Nightman Listens To – ACDC – Highway To Hell (Top 500 Metal Albums)!

Acdc Highway to Hell.JPG

Greetings, Glancers! For anyone who has stumbled upon this post via the power of Googling (or even Binging), I should explain what I’m doing here. Basically, it’s like those reaction videos on Youtube where people (usually rap fans or young’uns or idiots) listen to a rock or metal song for the first time and pretend to be shocked and amazed. I’m doing that, except without the visual, or the faking. And given that I’m a Northern Irish fella, nothing really shocks or amazes me.

A little about me then – I’ve always been into rock music, from as far as I can remember. I was a kid in the 80s, but hit my musical peak in the 90s, living through the death of hair metal, grunge, brit pop, and rock music as a popular form. When I was a kid, ACDC was one of those holy bands that everyone talked about and was supposed to love. Not knowing any better, and only knowing a handful of their songs, I assumed I loved them too. It’s only when I got older and heard more of their stuff that I realised… they’re not very good. Limited musically, screechy vocals the likes of which tend to be heard during a beheading, and silly teenage boy lyrics about boobies. In essence, it’s a hair metal band but without the make-up and stupid clothes. But beyond Back In Black I’ve never listened to one of their albums in full. So maybe I’m wrong. Maybe I’ll love this. Maybe I’ll eat my own words like an anti-politician. I doubt it, but we’ll see. Before we begin, lets have a laugh at the album cover, which sees fake Mick Jagger wearing a hair-band of thorns, and swishing his tail around all la-di-da like. The rest of the boys seem to have forgotten they’re taking part in a photo-shoot which will see them appear in shops in front of millions, and instead seems to be either laughing at something happening in the background, waiting anxiously for the cameraman to ask them to ‘say cheese’, or simply look bewildered because they have never seen a camera before. In any case, the whole thing is a shambles. There are two songs here I know already. Lets see what the others have in store.

Highway To Hell‘ opens the album. You know it, I know it. It’s actually one I don’t mind. I sure don’t love it, but you can’t escape you catchy it is.

Girls Got Rhythm‘ is the sort of title and song which makes you wonder if the band ever got any. It’s as simple a rock song as you’ll find – couple of chords followed by a riff. It’s straight blues with added crunch and white boy swagger. I admit there is a charm in hearing a Classic Rock song for the first time – I have nostalgia for the whole genre which covers up any cracks. It’s not bad – it has a solid beat and repetitive nature which ensures its place as a party song (I imagine). There’s not a lot to it of course, and none of the melodies or instrumentals are particularly strong.

Walk All Over You‘ opens with a touch more imagination. Drums and guitars taking turns and playing – playing the same thing over and over yes – then the main riff drops and the pace picks up. It’s more Blues Classic rock stylings. Again, I can see drunks dancing to it. It falls apart when the chorus and the backing vocals drop. It’s distinctly average – I imagine it was popular because it dropped at the exactly right time in the US when they were crying out for this sort of party music. It has no business being longer than 5 minutes.

Touch Too Much‘ is the other song I know. Like any number of AC-DC songs it is a mid-pace stomper – you’d be forgiven for mistaking it for Highway To Hell, so similar is the pace, structure, and beat. Naturally the melodies and guitar work are different enough to keep such comparisons at bay. It’s as good as the title track and if you like that there’s absolutely no reason why you won’t enjoy this.

Beating Around The Bush‘ is another song title which might have made me snigger when I was 10. To its credit it starts out with a more interesting riff and launches with a furious pace. It somehow almost feels Country. The pace relents briefly for the chorus before getting straight back to the verse. This one is quite fun.

Shot Down In Flames‘ starts out in traditional fashion – I’ve a feeling a large part of why I don’t get the band like others do is the the drums. So often there is zero variance with the drumming. It feels very much like a session drummer who has been brought in for a pay cheque to simply lay down the bare minimum – there’s no life or attempt at style or colour. The song itself is fine – it’s not any better or worse than most of the other stuff that I’ve heard them do.

Get It Hot‘ is further proof of my drumming statement. It’s like they got the session drummer for 20 minutes to record one song, then they just copied and pasted the same parts over every other song. I’m adding my own fills with my mouth as I listen – it’s really not that difficult to make a song standout by adding an extra couple of beats and blasts here and there. This is more of the same, musically, lyrically. AC-DC are just like Status Quo, except they look more like farmers than Quo do.

If You Want Blood‘ is a song I think I’ve hard before, I just can’t place it. The song builds a little differently from the others, but then the verse starts and it’s identical to the previous song, even the riffs. It’s amazing to me how such an unimaginative band became so successful, in a genre which frequently demands innovation – or did around the time this was recorded. It’s lowest common denominator rock.

Love Hungry Man‘ opens with big chords but once the cymbals come in I know what’s coming. Wait for it. Wait for it. There it is. Same beat. At least the guitar approach in the verse is slightly different. The chorus is almost the same as Alright Now. Straightforward easy rock with no strings attached. And that’s just not enough for me – where’s the skill? Where’s the feeling? What sets them apart from any wedding band? The farmer look?

Night Prowler‘ is the longest song on the album, to close things out. It opens fairly slowly, and I can just about imagine the slow walking pace of some weirdo going to the beat. Also, the drummer actually does something different here! Unfortunately the band just can’t get it right and the slow pace only heightens their deficiencies. They’re just…. not very interesting. There’s a slow and loose solo in there somewhere. It’s a three minute song stretched to 6.30 by halving the pace.

It’s far from a bad album, let me be clear. Most of my criticism for the band is just down to personal taste. At a stretch I could say my personal test touches upon some genuine critical insight – they are a repetitive band, they are formulaic, they’re not the most engaging or technical musicians. But then I listen to and love plenty of other artists I could make the same argument for. So personal taste then – I understand why others enjoy these songs, and given the right time, place, and frame of mind I can enjoy them too. But the majority of the time they feel like overly simple, average rock songs. As mentioned, the classic rock sound has a special place in my heart, so hearing songs from that genre that I haven’t heard before does give me some kind of fuzzies, but that quickly fades as each song progresses through the same beats. Like a lot of bands, I think nostalgia is what keeps them selling, but people are coming around to the realization that many of these acts of the 60s, 70s, 80s, had a handful of decent tracks and the rest were empty re-treads.

Nightman’s Playlist Picks: Highway To Hell. Beating Around The Bush.

Nightman Listens To ASAP – Silver And Gold (Maiden Solo Output Series)!

Greetings, Glancers! It’s time to check out another Iron Maiden related release. This one is going to take a little ‘splaining, so bear with me. Back in the early 70s before Iron Maiden was created, childhood mates Adrian Smith and Dave Murray formed a band. It was a bit crap so Murray left and began prepping for Maiden. Smith rounded up other friends and friends of friends and made a couple of singles under the name ‘Urchin’. I was planning to cover their stuff but they didn’t do much and a compilation of singles and live stuff was released in 2004. Maybe I’ll check it out too, but probably not (SPOILER ALERT – I did check out their album, and inexplicably posted my thoughts about it before publishing this post which was written much earlier. Mysteries Of The Spac Hole). More importantly, Smith went on to join Murray with Maiden and the rest is history.

