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Johnny Boy "The Record Collector" RSS Feed (Hockessin, DE)

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In a Word
In a Word
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4.0 out of 5 stars 4.5 stars -- Great for the seasoned Yes fan, but certainly don't start here, July 15, 2015
This review is from: In a Word (Audio CD)
I'll cut right to the chase. If you are considering buying this boxed set, you are either: 1) a very seasoned Yes fan looking for a comprehensive retrospective of Yes' music (or perhaps to complete your collection of Yes' music) or 2) a very rich or free-spending casual fan who wants to have all of the "hits" and then some all in one place. So I suppose your next question would be, "do I buy this or 1991's 'Yesyears' box?"

Well, I can't say for sure what you are looking for, but I can speak as someone who owns both this box and 'Yesyears.' If you want a box that focuses on the hits and album tracks primarily, with a few rarities thrown in for good measure, 'In a Word' is for you. Here, you'll find all of the songs that are played constantly on classic rock radio, as well as plenty of great album tracks (and great non-album tracks, like 'Dear Father' and 'America').

The other positive? The box includes tracks from the great Yes offshoot group Anderson Bruford Wakeman Howe. This splinter group's 1989 album remains the "great lost Yes album," and it's quite nice to see Rhino Records and Yes acknowledge their existence on this boxed set. 'Brother of Mine' is one of my all-time favorite Yes-related songs (oh, screw it, it's a Yes song), so I couldn't be happier to see it included amongst the other Yes classics featured here. In addition, I couldn't be happier that the compilers chose to include some lesser-known tracks, such as 'Arriving UFO' and 'Release, Release' (both from the 1978 'Tormato' album) on this box. As a longtime Yes fan, that makes me extremely happy.

So, now that we've got the basics of this boxed set out of the way (we'll call that the "review" portion of this piece), let's get down to why you're probably reading this review in the first place.

The rarities and unreleased tracks. Ah, yes -- the hallmarks of every great boxed set. There are several of these here, but the highlights to Yes collectors will be the inclusion of tracks from the 1979 aborted Paris sessions with producer Roy Thomas Baker (who worked with Yes again last year on Chris Squire's final album, 'Heaven & Earth'). 'Tango' isn't a bad song at all -- by no means is it a Yes classic, but it has an interesting feel to it, and I actually quite like it. It's kind of quirky, and Anderson actually seems quite engaged on it. The rest of the Paris sessions, however...well, let's just say it's hit-or-miss. 'Never Been Done Before' is a mediocre Yes song; it's one of those that as soon as you hear it, you'll know exactly why it stayed on the cutting room floor. 'Crossfire' is also fairly pedestrian; not bad, but you'll forget it probably 10 minutes after you hear it.

Listening to the Paris Sessions tracks, it isn't hard to see why Wakeman and Anderson both departed the group. Things were getting stale, and a change of scenery was definitely welcomed (and probably needed), which came in the form of the criminally underrated 1980 album 'Drama.' More highlights of the Paris Sessions emerged on the 2004 Rhino remaster/reissue of the 'Drama' album. If you like what you hear, or if you're curious and want to hear more of the Baker-Yes sessions, I would certainly point you in that direction.

'Richard,' an Alan White composition, is also brilliant. I've often wondered why it was left off the 'Tormato' album. Here, it is included in a demo version, and you can certainly tell. The sound quality is not great, especially when compared to the other 54 songs on this boxed set. However, Yes could have certainly done this song justice by re-recording it for inclusion on the record. Out of the unreleased songs on the boxed set, 'Richard' is easily my favorite.

The alternate version of the ABWH track 'Fist of Fire' features lots of Steve Howe. And I do mean LOTS of Steve Howe. If you like Steve Howe, you'll love this version far more than the album version. His playing certainly sounds inspired to me (I've read others, including some on this very page who say otherwise), and as time has passed, I've come to prefer this version over the album version. It brings all four members into the mix fairly prevalently, which gives it more of the "classic Yes sound" we've all come to know and love.

The intro to 'The Revealing Science of God' is fascinating to hear, particularly if you know the 'Tales from Topographic Oceans' album by heart. It isn't earth shattering, and it really doesn't alter the song that much, but for the Yes collector, it's a good alternate version to have for sure. Similarly, 'I Would Have Waited Forever' is not that different from the 1991 'Union' album version; it just adds about 35 seconds onto the track. This was not previously unreleased, as some reviewers have incorrectly stated otherwise; it was originally released on a early-1991 'Union' promotional CD that was distributed prior to that album's release. 'Last Train,' an outtake from 2001's 'Magnification' album, is fun and quirky, but probably unessential for the casual Yes fan. It's a blatant outtake, and while the guys definitely seem to be enjoying themselves (especially Jon), it is quite easy to see why it was left off the 'Magnification' album. You get the sense when listening that it was never seriously a candidate for inclusion on the record; it sounds like it's just four guys messing around and having fun in the recording studio (which these guys have definitely earned the right to do).

So, finally, you may ask, "is it better than 'Yesyears?'"

The answer to that question is I'm not sure. They are both completely different from one another. Unless you count 'The Clap,' 'In a Word' contains zero live recordings, whereas 'Yesyears' is loaded with concert recordings. That, to me, is a huge flaw for 'In a Word.' Yes were such an incredible live band right into the 1990s, and the fact that this boxed set completely ignores their in-concert prowess automatically forces me to detract a star from the overall rating. So if you buy 'In a Word,' assuming you don't own them already, I would strongly suggest buying 'Yesshows' or 'Yessongs' (or perhaps '9012Live: The Solos,' if you're a Rabin-era Yes fan) along with it. The one positive that 'In a Word' has going for it is that includes music Yes made up to 2001, which means it focuses on the work the band was doing in the 1990s. That's either a positive or negative for you -- Yes' '90s material was loved by some and...well, not loved by others we'll just say. 'Yesyears,' having been released in 1991, obviously stops at '91. In my opinion, Yes made some fine music in the '90s. I think 'That, That Is' and 'The Calling' are extremely strong tracks that stack up quite well with the Yes classics, which makes the fifth disc a welcome addition for me.

