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Zaireeka
Zaireeka
27 used & new from $9.99

7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Oh. My. God. DID YOU HEAR THAT???, November 21, 2008
This review is from: Zaireeka (Audio CD)
Here's a great story. Wayne Coyne, because he's crazy, got the completely random idea to line up a bunch of cars in a parking lot and play a bunch of cassettes in that bunch of cars. He discovered all of the cassette players played perfectly in sync with each other. Then he repeated the experiment using CD players instead of cassette players, and he discovered that no two CD are ever perfectly synchronized. Ever. So then he got a really crazy idea. He decided to mix an album in the least conventional way possible. He decided that he would divide the mix over the course of four CD's, so that way you got a different perspective of each song each time you listened to it on each separate CD. Ideally, you were supposed to take all four CD's (they packaged this as a quadruple album, by the way) and listen to them on four separate CD players. That was the only way you could hear the whole thing. Of course, that also means there are fifteen different ways to listen to Zaireeka. I am both convinced that Wayne was tripping on some real hardcore acid when he recorded this thing and jealous that I didn't come up with this idea first.
And here's the thing. I've never even listened to this the way it's supposed to be experienced! I've cheated, got on YouTube, and listened to the versions they have that offer the full mix. I really want to have a Zaireeka party, I really want to have the surroundsound effect. I really do. I even have a way to play this off four different mediums (iTunes, Windows Media Player, my boom box, and the clock radio that wakes me up every morning). But as they are wont to do, the record company screwed the Lips over by only giving this album a limited release. I'm not sure if it's available in any store or not. If I see it, I fully intend to snatch it up, and play it the way it was meant to be played. But for now, I'll have to settle with the already-astonishing full YouTube version of the album, before I experiment with removing one disc, or two, or three.
Naturally, this is the most "out-there" of all Lips releases. While they had always been a rather artsy band, this album is art-rock, plain and simple. Of course it's art-rock. How could it not be? It literally challenges the way people listen to music. It defies the common perception of how music is supposed to be listened to. How is this not going to be artsy? Most of these songs are rambling suites that attempt to impress you with all the crazy sound effects they use, like the barking dogs on "The Big Ol' Bug is the New Baby Now," the screams on "Riding to Work in the Year 2025 (Your Invisible Now)," the insect noises on "A Machine in India," and the high-pitched vocalizing on "The Train Runs Over the Camel But is Derailed by the Gnat" and you know what? They succeed in impressing you, or at least impressing me. Like Pink Floyd before them, they've made an art of incorporating "stuff" in their music, only they take it further than even Pink Floyd ever did. Of course, I'm sure that if Pink Floyd had the proper technology in the '70s, they'd have tried an album like this too, and it probably would've been awesome.
The thing is that even when you remove the crazy layers of trippiness, the songs are pretty damn good in and of their own. "Riding to Work in the Year 2025" defines ambition, beginning with a haunting string pattern before moving into space-rock and hard rock - it's a deft, creative arrangement, and it works perfectly. "35,000 Feet of Despair" is gorgeous, and "A Machine in India" would be gorgeous if it wasn't insane. I don't know how else to describe the screechy see-saw noises and insect buzzings. Just insane! A good type of insane, though. A really, really good type of insane. The song has me riveted for all ten of its minutes. Completely riveted. "Okay, I'll Admit That I Really Don't Understand" leads the album off with a fantastic bass part and some weird, barely audible backing vocals chanting the title. The beautifully overproduced "How Will We Know (Futuristic Crashendos)" sounds like it was beamed down from heaven. And the demented lullaby "The Big Ol' Bug is the New Baby Now" gets a lot of points for me for its twisted sing-along qualities.
And even when the album sucks, it still at least sucks in interesting ways. The album does suck, yes, but only in one place: "March of the Rotten Vegetables." I don't know how anyone can listen to that buzzing noise that dominates it. I find it unnerving to the point of being unlistenable. I've heard they put a warning label on the album that said the low-frequency buzzing may cause nausea, and let me tell you, they weren't kidding. I do admit I find "March of the Rotten Vegetables" utterly terrible. But if you have to be utterly terrible, go all-out, so at least you can win some kudos for totally taking a chance. I mean, even for an avant-garde non-song sound collage, that's a pretty daring experiment. Besides, maybe it wasn't supposed to sound good.
Anyone who ever had any doubts about the Flaming Lips being arguably the most creative band of the '90s (I'd say it's a toss-up between them and Radiohead) should try their best to find this album right now and see if they still think that way. Wayne Coyne, if you're reading this, wherever you are, you're a genius. A freaking genius.
Comment Comments (8) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jul 6, 2012 3:23 PM PDT


