Nightman Listens To – Roxette – Joyride!

Greetings, Glancers! In 1990, the pressure was on Roxette to release a follow-up to their multi-million selling second album. Momentum was on their side with that previous album seeing a number of hit singles as well as the re-release of their biggest hit It Must Have Been Love being played around the world thanks to Pretty Woman. The band were at their creative and commercial peak and the new album would prove to be an even bigger success. Like I mentioned in my previous Roxette post, this album was on regular rotation during car trips. For some perspective, we would spend most holidays at a caravan park on a beach near to where my mother grew up and the car journey from my house to our destination was roughly 90 minutes. Sometimes at weekends I would come home for a day with my dad, before returning the following morning. So there was a lot of time listening to songs from this album, along with other favourites of my youth. I’m sure there are a few I’ve forgotten about here, but overall it’s an album I know well.

Joyride. A great intro to the album with one of their biggest singles. You’d be forgiven in thinking this was the lead in to a concept album what with the artwork and the spoken intro. It ain’t. Roxette have this habit of including multiple great hooks in certain songs – this one has a tonne – the whistling part, the pre-chorus ‘magic friends’, the chorus itself, certain guitar parts – each is addictive and will gnaw away at you. If you like some of the weirder stuff on this site you’ll be please to know I actually did one of my delightful remixes to this song years ago, but I never uploaded it. I must get around to that.

Hotblooded. This comes in heavy, a little cheesy but we can forgive that. Mostly. I’d mostly forgotten the verse but the chorus is another one with fangs. Lots of raunchy lyrics, a fast pace, a harmonica solo, guitar solo, it’s pretty simple but with a decent rock flavour. Good vocals from Marie.

Fading Like A Flower. This was always one of my favourites, but then you know how I love the ballads. This is a power ballad following the 80s template. We have a piano lead in, a lot of atmosphere and emotion, a surge into a crunching chorus. It’s actually heavier than I remember it, more emphasis on the power than the ballad with plenty of guitar to drive things. It also has a greater pace and shorter running time than I remember, but it’s still just as good and gives me nostalgic chills.

Knockin’ On Every Door. This starts with some dated drum sounds before pulling out a very funky verse – lots of riffs and weird sounds along with Per’s fast paced vocals. It’s not very exciting but the chorus is another decent one. Things get weirder in the second verse with stranger vocals and a few interesting musical choices. It could do with a little trimming.

Spending My Time. I feel the same about this one as I do about Fading Like A Flower. It’s another power ballad, but this time the focus is more on ballad than power. It opens with just Marie and an acoustic guitar, very lonesome and atmospheric – especially when the synth and twinkles come in. Then the chorus drops, terrific vocals, nostalgic synth, pure 80s stuff even though this was 1990/1991. Downer lyrics, defiant guitars, massive chorus. It’s perfect power pop.

I Remember You. This opens with some didgeridoo sound before stabilizing. Riffs, decent pace, rock infused pop. The chorus has that annoying Def Leppard feel. The verses aren’t that interesting and the chorus is merely okay, making this the weakest one so far. Still, there is enough here that it is still worth hearing.

Watercolours In The Rain. Another acoustic opening, reminds me a little of Led Zep’s Tangerine. It’s very soft and sweet. This one is unusual in that the chorus doesn’t live up to the verse. It feels like a song that strives for greatness but doesn’t quite reach it.

The Big L. I remember this one feeling heavy. There’s a little bit of guitar there and it’s quick, but it isn’t heavy. We have dual vocals and the melodies are fine throughout. It does have terrible hand claps though, you know I hate those. It’s catchy but it’s one I would have liked much more as a child. This one goes on a bit too long too.

Soul Deep. It’s a rip off of (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction but it’s still good. Marie yelps and howls, the drums are solid, and it’s upbeat. Not much else to say.

(Do You Get) Excited? A synth one which feels more in tune with the direction 90s pop was going. The synth also feels like any number of John Carpenter movies. It suddenly bursts into life for the second verse with a loud guitar riff, but the song doesn’t continue in that vein – the verses are still plain. The chorus is good but not as strong as the big ones here.

Church of Your Heart. This one is interesting – it’s another which tries to be a power ballad but just lacks that certain something. I think this one is too upbeat, for some reason I always treat power ballads as ones which come from a place of pain or sadness. This is just happy and though it has the same trademarks as those ballads it doesn’t strike the same chord with me. I still like it, just isn’t essential.

Small Talk. This is a weird song. It’s all drums and synth bass and strange spoken parts and little acoustic jingles. The chorus is okay. It feels very similar to Hotblooded but a less sexy version. A strange mixture, yet it mostly works.

Physical Fascination. Another weird one, or at least a weird intro. Lots of strange 80s sounds and funk stuff. It’s a bit all over the place but I do remember there were a bunch of songs like this – throw in as many instruments and sounds as possible and see if a song pops out the other end. A song usually does, but it’s almost always crap.

Things Will Never Be The Same Again. Ah yes, I always loved this one. I’m sure you can guess why. Somber intro. Sudden big synth and guitars. Atmosphere. Downbeat. You got it, it’s another power ballad. The verse melodies here aren’t as good as others but the pre-chorus and chorus are both great. It’s not as good as I remember, certainly not as good as the biggies, but still one of the better ones here.

