Nightman Listens To Marillion – Less Is More!

Less Is More (Marillion album) - Wikipedia

Greetings, Glancers! It feels like an age since I’ve listened to any new Marillion material, and it looks like I’ll have to wait a little longer, because Less Is More is Marillion’s… acoustic album? Is it acoustic, or is it simply re-imagined? The ‘less’ part of the title makes me think that this is a collection of stripped back versions of existing songs – less faff, less volume, and dare I say it, less energy. I’m curious to see how the band changes these songs, and if the ‘less’ actually does turn out to be ‘more’. I understand that there is one new, previously unheard song, which presumably ties in with the approach and tone of the other songs. Or maybe it’s a two and a half minute, 110 bpm, punk sung about tits. Lets find out.

Go kicks off the album by presenting me with a challenge; will I remember the original versions of any of these songs? Glancing at the track-list before listening, I recognized and remembered most of the names. If you put me on the spot and asked me to hum a piece of each from the names alone, I’d struggle with quite a few of them. This is odd, given how much I love music and how easily I can recall advertisement jingles or Incidental music from 80s TV shows that I may have only heard a handful of times over thirty years ago. It’s especially odd given how many times I’ve listened to each of the original versions in a relatively recent time. Does this mean it’s harder for me to learn and retain new music now that I’m older, or does it mean that Marillion’s music doesn’t play magically capture my attention like other bands do? <Shrugs>

The main thing I remembered about Go was its intro. I couldn’t have hummed it for you, but I could ‘see’ it in my head. When this new version played, I convinced myself that the version in my head was wrong. Then I realised that the band wasn’t simply playing acoustic updates, but that they were in fact re-imagining the songs, more or less from the ground up. Uber-fans like Paul will debate over which versions are superior or preferred. I’ll leave such debate to those guys, but for my part, I liked this. H sounds wonderful, the vocals are front and centre, and the more laid back and intimate feel accentuates his best qualities. He doesn’t need to be some booming tour de force, but is much more impactful when he sounds like he’s leaning on your shoulder and dripping honeyed musings into your ear from inches away.

It’s a credit to the production that this approach is so potent – stripping songs down can often drain the energy and oomph of the original, and when you’re a band like Marillion who aren’t exactly known for energy or oomph you need to be careful to retain what makes their music so powerful in the first place – their intimacy, their sense of commune, their tragedy and beauty. I think they manage this with Go. While the keyboard drive of the original has been removed, we instead are treated to sneaky tickles of violins, xylophone style keyboard tinklings, and a confidence in the song’s melodic core.

Interior Lulu opens with some near Asian guitar and keyboards, feeling like one of those 80s/90s Hollywood/Hong Kong/Japan crossover movie soundtracks – Black Rain, Rising Sun, Rapid Fire, Big Trouble In Little China, Double Impact. I half expected H to have adopted the persona of a muscle-bound, one-liner spouting martial artist for his performance. Alas, he merely perks up and gives us some RAWK vocals. Maybe’s it’s the stripped back nature of the music which gives him the freedom and space to push his vocals more here, but he does give a little bit of grit throughout the song. It works very well, it’s more convincing than some of the recent attempts at harder rock songs, and his more traditional vocal approach is on point too.

What is less convincing are the transitions. Up until the three minute mark, this is a great song and a great performance. As per the original, the song has a series of twists into new territory, but many of the transitions are almost are non-existent, making this feel like a collection of near unrelated parts. I’m sceptical that they could have done anything else with these transitions beyond conceiving a more lengthy instrumental piece to guide the music more naturally from one section to the next. The second half of the song feels more chaotic than the first and while the performances remain solid, I doubt it’s a song I’ll return to much – a shame given that I did enjoy those opening three minutes so much.

I should mention here that this is likely going to be a shorter post than usual given that we don’t need to talk about the lyrics again – that is unless Paul tells us that the lyrics were given an overhaul too. What I will say is that the re-imagining does seem to help the lyrics come through more clearly and cleanly than in some of the originals, but my central focus in my listens to this album has been on how the music has been re-framed.

Out Of This World is a song which has made my Marillion Playlist for car journeys, and I remember it being one of my favourites from Afraid Of Sunlight. The studio version was all about atmosphere and tone, helped greatly by the keyboards. On Less Is More, those keyboards are gone and we have a less atmospheric, more plaintive clean keyboard approach. The guitars are kicked up to front and centre, at least in the opening moments. As such, the song takes on a different tone. It’s not as gloomy, but feels more lonely. It feels more like a cry for help.

Out Of This World has plenty of transitions and they feel more organic than those on Interior Lulu. They are sudden, but not out of left-field. That being said, the final couple of minutes didn’t have much of an impact on me this time around. I think it would have been interesting simply to end the song after the last ‘only love will turn you round’. Sometimes it’s cool when bands just remove a piece of a song when doing a re-recording or a live rendition etc.

Wrapped Up In Time has always been a gorgeous song. I talked a little about the Less Is More version when I was doing my Happiness posts. No matter what the form the song takes I’m sure I’ll love it – this version is good, but there’s something niggling at me; I don’t think the definitive version of this song has been made. If it has been, I haven’t heard it. I think the core of the song and it’s potential are so strong that someone, someday will make a better version. Or more accurately, one that will be definitive for me.

It’s strange… this version at once feels too long and too short. The song is played at too glacial a pace, but it ends too soon. The arrangement here leans more into a Gospel/Country sound when I think they should go folk or full overblown power ballad. I don’t know what I want my version to be, but I’ll know when I hear it.

The Space was one of those songs which convinced me that I was going to like H as a vocalist, writer, and presence in the band. It’s a bit of an epic, it has a great atmosphere, and it’s a song which takes full advantage of having a full band involved in its creation and execution. The Less Is More version, as the name suggests, is over a minute shorter. Not only is the time cut, but much of the original’s atmosphere is gone, removed in favour of a more displaced Jazz approach. It works in its own way, but part of why I loved the original was because it was unashamedly silly and bombastic. We lose the crazy solo section, which I don’t mind being cut, but more of a loss is the follow-up vocal section where H channels Sting. The Less Is More version just peters out from an already drained point. It does get points for perhaps having more of a haunting and subtle ending in its final seconds. Similar to Wrapped Up Time, while I think the original version of The Space is the definitive one, I feel like there is a better stripped down take than what we have here.

Hard As Love is a song which gets stripped down both in terms of time and sound. It was Brave’s near over the top Rock song at over six minutes long, while here it’s a gentle, slow song at just over five minutes. It’s one of the more obviously different versions on Less Is More with the bulk of the song being H and piano. The guitar crunch and the gruff vocals from Brave are gone, and instead we have something tame in the Coldplay sense. As such, it takes on a different potency, a tenderness free from the reins of the Rock blow-out. Hearing this, it made me think whether a darker, slower version of the song may have worked better on Brave to match the tone of that album. The original song isn’t one I’ve gone back to much since finishing with Brave and I’m not sure that this version will make my Marillion playlist. Quality wise, or preference wise I’d put them on a similar level even though the band does a good job of making the two quite different in tone and content.

Quartz was always something of an airy, spacey song which compensated for the lack of a strong core by plastering a load of studio trickery all over it. An acoustic version is certainly brave – how do you replicate the studio trickery, never mind attempting to make a decent song over something that was quite barren? It succeeds more on the first point, but on the whole it takes a song which was already on the dull side and exposes its weaknesses. The opening three to four minutes are meandering and lifeless, even if all the twinkling and riffs make solid attempts at bulking out the song, while the closing couple of minutes are quite strong. The closing solo and vocal melodies are highlights, but it’s too little too late.

If My Heart Were A Ball is another adventurous choice given the length of the original song. This rendition loses the bombast of the original and goes all jazz club – nice. Except, I don’t like Jazz, so not nice. Like Quartz, the opening minutes do very little for me and I can’t see me, or anyone else, choosing this over the original. It has a different flavour, but it’s simply not very interesting beyond its concept of stripping down a big Proggy boy. For a minute in the middle it’s a little more interesting, but it then fades away into tepid musings. I can applaud the ambition and bravado of the attempt, but it doesn’t really work.

It’s Not Your Fault is the new boy. It’s sweet enough – almost childlike in its simplicity, like an Imagine or a Let It Be. It’s the sort of thing that H does very well – exposing lyrics and emotion. I quite like it, but in opposition to the rest of the album it’s a song which feels like it needs some additional instrumentation to bring out its strengths. It feels a little unfinished and I’d like the chorus to feature a few more lyrics rather than just the title repeated over and over. Elsewhere the lyrics cover familiar ground for the band – it’s very open, it’s less cryptic than their lyrics sometimes get which aids in the overall lullaby effect. I’d be keen to hear a more fleshed out version if such a thing exists.