Soft Bulletin
Soft Bulletin
Price: $6.99
152 used & new from $0.33

1 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars For better or worse, the Flaming Lips grow up, November 20, 2008
This review is from: Soft Bulletin (Audio CD)
Well, this has sure become a lot of people's favorite Flaming Lips album. "The Pet Sounds of the '90s," they say. I won't argue one thing: it is a good album. When done properly, I love lush, psychedelic symphonic pop. The sound of the album on a whole is big, grand, and sweeping. Which makes sense, since the Lips had originally intended this to be their last album (though that didn't happen, thankfully - what would the world be without "Do You Realize??"). So, once more, the band decided to create their own genre for themselves by fusing elements of the aforementioned lush, psychedelic, symphonic pop (something that never seems to go out of style) and electronica. The result is an album at least as daring as anything else they've done, if not more, because it also represents a total shift in priorities for them. Loud, fuzzy guitars and white noise experiments are out; strings are in.
The album has a lot going for it. The intricate arrangements are fascinating. A lot of attention was paid to getting all the details right. For instance, you have the overdubbed strings and overdubbed vocals on the beautiful "Race for the Prize," the Arabic-influenced strings on the first half of "The Spark that Bled" (before it turns to country-rock for no good reason), and the piano-synthesizer interplay stuff on "Spiderbite Song," the most overtly techno-ish song on the album and probably the most complicated, to the point of annoyance - it's otherwise a great song, but it's dragged down by overly busy drum machine fills. The melodies are gorgeous, like on "A Spoonful Weighs a Ton," which also has an interestingly weird arrangement. The sound of the whole album is quite lovely.
And there are a lot of fantastic songs here. "Race for the Prize" is 100% pure gorgeous. "The Spark that Bled" has a lovably strange arrangement that flies in the face of genre conventions. "What is the Light?" has a huge, orchestral conclusion and a creepy, echoing low piano loop. And since I'm a total sucker for cool sequencing tricks, I'm a big fan of how "What is the Light?" flows right into "The Observer" with the wonder of a "thud-thud-thud" rhythm that carries through both songs and gives "The Observer" a foundation to build upon, and build it does, adding quiet guitar passages, layers of synthesizers, and strings. The leadoff single "Waitin' on a Superman" is one of the group's strongest, with the chimes, the piano, and the treated vocals combining to create a gorgeous effect. I'm surprised it wasn't a bit hit. It should've been, because on top of all the other good stuff about it, it also has a very strong melody. I still prefer "Race for the Price" in terms of sheer sonic soothingness, though.
But I have two major problems with The Soft Bulletin, and wouldn't you know it, both of them go hand-in-hand. Problem a: the album is way too long. Problem dos: all the songs sound the same. I'd be all for (okay, maybe a bit hesitant about) a fifty-six minute album that was really diverse, but when you stay in one bag for almost an hour, it kind of tries my patience, which admittedly wasn't much to begin with. Objectively there's nothing really wrong with "Feeling Yourself Disintegrate" and "Suddenly Everything Has Changed." The problem I have with them is that there are so many other, superior songs like them on this album they just feel warmed-over and inferior. No way either of these are as good as "Waitin' on a Superman" or "Race for the Prize." "The Gash" admirably tries to break formation by using a symphony of vocal effects, but it, um... un-admirably does so by applying a symphony of vocal effects. Terrible-sounding vocal effects, too. It's one of the few unlistenable Flaming Lips songs I'm aware of. It might even be the only one.
A lot of people consider this the band's masterpiece. And hey, I'm not gonna mess with them for it or anything. But in this opinionated reviewer's opinion, discussions of the band's best work are not complete without Transmissions from the Satellite Heart and Clouds Taste Metallic. I also kind of miss the cool song titles from earlier albums ("Guy Who Got Headache and Accidentally Saves the World" comes to mind. So does "The Big Ol' Bug is the New Baby Now"), but that's such a minor thing to quibble about I just won't quibble about it. And this is an enjoyable album. It's hard not to love "Race for the Prize" or "Waitin' on a Superman." But I think this record's maturity in comparison to old records actually hurts it in a way, just because there's nothing adorable like "Christmas at the Zoo" or "She Don't Use Jelly." But I'm sweating the small stuff. Time to stop it now.
Comment Comments (6) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Nov 28, 2008 7:26 PM PST