Perfect Day. The closing song is another good one. Good verse, good chorus. This one doesn’t rely on silly sounds and production balls – just melody, vocals, idea. The album ends on a strong note.

It didn’t long before my brother started chopping songs from albums to make his own mix tapes fro car journeys, so quite a few of these didn’t make the grade. I also made my mix tapes and the only two songs I remember taking from this album were Fading Like A Flower and Spending My Time. My opinions haven’t really changed – those are the two clear best songs here, with three or four close behind. The rest of the album I can take or leave – there’s really only one crappy one and the rest are average album fare. What about you? Do you have any specific memories of this album or any of its songs? Let us know in the comments!

Nightman Listens To – Madonna – Music!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nightman Listens To – The Rolling Stones and The Beach Boys

Greetings, Glancers. As I near the end of my adventures with Bon Jovi, Bryan Adams, David Bowie, and Madonna (I’ve only started with Roxette) I’m already looking forward to which artists I should cover next. Fair enough, Bowie will take some time to finish and the Roxette posts will go on for a while – I’m also looking at the Iron Maiden solo input and Disney Soundtracks, God help me.

Ideally I want to cover those artists that I’ve always kind of liked, but whose albums I’ve never heard. The Beach Boys are a band you just can’t avoid. You hear there songs at an early age – certain songs are simply part of Western or even World culture – you’ll hear them in movies, on TV shows, on adverts, or of course on the radio (or whatever passes for radio these days). I want to cover artists who have been around for a while – those who have had more than 5 albums – ideally more than 10. They should be people I know with a few songs I know, but who for whatever reason I have just never got into. I thought about Bob Dylan, but then I’ve never heard a Dylan song (performed by him) that I’ve really liked (I’ll admit to only hearing a tiny amount). I thought about Elvis, but Elvis is too much of a cover artist. I pondered over ABBA and The Bee Gees, but I’m not convinced on their credentials on having great albums – they’re always seen as Singles bands, right?

Anyway, I’ll probably get to those guys some day, and maybe some of their albums are covered in my Top 1000 Albums Quest. For now, I’ve picked two bands who have stood the test of time – emerging in the 1960s and still playing and recording today (sort of). It’s time to be honest – I’ve never listened to a single Beach Boys Album. I know a tonne of their songs, even ones that weren’t singles to my knowledge, but I’ve never stuck on an album and listened from start to finish. The Rolling Stones however, I have listened to many of their albums, around the same time I started properly listening to The Beatles. At that time, to my mind, there was no comparison – The Beatles were smart, funny, talented, innovative, while The Rolling Stones seemed to be playing the same old blues songs over and over with the odd exception. It’s time to go back and listen again.

Both bands have written some of my favourite songs ever, but still I’ve never been fully sucked in. It’ll be interesting to see if I find any new favourites or a new appreciation. Everyone else loves them, so it’s about time I gave them their due respect. Why not join me on my adventure and share your thoughts and memories of their albums and songs? Because you don’t like me or my musical taste? I suppose that’s fair enough….

Nightman Listens To – David Bowie – Let’s Dance!

Greetings, Glancers! Ugh, I’ve been dreading this one. Not for any understandable reason you know, but I’ve still been dreading it. Like when you went to a school disco when you were a kid and you got all concerned and sweaty even though you’d be seeing the same friends and classmates you’d seen a few hours earlier? I don’t know. Maybe it’s the title of the album that’s had me wary, along with the fact that we’re now well into the 80s – the decade when good musicians forget how to make good music. I’ve never liked the Let’s Dance song either, and I’ve been concerned the rest of the album will be similar. China Girl sounds familiar, but other than that I don’t recognise any of the songs listed. We’ve been hear many times before, but let’s dance once more.

Modern Love: Well, it starts with guitar at least, so that’s good. Uh oh, repetitive and crappy drums. Talking with accent. Garth Marenghi. Better singing, and I like the minor stuff. Neat melodies. There was this terrible pop song a few years ago which had a very similar beat and rhythm to this and now that I’m hearing this it’s clear the pop song ripped this off. It was this overplayed twee mess with… were there two singers? Thankfully I’ve put it mostly out of my memory, but did it have someone singing ‘infatuation’ over and over? Something like that. The guitar is mostly gone now, leaving jagged piano and prodding brass. It’s very poppy, but it’s good.

China Girl: Okay yes, obviously I know this one. I quite liked the main riff but the song doesn’t really lift off for me until Bowie belts out the vocals after the halfway point. It feels like a curious one-off pop single till that point – I like it, though not a favourite.

Let’s Dance: Ugh, I never liked this one. It just sounded too 80s cheese, mixed with a faux 50s rock swagger and disco sound. It’s not a bad song or anything and I like the parts of the song outside the main ‘Let’s Dance’ vocal and riff. I find it quite overplayed too.

Without You: So, this is a new one on me yet it feels familiar. I like these unassuming songs which don’t try to show off or be some big hit yet quietly do a better job. Like the previous two songs there is a prominent repeating riff, and as this is new for me it doesn’t feel annoying or overplayed. The vocals are gentle, the song is short, and it has an unexpected finish.