But which boxed set do I prefer? Honestly, probably 'Yesyears.' Sure, it probably isn't as thorough and complete as 'In a Word,' but the fact that 'Yesyears' includes previously unreleased concert recordings and rare tracks makes it an essential buy. However, if you have the cash and ability to do so, I would recommend buying both boxed sets if you're a seasoned Yes fan. Each boxed set has something the other does not, and the fact that this collection acknowledges ABWH and also features some historically relevant (I won't say great, but certainly relevant if you are a die-hard Yes fan) recordings in the 1979 Paris Sessions makes 'In a Word' a great purchase if you're a tried-and-true Yes fan. But again, decide for yourself. If you want live recordings, 'Yesyears' is the way to go. If you're not a fan of live music generally but want a complete Yes collection (one that goes beyond 1991 and also focuses on ABWH), 'In a Word' is for you.

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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A 5 star album destroyed by 1 star mastering, September 20, 2013
This review is from: 13 (Audio CD)
Black Sabbath's newest record is a masterpiece. Yes, a masterpiece. These guys don't seem to age at all, and they sound as good as they've ever sounded here. This could easily be a follow-up to 'Paranoid' or 'Master of Reality.' Geezer's bass lines are as creative as they've ever been, Ozzy sounds amazing (shocking when you consider all the abuse he has put himself through throughout the years), and Tony Iommi? Well what can you say? The guy is the riff master, and his riffing abilities are on full display throughout this album. He's a guitar genius, and you can see it very clearly here.

I saw these guys in concert last month and they kicked some major behind. They rocked. They blazed through the hits (like 'Iron Man') and sounded easily as good as they did in 1971 and they dug deep into the catalogue with other tracks like 'Under the Sun' (from 'Vol. 4'). The new songs sounded amazing in concert, with 'God is Dead?' and 'End of the Beginning' being highlights.

The tracks here are expertly written and performed. This is Sabbath at their best, minus Bill Ward. Brad Wilk is a more than able replacement, as he shows throughout. He's not as jazzy a player as Ward is, but he still plays in a way that is appropriate. This is definitely the classic Sabbath sound. Throughout the record, it is unmistakably Sabbath. Just listen to 'Methademic,' featuring an amazing acoustic intro played by Iommi. It then goes full speed ahead into a blazing rocker, with Ozzy singing his brains out. If one had no idea about the history of this band, they'd think Ozzy was 24, not 64.

This is easily a five star album. So why the three stars?

Well, the mastering flat out sucks. This is, hands down, one of the worst recordings I've ever heard. I've heard some bad ones too, including the recent Rolling Stones remasters, the new Queensryche record, and even the 2007 Genesis remasters. But this one is a special case.

As other reviewers have accurately stated, there is compression, distortion, and yes, even clipping throughout this CD. It is truly awful mastering, courtesy of Rick Rubin. Rubin, once considered to be one of the great producers, has been behind some truly awful-sounding recordings as of recently. Metallica's 'Death Magnetic' (a great album and a return to form that was destroyed by the "loudness war"), the Red Hot Chili Peppers' 'I'm With You' (a rock solid album that is compressed from start to finish), and even ZZ Top's much awaited album 'La Futura' (their first album in 9 years -- and it's great, too -- was destroyed by the awful mastering). Rick Rubin was considered one of the great producers, but lately, his work has been shoddy at best.

For an example, listen to 'God is Dead?.' The track starts out with a "quiet" passage (still mastered loudly) and then the toms kick in, and the distortion is incredible. Literally, it will ring in your ears if your volume is turned up loud enough. Even with the volume low, the distortion is incredible. It's almost deafening. "Ear fatigue" doesn't even begin to do it justice.

'End of the Beginning' also features tons of distortion as well, and 'Zeitgeist,' a quiet, 'Planet Caravan'-type track, also has some distortion in parts. This is a terrible shame, because this is easily a contender for album of the year this year, but it is barely listenable.

Rush is coming out with a remix of their heavily distorted 2002 album 'Vapor Trails.' This is supposed to correct many of the mastering and loudness issues that surround it. Somewhere down the road, a remix of this and other recent Rubin productions might not be a bad idea.

I don't know what's gotten into Rubin. Johnny Cash's American Recordings sound great. Rubin's work on the two Red Hot Chili Peppers '90s albums are great ('One Hot Minute' and 'Blood Sugar Sex Magik,' but 'Californication' is a mess from a production standpoint). Hell, call me crazy, but I don't find his recent work with Slayer deafening either (although lately Rubin has only been credited as "executive producer," so his involvement on the record is questionable). But lately, his work has been a distorted, overcompressed mess.

Overall, this is a spectacular album. Ozzy, Geezer, and Tony sound as good as they've ever sounded on this album. It would appear that these guys will never get old. You could easily fool someone into thinking this record came out in the '70s. It is as if they haven't missed a step since 'Never Say Die!.' But, it's been absolutely destroyed by the "loudness war." This is a great album that has been horrendously mixed.

5 stars for the music, 1 star for the mastering. That comes to three stars. I hate to do this, but I'm forced to.

