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Daniel Ferguson-Maltzman RSS Feed (Arlington, MA, USA)

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High 'n' Dry
High 'n' Dry
Price: $10.99
46 used & new from $6.99

51 of 60 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A great album from a once great band, June 27, 2007
This review is from: High 'n' Dry (Audio CD)
There was a time, long, long ago when Def Leppard rocked. By listening to the band's musical out-put for the last fifteen years, it may be hard to believe that, but it's true. Early on, before "Let's Get Rocked," before touring with Bryan Adams and Journey, before making adult-contemporary soft-rock with the stink-bomb "X," (2002) there was a time when Def Leppard was genuinely a great rock band.

Released at the start of a new decade, the Judas Priest sounding debut from Def Leppard, '"On through the Night," (1980) may not have been the most original album of all-time, but it's still a great little-known gem in the chronicles of the NWOBHM (New Wave of British Heavy Metal). For their sophomore release, the band hooked-up with its unofficial sixth member, long-time Def Leppard collaborator and producer, John "Mutt" Lange. Released a year after the debut, Def Leppard's second album "High N' Dry" (1981) has some of the same NWOBHM elements that were on the "On though the Night, but also sees the band establishing its own identity and searching out new terrain.

AC/DC's monumental album "Back in Black" (1980) no doubt had an influence on Def Leppard's "High N' Dry." From singer Joe Elliot's attempts to sound like Brian Johnson, to guitarists Steve Clarke and Pete Willis attempts to imitate the Young brothers, "High N' Dry" sounds a lot like AC/DC. This isn't so surprising when you consider the fact that Lange produced "Back in Black." That said, the seeds of Def Leppard's signature sound that is so apparent on "Pyromania" (1983) and "Hysteria," (1987) like the melodic sing-along choruses and metallic yet infectious hooks, make their appearance on "High N' Dry." In a sense "High N' Dry" can be seen as the album that bridged the gap between Def Leppard's NWOBHM years, apparent on their debut, to their definitive pop-metal heyday of "Pyromania" and "Hysteria."

The band's early line-up on their first three albums was by far the best. Sorry Phil Collin (and Vivian Campbell), but the Pete Willis/Steve Clarke combo were by far the finest duel-guitarists that the band ever had. Their riffs and solos throughout the album are just plain killer, easily as good as anything AC/DC had to offer (is it blasphemy to hold that opinion?). It should be noted that apart from "Hit and Run," every song on "High N' Dry" was co-penned by either Clarke and/or Willis. With both long since gone (Willis was fired in '83 and Clarke died in '91) it's easy to see how the band has suffered creatively ever since. The songwriting throughout the whole disc is terrific, with very well-crafted but hard-rocking songs, one after the other, without a dud in the lot. Even the album's one balled "Bringing on the Heartbreak" sounds great and is light-years better than the syrupy trash that made up the band's most recent steaming-pile of manure, abomination of an album "X."

Another great feature of "High N' Dry" is its organic sound. While the band may be most well known for their ultra-slick "Hysteria," on "High N' Dry" the band sounds a lot rawer, much more rough-around-the edges and a lot more ballsy than they would on later albums ("Pyromania" can be seen as a mid-way point between the two).

"High N' Dry" is also great simply because the band wants to rock. Def Leppard at this point in their career were hungry and eager to prove to the world that they kicked ass, and they did. Don't believe Joe Elliot when he tells you that Def Leppard were always really a pop band at heart, not a metal one, that just isn't true. While there is a clear pop-sensibility to "High N' Dry" it most definitely has a metallic edge and a lot of balls.

When I think of Def Leppard, I think of the group existing as two separate entities. First, there is the Def Leppard of the 80s, a great rock band who put out four terrific albums, even if they did get a little too commercial towards the end. And second there is the Def Leppard of the 90s/00s, an embarrassment; a band for soccer moms, the less said about the better.