In the late 80s, Smith was taking a break after the grueling Maiden touring session and decided to call up his old ‘Urchins’ to see if they wanted to try writing and recording some stuff. Silver And Gold got quite a bit of hype at the time, given that it featured a member of the biggest metal band in the world and Ringo Starr’s son on the skins. However, grunge was on the rise and the album was dismissed like so many others. The band collapsed soon after and Smith went on to form the slightly more successful Psycho Motel before re-joining Maiden at the end of the 90s. So that’s the story of Silver And Gold… but is it any good? I have no idea, because I haven’t heard a single second of it yet, but that’s what we’re here to find out. Maybe we’ll uncover a few gems, maybe it’ll be another 45 minutes of regret to add to my running tally. Life is all about taking risks though, expanding your horizons, giving something you haven’t experienced a shot. Even if you don’t like it, you’ve learned something. Maybe you even get something more.

The Lion‘ opens the album. Perhaps I should mention that Smith isn’t only the guitarist here, he’s the vocalist too. I’ve no idea how he sounds, beyond the odd bit of backing from Maiden. This opens, perhaps unsurprisingly, with some sort of synth. Musically it has a touch of 80s without being immediately obvious. Smith’s vocals are different – I’m not sure what I was expecting. He’s a good singer then, his voice harsher, more gruff than Bruce. It’s a similar style to a lot of 80s rock singers, but less strained, less high pitched. The approach is more rock than metal. There’s an abrupt shift from chorus back to verse but I can get behind the melodies. Harmonies provided by a series of backing vocals. It has a good, fast pace for an 80s rock song. A brief piano interlude. This style of song was probably dated by 89 but was super popular earlier. Typically fast solo with a heavy use of the whammy. The lyrics less story driven than Harris, more like a standard rock ballad lyric. Nice start.

Silver And Gold’ is next up. I forgot to mention that the name ASAP made me think of WASP, which isn’t good. This is starting like a more atmospheric ballad. I go on about this atmospheric feeling in 80s music – it’s a combination of synth, of chord choice, of pace, of the production, but there’s something less tangible in there that just wraps me in a warm nostalgic embrace – even if I’ve never heard the specific song before. It’s your typical verse opening, vocals and an airy synth before the drums and guitar kick in. The pre chorus and chorus are more in line with cheesy 80s rock – it’s not quite Def Leppard levels of cheese but it’s in that general vein. There’s an echo effect of some description on the vocals, given the appearance of depth and again adding to that atmosphere. The chorus is a little meh, but I can people singing along to it, there’s enough of a hook. A more extended solo this time. It’s very heavy on the harmonies throughout, highlighted in the little bridge. There are a few progressive twists, if I can call them such – just slight variations on the standard structure – a tuck here, a tug there. Not really progressive, just stretching the norms and expectations very gently or abruptly for added effect.

Down The Wire‘ opens with an interesting enough arpeggio, not one you hear often. Well, this is a strange verse with a melody I can’t quite grasp or catch up to, at least on first listen. A very strange rhythm, at least to me, with an odd structure and stretched backing noise. It’s like the different pieces were shoved together and don’t really work but have been left in anyway? The drums are just bordering on the 80s sound I don’t like – just enough out of it to still be good. The second verse doesn’t help me out in terms of melody – there’s something very strange going on there. The chorus is non-eventful, but the verse has this strange drum structure which moves from single thumps to doubling the beat later which seems to have caught me off guard. Interesting middle section which fades completely away then brings the single thump drums back before returning to the chorus. Some neat acoustic guitar pieces in the middle part too. The Wall Of Sound style extended backing vocals are doing a bit of a number on me – as they stretch out it’s giving me an uneasy sensation, like a not unpleasant pain in the pit of my stomach. Best I can describe it is when I’m trying to cut my toenails I get an uneasy, anxious feeling. Yeah, you’ve no clue what I’m talking about and neither do I.

You Could Be A King‘ seems to be going full cheese. It starts like Take My Breath Away. Then it breaks into a faster part akin to Footloose before settling on the verse. Not a lot of guitar for the verses in this one. I’m not sure I like the effects on the vocals. Some of the vocals and melodies here… there’s no way we can’t compare with Springsteen. I think that’s the style they’re going for, but I’ll leave it for you to decide how successful it is. I do like the 80s strained vocal style, even though it’s so easy to ridicule. Nice middle break which reminds me of Bryan Adams – What’s It Gonna Be specifically. I’m not paying much attention to the lyrics, but this seems to be a positive encouraging message. There’s a country twinge to it too. This was the softest song so far, as commercial MOR 80s rock as you can get. Very American too.

After The Storm‘ starts with a lot of synth and is just begging me to shout ‘I! I JUST DIED IN YOUR ARMS TONIGHT!’ Jeepers, then it does another bit of Bryan Adams rhythm thievery as this verse sounds exactly like Can’t Stop This Thing We’ve Started. That is bizarre. Actually, that song came a couple of years after. I wonder if Adams or Mutt Lange heard this. Unfortunately the album is getting more cheesy as it goes along, at least so far. Some of these backing vocals sound like a Southern Gospel choir. Good solo though and those tiny progressive elements remain; like after the solo we get a plaintive quieter vocal with gospel backing. Going back to the chorus is less exciting, but those backing vocals keep the chorus interesting. WTF. Hold on a sec – as the song has an extended coda with more of those backing vocals, I had to google the singer as there’s no way that’s Smith. And the name is Stevie LANGE. Could it be? Stevie Lange for those in the know, is Stevie Vann, a famous backing vocalist on many 70s and 80s hits and appeared in one of my favourite movies The Monster Club. But most importantly here, she was married to Mutt Lange, who I mentioned above, and has worked with Bryan Adams. Have I just uncovered some previously unknown case of theft, imitation, flattery, Illuminati bullshit? Almost certainly.

Misunderstood‘ plays the same trick again – intro goes one way, then threatens that the verse will go in another direction, then flips the switch and instead goes in a third direction. It’s a very cheesy first part of the intro, the second part is much more interesting, Alice Cooper-esque, then the verse is fair enough. The chorus is unfortunate cheese. I do like the middle, goes in on the minor key and holds that for the solo.

Kid Gone Astray‘ gives me instead Journey or Springsteen vibes. Similar tone. The verse does the minor to major shift thing I life, better melodies on this one. The chorus doesn’t stay in the minor so falls a little foul of my own tastes. But that’s fine. They’re going for another positive anthem and the chorus certainly allows a certain listener to get pumped up. There are some funny vocal twitches and twerks in later verses, the solo is okay, I don’t like the echo on the backing vocals and think it’s unnecessary and makes the melody more irritating by constantly reminding us of it.

