Nightman Listens To Madonna – Bedtime Stories!

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Greetings, Glancers! The last time we spoke of Madonna, she had released her most controversial and sexually charged album to date – Erotica. It was fine, and while I loved many of the ideas, most of the music didn’t make my nuts tingle. With Bedtime Stories, Madonna wanted to remind fans and the population at large that she wasn’t merely some orgasmic vixen but that she had other layers and furrows – like we all have. As you would expect, the album was yet another major success and proceeded to break new ground for Madonna while influencing later artists. But what do I think of it? Looking at the track list I see the album garnered four singles, though only one of them I can remember from the name; I’m sure once I hear some of the others I will remember them too. As always, listen along, weep at my thoughts, and drop your comments below!

Survivor‘. Beeps. Drum sounds. Voices. I don’t think I’ve heard this, but it’s very 90s RnB. Different sound from anything she had so far. It’s quite plain and tame actually. I don’t think the melodies would lodge in my head.

Secret‘. Guitar. Noise. Vocals. Better melodies. I was about to type that I don’t recall this, but the chorus sounds familiar, pretty sure I have heard that piece at least. I do like the different direction of sound, but neither of these two songs are emotional or melodic enough to grab me on first listen.

I’d Rather Be Your Lover‘. Portishead. Falls apart at vocals. Better in verses. Sexy without being as obvious as the last album. It doesn’t make the melodic impact again. Disaster rap. As I mentioned earlier, I didn’t recognise many of the song names, possibly that’s because the album didn’t have any obvious hits that I would remember 20 years after the fact – and we tend to most readily remember songs with melodies which have an impact.

Don’t Stop‘. 90s RnB pop beats. Oh dear. Terrible lyrics. No, absolutely awful lyrics. This one is trying to be sexy, I think, but it’s juvenile and clueless. Nothing positive to say about this one I’m afraid. There’s about 100 seconds of material here, yet the song is almost five minutes long. Sort it out.

Inside Of Me‘. Sex breath. Let your mind conjure some images from that phrase. At least this one feels sexy. A strange girly voice. Better melodies. Lyrics don’t appear to be about sex, more about sadness and hope. This is the best song yet, though that isn’t saying much. Still, it’s another good Madonna song that I wasn’t aware of.

Human Nature‘. Screeching RnB. Express yourself, don’t repress yourself. Yes, but more importantly – don’t be a dick about it. Sweary lyrics. Another new voice. A reaction to the public reaction to her last album? Or related to some relationship? So, good lyrics, silly music, melodies of no consequence.

Forbidden Love‘. More slow, smooth beats. Even though I don’t like a lot of these songs, the Production is always right on the money for the period. It’s another case of bland versus followed by a marginally better chorus. She sings with a more traditional Madonna voice this time around. The first part of the chorus hints at something great, but it fizzles out. This is one of the better songs on the album so far.

Love Tried To Welcome Me‘. Hiss. Strings. Good? Guitar. Jangles. Promising. Smooth RnBeats. I feel like this would have had more impact if it had a different production or backing music. It’s already stripped back, but those beats don’t really work. This one is quite sad, quite good, and the chorus is fine. Doesn’t reach the heights. Feels like a good one for a rainy day window view.

Sanctuary‘. Words. Familiar melody. More beats. Odd pipes. Bass. Quite unusual, though quite nice. Mysterious. A lot of songs on the album don’t feel like Madonna songs, maybe because these are not straightforward, simple pop songs like we are used to. More spoken words. The melodies are a little repetitive here, but still hypnotic.

‘Bedtime Story’. Throb sounds. Sex sounds. Portishead again. More threatening tone. Back beat. Feels like a centerpiece. There’s the dated beats. It does feel sort of dreamy in a warm, sultry, heroin snuggly way. It’s all monotone though. I don’t mind this one, has the shadows, has the nice dark tone I love for night driving with the warm air grooving, or drifting off to sleep in a daze.

‘Take A Bow’. Ah, I know this one. It’s quite sweet. It feels like a tacked on song to the end of a darker album. Still it ends up being a highlight for me. It’s quite funny how different this is in tone from everything else. I like this one – I can’t see it changing anyone’s world, but there is an innocence, a Michael Jackson vibe, and easy hooks.

