Thursday, May 31, 2012

Rush - Moving Pictures

There is one song that almost everyone seems to know from Rush, Tom Sawyer. Which is the lead off track from Rush's Moving Pictures. The 1981 release was the last album before the keyboards start getting out of control and their sound became more digitized.

The reason I'm leading off with the lead track, instead of talking about the album is very simple. Moving Pictures is about the music, not the silly bull assosciated with albums and Tom Sawyer makes that very clear. It's one of Rush's most over hyped songs, but because the song earned it, not because "they" made it that way.

Red Barchetta, the second song, is an ode to a car and the freedom it brings. The 6:06 song takes you on a trip through the coutry side and winding roads, with the wind in your hair. The music propels you like petrol in the tank of the car that the song is all about.

My favourite song on the album is YYZ, which is the code for Toronto's Pearson International Airport. Not a word is spoken in the drum driven beauty, with great bass lines weaving and riding through. Then there's Alex Lifeson's guitar work. It makes you go "Yeah!!! Yeah!!! Yeah!!! Don't stop. Don't you ever stop." It is the one Rush song I always crank.

Limelight is kind of your typical song about dealing with life as a celebrity, or as typical as Rush can do it. The music isn't overly crazy by the bands standards, but more complicated than most songs of it's type. Escpecially the lyrical content, but only thanks to Neil Peart's uncomprimising word usage. The man writes like everyone has a brain, something that is very rarely seen in other musical acts.

Those four tracks make the first half of the album. It's the commercial half that deserves the over play, if Rush can in anyway have a commercial side. The second half of the album is a little more Rush like from the older days with it's experimental explorations.

The Camera Eye comes in sounding like a slightly more synthesized version of songs from Caress of Steel or A Farewell To Kings. Long instrumentation, deep meaning, carefully crafted story, and a play time of 10:56.Is this a great song? Nope, it is not. However, it is worth flipping the original vinyl it came on, to side two.

Witch Hunt is a song that to this day I can't decide how much I like it. It's probably the most unique song on the album, and actually sounds decades ahead of it's time. Which is to say that it sounds like it could have been on Vapor Trails, Rush's 2002 release. It's so interesting that the synth abuse can easily be over looked.

Then there's the Vital Signs, to finish off the album. It's a good ending track with a raggae kind of feel and groove to it. It's very well layered and seasoned, like Rush, Pink Floyd, and only a few other Prog bands honestly understand how to do.

At this point Rush has made it pretty clear that synthesizer overuse and abuse is going to be around for a while. In fact this would continue until the end of the 1980's, which is why at my time of writing this review the only albums I have from the 80's, from this great Canadian Power Trio, is Moving Pictures and Exit Stage Left. I didn't pick up another album from them until Counterparts in 1993. I did however pick up live video from those periods, because those are more worth it.

My only real complaint about this album is the thin sounding production, but I'm not sure if that's from the time in which the album was released, or just the way it was produced. It's the only thing that really hurts the album for me.

8/10 - content

6/10 - production

7/10 - personal bias

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

The Doors - The Doors

This is an album that is so famous that you probably know every song, without realizing that you know the song, the album it came from, or the band performing it. This is the album that spawned ten songs that recieved regular play on Detroit Rock radio, and many still do to this day. The End can't be played without run time and content editing.

I will admit I did not start off as a very big fan of The Doors. Jim Morrison is a poet and his lyrics were a bit deep for me in my early years, also the thin (no bass) sound put me off. Then after being teased by some asshole in grade eight, just because he knew more songs from the band and by their actual names, I pretty much didn't listen to The Doors again for almost two years. I even gave away the cassette I had for this album.

I know it sounds foolish, but I spent so much time being made fun of for my choices in music over the years, that it was easier to just walk away from all of it, and just enjoy the movie from time to time. Then when i did get back into The Doors, this was the first album I picked up, but on CD insted of a hand-me-down cassette.

The lead track to the self titled album is Break On Through (To The Other Side). You should know it, and if you don't you should be ashamed of yourself and go listen to the song on Youtube right now. There's no excuse for not knowing this song. It's awesome, and totally rocks.