Fallen Heroes‘ starts with overlapping synth bass and drum sounds before the verse explodes through. It’s similar enough to where the last song left off, then I get excited as there are a few minor notes, then the chorus does something completely different. Is it the chorus? It’s where the chorus should be anyway – basically all the backing instruments withdraw leaving Smith’s vocals and some dweeby synth before another abrupt return to the verse. Very odd. I’ll give the album credit for trying to be different – credit for making those choices, not necessarily credit to the results.

Wishing Your Life Away‘ starts out ALLLL wrong, way too much like a 70s crooner trying to make an 80s rock song. Those brass synths are awful. The vocals are very late 80s, early 90s Pink Floyd here, melodies, riffs all hackneyed and silly. The middle section tries to be different, pulling back certain instruments again, and the solo doesn’t add anything – just thrown in for the sake of it. Probably, definitely the least interesting song here and doesn’t give any indication to the talent involved.

Blood On The Ocean’ closes the album, lets hope it’s a good one. Starts out okay, has (I’m sure they have a name, not a xylophone but something like that) that synth percussion which always reminds me of Commando or something summery. The verse is slow, piano led, lyrics about war or about people dying or some such, melodies a little bland and overly open and free form, but that’s fine if it leads somewhere interesting. The chorus melody is better, but hardly memorable. I think they’ve tried to make an epic here but haven’t really started with a good base or strong central idea. The middle section is divided into several parts – the first is chaotic and aimless, the second being a solo played over the verse structure, the third simply the solo continuing over the chorus backing. It’s a decent solo but it misses scratching that epic itch.

It started out well. A few good songs which made me hope things would progress. Instead the best was in the first half and the ideas and quality has all but drained away by the time we reach the end. It’s not bad – none of the songs are terrible and I can see hair metal and less discerning rock and 80s fans digging it. It simply lacks the smarts, the punch, the ideas, of Iron Maiden. I know this isn’t remotely trying to be Maiden, but that’s the inevitable comparison. I’m not comparing them in terms of their genres or approach, more what both bands do within those labels. Maiden make fantastic metal music, ASAP make uneventful, MOR rock which no amount of mid-song fiddling can improve. I like Smith’s vocals – he doesn’t have the character of Dickinson or of a wealth of other 80s vocalists, but he doesn’t go into screechy territory which ruined many a decent singer of that period. I can’t recall a single strong riff or truly memorable solo after this single listen – generally after one listen the truly great stuff does stay in my mind, while it takes another couple of listens for the more subtle stuff to take route. So based on this one listen there are a handful of songs I’d like to hear again – some for regular enjoyment, and that strange one which freaked me out with its drums and structure. I can’t say many Maiden fans loving it too much, but I think it deserves a shot – it’s certainly more appealing than many other bands from that period who had massive success.

Let us know in the comments what you thought of Silver And Gold!

She Is Suffering

I’ve always felt this to be the weakest song on The Holy Bible – too dreary and too distant from the more severe emotions which run through the rest of the album. This is unusual because it retains the quintessential Holy Bible atmosphere and obviously the Production ensures that there isn’t any other album it would work on. Maybe it’s the pacing -it meanders and plods and remains on a single level. It’s the weakest song, but it’s the weakest song on as perfect and harrowing an album as you’ll ever hear.

It does unsurprisingly have a superb lyric, and taken as a standalone song the melodies and tone work much better versus listening to it on an album run through. The US mix adds more depth and warmth and becomes the more interesting version musically, but it still lacks something which makes me love it as much as the rest of the album. It does have a blistering, basic guitar solo though, always a bonus.

The song was a single, reaching number 25, and accompanied by a truly unnerving and creepy video involving mannequins. It’s not very good, but it leaves an impact which is more than can be said for most Manics videos which are simply not very good.

She Is Suffering: 3/Good

The Story Of The Song: Like much of the album, this song is definitely about something but unlike the more overt political statements or concrete glimpses into Richey’s state of mind, She Is Suffering is more obtuse and open for interpretation. Logic dictates that the key to unlocking the song is deciding who, or what ‘she’ is and why or how she is suffering. Some have tried to identify a real life person, some have said it’s Richey and Nicky equating themselves to femininity, others that it’s the dichotomy between the pointlessness of and need for sex (stretching the narrative to being about a real life story of cheating or betrayal) but the most common interpretation is that ‘she’ is simply the personification of ‘beauty’. Beauty means suffering. Going directly to the source, Richey himself described the song as detailing the horrors of desire and the need to rid yourself of all want to become pure.

Misheard Lyrics: She is suffering upon her death.

2. Beauty she is God

3. It’s not an insult/it’s a body’s soul/into my own soul

4. Carry on

5. Unfair for all

6. The less she can stammer

Actual Lyrics: She is suffering yet more than death.

2. Beauty she is scarred

3. Into man’s soul

4. Carrion

5. Unfaithful all

6. The less she gives the more

Let us know in the comments what you think of She Is Suffering!

Nightman Listens To – Bryan Adams – Shine A Light!

Shine A Light by Bryan Adams: Amazon.co.uk: Music

Just when I thought I was out, they pulled me back in. And by ‘they’, I mean Bryan Adams. Yes, even though I had finished my run through of every Bryan Adams album, he went and released another in 2019. According to the charts it has done okay so far, hitting Number 1 in Canada and Number 2 in the UK, no doubt helped by the fact that the title track was co-penned by everybody’s favourite talent-free flavour of the month Ed ‘I’m not Paulo Nutini’ Sheeran. I haven’t actually heard that song, or any others from the album, but it does close with a cover of Whiskey In The Jar so that’s one I’ll be sort of familiar with. Let’s do this.

Shine A Light: Immediately it has that Coldplay/Sheeran repetitive beat. The verse melodies are sweeter than most of what passed for melody on his last album, but the chorus is a mere extension of this with no great ideas. Adams voice – it still sounds like him but it feels somehow artificial. It’s too tame a single to make much impact, not bland or lovey-dovey or modern enough to appeal to the Sheeran crowd.

That’s How Strong Our Love Is: J-Lo’s involved in this? Never liked her as a singer, never much cared for her as a person, always thought she was an underrated actress. A guy I knew in school despised her and back then would have been a prime suspect if her house was ever egged. This feels like a 90s boy/girl band ballad complete with wafer beats. It’s a direct duet with drippy melodies, but with Lopez barely audible in the chorus. It’s boring, soulless stuff, though Lopez’s verse vocals and occasional yelps do add a sign of life.

Part Friday Night, Part Sunday Morning: A more driving traditional rock song, though light on the guitars at the outset. Adams does this drooling thing with the vocals during the verse, as if he’s slurring the words. Stronger lyrics than he’s done for a while and much better melodies. It’s not one of his best but in terms of his last handful of albums it’s one of the better songs.