Looking at the cover art and with the backlash from her previous album I was expecting this to be a more mainstream, melodic, pop-based affair, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. This is a dance album, ‘bedtime’ simply means sex, and none of the songs really work as obvious singles, outside of the final track. Credit for continuing to experiment and try different things but it’s not to my tastes. Most of the songs are too… empty? There isn’t any emotion or enough variance – experiment all you want, but you still need something to pull people in and keep them. The album was a success so clearly I’m in the minority. Since when has anyone listened to me anyway?

Let us know in the comments what you thought of Bedtime Stories. Is this one of Madonna’s best, or are you a n’fan (not a fan)? Next up it’s ah… it’s Evita. Don’t cry for me, but I really don’t know much about the music from it, aside from the pun I just made. I think I’ll listen only to the actual songs, not the other guff that is probably included too. Adios!

Nightman Listens To – Roxette – Pearls Of Passion!

Greetings, Glancers. As you’re probably aware if you frequent this place, I have been revisiting the sounds of my childhood and filling in the gaps of those artists I used to listen to, but who have since made albums which I haven’t heard. The main artists in this series are Bryan Adams, Madonna, and Bon Jovi – massive artists whose songs have been a part of my life, but whose many albums I may not have heard all the way through. As I near the end of this journey, I realised there was one more band who I used to listen to al lot in my youth – mainly because they were my older brother’s main choice for long car journeys. If you already read the title of this post, you’ll know that band is Roxette. If you didn’t read the title, then surprise – that band is Roxette!

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As I say, they were my brother’s choice so there was a fair bit of ribbing and mocking going on between us. In truth of course, I’ve always had a thing for high emotion and power ballads and Roxette have more than a few of these in their discography. Looking down their studio albums, there are at least four albums I have zero knowledge of and one which I have maybe heard one song from. I am more familiar with their earlier albums as those are the ones my brother had, but I can’t say I’ve listened to any of them since around 1995. Of those 5 albums, maybe 1 or 2 of them I have not heard all the way through. In other words, these posts will be filled with memories, some good songs, some naff songs, and hopefully a few hidden gems. Lets start from the top with their 1986 debut Pearls Of Passion.

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Looking down the track list of the album, there are maybe only two song titles I recognise, but I’m sure I’ll remember a few others. Don’t bore us, get to the chorus!

Soul Deep: Drums, I Am The Resurrection. Trumpets. Woo oooh yeah. High, powerful vocals. I remember pieces of this. The chorus is kind of catchy, it’s a light, fun pop song but nothing memorable.

Secrets That She Keeps: Fading in, whirling vocals. 80s drums and twinkling. Wah oh waohwaohah. Catchy verses. Per chorus. Typical 80s pop, bound to fill anyone of a certain age with nostalgia, even if you haven’t heard this. I remember this one too. Key change. Guitar solo. All showing their ability to write a good hook, which they would hone and perfect in next albums.

Goodbye To You: Fast drums. More 80s sounds. Goof, fast paced vocals and verse melodies. Blending of Marie and Per. You don’t get double acts like this anymore. A perfectly good chorus. I don’t remember this one, but it’s my favourite of the three songs so far.

I Call Your Name: Drums and funky bass and guitar. More atmospheric 80s stuff, that little burst of synth underneath everything else. The chorus is simple, just singing the title a few times, but I like the melodies. It’s another good one -no crap songs yet, not too much cheese to date things, the melodies could be transported into a more modern form and the songs would be as strong. No killer song yet, but consistently good.

Surrender: More twinkling. More 80s drums. More atmosphere. This one sounds familiar. Per leading the vocals for now. Guitar now and bigger beat. And now Marie takes the lead. The voices do compliment each other, even though for the most part they don’t sing together – each take their own section. I can imagine this playing over any number of 80s movies.

Voices: Synth. Lots of synth and keyboards and atmosphere. Rich in mood. Good bridge. Good chorus (both voices together). Why did so many songs in the 80s talk about ‘border lines’? This is another good song, though they missed a trick by not adding in one more melody in the chorus between the ‘ooh oohs’ – I can hear it in my head and it fits perfectly.

Neverending Love: Keys and 80s drums and muted guitar. The verses and bridge don’t really work, but the chorus is good enough. This one does sound pretty cheesy, even for me. Drums and overall sound changes in the middle instrumental section.

Call Of The Wild: Synths like a pan pipe, and you’ve guessed it – atmosphere. More frequently changing melodies. None of the melodies do much, the chorus puts in a decent effort but it doesn’t quite pull it off.