With Memory Of Water, there’s only so much you can do with it. The original was already very short and simple – converting it into an acoustic or stripped back version would seemingly take little effort. The Less Is More version is a little more intimate and feels less cinematic, and the slightly increased pace helps it feel less like an interlude. I prefer the H performance in the original, but he’s still very good here. There’s not a lot to it, but I would have no qualms about having it on a playlist.

This Is The 21st Century seems to be a quite highly regarded song in some Marillion circles, but in its original form I was ambivalent about it. Bits I enjoyed, bits I didn’t. I much prefer the Less Is More version and the stripped down nature allows the melodic qualities of the first half to rise to the top. We lose the bananas guitar solo but the piano climax makes up for the loss. It’s half the length of the original so almost all of the atmospheric soundscape stuff has been omitted meaning we have two very different versions of the song. An eleven minute stripped back version wouldn’t work at all. Which version you enjoy more will be down to your personal preference and your mood in the moment.

Finally, Cannibal Surf Babe is throwaway fun. I wasn’t much of a fan of the original, but I get it. This one isn’t too different – it’s very loose and the band are clearly enjoying the performance, but I don’t like the vocals, the talking, or much else. It’s not a mess, but it’s not something I’d ever need to hear again.

Between You And Me (@BYAMPOD) | Twitter

Over to BYAMPOD and… are the guys covering the whole album in a single episode? It’s a long one (lovely), but it seems like they’re talking about H’s new solo EP too. Maybe they’ll just fly through Less Is More because the bulk of the songs have already been covered in previous episodes, albeit in their original form. Or maybe it’s a two-parter. Of course, I could just listen to the thing before wastefully typing this nonsense, but then I’ miss out on my million words a day quota.

We begin by talking about that new EP – I have not heard it, but I’m sure it’s as lovely as a Long One. Before releasing Less Is More, the band released a bunch of Live albums and curios. I haven’t heard those either. The band were burned out, but still wanting to do something. They decided to re-arrange a bunch of old songs in a semi-acoustic fashion, whittled down the list, and were ready to go. At the time, Paul wasn’t too impressed by the album and felt it was lacking in almost all respects, but in this re-appraisal he is more positive. The general consensus seems to be along the same lines – some people are uninspired, other people found preferred versions of songs within. I think that’s the way most of these things tend to go.

We get going with Go, a song which Paul felt was a little pointless due to its similarity to the original. It’s a song which relies on energy, especially when played live, and here the guys feel it has that energy drained. I felt this too, but that the new arrangement also increased some of the more gentle and melodic qualities of the original.

With Interior Lulu, Sanja didn’t notice many differences and that it’s lacking the funk of the original. Paul thinks that the song lacks the potency of the original’s ending. Not much more to add. Paul and Sanja both feel that Less Is More’s Out Of This World is the better version. I liked most of it, but felt the second half dragged a little. Paul says that this is the case when the song is played live, but he enjoys it here and wishes it was longer. That’s the complete opposite of what I said and that they should have cut out the ending entirely. Controversy all around, then.

Wrapped Up In Time is another song which the guys are favourable on, with both thinking this is better. It could be a bit of the ‘newness’ factor – sometimes when you hear a cover or new version of a song, that newness leads you to enjoy it more than the original, but sometimes that newness fades. Sometimes it doesn’t, and the new thing becomes the definitive thing. I felt that, while I liked this version a lot, it still left me wanting. That definitive version is still out there, somewhere.

Sanja found The Space funky and soulful, but again lacks the energy of the original. Paul agrees that it’s not an improvement and is another of those songs which feels somewhat plodding and unnecessary. Both guys enjoy this take on Hard As Love – particularly Sanja, and both may be convinced that this is the preferred version. Quartz sounds unfinished according to Sanja and that the loss of the bass is detrimental. Paul thinks the whole thing is a patchwork, but that the ending solo is sublime. Sanja prefers this version of Heart – Paul thinks it’s fine but isn’t a huge fan of the original in any case. Incidentally, I haven’t been taking notes on how many songs the guys prefer over the original. Or how many I prefer.

Sanja enjoys It’s Not Your Fault more than Paul, who says H wrote it as an adult lullaby, while Paul loves the lyrics more than the music. Paul prefers this take on Memory Of Water, Sanja prefers the original, while I’m in the middle – for anyone counting. It’s not very different. Sanja prefers the Less version of 21st Century, while Paul doesn’t think it works very well. He still likes it, but it’s not on par with the original. Naturally, I felt that this version was much better. Finally, Cannibal Surf Babe happened.

The guys think the album is more for the hardcore fans, while being a bit of a cash in. I like albums like this in theory – I have a whole series (mostly unpublished) about bands I wished had made an MTV Unplugged album, or something similar. While this isn’t quite that, it’s a similar idea – stripped down versions of songs we already know. As a music fan who gets passionate about many bands – I want more material from them, and if something like this bridges a gap between albums, then I’d rather it existed than didn’t. What I’m not a huge supported of is multiple Greatest Hits or multiple Live albums. One of each is more than enough. Even though Iron Maiden has released a couple of the best Live Albums ever, they are more than guilty of ripping the arse out of it. It seems like every new album is accompanied by a Live album – yet typically the setlist doesn’t vary much. And they never shy away from a ‘new’ Greatest Hits every few years.

I think that if you’re going to do it, do it different. Make it somehow unique – something that you wouldn’t expect from the band, like Metallica’s S&M. Make it worth hearing. Put on a new track or two. Make the new version drastically different. Radiohead’s From The Basement series are a great example – Radiohead typically giving new life to songs that I don’t think work particularly well in their original form.

On the whole for me, it’s an album which suffers from two key issues, issues which many albums of this ilk fall foul of; the wrong songs were selected for this experiment, and the wrong approach was taken on the songs that were selected. I use ‘wrong’ subjectively. I’m a minor Marillion fan by all accounts, and while I have my own list of songs I’d like to see given the stripped down treatment, the lifer fans would have personal lists too. I like that they didn’t just pick ‘easy’ songs to play safe versions of, but by the same token many of the songs which were selected simply weren’t very strong to begin with. I’ve often said that the strength of any song (if we’re going by my own personal metrics of melody and emotion) is whether or not it retains its power when stripped down to its most simple parts – a vocal and a single instrument. Some of the songs selected didn’t have that core to begin with, instead relying on atmosphere and what the band and Producers can concoct in the studio. If choosing a song like this, you can transform the thing by pushing the core into a different genre, changing the pace, even twisting the melodies, but for some of the more dull entries on the track list, the band simply cut away the chaff and played slower.

On the other hand, some of the revisions are much more successful and come to close (or succeed in) surpassing the originals. I had a couple I would choose over the originals and a couple that were on par. It’s not an album I see myself returning to, and I don’t expect many others would. While I appreciate the idea of these albums, the only one that ever truly worked for me was The Gathering’s Sleepy Buildings. Still, at some these bands will be no more, and it’s nice that we got one more album from them, even if it may not be essential.

There we have it! I’m away to cut and paste my comments on the second half of the album here, meaning that this will turn out to be quite a long post after all. But that’s Less Is More out of the way in a single post. Up next is a bunch of other side projects. I’ll probably give them a cursory listen but likely won’t post on them unless they change my life. Go listen, go comment, do all of the stuff!

Nightman Listens To – Some Time In New York City – John Lennon (Non-Beatles Series)!

John Lennon: Some Time In New York City - Behind The Albums

Greetings, Glancers! It’s obvious by now that I’ve been disappointed by Lennon’s post Beatles work. I could say the same for all of them really, but I think both McCartney and Harrison have so far made more songs that I’ve enjoyed. I didn’t know a thing about this album until I went to grab the tracklist and saw that it is half studio, half live. I’m not going to listen to the Live half. I’ve I’d absolutely loved Lennon’s post-Beatles work till this point, then I may have dipped into the Live part, but I haven’t so I won’t. Maybe I’ll come back to it some day. Anyway, here’s what I assume is another bunch of angry protest songs.

Woman Is The N****r Of The World‘ is a song I’m aware of more because of its name and surrounding controversy, rather than any musical or lyrical content. In fact, of the ten songs listed, I don’t believe I’ve heard any of them. It has a big brass opening, Lennon’s soothing vocals a counterpoint to the harsher vocals and the great lyrics. He does go in for the hard R at times too. The music is laid back in a New Orleans style, but isn’t overly exciting. There’s a lot thrown in to the production in terms of layering, but little of it stands out. As you’ll hear me say quite a bit, which is unusual for someone who loves long songs, but this could have been condensed easily to under four minutes and increased its impact.