So even if Def Leppard has sucked beyond belief for years, go back in time with "High N' Dry," and rock out to an album from a once really great band.
Comment Comments (8) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jun 19, 2012 9:20 PM PDT

Nothing's Shocking
Nothing's Shocking
Price: $6.49
289 used & new from $0.01

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Nothing Shocking about why so many people like this album, June 26, 2007
This review is from: Nothing's Shocking (Audio CD)
Everyone seems to dig Jane's Addiction--ever notice that? Indie-snobs, punk-rockers, arty types, metal-heads--they all seem to agree that Jane's Addiction were pretty cool. Why is that exactly? If one listens to the band's debut studio album "Nothing Shocking" (1988) one can get a sense of why that is.

"Nothing Shocking" is an interesting album in that it's hard to pigeonhole. People will probably use the all-generic term "alternative" to describe the album, but that label seems a little unsatisfactory. Maybe the album is arty and off-center, but it isn't like a Sonic Youth album in that it's really obscure or avant-garde. In fact, the album is loaded with infectious hooks and terrific solos, and the album rocks, and rocks hard. Therefore, a guitar aficionado who is a fan of Van Halen or Hendrix, or just of guitar rock in general, is going to dig "Nothing Shocking" as much as the Sonic Youth/Velvet Underground crowd.

Additionally, "Nothing Shocking" has attracted many fans and praise no doubt because of the album's unique flavor. "Nothing Shocking" can sometimes be very gentle and soothing, and then, just like that, it's aggressive and even ferocious. Elements of jazz, new-age and funk are interspersed throughout. It's a very unpredictable album and one never knows exactly what will come next. The sound of the album is spacey, yet full; it's abstract, yet at the same time it's an album that many listeners can connect with. The structures of the songs are also non-traditional in that many of them don't follow a verse-chorus-verse pattern and the listener often doesn't know where a song in going; yet everything works.

Charismatic singer Perry Ferrell has a wholly unique voice that's really hard to describe. It's higher than that of most singers, and not really "full," yet carries everything on the album just fine. Ferrell's lyrics are not easily comprehensible, yet they don't sound pretentious either. He's not speaking in gibberish, he has something to say, yet it takes some thought to try to figure it out.

Guitarist Dave Navaro's solos are awesome and the dude obviously is a terrific player--yet he shows restraint, making sure that the killer solos avoid grandiosity and are just one element in the band's sound. Drummer Stephen Perkins and bassist Eric Avery provide and exciting and unpredictable rhythm section.

"Up the Beach," a three minute instrumental sets the perfect tone for the album--spacey, eerie and psychedelic. It's peaceful yet with an undercurrent of disharmony. "Ocean Size" is one of the album's more straight-forward rockers. It is one long, hard-hitting song, with gentle acoustic strumming sprinkled here and there. "Had a Dad" starts out hitting hard, but then a colorful, lush chorus kicks in, throwing the listener for a loop. "Ted, Just Admit it" is one of the album's more off-beat songs. It starts out unhurried, with a jazzy bass-line leading the listener through over noodling guitars, and then, almost without knowing what has hit you, the song suddenly becomes chaotic and there is a feeling of entropy. The lyrics are rather abstract and low-key, until around the middle when Ferrell repeats "sex is violent" over and over again, like a mantra. The drum solo and hectic soloing add to the feeling of disorder. The funk-laden "Standing in the Shower thinking" has a touch of Red Hot Chili Peppers to it and moves the album along nicely. The subdued, sleepy hypnotic "Summertime Rolls," much like the opening "Up the Beach" is tranquil, yet with a feeling of unease. The hard-rocking "Mountain Song" has a Led Zeppelin-like riff and vibe but with psychedelic underpinnings. The album takes a 140 degree turn for the jazzy/funky "Idiots Rule." The saxophone, trumpet and trombone blend in perfectly and add a really quirky but cool touch to the album. Jane's Addiction's most well-known song, the acoustic melancholy "Jane Says," tells the story of a woman with a heroin addiction. While the song is a modern/alternative rock staple, it never seems to get old. The jazzy minute long off-beat "Thank you Boys" is kind of strange and comes out of nowhere, but its inclusion works. Another abstract song, the closing "Pigs in Zen" makes for a good conclusion.