Joy Of A Toy: This is one I recognised from the title only. It’s a faster paced song compared to the last two, and those minor hooks work well – the ‘woo oh’ in the bridge for example, and the chorus melody is okay. There are moments in the synth intro which remind me of the desert levels in Mario 64.

From One Heart To Another: Starts like a ballad. Both singers together. Gentle. Synth, drums, and Per for the first verse. Now Marie takes the verse. Together for the chorus. All very nice. Of course it’s cheesy, but it feels genuine.

Like Lovers Do: Faster paced, sounds more fun and lighthearted. More sharing of vocal verse duties. Nice absence of drums for the pre-chorus. It’s fairly catchy, like a few of the others.

So Far Away: Last song. Slow. Moody. Uppy downy synth. Slow drum and some sort of sitar noise. Great chorus with great vocals. The verses aren’t anywhere near as powerful, but are possibly deliberately underplayed to heighten the chorus. What was that lyric? Matron. Marching drums.

All in all this was a better debut album than I was expecting. Like the four other artist I have covered so far in my main Nightman Listens series (Bowie, Jovi, Adams, Madonna), I was expecting this to be an average affair with only minor hints of what the artist would later produce. This has all the hallmarks of Roxette already in place, and while they would go on to write much bigger and better hits, many of the songs on this first album are enjoyable pop rock. This makes me more excited to see what comes down the line, especially when we listen to their biggest albums and of course those recent ones that I know nothing about. Let us know in the comments if you have heard Pearls of Passion and what your thoughts and memories are of it!

Nightman Listens To – David Bowie – Low

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Greetings, Glancers. Today I listen to an album I have been looking forward to, primarily because it is one of Bowie’s most acclaimed while also being one i don’t think I know any songs from. Looking at the eleven songs on Low none of the names jump out at me, so I don’t think I’ve even heard the singles, though once I start listening I might recognise some of them. I’ve always known that Low was the start of of Bowie’s Berlin period – a time when he moved away from the US to try to get clean and subsequently became influenced by German music. This began a switch to a more electronic, less rock focused style – I’ve never been a fan of electronic music but I have not been the biggest fan of Bowie’s glam rock moments so it’ll be interesting to see how this sits with me.

Speed Of Life‘. Throb. Guitars. Noises. Beat. A logical next step for glam. I don’t like that guitar tone. Shift. Good drums and everything else. There’s the synth. Where’s the vocals? Instrumental? It sounds nice and all, but not sure if it does enough to warrant being that long and not merging into next song.

Breaking Glass‘. More guitars, nice riffs. Talky vocals. Jump scare. Bass funk. Toe taps. Short. Two songs which are decent but feel very much like last minute ideas jumbled together.

What In The World‘. Spectrum game noises. Talky vocals. Drums. Chaos. Guitar bits. Certainly interesting and messy and something else.

Sound And Vision‘. Country funky twang. This one sounds familiar. Twinkling synth. Do dee doo. Thrumpet. Yes, thrumpet. Very nice.

Always Crashing In The Same Car‘. More traditional, though still lots of noises wafting around. Good ‘chorus’. Good guitars.

Be My Wife‘. This one is great right off the bat. I’ve never heard this before but it feels as if I have. Superb drums and bass, guitar and piano are great, and it has a bunch of melody squeezed in. I’d say this is one of my favourites so far in my Bowie journey, of the ones I’m new to.

A New Career In A New Town‘. Beat. Beats. Feels like New Order. Nice backing sounds. Smash. Piano and harmonica and guitar. Another instrumental? This is pretty great too. Quiet. Loud. Fading.

Warszawa‘. Doom. Epic. Throbbing. Sci-fi soundtrack. Another instrumental? It’s another good one. Loving the Flutey McClarinet. Words. Tribal chants. This is something else entirely. Getting Pink Floyd and The Gathering vibes. Doesn’t sound dated in any way.

Art Decide‘. Noises and shakes. Louder noises. More sci-fi soundtrack stuff. This one is okay, not a patch on the previous song though.

Weeping Wall‘. Jangling. Giant synth throbs. Noise disaster. Guitar being played from another room. Guitars infested with wasps. Howls. Similar feelings to this as the previous song.

Subterraneans‘. Eerie. Hums. Another instrumental? Monks. Yes, I can imagine a horde of cult types huddling in some dank underwater cave, hooded conga lines, and one lonley sole looking up through the sewer grates at the neon world above, wishing to reach out and grab hold of it. Better than the last two, not quite up to Warszawa’s standards.

