Nightman Listens To – Some Time In New York City – John Lennon (Non-Beatles Series)!

John Lennon: Some Time In New York City - Behind The Albums

Greetings, Glancers! It’s obvious by now that I’ve been disappointed by Lennon’s post Beatles work. I could say the same for all of them really, but I think both McCartney and Harrison have so far made more songs that I’ve enjoyed. I didn’t know a thing about this album until I went to grab the tracklist and saw that it is half studio, half live. I’m not going to listen to the Live half. I’ve I’d absolutely loved Lennon’s post-Beatles work till this point, then I may have dipped into the Live part, but I haven’t so I won’t. Maybe I’ll come back to it some day. Anyway, here’s what I assume is another bunch of angry protest songs.

Woman Is The N****r Of The World‘ is a song I’m aware of more because of its name and surrounding controversy, rather than any musical or lyrical content. In fact, of the ten songs listed, I don’t believe I’ve heard any of them. It has a big brass opening, Lennon’s soothing vocals a counterpoint to the harsher vocals and the great lyrics. He does go in for the hard R at times too. The music is laid back in a New Orleans style, but isn’t overly exciting. There’s a lot thrown in to the production in terms of layering, but little of it stands out. As you’ll hear me say quite a bit, which is unusual for someone who loves long songs, but this could have been condensed easily to under four minutes and increased its impact.

Sisters, O Sisters‘ begins, as is standard for Yoko, with some Yoko warbling. What’s interesting is that the song is actually quite fun – it has a Motown/Supremes/earlier rock vibe. The production is particularly horrible and with Yoko’s vocals being what they are… were they trying to hide how bad they sound by doubling up? That has only made them worse. Stick any other vocalist in here and you’d have a pretty nifty song. A shame as this is very catchy and lovely – it’s like seeing someone butcher your favourite song at a school talent contest.

Attica State‘ opens like a hundred other Blues rockers, including quite a few which The Beatles did themselves. The squealing guitars, shouty vocals, and burping horns compliment each other even if it does all sound jumbled and messy. It keeps to a more adequate length.

Born In A Prison’ is intentionally positioned tracklist wise between the next song and the previous one. Yoko does a lullaby sing-song to remind us of all of the prisons we find ourselves in. The vocals are marginally better, John’s arsing about in the background, and it’s all a little too quaint. Nice sax, if you’re into that sort of thing.

New York City’ is another, uninventive, riff on blues rock standards. It’s all a bit silly when you see what Zep was doing at this point in time. Without having heard this song before, it’s a song I’ve heard a hundred times before. The lyrics are more interesting, but it’s a song which isn’t saying a lot. Solid guitar in there. It’s a topical Chuck Berry influence rocker, without the melodic fun. Again, shave a minute off this and you don’t lose anything.

Sunday Bloody Sunday‘ opens with a much more interesting sound, and evolves into a funky rhythm. Unfortunately the lyrics are a bit of a shambles. I appreciated the sentiment, but coming from Northern Ireland you’re never going to get a simple answer to such a mess. The general consensus in these sorts of songs and movies is that the Protestants living in Northern Ireland shouldn’t be here and should be booted out. Which would be fine if we’d just moved in and took over 5 minutes ago, but all of that shit was the crimes of our (several times over) ancestors and ultimately becomes a naive and racist statement in itself and makes a mockery of his sentiment in Imagine. Good music all round though.

The Luck Of The Irish‘ is a sweet little ditty which seems to deal with the same subject as the previous song. It’s a little too saccharine and on the nose with Yoko’s mythological nonsense, but Lennon’s lyrics include a few great lines. A few more naive ones too – taking sides in this nonsense as it currently stands will never get anywhere – there are simply murderers and monsters from all directions and the best solution would be to nuke it all and start again.

John Sinclair‘ is a folksy rocker which sees Lennon still trying to emulate Dylan. It’s more fun than a Dylan song, and has the benefit of not having Dylan sing on it. Plus the slide guitar is strong with this one, and the ‘got to got to got to’ shenanigans is fairly amusing.

Angela‘ is a sweet song. It’s another Yoko song, neatly constructed and catchy, but harmed by the fact that she’s the one singing on it. Is that Harrison on guitar? It sounds like his tone.

We’re All Water‘ blasts out of the speakers, a fast paced jukebox rocker with plenty of horn parps and jagged guitar. Yoko sings again – they’ve got her voice filtered again so it sounds even weirder than normal. The vocals are more spoken than sung. It’s basically a list of names juxtaposed, with the refrain signifying that we’re all the same. Then Yoko starts screeching, which I don’t mind as much as her singing. It’s damn catchy too.

It’s another sub par album by Lennon. The better songs, musically, are the ones which Yoko performs. Which is a mess because her vocals are not right. I get that you want to work with the one you love, and that when you’re John Lennon you can do whatever the fuck you want. But from a purely musical perspective, from the respective of any listener, there are so many other singers out there that could have filled in and turned the songs into what they deserved to be instead of a point of ridicule. Lennon sounds as if he’s barely trying, while the Yoko songs are genuinely fun, or would be with a stronger singer.

Nightman’s Playlist Picks: Angela. John Sinclair, I guess. We’re All Water.

Let us know your thoughts in the comments!

Nightman Listens To – Wild Life – Wings (Non Beatles Series)!

Album Review: "Wild Life" - Paul McCartney & Wings (1971) - HOKEYBLOG!

Greetings, Glancers! Not content with arsing about on his own and making sweet sweet music with his Missus, McCartney returned to what got him on the ladder in the first place – a band of buddies. Wings is a band I always knew from a young age due to Live And Let Die and I’ve been looking forward to delving into their catalogue to see how the differ from and compare with The Beatles. Of the eight songs listed, I don’t recognise any of them, beyond a cover. Oh dear, it doesn’t look like the album was received very well so this could be a slog.

Mumbo‘ has a lot to live up to, you would think. I assume there was a fair level of hype around this at the time – Paul’s first band after leaving The Beatles. You would think that, outside of whatever singles were released, the album opener would need to kick you in the nuts (with glee). It does begin with a nut-kicking series of screams from Paul. The solo piano notes – you already know I’m not a fan of that particular style – but at least it’s spliced with organ blasts and smatterings of guitar. It’s more loose than what I would have expected from an opener, but the band sound like they’re having fun, which isn’t exactly the vibe you get from the last couple of Beatles albums. It’s quite groovy – I don’t think there’s enough substance to justify the full four minutes, but it does the job for me on first listen.