Soul Kitchen is one of those songs that I totally dig, it has a great pounding/driving groove. It sounds like sex feels, when you are taking your time and doing it right.

It really mellows out next with The Crystal Ship, but in a very sweet and warm way. It's short, delicate and very enjoyable. It's a lulling mystical harmony. A lullaby to mesmerize.

Twentieth Century Fox is a song inspired by a very sexy, black godess, strutting her stuff across Jim's view on Venice beach. The tone, feel and style all convey that exact image, although I always pictured your typical Blonde California Girl as a kid. I later found it even sexier when i found out I was wrong. Either way it's Jim's lyrical ode to the magnificence of the taken care of female form.

A Polka song on a rock album? Long before Green Day started doing that type of lame BS, The Doors took an actual polka song and made it a really good time, with only slight lyrical augmentation. Also what better way to have fun than finding whiskey bars and little girls (not children for any of you sick fucks thinking that).

Light My Fire, the most commercial Doors song ever? If you've seen the movie, you know the story about this song. After all, this song made The Doors a household name. Even if it was for the wrong reasons. Also, if it were not for the fact that the song has been so overplayed through out the years, I'd probably enjoy it more than I do.

Back Door Man, like Alabama Song, is not a Doors song. That's doesn't mean it's not a song from The Doors. I don't recall ever hearing the original, and as I write this I'm going to for the first time, but that doesn't matter here. What does matter is this song kicks ass, while double entendring about something else regarding bottoms. Then there's the more obvious gentelman caller coming and leaving discretely. It's all dirty, dirty fun.

To me one of the two weakest songs on the album is I looked At You. It's a fun song, playful, hopping, and rocking a solid beat with great stops and starts. But it's like a filler on this album, which for most albums would mean nothng special. On this album it still means that it's better than most filler songs.

End Of The Night would have made a great closing song for this album, except that this album has The End at the end of it. I'm sure many bars have used this song as their closing song and with good reason. The slowness and mellow feel, will cause anyone to become laid back enough to easily be directed out a door.

The other weak song on this album is Take It As It Comes. It's very simular to I Looked At You in style and execution, which is why I feel the same way about it.

As I've already mentioned, the album ends with The End. It's an experimental journey through the subconcience at epic length. If you've seen the movie, you've seen the desert imagery that goes with the song. If you listen to the song, you envision a lot more than that. You can easily feel yourself become the snake travelling through the land looking for it's prey for the 11:42 journey.

My only complaint about this album is the lack of low end. This is a problem with a lot of music that from the pre-stereo era. It doesn't help that there's no bass, and the organ stays in the higher range most of the time. This all lends to a bit of a tinny element to the album. Aside from that, this album comes very close to a perfect ten. Even the fillers are worth listening to, because they are good.

9/10 - content

9/10 - production

10/10 - personal bias

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Marilyn Manson - Portrait of an American Family

When Marilyn Manson first came out I pegged him as nothing more than an Alice Cooper wannabe, with Iggy Pop's lust for self mutilation, and Trent Reznor's need to computerize music. My thoughts at the time were that this guy was a joke, that was going to burn out before he even got started.

I was kind of right, and yet very wrong.

Portrait of an American Family was the first major release from Marilyn Manson. Crude, brash, disjointed, experimental, non-sensical, and exploitive may be the best word to describe this creepy collection of youthful madness.

Portrait starts off with the band doing a mock-up of Gene Wilder's little song when they go through the tunnel in Willy Wonka and The Chocolate Factory. I hated that Manson was ruining something I held dear. Prelude (The Family Trip) is still a track I have no use for, but I'm a little more understanding of it.

Cake and Sodomy, I've only ever heard referred to as gross and disgusting. Sadly, I don't know if it's because of this song, or the fact that the American mentality has become so trashy, that this song was actually a predicition. Go check out the porn of today, compared with that of 1994.

When this album came out, hardcore pretty much was just sex, no story, maybe a little forceful for looks, and some light anal to finish. Now cake and sodomy is the bare minimum needed to make something hardcore pornography. What a sad statement to make, and this coming from a guy that freely admits to enjoying viewing classic story porn, as if it were a lost art.

Lunchbox, as well as the track before, make up half the songs I still happily listen to on my Mp3 player. The song is simple and fun to play musically, and everyone wants to get back at the bully.