I’ll get thumped for saying it, but this has an air of a collection of B-Sides to it; that’s not a reflection of the quality of the songs as there are some great tunes here that I instantly liked – it’s more to do with the album lacking a consistency, something tying the whole thing together, and having a lot of instrumentals. This of course is a first listen and an immediate reaction, so this sort of review doesn’t lend itself well to recognizing the less obvious traits. We all know that some albums take multiple listens to get under your skin. The goods far outweigh the negatives here and it’s therefore an album I’ll want to listen to again. The album doesn’t sound anything like what I expected to, based upon what I’ve read about – I was expecting a lot more synth and repetition, but it’s clearly Bowie’s flexible take on things rather than a simple copycat by a lesser artist. I believe many critics lambasted this upon release for not having enough vocals… you know, I’ve never been a huge fan of Bowie’s singing – his voice or his delivery, so I’m quite happy to have less singing. I understand both why people dismissed this on release, and why it has grown in acclaim over the years.

Let us know in the comments what your thoughts on Low are. Is it your favourite Bowie album, or is it one you rarely listen to?

 

Nightman Listens To – Bon Jovi – Blaze Of Glory!

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You didn’t think he was going to do it, but back of the net! He (I’m) back, and yes, this time I’m going to branch off from the main Bon Jovi discography and listen to Jon’s two solo efforts. Blaze Of Glory or the Young Guns II Soundtrack was written and released at what most consider the band’s heyday – late 1980s, early 90s. At the time of writing, I have listened to and reviewed all of Bon Jovi’s pre-2000 albums so before I move on to the new millennium I thought I would cross off the two main solo albums. The other members of the band have released solo material, but I don’t know if I’ll care enough to listen to those – at least with Jon’s solo albums I am already aware of some of the songs and have a vague idea of what I’m getting myself into. Young Guns II is a particular favourite of mine and I’ve always been fond of the music – even though only two songs from this album appear in the movie. I haven’t heard the rest of this album, as far as I can recall, so it’ll be another interesting one for me. For you? Shut up and read.

Billy Get Your Guns: Starts in standard Bon Jovi style – big guitars and a little bit cheesy and 80s around the edges. He’s saying ‘Billy’ too much. Nothing exciting in the verses, light, fun, with a chorus which is a little better but still not anything special. There’s a pretty awful hand clap, music free section in there to reduce levels further.

Miracle: Ahh, that short intro brings back memories of watching the movie, before the song proper starts. This one seems like a nice enough ballad – I’ve probably head this before but I don’t remember exactly. More unfortunate hand claps in the chorus, along with some gospel backing – a decent chorus but it’s all very MOR 80s stuff. The guitar solo works well though.

Blaze Of Glory: The main event. Growing up as not a huge fan of Westerns in general, anytime I thought about cowboys I heard this song in my head. Even know, those opening notes make me think of The Wild West. Great song and typical of Bon Jovi’s best – atmospheric, melodic, big chorus. It’s great how the song fits in so well with the movie too, from lyrics to the actual music.

Blood Money: Harmonica and country guitars. Pat Garrett. Good verse melodies. Good melodies throughout. A short and sweet one, interesting and pretty.

Santa Fe: Drums and strings and piano. Nice intro. Good vocals again and more good melodies. Emotive and atmospheric, another great song which I’m surprised I don’t know.

Justice In The Barrel: Native American voices and other assorted sounds and words. This goes one for about a minute before the guitar comes in – great solo followed by manic drums, spoken words, gunshots and other swirling sounds. This interesting start gives way after a couple of minutes to a jarring, slightly cheesy riff. More very 80s stuff once the singing begins. The drums are unusually stuttered throughout. Decent middle section with more good guitars. A very odd song with equal parts good, bizarre, and crap.

Never Say Die: This is a faster paced song with memorable simple riff and catchy moments throughout. This one is quite familiar to me so I must have heard it before. Not sure about those random shouts, but that’s part and parcel of the BJ experience (matron). This could be a Bon Jovi band song from the 80s as it has the euphoric stadium chorus and the fist-pumping verses as any of their singles.

You Really Got Me Now: What a silly opening. What a silly tavern song. I guess it’s maybe good for a chuckle, but it’s nonsense that shouldn’t be on the album.