Bip Bop‘ open like a jaunty back-woods precursor to someone’s baby being eaten. ‘Bip bop’ in other words. It screeches into the Blues lane as the vocals start, while retaining the McCartney rhythm we all know. The vocals are quite unusual, the lyrics a mixture of nonsense and warbling, and with sprinkles of backing vocals from Linda. You see I fall back on mentioning the length of the song when I’m bored – I’m typing this line before the three minute mark and there’s another ninety seconds or so to go. The remaining 90 seconds are essentially identical to any other 90 seconds from the song.

Love Is Strange‘ has a loose feeling again, a riff looping over and over before the drums do something similar, but nifty, then it all pulls together. Is it an instrumental version? It’s almost the two minute mark when the the familiar melody and lyrics begin. It is quite different from the version I know – not a song I have any great love for in the first place, nor do I have anything against it. This feels more like a B-Side – some things I like, others I wonder why they bothered.

Wild Life‘ is over six minutes long, so it better be a masterpiece compared to the previous tracks. A brief vocal intro followed by almost a minute of overlapping chords give way to a lead vocal. Some great yells in the middle of these vocals, though it does feel repetitive. Once the backing vocals join we get a little more depth and density. Halfway now and, it’s a little boring. Not quite tedious, but it’s hardly exciting. The final half is more repetition, more screaming, not a lot more.

Some People Never Know‘ is also over 6 minutes long. If the last song was anything to go by, we could be in for a slog. It opens with some pleasant folk ditty guitars, expanding into an old sitcom intro style. The verses are tidy – nice dual vocals from Paul and Linda – so far so good. This is a simple, old fashioned ballad with a modern 70s twist – a dash of hippy charm, a fluid ounce of McCartney magic, and any arsing about stripped away. Lyrically, it hits that sweet spot of being both personal and universal. It’s maybe longer than it should be, but beyond the final thirty seconds or so of hand drumming, it doesn’t feel drawn out.

I Am Your Singer‘ takes us back to a sub three minute time-frame. It’s a strange, maudlin-toned song with a broken beat which picks up after the thirty second mark. From there we get a catchy melody, flutes, and plenty of vocals of Linda. It’s quite sweet while it lasts.

Tomorrow‘ threatens in its opening seconds a retread of the single piano rhythm I’m always yapping about. Thanks to the eventual beat and the vocal melodies it avoids this. It’s another sweet love song. Lovely harmonies to back up Paul’s lead make this feel like a lost Beatles track.

Dear Friend‘ closes the album. It features a sullen piano opening along with an emotive Paul vocal. The lyrics sound like they are about John. Some percussive nudges drop after the first minute and Paul reverts to moans and ooohs before a huge string surge steers into view. This feels like the album’s centrepiece, and clearly a lot of thought and emotion went into the writing and recording. It probably doesn’t need to be as long as it is, but unlike those in the first half this doesn’t feel as stretched.

There aren’t any bad songs here, but the opening half is let down by a reliance on feeling loose and using ideas which probably sounded good at the time but didn’t translate to an interesting listening experience. These songs tended to be overlong which made them feel more average. Thankfully the second disc is stronger – Paul’s melodic and lyrical prowess comes to the fore and as such the songs feel less like rarities and more like they were put together with effort and passion. In other words, a strong second side does its best to dispel memories of how plain the first half was.

Nightman’s Playlist Picks: Some People Never Know. I Am Your Singer. Tomorrow. Dear Friend.

Let us know in the comments what you think of Wild Life!

Nightman Listens To – Imagine – John Lennon (Non Beatles Series)!

Greetings, Glancers! This is the big one, right? This is the one John Lennon album I’ve known (about) most of my life, possibly due to the impact and fame of the title track. That song is one of the most acclaimed and famous of all time – I can’t say I’m its biggest fan – but I do enjoy it. One other song on the album that I know fairly well, is one I’ve never been a huge fan of. Of the remaining eight tracks, I don’t believe I’ve heard any of them, but we’ll soon find out. I know the album frequently makes Best Of lists, so I have high (ish) hopes.

‘Imagine’ is peerless in terms of fame and impact. It is very pretty while avoiding being twee. The lyrics I go back and forth on – simplistic and idyllic  – yes, wouldn’t a world like that be wonderful, but it glosses over too many complications and emotions. The fact that it was written by a millionaire never mattered to me, but I can understand that argument. Anyway, it’s lovely, you already know.

Crippled Inside‘ opens in similarly lovely fashion, almost like Across The Universe. Then it transforms into some honkey tonk Ringo-esque slice of whimsy. This one, I enjoy the lyrics that I’m picking up. Is he aping Dylan in the vocals, or just generic Country stylings? The music is of course a piss-take, but it’s amusing and catchy enough.

Jealous Guy‘ is the other song I knew – more from the cover than Lennon’s original. This is much better than Roxy Music’s take. I like that it’s honest, I like the strings. I appreciate the simplicity. Still, it has that dreary feel that many of the piano led Beatles songs have – a little touch of guitar or, anything really, to take away from the piano could make it better in my eyes, but most would disagree.

It’s So Hard‘ sounds like a heavier take – it takes old fashioned Blues rhythms and adds a sprinkle of sass. The lyrics, again, are amusing but I can’t take the music all that seriously. You can dress up this sort of Blues anyway you like, but it remains musically unimpressive. I could accept an argument for the banal struggles and the saucy lyrics being deliberately placed alongside cliched Blues riffs to draw conclusions between both.

‘I Don’t Want To Be A Soldier’ opens with another dirty rock sound. Lennon always seems to employ this reverb on his vocals… I never like that effect on vocals. This does feel more modern, probably thanks to the production having more colour and depth. Parts of this I think I have heard – the ‘I don’t want to be a soldier mamma’ is very familiar. Sadly it’s quite tuneless. There’s no need for it to pass the three minute mark – six minutes is inexcusable.

