Week 43 (Just A Band 3)

beach_boys-pet_sounds

Artist: Beach Boys
Album: Pet Sounds
Release Year: 1966

My Perspective

Imma let you finish, but Pet Sounds is one of the greatest music albums of all-time. When I say greatest, I literally mean greatest. In many GOAT (Greatest Of All Time) album lists, Pet Sounds is listed at not #7, not #6, not #5, not #4, not #3, but #2 or #1. That’s right. Top 2. I’m sure there exists lists where it is rated lower, but I haven’t seen it happen in any of the lists that I read. That’s how often it is rated at the top. If Pet Sounds was your classmate, they would destroy the curve every single time. And you would curse them under your breath for being so damn good. On top of that, this year is the 50th anniversary which makes this review even more special to me.

I didn’t grow up during the era of the Beach Boys’ original popularity and my knowledge of their ‘80s resurgence is limited to an episode of Full House and a Tom Cruise movie. So while some grew up with them being America’s Band, I honestly didn’t know much about them until later in life. To me, they were that surfer band with some good songs. Actually, my first real interest of the Beach Boys came in college because of the song, Brian Wilson, by the Barenaked Ladies. Why would they make him the subject of the song? What’s so special about him? A lot, actually. Brian Wilson had an incredible influence on the music industry most notably through his innovation in the recording studio. With his complex and eventful life, he is definitely deserving of further investigation. I’m sure you can find numerous biographical videos on YouTube.

Album’s Star Power

What Do You Have to Say for Yourself? Gold Star
This album is going to make you ashamed that you spent a measly $7.99 on your current pair of ear buds or decided your Apple ear buds were “good enough”. This is one of the most beautifully recorded albums in the history of music. Every time I listen to this album, I am blown away with how good it is. It’s also incredibly hard for me to be tired of it, even after listening to it on repeat for multiple weeks. I still continue to notice new things I hadn’t caught previously. There is so much depth here. The way everything is arranged among the numerous gorgeous layers of traditional and non-traditional instruments makes you wish you had spent more money on your audio setup. Your ear is pleading with you, on every note, to give it the most authentic experience possible. Your ear wants to hear it as Mr. Wilson intended it. Every muddled instrument is an ear tragedy. If this album doesn’t make you into an audiophile, nothing will.

One of my favorite moments regarding Brian’s composition skills is on the second track, You Still Believe in Me, where Wilson creates this absolutely wonderful false ending around the two-minute mark. Everything slows down, gets quiet, fewer instruments are playing as the diminuendo comes to an end. You really think the song is over. Everything is indicating this is it and then he starts it all over again with a new diminuendo but with a bicycle horn added into the mix. This repeats several times as it fades out to the real ending. I’ve never tried to make a list of my favorite false endings, but this song would be in the top 3.

Creepy Pasta Beatles = Gold Star
I want to talk about the Beatles, since they are very much a part of the story of Pet Sounds, since Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band is the other album in that Top 2 I spoke of at the beginning of this review. Now, feel free to disagree with me here, but when I listen to the Beatles discography (mostly the early part), I often feel like I’m listening to a stalker or somebody with a very screwed up view on what is a healthy relationship. The Beatles’ Run for Your Life is a perfect example of creepy Beatles lyrics. I’m going to warn you that once that stalker mindset kicks in, a lot of their songs feel creepy, including even the very innocent sounding I Want to Hold your Hand. I often imagine the woman in this song being stalked by the singer and is completely unaware of his feelings. Songs like Run for Your Life are in stark contrast to the relationship exploration done by Brian Wilson in Pet Sounds.

Let’s compare it to Here Today by the Beach Boys, which was released within a year of Run for Your Life. Both of them are post-break up songs from the point of view of a man who just came out of a relationship.

The Beatles start their song off with:

Well I’d rather see you dead, little girl
Than to be with another man
You better keep your head, little girl
Or you won’t know where I am

That’s um…that’s seriously messed up. But let’s compare that with Here Today which focuses on the frailty of relationships:

Right now you think that she’s perfection
This time is really an exception

Well you know I hate to be a downer
But I’m the guy she left before you found her

Lennon is hyper focused on punishing the woman for leaving him while Wilson is even apologetic that he is being a little rain cloud in regards to the new relationship, but he feels the need to warn this guy about the potential heartache that might await him.  Similar situations. Two very different songs.

Connecting on a Fundamentally Universal Level Gold Star
First, I want to explain something about music that I despise so you can appreciate what Wilson has done on Pet Sounds. When musicians do this, I hate it to the point that I wish they would walk away from music forever. I call it “pandering by generalization” although there might be a better term for it. And it basically comes down to taking one of two approaches: write a song about some general feeling/event, but never give any specifics about what you are writing about (the “nuke it from orbit” approach). The second way (the “shotgun” approach) is to take the opposite extreme by including every possible freaking combination out there so that one of them is bound to match up with the listener. Everything is designed to appeal to as many people as possible to sell more music. The artistic value of the songs clearly takes a backseat to moving units. See if you notice it in other music you listen to after reading this review.