Sisters, O Sisters‘ begins, as is standard for Yoko, with some Yoko warbling. What’s interesting is that the song is actually quite fun – it has a Motown/Supremes/earlier rock vibe. The production is particularly horrible and with Yoko’s vocals being what they are… were they trying to hide how bad they sound by doubling up? That has only made them worse. Stick any other vocalist in here and you’d have a pretty nifty song. A shame as this is very catchy and lovely – it’s like seeing someone butcher your favourite song at a school talent contest.

Attica State‘ opens like a hundred other Blues rockers, including quite a few which The Beatles did themselves. The squealing guitars, shouty vocals, and burping horns compliment each other even if it does all sound jumbled and messy. It keeps to a more adequate length.

Born In A Prison’ is intentionally positioned tracklist wise between the next song and the previous one. Yoko does a lullaby sing-song to remind us of all of the prisons we find ourselves in. The vocals are marginally better, John’s arsing about in the background, and it’s all a little too quaint. Nice sax, if you’re into that sort of thing.

New York City’ is another, uninventive, riff on blues rock standards. It’s all a bit silly when you see what Zep was doing at this point in time. Without having heard this song before, it’s a song I’ve heard a hundred times before. The lyrics are more interesting, but it’s a song which isn’t saying a lot. Solid guitar in there. It’s a topical Chuck Berry influence rocker, without the melodic fun. Again, shave a minute off this and you don’t lose anything.

Sunday Bloody Sunday‘ opens with a much more interesting sound, and evolves into a funky rhythm. Unfortunately the lyrics are a bit of a shambles. I appreciated the sentiment, but coming from Northern Ireland you’re never going to get a simple answer to such a mess. The general consensus in these sorts of songs and movies is that the Protestants living in Northern Ireland shouldn’t be here and should be booted out. Which would be fine if we’d just moved in and took over 5 minutes ago, but all of that shit was the crimes of our (several times over) ancestors and ultimately becomes a naive and racist statement in itself and makes a mockery of his sentiment in Imagine. Good music all round though.

The Luck Of The Irish‘ is a sweet little ditty which seems to deal with the same subject as the previous song. It’s a little too saccharine and on the nose with Yoko’s mythological nonsense, but Lennon’s lyrics include a few great lines. A few more naive ones too – taking sides in this nonsense as it currently stands will never get anywhere – there are simply murderers and monsters from all directions and the best solution would be to nuke it all and start again.

John Sinclair‘ is a folksy rocker which sees Lennon still trying to emulate Dylan. It’s more fun than a Dylan song, and has the benefit of not having Dylan sing on it. Plus the slide guitar is strong with this one, and the ‘got to got to got to’ shenanigans is fairly amusing.

Angela‘ is a sweet song. It’s another Yoko song, neatly constructed and catchy, but harmed by the fact that she’s the one singing on it. Is that Harrison on guitar? It sounds like his tone.

We’re All Water‘ blasts out of the speakers, a fast paced jukebox rocker with plenty of horn parps and jagged guitar. Yoko sings again – they’ve got her voice filtered again so it sounds even weirder than normal. The vocals are more spoken than sung. It’s basically a list of names juxtaposed, with the refrain signifying that we’re all the same. Then Yoko starts screeching, which I don’t mind as much as her singing. It’s damn catchy too.

It’s another sub par album by Lennon. The better songs, musically, are the ones which Yoko performs. Which is a mess because her vocals are not right. I get that you want to work with the one you love, and that when you’re John Lennon you can do whatever the fuck you want. But from a purely musical perspective, from the respective of any listener, there are so many other singers out there that could have filled in and turned the songs into what they deserved to be instead of a point of ridicule. Lennon sounds as if he’s barely trying, while the Yoko songs are genuinely fun, or would be with a stronger singer.

Nightman’s Playlist Picks: Angela. John Sinclair, I guess. We’re All Water.

Let us know your thoughts in the comments!

Nightman Listens To – Psycho Motel – State Of Mind (Maiden Non Maiden Series)!

Review: Psycho Motel – State Of Mind (1995) | Maiden Revelations

Greetings, Glancers! I’m going to try to be a little more consistent with these things. What tends to happen is that, I get bored focusing on one thing for too long and burn out, but just looking at how regularly I post under a specific topic is a little embarrassing. If anyone tunes in and only wants to read my posts on the Iron Maiden members’ non-IM work, or my Madonna or Bon Jovi posts, or whatever, there’s maybe one post on each every few months. That’s a bit crappy. I’m still writing them in the background, but I’m simply not posting them. So yeah, more consistency.

This time around it’s another Adrian Smith vehicle I’m unfamiliar with. From memory, I enjoyed some parts of Smith’s previous band ASAP, but felt their album ran out of steam quickly. I can only assume that his mid-nineties outfit, prior to re-joining Maiden, were more successful given they had two albums. State Of Mind was released in 1995 – near enough Grunge Peak – and hair metal, 80s style metal was all but dead. Maiden themselves weren’t having the best of times, and it was Europe which took the mantle, taking power and symphonic metal in the next logical direction. I’ve no idea what this will sound like. I assume there will be guitars, but whether it’s Maiden-esque, whether it’s hard rock, whether it’s grunge, whether it’s whatever – I don’t know. The name Psycho Motel does feel familiar to me – maybe they appeared in Beavis And Butthead or maybe the were featured in Kerrang at the time. Lets do this.

Sins Of Your Father: I get an instant Alice In Chains vibe from that opening riff, that sludgy guitar tone. It gets more slow, more dirty with the verse and follow-up riff. That’s not Smith on the vocals anyway. The vocals feel like the sleazier side of 80s metal, while the groove and tone feel Seattle inspired. It’s likely the upload quality I’m listening, but the drums feel distant, not as impactful as they should be. This is a slow, sludgy opener, nothing extraordinary, but hard and heavy, and something to knock back a beer to.

World’s On Fire: The tuning seems quite low on these songs so far – again hitting those lower register metal tones. I can’t say I enjoy the shouts of ‘fight’ in the verse – very cheesy a la 80s cheese. The guitars almost feel too distorted – could be the crappy upload though. So far, there’s nothing akin to Maiden at all, so good to see Smith again branching out further. The solo work hasn’t been amazing on these two tracks – more like any number of rock bands from the era. Not the most exciting song, and not as engaging as the opener.

Psycho Motel: Has a thankfully different intro, coming in with acoustic (?) guitars and some near Eastern arsing about before the fat riff drops. It’s another very groovy riff, more of the dirty tone – this one feels more like a single. There’s a greater melodic quality and it feels more coherent. It’s a foot tapper. Reminds me of a heavier, slower Slash’s Snakepit. This is the best song so far, but nothing special.

Western Shore: Starts with an acoustic shuffle, something like Soul Asylum or Mr Big or any of the 80s bands when they decided to have a ballad moment. The vocals work well along with the guitar, if a little Richard Marx-like. In the second verse they drop a string section when I was expecting a drum blast. The drum blast comes for the second chorus. Then there’s a sudden transition into a strange funk jazz rock fusion – an excuse for a bit of volume and twiddling. I’m not sure it fits, but it’s not bad.

Rage: A big crunchy intro leads to a screechy verse where the riffs pause for the vocals and vice versa. There’s some swirly vocal effects in the bridge, and the chorus is a bit of a nothing. It’s all quite bouncy so old school headbangers will get some mileage from the beat and volume, but for someone like me looking to make more of an emotional connection or hoping for something more inventive, there isn’t much to get behind. It’s a short one.

Killing Time: A squealing intro makes way for a great driving riff, which in turn drops away for a much more middle of the road, average rock verse. It’s all quite muddled and none of it makes much of an impact. What I assume is the chorus drops before the second minute mark, and it’s better. Not better enough to save the whole song, but still an improvement. Then there’s some solo stuff and the band fannying about. I’m not sure what this is meant to be, it feels like three separate jams or a batch of unused ideas squeezed into a single song.

Time Is A Hunter: Drums. Chords. The song name gives me Zeppelin vibes. The lyrics definitely give that early bluesy Zeppelin feel. The comparison doesn’t go much further. The melodies aren’t exciting, the music is just sort of ‘there’ and yet in the background. There’s a neater middle section which again offers some slight improvement. It returns to the blues and keeps going for another few minutes.

Money To Burn: A decent twangy riff gets a metal overhaul and segues into a decent verse and then a decent chorus. This one is more catchy than most of the other songs, decent all round. Again, hardly a song to light up anyone’s life, but fun nonetheless.