Inspiration
Inspiration
Price: $6.69
32 used & new from $3.96

2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An excellent album with an awesome cover, despite its limits, October 28, 2008
This review is from: Inspiration (Audio CD)
Maze was one of the better synth-heavy R&B outfits from the late '70s and early '80s, and I think it's a great thing that their best songs are favorites on the old-school R&B radio playlists.They also have some cool, mysterious album covers, with this one being a favorite. This, their third album, is reputed to be their best studio work, and like most the rest of what they do it's divided between smooth, silky ballads ("Lovely Inspiration"; "Woman is a Wonder") and mellow funk (the excellent Top Ten hit "Feel That You're Feelin'"; "Timin'", with prominent piano; "Welcome Home", with its surprise piano and percussion breakdown). The main selling point is Frankie Beverly, who more or less led the group - his vocals have a nice flow to them, and his tone is perfect though derivative of Marvin Gaye. The rest of the group is fine, too: Keyboarder Sam Parker plays some mean organ; the rhythm section isn't adventurous yet stays in the pocket, and the several backup singers often improve the songs even further. There are a couple weak links - "Woman is a Wonder" goes over-the-top with its synthesized strings in the chorus; while "Call on Me" and "Ain't It Strange" are strewn with clichés, though the music is fine. It's not as good as its follow-up, Joy and Pain, but it's still a great album.


Let It Be
Let It Be
Offered by sterlingcds
Price: $60.00
36 used & new from $7.27

3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Beatles end on a high note. A very, very high note..., October 28, 2008
This review is from: Let It Be (Audio CD)
So another Beatles album gets another really high score. Not only that, but outside of the Beatles Triumvirate (Abbey Road, Revolver, Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band), this is my favorite Beatles album! This was the last album they ever released, and what a way to go out! A lot of people consider it a lesser work, but I firmly disagree. Not even Phil "murderous sociopath with worse hair than Don King" Spector's production job can kill it! It's true that "The Long and Winding Road" is gutted, but no amount of overproduction can stop the fact that, beneath the layers of everything (including the kitchen sink, not to mention a choir, a brass section, strings, and a gong at the end), there is a fantastic melody waiting. You can hear that melody on the piano-bass-drums-vocals version of "Road" found on Let It Be... Naked, by the way, which is far superior to this take and one of my Beatle favorites. And I actually think the production adds to a couple songs: all the brass gives Harrison's cynical waltz "I Me Mine" an edge; and the trippy effects similarly make "Across the Universe" seem even more cosmic. And then there are the songs that really kick butt. You've heard the title track, I'm hoping? It's Paul's greatest piano ballad ever, with the exception of nothing at all. It just may be the best song he ever wrote, though I'd also pull for "Hey Jude" or maybe "Penny Lane" on that count. Guest Billy Preston adds a beautiful gospel organ to the song, and the heavy guitar riffs add emotional texture to the song. You probably also know "Get Back", a fun rocker with some wonderful slide guitar, and there's a lot of other grade a material in that vein - the captivating nonsense "Dig a Pony", "I've Got a Feeling" (which contains this awesome part in the last verse where Paul sings the verse lyrics and John contrasts it with the bridge, which in turn has a funny lyric about everyone in the world having a wet dream at the same time), Chuck Berry throwback "One After 909", which takes a lot of abuse but is actually a personal favorite, "Two of Us", a welcome return to Rubber Soul's folk-rock. I guess a lot of these songs are either "generic Beatle rockers" or "generic Beatle ballads" - the only break from the formula is "For You Blue", an excellent blues with more slide - but I like what I'm hearing regardless, because generic or not, these tracks are good! Most controversial amongst fans are the two subminute tracks. I love "Dig It", a goofy, stupid throwaway with amusing lyrics, though I admit it would probably be awful if it was presented in the eight-minute version that allegedly exists somewhere in the vaults. On the other hand, "Maggie Mae" - not the Rod Stewart hit, but a Liverpudlian folk tune - annoys me, with the group singing the ballad of that dirty no-good rotten Maggie Mae in the most exaggerated, annoying accents they could muster up. At least it's only thirty-nine seconds. Thankfully, it's the only bad song on the album. It ain't art, it's just one of the Beatles' finest albums.
Comment Comments (6) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Mar 6, 2009 11:42 PM PST