Driving Under The Influence Of Love: Or, it’s hard to steer whilst receiving a BJ. This one starts like a shit-kicker, complete with beer drenched bar stool piano and crunchy guitars. Adams gives the vocals the old blues rock swagger and the lyrics are pretty funny. He’s clearly having a good time with this one and it’s one which will probably get the crowd grooving in the live shows – all the better if it’s played in a jukebox dive.

All Or Nothing: AC/DC? At least the album has picked up after a fairly bland start, the subsequent three tracks being much more what we expect from Adams, with the added plus of actually being decent. Again if we’re comparing with his best work this is a few rungs down the ladder but in terms of his recent stuff its much closer to the top. Better melodies, more feeling, and a genuinely catchy chorus.

No Time For Love: I couldn’t actually find a good version of this song to listen to – so your guess is as good as mine….

I Could Get Used To This: A decent riff given space to breathe, followed up with some catchy ‘woo ooh yeah yeah’ refrains – it looks like Adams and Vallance have remembered how to write something worthwhile. This one is very cyclical, a collection of verses revolving around the central riff and brought together by the ‘woos’ and harmonies. It’s very short though.

Talk To Me: Hmm, going for a Lennon Imagine feel with the beat, sound, and piano. It’s a straight to the point ballad. Guitars subtle in the background of the verses. It really does sound like Imagine. It’s more sleepy than that and not as exciting, the chorus not as strong as the verse.

The Last Night On Earth: Now he’s channeling The Strokes. Luckily, it’s good. The verse is anyway, the chorus is a step down even with the ‘wooo’ stuff. I wish he’d used real drums instead of that wafer crap. It’s fine, fun enough that existing fans should get a kick out of. The guitar lines are good, just the chorus didn’t go where I wanted it to.

Nobody’s Girl: A wispy intro explodes into life before a driving verse brings coherence. This time the verse and chorus are closer in quality, though I do still find the verse more potent. It’s a good foot-tapping Adams song, similar to what he was putting out in the second half of the 90s.

Don’t Look Back: An honest sentiment delivered with charm and simplicity. This is a good all-rounder with the melody, lyric, and emotion not peaking or dipping from start to finish.

Whiskey In The Jar: Lets hope it’s more like Metallica and not like the original. Well, it certainly ain’t Metallica – it’s more like an acoustic version of that or the Thin Lizzy take. Good vocals, though there’s some effect work going on which is either covering some cracks or making an ill-advised stylistic choice. That does mean the great guitar riff is replaced by some harmonica wailing. It’s decent, but you’re never going to pick it over Metallica.

Well, that was a significant step up from his last album. At least we can now confirm that he didn’t end his career on that dud. This does contain a number of good songs I wouldn’t mind hearing again, although I’m probably assigning more credit to them by virtue of them being better than the previous album’s songs. Still, no single song here is going to crack his best twenty or thirty songs but they do remind us that he can still write and rock this late in the game.

Nightman’s Playlist Picks: Nobody’s Girl. I Could Get Used To This. All Or Nothing. Driving Under The Influence Of Love. Part Friday Night, Part Sunday Morning. Don’t Look Back.

Nightman Listens To – Urchin – High Roller (Non-Maiden Series)!

Urchin - High Roller (2010, Vinyl) | Discogs

Greetings, Glacers! It’s time for another history lesson for any of you budding metallers out there. In fact, I’ve probably already mentioned this before, so the brief version is that Urchin were formed before Iron Maiden by Dave Murray and Adrian Smith. Murray only played on a song or two, while Smith became one of the main driving forces. They were essentially a live only band and Smith went on to form a series of other bands. Every so often he would get Urchin together for the odd show. Their limited album releases are collections of singles and live stuff. So they say, I haven’t heard them yet. UNTIL NOW!

Keeping It Mellow: A loose and mellow opening which is much smoother and softer than I was expecting. If anything, it sounds reminiscent of Free’s All Right Now. Just good cruising music for nice weather. It’s far from amazing, the vocals are a little scratchy and the production isn’t great but much better than what I was expecting. A simple, easy listening rock song which says everything it has to say well within three minutes, yet keeps going for another two. There’s a tasty solo in those two minutes, but still could have done with some shaving.

Life In The City: Another good intro, some guitars with a flange or phaser effect, the vocals are a little too shouty and plain for my liking. There’s an ever so faint touch of Maiden in there, but it more accurately sounds like a tonne of American MOR rock bands. Parts of the solo go full Maiden at times.

Watch Me Walk Away: A subtle melding of cymbals and bass gives way to some synthesized guitars for something with sounds like an up tempo ballad. I don’t think that’s what the lyrics are going for. There’s that 70’s rock beat again. It’s another good song – not anything that’s going to change anyone’s world and if I heard it on the radio I wouldn’t go searching to see who it was by – but I wouldn’t change the station.

Countdown: Well, this is a collection of oddities – a very nice and atmospheric opening which reminds me of the slower, mysterious stuff from the first two Maiden albums gives way to chugging chords clearly borrowed from Phantom Of The Opera – the opera, not the Maiden song. Then it feels like 22 Acacia Avenue. The vocals suit the song better this time around, and the solo is great too – very Maiden.

Lifetime: This is verging on cheesy. There’s a slow, stomping beat and all this twinkling keyboard stuff, and the lyrics are all lovey dovey. Still, the extended intro has a certain level of intrigue. It’s not bad. One thing missing from the songs for me is any real sort of emotion, beyond the fact that the band seem to enjoy playing, and that there are no standout hooks, no big chorus, no major melody. The solo here goes pure futuristic, or at least what they thought the future would sound like in the 70s.

The Late Show: Another distinctly Iron Maiden sounding song. Once the verse starts it turns pure Pink Floyd – Time to be precise. It’s a softer Maiden with a more bluesy, jazzy texture. We even get an organ solo. It’s still just missing the hook.

My Lady: Oh, this one tops 8 minutes. Are they gonna go for it? That’s a pretty great intro, again quite Maiden in tone, especially with that swirling guitar. The vocals are too flat in the verses and the chorus is far too plain. It’s the same issue I had with most of Di’Anno’s vocals – just boring to me, ignoring any Dickinson comparison. We get a solo, instrumental section just before the 4th minute, assuming it’s going to change gears for final half. Well over a minute of guitars, no gear change yet. Back to the verse, that’s a shame. A song this long, you gots to change it up. This is meant to be emotional or something, but it doesn’t work. Decent song, but no need in being so long.

Animals: Well, this takes a different approach. It’s not disco, but it’s certainly funky. Still rock of course. Topical lyrics. It almost, dare I say it, has a ska feeling. We head into a groovy instrumental section, the lead jangling chords linking with the constant drum beat while Smith lets loose on the six string. This doesn’t feel like Maiden in any way. An interesting end.