I don't mind Organ Grinder. It's okay, but nothing really special. The same applies to Cyclops. I think of both tracks as more of album fillers. Good ones, that you don't mind listening to as the album plays out, but filler all the same.

Dope Hat was my first introdution to the visual world of Manson. The video picks up where Prelude left off. The song on the other hand doesn't take rocket science to figure out, but it is fantastic. There's something in that almost circussy sound, that bounces around the room on a vibe of science fiction keyboards, that captures the imagination in a carnival of illusions. This song could be considered Manson's White Rabbit, and is one of the four songs I mentioned earlier.

Get You Gunn was a single for the band. A single I had no use for. It's a good song, but I just nevery really cared for it, and I don't even have a good reason. I even own the single, which I picked up for the B-side.

Wrapped in Plastic, Dogma, and Sweet Tooth make up the next three songs. Much like the rest of the songs that I call fillers on this album, these ones are still cool to listen to. Even after 15 years and change, I still sing along with the three, but forget about them the second they are done. I still can't even put names to the songs when I hear them.

My favourite song on the album is Snake Eyes and Sissies. It is the only song on the album that I must have on my Mp3 player. This song get's me pumped like so few others. Sure, it's all about violent revenge and retribution, but clearly there's a lot of anger at dealing with life and those that make it so much worse than it needs to be. If a movie were made of my life, this would be the song playing in the scene where I finally snap and start taking people out.

Next up is My Monkey. It's such a fun, campy, ball of cheese, that I have never been able to take it seriously, and I respect that. I really hope it wasn't meant to be serious, because it's a great joke tune.

Misery Machine finishes off the album on a bit of a sad note. I don't care for the song. It's the only one on the album I flat out have no use for. This should have come before My Monkey, not after, but then the album would end on a joke, and that's not good either typically.

This album isn't the full industrial sound that later came with Antichrist Superstar, but it was the prototype that set the stage for it. You can hear Trent Reznor's influence and see his fingerprints all over the place, but the album still has a young punk kind of feel, with some well layered and arranged music. However, sometimes it sounds like some songs were over produced to make them sound more polished than they actually were. Which worked out well for songs I consider fillers.

Also this was the only "Proper" album that guitarist Daisy Berkowitz played on. He was also on the follow up to Portrait of an American Family, Smells like Children, which was the album that really broke the band due to one song only, but it was mainly a remix album, thus doesn't totally count in my humble opinion. But the habit of switching guitarists after one or two albums started with Daisy. Sadly, I never heard much from him after.

As far as first albums go, this one was good. Not great, but it set the stage for better things to come from Manson and band, at least until the end of the decade.

8/10 - content

7/10 - production

7/10 - personal bias

Monday, May 28, 2012

Finger Eleven - Them vs You vs Me

My first introduction to Finger Eleven was on a WWF (World Wrestling Federation as it was known then) soundtrack, called Forceable Entry. They did the theme music for Kane, which is a wrestling character I liked. That was the first and only song I heard from them that I really cared for until the album Them vs You vs Me came out.

Now to be fair, I've never listened to any of their albums, and the only songs I heard were videos or singles. So, all I got was the commercial bull shit. Not very impressive, but when Paralyzer hit the airwaves I all of a sudden found myself wanting to listen.

That lead track, from the album, was full of all kinds of eroticinisism (my word, nor real). The self loathing and almost nihilistic perspective of distant longing and lusting. All this mixed with a snappy beat, and wicked groove, makes me want to get up and dance dirty. That's impressive since I don't like to dance, other than screwing around at home. Falling On is a good second song, it fits well in the mix, and I enjoy it when I hear it.

I'll Keep Your Memory Vague, is a great Emo love song that I'm sure many teenage girls cried their eyes out to at the time. It's well done and I don't mind listening to it. I think it's even been on my Mp3 player for a time, but I could do without it on the album.

There's a very INXS feel to So So Suicide. It's got that certain snap and pop, but more crunchy in the choruses. I like it. It get's me pumping, and it's great to use as riding music while cycling. Even during the breakdown in the middle there's such a great driving feel. It's feels like you are racing away from your demons.