Collective Soul
Collective Soul
Offered by megahitrecords
Price: $11.74
517 used & new from $0.01

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars With a little editing, this would've been one of the five or ten best albums of the '90s., October 23, 2008
This review is from: Collective Soul (Audio CD)
I've harped on some bands for being unoriginal. But there are times when originality doesn't really matter. If a band has a good sense of melody and a lot of heart, I won't give them any crap for their lack of originality. Nobody will ever pretend that Collective Soul is a group of great innovators, and I would hesitate to call them "alternative," but hey, they've got a good sense of melody and a lot of heart, so I'll give them a free pass.

About half this album is made up of rockers that are fortified with a big dollop of guitar crunch, lyrics about peace and love, and occasionally fortified with memorable effects, like the weird choppy phasing found on the untitled song. The rockers are mostly pretty good, too, like the hit "Gel," the opening "Simple," and the semi-metallic "Smashing Young Man," with cool hip-hop percussion and a sax-guitar break. Problem is that there are so many of them, they eventually become sort of interchangeable and boring. For example, "Where the River Flows" does nothing for me at all. Neither does "She Gathers Rain" or "Collection of Goods" (kinda like the untitled one, only with treated vocals in addition to treated guitar), for that matter. So basically, the rock here can be memorable, or it can be a giant cesspool of boring formula.

But rock isn't what I listen to Collective Soul for. A lot of '90s rockers can give me the crunch a lot more convincingly - Nirvana, Smashing Pumpkins, Soundgarden, whoever - and while Collective Soul's all right at it, that's not where they're at the top of their game. Now, the mellow stuff is entirely different. Sure, I like "Smashing Young Man" and "Gel" (cool harmonics! Awesome guitar solo!), and "Simple" and all that, but my two favorite songs on this album by far have to be "December" and especially "The World I Know." For whatever reason, "The World I Know" the song I turn to whenever I'm having a crappy day. I have absolutely no idea why, but it's really uplifting for some reason. Maybe it's the strings. Maybe it's the melody. Maybe it's the awesome acoustic guitar introduction, which would make it one of the few songs I can play on guitar. Maybe it's just because it reminds me of when I first discovered it, back in the summer, which was a great period for my life. Whatever the reason, though, it's a winning song. And so is "December," with the crawling arpeggios and the "two-vocal-hooks-going-at-the-same-time" ending and a catchy melody.

Also on the mellower (and therefore good, because this band is great with mellowness) side? Oh, all kinds of stuff. In other words, three songs. "When the Water Falls" is a LOT better than the similarly titled "Where the River Flows," because in addition to a warm `n' fuzzy guitar tone it's also got acoustic guitars adding some really pretty textures. Those textures come back on "Bleed," another fine song, with vocalist Ed Roland's distinct falsetto and guitars that manage to sound heavy and light at the same time. I actually think it sort of has a vague Smashing Pumpkins-meets-AC/DC sound to it, though that might be the kind of vague, desperate connection I sometimes make to try and impress people. "Reunion" is also nice, giving the album a gospel-inspired conclusion. I actually think it's my favorite song besides the two big singles. Bongos! Arpeggiated guitars! Tasteful organ! Cool!