That was a lot better than what I was fearing. It’s a pity then that none of the songs really standout as a crusher. For picking my playlist tracks I could really pick any of them for the same reasons – none are bad, none are great – they’re all equally good. They’re all equally B- grade. You can tell their influences quite easily, and you can also tell how the sound went on to determine that Maiden sound. Taken as a whole they feel like any number of 70s rock bands who haven’t quite nailed down their own sound and direction and hit that niche where they can express creatively and deliver what they are capable of.

Let us know in the comments what you think of High Roller!

Nightman’s Playlist Picks: Keeping It Mellow. Countdown.

Nightman Listens To – Bon Jovi – What About Now!

What About Now (album) - Wikipedia

Greetings, Glancers! I’ve now listened to two ‘new’ Bon Jovi albums with Lost Highway and The Circle with the general consensus being that I thought they were better than I was expecting, particularly the latter. With today’s listen-though, I haven’t even heard of the album title before and know absolutely nothing about the songs or music or style. I was aware that Richie Sambora left the band at some point, but it turns out that this was the last album he worked on with the band. I don’t know anything about the background or his reasons for leaving the group, but maybe that has some sort of effect on how the album sounds. I don’t know, I’m clutching straws. I don’t think that, even though I was pleased with the last two albums, that I’m going to raise my expectations in any way so I’m still placing the bar quite low for this one. Let’s do this.

Because We Can‘ has a very poppy opening – lots of layered vocals and keyboards, light on the guitars. John’s vocals sound a little strange, not sure if they were being tweaked in the studio. I quite like the verse melody, it’s an easy ear worm while the chorus has lyrics which are easy to remember and sing along with. It feels like a dedicated attempt at making waves in the charts and it’s quite a distance from their harder rock roots.

I’m With You‘ is more like what we know from the band, even if they guitars lack whatever bite they may have once had. I’m happy they’ve returned to a focus on melody, something they had slipped a little from but have grown back into in the last album. I am drawn more to the verse melodies on this one, same as the first, and in the chorus here the mass vocals feel over produced and possibly modified a little from how they originally sounded.

What About Now‘ is the title track, and sounds like another obvious single. It’s much more generic and middle of the road than the first two songs, but it’s still going to appeal to their core fan group. It’s a little more emotive in the second verse but I don’t see it having the power to draw in any new fans.

Pictures Of You‘ continues the full melodic sound. The songs may lack punch and are ever more pandering towards fans of the softer side but they’re not overly repetitive in terms of this album yet. This is sweet enough, obviously another love song but with a fast enough tempo to keep it out of ballad territory. If you already like the band, you’ll enjoy this. If you don’t like them, this will be more evidence. It’s not strong enough to convert any newbs if we compare it to their big hits.

Amen‘ is straight into ballad land, starting with an acoustic guitar as soft as a harp and lots of loving metaphors. There’s not much to it – the odd swell of strings and organ as it proceeds, but very simple and not any new ideas. Once the vocals and strings soar it gets better, but he needed to take the vocals one notch higher – in the past he would have. One for the ladies… just not enough force to get it into that A class of ballads.

That’s What The Water Made Me‘ increases the pace once more with a clattering of drums. More poppy melodies, very commercial, very much ticking all those ‘how to make a hit’ boxes without hitting the ‘how to make a classic’ ones. It’s fine and another great song for existing fans.

Whats Left Of Me‘ is more of Jon aligning himself with or imagining himself as the working man, and jotting down his thoughts on blue collar life. There’s an ever so quiet hint of Nashville similar to what they were doing a couple of albums ago. No new ground here and not strong enough of a copy to make any impact.

Army Of One‘ opens with a drum beat which should be familiar to most Bon Jovi fans. The organ grows as the vocals prepare for an anthem of some description. The guitars and bass join in slowly but the sudden chorus blast breaks this rhythm and any crescendo falls apart. The chorus is too simplistic and repetitive to drive its point home with any conviction. Instead it sadly comes across as the sort of attempt at an anthem or rallying call that a one year’s success boy band’s manager would devise. It’s supposed to be inspirational and I hope it reaches the ears of those who need it and who it would work for, but it misses the mark wildly for me.

Thick As Thieves‘ feels like a more honest ballad. There’s a dual keyboard and organ, smooth in your eye vocals, and a slow pace. It’s touching, I can see it working for most fans. It’s not perfect, it doesn’t have the emotional peaks I look for in ballads, instead going for a more matter of fact approach. Their existing fans who prefer the ballads will surely adore this too.

Beautiful World‘ gets the pace back on track, though we’re hardly getting out of third gear. Plenty more hooks, more positivity, and another big chorus with enough bounce and energy to serve it well in the live environment. There are quite a few songs on the album which feel like singles, but none of them would crack the band’s own top twenty or my personal favourites.

Room At The End Of The World‘ starts with great promise – straight in with no messing or elaborate intro. The melody and atmosphere I look for are there and it feels like it’s building towards something interesting. The chorus hits and it’s… well it’s like any number of the band’s choruses in their previous ten years. They’re very interchangeable and don’t stand apart from the crowd. I keep saying it, but long time fans shouldn’t mind.

The Fighter‘ draws the album to a close. It starts with promise – uncomplicated guitar which Jon follows with his vocal melody. It’s very sweet and the lyrics aren’t as obvious. The chorus for once feels like an extension of the verse and melody rather than an attempt to sound as commercial as possible. A pleasing ending.

Well, another good album better than what a cynic like me would be expecting. It doesn’t leap out of the stereo, it doesn’t challenge, but it does give fans what they want. It’s wonderful for the fans that the band keeps giving the fans what they want and that the band are happy to keep doing what they do. They’re probably doing what they do better than anyone else, even if they’re not doing it as well as they used to. That’s the part which is to be expected as few artists can continually reinvent themselves or get progressively better. Most hit a peak and stay there or tumble off the other side into oblivion. Maybe there are songs here with the strength and quality to bring in new fans, if only the listeners had regular easy access, but as healthy and fun as most of the songs will be for existing fans I don’t see the audience growing. On a personal note there are fewer songs that I’d chose to listen to again than on the previous album, but I was never really the target audience.

Nightman’s Playlist Picks: Because We Can. I’m With You. The Fighter.

Let us know what you think of What About Now in the comments!

Nightman Listens To – Just Like Us – Paul Revere And The Raiders (1966 Series)!

Greetings, Glancers! Here we go, the first post in a series I am sure to never finish – listening to every album released in 1966 (at least as listed by Wikipedia). That’s somewhere in the vicinity of three hundred albums, but taking out the compilations, EPs, ones I know, and ones which I already plan to listen to outside of this series we’ll hopefully get a less daunting figure. If you plan to follow along with me like a weirdo, I’m going from top to bottom on the 1966 In Music page on Wikipedia, and the first album on that list just happens to be a Compilation by James Brown – a singer who I haven’t listed to a full album by, but who I’ve always liked. We skip over him, and on to Paul Revere And The Raiders. Who?