And by the way, if anyone gets the chance, go see these guys in concert while you still can. The tickets are worth every cent. These guys are playing as good as they've ever played, and Ozzy still has it. Add Black Sabbath to your "must see" list.
Comment Comments (16) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Dec 5, 2013 3:15 PM PST

CSN 2012
CSN 2012
Price: $14.98

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A very good snapshot of Crosby, Stills & Nash in the modern era, June 14, 2013
This review is from: CSN 2012 (Audio CD)
Crosby, Stills & Nash are the definitions of living legends. They have been called "the first real supergroup" (by more than one source, in fact) and one would certainly not be out of line saying that their harmony vocals are angelic. These guys are the real deal, plain and simple. The fact that they are still touring and are still attracting a large audience speaks volumes to just how important their music is to our world's culture, even in modern times.

Featuring David Crosby (a former member of The Byrds), Stephen Stills (a former member of Buffalo Springfield), and Graham Nash (a former member of British Invasion group The Hollies), CSN were (and still are) the best of the mellow rock groups. Their voices blended together in such a beautiful way, and while they have only given us eight studio albums (three with Stills' Buffalo Springfield bandmate and rock legend Neil Young), their output will outlive us all.

In 2012, CSN hit the road for a concert tour. I had the opportunity to see them live at the Tower Theatre in Philadelphia on the opening night of their tour, and I stupidly (VERY stupidly, I should add) passed that opportunity up. I regret that immensely. This live release, 'CSN 2012' is the next best thing. It made me realize just how stupid I was for not going. Hopefully they'll come back to the Delmarva-New Jersey-Pennsylvania area sometime in 2014, but that's another subject.

This album features a show recorded live in California last year. The members (Crosby, 71, Nash, 70, and Stills, 67 at the time) sound amazing for their ages. People are complaining that "their voices have aged." WELL DUH! Of course they have! What did people honestly expect?!? These guys obviously aren't going to sound the same as they did in 1969 or even 1989 -- times have changed drastically, and these guys have aged drastically since then. Of course their voices are going to be a little rougher -- it happens to just about everyone as time goes on. Even with their advanced ages they still harmonize brilliantly together.

I've read reviews trashing the opening song 'Carry On.' I don't get why. Stills plays a mean guitar on this version, and the band sings very well. They can't quite hit the high notes like they used to (and it has been lowered a few keys to accommodate their voices), but boy do they sound good. They are truly "carrying on" with grace, and this track shows it.

Another highlight is a new track written by Graham Nash and Crosby's son James Raymond. 'Almost Gone' is written about Bradley Manning's treatment while awaiting trial. For those who do not know, Manning was the soldier who was involved in the WikiLeaks scandal a few years ago. Regardless of how you feel about the situation and how you feel about the politics involved, it's still a classic CSN song in the making, featuring a strong political message. And I think I can speak on behalf of many when I say that CSN(Y) are a GREAT political band. Another great song to add to the band's vast catalogue.

'Suite: Judy Blue Eyes' is absolutely incredible. This may very well be the best version of the song in existence. Much of the song is just the three voices accompanied by Stills' sparse acoustic guitar. The full band joins in at the end of the song. What a powerful rendition. Stills sounds absolutely AMAZING here -- quite remarkable for a man who is almost deaf. He sings the song as well here as I've ever heard him sing it. It's a powerful track, and this version alone is worth the price of the disc.

'Wasted on the Way' is always a highlight when performed live, and it certainly is a highlight of this disc as well. Crosby's new song 'Radio' is also a very good song (although I do prefer 'Almost Gone') featuring a strong vocal performance from David.

The band have also started covering Bob Dylan's 'Girl from the North Country' at their concerts, and luckily for us fans, it is included here. This is a great vocal performance (especially from Stills), and it shows just how well this group can still harmonize. There is another great version of CSN covering this track on the new Stephen Stills box set released a few months ago, 'Carry On.' That version was recorded in New York City last October, and while I probably prefer that version to the one featured here, both versions contain incredibly strong vocals. Neither are to be missed.

Of course you get the Stills workhorses 'Love the One You're With' and 'For What It's Worth,' both sung here with their usual finesse and power.

So why the four stars? While I do enjoy the set (what a treat to hear 'Cathedral' live!), I wish they'd substitute some songs. As much as I like 'Southern Cross,' it'd be cool to hear a song like 'Pre-Road Downs,' 'Delta,' 'Just a Song Before I Go' or 'Daylight Again' in it's place. But again, I'm nitpicking, and obviously the group isn't going to listen to my setlist suggestions (nor should they). So, it's really a meaningless comment, but I thought I'd throw it out there anyway.

Overall, I highly recommend this disc. Don't listen to the naysayers; if you're a longtime CSN fan or you want a taste of what a live CSN experience is like (without shelling out all of those bucks to get 'Allies,' their long-deleted 1983 live album), 'CSN 2012' is a mighty fine choice. There's lots to like about this disc, and the band truly do sound amazing for their ages. Buy this two-CD set (as it is very cheap considering it is a double disc) and enjoy.

An aside: CSN are due to release a covers album soon. While they have been discussing this for years, I wouldn't hold my breath. They had been working with famed producer Rick Rubin on the sessions, but those recently fell through and the partnership has ended. Recently Stills denied that there would be another CSN album, but Nash refuted the statement. The million dollar question: Will there be another CSN album??? It might be awhile before we figure out, so for the time being, this offering will have to whet our appetite for some new music from these guys (despite the fact that only a handful of songs are "new" due to it being a live album, obviously). Stay tuned.

Also, if you get the chance, seek out the DVD as well. It compliments this album quite nicely, and it gives you a visual of what the group's shows are really like. Needless to say I won't be missing this band the next time they come to a town near me, and after seeing the DVD, I'm sure you'll be feeling the same way!