This is a pretty solid album. "The World I Know," "December," and "Reunion" kick my butt in a subtle, understated way, "Smashing Young Man," and "Gel" rock nicely and efficiently, and only "She Gathers Rain" and "Collection of Goods" suck. I also think it's safe to assume this is Collective Soul's best album. Because, I mean, how can anyone get any better than "The World I Know."
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Apr 1, 2010 11:15 AM PDT


Avalon Sunset
Avalon Sunset
15 used & new from $29.99

6 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "There is no past, there is only now", October 19, 2008
This review is from: Avalon Sunset (Audio CD)
For whatever reason, it took me longer to come around to Avalon Sunset than any other Van album, bar Saint Dominic's Preview(which is currently my second-favorite of his career, behind the almighty Astral Weeks). I don't know what about it I didn't like at first. But it's really grown on me, and now I can safely say it's a good album.
And tracks seven through ten are the closest post-classic Van ever came to reclaiming that majesty of those early albums. Oh, sure, he put out several great songs in the '80s. But I think this is the only time he put out that many songs of impossibly high quality in a row since Veedon Fleece. Leading off this stretch of supreme goodness is "When Will I Ever Learn to Live in God," a spiritual with a fantastic organ part and a great melody. "Orangefield" has a really pretty melody that tugs on my heartstrings and a winning orchestration. "Daring Night" has a catchy riff and all kinds of drive - in someone else's hands, I could see this as one hell of a rocker. And the record closes with its best song, "These Are the Days." Like so many of Van's other songs, it starts simply, with a guitar stating the melody. And it builds, and builds, and builds until it reaches a huge, gospel-influenced climax. And the melody's fantastic, too. Van expresses joy and boundless optimism flawlessly. Epic win. The song is crying out to be used in a movie of some kind.
Unfortunately, I'm not too sure about the first six tracks. They're mostly good, but they pale in comparison to the last four. There are some real good songs among them, though. "Have I Told You Lately" was a pretty big hit, reversing Van's commercial fortunes and making this his first gold album in many moons. And while it's a bit sappy, it's also as melodic as all the rest of his best stuff. "Whenever God Shines His Light," a collaboration with Cliff Richard (best known for getting knocked off his place as Britain's #1 Pop Star by the Beatles) is a neateriffic pop-reggae-religion fusion with a rhythm even an agnostic can tap his foot to. The acoustic blues "I'd Love to Write Another Song" doesn't fit in with this album at all, but since it's really hard to screw up acoustic blues, I'll give it a bye. Besides, it's a good song.
But the other three tunes? Ennnh... "Contacting My Angel" and "I'm Tired Joey Boy" do nothing for me. And "Coney Island" is a contender for the worst Van Morrison song. It's down there with the real dregs - "Troubadours," "Venice, U.S.A.," "Virgo Clowns," "September Night," and all the other REAAAAAALLY bad ones. Reciting a poem about growing up in Ireland? I've heard worse ideas. Accompanying that poem with a string part that was clearly written in two seconds? Hm... I've got a bad feeling about this. Reciting that poem in an Irish accent so thick and stereotypical, you sound like you're trying to be for the Irish what Groundskeeper Willie is for the Scottish? Let's never do that again. Okay? Okay. I don't know, maybe that's Van's natural voice, but if it is it sounded a lot better on Astral Weeks than it does here. Oddly enough, it was chosen as a single, has shown up on The Best of Van Morrison, Vol. 2 and Still on Top: The Greatest Hits (That's what she said! Sorry, couldn't resist), and was covered by Liam Neeson, so I think a lot of people like it more than I do. That's fine. It's just that I think it's a fetid piece of crap, that's all.
And a fetid piece of crap on an otherwise good album! That, I think, is what frustrates me most about that damn song.
Comment Comments (4) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Feb 14, 2012 12:10 PM PST