Released in 1988, "Nothing Shocking" sounds as fresh today as it did nearly twenty years ago and is one of the least dated albums I can think of. And while it has sold two million copies, and received much praise, it still manages to hold the allure of cult status. No matter what kind of music you are into, "Nothing Shocking" is an essential purchase. Hopefully a new generation of fans that are currently being force-fed Nickeback will discover the album.

Price: $10.99
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4 of 11 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Another Turkey from Def Leppard, June 25, 2007
This review is from: Yeah! (Audio CD)
1.5 stars

In theory, a Def Leppard album covering classic songs from the 1970s should be great, in reality; however, it is not so great.

After a string a mediocre to horrible albums that went nowhere (with the exception of 1996's underrated "Slang") Def Leppard shows the world their roots--where they came from and what influenced them with their covers albums "Yeah!" (2006).

You can't argue with the band's choices--Blondie, Bowie, T-Rex, ELO, Roxy Music, etc. It's all good stuff. The problem with "Yeah!" isn't a lack of good songs; rather the problem lies with Def Leppard themselves and their execution of the songs.

Def Leppard used to be a great band, no denying that. Their first four albums, specifically "High N' Dry" (1982) and "Pyromania" (1983) are two of the greatest hard-rock albums of the 1980s. That said, Def Leppard have sucked for years. "Slang" and the "Retroactive" (1993) compilation album aside, everything the band has released since the death of Steve Clarke has ranged from mediocre (1992's Adrenalize, 1999's "Euphoria") to downright horrid (2002's atrocious "X"). In short, it's been a long time since Def Leppard knew how to rock and they have long since lost their balls. So even when Def Leppard tries to cover rocking songs, they can't, they just don't know how.

If Def Leppard had released the same collection of songs on a covers album twenty-five years ago, (when they had Pete Willis and Steve Clarke on guitar) it would have been great. Now, however, it just sounds weak. As previously noted, the band no longer has any balls; the performance of the songs on this album is too smooth, with no sense of urgency, no teeth, no rock n' roll spirit. Most of the time the songs sound either forced, i.e., Sweet's "Hell Raiser" or too sugary, i.e., The Kinks "Waterloo Sunset." This album sounds like a bunch of over-the-hill rockers trying to sound vigorous and it just doesn't work. "Yeah!" is an album for soccer moms and Bryan Adams fans, not for people who wanna rock.

There are some decent moments on "Yeah!" Blondie's "Hanging on the Telephone," ELO's "10538 Overture" and Badfinger's "No Matter What" aren't bad, although not as good as the originals. Everything else on this album is totally lame.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Aug 30, 2011 4:07 PM PDT

Invasion of Your Privacy
Invasion of Your Privacy
56 used & new from $0.01

4.0 out of 5 stars Fans of 80s rock/metal will enjoy this album, June 25, 2007
With just one EP and one full-length album, (1983s "RATT" and 1984s "Out of the Cellar") RATT became one of the biggest rock bands in the world. Wasting no time, RATT returned to the studio after a massive world tour and released their second album "Invasion of Your Privacy" (1985).

RATT's second album pretty much is cut from the same cloth as the debut. It's the same sort of David Lee Roth-era Van Halen meets KISS meets Judas Priest formula that is apparent on "Out of the Cellar." Compared to the debut, however, the songs here are not quite as edgy and sound more polished. While "Out of the Cellar" was sure to have pleased Ozzy and maybe even Metallica fans, "Invasion of Your Privacy" seems to be aiming more for the mainstream. This is apparent as RATT goes into power-balled territory with "Got me on the Line." Some of the edge and momentum from the debut dwindled somewhat as the lyrics on "Invasion of Your Privacy" are far more cliche and cheesy than they were on the debut, i.e., "dangerous but worth the risk."

Even if "Invasion of Your Privacy" is slicker then its predecessor, however, it's still a fine album. Much like the debut, RATT's sophomore outing is loaded with great hooks, awesome solos and the song-writing is generally pretty strong. The hit singles on this album, "Lay it Down" and "You're in Love" rank among the best of the entire 1980s pop-metal genre. The rest of the album, while not as strong as the non-singles on the debut, is still enjoyable, if not all that memorable.

