Amazon Vine Freebies – June 2016

Right, time to catch up with my Amazon Freebies. Like being jealous? Enjoy feeling envy? Look below and click the things to see the treats Amazon bestowed upon me in June of last year. In lieu of screenshots I’ve written some ‘hilarious’ Led Zep ‘associations’.

Ultrasport Women’s Jacket (White)Ultrasport Women’s Jacket (White)

Wearing and Tearing

GreenPan Non-Stick Casserole Pot

Custard Pie

Garnier Ambre Solaire Suncream For Kids

Down By The Seaside

Scott Of The Antarctic

White Summer/Black Mountain Side

Star Wars Workbooks – Reading 6/7

Battle Of Evermore

Command Purely Purple Hooks

Gallow’s Pole

 

 

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 Bryan Adams – Spirit: Stallion Of The Cimarron

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Greetings, Glancers! I was in two minds over whether to include this in my Bryan Adams series because it is a soundtrack album. I remember mocking this quite a bit when it came out – the movie looked pretty bad, and here was Bryan Adams singing an entire album about horses. What could possibly go wrong? Well, I’ve decided to include it because I haven’t heard any of it before, aside from some early promo stuff. I’m already listening to his other albums to I may as well dive into this one. Who knows, maybe I’ll be surprised?

Here I Am‘. It sounds familiar. Yes, this must have been the single. I have heard this. Doesn’t seem to have anything to do with horses. Annoying turn of the millennium drums for the chorus. Still, I like it. Catchy, sweet, inoffensive, fine. Even a little solo in there. Goes a little wonky towards the end with bizarre backing vocals and unnecessary padding.

‘I Will Always Return‘. Opening with evocative piano and wind. Ballad. Yearning. Nice melodies. Nice bridge. Nice chorus. Nice all round then, and short too.

You Can’t Take Me‘. Carpenter synth. Where did that come from? Well, it didn’t last long, as we break into some weird 80s rock noise. Verse okay, still sounds like it was written in the 80s. Good melodies though, I like it. Could do without that strange 80s instrumental piece though. Gets more punchy as it goes along.

Get Off My Back‘. A light rock start. Fun. Upbeat. Come and have a go if you think you’re hard enough. Sounds again like a standard Adams rocker. Fairly plain, but nothing bad. Like meh, but not as negative. I usually hate whistling in songs, but that last piece was catchy.

Brothers Under The Sun‘. Atmosphere. Dream sounds and words. Strings and synth. More nice melodies. Eerie. Similar melody and mood to Little Susie. The lyrics here are hopeful and positive, which doesn’t fit with the music but adds a deliberate melancholy. Pretty good.

Don’t Let Go‘. Synthy start. Soft again. Is that Dido? Or Sarah Maclaclan? McLachlan? Who knows. Verses a little plain. Chorus a bit better – nice again, not memorable on first listen. Sarah or whoever singing more. Seems a little padded too.

This Is Where I Belong‘. Whip noises. Growing. Voice and piano. Didn’t we play this one already? Maybe the lyrics are similar to a previous track. Nice again. That seems to see a recurring vibe – nice, gentle. There are a few songs left, and while nothing has been bad yet I’m already feeling this could really have been an EP as the songs are now at risk of running into one another.

Sound The Bugle‘. Synth. Sparkliy twinklies. Sad piano. Seems very similar to something I’ve heard elsewhere. Is this movie all death and despair? So many of the songs are on the darker tone of average. Good melodies. Soft. Quiet. Second chorus brings the noise. And strings, yay! A very odd sudden end.

Nothing I’ve Ever Known‘. A single guitar. Sad. Nice. Lovely. Verse not as good as intro. Okay chorus, veering awfully close to Blunt territory.

So, I skipped the Zimmer tracks and some of what appear to be reprises or shortened versions of the tracks above. I don’t feel too bad for laughing at the time of release, but of course it was unjustified. The songs here are good – none are going to change my world and I doubt I would listen to any of them again, but I wouldn’t turn them off or tune out if I hear them. It has made me want to watch the movie though. So, nothing memorable for me, but nothing bad – just a nice collection of movie soundtrack songs. Let us know in the comments what you think of this soundtrack. Share your favourite movie soundtracks too, and let us know if the movie is any good!

 

 

The Gathering – Accessories

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*Originally written in 2006

This ‘between albums’ release is a large collection of live, alternate, and demo versions of some of the band’s biggest songs, as we as some covers that many fans may not have heard. This double album is interesting for the more avid fan but I wouldn’t recommend any new listeners getting this first. Some of the live versions give an idea of how the band like to have fun with their performances- changing parts, adding parts, or playing with an orchestra, and some of the demos are useful in highlighting how a song goes from initial idea to completion. Perhaps the best songs here are the few covers- they tell us of the band’s influences and when played feel like originals by The Gathering. This is a good collection but it isn’t essential by any means.

