Nightman Listens To – Bon Jovi – Crush

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nightman Listens To – Roxette – Look Sharp!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nightman Listens To Bryan Adams – Room Service

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Greetings, Glancers! Well here we are at album number 10 for Mr Adams. Quite a feat sir, quite a feat. We’ve had highs, we’ve had lows, but I’m still listening baby. If an artist or band hasn’t gone sour by album 10, they are a rare breed, but time catches up on us all. Has time caught up with Adams here? I’ve no idea as I’m not confident that I have heard a single song from this album. The song ‘This Side Of Paradise’ sounds familiar, but I won’t know till I actually listen. According to online sources the album still sold fairly well worldwide, but didn’t make an impact in the US due to Adams not having a record company or something. It seems like most critics had abandoned him by now too, not that they were ever really on his side, to be fair. But I will be fair, for I am The Nightman, and wherever there are experiences to experience, The Nightman will give his four cents (the other two are a tip). What was I doing again? Ah yes.

‘East Side Story’ starts with Guitar and swirly noises. Familiar scratchy vocals. Basic verse. Sudden chorus. Fine. Plain. Doesn’t really rock, doesn’t really sway. Just nice, music for happy, well adjusted types.

‘This Side Of Paradise’ sounds like another light one. Spoken vocals. Oldsmobile. Sweet again. Nice again. Plain again. No edge, nothing infectious. I have no memory of this. I assume in a month’s time I will have no memory of this. Come on Bryan, ain’t you got another good’un in ya?

‘Not Romeo, Not Juliet’ opens with a jaunty piano and guitar duet. A little bit blues, a little bit country, a little bit rock. Now a little chorus with a little organ. He really loves his not-quite-ballads. This is basically the same song three times in a row. You can’t help but yawn. Still, I can’t really criticize it, it’s the sort of thing plenty people will enjoy – for me, it’s boring and inoffensive.

‘Flying’ is, cripes, it’s another ballad. This one feels better. Do people actually have sex (sorry, ‘make love’) all day? Wouldn’t you chafe? This is one for the candles and lighters and swaying arms. It’s better but still a little dull when compared with his bigger ballads.

‘She’s A Little Too Good For Me’ is faster, seems more upbeat. Still in lovey dovey ballad territory though. Woo, there we go. Drums. Decent lyrics. Reminds me of ‘Never Be Another Tonight’. This is good then – not quite good enough to make me sing its praises, but fun enough to make me want to listen again. Short too.

‘Open Road’ sounds like something from the last album. Up-tempo again. Driving song. Should have repeated that ‘on and on’ piece to enhance the bridge. Okay chorus. Two better songs then, three if we include ‘Flying’. Which we probably should. Lower grade hits are these  – songs to hide in your shuffle that will only pop out every few hundred songs to remind you that they exist. Still waiting for another song you want to have on your shuffle every ten songs.

I Was Only Dreaming‘ gets off into ballad territory, but immediately this one is much stronger. I actually like the brass just after the chorus. The verses are plain but they feel as if they are leading to something stronger, which they do – a good bridge, and a good chorus. Naturally, I like the strings and the whole arrangement is sound – this is more of an honest love song without being bogged down in sentiment or effort and as such is the best song on the album so far.

Right Back Where I Started From‘ opens with decent guitar, sounding more like the successful mid-nineties Adams stuff. It’s mid-tempo, gently rocks, but crucially it has clear melodies in the big chorus and fluttering through the verses. It feels like a happy, fun song and continues the increase in quality in the album’s second half.

Nowhere Fast‘ feels like another decent song. It’s another love song, because of course it is. But the melodies are there – verse, bridge, chorus – all good. Again it feels honest, and nothing is strained or forced. Nice little middle break for a few moments too.