While "Invasion of Your Privacy" hasn't aged well, it's still worth owning if you are a fan of 80s hard-rock/metal.

Out of the Cellar
Out of the Cellar
Offered by IMS Distribution
Price: $12.87
71 used & new from $0.01

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the best 80s metal albums...period, June 23, 2007
This review is from: Out of the Cellar (Audio CD)
When one looks at 80s West Coast metal, the bands that usually come to mind are Guns N' Roses, Van Halen, Motley Crue and to a lesser degree Poison. And what of RATT? Many people may say, "oh yeah, I remember them. What ever happened to RATT"?

What happened to RATT is that they sort of evolved backwards. Whereas Motley Crue, a peer of RATT, released a string of good albums throughout the 80s, reaching the top of the rock world by the decade's end with "Dr. Feelgood," (1989) RATT sort of blew their wad early on. Because RATT ended their career (before a reunion) on such a low note with the mediocre "Reach for the Sky" (1988) and the horrific "Detonator," (1990) it's easy to forget that when RATT started out, they were, no doubt, absolutely one of the best bands to emerge from the 80s sunset strip scene.

"Out of the Cellar," (1984) RATT's first album, following the "RATT" EP, (1983) saw the band reach its critical, commercial and artistic climax. While "Out of the Cellar" may not be the most ground-breaking album of all-time (it's sort of like a Van Halen--KISS--Judas Priest stew) the album sure did rock. Loaded with killer hooks, infectious sing-along-choruses, great guitar work (courtesy of virtuoso Warren DeMartini and Robin Crosby) and just really superb finely-crafted songs, "Out of the Cellar" is easily one of the greatest hard-rock releases of the 1980s.

One of the things that makes "Out of the Cellar" so great is that the band sounds hungry, on fire--youthful. Singer Stephan Pearcy is by no means a great (or even good) singer, but his charisma and eagerness to rock compensated for his lack of vocal talent. Guitarists Warren DeMartini and Robin Crosby may not have been Eddie Van Halen or Steve Vai, but they were still pretty damn good--and their dual arsenal of killer hooks and solos were better than most of what their peers (like Motley Crue's Mick Mars) had to offer. The songs also have a real edge to them, so on "Out of the Cellar" RATT sounds as though they mean it, not like a bunch of poseurs going through the motions.

While "Out of the Cellar" is known mostly for its massive hit "Round and Round" and to a lesser extent "Lack of Communication," "Wanted Man" and "Back for More," there really isn't any filler at all on this album. "Out of the Cellar" packs ten powerful punches, going straight for the jugular, not once ever losing momentum. Some of the band's more underrated songs like "I'm Insane" and the closing epic "Scene of the Crime" (which can be seen as a prelude to Motley's "You're all I Need") are easily as good as the hit singles.

Although the first few follow-ups were pretty good, RATT unfortunately never matched the brilliance of their debut. Still, what a debut it was. If you are a fan of 80s rock/metal, "Out of the Cellar" is an essential album to own.

Icky Thump
Icky Thump
Price: $5.99
152 used & new from $0.25

12 of 18 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Another solid album from TWS, June 20, 2007
This review is from: Icky Thump (Audio CD)
Jack White has a lot to live up to. When your band is hyped as the best group of the decade and you are declared your generations' greatest guitar player, you better have the music to back it up. Fortunately for the White Stripes (Jack and drummer Meg White) their new album is mostly great.

While "Icky Thump" has a loose 70s rock feel in places, TWS branch out a bit, throwing a bit of blues, rock-a-billy and folk into the mix.