Between the Buttons
Between the Buttons
Offered by Izabella'sBooks
Price: $17.99
47 used & new from $2.05

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Stones go British. Really, really British. (I mean, they were British already, but you know...), October 11, 2008
This review is from: Between the Buttons (Audio CD)
Here's a group known for playing more American forms of music - rock, blues, country, soul - going completely British on us. It's an eccentric, goofy, piano-dominated album that sounds like some weird theater music. But it's fun! Ah, yes, it is the most fun album in the Stones catalogue! I like this one a lot, I do.

There is a bit of rock, but just a bit. On the (slightly) more rockin' side is "Connection," which has a fuzzy guitar, "Let's Spend the Night Together," which is just amazing (I shouldn't need to talk much about it, because you probably already know it, but I love the harmonies on it), the grumbly blues-rocker "My Obsession," the heavy, fuzzed-out "All Sold Out," which even then has this awesome flute part that is not rock at all, and "Miss Amanda Jones," a blast with some searing guitars. And even then, none of those are the classic butt-kickin' warhorses like "Jumpin' Jack Flash" or "Satisfaction." "Amanda Jones," for instance, has tinkling cabaret piano in the choruses.

Most the album is screwed-up music hall. "Cool Calm and Collected" is a jolly good time, a jaunty piano tune with solos by everything from harmonica to kazoo. "Yesterday's Papers," augmented by a harpsichord, is bouncy fun, and "Complicated" sounds like a totally groovy spy movie theme with Keith doing a hilariously stupid pirate laugh. And how can you not like something as fun as "Something Happened to Me Yesterday?" It's like Monty Python! How can you not like Monty Python? Keith sings on it, too! And it's about tripping on acid, man! And it's got stupid show tune horns! I mean, it's hilarious! These songs are even more un-Stonesy than Aftermath, but they work, because they're the Rolling Stones and they're absolutely brilliant. Go figure.

"Ruby Tuesday" also deserves a lot of recognition, being one of the Stones' greatest ballads (though I still think "Wild Horses" and "You Can't Always Get What You Want" are stronger). Brian Jones is at his finest playing that beautiful recorder that supplants the melody and makes the song something truly memorable. I mean, the song had a fantastic melody and top-notch vocal in the first place, but the recorder really pushes it through the top. I love the choruses, too, when the song abruptly speeds up thanks to Charlie's awesome, unexpected drum entrance. Ah, what a song, that "Ruby Tuesday!"

Obviously, not every song is as awesome as "Ruby Tuesday" or "Let's Spend the Night Together." I probably would've wanted a couple more of those to push the rating on this one even higher. But hey, every song is enjoyable to some degree, even the infamous Dylan rip "Who's Been Sleeping Here?" and the uneventful but melodic "She Smiled Sweetly," a barely audible ballad. It's another side of the Rolling Stones, a side you're probably not used to, but give it a chance. It's great!


Their Satanic Majesties Request
Their Satanic Majesties Request
Offered by Recycle Seedeez
Price: $19.99
41 used & new from $16.57

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Misunderstood, underrated, underappreciated, whatever..., October 11, 2008
These Stones role doobies! This album should suck, and for the longest time, I thought I did. Ah, but I learned my lesson. For those who honestly don't know, this is the group's psychedelic album. A lot of people view it as a cheap shot at Sgt. Pepper, but that's pretty far from the truth. To me, it sounds like the Stones just took a bunch of everything that was going on in '67 and mashed it together in a big melting pot.

So you've got your loud, fantastically catchy acid-rock a la Jimi Hendrix ("Citadel"), your universalist marching band anthems a la just about everyone back then ("Sing This Song Together"), your creepy, dissonant space freakouts a la Pink Floyd ("2000 Light Years from Home"), some druggy folk a la Traffic ("The Lantern," "2000 Man"), and even some world music inspired jamming a la nobody else at the time ("Gomper," "Sing This Song Together (See What Happens)". For fear of being hated by everyone, I am going to come out right now and say I like all of "Sing This Song Together (See What Happens)". It's unlike anything else you'll ever hear - a chaotic combination of free jazz and world music, with a "sex part" thrown in just for good measure. Even the album's defenders tend to crap all over it, but I think it's a really enjoyable, if odd, jam.