Why Do You Have To Be So Hard To Love‘ starts off like a slow country ballad, little flutterings of piano and subtle guitar licks. A little bit of string in there too. It’s sweet enough, a nice one for a swaying dance though I’m not sure if the lyrics really qualify for such close quarters. This is a song about frustration so it would be better suited to some romantic drama where the woman throws a mug at the guy and the guy sits alone at a bar while some temptation slides up beside him. And then it’s over fairly quickly, a good choice rather than dragging the song out, so quite good overall.

Blessing In Disguise‘ is.. ugh… he’s just gone full country. I just don’t like this whole sound, never have. Uppy downy guitar, honky tonk piano and the same melodies you’ve heard since Billy The Kid was cruising the bars in the Old West. Okay, it does end up more like a blues country song by the end, but it’s just the opposite of everything I like.

Well, that final song sure dampened things after they were picking up. The album got off to a poor, slow start abut things improved around halfway. There is a terrible reliance on ballads and too many of the tracks lack ambition or stand out enough from their brethren present or past. There’s a few songs here that I’d gladly listen to again that I wasn’t previously aware of, but it isn’t an album I’d recommend from Adams and until I’m more familiar with the few good songs I couldn’t recommend those over other more obvious picks from his back catalogue. Still, it’s interesting to see the direction he went in for this album and I’m interested to see if his follow-up 11 follows in this vein. I don’t have high hopes for that one, but maybe we’ll get a few surprises.

Let us know in the comments what you thought of Room Service!

Nightman Listens To! Eurythmics – Savage (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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Greetings, glancers. It’s time for you to wail and gnash your teeth once more as I proclaim the greatest albums ever to be kind of crappy. Today I tread into the terrifying land of 80s synth based pop, ginger-headed melodies, and regrettable fashion choices. It’s another album I know zero about by a band who have had a few singles I’ve enjoyed and a few I have not. It’ll be interesting for me to hear if they can make a coherent whole album, or if they are the singles band that I know them as. Synth music, especially a lot of the chart stuff from the 80s has never sat well with me, partly because it came out of Disco (which I never loved) and eventually became today’s generic dance music (which is terrible). For a while when synths were first used, they had a purpose and a focus, but songs soon became overburdened by the instrument to the point of ridicule, or were not used with any sort of smarts, or just sounded crap. Maybe there isn’t any synth on this album, I have no idea. Only one way to find out.

What Do I Know About Eurythmics: Lennox-based pop duet who had a string of hits in the 80s and early 90s, employing Annie’s big mouthed vocals and lots of electronic sounds.

What Do I Know About Savage: Zilch, never heard of it. In fact, looking down the track listing I don’t recognise a single song.

Beethoven (I Love To Listen To): 80s drum beats with a slight squeak. Wind noises. Growing. More drums. Disaster. Ridiculous, laughable, dated sounds. Repeated vocals. Silly speaking. Fading from ear to ear. Additional silly bleeps. It sounds so tame and feeble and horrendously outdated. At least the lyrics are interesting. Shift towards fake strings, better for a few seconds. Laughter. And on it goes.

I’ve Got A Lover (Back In Japan): Bits of guitar or something. Beat and simple set of notes. Catchy enough chorus. Vocals like a yawn. Middle bit. Didn’t go anywhere. Goes on for a bit more with a few additional swerves and throbs and vocal bits.

Do You Want To Break Up: Clicks and twinkles. Guitar bend. Nuts. Baywatch. Beats mess. Vocal disgrace. More yawning. Low bits. High bits. Playing with the tempo. Ridiculous chorus. Repeat with assorted bits.

You Have Placed A Chill In My Heart: Sigh. More wafery fluffy beats. Keyboard bits and bassy bits and vocal tics. It’s oddly infectious though, but pretty plan and not very interesting. Enough.

Shame: Non-Tubular bells. Louder. Shame. Cersei’s breasts. Thumpy beat noise. Better melodies. Wondering if I’ve heard this, but probably not. Rolling Rs. Best song so far, I could listen to this again. Not too much though.

Savage: Organs. Churching. More soft beats. Anti-things lyrics. Gentle. Savage. Harp sounds. Drums and guitar kick up a notch. Aircraft flyby sounds. Guitar solo. Air. Ooohing. Fading out.