Ricochet: Clapping and jungle beats – two of my least favourite things. A stuttering beat and near spoken vocals. It’s certainly doing its best to not endear itself to me. Smokey jazz horns play over dissonant sounds and soundbites. It’s a bit of an experimental mess. I know what he’s going for here, but it’s nowhere near interesting enough for me to be anything more than a one time curio.

Criminal World: Another new one for me, but wait, isn’t this just China Girl again? That riff is very similar. It’s lucky the verse is slow otherwise it would have been nearly identical. There’s some deep bass funking along, the vocals are quiet. The chorus speeds up and brings the melody. Rinse and repeat, though I liked this one.

Cat People: Ah yes. I saw the remake when I was in my early teens and liked it okay if it has boobs and blood when you’re that age, it automatically gets a thumbs up. It starts with simple cymbal snaps, then a growing synth purrs its way into view. Bowie does his best deep voice – it’s all very slow and somber, like a proto-industrial piece. The build up is slow, then there’s an explosion of vocals and sound to take us into the second phase of the song – basically a heavier take on the first with added energy and drums. It’s great. We follow this with a funky instrumental section before the vocals return – this is one of Bowie’s better vocals for me. We end on a nice synthetic guitar solo and choir rendition of the chorus.

Shake It: Umm… Prince? This is very 80s and the lyrics seem like the sort of silly stuff you got back then. It’s not quite New Wave pop, but it has that vibe, tone, and sound and feels like it could have been recorded by any number of 80s groups. That’s not always a bad thing – it’s fun and it would probably be catchy after a couple of listens, but on this first hearing it doesn’t have enough to pull me in.

A mixed bag then – some good ones, some I knew, some new ones. There aren’t any songs I didn’t like, title track notwithstanding as I knew it already, but there are a couple which I didn’t care for. Mostly on the positive side then – maybe a couple I’d choose to listen to again and which would potentially be added to my playlist, but nothing immediately jumped out at me and landed on the playlist. What are your thoughts on Lets Dance? Is this the best of Bowie’s 80s offerings, or does he get better through the decade while his peers suffered? Let us know in the comments!

Nightman Listens To – Blood, Sweat, And Tears (Top 1000 Series)!

Blood, Sweat, And Tears – are they a spin off of Earth, Wind, And Fire? Nobody knows. One thing is for sure, it has been blood, sweat, and tears listening to some of these so-called best albums ever. Hilarious! Now that the shite is out of the way, I’ll be honest and say I don’t know anything this band or album and I’m not sure I’ve even heard of them. That should make the next piece easy…

What Do I Know About Blood, Sweat, And Tears (band): Nowt

What Do I Know About Blood, Sweat, And Tears (album): Less than nowt.

Lets go.. the tracklisting doesn’t fill me with confidence but as the timeless saying goes ‘don’t judge a song by its shitty name’.

Variations On A Theme: Soft. Flutey, guitary. Quite nice. Feels like I’ve heard this before, once upon a dream. That it? Twinkles.

Smiling Phases: Jazz explosion. Organ. Drums. Funky. Vocals like Baywatch. Chaotic. Drum collapse. Good piano in middle. Lots of shifts. I actually typed ‘lots of shits’ first. It’s all over the place now, but just clinging on – I can dig this amount of jazz. Not much brass so far, so I’m good. Here come da brass. Regal. Back to vocals. Slowing. Drum disaster. End.

Sometimes In Winter: More standard soft jazz into. The flutey stuff gives it a smoother edge which I prefer. Not sure about the vocals, not very exciting or expressive – then I’m not a fan of smooth vocals. This is okay, a little plain, would be served better by a different singer. Some nice parts, lyrics better than vocals, but average all round.

More And More: Trumps. Funky. James Brown. Vocals okay. This has a harder edge, no doubt influenced by the rock of the era. Drum breakdown. Guitar jump scare. Lots of screams. See, again I can enjoy this level of jazz because its so infused with other styles. Sudden end.

And When I Die: Harmonica. Then turns into a jaunty circus pirate song. Faster. Tempo bouncing around. Funny organ. More. Yee ha. Happy songs about dying are probably hard to come by. Slower. Faster. Slower. Faster. End.

God Bless The Child: Slower. Swing. Too many trumpets. Religion. Everyone has covered this. Still not convinced by the vocals. Too slow and dreary for me. Piano shift. Foot tapping time. Turned into a completely different song. Crazy trump solo. More brass. Back to slow and harmonica. End.

Spinning Wheel: Honk in. Pretty sure I’ve heard this before. Vocals better again when gruff. Superman. Fart Trump. As commercial as such a mixture could possibly be. Flute weirdo moment. Going A Day In The Life. Laughs.

You’ve Made Me So Very Happy: More dodgy vocals. Whispery organ and sudden trump blasts. He’s better on the big notes. Not bad, just not my style. Seems a little cheesy, but the edge keeps it on the straight and narrow. More organ bits. The mix of jazz and funk and rock somehow works.

Blues Part II: 12 minutes, eh? Lets be havin’ ya. Organ, obviously, you’ve gots to start a 12 minute song with some organ. Tune’s struggling to come through. Meandering for now. Tune now. Ascending. Swirling. Faster. Where’s the beat. Trumpet disaster. Now beat. Bass. Very loose. Drums. Everyone’s getting a turn. Brass and bass. It goes on. And On. Sunshine Of My Love. Vocals.