Bang A Drum: Drums. Chord. This sounds more reasonable. Drums pull back. Preacher. Decent verse. Good chorus. Similar inspiring stuff as your standard Bon Jovi fare. Backing choir for the chorus. Decent bridge. Here comes the solo? Yes. Extended outro with more prominent choir work. A perfectly fine song.

Dyin’ Ain’t Much Of A Livin’: Taking a famous Eastwood movie quote as the title for one of your songs seems like a good enough idea. Slow pace. More atmospheric soul searching. The chorus doesn’t have the impact it needs to. I think the verses and chorus work well on their own, but there is a slight disconnect between them so everything doesn’t sync up. Hmm, that na na bit actually sounds a little like a song I wrote, slightly.

Guano City: And so we reach the end. Seems like they have gone instrumental. It pumps along in dramatic fashion, reminds me a little of The Untouchables. Too short and doesn’t add anything to the album whatsoever.

A mixture of good and bad then – par for the course. Plenty of the songs fit with the tone of the movie and stand well on their own, but there’s only two or three here you’re going to choose to listen to multiple times. Next time it’ll be Jon’s second solo effort – again a soundtrack, but this time for a movie I haven’t seen – Destination Anywhere. Let us know in the comments what your thoughts of Blaze Of Glory and Young Guns II are!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Colin Larkin’s Ranking: 338/100

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

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

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

Nightman Listens To – Erotica – Madonna

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Greetings, Glancers! We’re back with Madonna today, back to her main studio albums and hopefully a return to form after the poor (in my mind) soundtrack album I’m Breathless. If you read my post on Like A Prayer you’ll know that I thought it was a fantastic album, brave, controlled, cultured, and most importantly packed with great music. Erotica was another well received album, and the first one where she began to focus more directly on sex from all directions. She had touched upon the subject frequently with previous albums, but with this one she takes sex and turns it into a concept album. It was at this time that she released her controversial Sex book, and presumably with this album she pushed a lot of boundaries for mainstream pop. Looking at the track list, I think I only know four of the fourteen songs, so I’ll be hoping once again for a few new gems. There’s no sense in waiting any further, lets strip off and get down to business.

Erotica‘ opens with record static, followed by quite tribal beats, heavy percussion and spoken lyrics. There’s a bit of Jungle Boogie in there, a heavily experimental sound unlike anything she had displayed before. The verse lyrics are good, lots of innuendo, but little melody – the chorus switches things by focusing on melody and dropping the lyrical intensity. I remember being not 100% fond of this one at the time, but I appreciate it more now. It does seem a little long, if only from a single perspective, but maybe the single version was cut down a bit.

Fever‘ is of course a cover. When I looked at this on the track list I couldn’t quite remember if this was a cover or one of her own which I couldn’t recall, but as soon as the song started I remembered hearing it. I’ve never been a huge fan of any version of this song, but I suppose this is as good as any, with a bit of New Jack, and a bit of club. There isn’t enough going on to warrant the five minute running time and it does feel dull and dated, even if the beat is infectious.

Bye Bye Baby‘ has similar drum beats to the previous songs, so there is a consistency. Unfortunately this sound feels dated now and reminds me of Vanilla Ice or PJ and Duncan or some such balls. Madonna does sound different, adopting a vicious Betty Boop persona and voice. Good production, lots going on, but it is dated. What excites me? The little pieces of synth which threaten to grow, but then they go away. Lyrics are okay, but melodically it’s poor and doesn’t grab the attention. Surprise end.

Deeper And Deeper‘ opens with a mix of synth and piano before dance beats come in to make us know where we stand. I was always a bit partial to this and even 9-10 year old me would have danced around the house to it like a weirdo, but again it has dated badly. A return to better hooks. An updated version of this one (there’s probably one out there) would presumably improve matters. It feels quite long, but there is some variance with the Spanish instruments joining the din. Vogue surprise.

Where Life Begins‘ starts a little differently – light on percussion, high on instrumental tinkering. This is momentary as a sultry beat soon takes over as Madonna whispers about her special area. It does manage to sound sexy and interesting, not tacky. Some of the lyrics are a bit on the nose (matron), others are funny, but I think I quite like this one. At least she’s being direct, most pop music now which deals with sex does so in a roundabout way or just dives in like cheap porn.

Bad Girl‘ has a slow beat and twinkling piano, before a heavier beat comes in over some delicate melodies and thoughtful, thought-provoking lyrics. I don’t remember ever hearing this one so it’s another surprise. Not the most memorable song but good enough on the first listen.