I Need A Man: Harsher vocals. Bluesy husky. Sexy? It has a different sound from the other tracks so far, but isn’t as heavy as it could have been. Better vocal delivery. Funny Status Quo guitars. Bababababababay.

Put The Blame On Me: Funky disco guitars. And funky disco beats. A sound more suited to me. More interesting melodies, especially on the title line. Piano falling downstairs. Weirdo noises and speaking. Unnecessary words. Howl. A good song, but like most others here the song seems to run out of ideas long before it ends and has a minute or more of filler at the end – throw in a few more variances or twists, don’t simply let the song fade to nothing like a watery fart.

Heaven: Uppy downy bass. Synth. Whispers. Heaven. Falling back on boring sounds and habits. A third of the song done and nothing doing. Too much of this feels like music for dickheads to dance to. No further substance or interest. Into the final minute we get a slight change, marginally better, but too little too late.

Wide Eyed Girl: Rain on a caravan roof. Faster. A View To A Kill. More yawns. More squeals and tics. Live bit. Attempted crazy guitar. Gets more raucous towards the end.

I Need You: Bits. Acoustic blast. More bits. Guitar repeat. A little bit of blues. Faking. Laughter. All very basic, but shows you don’t need all the blips and blaps.

Brand New Day: Last song up. Vocals only. A brave thing to do when you’re known for your synth and backing music. Grunts and backing vocals. We all know Lennox can sing, it’s a pity she arses about too much on too many of the songs. In comes the synth and noise. At least this one does feel like it was well planned beforehand. Drums now. This feels more like an opening track than a closing one. Gospel. End.

What Did I Learn: Not really anything I didn’t know about the band already, except that the lyrics are more interesting than I’d previously paid attention to.

Does It Deserve A Place In The Top 1000 Albums Of All Time: I would say no. Of course maybe it was another important step for electronic pop. The first songs drag on as the sound and style don’t appeal to me personally, and it all feels rather bland and dated. It doesn’t help that many of the vocals are grating and the melodies are not memorable. Once we get over that bump there are a few songs with greater quality, providing more ideas. I was expecting plenty of big choruses and tunes I that would have me whistling along instantly, but that never happened. As always with these albums, first listens are not the same as subsequent listens, but having gone through it once there isn’t enough to make me want to go through it again.

Another album down, and another which didn’t quite make the grade for me. But what about you? Is this one of your favourite albums and are you seething that I have failed to understand it? What makes it special for you? Let us know in the comments!

Nightman Listens To – David Bowie – ”Heroes”

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Greetings, Glancers! We’re back with sexy spaceman himself today and listening to yet another of his most lauded efforts. “Heroes” is a song everyone knows and was another one of those Bowie hits I learned to play on guitar back in my teens. As for the album, I understand it is the second part of his Berlin trilogy which means it will be heavily inspired by the Krautrock and other euro music that Bowie surrounded himself with at the time. As for the other songs… I don’t think I recognise any of them so we’ll have to see. I wasn’t the biggest fan of Low and its reliance on instrumentals and ambiance so if this is in a similar vein I won’t be overly keen. If I enjoy some of the songs as much as the title track then we’ll be on to a winner. Lets get to it.

Beauty And The Beast: Noise. Piano. Boing. Building. Drums. Crash. Low voice. Fun and funky. Guitar. I can dig. My my.

Joe The Lion: More guitars, good good. Heavier edge than the glam nonsense. Funky again, with an industrial vibe – lots of noise. Like a lot of the backing riffs and how the vocal melodies intertwine. Guitar going buck nuts.

Heroes“: Well, not much to say about this. Immortal riffs, lyrics, melodies. My favourite part has always been the main riff going into the chorus. And of course when Bowie starts belting out the chorus. Good start to the album so far.

Sons Of The Silent Age: Slower. Drunk Dazed. Are we back in space? That riff sounds an awful lot like Pink Lady Lemonade by Acid Mothers Temple – seriously, compare them. This is more good stuff, hazy, crazy, drifty.