Gimme Some Truth’ opens the second side with a mouthful of fury. It’s angry and sweet and the same time and sees John falling back on his talent for spurting words in a sharp, poetic, staccato fashion. This is more to my tastes, not quite punk because it sounds quite pretty in places, but there’s enough harsh quality to the vocals and lyrics and guitars to align it with the heavier music of the time.

Oh My Love’ is… ooh, much more to my tastes. Slow, sad, lovely melding of guitar and piano. There’s the vocal reverb again. Luckily the melodies are wonderful too – with the lyrics combined it does veer awfully close to being saccharine, but I’ve never had a problem with that as long as its honest. This flip flops between major and minor freely which also stops it becoming too sugary. I’ve heard parts of this somewhere in time.

How Do You Sleep‘ is a pretty infamous song, but I don’t think I’ve actually heard it before. Noted as being an attack on Paul, in response to an attack by Paul, the lyrics are amusing but still feel petty. We know John was a defensive little prick at times, with a massive yet fragile ego. He would make all these attacks and mistakes and dismiss them as jokes subsequently, rather than admit to them. Of course this totalled up to him coming across as not the most trustworthy or genuine, even though I’m sure he was. Back to the song. After that loose opening the slow beat takes control and accomplishes quite a funky rhythm. Solid Cowboy strings when they come, solid solo work from Harrison I presume. Strong organ work to finish.

‘How?’ opens with a question. And continues with more questions. The verses are broken up like neat little pauses which seems to accentuate the confusion in Lennon’s mind – every thought is followed by a moment of contemplation. It’s close to being quite repetitive, but the pauses and melodies keep the sum fresh and engaging. Tasty strings in what I’m taking to be the chorus.

Oh Yoko‘ closes the album, kicking off with a pleasing relaxed jukebox pop rock song. It’s very sweet, easy melodies and an atmosphere which makes me think of pleasing memories of love and friendship and sunny days and long warm nights. It would again be twee if it wasn’t for how unabashed and heartfelt and adorable it all is. See, it is possible to come across as honest. Hell, even the harmonica doesn’t ruin things.

A much stronger second half drastically raises my opinion of the whole album – the first half features the hits, but as mentioned those hits aren’t necessarily personal favourites of mine. The more rock infused songs on the first half feel tame given the output of other bands of the time, and the melodic hooks aren’t quite sharp enough. The second half though finds almost everything hitting the mark successfully and there are plenty of songs I look forward to listening to again. Not as consistent then as the recent albums by Paul and George, but I’m happy to have found some great new music.

Nightman’s Playlist Picks: Imagine. Gimme Some Truth. Oh My Love. How Do You Sleep. How? Oh Yoko.

Nightman Listens To – John Lennon – The Plastic Ono Band (Non-Beatles Series)!

Greetings, Glancers! Last time around we had the excellent All Things Must Pass by senor Harrison. Now it’s finally over to Monsieur Lennon, and his first (non experimental guff) Post-Beatles outing. The year was 1970 – so there wasn’t really any delay in output between the time The Beatles split and when this was released. Just like each of the other lads. Now, I’ve probably heard a few of these before but there’s only one I know for sure. As it seems like a fairly short album, I’m going to also listen to the two bonus tracks which were added as part of the 2000 Reissue. Will Yoko be screeching in the background? Will the songs be typical latter day Lennon rage-fests? I’ve no idea.

‘Mother’ I have heard, now that I’ve heard the opening shriek. Where have I heard it – The Simpsons? That sounds right. It has a sparse arrangement – just the odd piano clang and a repeating simple beat. A touch of bass. I’ve always said that a good song lives or dies on the strength of its melody – and that all the other musical accompaniment can be added or stripped away without truly hurting the song as long as the melody doesn’t changing. This takes the stripped down approach, and even though I can imagine swelling of strings here the core melody and the emotion behind it is what carries the song.

Hold On‘ feels vaguely familiar – but I’ll hold off until I hear the vocals. No, I don’t think I’ve heard it. He’s singing to himself and Yoko, not surprising. Parts of this are familiar. Again, it’s sparse and somewhat laid-back. Cookie? It’s nice, positive, and at under two minutes there’s not much to it. I’d say it could go on the playlist for now, but I don’t think it’s going to grow on me any further and is more likely to slip off.

I Found Out’ begins like a demented Blues demo, just dual vocals and distorted guitars. The beat comes in later, with a loose beat and more distortion. It picks up pace with a more driving bass. I’m not a fan of the effects on the vocals. It feels a lot like Come Together. Nice instrumental in the middle. It grows on me as it progresses.

Working Class Hero‘ is the one I knew already, both in its original form and in its many copies. It’s not a song I’ve ever had any great love for, but neither is it one I dislike. It’s just an average song for me.

‘Isolation’ is one I’m listening to in Quarantine. I assume when I post this, all the Cov-ID 19 guff will be done with? The slow piano led Beatles stuff is hardly ever a favourite for me. This goes the same way – I like the come out of each verse rather than the lead in. Not that it has a very generic structure. The ‘chorus’ picks up the volume then goes off for a dander into Strangeways and the song becomes more interesting. Then it circles around to another verse. It’s fine, but that single piano note approach isn’t for me.

‘Remember’ seems to be one of the longest songs on the album at four and a half minutes. It’s another piano led one, with the same static single note approach. It’s faster this time, and the drums and bass aren’t quite aligned with the piano which makes it a little more interesting. Just as I was wondering if it was going to stay like this throughout, John pre-empts my frustration and changes it up, albeit briefly. I like the gentle boundary pushing, the experimenting without just fucking about. I don’t see it ever making my playlist because the melodies aren’t so strong and because of those single notes. And of course a joke to close it.

‘Love’ fades in with a distant, more interesting piano. This feels quite lovely, don’t mess it up now. It’s very reminiscent of Radiohead’s How I Made My Millions. I think the verse changes chords too many times and would have had greater impact on me if it had sustained some of the early minor key chords longer. Still, it’s lovely, but frustratingly not as lovely as it could have been for me. I assume others love it just the way it is.

Well Well Well‘ opens with a dirty Blues riff and drums like a zombie whacking on a boarded up window, with a shoe. The vocals have an annoying set of effects in place which doesn’t make for the most pleasant listening. I’m not sure what he was going for here, clearly going for a more gritty, underground sound. Or maybe it’s because he knew the song wasn’t that interesting and it needed something shouty to spice it up. His actual shouts are very good, sounding very Cobain at times. It does go on way too long.

