csberry: (pumaman)

As B-52's begins, otherwordly bleeps and bloops slowly emerge from the silence. A fan of B-movies might immediately anticipate a voiceover from some male authority figure setting up the premise of the movie. What follows, however, is a mish-mash of nostalgic touchstones of early 1960s youth with a heavy emphasis on science fiction. The B-52's put together a blend of surf rock, sci-fi movie soundtracks and lyrics, and punk with their cheesy 50s/60s nostalgia to create a party band unlike any before. Most of the songs have sci-fi or surrealist lyrics. But those songs seem perfectly in place next to the songs of romance and partying. This is a very inclusive party.

I have loved this album since hearing it in high school. Yes, I fully admit that Fred's speak-singing is a love-it-or-hate-it quality. For me and my childhood enjoyment of Paul Lynde, Charles Nelson Reilly, and other “flamboyant” TV personalities, Fred fits into that niche. But it is hard to disparage the harmonized vocals of Cindy and Kate, especially on “52 Girls” and “6060-842”. Ricky's guitar choices are spare, choppy, and necessary despite how infrequently he dominates a song. He is constantly there but never thrusting himself in front of the others.

Songs I Knew I Liked: “Planet Claire,” “Dance This Mess Around,” and “Rock Lobster”

Songs I Now Like: “52 Girls” and “Hero Worship” got a boost in my interest this time around for some reason.

Songs I Don't Want to Ever Hear Again: None
csberry: (pumaman)

Maybe my recent listens to Paul's Boutique is to blame, but what stuck out for me about Low End Theory is how spare it is. At a time where sampling had evolved past what a DJ with two-turntables could perform live, the use of just a few samples as a bed for rapping and reserving most vocal and fanciful sampling for instrumental fills between verses.

While I'm not one to pay a lot of attention to lyrics, I was surprised with how Q-Tip pulled me in with lots of his lines. He delivered cool, measured, abstract verses, seemingly more interested in painting a picture than using his time at the mic for narrative. Fife is much more straight forward in his delivery. I see a lot of similarities between the personalities and combination of Q-Tip and Phife and the pairing of Big Boi and Andre' in Outkast where the cool, artsy guy shares the mic with the cool, jock guy.

Songs I Knew I Liked: “Check the Rhime,” “Jazz (We've Got),” and “Scenario”

Songs I Now Like: “Buggin' Out,” “Butter,” and “Everything is Fair”

Songs I Don't Want to Ever Hear Again: None
csberry: (pumaman)

I looked back at my review of the self-titled Howlin' Wolf album that I had already listened to for the Rolling Stone Top 500 Albums list. Reading my review for that album, it seems that my opinion is mostly the same when listening to Moanin' in the Moonlight. One major difference between the debut and this album is that all of the songs on the debut were written by Willie Dixon and these songs are mostly Howlin' Wolf originals. Each song sounds as if recorded in a shack located on some dirt road. Howlin' Wolf's raspy vocals don't sound put on as a character but as the result of years of poor living and a tough life.

If you are looking to explore the blues, this should be a top candidate.

Songs I Knew I Liked: “Smokestack Lightnin'”

Songs I Now Like: None jumped out to me.

Songs I Don't Want to Ever Hear Again: None
csberry: (pumaman)

Very energetic blend of rock, punk, pop, 60's Girl bands, early Beatles pop balladry, and reggae. I have the band's greatest hits collection from a couple dozen years ago that gets pulled out sporadically and mostly as background music. I dunno if it is a matter of focus when listening to the greatest hits, but The Pretenders surprised me with how diverse the songs were.

“The Phone Call” reminds me a lot of bands such as The Breeders with slightly fuzzy, jangly guitars. Chrissie coos, croons, groan, growls, squeals, and snarls – sometimes throwing in all of those in one song. “Tattooed Love Boys” combines punk start-stop-start guitar chugging with rock lead guitar flourishes. The rhythm section on “Space Invader” reminds me a lot of KISS, but is juxtaposed with New Wave guitar runs.