Waiting‘ is another song which tips past the 5 minute mark, and it’s another bass and drums laden track. I appreciate the length of the songs as this hints at ignoring the standard 3-4 pop single standard and doing whatever the hell she wants. Of course, sometimes songs need to be 3-4 minutes. This one tries to be sultry, has more spoken vocals and is low on melody aside from the chorus, so it feels like forgettable mid-album stuff. Again, there is a certain amount of variance, great production, but I’m not a huge fan of the drum and bass heavy stuff. This has good moments, not enough though.

Thief Of Hearts‘ has more Twin Peaks synths at the start before a series of faster beats take the lead. It’s another I haven’t heard, the drums are a little too weak here, there is some dated stuff, but I like the energy, the dark atmosphere which the synth brings, and the melodies. There’s another couple of R’n’B breakdown in the middle with something not quite rap emerging, leading to some comedy swearing and the final verse, chorus run which threatens to run out of steam.

Words‘ opens like a movie about an apocalyptic wasteland, the silence suddenly broken by a mass desert orgy/rave. It’s another which relies to heavily on the beat and that’s something I personally am not very interested in. Some of the sounds are annoying here, but again there are good moments – snippets of melody, a few lyrics here and there. This one is definitely overdone and almost 6 minutes long, not adding enough variance to justify that length.

Rain‘ has always been one of my favourite Madonna songs – I loved it upon release, and I’ve gone back to it several times over the years. Musically, it’s a massive departure from the rest of the album, but in terms of lyrics, tone, and atmosphere it retains the darkness, sadness, and anger. The opening begins in the same vein, with prominent beats before flowering into a luscious ballad. I’m listening now to the album version and wondering if the single was a little different. I must check on that. There are a few unnecessary instrument and sound choices which should have been dropped in favour of a more streamlined approach.

Why’s It So Hard‘ has a slight rock edge, with guitar parts deep in the mix, but again at the core is the percussion. The central beat is slow, contrasted by the speedy vocals, and the lyrics question the issues preventing unity among people. It has a few catchy moments but like quite a few of the songs on this album it lacks your standard immediate pop chorus. This one does feel stretched, again meandering past five minutes.

In This Life‘ is one which goes behind 6 minutes, so it better be good. An uppy downy line opens things, with some drunken piano playing simplistic, repetitive notes while Madonna sings melodies which don’t seem to sync with the music. It creates a hypnotic tone and once it comes together for the chorus it feels powerful. It’s obviously a personal lyric, I must say I prefer the vocal melody to the verse piano antics. It is overlong, but the spoken word parts do well, as they do for the most part on the rest of the album, and I usually don’t like spoken parts on songs.

Did You Do It‘ begins with some mumbled spoken parts, then the same old horns and percussive beat begins. Some guy begins rapping and this one for a change actually sounds quite modern. Madonna only comes in for the chorus (which seems to be a reprise), a lot of the lyrics are funny, explicit, and it feels like this could have been a single (if they’d been able to get away with the lyrics). It’s quite interesting to include this, as so much of the album is a woman’s perspective of sex and love while this is clearly from the man’s side. What does it mean with respect to the rest of the album – mocking the male approach to sex? Showing that men and women aren’t that different in terms of sex?

Secret Garden‘ opens with piano and some sort of throbbing beat. The drums come in which sound a little Beatles and a little Massive Attack. And she’s singing about her special area again. More whispered verse vocals, more melodic chorus. The vocals are a little too low so I can’t make everything out. Jazz interlude.

This was clearly groundbreaking stuff and there are some very good songs here, but much of it feels dated and I’m not a huge fan of the same beat and percussive style which is used on almost every track. Having said that, there are nods to a wide array of genres – jazz, rock, but at it’s core this is a thinking person’s dance record – introspective yet shamelessly extrovert, personal yet universal, and isn’t frightened to lay opinions bare or question taboo, or expose itself. With more musical variance in terms of production and instrumentation, I think I would have enjoyed this more – on several occasions the melody or idea is sacrificed for the sake of mood or beat, something which works best in small doses – here is as as unsubtle and all-pervading as someone walking into your room in a gimp suit. Even with it being dated musically, the ideas are fresh and challenging and it is clear that Madonna the artist was operating on a level apart from any of her supposed peers.

Let us know in the comments what you think of Madonna’s Erotica – were you there when it was released, what is your favourite song from the album, and where do you rank the album alongside her other releases?

