Nightman Listens To – Madonna – Evita

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Nightman Listens To – Incredible String Band – Hangman’s Beautiful Daughter (Top 1000 Albums Series)


Greetings, Glancers and what the balls is this!? Lets not beat around the bush here – I have no clue what this is. Is this literally a string band? Or is it some proto-hipster name? Dear Lord, I have visions of some marching band monstrosity. I’ve never heard of the album, I’ve never heard of the artist…. I… I don’t have high hopes for this one. Prove me wrong boys/girls/strings… prove me WRONG.

‘Koeeoaddi There’: Arggh, instant vocals. Wavering all over the place. Wicker Man. Guitar. Sitar. What’s going on? Hippies. Didgeridoo? Too many things. Can’t focus on the lyrics as there’s other stuff happening. Loose structure. Now some sort of bells. Loose. Freestyle. Feels like a bunch of boys playing whatever the hell pops into their head in one take with no previous planning. Odd accent. People. Now trying Bollywood vocals. Lots of words. Other voices. Claps and clicks. Fish on a dish. Means?

‘The Minotaur’s Song’: Piano. More singing. Sounds Irish (yes, I know it’s Scottish) so that instantly puts me off. Still, it’s pretty funny though I’ve no idea if that is intentional. Lots of emphasis on certain words to give more comedy theatrical parts. Backing voices. This one has a more traditional structure, I guess. Jaunty. One of those songs I’d stick in a playlist for a party – once everyone is lulled into a false sense of security by other songs, this pops on and generates a collective ‘WTF’. Funny high pitched ‘can’. Claps. End.

‘Witch’s Hat’: Guitar. Minor. Major. Certainly. Clearly Wicker Man. Spooky. Flute jump scare. La la la. Monkey. One for drugs. The Witch’s Hat part is cool. I’m not a fan of the wavering vocals though. More la la las. Clearly taking the piss. End.

‘A Very Cellular Song’: Thirteen minutes, oh goody. Strings and things. Parts. Nice bit. Catchy bit. Goodnight refrain. They should play this in Church instead of, you know, ‘New born baby you’re a sinner and you’re fucked’ or whatever they actually play. Actually, that sounds pretty cool too. Too many goodnights. Silence. Michael Jackson. Who would Bruce? Hilarious mess. Kazoo. Saying things. Prancing hippies. Scratchy violin. Organ. More guitar mandolin stuff. Who would mouse? Burn some into muffins, chomp, 20 minutes later, and you’re on your back with your feet in a box reciting whatever random fragments pop into your head. Then laughing because someone said ‘Thierry Henry’. Voices. Talking. It’s not great guys, lets be honest. Slithering and squelching. I’ve recorded this sort of thing before and I’m fairly certain anyone with the slightest musical ability, drugs, and a 4 track has done the it to. Yeah, it goes on for a few more minutes.

Mercy I Cry City’: Falling bits. Guitars, flutey stuff, yeah, more of the same chaos. Snakes. Yeah, pollution, that’s bad. Litter, that’s bad. Neon, that’s… bad? Yeah, everything’s bad. Apart from drugs. And shitty countryside, freezing cold, cattle-corpse stained pastures where only pneumonia and desolation lies – that’s great though. Fools.

‘Waltz of the New Moon’: Singing. Wavering. Harp or something. Music fine, vocals ridiculous. Man it just keeps going and going until you buck the cd out of the car. There’s a fire king’s daughter – there’s always a fire king’s daughter.

‘The Water Song’: Someone failing in their attempt to flush an enormous dump. Wicker Man again. Praising the little brook while sacrificing a Christian child. God made a song when the world was new. It certainly wasn’t this shite. I need a slash.

‘Three Is a Green Crown’: Starts brilliantly. Then the vocals start and it falls to shit. Beatles. This is probably the best song so far, ominous. But sort out those vocals, jeebus. Right, wrap it up, 5 minutes was plenty.

‘Swift As The Wind’: Guitar. Plant voice. Sex noise. Slapping. Again it would be nicer with some regular vocals, but that ain’t the point. Chant the demons away. Repeat.