This album is on my Buy list now.

Songs I Knew I Liked: “Brass in Pocket”

Songs I Now Like: “The Phone Call,” “Kid,” and “Lovers of Today”

Songs I Don't Want to Ever Hear Again: None
csberry: (pumaman)

Ok, I have a bit of an embarrassing confession. I have loved Paul's Boutique since college. My brother had Licensed to Ill and I thought they were fine, but wasn't interested in being a fan of a novelty group (Weird Al already kept that aspect occupied). I go off to college and all of these friends of mine have Paul's Boutique and would play it. I always enjoyed listening to the album and always intended to buy it but circumstances never seemed to lead to my actually acquiring a copy. So, before listening to the album now, I can't claim that much familiarity with the collection other than the three songs listed in the breakdown at the bottom because of the passivity of my previous listens.

As I read over the making of the album, I feel that it is important to add a bit of credit. The Beasties decided to ask the Dust Brothers to create the beats/samples for which the guys would rap over. It would seem that the Dust Brothers had been working on an “instrumental” album and many tracks from that album were used with nearly no changes other than the Beastie Boys rapping over them. Thus, the great majority of praise about the music behind the rapping belongs with the Dust Brothers (who would later work with Beck on Odelay). I feel this credit must be provided in my review because a HUGE reason why I enjoy Paul's Boutique is based on the backing track and not the rapping, so much. People frequently point to this album as the last great product of hip-hop before sampling clearance became much more difficult and costly to do. The breadth of source material and how well the different parts fit so well together is a fantastic feat to capture.

Where License to Ill came across as a group of white teens doing silly raps over metal guitars, Paul's Boutique presents these same three guys as earnest in their rap ambitions. Much of the metal samples are gone and the music sampled instead touches on iconic funk, soul, and R&B. The Beasties don't drop the humor at all, the subjects in which they demonstrate their wit and humor is different here, though. It would seem that the public was willing to embrace the Beastie Boys when they thought the guys were poking fun at rap (or, not taking rap “seriously”) but left once Paul's Boutique came out. “Hey Ladies” didn't evoke enough ridicule or novelty, so the group was painted with a brush that they had flamed out. When the truth seems to be that the guys were just too early to being white guys who are credibly labeled as rappers.

Songs I Knew I Liked: “Shake Your Rump,” “Hey Ladies,” and “Shadrach”

Songs I Now Like: “Egg Man,” “The Sounds of Science,” and “B-Boy Bouillabaisse”

Songs I Don't Want to Ever Hear Again: None
csberry: (pumaman)

Are The Cure and The Smiths too perky for you? Wonder what Jim Morrison may have done if he was a depressed Brit in the late 70s? I pity any poor souls that may have misinterpreted the band's name and expected something uplifting.

I hear a lot of bands while going through Closer, most of them coming after this album. I think there is an interesting overlap between Joy Division and Suicide, though. Closer had a much more varied sound than I had expected. What caught my attention most was the placement of rhythm above melody. All instruments seem to intertwine in poly-rhythms and riffs with vocals being largely responsible for melody. There were times where I felt the point of the instruments were to poke, prod, and cause discomfort to the listener, without going atonal or losing melody completely.

Songs I Knew I Liked: None

Songs I Now Like: Er, none.

Songs I Don't Want to Ever Hear Again: If I ever choose to listen to these songs again, it is because I am either extremely depressed and need love and support -OR- I'm studying to write/perform a character who is near suicide/death.
csberry: (pumaman)

Since this was made as a concept album (the tracks were written in order and conceived as a chronological tale of Elton's and Bernie's late 60's life), I decided to not listen to the tracks added later during CD reissues - “Lucy in the Sky (With Diamonds),” “One Day At a Time,” and “Philadelphia Freedom.”