Actually, I pretty much enjoy every song on this album. Only two are true classics, and "On with the Show" is a pathetic attempt to send us all home laughing. And it's not like this can compete with Are You Experienced? or Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. But it's cool! "The Lantern" is one of the grooviest things in history, with rumbling piano and blues guitar licks. Bill Wyman's "In Another Land," with hazy "underwater" vocals and a catchy harpsichord line, must be about an acid trip or something. And it is quite good! "Gomper" proves that no Brit could play bizarre instruments like Brian Jones.

"2000 Light Years from Home" is my favorite. The mellotron is so spooky! The rumbling bass vamp is so cool! And the piano-bashing intro rules! And despite its uncanny similarity to the Beatles, "She's a Rainbow" is a fantastic little pop song, with a brilliant string arrangement from future Zeppelin member John Paul Jones.

This album shouldn't work at all, but it does. It does very well. Why? Because the early Rolling Stones could do anything, that's why. Oh, and you know why record companies suck? I'll tell you why. The trippy, brass-and-harmony fortified "We Love You" and the gently psychedelic "Dandelion" somehow missed the final cut on this album! They're both great songs, but they were only put out as a single. Why? I'm just guessing it has something to do with those stupid UK single separated from album practices, practices that make no sense to me.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Oct 28, 2008 7:36 PM PDT


Time Fades Away
Time Fades Away
16 used & new from $29.99

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars In which Neil Young takes on the world and wins, October 10, 2008
This review is from: Time Fades Away (Vinyl)
This is the "great lost Neil Young album" - now that they finally put On the Beach out on CD, it's the only Neil Young album still missing on CD here in the 21st century other than the ill-fated soundtrack album Journey through the Past. The legend goes that Neil hated the tour and album alike. As such, he decided never to release it. But thanks to the awesome power of YouTube (and I've bought somewhere around ten Neil Young albums, so it's not like I haven't supported the guy), I found this entire album. Being a fairly big Neil Young fan, I can only imagine my reaction to discovering this whole album was online all this time was somewhat akin to Galahad finding the Holy Grail.

Neil was angry for a lot of reasons before this came out. Denny Whitten, Crazy Horse's onetime second guitarist, overdosed on drugs. Harvest's massive success gave a lot of people the wrong image of Neil, as many listeners came to hear the mellow country-folkie, for a pleasant little night of "Heart of Gold," "Old Man," and maybe an encore of "Only Love Can Break Your Heart." Neil was also drinking heavily at the time, thanks to Whitten's death. Those all combined to make one pissed-off album. Despite it being live, none of these songs appeared on any contemporary studio album. That's a shame, because many of them are fine examples of Neil's grimy rock `n' roll style, a style that upset many Harvest fans.

For instance, take that guitar riff in the phenomenally underrated "Yonder Stands the Sinner." Some guitar riff, huh? A little sleaze, a little boogie, and a little anger is a recipe for a perfect rock song, which is a great way to describe "Yonder Stands the Sinner." It's also a great way to describe the sarcastic "L.A.," which is even better than "Yonder Stands the Sinner." This one takes the grime and adds some subtlety, with lovely lap steel and piano in the ironically melancholic chorus. And how I like Neil's vocals there! You can hear the sarcasm bleeding through. And if you like the barroom rock atmosphere of Tonight's the Night, the title track here is really for you. That's also one hell of a riff on "Don't Be Denied," even though the song itself never actually lives up to that riff and goes on a bit too long.