Variations On A Theme: Is this the same thing again? Sure sounds like it.

What Did I Think: So, I see now that this was actually mostly a covers album, or at least features several covers.  That explains why some parts seemed familiar. Looking down the page on Wikipedia I see that a few of the songs were either outright covers or included some piece written by someone else. I’m not overly familiar with any of the originals so I can’t speak for how they have been adapted and translated. In the end though, I mostly liked it – no-one is more surprised than I am. It’s not something I see myself ever coming back to, but I enjoyed the energy. I do think the vocals could have done with a shake up, but that’s just me.

Does It Deserve A Place On The Top 1000 Albums of All Time: It’s another instance of the album not being immediately amazing to me to justify its inclusion, yet not obviously bad or average enough to cast it down outright. I can’t imagine this being massively influential – at least from a long-lasting perspective, but I can understand why it was a hit and is highly regarded. Not my thing, but when I can still enjoy something that is not my thing, then it must be doing something right.

Let us know in the comments if you have any particular love for Blood, Sweat, And Tears, and if you have any special memories attached to it.

Nightman Listens To – My Fair Lady – Original Broadway Cast (Top 1000 Albums Series)

Oh, dear Lord, no. This is one giant WTF and should not be on a Top 1000 Albums list. Yes, yes, I haven’t heard it yet, but I already know what it’s going to sound like. I’ve seen the movie, hell, I even kind of like the movie. But musicals, in general, suck balls while simultaneously sucking the life out of me. Musicals… you’re lucky if you get two or three good songs, usually at least one centrepiece. My Fair Lady, as far as movie musicals go, has a few songs which the general public will know even if they haven’t seen the movie, but none of the songs are outstanding. Lets just get this over with.

What Do I Know About My Fair Lady: Musical, based off book, which later became a hit movie. Audrey Hepburn is awesome. She’s not here though.

Overture: It’s frantic and fast. It’s a textbook overture. You already know what you’re getting here. There’s about four seconds here to differentiate it from any other musical.

Why Can’t The English: Ridiculous talky singy. There’s only person who should be murdered here, and it’s YOU. This is just an embarrassment for all concerned. Fine in a film musical – pure torment in literally any other form.

Wouldn’t It Be Loverly: Starts horrifically. Gets gradually worse. At least this one has a memorable main line. The backing vocals are shocking. Some of Julie Andrews’ notes are ear cancer too.

With A Little Bit Of Luck: One of the things I hate most about musicals is singing with forced accents. Which means I’m basically buggered where this album is concerned. It’s so false and theatrical – I want my music, in most cases, to be honest, not acting. Of course, this is a musical so I get it’s meant to be the other way around – but as I’m listening with no visuals it just doesn’t work. The song needs to be extraordinary to get its point across. This is tripe. As far as accents go, Cockney is near the top of the list of ones I can’t abide. YOU SOUND LIKE A COCK.

I’m An Ordinary Man: More talking. I don’t care. You may as well be describing the peristalsis which occurs in your anus as your squeeze one through. Posh rapping. Women, eh, amirite? You’d prefer the Spanish Inquisition to letting a woman into your life? Hardy har. I’d prefer you and everyone you’ve ever met being skinned and set on fire than listen to this for another millisecond.

Just You Wait: Oh fuck off.

The Rain In Spain: Abortion.

I Could Have Danced All Night: I don’t mind the ‘chorus’ of this one. All else is pain and two minutes too long.

Ascot Gavotte: Noises. Marching. Then the singing starts and we all wish we were dead.

On The Street Where You Live: This one would be fine without the terrible vocals.

You Did It: Nice flutey opening descends into farce. And not good farce. The sort of farce where you’re trying to get somewhere on time but you can’t find your keys, then the car won’t start, then you get stuck behind eight cyclists who CYCLE IN A GROUP BESIDE THE FUCKING CYCLE LANE, then you get by them only to meet a tractor, before an ISIS appears in the backseat and beheads you.

Show Me: More travesties.

Get Me To The Church: Nope.

A Hymn To Him: Unlistenable.

Without You: Every single song and every single vocal delivery is identical.

I’ve Grown Accustomed To Her Face: Starts with ridiculous aplomb. It’s all words words words spoken in the same dumb way. Once we finally get to the ‘good’ bit it’s too little too late.

What Did I Learn: I’m fairly competent that several thousands brain cells died while listening to this.

Does It Deserve Its Place In The Top 1000 Albums Of All Time: Are you seriously asking me that with a straight face? Every copy of this wank should be wiped from existence.

Colin Larkin’s Ranking: 559.

Yeah, don’t even comment. In fact, forget I even mentioned it.

Nightman Listens To – Jackson Browne – Pretender (Top 1000 Albums Series)

Greetings, Glancers. We’re up through the Sphincter of Musical Past once again and ironically have stumbled across some Brown. Or Browne. Jackson Browne, that is. Isn’t Jackson Browne a painter? What a loads of Pollocks. If it wasn’t clear already, I’m completely new to this boyo and this album, at least from a listening perspective, so I’m not sure what to expect. It’s about time I found something I’ll love though. These are supposed to be the best of the best, but so far this experience has been kind of like hearing your neighbours have sex when you’re a teen – you think it’s alluring and hot, and you want to listen more, but you remember they are both disgusting and frighteningly obese and too hairy. Or less alarmingly, it kind of feels like when you’re stuck with a roommate or friend who insists on playing you ‘their music’ and you just know you’re going to hate it but have to pretend otherwise. Anyway, on the surface this sounds more promising, more than all that Jazz muck anyway.