Blackout: Weirdness. Guitar weirdness, drum weirdness. Stabilizing. Collapsing. Piano. Vocal weirdness. Dancing. Breakdown. Guitar still going crazy like it’s in the wrong song, I always love it when guitar parts are like that.

V-2 Schneider: Phasing. Military drums. Bass. Noise. Assuming instrumental. Still, it’s good. Not much else to add. Now singing the title. I hear ‘Schneider’ I think ‘Buffy’.

Sense of Doubt: Ominous. News organs. Scary. Something coming to get me. Not a lot to this, but I like it, very good.

Moss Garden: Wind. Distortion. More instrumentals. I’m generally not a fan of instrumentals, but he’s got it right on this album. Japanese. A nice bit of calm after the previous unnerving stuff. Like wading through an ethereal pool of water and cloud.

Neukolln: This is making me hungry. Or I’m already hungry and it’s making it worse. Drippy toilet noises. Sax disaster. Honk. HONK. Weeeeeeee!

The Secret Life Of Arabia: Echo stubbed guitar. Cowboys. Drums. Singing. More nice funky disco rocky stuff. Ugh, not claps. A good ending.

So, a significant step up from Low in my opinion, which of course is worth less than nothing. The album doesn’t exactly lose its way in the second half, but instrumentals as a rule have to be exceptional to grab my attention alongside vocal pieces. These instrumentals are very good, but I prefer the first half. The harsher rock feel is more palatable for me when compared with Bowie’s glam work, meaning this is another one I’ll listen to again. Let us know in the comments what you think of “Heroes” and if you have any particular memories and opinions of it!

Nightman Listens To – Duke Ellington At Newport (Top 1000 Albums Series)

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Greetings, Glancers. We’re back once again to treat our ears and inferior minds with music to make us better people. Having said that, I immediately don’t have a good feeling about this one; it’s jazz, and jazz and me go together like Israel and Palestine. What can I say, I’m just not a fan of the brass.

What Do I Know About Duke Ellington: He was (is?) a Jazz musician

What Do I Know About Live At Newport: It’s a live show? At Newport?

Well, that was quick. Before I hit play, I will say that as I was typing this I saw that there is the original recording and a 1999 remaster clocking in at over 2 hours. I… I think I’ll stick with the original for now, thanks. There’s only five tracks, which probably means they’re all ten minutes long. Yippee!

‘Festival Junction’ opens with clapping and a very polite and unnecessary introduction. More clapping. A new thing. Tom And Jerry. Smooth. Fast and uppy downy. Mad skills. Piano. More. Drums. There’s the beat. More claps. Here we go, cats. I can imagine both weird 50s dancing and weird 50s hoodlums tipping their caps. In sync. Sounds like they’re having fun. It’s not annoying me in any way, but it’s just background noise for me. I’m sure if I’d been there I may have been swept up in the live atmosphere. it sounds like twelve different TV gameshow themes being played at the same time. Some squeals now. Those high notes do nothing for me, sir, but the crowd seem to be creaming all over them.

‘Blues To Be There’ starts with another spoken intro. Are all these new or improvised pieces that no-one has heard before, so they need to walk them in with words? Or was that just the style of the time? Slow, bluesy piano. Cymbals. Brass. It, and most jazz, still makes me think of Tom And Jerry, and I don’t think that’ll ever change. Halloween moment. Again it’s fine for me to have in the background, but I’m not a fan of music for background purposes. Who keeps shouting ‘yeah’? More twiddly now. Clapping. Oh, wait, not over yet. I wonder if anyone is going to move into the house across the road. It’s been empty for a year, and the sold sign has been up for about three weeks now. Actually, the sold sign split in half thanks to the wind the other night. It’s Friday January 27th as I write this, people usually move in on Fridays, right? More clapping. No, still going. People still write and listen to and release jazz, right? Young cubs I mean. It’s not about to die out. Every time I hear a car engine pausing outside I think it’s going to be someone new moving in over the road. End.