I normally really like the softer side of Neil Young as well as the harder side, but it doesn't really gel here. On three of the eight tracks, Neil just sits at his piano and sings. But both songs feel really out of place on such an angry, uncompromising record. "Journey Through the Past" is decent, but it's no "After the Gold Rush." Despite being under two minutes, "Love in Mind" manages to suck, because it doesn't really have a melody of note. "The Bridge" is a little better - yes, the vocal blows, but I think the piano part is nice `n' dramatic.

But the closing "Last Dance" offers you all the bile you could every want in a song, and on this album that's a very, very good thing. It's one of Neil's best extended cuts, clocking in at eight-and-a-half minutes. Awesome stuff. David Crosby and Graham Nash back up one of Neil's most angry vocals, and as usual with Neil, the guitar solo is really something to be heard. That's him putting all the emotions he had felt on the tour into his guitar. If you, like me, are a fan of "Down by the River" and its ilk, you will probably also like "Last Dance." Not just for the guitars, but for the tinkly pianos too!

So here's what Neil did on this album: he headed for the ditch. Stayed there for a while. Made some great music. If you can find this album (and again, the whole thing's on YouTube!), and if you liked the other two "ditch albums" (On the Beach and Tonight's the Night), round out the trilogy. Give this a listen. It's good, I assure you. It's probably his best live album, and it's definitely his most interesting, unpredictable live album.
Comment Comments (6) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Oct 11, 2008 5:31 PM PDT


Flowers
Flowers
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64 used & new from $5.20

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A nice trip through the most "un-Stonesy" years, October 9, 2008
This review is from: Flowers (Audio CD)
Totally blown opportunity, but thankfully it's a blown opportunity filled with good music. The intention of this album was to round up some stray tracks that didn't make the US versions of Aftermath and Between the Buttons, along with a few other songs that happened to be lying around. But for some weird reason, they also decided to include "Let's Spend the Night Together" and "Ruby Tuesday," which were both on the US version of Between the Buttons, and "Lady Jane," which was on everyone's version of Aftermath. Meanwhile, the classic a-side "19th Nervous Breakdown" somehow missed this album, even though it didn't come out on an LP in either the U.S. or the U.K.! That is both impractical and stupid.

However, there is still many a fine song here. The best of them is probably "Mother's Little Helper," which I already talked up in my Aftermath review. But do you know how cool I think that song is? They got the twelve-string guitar to sound like a sitar! That, I think, is pretty sweet. The song's lyrics must also be mentioned. Like "19th Nervous Breakdown," it's got a lot of drug references in them (here it's about a housewife who pops pills to get through the day), but they're cleverly hidden - the cool people would get them, but they would go over the censors' heads. "Out of Time" is a gem of a pop song as well, boasting a fantastic arrangement. Love the marimbas! And the harmonies! "Have You Seen Your Mother Baby, Standing in the Shadows?" is a great stab at psychedelia. That song is, like, ADD or something. Horns, guitars, vocals, pianos, and all that stuff fly in and out of the mix. Me likey! You probably already know "Ruby Tuesday" and "Let's Spend the Night Together," and if you've got Aftermath you've heard "Lady Jane." They're still classic songs, of course... but come on, enough is enough.

A lot of the other, less famous songs win, too! "Backstreet Girl" is easily the best song of what's left, an acoustic waltz with subtle shades of accordion and innuendo alike. Those who like that softer side of the Stones will also be quite pleased with "Ride On, Baby" and "Sittin' on a Fence," which are both lilting acoustic tunes. Meanwhile, fans of "Have You Seen Your Mother..." will probably also get a kick out of the acid Bo Diddley "Please Go Home," which works despite itself.

Not every song is great or even good, though. I've never been a "Take it or Leave It" aficionado (if such a thing even exists (which I doubt, because no one ever talks about it)), and their version of "My Girl" is an insult to the classic original. Everything that could go wrong with that song does. The strings sound terrible! It's oversung! Whee! Just kidding. Oh, and I guess it's annoying how "What to Do" missed this album even though it's on the UK version of Aftermath but not the U.S. one.

Still, some good songs here, and only one bad one. '66-'67 was an interesting era for the Stones, and this is a good representation of it.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Oct 3, 2010 3:56 AM PDT


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