A Flicker Of Sparks is the Perfect Contradiction to Motorhead and their brethren.

Round 1 – Group 216:

1.) Perfect Contradiction:  Paloma Faith
2.) III:  The Lumineers
3.) Legends Of Rock (News Of The World):  Various
4.) Flicker:  Niall Horan

This is more like it! A much improved group from that last miserable effort, the luck of the draw eh? Any one of these four albums would have breezed through the previous group ahead of those two dubious albums by Dido and Christine and the Queens. Yet, here we are, another difficult choice to make but this time it’s which decent album to lose, rather than which terrible album to keep!

Redneck Rocking

First impression of this Lumineers album? It’s a bit weird, are all their albums like this? Also, it’s called III which implies it might have a couple of prequels. Nope, I just looked it up and it doesn’t, it’s just their third album. It also contains three ‘chapters’ apparently, so that’s a nice little tie-in as well I suppose. It says here that III got to number 2 on the American Billboard Chart so it must have sold pretty well.

Personally I’d never heard of The Lumineers until I saw them on the Brits, doing what I thought was a pleasant, if fairly run of the mill pop number. This album is nothing like that, so it’s possible I’m remembering a different band! Well there *is* usually quite a bit of drinking during the Brits, amiright? Gotta keep up with tradition and all that.

This III album is quite sombre and melancholy, totally emphasising the piano and semi-acoustic guitar as the instrumentation of choice. Indeed, it does feel a bit different with hardly any bass guitar, tightly controlled use of percussion and a dash of violin here and there. The majority of the piano is played at a high register which makes it sound quite dark. It’s certainly an engaging atmosphere coming across a bit like The Killers and/or Springsteen in places. Maybe even a little bit of a Jeff Buckley vibe on a couple of tracks, like My Cell for example. I can easily imagine these songs being played around a campfire. Gloria & Jimmy Sparks are excellent and despite it being some kind of weird redneck soap opera, III is a most engaging listen and only a whisker behind Perfect Contradiction.

Feelin’ Way Too Damn Good about this compilation.

Legends (New Of The World) is yet another giveaway disk. You may have guessed by

Carlos Santana

now that I have stacks of these, not sure why they keep getting pulled out the iTunes randomiser but I still have about 20 left to get through. This rock compilation looks pretty solid on paper, with Boston’s More Than A Feeling, Motorhead’s Ace Of Spades, Alice Cooper’s Poison, Santana’s Black Magic Woman and errrr, Buck Rogers by Feeder??

When I think about it, Feeder is a rather ominous name for a band dontcha think? Feeder, Feeder. Just what are they feeding and what are they feeding it? Such a moniker conjures images of a man eating plant, possibly named Audrey 2. Or maybe it’s a reference to a creepy 10 yr old vampire called Kirsten? We just don’t know.

Grant Nicholas of Feeder during Feeder in Concert at Carling Academy – April 1, 2005 at Carling Academy, Brixton in London, Great Britain. (Photo by SAV/FilmMagic)

Leaving the name of the band aside for a moment, let’s have a look at the name of their song here. Don’t you think it’s a bit suspicious when somebody names a song after an icon of pop culture and yet never reference it in the actual song? Take this Buck Rogers song. I’m pretty sure ‘ole Buck was a futuristic spaceman with an overly attached butler droid thingy but I don’t ever recall Buck driving a Jaguar with a CD Player or indeed, drinking cider from a lemon. Do Lemons even grow in space? Excuse me while I DM the ISS to find out.

I believe Prefab Sprout made the same mistake with their album Steve McQueen, a cynical marketing ploy if ever there was one. 10 million ppl bought the album because they thought Steve McQueen was singing on it (probably, I haven’t actually verified that).

Onto the compilation though whch like a thousand compilations before it, and probably a thousand yet to be made, contains More Than A Feeling by Boston. This really is more than a great song and will still be a great song even when the Sun has exhausted its fuel. In summary, yes there’s a few spurious choices here (I’m not even going to get started on the inclusion of Nickleback’s Feelin’ Way Too Damn Good) but this remains a fun, if lightweight collection.

Another Direction

One Direction are (or were) like the Bay City Rollers of the ‘Teenies’. Yes I said ‘Teenies’, that’s what we’re calling 2010 – 2019 right? If One Direction proved one thing, it’s that with the right talent and creativity, a highly skilled group of….. marketing execs, can make literally any 5 random blokes, pop icons, regardless of any genuine musical factors, and this, ladies and gentlemen is a true achievement for mankind.

Ok, I’ll stop. How did I even get this album? The wife gave it to me for Christmas as a ‘stocking filler’. “You’ll like it” she said. Well, proving that I will literally listen to anything sent my way, I’ve spun Flicker a good dozen times and you know what? It ain’t half bad at all. It’s a laid back, gentle MOR album mostly. There’s a few lovely vocal tracks (Flicker and Fire Away) and it begins with a strong opener in the shape of On The Loose, Horan obviously recognising the importance of a strong musical unveiling.