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED. Buy this record and hear what these rock icons are up to these days, and go see them in concert if you get the chance!!!
Comment Comments (4) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jul 22, 2013 3:43 PM PDT

The Best Of Starship
The Best Of Starship
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A budget disc, May 7, 2013
This review is from: The Best Of Starship (Audio CD)
For a group that only released three studio albums, Starship (the third incarnation of Jefferson Airplane, active from 1985-1992 and again from 1994-present as Starship featuring Mickey Thomas) sure does have a lot of compilations out on the market. This one was the second Starship compilation released (after 'Greatest Hits: Ten Years and Change'), and honestly, it is extremely lackluster. This was released originally as a part of RCA's "Sound Saver" series in the early 1990s. These were budget compilations (usually 10 songs) that contained a brief summary of that particular artist's work on the RCA label.

Jefferson Airplane were awarded a compilation in this series ('The Best of Jefferson Airplane,' which features a fair number of album cuts and is a surprisingly good compilation; it has held up well for a budget disc), as were Jefferson Starship (with the 'At Their Best' disc, also featuring a number of album cuts, but unlike the Airplane disc, that one is not as good). Since the other two incarnations of this band received a disc in the "Sound Saver" series, it was only natural that Starship be awarded a disc in the series as well.

Well, this compilation blows. 'We Built This City' is absent. That's either a good thing or a bad thing, depending on your preference. I've never had a problem with this song; actually, I find it rather catchy. But, you do get Starship's other two US #1 hits in 'Sara' and 'Nothing's Gonna Stop Us Now.' So, if you only want these two songs and you cannot stand 'We Built This City' (and there are those people out there), this is the disc for you. Otherwise, you may not want to get this one.

What's also missing? Well, let's see here. 'Babylon,' arguably Grace Slick's finest vocal performance of the 1980s (yes, and that includes with Jefferson Starship and the '89 Airplane reunion -- this may actually be one of her best performances period), 'Rock Myself to Sleep,' 'Wild Again,' 'Tomorrow Doesn't Matter Tonight,' 'Before I Go,' 'The Children,' 'Wings of a Lie,' 'The Burn,' 'Don't Lose Any Sleep,' 'Love Among the Cannibals,' and plenty of other worthy Starship cuts could be included on this disc. And most of them, if not all of them, would have fit. This is what is so frustrating. RCA had the chance to release a definitive Starship collection in 1993 (thus eliminating the need for any further Starship compilations), but they blew it. And they blew it miserably.

Sure, the album cuts included here are great to listen to. 'I Didn't Mean to Stay All Night' sounds a lot like Def Leppard, and it's one of my favorite Starship cuts. Sure, it sounds a lot like many late-'80s hair metal songs, and it is quite polished, but it's got a very cool unique sound. 'Transatlantic' is another surprise; not one of my favorites, but it certainly is a deep album cut. And 'Love Rusts' might just be my favorite Mickey Thomas and Grace Slick duet; it is a tad sappy, sure, but the haunting synthesizer and Thomas' strong vocal performance have always resonated with me. I say that with no shame.

But, even that can't save this disaster of a budget compilation. If you are on a tight budget or if you are shopping at a department store and see this on the shelf (you remember seeing the 'Sara' video on MTV in the mid-'80s and want to have the song on CD), than this could work. But, remember that 'We Built This City' (a #1 hit) is absent on an album called 'The Best of Starship.' So, this should also be taken into consideration when determining which Starship discs to buy.

My advice: If you have to have a Starship compilation, seek out the import 'The Very Best of Starship.' It is an import, so it might cost a tad more, but it is worth it. You get far more bang for your buck with that disc, and it also contains a few post-1978 Jefferson Starship tracks (featuring Mickey Thomas on vocals) for good measure. Check that disc out.

Don't be fooled by this 1993 budget compilation. It's not that good; in fact, it isn't good at all. It's a lame attempt to make a quick buck using the Starship name, and it is a rather lackluster compilation. Amazingly, this CD was reissued a few years ago and is now widely available again. Don't take the bait. Unless you hate 'We Built This City' but love 'Sara' and/or 'Nothing's Gonna Stop Us Now,' avoid this disc like the plague.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 21, 2014 9:45 AM PST

Frequency Unknown [Explicit]
Frequency Unknown [Explicit]
Price: $9.49

32 of 42 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars I wanted so desperately to like this, I really did..., April 25, 2013
I'm well aware of the drama that has been taking place in the Queensryche camp for the last two years. The divorce between Wilton & co. and Tate has been brutal; in fact, ugly really doesn't begin to describe it. Other reviewers have already given the detailed history report, so I won't go through that in my review. Here, I'm going to give a fair-minded subjective review.

I wanted to like 'Frequency Unknown' desperately. Honestly, I really did. So for all of Geoff Tate's PR people that are going to trash me in the comments, understand that I really did give this a fair shot. I've listened to the album three times, and I hate to join the choir, but I feel I must say it: this is really awful. I hated 'Dedicated to Chaos,' but this makes 'Dedicated to Chaos' look like 'Operation: Mindcrime.' This record blows on all levels. Muddled sound, trite and dull lyrics, unimpressive musicianship (yes, not even KK Downing, Brad Gillis, Rudy Sarzo, Simon Wright, or Ty Tabor could rescue this Titanic-level shipwreck).

The re-recordings are as bad as you've heard on here, maybe worse. Here, Tate tries to play it safe and recapture the feel of the original recordings. He fails to do that. Not only does he fail, he fails MISERABLY. The production is sloppy, and it sounds like it was recorded in a portapotty using an old tape recorder. The sound is terrible.