More Emoesque longing can be heard in the sixth track on the album, Window Song. It is really well done musically. Plus I find I want to sing along with the choruses, but this is the point when the album starts to blur and blend together.

In the day of the CDs Sense of a Spark, is a good solid middle of the album filler. As track seven of twelve, it's easy to picture it would be the lead track on side two. In that way, it's not so good. However, as the last track on side one it would be an acceptable ending.

Talking To The Walls would be a great lead off track to side two. It has a soft sound, but it's strong. It grabs you, holds you, and brings you in. Don't look for any real depth, it's a bit cliche, and the sound a tad overly produced, but it's still a fun song.

Change the World is the type of song I'm use to hearing from Finger Eleven. I'm sure there are a lot of people that love this song, mostly females, but I'm not one of them. At this point in the CD I'm a bit annoyed at the over used cliches. Quit trying to play to the females. I know it gets you laid on tour, but it really brings down the album.

The snap and pop I liked at the begining of the album is just a bit over used at this point. I do like the idea behind the lyrics for Gather & Give, and the music is even decent, but it's now the tenth song on the album and I've had enough of it, because I don't care for the constant over used sound.

Them vs You vs Me is a much welcomed change at this point. This is a song that sounds very real to me. It's feel and sound makes me think of how Paranoid was to the album it came out on. I say this in the sense that the title track to this album comes across like it came about real quickly, fluidically, and naturally. Like good Rock should.

Then someone said that song should be the song that defines the album, by making it the title track, although this song did not have the same success, but that probably had something to do with the exploritory, Pink Floyd-like, spacey sounds which are also very cool.

The album finishes with Easy Life which is okay, but the album should have ended on the title track instead. This song really doesn't do much for me as far as the album goes. Like all the other songs on the album it sounds well executed and produced, but it sounds like all the other songs on the album at ths point. It tries to end the album on a powerful driving fade out, but it feels overly drawn out, and leaves me wanting less.

When I write these reviews I normally listen to the entire album twice in a row, sometimes three plays are happily enjoyed back to back, but sometimes I start skipping songs I just really don't want to hear. This album I want to skip chunks.

Now, I know it sounds like I'm being harsh on this album, and I am. As an album, I find it a bit redundant and by the end I'm kind of tuning out. This bothers me. In the days of cassettes or vinyl I would have only listened to one side at a time, but never back to back.

I like every song on this album, and enjoy them mixed into my 25 disc CD player, or on my Mp3 player, while it's on random. I do not care for the album as a whole, end of story.

The running time is listed as 40:23, but the album feels much longer than that, and not in a good way. If I had been calling the shots Falling On, Change The World, Gather & Give and Easy Life, would have been cut, and other songs would have been lengthend, just to cut down on repetative feel.

7/10 - content

8/10 - production

7/10 - personal bias

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Guns N' Roses - Appetite For Destruction

Let me say that you can not put on Appetite For Destruction, and not get excited. It can not be done. I mean, I dare you. I double-fucking-dog dare you to put on this album and not get excited. I'm getting excited just writing about getting excited from listening to the music.

When Geffen released Guns N' Roses' bad ass Rock & Roll album in 1987, no one was ready for the in your face spirit that would follow. They should have been, but they weren't. Hell, the fact that the band originally wanted the cover art to be an alien, with daggers for teeth, suspended in a jumping motion, above a woman that clearly looks like she's been sexually assaulted, but they settled for a skull with five skulls attacked to it, was a pretty good indication that the shit would hit the fan sooner than later.

When I opened up my first CD player one Christmas morning, in the earlier part of the 90's, this was one of the first three CD's I recieved as a gift to go with it. One of my Aunts picked it out for me, just after the Illusions were released. I have since replaced the CD once, due to how much it got used and abused over the years.

I know it's been said over and over that this is one of the best Rock albums ever, but that's because it's true. The original line-up of Slash, Duff, Izzy, Adler and Rose somehow created the most energetic, full throttle, in your face Rock album I have ever heard.

I don't care how contraversial The Rolling Stones were in the 60's, how much Alice Cooper scared parents in the 70's. No band has terrified parents more than Guns N' Roses, simply because they existed.