Look At Me‘ starts quietly. The guitar is almost identical to, what, Julia? It’s about as interesting musically as that song – it’s one of those songs which should be sweet and mellow but feels dreary to me. Vocal melodies are drifting without striking any great affection in me. It’s fine, but forgettable.

God‘ closes the album. It feels more melodic than the last couple from its opening moments – the piano isn’t so single-note based. It’s actually playing a tune. It’s a song about the self, it seems, not following some religion or God or celebrity or politician or monarch or power or cult. It is very repetitive, but the whole ‘I don’t believe in’ section has that solid melodic foundation so it works. It’s a much stronger song than the few before it.

My Mummy’s Dead‘ is the actual album closer,but it feels like a very short bonus track. It sounds like a solo 4 track recording, off the cuff. It’s nice enough, just John and a guitar, simple. Can’t see how it could have been expanded, without adding some lush chorus.

Power To The People’ opens in that lush fashion – big gospel vocals before John joins in with a manic beat and sax. There’s Beatles callbacks, shouted vocals, a catchy refrain, but like a lot of the Beatles extras it’s basically a couple of melodies and lyrics repeated in a loop. Here we get extra brass, but there isn’t a lot to it. Still, it feels celebratory if a little lazy.

Do The Oz‘ which, as Buffy fans will know, is the act of sitting stoically before delivering a well-timed and insightful quip. As a song, it’s nothing like Oz – zany sounds whizz like ghosts around a central riff while Lennon sings the title. The verses present things as if ‘the oz’ is a type of dance, with Lennon giving the instructions. Of course the instructions don’t really make sense. It’s an interesting enough bonus, but not one I’ll remember tomorrow.

Well well well, the album started out impressively but eventually began to suffer a little from the adjoining trio of experimentation which doesn’t quite work, as well as some meandering and repetition. There’s too much drifting and daydreaming for my tastes and without the melodies to back things up, and there’s too much of a focus on keeping things distorted and distant. It’s like he’s saying ‘I did all this big and popular and hug production stuff with the fellas, so now I’m going in the complete opposite direction so that people recognise this John Lennon as different from that one’. Which is fair enough, but with a few simple tweaks these songs could have been stronger. That said, there is still some great stuff – not quite on par with the best of The Beatles, but right up there with their second tier tunes.

Nightman’s Playlist Picks: Mother. Hold On. Love. God.

Let us know your thoughts in the comments!

Nightman Listen To – George Harrison – All Things Must Pass (Non Beatles Series)!

All Things Must Pass - George Harrison

Greetings, Glancers! We’re several albums deep into my Non-Beatles journey and so far we’ve had two pieces of whimsy from Ringo, two pieces of experimental junk by George, one middling effort by Paul, and not a single word from John. I think we are past most of the arsing about and feet-finding now and we might actually get back to the dark art of making good songs. George Harrison’s 1970 effort  All Things Must Pass is at least an album I’ve heard of, but I don’t know anything about it. A glance at the tracklist tells me there’s a few songs I know, and that it features a tonne of songs – there’s a lot to get through. It better be good, otherwise, well… nothing. I just want to year some sweet tunes, yo.

I’d Have You Anytime‘ opens with that near dreary swirl quality which features on many of Harrison’s Beatles works. The first thing to mention though, is that it’s an actual song, not some experimental guff. Solo guitar licks burn at the hairs and that mournful chord series underlays some classic downbeat Harrison vocals. A promising start then – not the best song I’ve heard by Harrison, but at least it’s a song.

My Sweet Lord‘ is of course one I know. I know a lot of… groups have claimed this song. Which doesn’t seem right. It is a lovely song – all the sweet melodies of harmonies of the best Beatles work, but with Harrison’s signature laid-back rhythm. It also follows his tendency towards the cyclical and repetitive, with only a few repeated lyrics and melodies, all which build as more vocals and instruments are thrown into the mix. I think if it went any longer it would begin to wear thin, but it stops at just the right time.

Wah-wah‘ brings the guitar and the latter day Beatles hippy psych sound. It could easily be a cut from one of their final records. It’s nicely chaotic too, and the main riff is groovy. The cyclical sound is present, the lyrics have definite frustration – perhaps at what was going on within The Beatles towards the end. It’s another good one, but I don’t know if it warrants going over the five minute mark.

Isn’t It A Pity’ is over the seven minute mark, so it better be good. It has that familiar Beatles sound, I don’t know if it’s the overall production, the combination of instruments and rhythm, but it feels like I know the song even though I’m certain this is the first time I’ve ever heard it. It builds in a similar way to some of their latter songs – particularly  with respect to the drums. Melodically it’s more of the same from George – mellow, dreamy, no real peaks or wide range. There’s a sort of Eastern swelling of strings in the middle, along with a solo. The instrumental then covers most of the final three minutes, with assorted vocals moments. There’s a solid four minute track here, five at a push, but no real need to pass seven.

What Is Life‘ opens with a horn-like riff and a faster pace. This has a markedly, I guess that’s the right word, sound from everything else. It’s a few steps adjacent from the dreamy slow stuff, and instead sounds jubilant. Neat, tidy verses lead into a lovely, summery, hopeful chorus. There’s a slight Motown vibe in the midst too. I believe I’ve heard parts of this before, in Goodfellas, but this is exactly the sort of thing I was hoping for in my journey through the Beatles’ solo work – great songs I had no idea existed.

If Not For You’ is apparently a Dylan song. I haven’t heard his version yet, but given what I think of his vocals I imagine this one is preferable. It’s somewhere in between the ethereal slow and more hopeful up-tempo prior songs. Sweet melodies, very simple, nice accompanying piano and strings – no need for the harmonica but it is Dylan after all.

Behind That Locked Door‘ is… Country? Please no. That pedal guitar sound is almost always instantly depressing to me. It’s unfortunate, because this is a genuinely gorgeous song emboldened by piano and backing vocals. Melodies and emotion… at least it does have some Caribbean flavour to bring down the Country a notch. I’d love to hear a version of this without the pedal guitar.