I came into this expecting to like it but not to love it. After half a dozen listens, I'm very apathetic towards it. I acknowledge there is a lot going on. These are complex pop songs with internal shifts in tempo and sometimes even genre. There is a full band and every member seems to get times to shine. This isn't a solo act recorded here.

I can see how some people call Captain Fantastic... a “grower.” On my first listens, my brain kept going, “Ugh, I don't like that, but overall this isn't bad.” But the last couple of listens seemed to have a lot of “...but this is the part of the song I really like!” Whether or not you enjoy the creation, I don't think one can deny the workmanship, the craftmanship which is on display on this album.

My usual apologies for my lyrical disinterest. I'm certain that may have helped boost my interest in Captain Fantastic since I did enjoy the album more when sporting headphones (where I find it a bit harder to ignore the lyrics).

Songs I Knew I Liked: “Someone Saved My Life Tonight”

Songs I Now Like: “Better Off Dead”

Songs I Don't Want to Ever Hear Again: None
csberry: (pumaman)

You wanted the best; you got the best! KISS Alive! is a great example and superb template on how to make a great live album.
1. Make it a double album to take advantage of the event-like feel of listening to the whole album.
2. Crank up the audience noise and applause. Provide the feeling of actually being at the concert, except...
3. Make it the best sounding the band could ever possibly be in concert. If that means overdubs or edits in the studio later, then so be it.
I kept comparing Alive! with The Who Live at Leeds. While The Who captured fairly well the energy and sound of the band live, Alive! is more immersive and polished. At a time before MTV and YouTube, the fact any kid in America could buy this album and look at the pictures while hearing this feels powerful to me even now.

On Alive!, Paul Stanley is the hottest man and coolest guy on the planet. Ace shreds and crunches on the guitar. Gene thumps, stomps, and roars through the concert. And Peter propels all of this along with the pounding of the drums. This is loud rock. This is fun rock. This is a party, not an art performance.

Songs I Knew I Liked: “Rock And Roll All Nite” was the only live version I had previously known.

Songs I Now Like (in which I was unaware of the studio version): "Parasite"

Songs I Don't Want to Ever Hear Again: Good God, the drum solo in "100,000 Years" is just...ARGH!
csberry: (pumaman)

This is the album that launched glam rock in the United Kingdom. The album doesn't come across as glam from beginning to end, but most of the songs are clearly foundations for music to come. It seems like a bridge between psychedelic-infused rock and glam rock more than the entirety being a statement for a new sound.

The songs are fairly simple rock and roll with catchy, hook-filled, bubblegum lyrics and feel to the music. Sex is pulled right up to the forefront despite (?) the heavy pop influence.

After numerous listens, I have mixed feelings on the album. I've got to give it historical and inspirational credit. It is when I just think about the music coming out of my speakers that I feel a little better than lukewarm. I've pondered what my feelings would be if I listened to only the glam-rock foundational songs on the album, but I'm honestly just not THAT invested into completely dissecting an album at #160. I'll never make it to #1 if I start going so deep now. ;)

Songs I Knew I Liked: “Bang a Gong (Get It On)”

Songs I Now Like: “Cosmic Dancer,” “Planet Queen,” and “The Motivator”

Songs I Don't Want to Ever Hear Again: “Lean Woman Blues” isn't particularly bad but it became a song I started to skip and “Rip Off” which sounds like a song from The Muppets' Dr. Teeth.
csberry: (pumaman)

The first couple of times I put The Dock of the Bay on, it just kind of cruised by; pleasant, but completely not hooking me. There was something disjointed about the album. The obvious thing was how different “(Sittin' On) The Dock of the Bay” is from the rest of the songs. This is where history had to come into play. The Dock of the Bay was released shortly after his death, with the famous single being an indication of a change Otis was making in his artistic direction. With that background, this album serves not as a greatest hits but as a sketch of his career and the title song indicating the bright possibilities that never happened.