Nightfall‘: Voice. Sitar. Nightfall. It would be lovely if it wasn’t so crap. Some nice string bits. End.

What Did I Learn: Nothing really, aside from who the band are and what it sounds like. If someone says ‘Stoned hippy poets with too many instruments make music’ then you already know exactly what this will sound like without listening.

Does It Deserve A Place In The Top 1000 Albums Ever: Once again I’ll have to defer and assume that this was influential. Indeed I can hear later bands who were possibly influenced by this. But does that mean it’s actually good? Good then and good now? No. The answer is no. I appreciate it for what it is, and I like the loose feeling. But it’s mostly junk that I have no doubt anyone else could record with similar results. By all means make the music, absolutely make it, that’s what it’s for… but best ever? Ha. HA!

Colin Larkin’s Ranking – 408

Nightman Listens To – Bryan Adams – 11

Greetings, Glancers! We are well and truly off the beaten, choked, eviscerated, and charred path now. Yes, that’s right – I have not heard any piece of any song on this album. Mr Adams released his 11th studio album imaginatively titled The Cardboard Cut-Out Breasts Symphony but then changed to the more palatable 11 in 2008. A lot of other bands and artists have had albums entitled 11 but I haven’t heard those either, so I’ve no idea why I even mentioned it. Just filling up space I guess. What do you call a guy with leaves in his hair? Russell. 

The album made it into the top ten in various countries – not the US – and was received with critical nonchalance. I wonder what I will think. What do you think? What do you call a guy who only sleeps in front of doors? Matt! Oh look, there’s 11 songs too. I wonder if the albums lasts 11 minutes.

Tonight We Have The Stars. Guitar and swirling. Atmosphere. Vocals. More swirling. Decent though not overly exciting. His vocals sound a little odd in the chorus. He sounds younger or something, less gruff. Definitely written to be a hit, but not sure it has big enough hooks. A decent start.

I Thought I’d Seen Everything. Fading in. Chord clang. Distant beats. More chords. Vocals. Nice verse. Wholesome. Drums. Verse again, seems okay. Good chorus. So far these sound like two middle of the road commercial soft rock songs – better than average, maybe better than what you’d expect from someone at this point in their career, but definitely not strong enough to win over fans or stand alongside his big hits. A tier below, but better than a lot of his standard album tracks.

I Ain’t Losin’ The Fight. Guitars. Harmonica. Don’t be going all country on me now. Slow steady beat. Piano. American dad rock. Building. Not much of a change heading into the chorus meaning this comes off as little one note. Lots of boxing lyrics. He should name drop Apollo Creed. ‘Baby you got everything I need/Like a ring, a crowd, and Apollo Creed’. More easy listening than rock.

Oxygen. Guitars. Faster. Drums. Faster. More atmosphere. Low register. Beat doesn’t change for the chorus but sounds more urgent. Another decent track, maybe would have been something more if he’d written it in his heyday. Probably the best track so far, a little more edge. He has shouted ‘come on’ in every song so far though. He seems quite adamant that he needs oxygen every day. I’m fairly sure we all do, bud.

We Found What We Were Looking For. Yawn noise. Light beats. Light vocals. More decent verse work. Oh, oh, strings. Building. Guitar blast. Slow down. That was a weird change of beat and sound. More strings. This one is growing on me, even though it’s nothing special. It’s very nice and I could happily listen to it again. Not so sure about the middle section which pulls away some of the momentum.

Broken Wings. More slow MOR country rock stuff. Fine, not bad, not great, not anything.

Somethin’ To Believe In. Guitars. Vocals. A little plain. Strings coming in. Rest of band. Backing vocals. One to slow dance to but not very exciting. Still has a country vibe. Sudden pause. Key change. Same. Bit boring.

Mysterious Ways. Piano and guitar. Slow again. Strings. I am having difficulty finding the album on youtube so I’m listening to some of these as live versions. This sounds familiar. Plain verses. Big ‘ohohoooh’. Funky organ. Slow chorus too. A little boring again.