Let It Down‘ blasts into view like a Bond movie song. It’s huge, then it withdraws into a sweet spot between Floyd and trippy Beatles. The dreamy mellow vibe is there, but it’s countered by louder chaotic moments, swelling vocals and pointed guitars. George’s tone for his lead parts keeps a recurring theme through all the songs so far. This one warrants the five minutes, but could have faded out sooner.

Run Of The Mill‘ opens nicely, another sweet and gentle instrumental followed by a trademark vocal. I would do with a substitute for the horns, that’s just me of course. It feels a little like a Lennon song, lyrically and musically. It does feel slightly Run Of The Mill and doesn’t leave enough of an impression to differentiate it from the songs around it.

Beware Of Darkness‘ features another smooth opening. Lyrically and musically this is more up my alley. I like the switch between minor and major keys too mirror what he’s talking about – the inner struggle over depression and hope. I’d prefer a little more on the minor side, and the middle eighth doesn’t add a lot, but it’s still a good song which shows how much he had grown as an artist and writer.

Apple Scruffs‘ starts with harmonica, which is never good. It’s pleasing enough filler which begins to wear thin long before it ends, but is short enough to not cause too much damage.

The Ballad Of Frankie Crisp‘ surely can’t be good with a name like that. It starts promisingly, with an organ led stomp, ably built up by piano and guitar. The wall of sound production brings more of the dreamlike sensations lending this one a drift away quality – though the same can be said for many of the songs so far. The danger with that tactic is of course that you lose melody, and while the melodies here are light and distant they are still tactile. I’m enjoying the inspirational messages flowing through the album.

Awaiting On You All‘ starts quickly, like a jaunty Swinging Sixties song. I’m not sure about the production on this one, maybe it’s the copy I’m listening to. No, the comments say the same. There is a lot – too too much reverb – to the point that it’s hissing all over the place. A pity as the song is fun, a bit of entertaining pop fluff raised by lyrics and ideas.

All Things Must Pass‘ is one of the few songs I’m familiar with here. The title track and focal point, it’s a good one. I never ranked it as high as others have, but there’s no doubting its quality. The message fits perfectly with what he has spoken about elsewhere and the music echoes the tone and feel of the album.

I Dig Love‘ starts with an amusing down scale piano which makes me think of Boris The Spider. It then climbs up, which also adds to the humour. The opening melodies are fine, but it opens up once the familiar beat and tambourine kick in. It’s another song which could have had a minute or so shaved off to keep the repetition at bay, but that’s a minor quibble.

Art Of Dying‘ is a return to the reverb. Then it suddenly explodes in a glorious fusion of noise, beats, guitars, and if this doesn’t sound like it was recorded today and not 50 years ago, then I’m a monkey’s uncle’s arse. I had no clue this existed, and it’s wonderful. It also has a slight 007 vibe, but it’s a fine blend of rock and dance. Then he pauses in the middle for a bit of metal guitar, which continues as the din rejoins. Great stuff.

Isn’t It A Pity Two‘ is another version of a song that was already three minutes too long. Maybe this is completely different though. It is shorter, and it does feel quieter, less concerned with the wall of sound, more sedate. This allows the vocal melody to come through with more potency. It’s still a little too sleepy and lacking in those peaks I mentioned before.

Hear Me Lord‘ continues with the gentle rock – plenty of piano and horn, plenty of layered vocals and solo guitar lines. This one is a little too slow for me, but it does remind me of some entries from Dark Side Of The Moon. Melodically it’s a little hit and miss for me – the best moments when George really pushes his vocal, but in other places it’s a little too mellow, verging on stagnant. Overall, no doubting it’s yet another good song.

Out Of The Blue‘ is almost 12 minutes long, so I’m going to guess it’s a bit of an experimental mess. It begins in that fashion, an instrumental jam. A touch of blues, some distortion, some funk. It’s not empty, there is a beat and some attempt at coherence. And it goes on like this. And on. With only slight variance. Every band does this stuff. No need to release it, other than as a bonus or hidden track.

It’s Johnny’s Birthday‘ is Congratulations but sung to the name of the track, with added zaniness.

Plug Me In‘ continues as we left off. Another loose instrumental slice of trickery. Some neat guitar, plenty of piano. But it’s an excuse to arse about.

I Remember Jeep‘ goes even more experimental, with hissing and swirling and noise giving way to more standard jam fare.

Thanks For The Pepperoni‘ recalls a bunch of well known rock standards. It’san other instrumental jam. It’s fine.

Well, that was easily the best non-Beatles album so far, though we are fairly early in the journey. It certainly makes up for the prior experimental guff and Ringo’s attempts. Is it overlong? For fans, obviously not, but for me coming to it for the first time there are a few songs I would strip away. Probably that final side would be dropped. It’s not as poppy as The Beatles biggest hits – that was never George’s game, but it succeeds in many ways over what they tried to do from an ethereal, worldly, wall of sound perspective. It sounds like a dude finally releasing what he had known was inside him, and it’s at worst joyous, at best transcendent. A load of these songs already make my playlist, and I’ll certainly listen to the whole thing again to fully absorb the lyrics and allow the music to grow on me. It’s a positive, mature outing, and while I’ve seen many commentators saying it’s the best of all the post Beatles albums, I’m hoping there’s plenty more to come from George, and from the others.

Nightman’s Playlist Picks: My Sweet Lord. Wah Wah. What Is Life. If Not For You. Behind That Locked Door. Awaiting On You All. All Things Must Pass. Art Of Dying.

Nightman’s Favourite Songs Of All Time – Across The Universe – The Beatles

I’ve been putting together a post about my favourite Beatles songs for years now, but I just can’t be arsed finishing it. Every few months I go back to it and add a few more entries. I think I’m almost done, but it looks like this post will beat that one to the punch. Spoiler alert – Across The Universe is on that post. But that’s in the future, maybe, and this is now, maybe (ha, no, you did post that list first, and now you look like a fool – you fool!).

Across The Universe comes along fairly late in the careers of The Beatles. Appearing on Let It Be in 1970 I’ve always viewed it as their swan song, their final great. The song actually appeared in its original form on a charity compilation album one year earlier called Nothing’s Gonna Change Our World, with the song itself being written a year before that. While there are obvious differences between the two, both feature the dreamy Lennon vocals and lyrics and a trippy production. If anything the original feels more like an experiment than a song, with swirling guitars at different levels and high-pitched backing vocals. I think it’s sweeter, more folk driven. It’s the Let It Be version I love though, and the one most people know.