Nightman Listens To – David Bowie – Station To Station

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Greetings, Glancers! We hop on the Bowie train today and choo-choo-choose another of his most famous and acclaimed albums – Station To Station.  I’m in a bit of a groove now with Bowie as I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the last couple of albums I’ve listened to by him. I am concerned now that by choosing to listen to whole albums by a particular artist that said artist is going to die – watch out Madonna, Adams, and Jovi, I guess. With this album, Bowie his Thin White Duke and Berlin phases, and looking at the tracklist (only six songs!) I think I only know two of the songs.

If you’re a regular Glancer, you’ll know that I usually write most of my posts months in advance of actually posting them. At current time of writing, it’s 11th May 2016. I have an unpublished post (at time of writing) on Young Americans, which I wrote shortly before Bowie died. You’ll know by now then that 2016 has been a fairly horrific year for death of icons big and small. I should say that does add a certain poignancy to listening to these albums now, but that shouldn’t factor into me liking them or otherwise. This is going to be the first Bowie album I have listened to since he died in other words. I hope it’s a good’un.

‘Station To Station’. This begins with a lot of hissing and phasing noises flying from ear to ear, and the occasional chugging along tracks before a two note Jaws like melody starts. This is all very ominous and industrial and maddening, and it doesn’t feel coherent until the drums kick in. Even then we have minutes of noise – scratching guitars, dissonance and distortion, and assorted instruments popping in until eventually the vocals join. The vocals are deep in tone and waver ghostly, the beat repetitive and the melody trouncing like clockwork. It isn’t until after the five minute work that a more immediate traditionally melodic section begins. This veers a little too close to the glam rock tone that I don’t enjoy, but there is enough experimentation and weirdness to keep a barrier between the two. I don’t remember this being over ten minutes long. There’s a saucy solo in there somewhere too.

Golden Years‘ is quite a funky one that I know from the Stephen King series of the same name. It’s all quite unusual with the vocals moving from fast to slow, low to high, agitated to drunken. It’s a strange one to try to foot tap to as the beat keeps shifting and an assortment of hand claps and drums come in to mix it up. Again the backing riffs and instrumentation have a monotony (not in a negative sense) which keeps the songs moving in a hypnotic droning fashion. I’m not convinced the final thirty seconds or so are really needed, but I suppose they provide a suitable ending.

Word On A Wing’ string synth sound and lovely piano. Drums and piano and guitar. Nice vocals which build to a crescendo where Bowie lets his voice belt out like he rarely allows. Again there are a few changes in beat and rhythm, but the tone stays true throughout and it all remains quite lovely. The vocals and music meld together to make an emotional whole of the type I haven’t felt much from Bowie in my listening so far. I imagine that his big and long term fans would shed a few tears when playing this one now. Synth and organ for the finish.

TVC 15‘ has a honky tonk feel, that piano and those ‘eh eh oh oh ohs’. A futuristic Country song. Again the song has a trance like monotony and the vocals are particularly manic. I laughed at the ‘transition/transmission’ section as the song literally changes, and then an epic volume and upgraded beat come in to raise the song a few notches. Then it all smooths out after the three minute mark to return to the ‘eh eh oh ohs’. Quite a bizarre song with a puzzling and hypnotic structure all of its own.

Stay‘ opens like it’s going to be heavy rocker to an inspirational sports movie like Rocky. It’s another weird yet effective mixture of funk, disco, rock, and utter chaos. I suspect modern audiences would think he was off his face recording stuff like this. Of course he was, but he had been recording similarly strange works for years. So much of it feels avant garde yet free and unrehearsed, but I think that’s more a testament to the writers and performers. Great guitar work in the middle, naturally great work from everyone but it’s always the guitar I notice, and these antics drift on for the final minutes.

Wild Is The Wind‘is a soft and more traditional song to close the album, though having said that Bowie does go full weirdo for the vocals. It feels like another highly emotionally charged song, especially with every repetition of that title line. And so we have another which is bound to send fans into floods of tears, but what’s with the sudden abrupt end?

A bit of a departure from the previous couple of albums which I have liked. I did like this, and I imagine it would grow on me with more listens but it didn’t have the immediate impact I was hoping for. The handful of emotional songs felt powerful, and the endless groove and fixation on movement was also interesting, and I think the album had some of the best musicianship of the albums I’ve heard so far. Let me know in the comments where this ranks in your list of best Bowie albums, what your favourite songs are, and any other opinions!