She’s Got A Way. Digi beats. Slow again. Piano and vocals. Absent guitars. Now guitars. Bulding. Yeah it’s awfully cheesy but sincere. I’ve always wondered how people can keep writing love songs after so many decades. Like I keep saying, there are other things to write about. He isn’t saying anything new here so it’s all extremely familiar ground. Fine but forgotten after five minutes.

Flower Grown Wild. Apparently this was written for or about Amy Winehouse. Simple chords, nice lyrics. Nice melody. The chorus is mostly wank. In fact, all of the song is pretty good except for the chorus – it needed something more powerful.

Walk On By. Guitar. String. Greyhounds again. Will he say ‘come on’ or ‘lets go’ again? Slow. Very plain. Simple. I assume this is supposed to be inspiring, but it’s too plain with nothing to grab you.

All in all this is exactly the sort of album you would expect Adams to release at this stage of his life. There is nothing new, no experimentation, no chances taken, but for his many existing fans that won’t be a problem. It lacks the energy and hits of his early days but where that is lacking he makes up for it with plaintive, easy listening ballads which will always find an audience. Again by now he has written so many songs of a similar style, structure, and sound that many are blending into one – there are a few songs here with enough verve or which generate enough interest that I would listen to them again, but outside of those I can’t see myself ever returning to this album.

Let us know in the comments what you thought of 11 if you have heard it!


Nightman Listens To – David Bowie – Lodger


Greetings, Glancers! We’re back in the weird and wacky and often infuriating musical world of Monsiour Bowie and his thirteenth album Lodger. I’ll be honest and say that it’s not one I really know anything about – I never hear anybody talking about it and I don’t recall seeing it in many Best Album lists. That will probably mean it turns out to be my favourite by him so far. Well then, I see no sense in ‘anging ’bout.

Fantastic Voyage. Drums. Guitar and piano. Familiar Bowie vocals and beat. A little woozy and gospel. Building. Big note. Sounds like the lyrics are just as vital today. A nice start.

African Night Flight. Noises. Worse noises. Bangs. Tribal space loops. Rapping. This is certainly different. Can’t help but smile at this one. I mean, it’s not good but it’s certainly hypnotic, ambitious, and draws you in. I think I wold like this more with multiple listens.

Move On. Guitar phased. Galloping. Deep vocals. So a lot of this is being inspired by Africa. Name dropping other places. Very loose. None of the songs have had a traditional structure or obvious hook yet, though each has been interesting in its own way and not off-putting. Shouty vocals now.

Yassassin. Jaunty guitars and organs. Reggae beat. Arabian string sounds. Arabian vocals. It’s interesting again, another one with a sound different to the songs before it. So far these are all songs that are difficult to capture on first listen – they seem dense and mysterious and will only reveal their secrets after a few more goes.

Red Sails. Low. Building drums. Faster. Asian vocals and noises. A little spacey. Crazy guitar. Crazy vocals. Like a bunch of space pirates on acid. It’s okay, it’s a little too close in pace and general style to his glam stuff, but different enough in sound to not put me off.

DJ. Drums. Disaster strings. Funky. Bass loopy, guitar disco. Lyrics sound like he is taking the piss out of DJs for self important. Goes on a bit too long.

Look Back In Anger. Fast. Boxing ring bells. Great drums. Guitar spikes. Good vocals. Another interesting one that does its own thing.

Boys Keep Swinging. Well, I know this one. Or more accurately, I know the Susanna Hoffs cover from her mostly crappy debut solo album. I haven’t heard the original before. That Hoffs album has notoriously bad production, this sounds better instantly. I can see why she chose to cover it, but it’s not amazing. Good bass. These last albums have all had fantastic musical work from the surrounding band. Solo. Sounds an awful lot like some of the solos on The Holy Bible so I assume the Manics borrowed this sound.

Repetition. Guitar chord. Bass weirdness. Falling through a dream. Dazed wandering through a crowded foreign city. Sounds like a song about beatings. The sound and song title suggesting madness and inevitability and no escape? It’s another weird one, but okay.