It's a nice sounding album; just doesn't really do anything for me. The Dock of the Bay shows his powerful voice, energetic examples of Southern soul, and heart-wrenching, gospel-inspired ballads of him pleeeeeaaaaading, baby, pleading.

Songs I Knew I Liked: “(Sittin' On) The Dock of the Bay”

Songs I Now Like: “I Love You More Than Words Can Say” (which screamed for Lenny Kravitz to cover, IMO) and “Old Man Trouble”

Songs I Don't Want to Ever Hear Again: None I would particularly avoid.
csberry: (pumaman)

While I liked the singles okay, I didn't get pulled into the critical hoopla over OK Computer when it came out. For whatever reason, I never really wanted to explore the album much. I think I checked it out of the library, put it on once, and returned it a week later. This time around, I spent enough time with OK Computer to get a feel for it and admire it.

I've said it before that Radiohead became my generation's Pink Floyd on this album (certainly a fair argument could be had on whether Radiohead or Flaming Lips are more Floydesque – I'd argue that FL are Syd-era and Radiohead is post-Syd Pink Floyd). The musical foundation here is on the blending of slashing and echoing guitars with electronic tricks and moans. It doesn't wallow in reverb like the shoegazers. OK Computer brings the vocals to the front which invites study of the lyrics and the mood those words convey are paired nicely with the instrumentation.

One of my first impressions when the album was released was how sluggish the singles were. The few album tracks I snagged online didn't change that impression. Thankfully, there are songs like “Electioneering” that keep the mood, but jolts some energy into the tempo.

Oh, I now realize that MGMT basically founded their group on songs that are revisions of “Climbing Up the Walls.”

Songs I Knew I Liked: “Paranoid Android,” “Karma Police,” and “No Surprises”

Songs I Now Like: “Subterranean Homesick Alien,” “Electioneering,” and “Lucky”

Songs I Don't Want to Ever Hear Again: “Fitter Happier” can't stand on its own but seems perfect when heard as one moment in an album.
csberry: (pumaman)

163!? #163 for 1999?! *flabbergasted*

1999 is one of my top desert island album selections! How could one of the greatest party albums of all time end up down here? You have a collection of radio-ready singles to start things off and then the songs get stretched out for your dancing and partying pleasure. It even slows down at the end to cap off your after-hours party.

It is on 1999 that Prince hit his stride and developed a sound that would be identified as his from that moment on. While I understand others may prefer Purple Rain to 1999, but to me, the later collection seemed like it was Prince merely polishing up the previous album and condensing it for mass consumption. Not that there's anything wrong with it, but I tend to prefer the slightly wandering explorations of artists with songs which may have a few rough edges.

Songs I Knew I Liked: “1999,” “Little Red Corvette,” “Delirious,” “Let's Pretend We're Married,” “Automatic,” “Something in the Water (Does Not Compute),” and “Lady Cab Driver”

Songs I Now Like: No new changes

Songs I Don't Want to Ever Hear Again: None
csberry: (pumaman)

This album used to be #324 on the Rolling Stone list. At the time that I came across it, I was really annoyed with this album being listed. The Rolling Stone list was created in 2003 and this album came out in 2002. I called “Shenanigans” on that since I felt that anyone that put “Linda Ronstadt's greatest hits” on their ballot meant the 1976 collection that sold over 20 million copies and can be found in a majority of Baby Boomer record collections.

With the album now at this position, I felt a need to actually listen to this compilation to see how the hell it ended up shooting up to 164. So I went to Spotify and couldn't find it. I then checked online to discover that the album is now out of print.

I just don't see the point in my reviewing the album at all now when I have 163 great albums I still need to listen to.
csberry: (pumaman)

How many albums can you put on for a romantic atmosphere and there's not a single track that you end up skipping most/all of the time? Let's Get It On should sit right next to the bedroom stereo so you always have it easily available. The mood is set and maintained during this eight-song album.