Released on January 3rd 1966, it’s obviously one of the first releases of the year. It’s one I know nothing about, but according to Wikipedia was their fourth album and that they were a pop rock group. Hopefully we’ll get some nice 60s pop rock along the lines of The Beatles or The Beach Boys then. It’s not on Colin Larkin’s Top 1000 list and I can’t think of any other reason I would want to listen to it beyond this series of posts, so lets do it!

Steppin’ Out: Okay, gets off with a blast. Tambourines and a bluesy riff and Jagger swagger. Yes, this is much more like The Rolling Stones. There’s a switch in pace that comes out of nowhere and the song flies along before reverting back to the previous tempo. I’m not a huge fan of the vocals or vocal style, very much trying to capitalize on Jagger, but fine. It’s not what I was expecting, quite fun.

Doggone: Apparently a Smokey Robinson song. Continues with the Stones theme. The vocals are deeper and more controlled, theatrical, and vicious than Jagger. As it’s a Robinson song, there’s a lightness to the melody. Layered vocals give it a unique flavour. Central riff is simple but effective. So far a nice start to 1966 and exactly the sort of rock approach I was expecting bands to be producing, if a little heavier than what I thought.

Out Of Sight: Was that a shouty German intro? Ah, I see now that this is actually a covers album. I didn’t really want to include cover albums in these posts but we’ve started, and it’s good, so I’ll leave this as an exception. This is my least favourite track so far, but still more of the same – straight forward blues rock.

Baby, Please Don’t Go: Well, I know this one, natch. It’s a straight cover without much additional flourish. It’s a fun, quick song, but I was never a huge fan of it in any form. I always find it bizarre that these albums exist – even after The Beatles obliterated the model, multiple artists were still releasing multiple covers albums. Money drives, I guess.

I Know: I DON’T know this one. Heh. Lots of silly voices and laughter and background chit chat. Well played, but completely uneventful.

Night Train: It ain’t G’n’R. Nice intro with drums and brass as a fake train arrival. This is followed by your typical Blues stuff but the guitar tone is very flat and everything sounds like it was recorded in a tin of beans. It’s a mostly boring instrumental.

Just Like Me: Apparently this one isn’t necessarily a cover, but they bought the song from someone else. It has a similar rhythm to ‘Louie Louie’. Simple lyrics, lots of shouting. Too repetitive within its brief running time and lacking in the melody department to make any impact.

Catch The Wind: Not the first time I’ve heard this song on the blog, but of course my preferred version is the Susannah Hoffs one. Due to that, most other vocals sound flat to me. This one is especially lifeless – all the additional inflections and hooks and emotion Hoffs adds are absent here. The vocals on this version are almost as if he’s just reading them off the page having never heard the song – in fact it seems like he’s deliberately taking the piss, adding ‘da da das’ in a ‘who gives a shit’ way.

Satisfaction: More Stones. This is basically identical to the original, in other words, what’s the point? If you’re going to cover something, you have to add your own flavour and twist – in today’s sad parlance – you have to make it your own. This adds almost nothing, yet sounds less energetic and sleazy than the original. Still, it’s a classic song and it’s difficult to get it wrong.

I’m Crying: A count in intro like I Saw Her Standing There gets this one underway. It’s another famous British Invasion song, and again it’s not all that different. It’s all a bit pointless – here’s a bunch of songs other people wrote a few years ago, and look – we can play them too!

New Orleans: A marginally older song now, one with a famous ‘hey heya’ intro and a smooth swaying rhythm. There are countless versions of most of these songs out there, this one rocks a little more than the original thanks to the intervening years since it was written, but it’s mostly the same.

Action: I don’t know what this is, but it definitely has a Beach Boys vibe – similar harmonies and vocal style and even the lyrics are sunny and surfy. Like the rest of the album it’s all played with talent and energy.

That’s one album down, two hundred odd to go. I’m a little peeved this was just covers as its clear the band know how to play and how to rock. The early songs are the best as they capture a fun and youthful spirit, but it all wears thin quickly with the same range of songs that everyone else was covering at the time being played with a lack of invention and imagination. There’s nothing here to recommend any of the songs over the originals, unless you’re a die-hard of the band. There’s enough here to make me want to hear more by the band, but I want original material. With that being said, the band released three more albums in 1966 alone so I assume at least one of these is original material. We’ll get there, team, we’ll get there.

Let us know in the comments what you think of Just Like Us!

Nightman’s Playlist Picks: Steppin’ Out.

Nightman Listens To – The Rolling Stones – No.2

Greetings, Glancers! It’s time to dive down into some deep and dirty delta cuts and covers as we look at the second UK release by The Rolling Stones. Like the first album this is bolstered by a host of energetic covers of Blues and rock standards although this time we get multiple Jagger/Richards originals. I know a few of these songs and I know most of the covers, so this should be an easy enough ride. Lift-off!

Everybody Needs Somebody To Love: This is among my favourite Blues compositions, mainly down to its appearance in The Blues Brothers. It thumps along, Jagger gives his usual swagger to the opening spoken proceedings and his vocals rarely stray into what you would consider singing. It’s as good a cover of this one as you’re likely to hear. There’s no need it needs to go over four minutes, never mind five.

Down Home Girl: Not an original I’m overly familiar with. A mid-paced to slow Blues song about some dude’s obsession with some gal. A gal of a particular type from a particular place it seems. The lead riffs are catchy enough but I’ll have forgotten them by the end of the album. Some harmonica and piano thrown in there too – one to good effect, the other not so much.

You Can’t Catch Me: A speedy outing, as the name suggests. Another simplistic and formulaic structure, but the energy and cool carries it through. Jagger’s vocals are too monotone, not entirely his fault as the song doesn’t allow for much in the way of melody. Great solo and build to it though. This one is famous for The Beatles nicking some of the lyrics for Come Together. 

Time Is On My Side: I can’t say for sure which version I heard first, but either way the first time I heard The Rolling Stone’s play this I assumed they’d written it. They didn’t. Aside from the chorus and main hook, the song is a grittier version of the original, with a little more hammer to the drums, more punch to the guitar, and an edge to the vocals.

What A Shame: This now is an original composition. It follows your standard Blues structure, timing, and lyrical content to the extent that this could have been written forty years earlier. Richards is playing a little in the studio, those string bends have a character, but elsewhere there’s little to suggest the band are anything more than talented cover artists and copycats. Still, it gets the foot tapping.

Grown Up Wrong: The second original composition has a touch more individuality, while still treading familiar Blues paths. I can’t go so far as saying there’s anything inherently British in the lyrics or approach but something makes it different. It’s a quickie too, and under a couple of minutes.