The album opens with the politically charged "Icky Thump," tacking immigration. The title track sounds a tad reminiscent of "Seven Nation Army" from the band's "Elephant" (2003) album. A great opening, this mid-tempo rocker is filled with great off-beat solos that sound a bit Tom Morello-esque. The infectious, groove-laden "You don't Know What Love Is (You Just Do as you're Told)" wouldn't have sounded out-of-place on the Raconteurs album. The subdued "300 M.P.H Torrential Blues" is laid-back but intensifies when the solos kick in. The Spanish-flavored "Conquest" with its horns and off-beat harmonies may not be a contender to use as a single, but sounds great none-the-less. The hard-rocking "Bone Broke" is effective, but not really anything that special. The listener is thrown another curve-ball with the excellent Celtic "Prickly Thorn, but Sweetly Worn," complete with bagpipes. "St Andrew (This Battle is in the Air)" continues the use of bagpipes in an off-beat instrumental which is basically like this album's own "Revolution #9." Another rocker, "Ice Cream Soda" has some impressive solos but sort of plods along and rather aimless. "Rag and Bones" is more by-the-numbers WS but is effective enough. The kitschy dialogue between Jack and Meg White is kind of lame, but not without charm. The slow-rocking "I'm Slowly Turning into you" is good, if not great. The melancholy "A Martyr for my Love for You" is really cool, but doesn't really grab hold-of you with just one listen. The bluesy, almost rock-a-billy "Catch Hell Blues" is pretty out-there, but interesting. The low-key, stripped-down "Effect and Cause" is a good way to round-out the album.

While "Icky Thump" doesn't see The White Stripes reinvent themselves, they still manage to make another fine album. They are doing what they have been doing for nearly ten years and are still doing it well. Fortunately, while using the same tried-and-true formula, they still manage to mix things up a bit and throw some new ideas into the mix, and everything works, pretty much, in the end.

Survivalism 1
Survivalism 1
13 used & new from $3.49

24 of 24 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars No reason for fans to buy this, June 16, 2007
This review is from: Survivalism 1 (Audio CD)
"Survivalism" (Halo 23) has been released in two parts. Both part I and II contain "Survivalism" the album version and "Survivalism--the tardusted remix."

Even if you are a massive NIN fan and must collect every Halo, there is no reason to buy part I, as part II also contains an instrumental version of "The Greater Good" and a video of "Survivalism." I want to be clear that I am not rating the actual song "Survivalism" one star, as it is quite strong (even if it isn't the best song off "Year Zero.") Rather, I am rating the value of this single at one star because there is no reason for anyone to own it as part II contains the same content as part one as well as another track and a video.

Even if you are an absolute NIN junkie-obsessive and must own parts I and II for the sake of owning both parts in a NIN Halo, you needn't worry about that. On neither part I or part II of "Survivalism" is there any reference to either being part I or II. So you can buy what is labeled as "Part II" and still own a complete Halo collection if that's what you're aiming for.

Trent Reznor has made it clear that he disapproves of the label marketing the same song in two parts, as he realizes it is a rip-off to his fans. That said, if you are a Halo collector and must own a complete collection, stick with what is labeled as "part II."

Survivalism 2
Survivalism 2
11 used & new from $12.98

40 of 40 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Only for the Halo collector, June 16, 2007
This review is from: Survivalism 2 (Audio CD)
"Survivalism" (Halo 23) has been released in two parts. Both part I and II contain "Survivalism" the album version and "Survivalism--the tardusted remix." Part two also contains an instrumental version of "The Greater Good" and a video of "Survivalism."

This is the type of Halo that's really just for the NIN completeist, fans who must own every NIN Halo. "Year Zero" (Halo 24) already has "Survivalism" and the tardusted remix included here isn't all that great. It's kind of interesting, with a slower tempo and more layers and effects than the original, but it doesn't really hold up for repeated listens. The instrumental of "The Greater Good" is pretty much like the album version, but without Reznor's voice-over whispering. The video of "Survivalism" is really cool, with cameras spying in on people in a building as they live their lives.