Most other mainstream bands (Metallica wasn't mainstream yet) from that time simply had bad reputations for being stupid man/childs, drinking, drugging, fucking, and trashing shit. They built names for themselves based on that and catchy riffs (I'm mainly talking about Motley Crew and the sad Glam clones they accidently spawned). The Gunners were very different. They had Izzy, Duff and Slash. Axel wasn't a premadonna yet, and Steve Adler wasn't a heroine riddled junky, but on his way.

The only band in all of Rock & Roll that is a fair comparison to this band is Aerosmith, which everyone has heard a million times before, but it's very true. Appetite for Destruction is like taking the best from Toys In The Attic and Rocks than putting them together in one twelve song package, that is how good of a Rock album it is.

Some people may think the Rolling Stones are a better comparison, but their music was actually quite a bit different from Guns N' Roses and Aerosmith in sound.

Let's start with the beginning, it always sounds like a good place. You've heard Welcome To the Jungle and you know how it gets you pumped. If you haven't, how the hell did you find this article?

It's fast, vicious, and get's right to the root of the glamourous L.A. Strip meat factories (I mean the people it produces). Not only was this a video single and radio single, it was the most real and honest music coming out at a time when cheesy (I mean bad) Rap, was sucking up the airwaves.

It wasn't exploiting poverty and perversion like todays music does. Welcome to The Jungle was a gripping look at how shitty things really were/are. It was a warning, not a cash grab.

It's So Easy is fast, furious, and over before you know it. Was that the idea they were going for to match the content? I don't think so, but it works. It works really well.

A favourite of mine has always been Nightrain. As a young teen that spent a lot of time hanging around traintracks, this song had a different meaning to me. The reality is that it's G'N'R's Cold Gin, but musically better. I love Ace, but he's no Slash. Out Ta Get Me is the point when you start to notice that you are really burning a lot of energy bouncing around with the excitement of this album. Also nothing like being thirteen and singing/yelling "I'm fuckin' innocent". That is therapy that still helps me to this day.

Lyrically Mr. Brownstone has no common ground with Alice Cooper's Billion Dollar Babies, musically most people would say the same thing as well. However, I've always associated the two in sound and feel for some reason. It could be that wicked awesome bouncy beat the drums have flying out, or the guitars, or the whole collection together. I just really don't know. All I know is I love this song, and that's all that matters.

There are two soft songs on Appetite, Paradise City is the first one. Like Welcome to the Jungle you've heard it, because it was radio friendly. You may have seen the video of Axel in his white spandex shorts. You know how to sing the chorus, and if you don't... So is there a need to go on about a song many of us can agree has been over played through the years? In the days of vinyl and cassettes this was a great finish to side one.

The second side starts up with My Michelle. The truth is scary, and the fact that this was actually based on a female friend of the band is really fucking scary. Even if it's loosely based. This poor woman is now forever immoratallized as an L.A. Sleaze Strip victim of circumstance. A warning for others.

Think About You is the only song on the album that I would consider filler. It's got everything that the other songs have, except for a soul. The song just sounds rushed and hollow. Still a decent song, but on this album that's not good enough. Which now brings me to the biggest joke of the G'N'R career, not including The Spaghetti Incident. The story behind Sweet Child O' Mine is simple. Izzy wrote this song, and hated it. Axel loved it, and wanted to use it to get chicks. Izzy tells Slash to lay down the, now trademark, opening riff to turn Axel off the song. Axel likes it even more. The song goes on the album, is released and never has a group of ugly L.A. Strip junkies pulled more tail. To this day Slash still hates the song, but plays it for the fans, because it just became that huge. It's the song credited with making Guns N' Roses a house hold name. It's also the most mellow song on the album.

You're Crazy thankfully picks the pace back up after being brought down so low. It's not one of the better songs on the album, but it's still damn good. The same thing can be said about Anything Goes, although I like that one a lot better. I love songs full of raw in your face sexuality. I also really like the sound of a Talk Box.