What’s the opposite of this? The writer having the intelligence to recognize a universally shared experience and being able to share it through a personal perspective. Wilson’s dealing of relationships and coming of age stories never feel like pandering. They feel like a man sharing his specific experiences with the rest of the world and you just happen to be able to relate to it. Going back to Wilson’s You Still Believe in Me, the song is talking about a very specific aspect of a relationship that many people can relate to, even if the song doesn’t fit perfectly with their own experience. And that aspect is being appreciative of the fact that your partner still has confidence in you, despite your numerous relationship failures. I know I’ve been there.

In Don’t Talk (Put Your Head on My Shoulders), it’s not even an aspect of the relationship, but a single event of two people embraced in silence. We are getting a very specific moment, but it’s a relatable moment of physical contact trumping verbal communication. Outside of relationships, That’s Not Me covers that time in a young person’s life after going out on their own for the first time. They need to discover who they really are or aren’t. You never feel like he is describing anything, but his own life. However, you also connect with that universally shared moment that everyone goes through as they decide what it means to be an adult after leaving their parent’s house. I have so much respect for Brian Wilson as a songwriter.

Instrumentals Gold Star
Let’s Go Away for Awhile and Pet Sounds are two short instrumental tracks on the album. With the lack of lyrics and vocals, it’s up to the instruments to communicate all of the emotion to the listener. For classical music, this is expected. For a pop album, this is daring. This plays with your expectations and, if it fails to be anything short of amazing, you are going to notice it. You’re also going to wonder why they wasted your time with a sub-par track. Fortunately, neither song does this. Instead, both are beautiful arrangements. In Let’s Go Away for Awhile, the play between woodwind, percussion and strings leave me in awe of the sense of anticipation and optimism that is created. Nothing feels out of place and the acoustic fingerprint of each instrument is complimented perfectly, be it the striking drums, the deep bellow of the woodwinds or the waterfalls that flow out of the strings section. It’s wonderful how the different instruments take turns on who is leading the songs and all without creating a traditional melody. It is one of my favorite tracks on the album.

Game of Words = Gold Star
One reoccurring theme I noticed in Wilson’s lyrics is his playful use of words. One example is the word: dream. There are two distinct meanings of dream. One relates to dreaming during sleep such as “You would not believe the dream I had last night. You had wooden teeth.” The other relates to hope for the future such as Martin Luther King Jr.’s I Have a Dream speech.  In Wouldn’t It Be Nice, the singer spends the entire song discussing the hope of his future together with his significant other as a married coupled and all the great things that await them. This is their dream of the future, and the song ends with the lyrics of “Good night ba-baby, sleep tight, ba-baby” until the songs fades to nothingness, relating back to the dreaming you do when you sleep.

Wilson so articulately conveys the importance of dreams with the verse “You know the more it seems we talk about it, it only makes it worst to live without it, but let’s talk about it” It does not matter how much it hurts to want to fulfill our dreams because keeping our dreams alive is the only way we will fulfill them. This astute commentary goes in contrast with the song’s title, Wouldn’t It Be Nice, which implies a simple nicety, like a comfortable chair rather than this ache of young people wanting to grow up and spend the rest of their lives with each other. This only further illustrates Wilson’s playfulness with the English language.

Final Rating

Gold Star Gold Star Gold Star Gold Star Gold Star

Closing Thoughts

Before I leave you, I highly recommend the stereo version of the album because it helps separate the instruments. I listened to both the mono and stereo while listening to the album on repeat. Stereo felt vastly superior. And I would like to stress that you’re doing yourself a disservice if you don’t sit down and listen to this album with your full attention. There is so much more going on here in terms of sound, composition and lyrics. Pet Sounds was a high mark for the music industry, both in 1966 and for all-time, and it deserves your attention.

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Week 41 (Just A Band 1)

The Beatles – Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967)

Sgt._Pepper's_Lonely_Hearts_Club_Band

Bottom Line Up Front: This is a 5.0 out of 5 stars album. Were you expecting anything else? This album is usually placed in the top two of all-time greatest albums. Not top ten. Not top five. Top two. Let that sink in for a moment. But is it really deserving all of the praise it’s received over the past nearly 50 years? Let’s find out.