Slow Hands is good too, sounds contemporary with its catchy chorus. But hang on, uh-oh, Niall must be taking lessons from Captain Blunt on how to short sell your fans, why is there only 35 minutes of material here?
Actually the brevity is rather telling when you combine it with the lesser quality spread across the album. Don’t get me wrong, there’s no disasters here but if your album is less than 45 minutes and it isn’t wall-to-wall killer, it kinda says to me that you’re struggling for output.
To be fair though, on the whole this is a professionally produced effort and musically it’s good too. Niall Horan comes across as an excellent musician with a lot of potential to push on from this.

The duet with Maren Morris (Seeing Blind) is worth mentioning too, that’s nice. However, some of the album, while sounding superficially pleasant at first, can get borderline tedious with repeat listens, This Town/Too Much To Ask being a couple of examples. Flicker then, brings up the rear but bettered my expectations.

I Just Can Rely On Her

Perfect Contradiction is musically rock-solid and yet it all hinges on Palomas excellent vocal delivery. When Paloma won group 198 with Do You Want The Truth Or Something Beautiful, it suprised me, because despite her superb voice, the type of music she does isn’t the sort that normally attracts me too readily. Was that a one-off though? Looks like the answer is no. Just why do so many of these tracks sound familiar to me? Is it because I’ve sub-conciously consumed them via background radio over the years or is it because they just sound ‘right’?

There’s more than a few excellent tracks on here, Ready For The Good Life, Other Woman, Mouth To Mouth, The Bigger You Love (The Harder You Fall) and talking of big, just how ‘big’ do these songs sound? Quite the contrast against The Lumineer’s more stripped down affair.

Perfect Contradiction makes it sound like you’re in a small venue with an oversized jazz/pop ensemble blowing instruments through the amp all the way up to 11. That’s before you put Palomas’ sensationally powerful and technical vocal delivery into the mix. Yep, Perfect Contradition is a fun album albeit with a largely romatically & emotionally charged subtext, another quality effort from Paloma Faith.

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Christine & The Queens Are No Longer Still On My Mind While The Masters Are The Dark Side Of Who Built The Moon.

D’you know what he means?

Round 1 – Group 215:

1.) Who Built The Moon?:  Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds
2.) Still On My Mind:  Dido
3.) Chaleur Humaine:  Christine & The Queens
4.) Classic Rock – The Masters:  Compilation

Oh my days! Man, was this group tough going, a complete chore to get through. A less than inspiring group of albums which doesn’t say alot about my music taste, given that 3 of these albums were explicitly requested by me as Christmas ideas for the extended family to buy me, oh dear.

Lunar See

Who Built Moon? is easily the best offering here, although I don’t think it’s a good as Noel’s first solo album. These song structure are mainly hook based instead of verse chorus verse, which is more interesting than the material unfortunately. On the whole the album grooves along nicely, yet never having much of an impact. Highlights are It’s a Beautiful World, a track quite different to his Oasis material, The Man Who Built The Moon and the excellent Dead In The Water. I don’t think I’m totally convinced by this album, it wins the group mainly due to a chronic lack of competition.

Masters Of The Poo-Niverse

Is it me or is this guy’s neck wider than his torso?

I used to subscribe to Classic Rock, from edition 4 no less. Their giveaway cover disks were always a bit hit and miss, the first one I got was one of the best and featured Porcupine Tree, who also feature on this 2007 ‘Masters‘ collection.
Despite the presence of the ‘Tree‘ (not sure if that’s what their fans refer to them as) it was with some trepidation that I tentatively listened to this. I’ve had run-ins with some of these bands before and it weren’t pretty. Megadeth, Dream Theatre, Stone Sour and Dragonforce have all produced albums that I’ve previously reviewed and been less than impressed with. Trivium I saw live supporting Iron Maiden and was frankly disgusted by their lack of quality. So yes, there were some low expectation going into this…..

Magazine scene

Classic Rock were a magazine that used to mainly pine for the olden ‘golden’ days of Led Zep, Deep Purple & Black Sabbath while pretending to stay current. I remember an edition where they tried to make sense of Nu-Metal but it seems like they’ve eventually morphed in another Kerrang clone based on this compilation, it’s more death & thrash metal than anything akin to Fleetwood Mac or Genesis.
I dropped them once I came to the realisation that reading about music wasn’t as much fun and listening to it, plus they slagged off Big Country’s amazing Peace In Our Time album, suggesting it had a ‘tired’ bagpipe guitar sound. That annoyed me.

