC

They’re an average rock band who has managed to crank out more hits than most. It’s pretty much mindless music with a good beat and brain-shredding vocals. I can’t take them seriously at all, even if I do agree many of their songs are catchy.

71. Frank Zappa

An incredibly influential artist, Zappa is and was like nobody else. He was a great guitarist and writer, but it just so happened that most of his music and ideas didn’t really translate into good songs.

Join me next time for another batch and let us know your thoughts on the artists above!

 

My Favourite 96 Beatles Songs – Part Three!

beatlesofrock31

Well, this has been a slog. Be thankful we’re almost at the end! Below, thou shalt find my favourite Beatles songs in the whole wide world. I’m tired. So tired. I haven’t slept a wink. Click here for Part One and there for Part Two.

26. Strawberry Fields Forever 

We’re into my favourite Beatles songs now, starting with this slice of trippy oddness from Magical Mystery Tour. It’s another one which could be dreary and depressing but overcomes by power of melody, interesting lyrics, and the amount of instruments and invention at play.

25. Penny Lane

One of the most summery songs the band crafted, it’s essentially a story of a time and place. The names and people may be unfamiliar but it’s universal enough, it’s cheery enough to make you feel like they’re talking about your street, your town, your friends.

24. Every Little Thing

When I first started listening to the band album to album there were a number of songs I had no idea existed but fell in love with first time around. For Sale doesn’t get enough credit for its experimentation but it’s really here where they began to throw in little changes and ideas – the timpani in the chorus, the single note piano, the unusual melodies and the layered guitars all setting up for the future but on its own a terrific pop rock song.

23. Hey Jude

This is high on my list, and yet I’m not as enamoured with it as most other people are. It’s a great song no doubt, but it’s not their best and other bands have created similar songs that I’ve loved more. Still, great song.

22. Eleanor Rigby

I know a lot of people consider this the best Beatles song, and I’d be happy to agree with that. Still, it’s not my favourite, but it’s undoubtedly brilliant. Like Penny Lane it feels like a story and while it doesn’t strike the same universal chord the melodies and strings and feeling make it one which will last well into the next century.

21. I’m A Loser

From that grunting opening vocal, the darker tone, the song title and lyrical content, this was maybe my first exposure to The Beatles not being this happy go lucky, summery pop band. Lennon was actually singing about something real yet making it eminently catchy so that anyone could still enjoy the music without contemplating the meaning.

20. Paperback Writer

One I was always fond of from my youth, this is a song which blends the band’s earlier harsher rock sound with their later, more mature pop abilities. What a great riff – the weird thing is that you can easily forget the riff because the harmonies and melodies are so strong. All the harmonic stuff going on in the verses is spellbinding, there are lots of tiny notes and different things going on that I notice something new each time I listen, and the lyrics are a quirky delight too.

19. Real Love

So, it’s more of a Lennon solo effort, but given that the surviving lads got together to fix it up and release it, it still counts. Plus it’s glorious. Fantastic lyrics once again showcasing the growth, and one of the great shifts from minor to major in rock history. The vocal effects are squarely in that psychedelic period, George’s guitar lines are simmering, and wouldn’t you just know it – melodies from start to finish are the stuff of dreams.

18. In My Life

The Beatles at their most tender. When the band tried, really tried, to do a certain type of song, they invariably knocked it out of the park. This is one such example, a ballad of both love and sorrow. It’s so damn simple, yet so damn beautiful. The little drums pieces Ringo adds – <makes kissing fingers gesture> – and that little solo in the middle, all just lovely. But man, so many Youtube comments about this song being played at funerals – not a dry eye across the land.

17. Mr Moonlight 

Ah ha, yes. The most maligned Beatles song. I had never heard this song until I first listened to For Sale all the way through. How had I never heard such a fantastic song? Why wasn’t this one of their biggest hits? Well, it turned out that its almost universally hated. I was completely mystified by this when I found out, and I still don’t get it. Like, at all. I can’t think of any reason why people really don’t like this. I understand if it’s not a favourite, but all the hate is totally beyond me. The vocals are maybe the best I’ve heard from Lennon. And I love the little church organ solo – sure it could have been replaced with a different type of organ, but it adds a quirky charm. This is easily one of my favorites, and easily their best cover.

16. And Your Bird Can Sing

This is another one of those instances where I’d maybe heard the song before but had no idea it was by The Beatles until I starting working through the albums. As lovely as it sounds, lyrically it is quite vicious. I love the constant thumping beat throughout and of course the duel guitar attack – another glorious collection of riffs – and what about the melodies, both following and complementing the central riff? It has a mantra quality, something hypnotic, but it’s all too short at only two minutes.