Artist BackgroundCan I really properly describe the best selling musicians in the history of the world with a couple paragraphs? Probably not. I’m just going to cover the basics of the early years for people who aren’t completely familiar with the Beatles so they have a starting point to learn more. The Beatles were formed in 1960 in Liverpool, England. The band consists of John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr. The band was together from 1960 to 1970. They started playing in clubs in the UK and Germany, but ultimately caught the eye of their future manager, Brian Epstein. Brian was eventually able to get them a deal with Parlophone. Through Epstein, the Beatles started working with future producer and long time collaborator, George Martin. Martin is often called the fifth Beatle because of his heavy involvement with their albums. He’s also considered by many to be the greatest producer of all-time. From 1963 to 1970, they released 12 major albums in the UK. If you look at all the internal variations, that number skyrockets to 27 albums. Though Beatlemania started in the UK, it quickly came to the US where the arrival at JFK airport and their appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show became a part of music history. One in three American households watched the Beatles that night. Beatlemania was definitely in full effect. Obviously, there’s a lot more to this incredibly intriguing story, but I need to stop somewhere.

Album Background: Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band started out as a concept album as evident by the opening tracks and second to last track featuring the fictional band. It ended up covering many genres including, pop, rock, art rock, psychedelic, and even Indian classical music. It lasts about 40 minutes over 13 tracks. It was an instant commercial and critical success. It was influential in more ways than I can possibly count. It’s been described as a pinnacle moment for western culture. Plain and simple, this is the most important album I can possibly review. Honestly, I can’t think of an album that has spawned more conspiracy theories than this one, which included the death, and look-a-like replacement, of Paul McCartney. It’s worth researching the conspiracies and alleged drug references, if you have the time. It’s a very interesting read.

A big reason why this album is so different is because it was born out of the Beatles frustration with touring. This irritation was obviously showing as the polite and restrained Japanese audiences allowed them to hear, first hand, how terrible their lives shows had become. Normally, the screaming audience masked the poor quality of their performance. The Beatles were hitting a breaking point with their relentless international schedule. Once they quit touring, in addition to the reducing a significant source of stress in their lives, they gained an incredible amount of freedom without having to worry about recreating the music during a live show. They could experiment with music in ways they would have never considered before. Another reason for this album’s significance is due to all of the experimentation the Beatles and George Martin were willing to do in terms of audio engineering. They used techniques nobody ever did before when they recorded Sgt. Pepper. I’m barely scratching the surface here, but I need to move on to the rest of the review.

Favorite Track: I contemplated devising a method that would allow one of my cats to pick my favorite track. That seemed liked a better idea than forcing myself to actually pick one track over another in this timeless album as my favorite. Unfortunately, I couldn’t come up with a good, automated, feline-based favorite track chooser. If I ever do, I’m Kickstarting it and in three or four years after my initial delivery date, reviewers around the world will be able to enjoy having their cats pick their favorite track with little to no effort on their part. Crowdsourcing at it’s finest. Until then, I guess I have to pick it myself. My favorite track… on… Sgt. Pepper’s… Lonely Hearts… Club Band… is… Being For The Benefit of Mr. Kite. I’ve listened to this album many times before I started listening to it for Project. Lt. Morning so I’m going with weirdness on this pick. It’s just a really interesting song. Let’s start with the inspiration for the song. It’s based on a circus poster from the mid-1800s. Being based on an actual poster, Mr. Kite is a real person. The lyrics of the songs are not a word-for-word transcription of the poster. Rather the words/names on the poster were included in the lyrics. A significant change is that the horse’s name was changed, but who is going to try to make Zanthus work in a song? Henry is a much better name and, of course, it spawned yet another drug controversy. The song was written by Lennon and McCartney, but Lennon was the one who owned the poster.

The audio engineering that went into this song is also interesting as Lennon really wanted a carnival atmosphere to be heard on the song. This lead to Martin trying many different approaches, but ultimately ended up with samples being cut into pieces, then being randomly reassembled after being tossed into the air for the famous carousel music parts found throughout the song. Besides the odd lyrics, I love the contrast created by Lennon’s very straight delivery of the lyrics and the numerous sets of rolling notes created by the randomly spliced tape. They complement each other so perfectly. Lennon’s voice also lends itself very well to the unique lyrics.