What Do I Know About Jackson Browne: Another folk singer who popped up in the sixties or seventies and probably sang about love and loss and hippies. I know I’ve heard some of his bigger songs.

What Do I Know About The Pretender: Nada

The Fuse: Tst. Tst. Tst. Piano. Shadows, nice, already my sort of thing. Vocals. Sorts very traditional American. And right on cue there’s the country sounds. Drum sound isn’t great. And right on cue he talks about a drum. A little bit of Disco in there too. Quite a lot going on here, speeding up, pausing, different sounds and styles. On first listen I like it, but it’s not quite ticking all the boxes for me. I love the main piano part, the faster pieces not so much. It then turns into Baywatch. It then turns into Welcome To The Machine. 

Your Bright Baby Blues: Slow. More Springsteen stylings. Organ. People going places fast, that old trope. It’s nice, not a lot to this one. But it’s nice. Sounds like a bunch of other average songs though – those songs you know you know but can’t name. Guitar solo. Maybe it’s a bit too close to country or something. Again it’s good but it’s lacking whatever it is that makes me truly love a song. That being said, both songs so far I’d happily listen to again and presumably they’d grow on me.

Linda Paloma: Harps and weirdness. Or some Spanish equivalent. Was going to say it sounded Greek or Italian as it makes me think of The Godfather, but then he said something about Mexico. Easy chugging chords in the background. Nice again. There’s a little vocal move he’s done in every song so far, you know, turning the last syllable into three. That’s the sort of thing I pick up on and get annoyed by. I can’t think of anything better word to describe than nice – it’s not doing anything for me emotionally, but it’s pleasant to hear.

Here Come Those Tears Again: Nice start. Piano mixing with guitar and drums again. Beats. Organ. Disco beats again. Backing vocals. Good guitar. I’m not sure if this is supposed to emotional – the lyrics suggest it is, but the music is pretty cheery. Maybe it’s his voice – it’s never strained and rarely varies. I prefer a little more distinction in my vocals.

The Only Child: You already know. Nice. I like this one in its opening few seconds better than the others though. Maybe it’s the strings and slower pace. Oh dear, it’s sped up. Most of lyrics are fine. I think his voice is definitely part of why it’d just not clicking, along with the weak drums and the country twinge. It feels like the sort of song Southern State US jocks don’t mind shedding a tear or two to. Heh. Tutu.

Daddy’s Tune: Same again, waiting for the drums and speed. Something about regretting relationship with dad, and not saying what you should when you could. This doesn’t really sit well with me because I regret everything I’ve ever said to anyone, usually the instant it’s out of my mouth. Oh God, where did those trumpets come from? It’s all a bit cheesy. It’s starting to annoy me now, this need to suddenly kick off the drums, almost as if he’s trying to appease an audience that isn’t interested in softer music. Or maybe this was his Daddy’s music and he’s doing it on purpose. I don’t think so. That’s two songs in a row which started perfectly well then fell apart completely.

Sleep’s Dark And Silent Gate: Cool name. Good opening. He knows how to start a song and suck you in. But he also knows how to kick you in the nuts and then laugh in your face for thinking it was going to be something you’d enjoy. At least there’s a bit of gruff in his voice in this one. This one is more pure, no backing drum shite. Phew, made it to the end without any bullshit, good job.

The Pretender: Sounds like the opening track, or what I remember of it. More lyrics. I suppose this spoke for a generation, it doesn’t really speak for me though even though we face the same struggles. This one is a little too plain and again I don’t feel the emotion.

Colin Larkin’s Ranking: 509/1000

What Did I Learn: That Jackson Browne isn’t just a folk singer with a guitar and has packed in much more depth from a musical perspective. That he’s a good lyricist, but that I don’t love his voice or connect emotionally with his songs as others no doubt will.

Does The Pretender Deserve Its Place In The Top 1000 Albums Of All Time: Well, I want to like it and given time I’m sure it would grow on it. But when comparing it something equally lauded by Springsteen or Joni Mitchell it fall short for me. The country hues never sit well with me so we’re already on a tumbling scale and Browne’s voice is too plain for me – it lacks the anger or sadness or raw power or rasp or unique quality that affects me on a personal level. On first listen, I’ve liked it more than some other albums I’ve encountered on the journey but it feels less important or revolutionary than those. It’s a no from me, but it’s fine.

Let us know in the comments what you think of The Pretender. Does this album hold special value for you, or is it one you’ve never heard?

Chart Music – 1966

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

1966 Glancers, 1966. The year which meany consider to be the pinnacle of music. A pivotal year by all accounts, for culture worldwide, for music, cinema, politics, civil rights and so on and so forth. Where were you? Where was I? Where am I? So many questions, and so few readers. As you may be aware, I was not yet part of this world, at least not as you understand it, but many people were and they bore witness to things such as England winning the World Cup, thousands more US troops landing in Vietnam, Time magazine asked if God Was Dead, The Church Of Satan was formed, Castro declared Martial Law, Star Trek debuted on TV, John met Yoko, and a maniac went on a shooting spree in Texas.