Down The Road Apiece: This is a full-blooded blues rocker which gives Jagger a chance to stretch his cords more than usual. Hearing a lot of these on their own is a more enjoyable experience for me than hearing them in a sequence. This is probably the most fun song so far and would get the most reaction from me if heard standalone. Still, aside from the energy, there isn’t a lot to recommend it above any other Blues rocker – it hits the same beats and notes as many others.

Under The Boardwalk: This is one everyone should know, in some form or other. Jagger manages well enough with the softer, higher patched vocals and the rest of the band add what little flair they can. This is one of those songs it’s difficult to get wrong and every version I’ve heard has been good – here it breaks up the flow of the album nicely by being a distinctly pop song rather than the Blues tracks.

I Can’t Be Satisfied: After that brief interlude, we’re right back in the Blues heartland with a Muddy Waters cover. This one has some Country influence, the lead riff is a fun example of the standard ascending Blues riff, but elsewhere the song is quite sparse.

Pain In My Heart: One of the more interesting Blues covers here, this has more in common with 1950s rock ballads than Southern Blues. Jagger enjoys this one, grunting, sighing, and screaming at various points.

Off The Hook: The final original composition is the most unique of the three. It takes time in its intro and blasts into a verse with Beatles style verve. It’s a shame the melodies aren’t great, going for repetition over quality. This sounds like any number of British and American rock bands who emerged in the 60s, yet keeps Blues roots.

Suzie Q: I think I knew the name of this song long before I heard it, and it’s another I always assumed was a Stones original. In truth, I’m not sure why the song is held in such high-esteem. It doesn’t stand out from any other late 50s rocker, and this cover gives it a little more grit without making it any more or less appealing.

More of the same then. I think I enjoyed this more than the first album – maybe the songs chose to cover are better, maybe I’m feeling different today, or maybe it’s the inclusion of more original Jagger/Richards songs. Really, there isn’t a whole lot of variety between this and the first album, but if you’re into early blues rock there’s bound to be plenty to enjoy here.

Nightman’s Playlist Picks: Time Is On My Side. Under The Boardwalk.

 

Nightman Listens To – Roxette – Have A Nice Day!

*Note. This, and at least three subsequent Roxette album posts were written before this week and the news that Marie had passed away after her long cancer battle. I typically write these posts many months before I actually post them (I have already listened to and written about Charm School by September this year – who knows when I’ll post it). It’s strange to think we won’t get another Roxette album now, but we still have a collection of songs to look back on and enjoy.

220px-Roxette_Have_a_nice_day

Greetings, Glancers! Between 1994’s Crash! Boom! Bang!  and 1999’s Have A Nice Day the music world had moved on. While the band had released a Greatest Hits, a Rarities compilation, and an album of Spanish covers of their own ballads, five years is a long time to go without new material. Did anyone still care about Roxette on the eve of the old millennium and were they still capable of making instant pop classics? With regards to the first question, the album charted well and still sold a couple of million copies, though it wasn’t as large a success as their previous albums. Looking at the 14 songs on the track list, I don’t recognise any of them although given that ‘Wish I Could Fly’ was apparently the most played song of 1999 I assume I have heard it and somehow blanked it from my memory. I assume the album will be all new to me, but possibly bring some surprise nostalgia.

Crush On You‘ opens with a different sound for the band. Not jarring, as we know Roxette like to play around with their sound a little. It’s a heavy percussive opening before descending into a cheesy dated rave sound before stabilizing a little in the verse. Per sing talks the vocals with Marie filling in for the chorus. That chorus is pretty simple, a nice counterpoint to the plain melody of the verse. It is designed to feel hectic, a rap quality to the verses and a lot of synth and drums bouncing around. Nice enough production – a lot of switching around and different sounds, each couple of lines has a slightly different accompaniment to keep things varied. Stripped down it would be quite simple and straight, but all together it’s an okay opener, should get the blood pumping.

Wish I Could Fly‘ doesn’t ring a bell for me at the moment. I was listening to the radio in 99 so if this was such a big hit I should remember it. The verse feels marginally familiar, but I think I’m searching for a memory where there isn’t one. The chorus sounds like a couple of other Roxette songs and is strong enough that I should remember it, so I’m confident that I haven’t heard this. I’m not sure why it was such a hit as it feels like a pastiche of other Roxette songs… maybe it’s exactly what fans wanted after five years, but it’s definitely a lesser version of what they’d already achieved.

You Can’t Put Your Arms Around What’s Already Gone‘ starts with DJ scrapes and crappy digitized beats. Per delivers the lead verse melody – it’s fine, lots of effects on his voice. It’s the backing stuff which is more interesting – the band clearly having fun messing in the studio but the unfortunate result is it sounds very dated. I have a feeling a lot of this is intentional, as if they were going for an already dated sound in 1999, but that sound isn’t one I’m keen on so it sounds very juvenile.

Waiting For The Rain‘ has a McCartney feel. The piano rhythm and the vocals feel very much like mid-career Beatles. The overall tone is very 60s to me, there’s a little bit of brass and flute stuff going on, and again the vocals have some effects over the top. It’s catchy enough, and each repetition builds a little something extra on, but it never gets better than okay.

Anyone‘ opens with a nice piece of piano, then a big string section gives me hope for an unknown ballad. This is much more what I prefer from Roxette – heart tugging melodies and vocals. Yes, it’s easily my favourite so far but you should know by now I love a good ballad. The verses stretch out, making me wonder if there is a chorus. The chorus, extended as it is, or split up as it is, doesn’t work as well as the verse and I’m happier once we get back to the verse. That return is short lived as we’re quickly back to the chorus. That’s a bit of a letdown as we were heading for one I’d quickly listen to again. As it is, it’s one I wouldn’t mind hearing again but not one I’d look for.

It Will Take A Long Long Time‘ is a rest from the over produced nature of everything we’ve had so far. A simple acoustic guitar intro and Marie’s vocals. Then some keys. Then the production comes with the chorus, but it’s not overbearing. Simple hopeful lyric. That’s a better chorus too – this one feels more even musically. The bridge and instrumental are as by the numbers as you can get and simply lead to another chorus before the end. Usually I say these ones are lazy and thrown together in a matter of hours, but it’s one of the better ones due to its simplicity. Nothing bad so far, just a range of middling songs.

7Twenty7‘ brings the production back with a digitized howl of noise, I guess signifying the 727 airplane. The song is another lackluster one built up by the wall of sound. I always say – can a song be stripped down to just a voice and a single instrument, and still be as powerful as the original, and this case I don’t see it. Very mundane melodies and aside from the odd Marie moment the vocals are plain. Of course, many songs are supposed to be that wall of sound and the stripped down theory shouldn’t apply, but this isn’t one of those. The song isn’t four minutes long but I’m bored long before that.