15. A Day In The Life

What is usually heralded as the band’s best song is an undoubted masterpiece. It’s almost flawless – it is, but there are a few things I would still change about it, in my genius. I have nothing of substance to add to what has already been said about it, beyond the little things I love – the growing horror movie soundtrack strings, the variances in the drumming, the sudden shifts etc etc.

14. No Reply

When I started listening to The Beatles albums, For Sale was the biggest blank for me – I didn’t really recognise any of the songs and so I assumed it had been a misstep with no hits. When it opened with this, I was suitably blown away. If this is a misstep, then what the hell else has every other band been doing with their time? It’s dark and angry stuff, portrayed by jealous lyrics and a biting delivery and punched beats.

13. A Hard Day’s Night

If you’d asked me to name any Beatles song from the age of about 5 up to, well today, chances are this would be one of the first songs I’d mention. The band were already megastars before this, but this song represented a shift to God status – it not only exemplified their growth but also their staying power. They were here to stay, and change the world while everyone else had their lunch.

12. Ticket To Ride

Another one of the first songs I loved by the band, and another which has never been far from my affections. It’s just a very strange pop rock song, the sort of thing nobody else has ever really been able to pull off so successfully. There are so many elements which shouldn’t work, but they do, likely because of the melody and charm. Also, the video is hilarious as the band sit about and take the piss.

11. Please Please Me

I can’t really remember when or how I first heard this, it could be another that I didn’t realise was The Beatles, or it could be one I only discovered when I picked up their first album. Either way, even though it was one of their first songs, it still stands out as one of their best. That energy, the choices, the melodies, the playing, the exuberance of youth, and just the sheer balls and joy of it all.

10. We Can Work It Out

The Beatles just had so many songs – so many that never even made it to any album and yet are better than what most people produce their whole lives. The thing I love most about this song – beyond another amazing minor/major dynamic, beyond the melody? That transition from chorus to verse – it’s not even a transition, it just… happens. And both pieces are completely different. How is it even possible?

9. She Loves You

You’re probably noticing that a lot of these favourites are early songs – in truth that’s probably the period I love most – more than their experimenting, more than their second half. There’s a joy in their first songs, an unspoken perfection which only an artist and fan can recognise – that moment when it all comes together. This is a song we’ll still be listening to when our ears have evolved into Ipod holders or something.

8. I Want To Hold Your Hand

I know I’m critical of bands whose lyrics are overly simple, and that’s a simple criticism to make of The Beatles in their early days. Even though they were taking the piss as they wrote whatever banal stuff popped into their heads, there was still something somehow earnest. And they were among the first to express such sentiments in such colloquial fashion and to string words together in a certain way. If anybody else from then or now was to sing about wanting to hold a hand, I would dismiss it. With these guys, it’s liquid gold.

7. From Me To You

It’s just more early pop rock perfection. Music rarely gets better than this.

6. I’ve Just Seen A Face

One of my favourite discoveries as I made my way through the albums, this is one of music’s most special songs. That discovery of love, of seeing that face for the first time, is something we can all understand, but it has never been put to paper or sound so wonderfully as this. One of the greatest love songs of all time, just wholesome unashamed goodness.

5. The Long And Winding Road

As the band began to reach their conclusion, they were still able to put out stuff like this. Some day, Paul and Ringo will be gone, everyone who was involved in making this will walk the Earth no more, but the song will echo onward. This is one of the most contemplative and heartbreaking and beautiful songs the band would record, and it’s one I rate much higher than the more popular Let It Be or ever Lennon’s Imagine. 

4. Here Comes The Sun

I love it when my favourite bands sound happy and make music which reflects that. I’m into the dark side of things and usually listen to a lot of angry, heavy stuff, but when an artist more renowned for that sort of music makes something sweet and whose purpose is to only make you smile, I love it. The Beatles don’t fall into that category and have many songs designed to bring you joy, but this is on another level. It’s Harrison’s best song by some distance, and it’s maybe the number one song of all time for raising that hope, that excitement, that positive feeling, that everything is going to be okay, that things are about to be glorious.

3. Can’t Buy Me Love

Taking pop and rock and music to the next level is something The Beatles did repeatedly. Can’t Buy Me Love was one of several songs on that album alone which performed that trick and you’ll struggle to find a more perfect song anywhere else.