City Of Light: Does this sound like Peace Sells? There’s something familiar and Mustainey about the song. A siren guitar and some clanging single notes at least offer a taste of atmosphere. The songs feels like it’s building to something, rather than a collection of random unfocused notes and riffs. The bridge into chorus together is a little strange, but does offer a different type of melody. There’s some start/stop going on to which helps the rhythm along.

Excuse Me: Jeepers, this is full on grunge – on the softer side. That verse feels part Bush, part Soundgarden. Man, the vocals and the guitar and the melody is straight out of Seattle. Is this a cover? I don’t think it’s amazing, but it’s different enough from the rest of the album to make it feel unique, and it does have a much greater melodic quality and it feels like a single. There’s that added coherence to the structure. Maybe a minute longer than it should be.

Last Goodbye: These last two tracks seem to be re-release or extra tracks, but I’ll cover them anyway. Assuming this isn’t a Jeff Buckley cover. It opens with some ominous guitar and effects and soundbites before the jump-scare guitar drops with a stomping pace. Aside from the chorus, it’s more of the same really – heavy, but doesn’t leave me with anything interesting to say. It’s just loud, middling rock music which doesn’t demand my attention.

Can’t Wait: This one feels more chaotic, moderately faster, with a touch of funk. The bass is doing some funky bits and it is more melodic in places. But definitely chaotic – a lot of noise, and not a lot of it making much impact.

Not the most exciting album in the world then, even by mid-nineties hard rock standards. The majority of the album just felt like bang average rock songs – not a lot of edge, not a lot of emotion, melody, or originality, but for people who like to have any heavy music to stick on in the background to get them though the day, they shouldn’t have many complaints. I’m including myself in that group. Each song had something I liked, but those best bits never lasted or elevated the song as a whole. The band must have had fun and must have had a measure of success if they returned for another album. I won’t say I’m looking forward to hearing that one, but I’m marginally curious to see if they change their sound or if it’s simply more of the same.

Let us know in the comments what you think of State Of Mind!

Nightman’s Playlist Picks: Psycho Hotel. Money To Burn. Western Shore. Excuse Me.

Nightman Listens To – Wild Life – Wings (Non Beatles Series)!

Album Review: "Wild Life" - Paul McCartney & Wings (1971) - HOKEYBLOG!

Greetings, Glancers! Not content with arsing about on his own and making sweet sweet music with his Missus, McCartney returned to what got him on the ladder in the first place – a band of buddies. Wings is a band I always knew from a young age due to Live And Let Die and I’ve been looking forward to delving into their catalogue to see how the differ from and compare with The Beatles. Of the eight songs listed, I don’t recognise any of them, beyond a cover. Oh dear, it doesn’t look like the album was received very well so this could be a slog.

Mumbo‘ has a lot to live up to, you would think. I assume there was a fair level of hype around this at the time – Paul’s first band after leaving The Beatles. You would think that, outside of whatever singles were released, the album opener would need to kick you in the nuts (with glee). It does begin with a nut-kicking series of screams from Paul. The solo piano notes – you already know I’m not a fan of that particular style – but at least it’s spliced with organ blasts and smatterings of guitar. It’s more loose than what I would have expected from an opener, but the band sound like they’re having fun, which isn’t exactly the vibe you get from the last couple of Beatles albums. It’s quite groovy – I don’t think there’s enough substance to justify the full four minutes, but it does the job for me on first listen.

Bip Bop‘ open like a jaunty back-woods precursor to someone’s baby being eaten. ‘Bip bop’ in other words. It screeches into the Blues lane as the vocals start, while retaining the McCartney rhythm we all know. The vocals are quite unusual, the lyrics a mixture of nonsense and warbling, and with sprinkles of backing vocals from Linda. You see I fall back on mentioning the length of the song when I’m bored – I’m typing this line before the three minute mark and there’s another ninety seconds or so to go. The remaining 90 seconds are essentially identical to any other 90 seconds from the song.

Love Is Strange‘ has a loose feeling again, a riff looping over and over before the drums do something similar, but nifty, then it all pulls together. Is it an instrumental version? It’s almost the two minute mark when the the familiar melody and lyrics begin. It is quite different from the version I know – not a song I have any great love for in the first place, nor do I have anything against it. This feels more like a B-Side – some things I like, others I wonder why they bothered.

Wild Life‘ is over six minutes long, so it better be a masterpiece compared to the previous tracks. A brief vocal intro followed by almost a minute of overlapping chords give way to a lead vocal. Some great yells in the middle of these vocals, though it does feel repetitive. Once the backing vocals join we get a little more depth and density. Halfway now and, it’s a little boring. Not quite tedious, but it’s hardly exciting. The final half is more repetition, more screaming, not a lot more.

Some People Never Know‘ is also over 6 minutes long. If the last song was anything to go by, we could be in for a slog. It opens with some pleasant folk ditty guitars, expanding into an old sitcom intro style. The verses are tidy – nice dual vocals from Paul and Linda – so far so good. This is a simple, old fashioned ballad with a modern 70s twist – a dash of hippy charm, a fluid ounce of McCartney magic, and any arsing about stripped away. Lyrically, it hits that sweet spot of being both personal and universal. It’s maybe longer than it should be, but beyond the final thirty seconds or so of hand drumming, it doesn’t feel drawn out.

I Am Your Singer‘ takes us back to a sub three minute time-frame. It’s a strange, maudlin-toned song with a broken beat which picks up after the thirty second mark. From there we get a catchy melody, flutes, and plenty of vocals of Linda. It’s quite sweet while it lasts.

Tomorrow‘ threatens in its opening seconds a retread of the single piano rhythm I’m always yapping about. Thanks to the eventual beat and the vocal melodies it avoids this. It’s another sweet love song. Lovely harmonies to back up Paul’s lead make this feel like a lost Beatles track.

Dear Friend‘ closes the album. It features a sullen piano opening along with an emotive Paul vocal. The lyrics sound like they are about John. Some percussive nudges drop after the first minute and Paul reverts to moans and ooohs before a huge string surge steers into view. This feels like the album’s centrepiece, and clearly a lot of thought and emotion went into the writing and recording. It probably doesn’t need to be as long as it is, but unlike those in the first half this doesn’t feel as stretched.

There aren’t any bad songs here, but the opening half is let down by a reliance on feeling loose and using ideas which probably sounded good at the time but didn’t translate to an interesting listening experience. These songs tended to be overlong which made them feel more average. Thankfully the second disc is stronger – Paul’s melodic and lyrical prowess comes to the fore and as such the songs feel less like rarities and more like they were put together with effort and passion. In other words, a strong second side does its best to dispel memories of how plain the first half was.

Nightman’s Playlist Picks: Some People Never Know. I Am Your Singer. Tomorrow. Dear Friend.

Let us know in the comments what you think of Wild Life!

Nightman Listens To – Deep Purple – Machine Head (Top 500 Metal Albums Series)!

Greetings, Glancers! It’s finally time to listen to another one of the bands known for laying the ground work for Heavy Metal. Out of all the late 60s, early 70s bands who contributed to the genre’s foundations – Deep Purple are likely the most important alongside Led Zep. I know a few Deep Purple songs fairly well – they are a band you come to early on when branching out in rock and metal’s roots, and they’re a band whose songs you become familiar with when you first decide to play guitar.  Machine Head is their most famous album, and while I’m not sure if I’ve heard all of it, I know I’ve heard most of it at various points. There was a kid who lived on the street I grew up on – his dad (who bore a striking resemblance to Gerry Adams and was therefore the brunt of much pranking around Halloween) was a big Deep Purple fan. He would blast tunes while washing his car. Just a random memory for you – you won’t get this content anywhere else folks!

But before we take a closer look at the tracklist, lets check out that album cover.

The combination of me not being as familiar with the facial features of the band members as I am with other artists, and the warped and blurred puddle marked cover mean I don’t know who’s who. The fella on the right gets the worst of it, his forehead being hoovered up into the psychedelic mire of the upper half, leaving his chin and ‘tache dangling like a swollen scrotum. Elsewhere, fake Syd Barrett is popping up looking all serious like, while on the far left a random college professor seems to have accidentally stumbled into the shoot – his faintly nervous gaze betraying his awareness of an imminent kicking by the rest of the band.

I don’t recall the album being so short – only seven songs and only one of those is over seven minutes long. The big one here is of course Smoke On The Water, but Highway Star and Space Truckin’ I know. I’m sure some of the others will come back to me when I listen. Lets see what Blackmore and co. have to say for themselves.

Highway Star‘ gets down to business off the bat with a series of charging beats and chords and a classic rock yell. The overall force and production is a little thin, weak which means the vocals and percussion lack bite. The drums are top notch, with lots of rattling fills at speed and the instrumental middle is zany fun. The extended solo in the second half is nifty too – more like a repeated series of different riffs up and down the neck. With more oomph in the production this would be an ideal driving song – that’s really the only thing letting it down for me.