What Works: 

  • Yin/Yang One of the most wonderful aspects of this album is how well John Lennon and Paul McCartney complement each other. Though, the duo doesn’t just complement each other on the album level with individual tracks, but also on the song level with individual lyrics. Nowhere is this more evident than in the song, Getting Better. Paul’s bubbling over optimism is wonderfully balanced out with Lennon’s cynicism. As Paul sings out “I’ve got to admit, it’s getting better, a little better all the time”, Lennon counters this so beautifully with “It couldn’t go no worse.” I freaking love it. Another example of where their powers combined make for some of the best music on the planet is A Day in the Life. This song sounds like two songs smashed together because that’s exactly what it is. It is a Lennon song smashed together with a McCartney song, and the resulting piece is far superior then what either one of those songs would have been by themselves. Even after all these years, it still sounds amazing and fresh.
  • Sing-Along With a Little Help From My Friends is one of the greatest sing-along songs ever penned. Does it get any better than “Oh, I get by with a little help from my friends, Mmm, I get high with a little help from my friends, Oh, I’m gonna try with a little help from my friends” for a sing-along chorus? I’m not so sure it does. And we all know Oasis’s Champagne Supernova (my generation’s de facto sing-along song) would not exist without the groundwork laid down by the Beatles. Hell, Oasis wouldn’t even exist without the Beatles, for that matter. Let alone that one song.
  • Weirdness The end of Good Morning Good Morning ends with a bunch of random animal sounds. Why? I have no idea. However, I do know it’s awesome.
  • Quality I listened to the 2009 stereo remastered version of this album for my review. Even if I had an original 1st edition UK pressing on 180 gram vinyl, I can’t really walk around with that in my pocket, now can I? Regardless, I freaking love the sound quality of this album. Every instrument and voice is so distinct. I could pretty much focus on any part of a song and easily tune out the rest of it if I wanted to. The mono version probably sounds better for a traditional hifi setup in your house, but I simply adored the stereo version on my headphones eight days a week.

What Doesn’t:

  • Domestic Violence The line “I used to be cruel to my woman I beat her, And kept her apart from the things that she loved” bothered me every time I heard it. I don’t care if it was written in a different time or whatever. That line is fucked. The actual reality of that situation is one of the most despicable things you can possibly do to another human being. It’s never going to be okay with me. Never. My mind just cannot put that at the same level as not liking your school. Feel free to disagree with me.

In Conclusion: As long as this review is, I’ve barely scratched the surface with the Beatles or Sgt. Pepper. There is so much more to write. This is such a good album on so many levels for so many reasons. If for some crazy reason, you haven’t listened to it yet, I urge you to listen to the delightfully weird album that changed everything for modern music. On top of that, you should really peruse their discography. It’s so much fun being able to recognize when the Beatles influences pop up in today’s music. And trust me, they are still popping up.

Music Video Links:
When I’m Sixty-Four (Sort of Official Music Video)
Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds (Sort of Official Music Video)
Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (Sort of Official Music Video)

Streaming/Purchase Links:
Amazon Music
iTunes

Information Links:
Wikipedia Artist
W
ikipedia Album
Facebook
Twitter
Official Site

Week 31 Review

U2 – All That You Can’t Leave Behind (2000)

Bottom Line Up Front: This is a 4.8 out of 5 stars album. It’s not a perfect album but it is really close. There is a lot to like here and I fully agree with the statements of this album being U2’s third masterpiece. For me, it was the consistency in quality across this album that really impressed me as I listened to it all week.

Artist BackgroundReally? The background of U2? There’s probably entire books dedicated to this. Oh look at that. There are. I’m going to do my best anyways. They formed in 1976 and are from Ireland. The band’s lead singer, Bono, is always wearing sunglasses. The band’s lead guitarist is The Edge and he is always wears a beanie. Those two are really easy to pick out in a picture. Adam Clayton plays bass and Larry Mullen, Jr plays percussion for the band. They reached international super stardom in the 1980s with their album, The Joshua Tree.  In the 1990s, they experimented with their sound by incorporating different genres. Overall, this did not go as well for them as they probably would have hoped. In 2000, they decided to go back to basics which led to the album I’m reviewing. Their most notable recent moment was the fiasco with Apple where they gave a free digital copy of their new album, Songs of Innocence, to anyone with an iPhone 6. Not everyone was happy about this as U2 can be pretty polarizing. There are people that absolutely worship the band but there are also people that completely hate U2. If you are wondering, I don’t fall into either of those categories.

Album Background: The rock album, All That You Can’t Leave Behind, is about 50 minutes long. The most notable thing about this album is that it won Grammy Record of the Year in both 2001 and 2002 for two separate tracks off of the album. This is the only album to ever do that so I think regardless of how you feel about U2, you need respect that accomplishment. But all together the album won 7 Grammy awards. Development took place from 1998 to 2000 and they brought back producers they worked with on Joshua Tree and Achtung Baby which are considered their other two notable albums. I assume it was done in an effort to recapture the sound of their earlier work.