I have a favourite G'N'R song and it's Rocket Queen. There is no other song from this band that I like to get down and dirty to, that is like this one. The lyrical content is 180 degrees of dirty, right down to the litteral Fucking Engineer, Victor Deyglio. It's all kind of dirty porno dripping sexuality, until the second half of the song. Then it becomes more tender and caring. A certain kind of understanding and sympathy seems to develop after discovering how used up the Rocket Queen really is. The only thing in my view that stops this album from still being a perfect ten is the second half of the album, especially Sweet Child O' Mine. It's a fantastic song, but it's like the mandatory ballad for the album, that only gets hyped up because it gets the girls wet. Also Out Ta Get Me and You're Crazy are a little more filler sounding than I care for.

Bottom line, if you don't already own this album you better either be just discovering Rock, or have been hidden from society for the last 25 years. I guess people my Grandparents age can be excused too. Anyone else should be ashamed of themselves, since my Mother-In-Law even went out to buy a copy after my Missus' was no longer easily available.

9/10 - content

10/10 - production

10/10 - personal bias

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Metallica - Beyond Magnetic

Something short, but long, and new, but old, from the band that made metal matter again. Metallica's Beyond Magnetic contains four songs recorded between April 2007 and March 2008. The shortest song is listed at 6:57, then 6:69, 7:11 and 8:02 and they weren't released until 2011, after the Lulu incident.

The total running time of 28:09 makes this an album in my opinion, or a really big maxi-single, but I've known other "officially classified as albums" albums to be about that length. So, I'm calling it an album.

The four songs are Hate Train (6:59), Just A Bullet Away (7:11), Hell and Back (6:57), and Rebel of Babylon (8:02). These are tracks that one could argue weren't good enough to go on Death Magnetic, which is why it didn't get released as a double album. I have two counter points to that.

The most important is that these songs are actually different from Death Magnetic and don't belong on that album, or not with all of it. The sound, vibe, and feel, only match a couple of songs from those sessions.

The other point is that they did a double album thing a few years back and it didn't go over so well either. Load and Reload anyone?

Metallica fans can be split into two groups. The first is people that get that these guys are musicians. The second is everyone else. Everyone else wants to bang their heads, be real angry, and break shit. That's really fun. This albums satisfies that need.

Which brings me to what I consider the truth of this album. It was released to stop the angry fans from totally turning the violence towards the band. Honestly, I liked Lulu, but it was a piece of shit, and this isn't about explaining that statement. This is about an album that will always be seen as a fix, to a big boo boo. Luckily, the four songs that make up this album were good enough to fix reputations and heal hurt feelings. That and the band even laughing at Lulu.

Death Magnetic was the album that should have come out between ...And Justice For All and the black album. The band claimed that and I agree.

It's my opinion that Beyond Magnetic sounds like it should have come out out between Garage Days (not Inc) and Justice. The sound is raw, but crisp and clear. Their's a lot of passion, and anger, and riffing, and texture, but it all sounds pulled back. Reigned in, except for the vocals which punch through the centre of the mix. Part of me thinks the best way to explain it would be a quickly rushed ADAT demo produced by the vocalist. Although, that sounds a little too harsh. Accurate, but a little harsh.

Hate Train kicks the album off with the trade mark thrash fury that Metallica is known for. The vocals could be right out of Ride The Lightning, maybe Kill 'Em All, but older guys should not try to sing like that. At least not James and his growling voice, it leaves me feeling a bit sad. The song on the other hand makes me happily angry, and musically satisfied. In retrospect it may be the lamest song on the album.

My favourite track off the album, will also be added to the list of Metallica songs I will always gladly listen to. Just A Bullet Away is angry, pissed off, self destructive, beautiful and violent. Oh, so violent. I would have gladly, or easily, yanked a couple tracks off Death Magnetic to put this track on. I also would have made this the lead track, or single, for Beyond Magnetic, instead of Hate Train. I think it's the best the album has to offer for lasting playability. There's just something about James telling you to suck the barrel dry. The perverts will chuckle and the others will see red spots. Hell And Back makes me think of Wherever I May Roam in the way the instruments sound and are arranged, if it had been demo'd during the Garage Days sessions, and had more backbone. This is like Wherever I May Roam jacked up on gamma radiation and shown from inside the brain of the monster.