Lennon’s lyrics run the gamut from simplistic cat calls to sophisticated and nonsensical humour, but for my money Across The Universe is his best lyric. Every line flows so neatly and read from a page or a screen without music, it sounds musical. Of course when mixed with with the dreamlike music and Lennon’s drawling delivery, the lyrics take on a heightened quality and propel the song to heavenly heights. It’s all the more impressive when you consider that there isn’t a lot of room for the music to breathe alongside the lyrics – each line has so many words and Lennon sings them so slowly that he just about gasps the final syllable just as melody ends and the next begins. There are any number of immortal lines, from the simple and eternal ‘nothing’s gonna change my world’ to the world expanding ‘jai guru deva om’, from the opening ‘words are flowing out like endless rain into a paper cup’ to the ending ‘limitless undying love which shines around me like a million suns’ – it feels like the end of something; a farewell, yet a hopeful reminder that nothing ever truly fades or dies.

The song’s opening is unassuming, an almost mundane collection of lazy chord strokes which belies the emotional undercurrent. In spite of the slurring melodies and hazy vocal delivery, that undercurrent comes to the fore, aided by brief string swells and choirs and tamburas until it peaks with the transcendent feeling the band had been hunting for in their last series of albums. As perfect as the Let It Be version is, the song didn’t turn out how John wanted it to. He felt the above observations were to the detriment of the song and wanted it to be tidied and polished before release, with better vocals and playing. I’m sure that version would have been good too, but what we have is near perfection.

As with every Beatles song, there are a multitude of covers to get through – everything from angsty upstart Fiona Apple, to red-headed harangue-Queen of Air Hostesses Cilla Black, as well as David Bowie. None touch The Beatles version(s).

Let us know what you think of Across The Universe in the comments!

The Nightman Scoring System © Reviews – Rubber Soul

Remember the Nightman Scoring System ©? My system for reviewing music as fairly as possible, an attempt to remove as much inherent bias as possible? That system where I break up an album into twenty evenly weighted categories so that when you score each one out of five, trying to base the score as much on fact as on opinion, you get a fair total out of 100? It’s the best scoring system in the world and you should use it. So should I in fact, hence this post. Anyway, if you want to read the rules about the system click this link and it will reveal all. There’s one for movies too, at this link. Check them both out – I say with absolutely no hyperbole that it will unquestionably change your life, make you an astonishingly brilliant human being, and also get you the ladies (regardless of your gender or orientation).

Hello Beatle
Rubber Soul

Sales: 5 (Another smash hit)

Chart: 5 (Another smash hit)

Critical: 5 (Another smash hit)

Originality: 5 (The band’s first truly original album finds them sowing the seeds for future releases but also letting their creativity surge to new levels and places. From the opening moments of Drive My Car you know that the band has undergone some sort of change and entered a brand new phase).

Influence: 5 (The band may have been seen by some as simple pop/rock masters, but this album found a new legion of fans who craved more distant and complex sounds and opened the doors for psychedelia and a host of new artists. Other artists were and had been experimenting in similar ways, but The Beatles allowed it to be honed and brought to the masses. Surely can’t go lower than 4).

Musical Ability: 5 (Here the band shine, showing a full command of whatever they try. The songs remain succinct but the array of instruments employed is wider than before and the band take each addition in their stride, including each in a coherent and valuable way. Purists looking for more technical skill may go lower, but screw those guys, anything under 3 is lies).

Lyrics: 4 (The band still linger with love songs but break free of most of the cliches which plague that type, whilst simultaneously writing about individuality and politics. There is an individuality to the lyrics as the band hone their personas and while influenced by Dylan (and by drugs) they remain much more unique than anything they had written till this point).

Melody: 4 (The experimentation leads to a drop in the quality of melody in some tracks, but a drop would almost be expected after the perfection of Help! Naturally there are still many flawless moments. Melody can be a personal thing, but 3 – 5 seem like the norm).

Emotion: 4 (The range of emotions is greater than ever before, with anger and confusion coming to more prominence, and plenty of moments of sheer joy and sadness).

Resilience: 5 (Similar to the drop from Help!, the fact that the album contains less ‘hits’ means many people will remember this album or play it less. Having said that, it feels more like a complete album rather than a collection of hits. Either way, enough tracks are still being listened to and discussed half a century later. Depending on your take it’s a 4 or 5).

Vocals: 5 (There is a much stronger quality to the vocals here than before, filled with confidence and individual style).

Coherence: 4 (Some say the US release is better, but the album as a whole fits together nicely with things elements such as the tambourine featuring in many songs and the theme of experimentation seeps into the music and lyrics).

Mood: 4 (Aside from the obvious sadness and joy mentioned above, I think the overall mood is one of exploration and creativity which can be found subtly in every song)

Production: 5 (Great work, still sounds stunning)

Effort: 4 (Impressive writing and creativity to make something new)

Relationship: 4 (It’s easy to relate to some songs here, from the tortured romantic to the non-conformist. Some songs have their influences in prior works but each has an effective twist)

Genre Relation: 4 (There wasn’t really anything like this before in the charts and while it is the beginning of their experimentation it doesn’t relate as well as their later, fully fledged works)

Authenticity: 5 (The band sound entirely dedicated to branching out and making something new)

Personal: 4 (As already mentioned, the experimentation leads to some weaker songs which miss out on having any truly great hooks)

Miscellaneous: 4 (Free from touring and filming now the band could concentrate fully on making music so not much to say here)

Total: 90/100

Take The Nightman Scoring System(c) Challenge and let me know how you score the album!

The Nightman Scoring System (c) – For Sale

Remember the Nightman Scoring System ©? My system for reviewing music as fairly as possible, an attempt to remove as much inherent bias as possible? That system where I break up an album into twenty evenly weighted categories so that when you score each one out of five, trying to base the score as much on fact as on opinion, you get a fair total out of 100? It’s the best scoring system in the world and you should use it. So should I in fact, hence this post. Anyway, if you want to read the rules about the system click this link and it will reveal all. There’s one for movies too, at this link. Check them both out – I say with absolutely no hyperbole that it will unquestionably change your life, make you an astonishingly brilliant human being, and also get you the ladies (regardless of your gender or orientation).