Favorite Track: You would think I would pick one of the songs that won Record of the Year. You’d be wrong. Well, then you would think I would at least pick one of the 4 singles from the album. And again, you’d be wrong. So what in the world did I pick? I actually went with the sixth track off of the album: In A Little While. In terms of lyrical content, it’s your basic song about returning to one you love. It’s not surprisingly addressed to his wife who inspired Bono for many of U2’s songs. The song is also held in high regard by U2 because it was the last song Joey Ramone listened to before he died. While many songs have been done on the topic, it doesn’t really take away from the song in my view. If it’s good, it’s good. I really like the intro. It starts off with a nice guitar hook that draws you into the song. Bono’s voice has this raspy quality to it that I also really like. It adds to this idea of being worn out but still putting in all your effort to make it back to the person you care about most in the world. Bono also wrote an incredibly beautiful verse in this song that I think could easily be included in a book of poetry. “A man dreams one day to fly, A man takes a rocketship into the skies, He lives on star that’s dying in the night, And follows in the trail, The scatter of light” Maybe I’m partial to it because I’m in awe of what the human race has been doing in terms of space exploration over the past couple years. Or maybe it is actually an excellent verse. Overall, it’s a nice laid back song worth listening to a couple times. Hopefully, within a short period of time from now.

What Works: 

  • Edge One popular song off of the album was Elevation. Some of Bono’s vocalizations on the track probably are what make it stand out the most, but I think a major reason why the song works is the guitar playing from The Edge. It’s just this crazy wall of sound rocking your ears from start to end. And works so freaking well. This isn’t the only song that is a winner because of him, but it’s a good example.
  • Bono An aspect of this album that really stood out for me was how well Bono can make his approach to singing on a particular song blend so perfectly with everything else with the song. He’s like a vocal chameleon. Maybe it’s not so apparent with casual listening, but I was seriously impressed by the end of the week. In addition, Bono can write such beautiful lyrics as I already noted. Unfortunately, his lyrical prowess is not nearly as consistent as his singing.
  • Intros U2 knows how to write a track opening. Kite‘s opening is interesting since it sounds almost like the note is being playing backward with Edge on a sliding guitar. It’s a unique note to build a song around but it works. Many times they slowly eased into the song like an old man into a nice warm bath. Grace and Peace On Earth are great examples of this.

What Doesn’t:

  • Stacked I’m not a particular fan of front loading an album with your strongest material. I like it to be distributed evenly throughout the album. Reward me for sticking it out and listening to everything. And it’s impossible to not accuse U2 of doing this when the four singles from this album were the first four tracks of the album AND they were released in the same order that they appeared on the album. It is the textbook example everyone should refer to. And the second half does suffer because of it. The first six tracks for me are absolutely amazing. The weakest point of the album for me is probably track 8 through 10 where I kind of get my typical ‘lost in a U2 album’ lost. Thankfully, Grace is a strong closer.
  • Bono You know how I said Bono can write beautiful heartfelt lyrics? Well, sometimes I wonder if U2’s writing process is more like this:

    Bono: Okay, next!
    Larry: But that lyric doesn’t make any sense. In fact, it’s kind of silly.
    Bono: Does it rhyme, Larry? Does…it…rhyme?
    Larry: Well, yeah. But..
    Bono: Okay then. NEXT!

In Conclusion: If I wasn’t all that familiar with U2 and I wanted to get a better feel for their music, I would honestly start with this album. I know Joshua Tree is this incredible 80s album that’s probably on a good chunk of Albums to Listen to Before You Die lists but it also sounds incredibly 80s. I think ATYCLB still sounds very modern and almost timeless due to the mix of their attempt to go back and reboot their sound mixed together with everything they learned from experimenting with other genres in the 90s.

Music Video Links:
U2 – Walk On (Official Video)
U2 – Beautiful Day (Official Video)

Streaming/Purchase Links:
Amazon Music
Google Play
iTunes
XBOX Music
Spotify

Information Links:
Wikipedia Artist
W
ikipedia Album
Facebook
Twitter
Official Site

Week 28 Review

Steely Dan – Aja (1977)

Bottom Line Up Front: This album is 5 out of 5 stars. Period. End of story. Everyone should absorb Aja into their auditory cortex and enjoy as the other areas of their brain light up like fireworks. If you do not have it in your music collection, your music collection is incomplete. It really is that simple.

Artist Background: Let’s first get this out of the way before we talk about anything else. Steely Dan is named after a dildo from William S. Burroughs‘ 1959 non-linear classic novel Naked Lunch. Now that we know that little fun fact, Steely Dan is basically Walter Becker and Donald Fagen with a collection of session musicians. Originally, the band had more members but these two guys are seriously obsessive about having the perfect sound. And it’s a lot harder to do that if you can’t swap out your musicians on a track by track basis. They even went so far as to use two completely different drum kits in a single song to get the exact sound they wanted. And you can also clearly hear every instrument they feature in their music. Examples like that put Steely Dan in high regards among many audiophiles.