In the realm of music, David Bowie emerged, The Beatles became the first band to play the Nippon Budokan Hall, Van Morrison and The Doors appeared on stage together, and Bob Dylan turned Judas. A bunch of extraordinarily popular albums were released and many songs still played regularly today were recorded. Looking at the list of songs below, there are only three I know from the name but I’m sure once I listen I will know a few more. The list at a first glance doesn’t seem to be representative of the many great songs and albums which first appeared this year.

  1.  Jim Reeves. Distant Drums.

Smooth vocals. Slow. Far away. Basic beat, simple piano. Strings arrive. Shifts to a more Western style pace. All very pleasant but out of time. Nothing wrong with it, a little too nice for my liking.

2. Dave Dee: Bend It!

Descending riff. Slower pace. Quickening like a Greek tune. Faster. Collapse. Funny. Even Greek guitars so I assume a deliberate choice. I always liked this sort of music from my travels. What exactly is he bending? Pretty good, though probably a novelty song.

3. The Who: I’m A Boy.

Back when they sounded like a nice little garage band, though they still manage to make plenty of noise in the chorus and bridge with those chugging guitars and bin lid drums. Great lyrics, good music.

4. New Vaudeville Band: Winchester Cathedral.

Ha ha, South Park. There’s something in my pocket for you. Waterloo melody. More novelty stuff but still good. Not a bad song yet, yay.

5. The Rolling Stones: Have You Seen Your Mother Baby Standing In The Shadow.

Fuzz and throbbing and sudden trumpets. All a bit chaotic with the trumpets out of tune with the vocals and guitar. The little break in the middle is nice. I was never a huge fan of early Stones but this is pretty good. The bass is probably the best part. It all collapses into a surprise bonus riff at the end. You wouldn’t get that in the charts these days.

6. The Supremes: You Can’t Hurry Love.

You know it, of course you do. Or the Phil Collins version. Sweet, melodic, beautiful. Can’t say much more about it, just enjoy!

7. Sandpipers: Guatanamera.

A song forever adopted by football crowds with ‘Guatanamera’ changed to… something else. I have no idea what it’s about but all very nice – dreamy verses and of course an incredibly catchy chorus. Oh, a spoken explanation. I didn’t really need that, but thanks.

8. Sonny And Cher: Little Man.

Greek fingering (madam) and bangs (sir). Yes, I know this. Horn beeps. Lots of pauses. It is a very odd song, then again it was 1966. Good though.

9. The Troggs: I Can’t Control Myself.

To be fair, most morning I wake up and scream ‘OH NO!’ This is a song with a marching beat and a simple structure, catchy chorus, verses okay, probably shouldn’t be stretched to three minutes.

10. Dusty Springfield: All I See Is You

Your standard Springfield ballad – big vocals, a little mournful, you know the score.  The chorus/rest of song is much better – even bigger vocals and more emotion, and it keeps getting bigger in every sense as it goes along.

As mentioned earlier, 1966 had a wealth of quality releases – Sounds Of Silence by Simon and Garfunkel, Boots by Nancy Sinatra, Blonde On Blonde, Pet Sounds, Revolver, Freak Out, Jefferson Airplane Takes Off, A Quick One, and many others. Out of the top selling singles of the year in the US, three were by The Beatles, one by The Beach Boys, and one by Frank Sinatra – four out of five ain’t bad. For an alternative list of 10 great songs from 1966 (though most are incredibly famous) have a click on the links below:

  1. The Beatles: We Can Work It Out

2. James Brown: I Got You (I Feel Good)

3. The Mamas And The Papas: California Dreamin

4. The Rolling Stones: Paint It Black

5. The Jimi Hendrix Experience: Hey Joe

6. The Velvet Underground & Nico: I’ll Be Your Mirror

7. Janis Ian: Society’s Child

8. Jefferson Airplane: Let Me In

9. The Kinks: Sunny Afternoon

10. The Who: Boris The Spider

What is your favourite song from 1966? Let us know in the comments!

Nightman Listens To – David Bowie – Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps)

BOW

Greetings, Glancers! We return to David Bowie and another album I know little about. Last time around I knew very little about Lodger which ended up being one of my favourite Bowie albums so far, so hopefully we’ll get more goodness today. As always, share your thoughts in the comments and make any suggestions for what else you think I should listen to.

It’s No Game (No.1)‘. Clicks. Hisses. Doors. Spray pain can being shaken? Music. Japanese. Shrieking Bowie. The music nicely fits the anguished vocals. Chorus (?) finds a little more stability. Some nifty guitar parts. That old glam beat comes in around half way but the general noise drowns out its power to annoy. I think I’d prefer it if the Japanese vocals were a bit more angry too. Nice guitar and shouting end.

Up The Hill Backwards‘. Chords, and twinkles. You gotta have faith. Sudden change and shift to a steady beat, organ backed, and plain talky singing with some gospel harmonies. Dirty guitar part. This is pleasant and poppy, mainly notable for the slight shifts in pace and the intrusive distorted guitar hisses. Final minute or so is instrumental.

Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps)‘. Opens in a hasty manner with another jagged riff, some mouth trumpets, and thudding drums. The verses are at a gallop, there is a lot off industrial type noise in the background, beeps, crashes, dissonance. The guitars are formless at times, deliberately playing off key. I’m still not a massive fan of Bowie’s vocals, I suspect that will always be a thing, and you know that I don’t like the whole singing in English accents thing. More wacky guitar parts by Mister Fripp I believe – he seems to have been given free rein to do whatever he pleases, and the results are fantastic.

Ashes To Ashes‘. I know this one, and have always been intrigued by its oddness. Outside of the strange noises, there is a staccato type beat and funky bass. See, here I like Bowie’s singing in the verses, but not so much in other places. I like the call backs to previous songs. This was always one of my favourites before I’d ever heard a single Bowie album, and that hasn’t changed.

Fashion‘. My ow prejudice never allowed me to truly appreciate this – I think fashion is pointless, dangerous, and ultimately worthless – so of course a song with a name like that was going to piss me off, and it was made worse by apparently being a dance-oriented song. I always had an inkling that the whole thing was ironic, satirical, but I could never be arsed to find out either way. Listening now the song’s sentiments are obvious and the angular, gouging guitar lines are great. There’s a little bit of Pink Floyd in there too, which is always welcome, but the song as a whole doesn’t pull me in.

Teenage Wildlife‘. Bending in. Isn’t that the ‘Heroes’ riff? I’m hoping this is an anthem I’m not aware of but will love. Bowie vocals, affected with an operatic twang. I don’t like the piano – reverting too much to glam. The guitar is immense though. I know I get stick for saying things like this, but I feel like many Bowie songs would be better if he had handed over vocal duties to someone else. It is an anthem of a sort, just not the sort I was looking for. Hey, I still like it, particularly the middle part around 4 minutes. It has no business going beyond the six minute mark.

Scream Like A Baby‘. This starts out as something more akin to my tastes – a growling distortion, sudden mystery, a sense of threat, and here the vocals have more impact. It all falls apart in the chorus, but those verses are great, the riff working perfectly with the anger of the lyrics and vocals.

Kingdom Come‘. This seems to be following a similar rhythm to the previous song, though is immediately more upbeat – good vocals, good backing vocals, feels like a hit. Feels a little Motown. I see this was actually a cover – I had no idea. It loses a little impact towards the end, but otherwise I like it.

Because You’re Young’. Hold on. Hold on, what is this? This is more like it. That’s possibly my favourite Bowie intro yet, followed by a pretty good riff and ‘scary’ noises. This almost feels like Alice Cooper. Don’t mess it up. Uh oh, a sudden pause and wavering vocals. None of the rest of the song lives up to the start, which is a great shame, but as a whole it all balances out.

It’s No Game (No.2)‘. A steady bass and beat, regular guitar interruptions, nicer low range vocals, and a cool choir chorus. Great lyrics. He still seems angry. Camel shit. A sudden pause. Over? No, noises. Now it’s over.

Another one goes down. We’re into the 80s now, a decade where almost all of the successful artists of the previous decade(s) either fell apart or began releasing monumental amounts of crap. I know Bowie had some hits in the decade, but I don’t know much about his album input so I guess I’ll find out. This one.. I’d say it was middling for me, closer to the top than the bottom – some highlights but few standouts. There isn’t any filler and I can’t say I didn’t not enjoy a single song either – middling in other words. Let me know in the comments what you think of Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps) and where it ranks in your list of Bowie records!

Nightman Listens To – Bon Jovi – Bounce

Greetings, Glancers. Like my Bryan Adams posts, we’re at the point now where I had stopped listening to new music by Bon Jovi. I’m pretty sure I’ve heard some of this album, and I’m almost certain I heard the title track upon release, but as I type this I can’t recall what it sounded like. Looking at the rest of the albums there isn’t a single song that I recognize. According to Wikipedia, the album was heavily influence by 9/11 – unsurprising. I’m hoping then that there are some insightful and emotional songs here which I will enjoy, but given that we are entering unknown territory I’m not holding out hope.

Just an additional note: In these previous Nightman Listens posts I’ve literally been listening to songs for the first type and typing my thoughts as they play. From now I’m going to try to listen to the songs twice – first to get my initial thoughts, and then the second time for the nuances and to allow the song a chance to grow on me before ripping it apart.

Undivided‘ has an unexpected start, lots of chugging distorted chords. Near spoken verse. Lyrics seem to hint at 9/11. Decent chorus. Repeat. Decent middle eight/chorus. Decent solo. Decent softer ending. Decent all round then.

Everyday‘ starts with beats and a bit of the old mouth robot. More heavy metal chords. Decent verse again. Decent bridge. Chorus doesn’t really work, thought it was building up to something better. Seems like an okay single but doesn’t get me pumped like their bigger hits – not quite as good as the first song.

The Distance‘ opens with a screechy riff and fast drums before giving way to a more mid paced intro then settling into a calmed verse. This feels like a traditional old school Bon Jovi power ballad. I hear some strings. Moves into a pretty good chorus. It’s odd how the guitars have a much more metal tone on this album – they’re really crunching – but the songs are soft at their core. Still, this is probably the best song of the three so far.