In Motion 1 Live: This live version of the Mandylion classic has an extended introduction with a sound clip which sets a tone of night time- I’m not sure of the relevance but adds something different to a song they perform every night. The song is not quite as heavy as the album version, just one guitar here and the sound quality is fairly distant. Anneke sings strongly, not showing any flaws or fear from being outside the recording booth.

Leaves Live: This blends in seamlessly from the previous song and is as good a live version as you will get anywhere. The musicians are all on top form, occasionally making a few changes and having fun on stage while Anneke again blows the front row back a few feet. The only problem is the same as the last song, that it seems too distant, maybe it’s the lack of crowd noise or maybe it’s that the volume isn’t high enough. Either way, the solo is still breathtaking and glad to see Rutten doesn’t resort to any Malmstein-esque twiddles with it live.

Adrenaline: This is the best B-Side the band has done and it’s tragic that it never appeared on any of their first albums with Anneke. I assume that it just sounds too upbeat and up tempo to fit in with the darkness of Mandylion and NB. Looking past that though, it has been a live favourite since its first play, and is one of their few songs that really gets the crowd jumping and dancing at speed. Lyrically it is nothing out of the ordinary, but melodically it is brilliant, musically catchy without being flashy- fairly heavy with crunching chords and synth but mostly free of solo work. Anneke gets a chance to wail and scatter her voice all over the place and everybody gets to smile.

Third Chance Alt: I’ve always seen Third Chance as the darker partner to Adrenaline, the album version was very good but this is exceptional. It is quick, angry, filled with urgency, but mainly stands out because Anneke sings in a higher register than on the NB. The notes she reaches and the style in which she does is enough to make me grin and shiver every time and I would recommend it over the album version every time. The quiet middle section and build up to the ending is all the more effective now because of the higher register, the ominous synth, and the urgency of it all.

Strange Machines Live: It is a bit of a come down after the energy of the previous song to hear this. The Gathering are a great band because they are constantly trying new things, not only with new songs but with their classics. Like Metallica’s S & M, they get a full orchestra involved here to play possibly their most famous song. Also like S&M, it should work brilliantly but doesn’t. Maybe it’s the sound quality, but it just sounds flat, almost empty. There is none of the energy of the album track, and certainly none of the energy from their normal live plays. Part of my problem is that the brass is the main focus, whereas I much prefer strings swelling in from all sides. This could all be personal preference and it may well work for you, but I don’t think it woks like it should.

In Power We Trust The Love: This Dead Can Dance cover is one of the few cover songs I’ve heard which makes me search out the original band- I think the Gathering version is better if only because the song suits Anneke so well. An ethereal, soothing number which builds through various phases- the type of song The Gathering have been making throughout their career except with this we get some great lyrics, something which is rarely a part of the Dutch band’s repertoire.

When The Sun Hits: Being a big Manic Street Preachers fan, I suppose I should hate this Slowdive cover. I’d never listened to that band before I heard this cover, but it’s pretty good. The Gathering is known for downbeat sounds, if not quite shoe-gazing, so again this suits them. Again it is interesting to see Anneke sing some different lyrics, the type which the band would never write. The song has a sleepy quality and is one of the better ones in this collection.

Confusion: This demo from the EROC sessions isn’t too dissimilar from the final version on NB. The sound is slightly more tinny, and Anneke’s voice sounds like there are more effects on it. Aside from some additional synth and slight differences you are on familiar territory.

Shrink Alt: This version of Shrink is played on strings rather than piano, has lots of background sound clips, and has a dual vocal from Anneke.

Frail Live: This live version of Frail is pretty similar to the album track, soothing guitars and flawless Anneke vocals.

 

Cyclist: This instrumental theme for ‘The Cyclist’ movie is interesting as it doesn’t particularly sound like anything the band has done before. Having not seen the film I can’t see how well it works, but as a stand alone piece of music it is fairly good, lots of brass and percussion with a lead piano part. I like the string section coming in towards the end, but it isn’t a track I would listen to often.

Leaves Orchestra: Like the earlier Strange Machines this doesn’t always work, although it has a much more bombastic feel to it. It sounds like Anneke enjoys competing for prime position with the full band behind her, and some of her vocals are strained to extremes. I’m not a big fan of brass taking the lead so personally this isn’t a favourite, plus this cuts my favourite part from the original- the middle guitar solo and end.

Life Is What You Make It: This Talk Talk cover is the weakest cover in the collection, mostly because the original material isn’t as strong as the others. Nevertheless it is a decent song which sounds like a slight departure from what the band would usually play. There is a nice messed up guitar part in the middle, and lots of drum based effects and Anneke sings as well as always without having to try too hard.