Album Background: How important is this jazz rock record that runs 40 minutes over 7 tracks? So important that it was added to the Library of Congress as part of the United States National Recording Registry for 2010. Aja is the most commercially successful album from the group. It got to number 3 on the US Pop charts. That’s right. Pop charts. Aja is as much pop as it is jazz. I’m not going to list all the musicians involved because it’s a pretty long list. But I highly suggest reading the background of each of them, if you get a chance, to really get an idea of the scope of talent that was involved in the creation of the Aja. And it seems like nothing but their very best was good enough as they auditioned many musicians and even after finding the perfect person for the part, usually many takes were still required. And for those wondering about the cover, that’s a picture of Sayoko Yamaguchi who seems to be Japan’s first international supermodel.

Favorite Track: My favorite track is Deacon Blues. It’s the 3rd track on the album and is 7 minutes and 36 seconds long. I think what put this song over the top for me was the chorus. Not only are the lyrics great, but the way they are delivered is perfect. Just the right amount of backing vocals in the right spots. It also intrigues me that they wrote a song featuring a reference to a college football team, the Alabama Crimson Tide. On a side note, the Crimson Tide happen to be ranked #1 in the nation right now. Even the term “Deacon Blues” has a nice ring to it. The sax solo by Pete Christlieb in this song is also fantastic. And should be as the chorus also makes a reference to playing the saxophone. It’s hard to describe this song as anything other than perfection.

What Works: 

  • Engineering The sound recording quality of this album is out of this world. Every morning when I would start it up in my car, the music would catch me off guard because the bass bumped so hard. I don’t know if any rap artists sampled Aja, but they should have. The album did win a Grammy for the quality of the sound recording. Honestly, it would have been a crime for them not to win it. You really can hear every instrument with all the gorgeous details each one provides. All the instruments sound unbelievable. You could listen to the whole album and just focus on what you hear in the background while still enjoying yourself immensely.
  • Solos The solos on this album are epic. The sax solo on the second track, Aja, is probably my favorite. Aja is a good 8 minutes long so they have plenty of time to work in an extended solo performance by jazz legend, Wayne Shorter. I just love the way Wayne plays off of everything going around him. It’s such an incredibly powerful and inspiring solo. I remember just being in awe at a red light on my way to work one morning. It’s that good. On top of that, the drum work by Steve Gadd is brilliant. Especially during Wayne’s solo and the outro where Steve just owns it. The whole album is full of awesome moments like this.
  • Backing Vocals The backing vocals on this album are especially enjoyable. They compliment the main vocals and instruments so well. I know I keep using the word perfect. But there is no other way to describe this album.

I’m not even including a What Doesn’t section. That would be an insult.

In Conclusion: Go listen to this album right now if you’ve never heard it before. Keep in mind, Spotify has an ad-backed free option now. So take advantage. Why are you still reading this? Go! Now!

Music Video Links:
None available. 😦

Streaming/Purchase Links:
Amazon Music
Google Play
iTunes
XBOX Music
Spotify

Information Links:
Wikipedia Artist
W
ikipedia Album
Facebook
Twitter
Official Site

Week 20 Review

This week I’m reviewing the 2nd album of the mythical Santana trilogy which is made up of the first 3 albums of their discography. It was released in 1970 and rose to number #1 on the US charts.      

SantanaAbraxas

Artist: Santana {Charles Santana – lead guitar, backing vocals; Gregg Rolie – keyboards, lead vocals; David Brown – bass; Michael Shrieve – drums; José “Chepito” Areas – percussion, conga, timbales; Mike Carabello – percussion, conga}
Album: Abraxas
Year: 1970
Genre: Latin Rock
Rating: 5/5

Worth Your Time? Mr. Santana and his band deserve your time and attention.

Twitter Review: Santana’s Abraxas has incredible complexity layered on top of a keen rock sensibility and topped off with some wicked guitar solos.

 Top 3 Tracks:

  1. Hope You’re Feeling Better
  2. Black Magic Woman / Gypsy Queen
  3. Se a Cabo

Things to Look For:

  • Guitar God. I’ve never really given Santana a good listen prior to this album. I’ve heard their song, Smooth, featuring Rob Thomas like a billion times given that song was unavoidable in 1999. But that was about it. I knew he was quite the guitarist given his reputation. But I really had no idea just how good he was. Listening to Abraxas has been very enlightening in that regard. I thoroughly enjoyed his solos on the album. He absolutely deserves all of the praise he gets.
  • And Everyone Else. Santana’s guitar wouldn’t sound quite as amazing on this album if the rest of the band wasn’t also incredibly talented. It’s impressive how well they all complement each other. While Carlos is laying down a serious solo, you can be guaranteed his percussionists will be playing the perfect rhythm in the background while he is doing it. The concentration of musical talent in this band is jaw dropping. I loved the percussion and keyboard work on this album as much the guitar playing.
  • Opening Track. I love the opening track, Singing Winds, Crying Beasts, because of how it slowly builds up in sound with just a couple instruments coming in and out of existence as the song progresses.  It’s not very melodic but it’s interesting enough to more than compensate for the lack of melody. The song is almost 5 minutes long and it passes in time very quickly because my ears are so busy being entertained. Before I know it, the album has transitioned to Black Magic Woman / Gypsy Queen.