2. Across The Universe

Maybe the best personal discovery during my run through of Beatles albums, I’d had no clue this song even existed when it first came on. Much of everything from The White Album onward had registered little more than a ‘okay, that was nice/weird/pointless’ and it felt like the band were shadows of their former selves. Then this came along and became an instant personal favourite. Why hadn’t they been writing stuff like this the whole time? Was this the last drip of their collective creative juice collecting inside a paper cup? I don’t care about the whys and hows now – it simply is, and it’s one of the best by anyone.

  1. Help

My number one. I honestly can’t think of a single better pop/rock song. Every millisecond is perfect. It sounds so simple, but this must have been a nightmare to write and record. The call and repeat stuff is inverted, multiple times throughout the song, and it boggles my mind how they make it sound so easy and so good. This is not an easy song. The high notes, the arpeggios, and above all the melody/harmony attack make Help my favourite Beatles song and I’d say a contender for the greatest song ever written.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is that. It’s only taken me two years to write and publish, but we’re finally done and we never have to speak of it again. Unless of course you want to add your favourites in the comments – something I encourage. Till next time!

Nightman Listens To – Roxette – Crash! Boom! Bang!

Greetings, Glancers! We’re back with another selection of choice pop rock cuts from one of Sweden’s finest exports, Roxette. Fans of the band who happen to be following this series may have noticed that I’ve skipped Tourism. Why? Well, it’s basically a live album, although it does have a few new songs never before heard on any of their studio albums. Maybe I’ll cover those at some point, maybe not. What I am doing is listening to their fifth album, one which I know I’ve heard many times but which I can only honestly recall four songs from, at least by looking at the track listing. The album came out in 1995, so by that point I was mostly past caring about them but wouldn’t moan too much if my brother was in control of the car stereo. It’s another long album – fifteen songs topping an hour – so this could take a while. Enjoy!

Harley’s And Indians: I won’t go as far as saying it’s experimental, but it does have a different sound than what we’re used to from the band. If anything it sounds like some of Bon Jovi’s more cowboy inspired hits. The central guitar riff is fairly fat, on the heavy sit of country rock, yet the melodies are pure Roxette. Per takes lead on the vocals with Marie only chiming in slightly in places. There are some dubious insensitive lyrics in there but I’m not sure if they are there for satirical or comedy value. The chorus repeats a few times more than is necessary, we have a suitable harmonica ending, and it doesn’t outstay its welcome.

Crash! Boom! Bang!: I knew I’d heard this one before, but couldn’t for the life of me remember what it sounded like until I hit play today. Here’s a weird one – whenever I get a big sudden swoosh of nostalgia when listening to Roxette, it always, always takes me back to me getting dressed in the changing rooms of my local swimming pool. WTF’s that about? Anyway, this came flooding back, and I remember singing this one quite a bit – you know me and my ballads. It’s not quite a top tier ballad by their own standards, but it’s still good. It has a dark tone throughout, lyrically and musically, I appreciate the string interlude in the middle, Marie blasts the vocals with a yearning quality, and there’s a slight hint of mystery and reticence.

Fireworks: This was a single but I don’t have any memory of it, despite the funky intro. Actually, the chorus sounds vaguely familiar but that could be just because it’s similar to something else. Per takes the lead again in the verses, not quite rapping his way along, while the chorus sees Marie taking over and the song adopting a style closer to pop. There’s a dreamy, slow, section in the middle where the band sing ‘they’re coming to get you now’…. who? Fireworks?

Run To You: This is one I remembered just from the name, even if my memory of exactly how it sounded has been clouded by time. It’s a soft rock pop song with some mid-nineties production stuff going on. The melodies are strong enough to cut through anything which could date it, we have plenty of strings again though here they seem unnecessary. Minor key verses, happy choruses… it’s a simple, sweet song.

Sleeping In My Car: Here’s another weird one for you – I can remember the first time I heard this one. it was in the car again, it was played on the radio, and we were driving around the roundabout near our local shopping centre (mall). This is obviously the big single from the album. I think we knew the song was coming up and we were anticipating (me less so) how the band would sound, if they still had the goods, or if they had lost it. I think all of us were fairly impressed. It had abandoned the 80s sound of their previous hits and was now completely 90s, but it was still clearly Roxette. The guitars and melodies were front and centre, and it had a chorus which instantly hooked you. It’s still good now, far from amazing, but good.

Vulnerable: This is the last song from my initial look down the tracklist that I remembered. I do remember thinking this one was more suited to a boyband, which was usually a way teenage me used to say a song was crap. I know I still kind of liked it anyway. It is very nineties hearing it now, but as always I like the strings. Would Marie have been a better choice for the main vocal here? It’s fine, it’s too simpering and whimpering for my liking, even as a ballad, but it’s not terrible.