Maybe I’m A Leo‘ has a fatter sound, the cymbals do still feel too tinny for my liking, but the lead riff is chunky, accompanied by a funky beat. In terms of metal – this does feel much more in the vein of ‘classic rock’ than metal, like most of the heavy rock bands of the time do. The organ shenanigans and the changes in beat also give it that 70s blues and jazz infusion which a lot of bands of the era had.

Pictures Of Home‘ opens with a splattering of drums before the guitar assault. The vocals still sound distant – they’re just not prominent enough in the mix, but it feels like everything is at an arm’s length rather than being in your face like this sort of music should be. I see Martin Birch was in the studio – usually his work is beefed up more than this, so maybe it’s just the copy I’m listening too. Again I can’t fault the playing – the song has a set structure but is loose enough to allow each member to off-shoot when they desire. Melodically, the song relies on those off-shoots to be interesting as the main vocal and core are plain, but I’m not getting much from it on an emotional level.

Never Before‘ is another slower, funk filled song. The verse raises the tempo and adds a big blues riff while the chorus brings a more notable hook. There are quite a lot of time shifts in the four minutes, including a brief pre-solo mellow phrase. It’s a simple rocker, spiced up with sprinkles of creativity lacking in chart music today.

Smoke On The Water‘ is the one we all know. Big, famous riff, strong chorus. Not a lot to add.

Lazy‘ surges into view with an electronic throng which reminds me of Money For Nothing. It then takes off into a jaunty organ jazz-fest before the rest of the band make up their minds to join in. Is it a 7 minute instrumental? It’s working well at the moment – a collection of riffs and zooming beats, but instruments rarely sustain their value for me for more than a few minutes. Like a lot of these instrumentals, this feels like a jam, except I get the impression this one was more well-practiced and performed than most – it’s tight. Ah, four minutes in we get our first vocal, interesting. Harmonicas now, followed by more vocals and screams. It’s pretty good fun.

Space Truckin‘ has that highly distorted electronic throng sound again – like a lightsaber swung through a brass tube. It’s a riff led song with a fair amount of groove thrown into the mix, and the chorus is one of the snappier sequences on the album. It builds to freak-out levels before the final chorus and the drums are once again the most noticeable instrument. Gillan then goes all Halford for some reason.

That was a little underwhelming, probably because the album is so short. There are no bad songs but even the best songs don’t hit any heights for me. The band sure knows how to play – drums, keyboards, and drums being the highlights while the bass and vocals didn’t have a huge impact on me. The production on the version I’m listening to gave the whole album an unfortunately thin sound – that’s not what you want to feel when you’re a hard playing rock band. While I eventually got used to this, it does still leave me at an emotional distance from much of the music. It is a consistent album – I’d say every song is around the high C, low B grade for me – but really Smoke On The Water is the only song anyone beyond the band’s fans are going to care about. I’ve added a few others to my playlist, but I can’t see me listening to them more than once or twice. While this may be seen as Deep Purple’s most famous record, I’m hoping it’s not known as their best.

Nightman’s Playlist Picks: Highway Star. Smoke On The Water. Lazy. Space Truckin.

Nightman Listens To – Perfume Genius – Set My Heart On Fire Immediately (2020 Series)!

PERFUME GENIUS – ” Set My Heart On Fire Immediately “ | The Fat Angel Sings

Greetings, Glancers, and welcome to my first newly written 2020 Series post of 2023. I know I’m dragging this shit out like a child being torn from its parents, but I hope to finish off the 2020 series in the next couple of months. This will be album 16 of 24 (it was 25 but I removed Harry Styles for some reason). So there’s not many to go, and I’ll prioritize getting this finished before starting something else. Stop starting and start stopping, as they say. I’ll likely do some sort of Round Up ranking post at the end too, ranking the 24 albums by score and maybe some general comments.

Perfume Genius then. Is this a band? A singer? Male, female, or miscellaneous? Was it in the Metal category? Generic Pop? I can’t be arsed pulling up my original post at this juncture, which would surely give me the answer I so dearly do not crave. The artwork points me in no particular direction – a topless gent who looks like he’s spent the time down a mineshaft. Is that the singer? An object of the singer’s affection? A rando? The album title suggests pain, heartache, emotion. Which is just what I need after two Hip Hop albums devoid of those. I’m going in to this completely cold – I don’t know a thing about it and I’ve never heard the name of the artist or the album at the time of writing. By the time I begin the next paragraph, I will have intimate knowledge of both having listened to the album a number of times. Lets do this.

Most of those above questions were answered in the album’s rather lovely opener. Not only is it smooth, melodic, atmospheric, and the sort of subtle opener I generally enjoy in an album, it has a potent lyric, vibe, and voice which had me hooked and hopeful. It’s a powerful opening song, but the album only matches or succeeds this potential two or three more times throughout the album’s run time. There’s a searing frustration permeating my overall thoughts, because so many songs just miss the mark. It’s like watching your favourite football team or played having a solid game, but consistently missing the final product – a misplaced pass, hitting the post, crossing the ball and sticking out your neck only for the ball to graze your scalp and go sailing out of play with no consequence. There are so many positives and potential, but whether it’s personal taste on my part or something unspoken lacking, none of the songs perfectly hit the mark for me.

It’s frustrating because it’s clear there’s talent here, and it’s clear this could have been more impactful for me. Not that my personal feelings matter to the artist, but they matter to me for the purpose of my review. Even with my frustrations, it has been a more positive than negative experience and a few songs have been added to my near-mythical car-driving playlist. The vocals are good throughout, even if they do touch on the nasal at various points, but it’s refreshing to hear something unfiltered these days and great to hear some heart, melody, and emotion in a pop album, especially after my adventures in Hip Hop recently.

In terms of highlights, outside of the opener, Jason, Borrowed Light, Your Body Changes Everything, and On The Floor are the ones to return to. Elsewhere, you can feel the Cocteau Twins influence in the messy Describe and the dull Just A Touch, and Moonbend is a clear riff on Sia’s In Between. I can’t stand Cocteau Twins and In Between is a much more interesting and powerful song, with Moonbend at best a whimpering copycat. Even with that song, and others, which didn’t grab me, there’s usually some minor point of interest – Moonbend going all Rosemary’s Baby in the middle for example. Like quite a few songs on the album, there are potent component parts, but the whole is often much duller than those fleeting moments.

Production wise, it’s top notch, which has generally been the case all the way through the 2020 albums I’ve heard so far. There’s a bit of a seaside vibe throughout and there are many good choices promoting variance in instrumentation, whether it be the harpischord in Jason or the electric pianos and organs in Borrowed Light. It’s and approach which reminds me of The Beatles where they would write the structure of their song on piano or guitar, then head into the studio and say ‘what about if we replace this part with that instrument‘ or ‘what’s that thing over there, how can we stick it into this song to give it something different’?

A few of the slower, lower register songs and more mumbled and artistic efforts don’t do much for me, and bring the overall vibe and quality down for me, making the album plod in places. Leave is a prime example – as a piece of work it’s interesting and has a lot going on in its instrumentation and lyrics, but it’s a slog to listen to. Its pace and sloth is all the more striking given it comes just before the bouncing On The Floor, with its gorgeous melodies and fun synth guitars. Your Body Changes Everything is a dramatic highlight. I would have played the vocals plain, acting as a counterpoint to the synthetic potency of the instrumentation. I’d have tried to push a little more of the drama into the vocals, really bite into those lyrics and put some theatricality into it, accentuating the emotion.

After this mid-point, the album falls into a mire of stunted melancholy. Again, it’s interesting, but a drag to sit through so many songs which never get out of first gear or whose moments of brilliance are all too brief. These are not bad songs, but in the context of a full album play through they bleed into each other and the latter half feels like one mumbled, pained ballad after another. Which, by the end of the album, leaves me feeling somewhat worn out, frustrated, and bored. Going back to the opening paragraph, the overriding feeling I get from the album is frustration – the songs I enjoyed are significantly better than the ones I didn’t, and those songs I fully enjoyed didn’t have enough to get up to an A Grade score. As a whole, it’s a strong enough album that I won’t mind hearing again in its entirety, and those standout songs are solid enough that I’d be curious to see what else the dude has done.


Sales: 3. Didn’t set the world on fire (immediately), but seems to have done okay.

Chart: 3. Very middling, potentially a 2 depending on how you gauge these things, but it still charted Top 30 in US and UK.

Critical: 4. I struggle to give a 5 for such recent albums as critical thought can change even after a few years, but go on and give this a 5 if you want to. That’s because the album was very highly acclaimed, making many end of year charts and generally in the 90s%s in those aggregator sites.