Another complaint here is Tate's voice. To me, that's the least of the problems. I actually don't mind Tate's voice here. It's important to remember that he's no longer a 28-year old man. He's now 54. Sure, it doesn't have the power and strength that it once had, but I don't think his voice is anywhere near as bad as it is made out to be. It certainly has changed in the last 25 years, but really, that's to be expected. The one star review (as harsh as it may be) has nothing to do with Tate's voice.

The lyrics on this record are absolutely dreadful. Another reviewer wrote that they reminded one of a "bad Nickelback song." I couldn't say it any better myself; most of these songs would not be out of place on a Nickelback album, actually; in fact, you can actually close your eyes and imagine Chad Kroeger singing these songs in Tate's place. That's a scary, scary thought. It's a fear that I thought I'd never have with Queensryche. However, I should have seen it coming with 'Dedicated to Chaos.'

This was released so Tate (rather immaturely, I might add) could beat his former bandmates in releasing a Queensryche album. Truth be told, this couldn't be further from a Queensryche album. It is a Geoff Tate solo record by all accounts, with some top-notch guys playing along. It's really sad to think that Tate, once a great frontman and rock singer (and he still could be if he actually put some effort into the product he was releasing), has stooped this low. I guess it's been coming for a long time, but it's a darned shame, because once upon a time, the Queensryche name actually stood for high quality music. Now, Tate is only tarnishing the legacy of this great band.

I had to play 'The Warning' after I got done playing this album for a second time, just to remind myself what the Queensryche name truly stands for.

Overall, as much as it may seem otherwise, I so desperately wanted to like this album. Brad Gillis is one of my favorite guitarists of all-time; ditto for Rudy Sarzo as a bassist. And yes, as much as hardcore (and even casual) Queensryche fans may dislike him these days (and as despicable as his behavior has been in recent times), I still think Geoff Tate is a good singer. But really, it doesn't matter if you have some of the most talented musicians in the world playing (as in this case), if you have bad material and a terrible producer (in this case, Jason Slater, who was also responsible for the horrid 'Dedicated to Chaos') the product is still going to be crap. It's like putting expired cheese on a cheeseburger (for lack of a better analogy): if you dress the burger up with fresh lettuce, beef, tomato, and onions (or whatever else you like on your burger), it's still going to taste bad, because it still has past-its-prime cheese.

An aside: There is a remixed version of this that will be released at a later date. This album could really benefit from a good remix; guitar solos are haphazardly thrown into the mix without any care (so they sound out-of-place) and Tate seems to be singing behind the pace of the song at times as well. A remix could do this release some good (although not much, because the material is so weak and banal).

I hate to do this, especially to musicians I have so much respect for, but I cannot recommend this. It pains me to do this, it really does. But listening to this album was a pretty painful experience for me (and from the sounds of it, many others). Queensryche fans deserve better than this garbage, and it is for this reason that I urge you not to buy this album. These guys could do so much better (yes, including Geoff Tate), and that's part of what is so frustrating about this album. It is clearly phoned in. No effort whatsoever.

Spend your money elsewhere. This album sucks. One star is more than fitting.

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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars There's too much unfair criticism of this record, March 23, 2013
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: Amandla (Audio CD)
I absolutely love Miles Davis. The man is a genius and one of the great musical minds of the 20th century (and music generally). What he has contributed to American music (and music generally, to use that term again) is almost unequaled in terms of quality and quantity. When he died in 1991, the music world lost a true giant and a truly brilliant mind. 22 years later, he's still missed as much as he was the day he died. There will never be another performer quite like Miles Davis again, and that I'm sure of.

With all of that said, this album of his, 1989's 'Amandla' (take note: this was the last studio album released in his lifetime), always seems to take criticism. People hate the fact that this album is loaded with electronic percussion and layered with 1980s synthesizers (including the Roland D-50). This album sounds "dated" and Miles' playing "lacks passion" is what many of them will say. Another criticism of this album I read somewhere is that "this album lacks the overall brilliance of 'Kind of Blue.'" Every artist's fan base has that album that they love to hate (for Bob Dylan, it's either 'Saved,' 'Down in the Groove' or 'Self Portrait;' for Yes, it's either 'Big Generator' or 'Talk;' for John Coltrane, it's either 'Ascension' or 'Interstellar Space;' you get my point). This album is the album that Miles Davis fans love to hate.

Honestly, I've never understood why. The statement that the music "lacks passion" is absolutely absurd. Listen to 'Hannibal' again and tell me that Miles Davis' playing on this track "lacks passion." Seriously. To those people, I ask (and I mean this with all due respect): Are you deaf? Miles is playing his head off on this track, like there's no tomorrow. What a way to make an exit from a recording studio. I'd venture to say that 'Hannibal' is one of Miles' best performances of the last 20 years of his career. It's emotional, raw, and simply a stunning piece of work.

The same can be said of the title track. And 'Mr. Pastorius' (an emotional tribute to the late, great jazz bassist, Jaco Pastorius) And the opening track, the African-influenced 'Catembe.' And 'Jilli.' Technically, the same can be said of the entire album. This is a fine album, and a fresh jazz album of the late 1980s. Miles was experimenting with the most high-tech technology available in 1989, and while it may sound somewhat dated in 2013, it certainly didn't back then. Considering Miles was 63 at the time of this album's release, it's pretty amazing he was able to reinvent himself in this manner (not many people can successfully reinvent themselves late into their careers -- Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen are among the few that come to mind).