Red Money. More weirdness. Military beat, off kilter bass. Off kilter everything. This is slow and mesmerizing again, but along with the previous song feels like a slow down, or a peddle off the gas, both in terms of pace and quality. Still good though, but maybe a little too experimental for most.

I said this would probably be my favourite because I didn’t know anything about it, and honestly it’s pretty close. As I mention a few times above, I think the songs here demand multiple listens and unlike some of his other stuff I am more than willing to stick this one on again – it could be that the songs don’t work on a personal level after I hear them more and are more like cutesy tracks that only work once, but I expect them to grow on me more. There are no obvious hits here so I understand why this one is not rated as highly as others, but there are no weak songs here and each one is quite different.

Let us know in the comments what you think of Lodger. Were you around when it was first released? How do you rank it alongside Bowie’s other works?

Nightman Listens To – Madonna – Ray Of Light!


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Nightman Listens To – Bon Jovi – Crush


Greetings, Glancers. Bon Jovi have always been seen as an 80s band, but we know they had enormous success through the 90s too. After 1995’s These Days, the various members had gone and done their own things to varying degrees of success and by the time 2000 rolled around the musical landscape had changed dramatically. Could the band see in the millennium with another hit, and would anyone even care anymore?

You probably already know the answer to both of those questions, but if you don’t, here it is; yes. Crush was an instant smash, thanks to a string of hit singles and a sound which was both quintessentially Bon Jovi, but also found a way to speak to modern listeners. Even critics jumped on the bandwagon. I remember when the album was released that both people who outright refused to listen to guitar based music were listening to it, along with people who considered the band too soft and middle of the road. It’s an album I was pretty familiar with at the time, but haven’t listened to in a good ten years, so lets see how much I remember and if it holds up.

It’s My Life‘ was the first single and was of course a hefty hit. Harking back to their 80s sound with voicebox and references to Tommy and Gina, and reminds fans within seconds why they first fell in love. It’s big and brash, has a huge chorus, features lyrics designed to be belted out in a crowd, and is as simple a pop rock song as you’ll ever get. It’s not quite as euphoric as Livin’ On A Prayer, but it comes pretty close.

Say It Isn’t So‘ is another big single – they really front loaded this album with the big hitters – this can be a risky business if you leave the rest of the album without any instantly recognizable tracks. This one opens with an easy swagger, filtered vocals, and guitars reminiscent of many of the softer rock bands which were having hits around the time. I remember the chorus being stronger, listening now the vocals are really weird, the effect is too heavy and they waver around too much. There’s a strange keyboard part in the middle too, reminding us that 2000 was an odd time for rock music, as if it was unsure what direction it needed to move in.

Thank You For Loving Me‘ is a song I’m very familiar with and don’t really need to listen to again here. It was one of the songs my wife and I picked for our wedding day – she wasn’t having any outright metal for the ceremony, so the compromise was Bon Jovi. Nevertheless, it’s a great song and one of their best ballads. Sure it’s soppy stuff, but it’s good soppy stuff.

Two Story Town‘ opens with more turn of the millennium production – I can’t really say it’s dated but it is definitely a product of its time. This is a decent mid tempo rocker which doesn’t go full country – it flies under the radar but is good enough while it lasts. It’s clearly a step down from the first three songs.

Next 100 Years‘ starts with marching drums and a Sambora explosion before pulling back to a simple melody. It’s a good one too – nothing startling – and it builds up to an average chorus. It’s a song I try to like but it misses the mark while trying lots of different things. The brief bridge, the strings, and the solos are all good though – the song tries to go all Hey Jude for the ending, which doesn’t quite work, but it doesn’t totally collapse either. I like how they abandon this for the final minute and race towards the end with an epic solo and zippy violins.

Just Older‘ has another drum into, and again gets off to top speed for a brief moment before restraining itself for the verse. More lyrics about dreams and nostalgia fit well with the melodies and while the chorus doesn’t hit the heights, it’s fine. The verse and chorus compliment each other well, rather than having one outweigh the other. There’s another nice, twiddly solo leading into a softer section, though you know it’ll end with a bang.