Beatlemania was at a peak and the band simply couldn’t cope with the constant touring, writing, and recording. Hence this album which saw a return to the inclusion of multiple covers. The fame was beginning to impact the band’s writing and we see the first true examples of breaking out from the cutesy love-based pop hits upon which they made their name.

Sales: 5 (Another smash hit)

Chart: 5 (Another smash hit)

Critical: 4 (Seen as a step back towards the first two albums with the unfortunate inclusion of the covers, some strong, some weak, but this was largely done to meet the demand of pumping out album after album. The more mature writing style of the originals though is singled out for praise. 4-5 are acceptable, 3 would seem cruel).

Originality: 4 (Those covers hold the album’s originality back, but the original songs are strong enough to more than counter this. The sound hasn’t necessarily evolved but the newer influences on the band have been merged into a new style of pop song. Once again, 4-5 seems right).

Influence: 4 (One of the least influential albums thanks to those covers, but again the original songs have spawned a host of imitators. I’m tempted to go with a 3, but 4 feels more accurate).

Musical Ability: 4 (Similar to the previous albums, with less progression, but still high amounts of skill. 3-5 would be understandable).

Lyrics: 4 (Those darker songs have some great lyrics, finally showing that Lennon in particular was branching out, while the remaining Beatlemania tracks have enough fresh perspectives to keep them from becoming derivative. 3-4 sounds okay).

Melody: 4 (Luckily even the weaker covers have decent melodies and the original tracks are still highly effective. I’m happy with people going 5, but 4 suits me).

Emotion: 4 (There is a darker tone throughout, though a fair amount of this is diluted by the covers. The covers have their moments, but some are too plain and I think hold this back from being a 5).

Resilience: 5 (Once again we’re still discussing it 50 years later, and actively listening to it on technology that didn’t even exist at the time of release. This has less popular songs and a smaller chance of people listening to the whole thing, but given the sheer amount of time which has passed, it has to be a 5).

Vocals: 4 (Some of the strain and tiredness is beginning to show and have a negative impact, but the harmonies remain strong, giving a freshness to the covers, and there are enough moments of brilliance to keep the score well above average).

Coherence: 4 (This is a strange one, because some of the songs hold together brilliantly in mood, tone, sound, style, yet they are interrupted by tracks which feel brash. 3-4 seem reasonable).

Mood: 4 (Similar to above, the mood is mostly dark, but then there are infrequent outbursts which take the focus away).

Production: 4 (Nothing out of the ordinary but still high quality stuff).

Effort: 3 (The covers drive this category down, though I appreciate the fact that there was so much going on at the time. I don’t think you can go higher than 4).

Relationship: 3 (It’s difficult to find a relationship between the covers as some are rockers, some are more left field, and they don’t fit well with the rest of the album. The originals mostly relate well to everything which the band has done to this point, as well as showing the progression in content which would be more prevalent in later releases).

Genre Relation: 4 (The covers ironically help here, as many other bands were doing the same thing and the range of styles blend well with the masters of each genre).

Authenticity: 4 (The originals and the overall tone, even including the covers, lend an authenticity – even though there are 6 covers the band are aware of this, hence the album title which makes an ironic joke of the necessity of their inclusion).

Personal: 4 (Obviously a lesser album than A Hard Day’s Night due to the rushing, scheduling, covers etc, but still an album most would be proud of).

Miscellaneous: 3 (A sombre album cover, a difficult recording process overcome, not much else to mention).

Total: 80/100

Another high scoring album from the band though a step back in most regards from the previous album, with the overall score reflecting as much. Let us know in the comments how you rate the album!

Nightman Listens To – McCartney Debut (Beatles Solo Series)!

See the source image

Greetings, Glancers! It’s safe to say we haven’t got off to a flying start with regards to the quality of the Beatles solo work I’ve heard so far. Experimental guff and Ringo’s ramblings, but surely old faithful Paul will give us a slice of groovy pop rock with his debut? And hey, I even know (and like) one of the songs listed here so it can’t be all bad! I know the album was mostly written and recorded when The Beatles were splitting up and fighting so maybe the music will reflect whatever anguish and torment was being felt. Or maybe it reflects the fresh start Paul needed. Or maybe it’s more of the same sort of ballad and blues based stuff from Let It Be. Who knows? Well, I’m about to….

‘The Lovely Linda’ hand drums of some sort and sweet ‘la la la’ vocals and melodies. Oh, it’s over. An unnecessary laugh at the end there.

‘That Would Be Something’ is led by a neat riff. It’s a little bluesy. The vocals feel distant. Nice introduction of the drums and a funny piece of mouth drumming going. Sounds like he’s experimenting and having fun without being too outlandish or abstract.

‘Valentine Day’ continues the low-fi style. It’s a pretty cool introduction. Unless it’s going to be an instrumental. Still, it’s neat and lean, like a jam or a loose set of ideas waiting to become something else.

‘Every Night’ reminds me of Joni Mitchell. The guitar sound, anyway. It’s very sweet. It’s just as catchy as you would expect. I could see this landing on something like The White Album. A nice surprise. Surprise isn’t the right word, it’s McCartney for Heaven’s sake.

‘Hot As Sun/Glasses’ feels Mediterranean, lazy, Mexican, Greek? I don’t know, something about lazing about on a beach with a drink and zero cares. It’s already better than most of the instrumental stuff on Yellow Submarine. Then it goes all weird and ghostly. Then he sings… something?

‘Junk’ is another sweet one, more sorrowful this time. It ticks the melody box, and it ticks the emotion box, so what more do you need?

‘Man We Was Lonely’ opens in dreamy fashion. Then it goes off in stomping fashion like some of the more dodgy compositions of his final years in The Beatles. It’s similar to those, but maybe this one’s newness means I don’t mind it as much. Catchy too. Feels like one Ringo could have tackled.

‘Oo You’ is very bluesy and mirrors the rock tracks of Abbey Road. Good vocals. It still feels very loose, like he just walked in with a few ideas and started recording. Still good.