Newport Up‘ sees another introduction, man these hip cats sound so square. Fast, bouncy, skirts swirling, feet kicking. This one builds a frantic pace and has plenty of solo moments backed by exuberant backing blasts. Sorry guys, but again by non-jazzy ears are looking out for hooks rather than freestyle, so I can’t be the most objective about this. I like it, sure – it isn’t annoying and I appreciate the speed and skill of playing. But technical artistry is one thing, crafting memorable music that I can recall at a moment’s notice is another. Now it sounds like Archer. 

Jeep’s Blues‘ is immediately sex music. Tom And Jerry sex music that is – you know, one of those moments when the girl cat comes in and turns her eyelashes into a beckoning finger. It also sounds quite a bit like The Pink Panther in places. Yes, 99% of jazz music I know comes from cartoons – that’s why I’m listening to this – to increase my knowledge and better myself. What exactly are you doing? Yeah exactly, so shut up. It ambles and rambles on, nothing to see or hear here I’m afraid.

Diminuendo and Crescendo In Blue‘ is apparently two tracks merged together for this live outing. Piano and percussion. Then crazy horns. So this is ticking along nicely, I can’t really differentiate it from any of the previous tracks, probably because I’ve already forgotten them. It’s softer now, someone is clapping their hands, and someone keeps yelling. The shouting is quite annoying because I’ve no idea why he’s doing it. Is this good? Is that why? The crowd is damn well into though, maybe he’s just stoking the fire. Again, great skills on display, but the music isn’t my sort of thing and I’ve never been able to stand too much brass. That beat just keeps going on, this guy keeps playing, and the crowd is getting louder. It’s funny as he seems to be playing whatever the hell he likes. But again, it’s minutes and minutes of what my philistine ears determine to be the same few notes. Obviously it’s not that, but that’s how it seems. How hasn’t this guy fainted yet? Now the pianist is doing weird shit. Must be his turn now. Now they’re all at it. It still sounds like gameshows and cartoons and Dick Van Dyke movies. I’ll admit my foot got tapping in literally the final minute, and those final screeching notes are horrific and brilliant, but it’s over now and I can’t say I’ll ever listen to it again. Someone’s talking now. End.

What Did I Learn: I still don’t like jazz. Or ‘get’ jazz. Whatever. This is fine but doesn’t sounds any different from most other jazz I’ve heard. All I can say is thank God they invented the guitar and the amp and all the rest.

Does It Deserve Its Place In The Top 1000 Albums Of All Time: Well, it sure as hell wouldn’t appear in mine. But presumably this was a landmark for jazz, or live albums, or a combination of both. I’d love to see the crowd as it sounds like they are losing their minds. Again, I don’t really have any frame of reference to compare this with. Show me some bad jazz and let me see how it makes me feel, and then I’ll listen to this again to see if it’s any different. That’s always a good marker for getting into a genre you’re not familiar with. Show them a turd, then show them a diamond. As I have no clue what I’m talking about, this gets a 2 for maybe as I simply can’t give it a definite yes because I didn’t really like it, and I can’t give it a no because people who know better would throttle me. With their feeble jazz hands.

Colin Larkin’s Ranking: 460/1000

Nightman Listens To Bon Jovi – Destination Anywhere!

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Greetings, Glancers! We continue our mini-detour from Bon Jovi’s main releases to see what their front man was getting up to in his spare time. Last time around we listened to Jon strap on his boots and go bareback through the South, living out his Wild West fantasies. With 1997’s Destination Anywhere, the musical landscape had changed and the main band had matured. Will his second solo effort also highlight these changes or will it be a self-serving piece of masturbation? I definitely know (and like) a couple of these songs already, and hopefully there are some new ones which I’ll get into.

‘Queen Of New Orleans’ – Good intro, a clearly late 90s rock sound. Oddly deep vocals. Verse is plain, the chorus is too tame and the vocals don’t work. Mostly boring but a different pace and approach from what we know, it does veer way too close to a lot of those soft rock bands of the era who each had one hit then disappeared.