Originality: 3. Personally, a low 3 for me. I didn’t find anything startlingly new here – it’s very much ‘just a pop album’ – but it doesn’t do much of what other pop albums these days do. It’s rich, it’s not over-produced, and it’s pure. In the grand scheme of things, maybe it’s a 2, but based on what I’ve heard recently, it gets a 3.

Influence: 2. I don’t see it influencing many people or musicians.

Musical Ability: 3. Fine, does the job.

Lyrics: 3. There’s a certain poetry there, and there’s a function to the lyrics in serving the vibe of each song. Nothing particularly fresh, no startling one-liners of new perspectives.

Melody: 3. A highish 3, but the best songs aren’t memorable enough for me and the monotonous songs don’t have enough.

Emotion: 4. Inward looking and exposing the artists fears and hopes, the album’s focus on and expression of emotion, is one of its plus points.

Lastibility: 3. We’ll see. The dude seems to pump out a lot of albums in a short space of time, and I don’t know enough about how this compares to those to say that this one, or any of them, will still be played ten years from now. Low 3 for me at the moment.

Vocals: 4. Smooth, expressive, good.

Coherence: 4. The ideas and the music hold together well.

Mood: 3. Drags in places, particularly in the second half, and not in a good way.

Production: 4. Solid.

Effort: 3. Fine.

Relationship: 2. In younger days this may have spoken to me more, but where I am currently I don’t think it gets to a 3.

Genre Relation: 3. This is a strange category – a crap album can get a high score because it sounds like everything else, but a great album can get a lower score because it stands apart. This is a decent, average album which sounds like many other pop albums.

Authenticity: 4. Dude seems to feel the words and the music, and put his whole being into the songs.

Personal: 3. Starting out I felt like the album was going to be a 4, but that second half drags things down. Repeated listens show that there are only a few highlights, but no stinkers.

Miscellaneous: 3. I’m happy for there to be a heartfelt male pop guy who doesn’t seem to be following the crowd and is happy to do his own thing.

Total: 64/100

I would have guessed this would get closer to the 70 mark, but this seems fair enough. Let us know your thoughts and scores in the comments!

Nightman Listens To – Operation Mindcrime – Queensryche (Top 500 Metal Albums Series)!

Sweet Lady of Pain”: The History of Mary in Queensrÿche's Operation: Mindcrime - The Rockpit

Greetings, Glancers! Queensryche. They were ‘one of those foreign bands’ my 10 year old self would have said without a hint of irony. It was a shock when I later found out they weren’t even ‘foreign’. When I used to read metal magazines back in the day, they were one of the bands I felt I knew, purely because they were mentioned and discussed quite a bit, without me ever hearing any of their stuff. At some point though, I did hear them. I had a few friends who had older siblings, which is likely how I got into a lot of music and movies – seeing posters on their bedrooms of things I wasn’t allowed to watch, or was too young to full comprehend beyond thinking it looked and sounded cool. Operation Mindcrime was one of those things – it wasn’t scary and devil-worshippy like some of those foreign bands, but they told stories with their songs and their songs had cool names. Come to think of it, it may have been one of my first exposures to the concept album, though I would have heard Pink Floyd and a lot of Alice Cooper by this point.

I’ve no idea when it was I last heard any of this. In fact, I’m not sure I’ve ever listened to Queensryche beyond what is on this album. Popoff ranks it in the Top Ten metal albums of all time – far above albums I know I love a lot more. It’s time for a re-evaluation. I probably won’t go into much detail with the concept or lyrical side of things – I get the feeling that will require more focus on my part, rather than me listening and typing at the same time.

I Remember Now: The thing I never liked much about Concept Albums (especially Metal ones) are the spoken tracks like this – I mean, Eminem is probably the best at this sort of thing. Alice Cooper and Pink Floyd had the wit to make the spoken part a part of a genuine song. Stuff like this has a tendency to come off as naff to anyone who’s not au fait with prog, and even then it’s touch and go. But it’s okay, this is just their way of setting up the story.

Anarchy X: The album gets a proper introduction with this brief instrumental, a militaristic march and series of chants all heightening the themes of protest and anti-whatever. We get a nice guitar piece and the music builds before blending into –

Revolution Calling: – which has that nice atmospheric guitar tone I always enjoyed. I remember clearly pieces of this, the vocals aren’t exactly my thing now but I used to think it was bad-ass back then, back when every metal singer sounded like they had no balls. The guitars are still good, melodically the verse is a little scattered, the chorus better, the solo strong. Lyrically it’s like a carpet bomb of all the stuff we should be fighting against, again without much focus – politicians are bad, rules are bad, religion is bad, greed is bad – they basically could have sung those four statements and followed it up with the chorus and had the same result.

Operation: Mindcrime: This song starts with a bit of a tease – you always think the drums are going to come in earlier than they do, and when they finally do the song is revealed to be much slower than you anticipated. I wouldn’t go so far as saying it’s funky, but there’s certainly a rhythmic quality to the structure, and the bass is going places where metal songs usually fear to tread. The guitars are the highlight here, without being amazing or being particularly inventive. It’s a song with ideas, just lacking a major hook if you’re into such things.

Speak: This picks up the pace and adds a sense of urgency. The problem is again the lyrics – when you’re doing storytelling in lyrics you don’t leave a lot of room for both the words and music to be strong. Here the music is straightforward and the lyrics are pretty silly and simplified, but we get the point – stuff is bad, we must make it better. You get the impression that this was (and still is) probably taken as a call to arms by both sides of the same coin. Because people are stupid. Another nice solo.

Spreading The Disease: We all know this one. Phat drums give way to guitars and a charging verse. I took this as a ‘lets get angry at rich people’ song or sometimes a ‘drugs are cool’ song when I was young, but most often a ‘whatever the disease is, lets spread it’ song. It’s pretty obvious what it’s all about now… glad to see America has changed since its release. Oh wait. The rich are still rich, and the US still funds wars in other countries to increase the wealth of their 1%? Well, it’s not like that has ever come back to bite them in the ass.

The Mission: A sermon and a bell delivered to the sound of a gun being loaded, before church bells and ominous riffs collide. Church bells and riffs always seem to go together. This is more my style of things – a nice and thoughtful build-up before a throbbing, sinister verse. It’s a pity so many of the melodies and chorus styles are so similar from song to song. Good thing we make up for it with great solos and, here, synth work.

Suite Sister Mary: A near eleven minute epic starts out with some more story, go kill Mary and The Priest etc. We then get a stalking riff conjoined with Omen style chanting, all building up a nice atmosphere. I would have preferred this to continue but the verse largely abandons the good ground work for a more whispering, subtle approach. The verse gets better as it progresses and the storytelling lyrics work more fluidly. The chanting comes back, acting as an interlude before the heavier guitars take us to the next section. There’s a definite grasp at the operatic, at the epic here – melodically it still doesn’t quite get there for me. The various repetitions of the main hook do grow on me, but not quite enough. It’s a song you’ll need to listen to four or five times before any of it will stay with you. There’s some great, epic stuff in the middle which shows the heights the band were aiming for – if you’re doing an album like this you need the balls to shoot for the moon, and the talent to pull it off.

The Needle Lies: A much needed blast of pace highlights this as obvious single or metal club hit – it’s the song you could lift off the album and listen to out of any wider context, it’s the song you’d want to share to get your mates to listen to the album. This is straight to the point, lyrically and musically, and as such is probably my favourite of the album so far. There’s no grand aspiration beyond making a face-melting metal classic and that’s what they do.

Electric Requiem: Of course they follow it up with a brief track of chatter and instrumentation and yells. It’s not skippable, like many similar tracks on similar albums are – I’m looking at you Nightfall On Middle Earth – but it’s not one you’d go looking for either.

Breaking The Silence: I recall liking this one quite a bit when I was younger. It has the atmospheric chugging guitars I like so much, and most crucially it has the melody and emotion to make it all worthwhile. It feels like an 80s Power Ballad and wouldn’t be out of place on one of those Power Ballad or Car Driving 3 CD compilations you see marketed to Dads at Christmas. It’s not quite as cheesy as most of those, but you know me – anything Power Ballad or Power Ballad adjacent I probably enjoy.

I Don’t Believe In Love: This one was pretty famous back in the day too, though I don’t remember much of it. It’s very much in the vein of the last song, though with more of an edge. The lyrics are of course cynical which adds to that edge, but you can still see it as a Power Ballad, the music video likely featuring a sultry vixen dancing in shadows while the singer throws a whiskey baller against the wall and shrieks into the camera.