Amity Live: This is an average live version of Amity let down mostly because Anneke sounds drained and here vocals aren’t great, especially towards the end. Mostly it is musically the same as the album version, with some different effects.

New Moon, Different Day: This opens the second disc- rarities. There isn’t anything too startling or exciting here, a slightly different version of the one we all know.

Kevin’s Telescope: This instrumental abandons the darker intro of the final cut and instead focuses on the light melodies of the verse and the emotion of the chorus. If the vocals were added it still wouldn’t be too different.

Shrink: This seems to be a slightly more up tempo take on the song, and the piano tone isn’t as dark. This is pretty good but again not anything surprising.

The Earth Is My Witness: We are on familiar ground with this one as not much seems unusual. There are a few differences- guitar parts, effects etc, but the structure of the song is the same.

Diamond Box: This is quite an odd one – an instrumental with plenty of effects and sound clips. The main part reminds me of a computer game level set in a dank sewer, or something with a slightly Eastern twist. For some reason it reminds me of Banjo Kazooie. It’s worth a listen but it isn’t one I come back to often.

Nighttime Birds: The main difference here is some background guitar work and less dense effects. Otherwise the song is the same length, same style.

On Most Surfaces: Again this is very much the same as the main version, a slightly more swirling and extended introduction and background guitar work being the main differences.

Hjeimar’s: This is a strange instrumental piece which consists entirely of some eerie guitar work. Just as it sounds like it is building towards something it is cut short. I’d like to hear what the band could come up with by extending this short piece.

My Electricity: This is a strange version of My Electricity with low sound quality but some nice dual vocals. The accompanying guitar seems too metallic though to fit (even though it is acoustic).

Probably Built In The 50s: This is another odd take on the original with Anneke’s voice being heavily cropped, and with some extra distortion on the guitars. This is quite a bit different from the original and is worth a few listens to appreciate the differences. Some great singing and a high tempo middle.

Illuminating: This version is slightly shorter than the main one but is mostly similar in sound and style. The introduction features different drum sounds and the synth isn’t as deep and brooding.

Red Is A Slow Colour: This is a much more distorted take on the original, with clipped vocals and less subtlety. The chorus is different as the guitar tone changes from distorted to a twang, and rather than the effects beats we get some interesting chord strumming and odd background phaser sounds. There is also a strange middle interlude with all manner of noises clashing together- a nice sign of the experimentation which would go on to make the finished album a classic.

Travel: The band like trying different things with their songs, especially when played live and Travel is one which is constantly tweaked. This version is completely different from the final one- it sounds like a very early version as many of the lyrics are missing. Mostly it sounds like a heavier take on the second half of the complete song, but extended to over 7 minutes.

This is definitely a collection for existing fans only as I don’t see anything here which would particularly charm any new listeners. Most of the demos and alternate takes are the same, with a few additional instruments and lower sound quality, but some of the outtakes and B-sides are interesting as they show the band’s creative process. For the live versions I would stick to the main live DVDs and CDs, or better yet catch them live if they ever come to Britain again. For a band with such talent I wish they would have recorded more B-sides and covers but that seems to be a dying art. This is a good album, but too long to listen to repeatedly- just pick your favourites.

If you have heard Accessories, let us know your thoughts in the comments!

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?

 

Amazon Vine – April 2016

After a rough start to the year, where the Vine Gods sought to abandon me in the wilderness for 90 days and nights with only Staplers to keep me company, April rolled around and brought with it fresh hope and new items to clasp around my self.

Philips FC6168/62 2-in-1 Upright and Hand Held Cordless Vacuum Cleaner, Pet Hair and Anti-Allergen

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It sucks up pet hair… and Allergens!

Hex

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A book about Witches and Dutch people and stupid people. It’s pretty good.

Kazooloo DMX Board Game

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An Augmented Reality game not starring everyone’s favourite rapper turned ex-rapper DMX, Kazooloo is really rather terrible.

Lux High Protein Flapjack

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They taste exactly like you’d imagine – like the suddenly prolapsed sphincter of a sleeve-tattoo adorned try-hard who spends more time looking in the mirror than a Wicked Fairytale Queen.

Thoughts? Share!

Amazon Vine Freebies – January – March 2016

Lean post-Christmas months I’m afeard, so not much to show. Just look at this balls – three months and only two free things! This is possibly the worst thing to have ever happened in the history of the human race. Anyway – have a gander.

We’re In The Wrong Book

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A couple of kids bend space, time, and reality by getting sucked out of one book and into several others. Help them! Help them now!

Rexel JOY Magazine Rack

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Oh Joy! A magazine rack!