“If I Should Die Tonight” grabs my attention each and every listen. The lyrics, the feeling in his voice, and the smoothness of the musical accompaniment are soul gold. The songs do vary some from balladry to mid-tempo love testaments. Add in the “love grunts” in “You Sure Love to Ball,” and the purpose of the album is unmistakeable. I've kind of lingered on Let's Get It On thanks to how enjoyable it is. Now that I got a copy for Christmas, I'm ready to get this review published and move along.

Songs I Knew I Liked: “Let's Get It On”

Songs I Now Like: “If I Should Die Tonight” and “You Sure Love to Ball” stand out from the other good songs.

Songs I Don't Want to Ever Hear Again: None
csberry: (pumaman)

I was pleasantly surprised by Imperial Bedroom. What was particularly enjoyable is that I found more to like about the album with each listen. On Imperial Bedroom, Elvis has crafted some of his most delicate and intricate pop and torch songs. Many of the songs sound fit into a late-Beatlesesque mold. The instrumentation, lyrics, and song shifts/structures are precise, crafted, and polished (but with lyrics that are wit sharp and cut deep with bitterness). I hear so many of my favorite alt-pop groups/artists in these songs. I do prefer the pop songs over the torch ones.

After a couple of weeks of listening to the album, I haven't broken through from enjoying the music to thinking about it when I'm not listening to it – with an exception for the first track, “Beyond Belief”. Although I really am impressed with most of these songs and frequently will listen to them a couple of times before moving to the next track, I don't have any instances when not listening to Imperial Bedroom that I crave to pop that music on. Basically, I will praise this album and won't criticize it, but apparently it just doesn't click enough to me for me to be passionate? *shrugs* I do think I'm going to purchase this on either CD or vinyl and pull it out when needing background music. I bet roots will take hold in me.

Songs I Knew I Liked: None

Songs I Now Like: “Beyond Belief” (something about the vocals reminds me a lot of OK Go's softer songs), “Man Out of Time,” “...And in Every Home,” “The Loved Ones,” “Human Hands,” “Kid About It,” and “Pidgin English”

Songs I Don't Want to Ever Hear Again: None
csberry: (pumaman)

This was an important album during my teen years. It was a distillation of what other bands seemed to be trying, but Metallica meshed the classical guitars and thrash in a way that transcended what I heard from others at the time. This was a metal album I listened to for the complete experience not because it contained certain songs I liked.

Master of Puppets' juxtaposition of thumping and thrashing along with stretches of intricate instrumentation is beautiful even when it is at its most menacing. Sure, by the time I reached “Orion” (next to last track), the epic songs had taken a toll on my patience, but there is nothing like the aggressive thrash and slashing guitars of “Damage, Inc.” to snap my attention right back...just in time for the album to be done. It is probably the shift in excitement that I have between the first and second half of the album that keeps me from getting too enthusiastic from singing its praises.

Songs I Knew I Liked: “Battery,” “Master of Puppets,” “The Thing That Should Not Be,” and “Welcome Home (Sanitarium)”

Songs I Now Like: Nothing new, but I have a greater appreciation of “Orion” and “Damage, Inc.”

Songs I Don't Want to Ever Hear Again: None
csberry: (pumaman)

Quick note: Listening to the original release that didn't include the single “Watching the Detectives.”

Like Todd Rundgren, Elvis Costello is greatly liked by much of the XTC fandom of which I'm a member. Like Something, Anything?, I have a vague knowledge of Elvis's singles through the years but hadn't really explored his albums...other than Spike shortly after it came out. I've always thought Elvis was okay, but hadn't felt compelled to go deep into his music. This session of listening to My Aim Is True reinforced my ambivalent approval of his music.

One thing to keep in mind is that much of the album fits more into “pub rock” than it does “new wave/punk.” The blues of “Blame it on Cain” and roots rock of “Mystery Dance” were a bit of a jolt for me. I think this album is a good snapshot of a talented songwriter on the verge of solidifying his voice. While this album may not stray much from the pub rock sound of the time, the attitude and overall consistency could certainly hook someone into loving the album or eager to hear what Elvis would record next.