If you are a massive NIN fan, this Halo is worth owning for the novelty two songs and the video, but for everyone else, just stick to "Year Zero." If you do decide to pick up Halo 23, make sure you get part II, as it includes the instrumental version of "The Greater Good" and a video of "Survivalism."
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Aug 9, 2011 3:31 PM PDT

Yellow Submarine (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)
Yellow Submarine (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)
Offered by Wooden Nickel Music
Price: $11.99
126 used & new from $0.33

3.0 out of 5 stars The Rodney Dangerfield of Beatle albums, June 13, 2007
When one looks back at the Beatles 13 studio albums, "Yellow Submarine" (1969) is not the one people usually point out as their favorite. "Yellow Submarine" is sort of like the Rodney Dangerfield of Beatle albums in the sense that it doesn't get any respect. Thrown in with twelve classic albums though, the standards are pretty high. That said, even if "Yellow Submarine" isn't a masterpiece by the Beatles standards, it's still worth owning if you are a fan.

The first half of "Yellow Submarine" consists of six songs, two previously released and four new recordings. While the inclusion of the title track "Yellow Submarine" and "All you Need is Love" may be redundant for people who own "Revolver" (1966) and "Magical Mystery Tour" (1967) their presence really fits the flow and feel of the album and their inclusion works in the album's favor. "Only a Northern Song," written by George Harrison is spacey, psychedelic and thoroughly engrossing. It just sort of picks you up and takes you for a ride. "Only a Northern Song" was actually meant to be included on "Sgt. Pepper" and why it was left off makes no sense to me as I feel it stands as one of Harrison's finest compositions. McCartney's sing-along "All Together Now" is pretty lame, but still kind of fun. Lennon's "Hey Bulldog" kicks all kinds of ass and is one of the most rocking, ballsy, underrated songs he ever wrote in the Beatles. Another psychedelic Harrison composition, "It's All Too Much" is maybe a little more subdued that "Only a Northern Song" yet is as strong.

The remaining seven songs are quasi-classical instrumental pieces composed by Beatles producer George Martin. While I don't listen to the instrumental side of "Yellow Submarine" all that much, I still enjoy it. While Martin's compositions may not be great art, they are still pleasant and the music is tuneful and soothing.

I rate this album so low not because the music is mediocre, but rather because when "Abbey Road" and "Revolver" are the standard, the bar is set pretty high. Three of the new songs on this album, "Only a Northern Song," "Hey Bulldog" and "It's All Too Much" stand as some of the Beatles best music and I'd rate each of those five stars. And while Martin's instrumental side may not be brilliant, it's still memorable in its own right.

Carry On
Carry On
Price: $7.39
85 used & new from $1.11

35 of 55 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A misfire in an otherwise solid career, June 11, 2007
This review is from: Carry On (Audio CD)
I have read a few reviews of Chris Cornell's sophomore album "Carry On" (2007) and they have all been pretty negative. I was hoping the critics were just being picky and Cornell had a strong album to offer, as I think "You Know My Name," the theme from the latest James Bond film "Casino Royale" (2006) rocks and is one of the strongest songs Cornell has ever penned. To my disappointment, however, with the exception of the one 007 song, most of "Carry On" is pretty weak.

I can see where Cornell is going with this album. With the exception of his solo debut "Euphoria Morning," (1999) after twenty years of fronting a band (first with the legendary Soundgarden and then the pretty good Audislave) a mature, 40-something Cornell wants to be a singer-songwriter, solo artist. Maybe he aspires to be a Rufus Wainwright or Paul Westerberg. The problem, however, is that "Carry On" is flat and lifeless. Cornell, no doubt, is a great songwriter and a superb singer, but the album unfortunately never gets off the ground. "Carry On" is sort of middle-of-the-road adult-contemporary rock that's just sort of "blah." Cornell has it in him to be a viable solo artist--as "Euphoria Morning" and the hauntingly beautiful "Seasons," from the '92 "Singles" soundtrack show. However, with "Carry On" the songwriting is mediocre and there just isn't anything exciting or interesting.

"You Know My Name" is still an awesome, awesome song, but apart from that, the rest of this CD sucks.

Cornell's catalogue, overall (Soundgarden, Temple of the Dog, Audioslave) is pretty damn impressive. I think he'll rebound (please let it be with Soundgadren) and "Carry On" can be seen as a misfire, in an otherwise brilliant career.
Comment Comments (5) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jun 10, 2008 5:01 PM PDT

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