The album concludes with Rebel Of Babylon. This is the most ecclectic of all the songs on the album. Musically it's all over the place. It starts off all mellow, Mama Said/Low Man's Lyric, than it's punching you in the face all Frantic like, then it drops down and riffs out like anything off Death Magnetic over 5 minutes, and Kirk Solo's like he's just having a good ol' time, then the harmonies kick in and then it's all FUCK YOU! and back to banging your head really hard. Then the album is done. In the grand scheme of Metallica offerings it's a great filler in the middle. Somewhere between Garage Days (not Inc) and ...And Justice For All. I would have liked to have heard a version produced by Bob Rock. I think the sound would have been much better, and that's what hurt this album the most in my opinion. The rough shot production really takes away from the full lush vibrance that has been heard on other albums.

8/10 - content

6/10 - production

7/10 - personal bias

Friday, May 25, 2012

Alice Cooper - School's Out

This album has one of the two songs I think will always live on, the other is We Will Rock You. As long as there are sporting events, the latter will survive. As long there is school...

The title track from the album has got to be the most recognised song in history. It opens with a riff so legandary that is was even inscribed on Glen Buxton's (the guitarist that wrote and played it) tombstone. If you don't know the song, I'm sorry you spent your childhood in a coma, or under some cruel dictatorship.

For most people that's where this album starts and stops. Most people don't even seem to know that it's actually an album, not just a song. An album that is so much more than just an awesome, over played, opening track.

Luney Tune kicks off the album, for those that can get past School's Out. It's a wonderful ditty about losing it, and attempting to end it. A song way too compelling for it's time. This was something that the original Alice Cooper did not only do well, but shockingly so. Hiding dark, pre-goth, total thoughts of insane imagery, under skillfully arranged and beautifully executed musicianship. This is one of those songs that explains why so many never understood Alice. The content was always just too deep and dark down the rabbit hole.

Gutter Cat Vs. The Jets has writing credits for G. Buxton, D. Dunaway, L. Bernstein, and S. Sondheim. The first two are members of the band, Buxton I already mentioned. Dennis Dunaway was the original bassist. The second two names credited with the song were the musical writer and lyricist behind West Side Story.

The song is a mash-up, of Jet Song from West Side Story, as well as original music from the band. The instrumentation and arrangments on the album are totally over the top, just like a musical should be, but at the same time tell a compelling story of a cat and the chaos it brings.

Street Fight is mearly a sample of a street fight of sorts, that follows Gutter Cat Vs. the Jets. Simple Bass and hit hat combo, with other sounds.

The last song on side one of the record, or cassette, is Blue Turk. This may be the first clearly necrophiliac song from the band. Not obvious like later offerings, such as I Love The Dead, but not oblivious either. This one has a great jazz melody and feel, with a horn section that adds a fantastic, wet, sticky, summer night heat sound, that celebrates something so chilling. As a young kid the second side of the School's out album didn't really do too much for me. The first song, My Stars, was too mellow and laid back. It wasn't until years later I understood that it was all about mood. A thrilling Sci-Fi odyssey of sorts. That which many boys dream about, while stuck in school.

When Glen Buxton died in 1997 Alice Cooper started playing Public Animal #9 live again as a tribute to him. As a pre-teen kid it was the only song on the second side I really liked. As a teen at a concert, it was a chant for all of us misfits to assemble. Listening to this as an adult, it still makes me feel like a rabbid dog by the end of the song.

Alma Mater was writen exclusively by the drummer, Neil Smith. Smith was the only drummer as wild in playing style as Keith Moon, and had a running contest over which one of the two could build the bigger drum set. Not a single part of that can be found in this lament about the last days of high school, right before the reality of how life is about to happen kicks in. In fact it's very mild, laid back, and contains a lot of that happier times remorse.

The album finishes with Grande Finale, which contains writing credits for the entire band, producer Bob Ezrin, plus composers Mack David and Elmer Bernstein, because the band borrowed for this song too. But, done in the tradition of grand finales it contains that big score sound, and closing credits vibe. There's also a weird buzz noise that makes me think someone was playing a weed wacker/whipper snipper as an instrument, which could have been Alice, since there are no vocals.

The concept behind the album is simple. Life for a kid (more specifically a boy) in school, and everything that comes with it, except for the necrophelia. My schools were a worse kind of sick, but not that kind.