Low Points: It’s not a bad track by any means but Samba Pa’ Ti was not nearly as entertaining as the rest of the album. It’s just a little too laid back so I tended to lose interest and let my mind wander when it got to this part of the album which resulted in me missing out on some amazing guitar playing half of the time. It was probably a good call to have on the album since it comes between Mother’s Daughter and Hope You’re Feeling Better which are both pretty intense. It also gives Santana some time to experiment with some more jazzy concepts which is definitely part of the appeal of Abraxas but I favored the more traditional rock tracks that they spiced up as I listened to it all week.

Anything Else: I think the main reason why I like this album is because Santana was able to take rock music and elevate to a higher plane of existence with the incredible talent of the band and their willingness to take a road less traveled. I’m sure they could have been a great rock band without infusing all these different latin and jazz elements, but I doubt people would still care about this album over 40 years later like they do now. If rock was a cupcake, Santana added some really tasty chocolate sprinkles for everyone to enjoy.

Special Guest Review
by renowned Santana expert, Adolf T. Cat

adolf t cat

Santana’s Abraxas is easily one of the greatest latin rock albums of all…wait a second. Is that an exposed female nipple on the cover of the album? How dare they unleash this trash onto the world. I can’t believe they sell this disgusting pornography on Amazon and iTunes where any young child could have their innocence ripped away from them forever and leave them with no choice but to grow up to become a sexual predator. I absolutely refuse to support such vulgar trash. Do not listen to this album. Do not buy it. In fact, blacklist any links included on this page. You have been warned. (0/5 stars)

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Week 19 Review

In 1969 the Beatles released Abbey Road onto the world. It was the last time that all four were together in the studio and the final album released under their longtime collaborator George Martin.      

Artist: The Beatles {John Lennon – vocals, rhythm guitar; Paul McCartney – vocals, bass guitar; George Harrison – lead guitar, vocals; Ringo Starr – drums, vocals}
Album: Abbey Road
Year: 1969
Genre: Rock
Rating: 5/5

Worth Your Time? Since it includes some of the greatest moments in modern music history, it is a must listen for everyone.

Twitter Review: Despite relationships between the fab four being strained at this point, the Beatles put out a classic album filled with many surprises.

 Top 3 Tracks:

  1. The Medley
  2. Come Together
  3. Because

Things to Look For:

  • George’s Peak. Harrison’s songwriting tends to have a hard time shining on a Beatles album since he is always competing with Lennon and McCartney. But on Abbey Road, Harrison is absolutely at the top of his game with Something and Here Comes the Sun. Something is such a beautiful love song. In particular, I appreciate the lyrics: You’re asking me will my love grow, I don’t know, I don’t know, You stick around now it may show, I don’t know, I don’t know. Those lines beautifully capture the uncertainty of relationships that we all face. Here Comes the Sun is also expertly crafted as you can easily feel the snow melting and picture the animals coming out of slumber to enjoy the budding spring weather while the song plays.
  • The Medley. A significant portion of the second half of the album is dedicated to a medley made up of eight songs. It is includes You Never Give Me Your MoneySun KingMean Mr. MustardPolythene PamShe Came in Through the Bathroom WindowGolden SlumbersCarry That Weight and The End. It doesn’t flow perfectly at all transitions because there were some changes afterwards in ordering. And even though Lennon has referred to some of the songs he wrote for the medley as “a bit of crap,” I consider The Medley the high point of the album. The combination of the eight pieces far exceeds anything a single part could accomplish. Basically, John wrote the front half and Paul wrote the back half for those interested.
  • Ringo’s Drumming. Starr is not a fan of drum solos. So on The End, they turned Ringo’s playing into a drum solo by dialing back the other instruments that were being played at the time. It’s very fitting for him to have a solo on this track as Paul, George and John take turns playing 2 bar guitar solos for much of the song. I know it’s not a particularly complicated solo but I think it’s absolutely perfect. And he is, of course, rock solid on the rest of the album.
  • Hidden Track. Her Majesty, which was cut from The Medley originally, is one of the earliest examples of hidden tracks on a rock album. It’s incredibly short at 23 seconds but I love the innocence and simplicity of it. Referring to drinking alcohol to get up the nerve to talk to a woman as a “I gotta get a bellyful of wine” combines an adult activity with a childlike innocence to create an authentic portrait of the hopeless romantic.