Waiting For 22: Nice transition into another extended atmospheric intro. The song is just an intro track for the next song, but it works well enough on its own too. It’s not one you’re likely to play much on its own though.

My Empty Room: This one also feels like an introduction, a short build up to the closer. No need for the friend yelling and sudden end though – it’s clearly ripped from The Wall but doesn’t work nearly as well.

Eyes Of A Stranger: The closer begins as another clear rip-off of a very specific song from The Wall but quickly becomes its own thing. The swell of music promises something good, but it falls away for a more mellow verse instead. The volume comes eventually, good vocals sound emotional, and the melodies are fine. Good solo in the middle, not quite the epic closer I was expecting.

Almost every song in this album has a comment on Youtube either comparing this with The Wall or saying it’s better. I know that Youtube isn’t exactly the bastion of intelligence it thinks it is, but just remember that your comments are there forever once published. Even if you delete them. I’ll take the comparisons – they’re both prog albums of a sort, but they are both very different in style, approach, and tone, and subject matter. While this was taking metal in new, more expansive directions, The Wall was basically – nine years earlier – saying every final thing that prog ever needed to say. There’s honestly no comparison between this and The Wall, because there’s not really any comparison between anything and The Wall. 

Still, it’s an album that my opinion of hasn’t really changed over the decades. Mostly it comes down to that most base of Metal opinions – I like the guitars. There are plenty of ideas and obviously a lot of work and thought went into forming the songs and the concept. There are many many better metal albums out there, concept or otherwise. In fact, take the concept out of this and the music isn’t nearly as adventurous as other albums released around the same time. We expect progressive music to be just that – challenging, doing things that others haven’t, or doing things that others have but to the next level. I wasn’t in a position to compare these things when this was released, but in retrospect you can see other acts were already years ahead by the time this came out.

I enjoy the second half more – that’s when the band remembers they’re making music, not just telling a story, and slaps some worthy melodies into the mix. Some of the songs have become metal classics for many people, but for me the biggest and/or best songs hover around the high C, mid B Grade territory – not enough emotion of melody to truly engage me. The world can use these types of albums though, and if anything they can spur others on to better things. If the first half had the melodies of the second, I’d hold this much higher in my estimation. I’ll admit that, as with most albums of this type, it probably takes multiple listens to sink in and to fully get on board, but sometimes you just know it won’t ever be your bag.

Nightman’s Playlist Pics: Breaking The Silence. The Needle Lies. I Don’t Believe In Love.

Nightman Listens To – Imagine – John Lennon (Non Beatles Series)!

Greetings, Glancers! This is the big one, right? This is the one John Lennon album I’ve known (about) most of my life, possibly due to the impact and fame of the title track. That song is one of the most acclaimed and famous of all time – I can’t say I’m its biggest fan – but I do enjoy it. One other song on the album that I know fairly well, is one I’ve never been a huge fan of. Of the remaining eight tracks, I don’t believe I’ve heard any of them, but we’ll soon find out. I know the album frequently makes Best Of lists, so I have high (ish) hopes.

‘Imagine’ is peerless in terms of fame and impact. It is very pretty while avoiding being twee. The lyrics I go back and forth on – simplistic and idyllic  – yes, wouldn’t a world like that be wonderful, but it glosses over too many complications and emotions. The fact that it was written by a millionaire never mattered to me, but I can understand that argument. Anyway, it’s lovely, you already know.

Crippled Inside‘ opens in similarly lovely fashion, almost like Across The Universe. Then it transforms into some honkey tonk Ringo-esque slice of whimsy. This one, I enjoy the lyrics that I’m picking up. Is he aping Dylan in the vocals, or just generic Country stylings? The music is of course a piss-take, but it’s amusing and catchy enough.

Jealous Guy‘ is the other song I knew – more from the cover than Lennon’s original. This is much better than Roxy Music’s take. I like that it’s honest, I like the strings. I appreciate the simplicity. Still, it has that dreary feel that many of the piano led Beatles songs have – a little touch of guitar or, anything really, to take away from the piano could make it better in my eyes, but most would disagree.

It’s So Hard‘ sounds like a heavier take – it takes old fashioned Blues rhythms and adds a sprinkle of sass. The lyrics, again, are amusing but I can’t take the music all that seriously. You can dress up this sort of Blues anyway you like, but it remains musically unimpressive. I could accept an argument for the banal struggles and the saucy lyrics being deliberately placed alongside cliched Blues riffs to draw conclusions between both.

‘I Don’t Want To Be A Soldier’ opens with another dirty rock sound. Lennon always seems to employ this reverb on his vocals… I never like that effect on vocals. This does feel more modern, probably thanks to the production having more colour and depth. Parts of this I think I have heard – the ‘I don’t want to be a soldier mamma’ is very familiar. Sadly it’s quite tuneless. There’s no need for it to pass the three minute mark – six minutes is inexcusable.

Gimme Some Truth’ opens the second side with a mouthful of fury. It’s angry and sweet and the same time and sees John falling back on his talent for spurting words in a sharp, poetic, staccato fashion. This is more to my tastes, not quite punk because it sounds quite pretty in places, but there’s enough harsh quality to the vocals and lyrics and guitars to align it with the heavier music of the time.

Oh My Love’ is… ooh, much more to my tastes. Slow, sad, lovely melding of guitar and piano. There’s the vocal reverb again. Luckily the melodies are wonderful too – with the lyrics combined it does veer awfully close to being saccharine, but I’ve never had a problem with that as long as its honest. This flip flops between major and minor freely which also stops it becoming too sugary. I’ve heard parts of this somewhere in time.

How Do You Sleep‘ is a pretty infamous song, but I don’t think I’ve actually heard it before. Noted as being an attack on Paul, in response to an attack by Paul, the lyrics are amusing but still feel petty. We know John was a defensive little prick at times, with a massive yet fragile ego. He would make all these attacks and mistakes and dismiss them as jokes subsequently, rather than admit to them. Of course this totalled up to him coming across as not the most trustworthy or genuine, even though I’m sure he was. Back to the song. After that loose opening the slow beat takes control and accomplishes quite a funky rhythm. Solid Cowboy strings when they come, solid solo work from Harrison I presume. Strong organ work to finish.

‘How?’ opens with a question. And continues with more questions. The verses are broken up like neat little pauses which seems to accentuate the confusion in Lennon’s mind – every thought is followed by a moment of contemplation. It’s close to being quite repetitive, but the pauses and melodies keep the sum fresh and engaging. Tasty strings in what I’m taking to be the chorus.

Oh Yoko‘ closes the album, kicking off with a pleasing relaxed jukebox pop rock song. It’s very sweet, easy melodies and an atmosphere which makes me think of pleasing memories of love and friendship and sunny days and long warm nights. It would again be twee if it wasn’t for how unabashed and heartfelt and adorable it all is. See, it is possible to come across as honest. Hell, even the harmonica doesn’t ruin things.

A much stronger second half drastically raises my opinion of the whole album – the first half features the hits, but as mentioned those hits aren’t necessarily personal favourites of mine. The more rock infused songs on the first half feel tame given the output of other bands of the time, and the melodic hooks aren’t quite sharp enough. The second half though finds almost everything hitting the mark successfully and there are plenty of songs I look forward to listening to again. Not as consistent then as the recent albums by Paul and George, but I’m happy to have found some great new music.

Nightman’s Playlist Picks: Imagine. Gimme Some Truth. Oh My Love. How Do You Sleep. How? Oh Yoko.

Nightman Listens To – Connie Francis – Jealous Heart (1966 Series)!

Jealous Heart by Connie Francis (Album, Traditional Pop): Reviews, Ratings, Credits, Song list - Rate Your Music

Greetings, Glancers! When I said I was doing this – listening to every album of 1966, I really meant it. Putting aside the genres and performers I don’t like, and going all in, at least until I can’t do it anymore and end up quivering under a bog. Which brings me neatly to Connie Francis. I don’t know much about her, aside from the obvious – she’s a singer and an actress and even though her heyday was in the 50s, she’s still going today. I’ve heard some songs by her before, mostly dreary choral ballads and pop which I didn’t like. I… I just hope this isn’t country. Wikipedia doesn’t even have an entry for this album so these are indeed uncharted waters. Some dude has helpfully uploaded the album to Youtube, so if any of these song titles are incorrect or not even on the album – go moan at him.

Jealous Heart: A big swell of strings, but in the weepy old decrepit style. Then Country ballad guitars. Fuck. It’s not really Country, but I associate it as such. The voice is good, clear, if not exactly my thing. The melodies are box-ticking exercises – you hear the first part, and you can finish it precisely yourself without hearing it. There’s a whining quality in the vocals in some words. Lets hope the album is short.