Something else I've always found puzzling are the remarks that "'Tutu' was miles (no pun intended) better than this." Oh come on. 'Tutu' is a masterpiece, yes. Heck, I'll concede that 'Tutu' is a slightly (notice that word SLIGHTLY) better album than 'Amandla.' Both albums are quite similar in style, as all compositions are written and arranged by Marcus Miller and both albums employ a late-'80s style production (think of a "very big" sound if you've never heard either album). But, 'Amandla' is by no means a weak album, and it is absolutely not a significant dropoff from 'Tutu.' Not by any means. 'Amandla' is strong, musically interesting, and features exciting compositions from Miller.

Finally, there's the old criticism that it's not 'Kind of Blue.' Of course it isn't! These albums can't even be compared! 'Kind of Blue' was released in 1959, 'Amandla' in 1989. THAT'S A 30 YEAR DIFFERENCE. Times changed drastically in those 30 years. Miles was 63 in 1989, not 33 like he was in 1959. His ability to hold notes on the trumpet for a long period of time was practically gone, but his playing, feel, and emotion on the instrument were as strong as ever in '89. Also, when 'Kind of Blue' was being recorded in the late fifties, synthesizers were practically nonexistent (and they were nonexistent in the jazz world). The thought of Bill Evans playing anything remotely related to a synthesizer on a piece from 'Kind of Blue' is absolutely disturbing. 30 years later, in 1989, synths were everywhere, including in the jazz world. Miles was never a musician who was "nostalgic" -- it was always about moving forward for him. So that's just what he did, and he embraced synthesizers and the digital sounds of the decade. This album is loaded with synthesizers, so that automatically separates it from 'Kind of Blue.' Just like it is hard (I'll say impossible) to imagine 'Kind of Blue' with synthesizers, imagine 'Amandla' without them. It's almost unimaginable.

The compositions are strong, and Miles' playing is inspired throughout. Overall, don't buy into the negativity surrounding this album. It is a solid album, and for Miles' last album released in his lifetime, it's awfully strong. I often wonder what was to come in the 1990s had Miles stayed alive longer, and what direction his music would have gone. His music was moving in a hip hop direction by the early-'90s, and often wonder if he would have continued in that direction. The world will never know for sure, but there is one thing I do know: had he stayed alive, he would have gone forward, not back, and certainly would have changed and adapted with the times like he had always done.

Check out 'Amandla.' It's a surprisingly solid album, especially considering it was released in 1989 and is loaded with synthesizers. I've always loved this album, and if you enjoyed 'Tutu' and 'You're Under Arrest,' you'll love this album (contrary to what other reviewers may say). Worst case scenario, if you don't like it, sell it. But it's cheap and it's Miles Davis. What's a better combination than that?

Four stars is fitting. It's not a masterpiece, but it's certainly a great late-'80s jazz album released by arguably the finest jazz trumpeter of them all. Give it a fair listen or two.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Apr 1, 2013 11:47 AM PDT

I'm Not in Love: Essential Collection
I'm Not in Love: Essential Collection
Price: $15.85
27 used & new from $3.23

17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars About as good an introduction to 10cc's Mercury years as you are likely to find without shelling out for the box set, January 3, 2013
From 1972 to 1995, 10cc consistently released some of the finest progressive pop music ever recorded. Led by famed '60s musicians Graham Gouldman (he wrote 'For Your Love,' which was a huge hit for The Yardbirds) and Eric Stewart (of another famed British Invasion group, Wayne Fontana & The Mindbenders), they added musicians Kevin Godley and Lol Creme (who later became a successful duo themselves, but that's another review altogether) and 10cc was born. They released two albums on a small independent label, UK Records (owned by Jonathan King, who also is famous for discovering and managing -- early in their careers, I should add -- Genesis) before hitting it big on Mercury Records in 1975 with the smash hit 'I'm Not in Love.'

This collection, 'I'm Not in Love: The Essential Collection,' spans the years 1975-1983. During this time, 10cc released seven groundbreaking albums. The first two albums featured Godley and Creme ('The Original Soundtrack' from 1975 and 'How Dare You!' from a year later), and these albums are by far their most critically acclaimed. Godley and Creme would leave the group at the end of their 1976 tour to form their own spinoff duo, Godley & Creme, so Stewart and Gouldman carried on 10cc as a duo (with a host of session musicians, including Stewart Tosh of Pilot, Paul Burgess, Rick Fenn, Steve Gadd, Simon Phillips, and several others) until 1983, when Eric Stewart left the group to work with Paul McCartney (a partnership that lasted into the early 1990s).

I see Amazon has not posted a track listing, so before I go any further, I'll provide one right away.

Disc 1
1. I'm Not In Love
2. Good News
3. Blackmail
4. Channel Swimmer
5. The Film Of My Love
6. Don't Hang Up
7. Get It While You Can
8. How Dare You
9. I Wanna Rule The World
10. Lazy Ways
11. Rock 'N' Roll Lullaby
12. The Things We Do For Love
13. Don't Squeeze Me Like Toothpaste
14. Honeymoon With B Troop
15. People In Love
16. The Second Sitting For The Last Supper (live)
17. Wall Street Shuffle (live)
18. Waterfall (live)

Disc 2
1. Dreadlock Holiday
2. For You And I
3. From Rochdale To Ocho Rios
4. Lifeline
5. Nothing Can Move Me
6. Reds In My Bed
7. Shock On The Tube (Don't Want Love)
8. Take These Chains
9. Tokyo
10. It Doesn't Matter At All
11. Lovers Anonymous
12. One-Two-Five
13. Strange Lover
14. Don't Turn Me Away
15. Memories
16. The Power Of Love
17. You're Coming Home Again
18. Food For Thought

What makes this collection interesting for me really is the second disc. It spans the 'Bloody Tourists' album from 1978 through the 1983 'Windows in the Jungle' album, which was to be their last album of the decade and their last for another nine years. While 'Bloody Tourists' is in print as of this posting, it is becoming harder and harder to find, and 'Look Hear?,' 'Ten out of 10' and 'Windows in the Jungle' have been out of print for ages. Therefore, the fact that this collection offers a multitude of tracks from these albums is enough of a reason to purchase this disc for a hardcore 10cc fan alone. Songs like 'Food for Thought,' 'Strange Lover,' 'The Power of Love,' and 'Reds in My Bed' are all worth hearing, and prove just what incredible musicians Stewart and Gouldman were (and are).