The production of the albums is astounding. Bob Ezrin was the master behind so many great albums, by so many bands. But it was his work with Alice Cooper that was most astounding, especially when with the original band. This album would not have been what it was if not for his knowing how to get what he wanted from amazing musicians and spectacular showmen.

After this album, the Alice Cooper Group would release still better music, but this is the last album from the original band to contain that understated tongue in cheek attitude. It's also the first album to have a clear concept, although not technically a concept album.

If you are looking for a place to start your original Alice Cooper Group listening, this is the best place to start artistically. If you are looking for a bunch of hits or singles, maybe you should try another album.

9/10 - content

9/10 - production

9/10 - personal bias

Thursday, May 24, 2012

An Introduction to The Albums

I've spent my life listening to music. I used music as the soundtrack to playing with my toys. My action figures battled it out to albums like Slippery When Wet (Bon Jovi), Raise Your Fist And Yell (Alice Cooper), and Pet Sounds (Beach Boys). The last two artists/groups made up the bulk of my personal collection until I was thirteen.

I grew up on Detroit Rock Radio. Raised on WRIF, WLLZ and WCSX Rock, which included classic metal as well. Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin, Jethro Tull, Rush, Frank Zappa, Ted Nugent (more with the Amboy Dukes, less solo), and Deep Purple, were considered standard listening when I was in the car with my dad.

I clearly remember singing/yelling the heavy parts of Aqualung at the age of seven, and to me this seemed normal. (I still don't understand why more people don't listen to Jethro Tull.)Fly By Night was an anthem to my young mind. (Luckily there's a band that's finally getting the recogonition they deserve.) When all the other kids were blasting Money For Nothing and We're Not Going To Take It, I was asking my dad to crank In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida.

But in those early days of development there was other music too. My mom listened to country, and she demanded the radio be on those type of stations when she was in the car. I still affectionately sing Elvira to this day because of that. Giddy up. However, one artist that didn't fall into either rock or country that both my parents listened to was Chris De Burgh, mostly known in North America for Lady In Red, but I grew up on the album The Spanish Train and Other Stories. It is a fantastic album.

When I got my first CD player (Christmas 1992), I started branching off into other bands besides Alice Cooper and The Beach Boys. I had just turned 14 and was seriously getting into music. Appetite For Destruction (Gun's N' Roses), Razor's Edge (AC/DC), and Permanent Vacation (Aerosmith) were among my first ten CDs. Sadly, at this point I never bought another Beach Boy's album. I didn't like the teasing I got for listening to them, and caved under pressure hiding my love for their music. Almost every cent I got for birthdays and Christmas' went to CDs. All other money during the rest of the year was split between cigarettes and CDs, until I moved out on my own and was only able to afford to smoke. By that point my CD collection numbered well over 300, which I thought was small, but insurance companies thought extensive and a bit excessive for someone my age. I had to document every disc I owned for them.

I still add an average of 12 CDs to my collection every year, but mainly because of lack of exposure to new music worth buying, and I have a lot of old stuff already. There are very few CDs in my collection I won't listen to, and those are just for "Fan" purposes.

I've been writing extensive music reviews since I was in College for Journalism, and it's something I've done off and on for years. Most of the time I usually write the typical three or four paragraph review, but I prefer the in depth reviews more. Recently I found myself sitting down and writing reviews for older albums as if they were brand new, but still reflecting on them, and the times in which I bought them. I decided shortly after that that I would try and write a review for every CD I had at that point, New and Old.

Why? Simply put, because I can. The more lengthy answer would be, I also want people to read these reviews and discover some excellent albums, or re-discover in other cases. Also I can't stress enough that these articles are going to be about the albums, not just songs. (Except in the case of Jethro Tull's Thick As A Brick.) Sure, I'll write about the songs, they make up the album, but it's the album that matters most, since that's what I bought.

Just one last final thought before you start reading the reviews. Some of the most recent CDs bought in my house were Blunderbuss (Jack White), Little Hell (City and Colour), Beyond Magnetic (Metallica), 21 (Adele), End of An Era (NIghtwish) and Here and Now (Nickelback).