I Was So Lucky‘ seems a little more stripped down, maybe another ballad. Better melodies, better music. It’s still not reaching those top levels, but it’s better. The main feeling I get from the album is just that it’s plain, white music. I’m not sure the songs could be transformed to something better than what they are – what you hear is what you get and none of it is terrible or amazing. I still like this, but I can’t see it reverberating in my head after it’s done. Better than meh and in cases like this, quite good is the most positive I can be, but still waiting for one I’d really want to hear again.

Stars‘ opens like a terrible cheesy Europop rave up, one of those one-hit wonders from the late 90s which had the braindead bopping in droves. It ends up being better – the verse melodies and the kid choir stuff is good, but the backing beats and sounds are generic and weak and I dismiss them entirely within milliseconds of hearing them. It’s a bit annoying then when they finally get a better selection of hooks that they surround them with garbage.

Salvation‘ keeps the improved melodies running, with a wispy organ sound accompanying Marie. It’s all going well until that dreadful 90s drum sound comes in. That sound alone is almost bad enough to ruin the whole song for me. There’s a religious bent to the lyrics which the instrumental choices mirror, with angelic voices filling in, and we get another good chorus. This is easily one of the best songs – I don’t think the bridge does anything – but the verse and chorus do nothing wrong aside from the drum sound. Take that away and I’d gladly listen to this again.

Pay The Price‘ seems to go for a more traditional rock sound. It still has a lot of studio shenanigans going on instead of going for a pure live sound, but this is Roxette we’re talking about. It’s jumpy and fun, feels like a nice Summer song – something you’d have in the background of a 90s movie beach scene. Harmless fun and I don’t have any complaints – just not the most memorable. That’s maybe the best two songs in a row – can we keep the trend going?

Cooper‘ is the name of my cat. He’s named after Alice and Dale, not this song. His middle name is Michael Jackson, according to my kids. I don’t know who this Cooper is they are referring to, seems to be a lady. Per’s vocals are good here, maybe because of the good melodies, interesting lyrics, and tone suggesting something sinister. It’s a ballad, but has something akin to Little Susie. Cooper was sleeping as I started to play this song, but he’s now sitting up and staring at me so I have to console him and let him know it’s not about him.

Staring At The Ground‘ opens with more interesting drum sounds then some more summery guitar. It’s another light and fun song, inconsequential, but one which really tries to slap a smile on your chin. It even has harmonica. It’s almost like a 3 minute chorus.

Beautiful Things‘ opens with strings – always good. Good breathy vocals, sad tone. I’m good with the melodies, drum sound isn’t great but not too distracting, and the chorus works nicely as a counterpoint. Good transitions between the two tones and parts, blends well. The bridge isn’t the best, but that’s par for the course on this album. Yeah, good song, good ending to the album.

It’s a shame the start of the album isn’t as fun as the end. There are four or five good songs worth mentioning in that run in which are better than everything else. I wouldn’t say there are any bad songs but there is too much that is middling and either never hits top gear or is brought down by over-produced fluff. Albums which sound over-produced to me usually suggest a void of ideas or lack of creativity, or alternatively show an artist excited about a new box of toys but with not a clue how to use it to make a good time. Many albums throw a lot of these tricks into the mix and it pays off, because it either compliments the song’s purest form or elevates that song to something even more special. When it doesn’t work, it’s either vapid noise or highlights how uninteresting the music actually is. There isn’t a true standout song for me here, but those few towards the end warrant another listen – I’m not sure whether I’d include them on a personal Roxette compilation, but maybe after another few listens.

Let us know in the comments what you thought of Have A Nice Day!

Nightman’s Playlist Picks: Beautiful Things. Salvation. Pay The Price.

Nightman’s Favourite Songs Of All Time – Achilles’ Last Stand – Led Zeppelin

Greetings, Glancers! To fans of Led Zeppelin, the band have any number of opuses (opusi?) to point to and enjoy and for detractors and uberpunk fans and idiots, the band have any number of pretentious, overbearing, never-ending twaddle to suffer through. Everybody knows Stairway To Heaven, most people know Kashmir, but very few people outside of the hardcore Zep fans know Achilles Last Stand. It’s their most epic song – a mammoth tome of riffs and rock excess – and it’s a song I had no idea existed until I stumbled upon it as I worked my way through buying the Zep albums in my late teens.

I’ve always been a fan of ‘long songs’. Of course I appreciate the finer points of a skillful, three minute pop song, but I’ve always been driven to pushing the boundaries, to adding just one more instrument or lyric or melody or solo. My mind has always been fond of the epic – I’ve loved long movies for as long as I can remember, I loved when my favourite bands in my childhood pushed a song over the five or six minute mark, and I loved long novel series or stories with plots which spanned thousands of pages and multiple years or generations. I don’t know why this is – maybe it has always inspired me or given me hope in the human race’s capacity for invention and imagination, this need to create something without giving the slightest fuck to its length. If it needs to be a 24 minute song, then that’s what it’s going to be. Achilles Last Stand doesn’t quite hit that mark, but it does go over ten minutes, and it’s ten minutes of pure glory.

Where do you even start with this? The beginning seems like a good place, but then I’d be forced to go through it piece by piece and we’d be here forever. I could cut it up into its different sections – Bonzo’s earth shattering drums, Page’s urgent overlapping riffs and apocalyptic soloing, the rambling long form poetic lyrics, Plant’s return to his finest vocals, and Jonesy never letting up with the thunderous galloping bass. It’s a song that just keeps going on and on and on, yet it constantly engages. It’s just so relentlessly dense that you always find something new to draw on and constantly find yourself falling in love once more with a slight inflection or string bend or slip of the wrist by Bonham. If you’re of the sadist persuasion, it’s like jumping into a huge thistle bush and trying to climb through to the other end, hundreds of prickers jabbing your skin, causing tiny cuts, ripping your clothes, and pulling you back – dense, painful, but you love it.

Most bands might write long or complex songs or a combination of both, but few bands have the balls to actually play them live. Led Zeppelin may have had the biggest balls in the history of rock, and regularly featured this in their concerts – it’s just a shame they wrote it at the end of their career. The balls it takes as a four-piece to play something like this, especially when completely coked off their tits, is a testament to just how in sync the band was. They just don’t have bands like this anymore, and they don’t write songs like this anymore. It is an utterly ridiculous piece of music and we should all feel blessed that it was born. If you haven’t heard it, click one of my links and let your head explode.

Unsurprisingly, there haven’t been many covers of this song. Only those mad bastards Dream Theater had a crack at it as part of a medley, while the Jason Bonham band paid homage – also during a medley. I’m sure some rap dudes have probably sampled pieces of it here and there – it seems like exactly the sort of song that would be ripe for such pillaging. Until one of the young pretenders goes all out and crafts something as epic and powerful as this, they’re never going to be accepted as anywhere near the same level as Led Zep.

Let us know in the comments what you think of Achilles’ Last Stand!