Also, the sound quality on this disc is incredible. Spectrum Music did an INCREDIBLE job remastering these songs. They sound fresh and dynamic, exactly how a good remaster is supposed to sound. These are not distorted or overcompressed in any way. A darn near perfect remastering job done by Spectrum Music.

There are some flaws, though, despite my five-star rating. First (and this is a bit of a personal prejudice), why omit 'Taxi Taxi' from the 1983 'Windows in the Jungle' album? That song features an amazing Steve Gadd drum workout at the end of the track, and it's awfully frustrating that the track will continue to be neglected and ignored by many simply because the disc is not in print. Another flaw for American buyers is that is an import, so the price is a tad higher than your average disc, but believe me, if you like 10cc or you want the ideal introduction to this group, it is worth every penny.

Overall, regardless if you are a casual or hardcore 10cc fan, 'I'm Not in Love: The Essential Collection' belongs in your CD library. For the casual fans, it's got just about every essential 10cc cut from the Mercury years one could want. For the hardcore fans, it contains an entire disc's worth of incredibly hard-to-find material presented in tremendous sound quality. For the 10cc fan, this is a disc that simply cannot be passed up.

Highly recommended. Couple this with 'The Complete UK Recordings 1972-1974' and you've got yourself a mighty fine 10cc collection to start with. Of course, you'll likely end up picking up the in print 10cc albums eventually anyway, but for an introduction of the band's most popular period, you can't do much better than this.
Comment Comments (4) | Permalink | Most recent comment: May 26, 2013 6:26 PM PDT

Before the Flood
Before the Flood
Price: $14.99
47 used & new from $6.89

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Don't be so quick to judge this one, November 17, 2012
This review is from: Before the Flood (Audio CD)
When examining the catalogue of Bob Dylan, there always those albums that people love to hate. 'Bob Dylan at Budokan,' 'Street Legal,' 'Empire Burlesque,' 'Under the Red Sky,' and of course, 'Before the Flood.' I've heard from a ton of Dylan hardcore fans that hate this album, simply because of the radical rearrangements of the recordings.

So what, I say?

Look, Dylan has reinvented himself time and time again. His 1978 tour featured a reggae rendition of 'Don't Think Twice, It's All Right' for heaven's sake! And even nowadays, he's playing a totally reconstructed version of 'Tangled Up in Blue.' Dylan has ALWAYS changed the arrangements of his songs around, and he's been doing it as long as he's been performing live concerts (I have bootlegs from 1961 and 1962 that also confirm this statement).

'Before the Flood' is very heavy on the Garth Hudson layers of synthesizers, but it makes it that much more interesting. The opening song, 'Most Likely You Go Your Way (And I'll Go Mine)' is the definitive version, in my opinion. Dylan's voice is as energetic as it has ever been here, and the keyboards are just phenomenal. Same goes for 'Lay Lady Lay' (although personal preference, the 1976 'Hard Rain' version is my favorite of the officially released versions, just because it is a tad grittier), featuring some great keyboard work.

The Band also play an amazing set here. The live workouts of Band standards like 'Endless Highway' and 'Stage Fright' are just amazing. Also, the definitive version of 'Up on Cripple Creek' can be found on this disc as well. This is a great Band release as much as it is a Dylan release. Don't discard their contributions to this disc.

The closing number is especially poignant. 'Blowin' in the Wind' is featured here in a very interesting version, featuring an incredible Dylan vocal workout. This is an incredible version of the track, and one that is definitely work checking out.

Overall, don't discard this disc. The reinterpretations make this CD especially interesting, and let's be honest, how boring would it be if Dylan played the songs EXACTLY as they appeared on the studio albums night after night? These adaptations keep things fresh and also manage help to keep Dylan's legacy that much more interesting. A great live album, not only for Dylan, but also for The Band as well.

Check this disc out and give it another listen. Trust me when I say, if you like Dylan or The Band for that matter, you'll be extremely happy you did. In addition, the 2009 remaster sounds just incredible. This is a fine example of a remaster done correctly in this day and age where the "loudness war" prevails. 'Before the Flood' is remastered to perfection.

Highly recommended.

Price: $9.46
125 used & new from $1.38

9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the best albums of the 21st century so far -- better than 'Together Through Life' and 'Modern Times,' if that is possible, October 8, 2012
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: Tempest (Audio CD)
When I'd heard that Bob Dylan was releasing an album in September this past summer, I was stoked. Ecstatic. This was already a great year for music (with The Beach Boys, Van Halen, and Neil Young all releasing great albums this year), but it got a whole lot better when Columbia announced the release of 'Tempest.' I immediately pre-ordered my copy here on Amazon without thinking twice -- this was an album I was going to listen to for the duration of the year and really get into.

So the day came, and I received the album. I had heard 'Duquesne Whistle' and snippets of a few other songs, and I had really liked what I heard. So, my expectations were relatively high for the album -- surely it wouldn't be as good as 'Together Through Life' or 'Modern Times,' but it was in all likelihood going to be a good album. I put the album on my speaker, shut my eyes, and just listened.