There is one more thing I feel a need to comment on. I understand that the album was recorded for just 1000-2000 British pounds, but the sound on the copy I listened to was very tinny and small. It was a harsh difference going from Exodus into this and then on to Master of Puppets with Elvis sounding like he's at the bottom of a coffee can.

Songs I Knew I Liked: “Alison”

Songs I Now Like: “(The Angels Wanna Wear My) Red Shoes”

Songs I Don't Want to Ever Hear Again: None that I feel a need to avoid.
csberry: (pumaman)

Exodus was recorded after the attempt on Bob's life and his relocation to England. This collection of songs is less varied than earlier recordings. Each song has a similar reggae shuffle that maintains a steady pace throughout the album. While Bob talks about social justice, he sounds more like a wise man laying plain the truths of the real world and less like a revolutionary demanding attention to various issues.

I tend to enjoy reggae and world music while doing chores around the house. I had commented when I reviewed Natty Dread that I doubted that I had put that album on while doing chores because how much several of the songs jumped out and surprised me. Exodus contains five songs that are ingrained in my noggin from years of listening to the Legend greatest hits collection. And the other songs on the album fit into a basic formula which seemed to help this album become background music for me. So, while this album has better songs that Natty Dread, the consistency of sound does come across as a bit formulaic.

Songs I Knew I Liked: “Exodus,” “Jamming,” “Waiting in Vain,” “Three Little Birds,” “Turn Your Lights Down Low,” and “One Love”

Songs I Now Like: Nothing new

Songs I Don't Want to Ever Hear Again: None
csberry: (pumaman)

I listened to the original six-song version of this album and not the more recent CD reissues that include many more songs from the concert (or all of the songs, depending on version). On the original vinyl pressings, the album was divided with four tracks on side one (of which three are covers) followed by a medley-filled “My Generation” and a rambling version “Magic Bus” on the opposite side.

The first side went by quickly in a flurry of rampaging drums and cranked-up guitar. The listener is exposed to the power of The Who's live sound that rattled the audiences' teeth. You get a bit of between song banter from Roger as he quips about the success of the songs in the charts. When the four songs are over, the silence is too much to take and you either listen to the side again or flip that thing over.

“My Generation,” with its medley of songs and tangential musical themes broke through to me after the quick run-through of songs in the first half. The same could be said about the wandering, but engaging "Magic Bus."

Songs I Knew I Liked: I knew the original versions of several of these songs, but wasn't familiar with the live versions.

Songs I Now Like: “Substitute”

Songs I Don't Want to Ever Hear Again: None
csberry: (pumaman)

This is a bit of a mixed bag of late 60's folk/rock and psychedelia which records The Byrds in transition. While their subsequent albums focused on a folk/country sound, The Notorious Byrd Brothers finds the band experimenting in several directions...and not just in the direction of their next sound. This starts with the swinging, horn-blaring “Artificial Energy” - a song about being on speed. “Goin Back” is an ethereal song that is a fog of vocal harmonies and a jangly 12-string. Moog synths are present in several tracks (most obviously in “Dolphin's Smile” and “Space Odyssey”) as it was the hip, new technology that intrigued the band some. Finally, “Space Odyssey” clearly was written completely sober...uh, yeah.

It is the reverb-soaked harmonies that are consistent with each song. The listener can just bathe in the vocals here.

Most of the songs are less than three minutes long, so the album speeds by in about half an hour. This made me the songs I didn't care for easier to bear with my repeated listens but there were several songs that I kinda wished had been stretched out more. Along with that, the use of cross-fading and segues into adjacent songs helped to sew the album together when there is a shift in sound.

Songs I Knew I Liked: None

Songs I Now Like: “Draft Morning,” “Get to You,” and “Tribal Gathering”

Songs I Don't Want to Ever Hear Again: “Space Odyssey”

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Cory Berry

June 2016

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