If I Ever Get Lonely: A sweeter sound, but still very much that song style which I was dreading. Say what you will, the lyrics are still marginally more interesting than what’s in the charts these days. There’s something odd about the vocals – almost like they are higher or more powerful than they need to be – the band is playing around 6 or 7, but Connie’s on 11. Awful talking part. Better chorus – don’t need the backing vocals.

Everything I Have Is Yours: Guitars shimmering. That’s a more unusual vocal melody. Belted out. Becomes more generic as it progresses. Soppy guff, but she is best when she hits and holds the big notes.

If You Ever Change Your Mind: Brief string blast. Reminds me of Trailer Park Boys. Annoying backing vocals – get rid. The song themes are all very similar – someone has left but I’m still here if you want me. Have some self-respect. I’m surprised stuff like this was still flying in 1966 – it sounds like something from twenty years earlier.

Do I: Man those backing vocals are like tar in my ears, followed by someone shoving their balls in my face. It’s the same whining Country ballad tone and rhythm as several other songs. Man, it’s early, but I already need some metal.

Fair Weather Lover: More of the same. Same rhythm and tone – check. Terrible backing vocals – check. Clinky piano – check. Moaning about love instead of going and getting some – check. This would be unlistenable if not for Connie’s voice.

Ivory Tower: The ‘I love you’ part was nice, I guess.

Once A Day: It would have been great if she’d said ‘once a day, once a day, have a wank’ instead. Or eat and apple. At least this one has a different rhythm and the lyrics are more self-deprecating. Still moaning, but at least this time it felt funny.

My Foolish Heart: Good vocals. The strings are better.

I’m Falling In Love With You Tonight: Better musically – the cascading piano and little guitar runs compliment the idea of falling, and the melody is allowed to be kept pure – no interference, or not much, from backing voices. It just meanders too much.

Nevertheless: I’ve run out of things to say. I’m drained by the monotony of it all. I know I’m not the most creative when it comes to writing these things, mainly because I’m typing as I’m listening, and the music pulls down my spontaneity if it’s crap. She’s singing some stuff about love.

So Long Goodbye: So long, goodbye, and thank Vader for that. Nothing here for me.

Connie’s a good singer – no complaints there. She has a David Lynch vibe. The songs are boring, the lyrics make me want to push her down a flight of stairs – probably because she’d fall in love with me. I’m sure she’s a great person, I’ve no idea who wrote the music or lyrics, but neither are good. Just not for me at all. Is this a generational thing? Is it me?

Let us know in the comments what you think of Jealous Heart in the comments!

Nightman’s Playlist Picks: N/A

Nightman Listens To – Ram – Paul McCartney (Non Beatles Series)!

Paul McCartney / Linda McCartney: Ram Album Review | Pitchfork

Greetings, Glancers! At the time of writing, I am pumping out these Nightman Listens posts. I can’t say when I’ll get around to posting them – could be months or years from now (almost three years, present day Nightman), but I am writing a hell of a lot. Which means these reviews will probably feel very generic and samey. Oh well, there’s only so many things I can think of saying in the spur of the moment when I listen to these songs. Today it’s McCartney time again, and it looks like he was pumping out work too – this album coming a year after his last. Lets hope there’s some good stuff – I don’t think I’ve heard any of these before.

Too Many People‘ kicks us off. It’s an abrupt intro – a quick slice of guitar and a high pitch vocal before your traditional intro settles the nerves. Any experimentation doesn’t get in the way of the song being good. I don’t think he ‘sounds like McCartney’ here. No complaints, a solid song I can tap my foot too – a decent double melody in the chorus and the ‘that was your first mistake’ section. Good marching drums and a blistering solo or two betwixt the overlapping guitar parts.

3 Legs‘ is Paul aping ye olde Blues. His vocals are pretty close to mimicking the old masters and the lyrics and chorus offer some quirks to make it more enjoyable to me that your standard blues material which bands like The Stones were putting out. The final moments move into a dirty phat beat – nice.

Ram On‘ starts with a bit of piano, a bit of talking, then a bit of ukulele. It’s not as twee as most ukulele crap you hear these days, maybe because the vocals feel mournful? Is that Linda singing in the background? There’s joy in the chorus, there’s a freewheeling looseness, I love the extended ‘ahh’ vocals

Dear Boy‘ is an Angel episode, I think. I’m always a touch wary of these piano based songs now as they tend to go down the dreary route for me. This points down that road at first but veers off to the side just enough – like a dirt path within line of sight of the dreary route, increasingly shrouded by trees. Now I’m thinking about old BMX tracks I used to shoot along. It gets better as it goes on.

Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey‘ – is this an Only Fools And Horses thing? I don’t think it was around in 1970. A smooth verse, not quite melancholy, just smooth and relaxed. Great swelling of the backing instruments. Vocal ticks and banter. The middle part stretches out a little longer than I would have liked, but then it shifts presumably to the Admiral section with a new beat and tone. Paul’s doing funny voices again. I realize I’m bopping side to side as I type and listen. Then it speeds up again and a wry smile sparks up on my face. More changes in the final moments. It’s good.

Smile Away‘ opens with a slower count than I Saw Her Standing There. Does this feel a like Status Quo? I think it does. Talky vocals. Funny lyrics. The whole album so far brims with a sense of fun and humour, like Paul is 100% happy to be recording whatever the hell he wants. Sometimes that can be bad for the listener – this is a bit of nonsense – but it’s infectious and catchy. The whole band lets loose in the last minute or so.

Heart Of The Country‘ has that music hall, Arthur Askey feel to the vocals. Paul loves all that stuff, I…. don’t. More vocal tics. Still, it somehow isn’t annoying – again I think it’s that Paul is having such fun which translates to me as something I can’t dislike, even if I never choose to listen to it again.

Monkberry Moon Delight‘ opens with another stonking rhythm – piano, up down bass, jangling guitars, and shouting vocals. I like it. I’m not sure why he choose the vocal approach, but I like it. I can’t grasp any rage or such on the lyrics but to be honest I haven’t been paying attention. There’s Alice Cooper meets Hallowed Be Thy Name in the guitars. Could have had a minute cut out though.

Eat At Home‘ feels like a more traditional old school rock n roll number. And it’s still fun – a cool combo of riffs, Linda’s vocals heighten things again. None of these songs are amazing but they do have Paul’s trademark melodic sensibility, and they are stupidly fun which means most of the cracks or reasons for me to complain are smoothed over.

Long Haired Lady‘ is another song with an abrupt opener. It sounds like it’s about sex. Linda, lots of instrumentation. Lots of changes in tone, including your standard Paul sound. This probably has my favourite production of them all so far. It does feel a tad stretched at times – particularly towards the end with the repetitions of ‘love is long’ – or is it ‘love is love’? A good minute or so could have been chopped from this too.

Reprise‘ is more of Ram On.

The Back Seat Of My Car‘ opens in somber, night-drenched fashion. The verse takes it into major key territory which completely takes it away from what I was expecting. Of course it’s still nice, but I was hoping for something else. Like the other songs this one goes in a few different directions, with new instruments popping up to aid those transitions. I’m still surprised (not really the correct term… pleased maybe) that it sounds so fresh and modern. It doesn’t feel dated to me in any way – but of course I’m not someone who listens to the radio every day to hear what actually is modern. A mini epic, but doesn’t quite do it for me.

Another Day‘ is a sweet little song of simple observances. Pure love, and again the joy drips from every phrase. It’s very easy, laid-back happiness rather than the either abundant or forced sentiments found in The Beatles stuff. It feels simple musically, but there is quite a lot going on – not just the changes in time and tone, but little flickers and accentuation of a particular instrument.

Oh Woman, Oh Why‘ opens with a throbbing beat, then the guitar joins for a neat groove. Then the vocals and wtf. I mean, he’s a Beatle, he can do whatever the hell he wants. It’s a little Led Zep, a little Bon Scott. Again, it’s Paul what he wants and having fun with it. I probably would have taken a straighter vocal over this, but it’s not bad.

Well that may just be the best solo album yet. Some of the other albums have more highs, but this feels like the most consistent, certainly the most fun. All Things Must Pass was great, but that last bonus disc lost me, Plastic Ono was hit and miss. That being said, the best songs here are, in my current estimation at least, a notch under The Beatles best stuff. This is mostly low B grade material, but it’s almost all in that category while the other albums had a range from A-D. That means the bulk of the material will make my playlist, but whether they drop off or remain in my, sigh, STAYLIST is up for future debate.

Nightman’s Playlist Picks: 3 Legs. Ram On. Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey. Smile Away. Monkberry Moon Delight. Eat At Home. Long Haired Lady. Another Day.