Low Points: While I thoroughly enjoy Lennon’s contributions to The Medley and love the uniqueness of Because, I don’t think I Want You (She’s So Heavy) was an ideal execution. Nobody should be surprised here when I say the song is a love song about Yoko Ono. It is the Beatles second longest song in their discography at nearly eight minutes. It’s a fairly basic song in its structure but is dragged out through massive repetition and additional ever increasing white noise at the end. I understand how highly influential and important this song is with such a dark sounding riff being featured. But I would rather have them carried it out in a more straight forward manner such as they did in Oh! Darling where they did a flawless execution of a traditional sounding song. If you love the song, that’s great. I don’t.

Anything Else: Abbey Road created an incredibly unique experience for me during the week that no other album has done to date. Every morning on the way to work I would listen to the album and be in complete awe of how amazing it was. And during every commute back home I would loathe the album wondering if I could stand it another day. I know that makes no sense. Maybe the Beatles don’t lend themselves well to being listening to on repeat? Maybe I’ve listened to them too much in my lifetime as Come Together being played on a 7″ record by my mom as she showed me her collection is my earliest musical memory I have? Maybe it was all the stress from being extremely busy at work? I honestly don’t know. It will be interesting to see if this happens on another one of their albums.

Special Guest Review
by renowned Beatles expert, Adolf T. Cat

adolf t cat

The Beatles are an overrated boy band without a single musical bone in their collective bodies. Unless you’re a 12 year old girl stuck in 1963, you have no business liking this crap. Lennon is and should always be remembered as a pretentious twat. God, do I hate him. His other three cohorts Denim Dan, Shoeless Joe and Dufus have no business ever being in a band. All of their “songs” were secretly about sex or drugs. They corrupted an entire generation back then and continues to corrupt today’s youth. My current theory for the Beatles longevity is that incredibly bad taste in music must be a dominant gene. Abbey Road, like all of their other albums, sucks. Get over it and go find a real band. (0/5 stars)

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Week 4 Review

This week I’m reviewing one of the most important 90’s BritPop albums: (What’s The Story) Morning Glory? by Oasis. Yet another album with lukewarm reviews initially but is now considered a classic.   

Artist: Oasis {Liam Gallagher (vocals), Noel Gallagher (lead guitar), Paul Authurs (rhythm guitar), Paul McGuigan (bass guitar), Alan White (drums)}
Album: (What’s the Story) Morning Glory?
Year: 1995
Genre: BritPop
Rating: 3.333/5 Stars

Worth Your Time? Listen to it only while your driving.

Twitter Review: Mediocrity thy name is Morning Glory. It has some qualities of a good album but those get overwhelmed by the time everything is over.

Top 3 Tracks: 

  1. Champagne Supernova
  2. Wonderwall
  3. I’m not wasting your time by picking a third song from an 10 way tie.

Things to Look For:

  • Now where have I heard that before?  Oasis is famous for their songs sounding fairly similar to existing songs. I’m sure you could pick out a couple listening to it or at least have one déjà vu moment.
  • Follow the bouncing ball.  I don’t think I know of an album that I can sing along to as much as I can with this one.  It is definitely the album’s greatest quality and makes this one of the best albums to listen to in your car. Champagne Supernova is of course the sing-along high point.
  • Silence.  There is a moment in Wonderwall where it’s nearly silent as the guitar fades for a couple beats before the drums start back up. For whatever reason I have always loved that moment.
  • Feuding brothers. Liam and Noel got into all sorts of fights and were a mainstay for British tabloids. It’s worth reading up on their brotherly love throughout the years.

Low Points: I usually I struggle with this moment.  And you would think with this being one of the greatest if not greatest 90’s BritPop album of all time, I would struggle here as well. I really wish that was the case but I think the original reviews had it right.  Even though I am compelled to sing with every chorus on the album, I can barely tell the songs apart minus the two US singles.  They’re just so unimaginative and similar sounding.  Most of the tracks are just kind of there. Maybe from a historical/cultural perspective they are important but that really doesn’t help me enjoy the songs. Again, not counting the two US singles. I cannot stress that enough.

Anything Else: This album has a lot of personal significance.  It was the very first compact disc I ever bought and with my own money too.  I went home and listened to it in my bedroom over and over being it was the only thing I could play in my CD player. Wonderwall was the first song I ever tried to learn on my saxophone by just listening to it and trying to figure out the notes.  After weeks of practicing, I debuted my incredible recreation in the high school art room after some coaxing from a close friend. After I finished, he quietly informed me that it sounded absolutely nothing like the song. I stuck to pop songs I had sheet music for after that. (Yellow Submarine, anyone?)

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