The First Girl On The Moon: I just had a giggle to myself because the intro to this almost, almost sounds like The Everlasting by the Manic Street Preachers. This one was a surprise because I have no memory of it but actually enjoyed it. It’s a slow one, starts off acoustic, a quaint story, Marie leading the vocals. Some piano comes in for the pre-chorus, actually there isn’t really a chorus so to speak. Just to further the weird Manics comparison, there’s an ‘ooh aah’ vocal piece in the middle. It’s barely three minutes long so feels like one you could play plenty of times and not get bored. Great production on this one.

Place Your Love: This starts off acoustic too, but with Per on main vocals. For the chorus we get the harmonies that made the band famous, though it’s not the best chorus. Was this influenced by Oasis? It feels like it was, however unlikely that sounds. The whole building of tambourine and organ feels like Oasis. It’s simple too. The chorus improves as the song progresses, with wider harmonies and increased backing instrumentation.

I Love The Sound Of Crashing Guitars: You know a band has jumped the shark when they begin writing songs about their own instruments or dinosaurs or something. We can forgive Roxette for such matters… they’ve always been kind of quirky like that. The lyrics are mostly nonsense, the music isn’t anything special, but the melodies and production keep things from being too embarrassing.

What’s She Like: It’s another I don’t remember, even though it seems like one I should – it’s typically the emotive power ballads that stick in my mind – for whatever reason those seemed to capture my imagination as a kid. This is in the style of Things Will Never Be The Same or It Must Have Been Love, but doesn’t quite reach the peaks of fist pumping or teeth gnashing or cheese as those. Melodically and tonally it’s very similar, it starts out quietly and builds gradually. The only thing which feels out of place is the middle eight which takes the song out of minor key territory almost seeming like a different song entirely.

Do You Wanna Go The Whole Way: Always. As a great man once said, there’s no sense in going off half-cocked. Unfortunately this one isn’t overly inspired, though it does start out in a promising manner with lots of strings. The lead riff is kind of catchy and interesting, the lyrics are unintentionally funny – to me at least, but melodically it’s a little too plain to stand out. There’s a slower, trippy section in the middle which tries to changes things up, but I think it hurts the song and isn’t needed.

Lies: This is a weird one, starting off with a fat, fast riff, losing pace with a dull verse, then merging into a garage tinged pre-chorus, before a cheesy pop chorus. It feels like a bunch of ideas for different songs slapped together to make a whole when they didn’t know what else to do, but it’s not terrible.

I’m Sorry: This one feels like a holdover from the 80s, with leading synths and melodies not dissimilar to other hits. I generally don’t like percussion led songs, unless the percussion is something extraordinary – this one doesn’t have much in the way of instrumentation in the verses, and the choruses are even a bit light. The melodies aren’t strong enough to save it, but again it’s brevity means I can’t complain too much.

Love Is All: A long one. Matron. Roxette aren’t known for their long songs, so I’m not sure what this will be like. It begins in classic epic style, with a slow, quiet, drawn out instrumental intro. Marie’s vocals come in, very angelic, repeating a soft hymnal. My immediate sense, even if it isn’t a true comparison, is of a psychedelic Beatles song. The lead vocal melody is simple but sweet, so it doesn’t get annoying even though it’s repeated. Repetition is the name of the game here, with the same few melodies growing and building and being modified slightly – Per takes over vocals at one point for example, while the backing instruments change frequently. It’s a mantra without enough significant variation to stop it becoming monotonous. There’s a change close to the three minute mark as we get some organ and guitar before the mantra continues. It seems like the song is going to fade out after four minutes, but then it soars back in again in Hey Jude style for a celebratory two minute coda – it seems like this was custom built for a set closer.

Go To Sleep: A ballad to finish. It avoids being cheesy and it doesn’t have the big chorus that you would expect. I wouldn’t go so far as saying the last two songs are experimental, but you ca tell that the band were playing with new sounds and techniques. This is another sweet and plaintive song which reminds me of quite a few mid nineties ballads – the ones which avoided going fully for the heartstrings but were content to meander in dreamlike sorrow or joy.

I think a couple of songs could have been trimmed from this – there are quite a few in the middle and second half which, while not bad, end up being to the detriment of the album as a whole. It’s a long listen in a single sitting so it would’t be long before you are drawn to pulling out your favourites and focusing on those instead. The album ends strongly, with two good songs – keep those, the singles, and a few others and you’d have a good album. It’s fine as it is but doesn’t have enough great songs to truly recommend it as a package. Regardless, if you’re a Roxette fan there is a surplus of material here to get your teeth into.

Let us know in the comments what you thought of this one!