Mystery Train‘ begins in acoustic fashion before the organ and electric guitars come in gently. I’ve always quite liked this one – it feels understated and genuine and again the verse and chorus are like glue. It feels like a song that most people will overlook or forget easily, but I think it’s one of their better non-singles – it doesn’t need to be so long though.

Save The World‘ starts steadily – drums, lots of string bends, and lots of violins. Those ‘education’ lyrics are a little cringeworthy, and the rest of the words feel cheesy, but it’s all well meaning. The melodies are great in places, but they are usually followed by something flatter rather than sustaining the quality. Again it feels too long, but it’s another fine song that just misses out on being really good.

Captain Crash And The Beauty Queen From Mars’ is Jovi going Bowie. Not really, but the name sound that way. Lyrics too. It’s a softer effort but a catchy one. This has single written all over it. It doesn’t have a huge chorus or anything, but it moves swiftly and I can see a lot of people enjoying it on sunny days. An easy love song, a little bit of poking at and making fun of young love while also revering those feelings.

She’s A Mystery‘ goes full ballad. That’s often a good thing for Bon Jovi, but sometimes a mess. This is a good one though, understated and subtle. It is missing a high point, instead happy to remain on a level. Verse and chorus melt into each other with the drums and guitar not really changing throughout. I like the backing vocals, I like the middle bridge, but it never reaches for that peak.

I Got The Girl‘ opens softly – low bass, light beat, whispered vocals. It suddenly bursts open for the chorus leading to a faster pace and mid level volume. It’s all pretty sweet, lyrically, melodically, and yes it is catchy too. This seems like another of those underrated ones that it’s easy to forget about or miss. No need for that extended ending.

One Wild Night‘ starts like a Disney song from the 1940s before moving forwards 40 years to the band’s 1980s heyday. This is pure 80s played 20 years too late. It’s good though, if you like that sort of thing. It’s as raucous as any of their bigger hits and has all the trademarks – chorus, guitars, melody, shouting backing vocals. The ‘na na na’ parts will get you singing along and the weaker among you may even roll down the windows to join the chorus.

Overall Crush is consistent – it opens big and closes big, and the middle has a mixture of ballads and rock standards. There aren’t any truly bad songs, while the best songs are pretty good examples of what the band does well. A couple of the non-singles are good enough to stick in your rotation but like most of their albums the majority of the album tracks are interchangeable. Still, it’s a decent album from the band and the last one I really know anything about – from here on out it’s uncharted territory for me. Next time around I’ll be checking out Bounce – an album that I’ll probably know a couple of songs from. We shall see. Let us know in the comments what your thoughts and memories of Crush are!

Nightman Listens To – Roxette – Look Sharp!


Greetings, Glancers! Today we’re back to Sweden and glossy pop rock hits. Roxette’s second album was a massive hit around the world thanks to a string of new singles which saw them becoming late 80s superstars. Look Sharp! is an album that I would have been very familiar with in my younger days – I’m sure it would have been played in the car journeys from my house to our summer caravan park many times, though looking at the tracklist there are quite a few I don’t recognize. Some of the ones I do remember I can still sing word for word even though I haven’t heard them in years, and there may be some I have forgotten completely. Hopefully these will bring back memories and feelings of those car journeys – the sun beating in the window as we weaved between the mountains and the sea, school days behind us, and long summer days of football, friends, and fun ahead, romping on the beach, playing in the park, and gobbling sweets by the dozen. It’s exactly what Roxette were going for when they recorded the album.

‘The Look’ is a great way to start the album – maybe the album’s biggest hit and with a famous guitar riff. I’m not sure about the drums – a bit weak, but the lyrics are pure 80s nonsense which is pretty funny. Per sings the lead on the verses with Marie taking secondary duties once the chorus. Infectious melodies all the way through, from the whispering verses, the call and repeat chorus, and the ‘na na na na’ bits.