Joey‘ has a soothing piano intro. It’s not quite Baywatch, but close. It’s another storytelling lyric with near spoken vocals. More strings. Unfortunate it’s very plain – verse, bridge, chorus are almost indistinct. The piano part is the best part.

Misunderstood’ starts in typical soft rock Jovi style – you’ll have heard them play this style many times before. The verse doesn’t do a lot for me in the first instance, the pre-chorus is nothing out of the ordinary, but then the chorus comes in and raises the rest of the song – the next verse etc feels better based on the strength of the chorus. I like the ‘I-I-I-I-I’ hook a lot, but the vocals sound strained – it feels like he managed to hit it once in isolation and they just shouted ‘cut, let’s use that one throughout’. The solo is generic, there’s some phasing effect on it, but nothing new.

‘All About Lovin’ You’ gets me worried that it’s the band going country again, but this moves away into soft ballad territory. There’s a weird choice of guitar tone for the lead in the intro – usually the sort of tone reserved for some blistering solo. The lyrics you’ve heard a hundred times before, all about pages of life and faded memories. There are some plain strings in the background, I don’t like the drum effects in the verse, it’s inoffensive stuff that loved up couples can sway to, but the chorus rips shamelessly from Never Say Goodbye – same chord progression, melodies, even the strings. On its own this is fine, but they’ve done the same much better before.

‘Hook Me Up’ makes me think of drugs. Bon Jovi has never been a drug band, right? It certainly begins heavier than most BJ songs, the same crunching chord over and over with some strange effects in the background. A simple progression comes in, this breaks off into an atmospheric piano and bass section which is nice, though I could do without the scratchy, whispery stuff in the background. The verses are sharp, fast, I like how the central chords fade back in to add a dynamic layer – it’s nothing revolutionary for the band, but it keeps things fresh. The solo reminds me a little of Duran Duran’s Ordinary World riff, the rest of the song and the chorus has quite a lot of hiss and its melodically familiar territory, though the sudden finish is appreciated and caught me off guard.

‘Right Side Of Wrong’ has an almost great intro – I have a thing for piano and string intros anyway, so I’m hooked at the outset. Lyrically we’re in Springsteen territory again, the verse is fairly plain with just the piano, Jon, and some light acoustic guitars low in the mix. Unfortunately the rest of the song doesn’t live up to the opening 10 seconds. In fact, it’s one of the more boring songs the band has written – it’s very plain and unadventurous and like elsewhere on the album it just makes me wish I was listening to a better BJ song. This one borrows very heavily from Bed Of Roses, but it comes nowhere close to reaching the standards of that classic – disappointing.

‘Love Me Back To Life’ feels like a potential single from the get go. There’s a brief crunch chord intro, giving way to simple rock chords, strings, and voicebox – all BJ trademarks. The verses are commercially brief, the pre-chorus sets things up nicely, and the chorus is pleasingly melodic – another you can see crowds singing to. It’s nothing extraordinary, but a decent stab at a soft rock single by a band deep into their career. The solo is accompanied well by the strings, and it’s followed by a softer section where Jon attempts another forceful high note, this time it mostly works if sounding a little strained.

‘You Had Me From Hello’ kicks off in classic acoustic ballad territory – if you’re a regular glancer then you’ll know I enjoy simple acoustics and vocals, so this is promising for me. I could do without the organ. Good vocals, and simple, endearing lyrics and melodies which come across as meaningful and honest. Everything flows well, verse into pre-chorus, and on into chorus. It’s all understated and the volume is never raised beyond gentle. I would drop the organ/keys and change up the shitty drums. Not for the first time the harmonies help things immensely. There’s a slight change for the middle, I don’t know if the song really needs it, the volume gets marginally louder and gives the rest of the band thirty seconds to do their thing before returning to form. A welcome surprise, and maybe my favourite on the album.

‘Bounce’ is another song that’s clearly a single candidate – I’m assuming it was a single given it’s also the title track, but I don’t believe I’ve heard it before. Again the trademark BJ sound rips out of the stereo, stadium guitar tone, voicebox and commercial melodies. At least this time the band sound urgent – there’s a lot of ‘You Give Love A Bad Name’ here, and it sounds as if they are attempting another ‘It’s My Life’ as a lot of the tricks used there are front and centre here. This song doesn’t come close to reaching those heights, but it’s still a perfectly good radio friendly rock song. Special points, I guess, for the ‘I don’t give a fu-fu-fu-fu’ pre-chorus which is sure to be a live favourite.

‘Open All Night’ closes the album. I typically want my rock albums to end in buoyant, energetic fashion, but this is one of the softer ballads on Bounce. It’s nice enough drivel, the verses are pleasant but uneventful, while the chorus has some neat hooks. It’s not one of their best ballads, closer to the bottom than the top but it will obviously have plenty of fans singing its praises – just doesn’t move me.

Overall I mostly enjoyed the album – as mentioned I knew very little about it and while it’s heavy on the ballads, there are a few decent rock songs I wouldn’t mind hearing again, and one or two others which hit the mark. No bad songs, but quite a few plain songs which feel too often like overly safe remixes of former glories. Some bands continue to churn out the same sort of song, the key is to make people want to listen to the new stuff rather than hear the new stuff and wish they were listening to the old. Let us know in the comments what you think of Bounce!