Amazon Vine Freebies – September 2016

So, you may have heard me bemoan September as the worst month ever. Most people go for January – it’s cold, wet, Santa has abandoned us for Tropical shores, etc. September though sees the beginning of the year’s descent into old age and senility as we leave the warmth and freedom behind to head back to school and work and all of that crap.

But Amazon decided to change things, for us lowly Viners at least. Yes, this month Amazon made the curious decision to lift the five item and thirty day limit. For those who don’t know, since the inception of Vine, participants have been required to review each item they choose within 30 days of its arrival – and have never been allowed to have more than 5 items not reviewed at a time. Those days are gone my friend, and as such every no-self-respecting Viner has been picking every damn thing available. Well, not quite. There are those who continue to abuse the system by taking everything possible and flogging them on Ebay to make a tidy sum, but they are being casually weeded out by Amazon and the odd entitled Viner. For me, I have continued to pick the items I want and continued to use and review them, though now I am more flexible in what I choose – resulting in a wealth of gift sets and stationary arriving at my door. Have a gander at what I picked in September:

Wahl Li Beard Trimmer

Chun’s brother.

Nivea Sensitive Gift Set for Men’s – 2 Pieces

Your brother.

Rapesco Hole Punch and Stapler Set with 1,000 10/4mm Staples

Your Puncher

ACE Breathalyzer AF-33, TU-Vienna-measurement accuracy: 97.9%, UK-Version

Your Honour.

AmazonBasics Microfibre Flat Sheet, King – Olive

Your Other (woman)

MIRALBA Women’s Jasmine Cashmere Jumper, Black, Small

Your Mother

Joseph Joseph The Entertainer Pizza Wheel and Waiter’s Friend Gift Set – Multi-Colour, 2-Piece

Your Technicolour

Silentnight Brushed Cotton Fitted Sheet Set, White, Double

Your Other Other (woman)

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!

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!