‘Momma Miss America’ is, I’m guessing, another instrumental. At least these instrumentals are good – I can see these being hits or becoming hits if vocals were added, unlike what most bands’ instrumentals are like. It gets less dreamy and more groovy as it goes on. Great bass and guitar all around.

‘Teddy Boy’ is another which sounds straight out of The Beatles later catalogue. It’s fine but a bit too close to McCartney’s Music Hall stuff.

‘Singalong Junk’ is a sequel to junk? More piano led. Or an instrumental version. It’s quite lovely too.

‘Maybe I’m Amazed’ is the one song I knew before hearing the album, and as far as I can tell it’s the main (only) one which has survived over time. It does feel like the most complete song, compared to the jam-style nature of most of the others. It has a tighter, more traditional structure, and again wouldn’t feel out of place on Let It Be. 

‘Kreen Akrore’ starts with sporadic drums for about a minute before a jumpscare guitar and piano drops. Then it gets weird – monkey noises and more drums and sounds. It’s the most experimental piece of freestyle on the album, just a few minutes of arsing about and messing with different sounds and styles.

So, that was somewhere middling. It followed the experimentation and avant-garde nature of John and George’s first solo outings, but thankfully these were not as esoteric, coming across more as studio jams than ill-advised freak-outs. Quite a few of the ‘traditional’ songs feel either unfinished or waiting for that little extra touch to make them fully realised – in the traditional sense, but most of those are still perfectly good to listen to thanks to Paul’s ability as a songwriter. There are a few songs here that I didn’t know previously which I plan on listening to again – which is more than I can say for any of the other three boys’ efforts so far. It’s not peak Beatles material, but there are gems.

Nightman’s Playlist Picks: Every Night. Hot As Sun/Glasses. Junk/Singalong Junk. Oo You. Momma Miss America. Maybe I’m Amazed.

Nightman Listens To – Ringo Starr – Sentimental Journey (Non-Beatles Series)!

Sentimental Journey: Music

Greetings, Glancers! You know, throughout my life I’ve heard quite a few songs by Lennon, McCartney, and Harrison that they wrote, recorded, and performed outside of The Beatles. Ringo Starr though? I can’t think of any off the top of my head. That’s why I was surprised that he has made so many albums – surely I’ve heard something. As I make my way through this journey, I’m sure I’ll find out. And yet, Ringo’s voice was probably more familiar to me than any of the other Beatles when I was young, thanks to his work on Thomas The Tank Engine. 

Sentimental Journey was released in 1970 and is apparently the first non experimental, weird, avant-garde album by any Beatle. I was looking forward to this until I saw the tracklist and released it was a cover album. Ah well, I suppose Ringo had to work through his shit before making something good too. Lets do this.

Sentimental Journey: We open with a song I don’t recognise. It threatens Country, then Jazz, then settles into some easy-listening crooning once Ringo starts singing. I know Ringo’s vocals tend to get a lot of criticism – he can sing fine, it’s just that he’s limited. His vocals work well for things like With A Little Help. The problem here is that the song is junk. There’s a lot thrown into the arrangement – droopy horns, backing vocals, and some unusual voicebox work. A slow, yet detailed opening.

Night And Day: Big band wank. If there’s one other genre I typically cannot find any worth in beyond Country (and Irish) it’s Big Band/Swing stuff. Ironically, Starr’s vocals do suit that style, though he probably doesn’t have the strength or supposed sex appeal the singers in this genre are supposed to have. But the melodies, the brass, the beat, the swagger – everything about this is abhorrent to me, aside from some of the snazzy drum fills, but it’s not Ringo’s fault – it’s just a crap song in a style I can’t stand.

Whispering Grass: More big band jazzy stuff. At least this song has a discernible, appealing melody. The strings are whining, the song is boring, and Ringo’s voice doesn’t have the chops to quite pull it off. It takes a certain level of talentlessness to put violins in a song and make me wish they weren’t there.

Bye Bye Blackbird: Is this Paul McCartney? Or Arthur Askey? It’s the sort of jaunty piece of novelty crap McCartney would have written then passed over to Ringo to sing. Funny for about three seconds, then tragic. It should also be noted that I was listening to this while trying to untangle my Laptop power cable before the battery died, and I almost headbutted the monitor in rage.

I’m A Fool To Care: More brass. More ass. I’m not sure I would have survived in an era when music was this bad – pre 1950. Then again, I’m alive now. If I had been alive then, I’m fairly certain I would have single-handedly invented Metal. Somehow.

Stardust: Oh no. I see the whole album was meant to be a selection of his parents’ favourite songs. That would explain it – parents haven’t a fucking clue. This has some interesting pronunciation.

Blue, Turning Grey Over You: Dear Jeebus, so much useless noise. All that brass makes me feel how pensioners must feel when they hear Cannibal Corpse. The melody is almost non-existant, the trumpets run over everything else making the song nothing more than a predictable selection of brass farts.

Love Is A Many Splendoured Thing: Another of the songs I know. Of course it’s a song I never liked. He keeps the awful choral backing vocals, but his vocals act as a counterpoint and somehow improve things. This is absolutely a song which should be performed solo with quiet vocals and as little backing arrangement as possible.

Dream: I know a version of this. This isn’t much better. Ringo’s verse vocals don’t work at all. It’s just another boring pre-rock ballad with the same rhythm as the others. Nigh on unlistenable.

You Always Hurt The One You Love: At least this one starts interestingly, before the verse arrangement gets things all wrong. More wanky jazz in the middle. Terrible.

Have I Told You Lately That I Love You: We all know this. Apparently Elmer Bernstein had a crack at arranging this. It’s somewhere between a complete mess and something that weird ginger kid in your class who usually said funny things and sat with one hand in his pocket all time would write.

Let The Rest Of The World Go By: Twinkling and tinkling. Then more brass. And the same rhythm as the other dreary ballads. Worse than Love Island. 

Well, the title was right. Kind of. It probably was a Sentimental Journey recording these for his parents. For everyone else (me) it means absolutely nothing and is as pointless a piece of shit I’ve ever had the misfortune of hearing. What do you think? Actually, forget it – I never want to think of this again.

Nightman’s Playlist Picks: Seriously?