"Wow" was the only word I could mutter when the album had ended. I sat in silence, stunned at the musical forcefield that was just bestowed upon me. Was it possible? At 71 years of age, has Dylan *really* created one of his best albums of his career? Maybe I was just so excited and so eager to have a new Dylan album to listen to that my judgment was being clouded. So I walked away and put the CD back into its cardboard sleeve and walked away for the night.

The next day, I listened to it again. Same setting -- a dark room, eyes shut, and the speaker aimed directly towards me. Wouldn't you know it but I liked the album better the second time around than I did the first, which is really saying something. And I would continue to play it day after day after day after day. It then hit me -- Dylan HAS released an album that is on par with his best albums.

Dylan's growl is as powerful and as moving as it has ever been. Here, Dylan tackles some great upbeat songs ('Early Roman Kings' is an incredible, Chicago-blues influenced piece of music -- it even "nicks" a bit or so from 'Mannish Boy,' the classic Muddy Waters cut) as well as some amazing slower songs ('Soon After Midnight' is the best ballad Dylan has done since 2006's 'Spirit on the Water').

But the highlight on this album is most definitely the 13+ minute title track. 'Tempest' was written about the Titanic, and includes some great references to the 1997 James Cameron film (with Leonardo DiCaprio, the film's star, having a few subtle namechecks thrown in). 'Tempest' is right up there with some of the great Dylan epics -- 'Sad-Eyed Lady of the Lowlands,' 'Idiot Wind,' 'Highlands' and obviously 'Brownsville Girl,' and the poetry used on this track is classic Dylan.

A tribute to John Lennon is also featured. 'Roll on John,' not to be confused with the old folk song that Dylan covered very early on in his career (1961-1962, namely), is an extremely well-written tribute to the legendary Beatles member and it also features a few subtle references (namely a few lyrics from 'A Day in the Life'). The track is nearly 8-minutes, and Dylan's growl is on full display here.

Part of what makes 'Tempest' interesting are the song lengths. Only two songs clock in under 5 minutes on the entire album, and half of the songs are over the 6-minute mark. The total time for the album is 68 minutes -- quite impressive for a man that is over 70-years old and is concluding his 51st year as a recording artist. The tracks are so well-performed, however, that they don't feel long. And that's what makes 'Tempest' great. It doesn't feel like a long album -- you'll get so immersed in the songs that before you know it, 68 minutes has come and gone. That is a testament to just how great an artist Bob Dylan is.

Overall, if you have been hesitating to buy 'Tempest' (and I honestly have no idea why you would hesitate), get it immediately. This album (and I know this is a bold statement, but I sincerely believe it to be true) is a better album than 'Modern Times' and 'Together Through Life.' While both of those albums are masterpieces, this album is, hands down, among the best Dylan has ever recorded. And while I personally prefer "Love & Theft" (and judging how I feel about this album less than a month after its release, that could quickly change), that's not knocking this album in any way. 'Tempest' belongs in that elite group of Dylan albums -- 'Bringing it All Back Home,' 'Highway 61 Revisited,' 'Blonde on Blonde,' 'John Wesley Harding,' 'Blood on the Tracks,' 'Oh Mercy,' 'Time out of Mind,' etc. -- in essence, the "all-time classics."

Even if you are a casual fan of Bob Dylan, I can almost guarantee you you'll find something you like in 'Tempest.' There's something here for all Dylan fans. I cannot recommend 'Tempest' enough. I've got tickets to see Bob Dylan in Philadelphia on November 19 with Mark Knopfler (a long-time Dylan collaborator and Dire Straits' frontman), and boy, this CD has got me feeling pretty good about the quality of that show. Needless to say I'm psyched.

Highly, highly recommended. Not only one of Dylan's best albums of the 21st century (like I said, only "Love & Theft" beats it and only by a small margin), but one of the best albums to be released in the 21st century so far. Get this album immediately. You won't be sorry.
Comment Comments (6) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Nov 23, 2012 4:02 PM PST

Deep Cuts
Deep Cuts

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A curio, no doubt, September 18, 2012
This review is from: Deep Cuts (MP3 Music)
This album, released as a digital-only EP in 2009, features four late-IRS period R.E.M. tracks. Three of them come from an acoustic gig the group played in 1987, only a few short months before they would depart the IRS label in favor of the big-time Warner Bros. label. Here, Stipe sings brilliantly, and the tracks certainly have that bootleg feel to them. The sound quality is certainly not live album quality -- not by any stretch.

For my money, the best version of 'The One I Love' in existence is the one captured here. You just can't beat it. Stipe's voice is just so raw and so powerful on it. 'Maps and Legends' also gets a nice acoustic workout here. 'Last Date' also appears in an interesting version.

However, these tracks are all available on a now out-of-print disc from 1998, 'Essential R.E.M. - In the Attic.' It's a weird title, and it was released by Capitol for a limited time that year (The Beach Boys and the Red Hot Chili Peppers were also included in the disc series). It's basically 'Dead Letter Office, Volume 2,' and it's a great disc. Despite the fact that it says it is "limited edition" on the cover, it's actually quite common, and a used copy can be found dirt cheap here on Amazon. Absolutely seek that disc out. You get what's here on this EP and plenty, plenty more.

Overall, there's absolutely no reason to buy this unless you are on a *super-tight* budget, you are a casual R.E.M. fan that wants a glimpse of what a live performance of theirs might have sounded like in 1987 (which is highly doubtful), or you must have everything with R.E.M.'s name on it. This is an interesting album and an interesting concept, which is why I'm being generous enough to give it three stars. But it's redundant and just not necessary. Go buy 'In the Attic.' Trust me, you'll be glad you did.
Comment Comments (5) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Oct 10, 2012 7:47 PM PDT

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