‘Dressed For Success’ is just fun all around. It grabs you from the first moment with Marie’s ‘yeah yeah yeah’, accompanied by cheery verses and a massive chorus. The best part is the bridge, because what is a great pop song without a connection between verse and chorus? This one is very good, with all the ‘what you gonna tell your mumma’ and ‘uh oh oh’ stuff and bouncy melodies. This one will put a smile on your face.

‘Sleeping Single’ is one I didn’t remember from the name alone. It starts with thumb clicks and tinkling stuff, before the 80s drums and horn stuff comes along and makes me think of Police Academy. The verses have only the slightest remembrances for me, but I do remember the chorus. It’s fine – I can’t say anything bad about it because it again sounds so fun and cheesy – it probably doesn’t need to be so long though.

‘Paint’ is another I don’t remember. It starts out pretty disastrously, with bad drums and 80s sounds. You can always rely on Roxette to pull it back with good melodies. I don’t remember the verse at all and the chorus makes me think of Madonna, so I can’t say I have any memory of this at all. It’s fine, chorus is okay, when Marie blasts it out halfway through it’s pretty good, but it’s the weakest song so far.

‘Dance Away’ actually start out like something by The Music, for about eight seconds. Then it goes all Eurythmics. Good vocals by Marie but everything else feels like a weaker version of The Look. Even the chorus isn’t that great, a couple of good moments.

‘Cry’ starts out softly, with piano and smooth sounds, leading into plain verses. I assumed I would remember this but I don’t aside from the ‘why should I cry’ line. There’s honestly not a lot to this song, even the melodies don’t hit the spot. I know it’s meant to be a lot more, but it’s a bit of a none event.

Chances‘ raises the energy levels again with heavy use of snyth and beats to create a throbbing rhythm. Better verse melodies and a much better chorus than the last few songs. It’s still not great, but has an atmosphere, a nifty guitar solo, and is catchy like their better songs.

Dangerous‘ opens with some chugging guitars and weird noises. Obviously I remember this, but I must have blocked out the weirdness from my memories. The verses are a little vague in my memory, but I remember the chorus clearly. It’s cute and infectious, strange when you consider the lyrics and subject matter. Like all of Roxette’s finest songs, this is all about the melody.

‘Half A Woman, Half A Shadow’ is one that doesn’t sound familiar at all. Opening vocals – nope, guitar and drums – nope, doesn’t ring a bell. Verse…. I don’t think I remember this but there is something… could be just because it sounds like something else. It feels a little bit like Lonely Nights by Bryan Adams. The chorus isn’t too hot. Disaster end.

‘View From A Hill’ is pure 80s dirt. This could be from Beverly Hills Cop or anything. I kind of remember the chorus, nothing else though. This is another middling effort, easily forgotten and aside from a couple of hooks there isn’t anything here to recommend. Lots of weird moments where the other musicians appear to lose their minds.

‘I Could Never Give You Up’ is a bonus song, but it sounds familiar. Again, I could be confusing it with something else. It’s better than the last couple, good Spanish guitar in the middle, better melodies.

‘Shadow Of A Doubt’ starts like an 80s action movie soundtrack. I love the verse vocals – they sound more urgent than most of the other songs. The melodies are fine, not too much difference between the verse and chorus. We get some sort of sax solo in lieu of a six string. I like the belting out by Marie at the end.

‘Listen To Your Heart’ closes the album – easily my favourite song here. This is one of the few Roxette songs that I’ve listened to sporadically over the years – it’s good enough that it’s never too far away. Atmospheric piano opening like the best power ballads. Steamy verses with superb melodies before the booming, immortal chorus. That’s it really, aside from saying I like the little twiddly synth ending.

I’m surprised I didn’t remember more of this album. My brother was a fan of making his mix tapes, so maybe he only took his favourites from Look Sharp! and the others got lost by the wayside. It’s worth listening to the whole thing, but it’s probably best to just cut out your favourites for future reference. Next time I listen to Roxette it will be an album I know I’m more familiar with – JoyRide. Let us know in the comments what your memories and thoughts of Look Sharp! are and share the music that you used to listen to on long car journeys of yore.