Tuesday, January 31, 2012

It's not astrology, it's The Monkees

Believe it or not, there are a lot of great Monkees albums out there. The group didn't just do great singles.

Ignore the foolish controversy of being a fabricated group. Especially in this modern age, far worse corporate musical atrocities have taken the spotlight. Focus instead on the great music, and accept The Monkees as the musical powerhouses that they were.

"Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones Ltd." is the fourth album released by the group, and it is a close second in terms of being my favorite Monkees album ("Headquarters" claims the top spot for me). The quality of the songs, the experimentation and the camaraderie of the group are all at their peaks with this release.

Monday, January 30, 2012

On the road with Harry Chapin

Harry Chapin has many albums that could stand as his "defining album," including "Sniper and other Love Songs" (featuring "Sniper," "Circle" and "Better Place to Be") and "Verities and Balderdash" (with "Cat's in the Cradle," "I Wanna Learn a Love Song" and "30,000 Pounds of Bananas").

But, for me, "On the Road to Kingdom Come" from 1976 is his best release.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Not just a sad "Echo" after all

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers had a pretty good decade in the 1990s. In 1991, the group released "Into the Great Wide Open." If you've never heard the album, it's like "Full Moon Fever, Vol. 2." Just about every song on the album sounds like it could have / should have been a radio hit (and a couple of them surely were).

Then you had the first "Greatest Hits," which featured "Mary Jane's Last Dance." Anyone who was conscious in the mid 1990s knows this song (and probably loves it). And for the Kim Basinger haters, well, the video featured her as a corpse. Win-win, right?

Then came Tom Petty's second "solo" album "Wildflowers" (the first being "Full Moon Fever," and the "solo" distinction reflecting that ... one again ... many of the Heartbreakers were actually involved). "Wildflowers" is my favorite of all the Petty-related albums released through 2011, so I don't need to speak further on my opinions of its qualities.

And THEN you have the great soundtrack to the movie "She's the One." I'm not a big fan of the film itself, but the album is an enormous success. Everything about the variety of the music screams to the immense strengths of the band. And it had one of their last great frilly psychedelic hits: "Walls (Circus)."

And finally ... you hit "Echo." Released in 1999, it's something of a curiosity.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Lover of life, singer of songs ... a hell of a talent

Will there ever be such a consummate performer and powerful singer as Freddie Mercury ever again? I hope so, but with quality such as this ... it is hard to imagine.

Being best known for his remarkable work with Queen, Mercury is no less a talent on his solo work. He didn't produce many solo albums ("Mr. Bad Guy" and "Barcelona" were the only legit records he put out in his lifetime), but his personality and style are stamped upon each song he recorded and released.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

"Love You?" Love you, too!

Whereas "Pet Sounds" is perhaps the Beach Boys' most powerful record, "Sunflower" their most united effort and the "SMiLE" sessions their most creative period (or, at least, Brian Wilson's most creative period), "Love You" may be their most real ... if slightly goofy ... release.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Death to False Metal? Sounds good to me

Mixed-bag releases are notoriously rough in quality. Taking the odds and ends that didn't make official releases often opens up listeners to material that supports the initial decision not to release it.

Surprisingly enough, that isn't the case with Weezer.

Interpol turned on my lights

When I was in college, I had a semester where I worked nights for a big chain store. On the televisions, we had a music channel loop that would play different clips over and over again. Some of it was schlock, but "Obstacle 1" was one of the soundbites.

Green Day: Awesome as ... usual?

Including the never-before-released track "Cigarettes and Valentines," the live album "Awesome as Fuck" offers little else that is truly "new."

Some chaos, some creation, some McCartney

Thank you, Paul McCartney. With "Chaos and Creation in the Backyard," you gave us a studio album that has next-to-no fill and has so much atmosphere and mood that I get transported every time I listen to it.

Following "Driving Rain," an album that I found rather flat and disappointing, I feared that Paul was maybe on a downward cycle (hey, it happens to all artists, I'm not judging). Considering the high quality of "Flaming Pie" and "Run Devil Run," I really couldn't blame him if he was a bit tapped out creatively.

Monday, January 16, 2012

The Beatles "Live?" Yes, please

If the Beatles had tried to record an album like their "The Beatles" (The White Album) release in 1964 instead of 1968, it would have sounded like this, The Beatles' "Live at the BBC."

Ok, I admit, that probably isn't true. But one of the strengths of "The White Album" was its variety, a strength that really shines on this archival release of selected Beatles materials from the 1963-1965 period.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Upcoming reviews? Could be

Greetings and howdy, friends.

It's 2012. So far, it's not too radically different from 2011. The Republican candidates for the presidential election are still weeding themselves out. The economy still isn't awesome. It's still winter. You know, that kind of thing. But let's not jump the gun. It's only early January ... there's time yet. And there's definitely good music coming. Remain hopeful!

So, let's talk about music.

For my first album review of the new year, I've got a handful of contenders. One of the albums (PJ Harvey's "Let England Shake") is totally new for me - I haven't listened to it yet. I've heard a couple of tracks and they sound fantastic. One of the forums I visit often has gotten me into it, and both "Mojo" and "Uncut" gave her album their top album honor for 2011. The other albums are either favorites or classics that I haven't really paid much attention to (like Sonic Youth's "Dirty" album).

I'll be doing reviews for each of these in the coming days/weeks/months. If you have preferences on which ones get reviewed first (or you have suggestions / recommendations), please leave me a note in my comments. I welcome your vote!

Here are the albums I've got on the docket:

PJ Harvey "Let England Shake"  (getting critical acclaim from just about everyone)
The Beatles "Live at the BBC"  (one of my absolute favorites, loaded with classic songs by other artists)
Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers "Echo"  (an underappreciated album ... even the group ignores it)
The Monkees "Headquarters"  (my personal favorite of their albums, though "PAC&J Ltd." is close)
Sonic Youth "Dirty"  (an album I haven't paid much attention to, though Sonic Youth are pretty cool)
Creedence Clearwater Revival "Willy and the Poor Boys"  (a few hits, but a lot of great songs)

All are very solid entries and should make for exciting listens. I might try to live blog one or more of them, too, because I enjoyed that experiment with The Black Keys' "El Camino" album. Again, if you have preferences on which (if any) of these albums should get the live-blog treatment, please leave a comment! Or ... give me some other recommendations. I'll do my best to be receptive.

Okey doke, folks. Hope you're all doing well. Chat with you later.

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