‘Janie, Don’t You Take Your Love To Town’ – This is one I’ve always liked. It feels like a Bon Jovi song, but it has that mid-late 90s drum sound. Unlike the first track, this one has good verses and a crowd-pleasing chorus. It may be formulaic, but we don’t come into an album like this expecting it to break ground. I’d never actually heard the full version of this before – the single works just as well.

‘Midnight In Chelsea’ – There’s that beat again, except this time it sounds like some RnB fluff. I’m not sure what audience Jon was going after with these songs – it would alienate his core crowd and the people who listen to generic chart fluff aren’t going to be interested in hearing some old white guy do it. Still, this is better than the first song, lyrics seem okay, and the chorus has potential. It doesn’t quite paint the picture of America that he wants it to, but it’s fine – the chorus is a grower, but it goes on for a minute too long.

‘Ugly’ – Hmm, that riff seems familiar. Maybe I have heard this one before. Yeah, it’s one of those songs. We’re all ugly sometimes, except some of us are more often than others. And we’re all in different environments which mean different outcomes to feeling or being u-g-l-y. Still, it’s fine, average or slightly better.

‘Staring At Your Window With A Suitcase In My Hand’ – Experimental country. I like the verses. They are nothing new, we’ve heard this stuff by Bon Jovi and other bands before. As you know by know, I’m a sucker for those atmospheric, shadowy songs – this doesn’t quite fall into that category, but it’s close. Again it’s just okay – nothing bad, nothing really good, just ordinary.

‘Every Word Was A Piece Of My Heart’ – Odd vocals. Gruff but low. Ordinary verse, decent bridge and chorus, but lacking those extra pieces to push it over into the good song territory. These songs are simply too samey and forgettable at the moment. Weird middle vocals and solo.

‘It’s Just Me’ – Madonna drums. More weird vocals. Ordinary verses, reflective lyrics, decent bridge, average chorus. You know the drill by now, and unless the album picks up in the second half it’s going to be a very forgettable experience. Hmm, this one just keeps going doesn’t it? Solo flapping to end.

‘Destination Anywhere’ – A more respectable one all around this is. It has the same weird not quite country sound as other songs on the album. The verses are fine but luckily the chorus does the trick, even if it does come from nowhere and doesn’t connect well with any other part of the song.

‘Learning How To Fall’ – More drum loops. This all seems ill-advised. More low. Some harmonica. Plain verse. Brief bridge. Plain chorus. Next.

‘Naked’ – Funky. This one at least is different. I imagine this is more like the sound he wanted to go with for the album, but it still feels like a lot of those other one-hit wonders of the era. ‘You can’t fake it when you’re naked?’ I don’t know about that…

‘Little City’ – More drum bits and bobs. Better guitar. Better vocals. It has the atmosphere and the shadows. Verses are okay, if it can pull off a good chorus then this could be a hidden gem. Eventually we reach a ‘sha la la la’ piece. It almost makes it but stays tantalizingly out of reach of true goodness. Ah well. Then it tacks on a minute of crap to the end.

‘August 7 4.15’ – Hmm, this seems more like it. Faster tempo, Springsteen vocals, catchy bits. Verses and bridges better than the chorus. Still, that’s two better songs near the end, but still not enough to save this from being a sleepy time record for sleepy sleep sleeps.

‘Cold Hard Heart’ – Closing with a ballad then. Or, something slower at least as this seems too downbeat to be a ballad. This is actually much better than almost anything else on the album, that is obvious from the opening minute. Good verses and great chorus. Three good songs to close – add a couple of the singles and you would have a pretty good EP.

That’s that then. An unfulfilling bore in all honesty. Points for trying to be different, but points removed for not fully committing to it and making something interesting. There are maybe only 4-5 decent songs here, the rest are filler and belong as B-Sides or on the studio floor. Tell me I’m wrong in the comments! Next up, the boys reunite and unleash Crush!