The Howling With Despair

The ‘Tree’ wow the crowd

Back to this 66 minute collection then. Humorously labelled as ‘Masters‘. Let’s be honest with ourselves for a minute, are any of these clowns really masters of anything? This 2007 magazine giveaway CD is nothing more than a selection of bad and ‘fair to good’ tracks. Opening with the ok but less-than-great Constant Motion by Dream Theatre which sounds like a generic Metallica copycat, it does offer a glimmer of hope immediately after with Porcupine Tree’s Fear Of A Blank Planet, quite a cool track.
Next we have to endure Megadeth’s barely tolerable Sleepwalker which is followed by Black Stone Cherry’s excellent Rain Wizard. Hit and miss but not a disaster right? Wrong! From then on it starts to go downhill fast, with the exception of The Howling by Within Temptation, which is ok. It’s the whole second section that ruins this disk, Dragonforce’s brand of cheese metal is terrible as usual, Opeth sound Satanic, Trivium are bland, Machine Head’s Now I Lay Thee Down blurs into Redemption and Beneath The Machine by some obscure metal acts and The Goatrider’s Hoard is a piss-take right? It must be. Final track Through Glass by Stone Sour is rather good though if you’ve managed to plough through the full 60 minutes of dirge to get you there. Last place for the ‘masters’.

Give You Both Up

Which brings us to a decider between Dido and Christine & The Queens for the all-important second place. Can I eliminate them both? Man are these albums dull, two more boring albums you’d be hard pressed to find methinks.

Still On My Mind contains the usual Dido attributes. It sounds elegant, her vocals delicate. The melodies are so whimsical they might get blown away in a mild breeze. The album is underpinned as ever by that subtle dance-like rhythm which she favours.
It’s clinical and polished but I don’t think there is any killer material here. The opener Hurricanes sets the template for the whole album, it’s interesting for a bit, then you lose interest for a bit, then it becomes interesting again, or does it?
I can’t quite make up my mind. I guess what I’m saying is that even though on the surface Give You Up, You Don’t Need A God, Still On My Mind and others are quite nice, it is incredibly easy to switch off when you’re listening to them which makes the album a bit of a drag to get through in one sitting.

INDIO, CA – APRIL 13: Christine and the Queens performs at the Outdoor Theatre during the 2019 Coachella Valley Music And Arts Festival on April 13, 2019 in Indio, California. (Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images for Coachella)

Chaleur Humaine, the debut effort from Christine & The Queens is equally dull. It might be well produced art-pop with flashes of intrigue but overall it struggles to engage.
It’s less stiff than Still On My Mind and at least conveys some romance and passion, yet it never grabs me by the heart.

Actually I think this kind of music works best as a soundtrack to something visual.
Paradise Perdus would work really well as backing music on a film. Science Fiction and several others could slot liberally into any modern TV Show and would probably sound great. I just don’t think this is an album you sit down and listen to, it’s too boring, sorry! That being said, my 11 yr old seems to quite like it so maybe I’m just getting old?

In conclusion then, Still On My Mind limps over the line in 2nd place and Chaleur Humaine is consigned to oblivion.

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Bandits and Beethoven are Blunted by Back In Black

Round 1 – Group 214:

1.) Back In Black [ Vinyl ]:  AC/DC
2.) Once Upon A Mind:  James Blunt
3.) Best Of Beethoven [ Vinyl ]:  Beethoven
4.) What Is Love:  Clean Bandit

Final Vinyl?

As you probably don’t know (because you’ve never met me, how could you?) I’ve started going through my Dad’s old vinyl and recording them to digital format. Actually a few are my Brother’s old vinyls, mostly the heavy rock stuff, like this AC/DC record in my hands right now, which is, physically speaking, a 40 year old piece of plastic. Anyhow, this digital conversion project of mine raises an interesting dilema. For albums that I already have on CD, should I put the vinyl version into this music tournament as a distinct album or does this introduce duplication? AC/DC’s Back In Black is the first such album to make me think about such a dilemma. There’s a couple of reason’s for doing it, some of the vinyls I have sound better than their crappy CD counterpart (as I’ve wrote about before) and secondly, sometimes the vinyl version is slightly different to the CD version, different track listing, track orders, etc.

In the end I’ve decided to go ahead and put these vinyl albums through the tournament just like my CDs, however, because they are vinyl, I’ll judge them based on the sound quality of the vinyl itself along with the quality of the album. This also has the benefit of forcing me to sit down and listen to my vinyls, besides, you can never listen to enough good music, right?

You Got Me Ringing

This Back In Black vinyl has obviously been well-played, especially side 1 because it’s almost as scratchy as Brian Johnson’s vocals. It’s a classic metal album no doubt, with ten solid tracks. From the opening tolling bell of Hells Bells to the closing metal ballad of Rock N Roll Ain’t Noise Pollution there’s not a single bad song, not a single bad note infact. Probably AC/DC’s most commercial output and interestingly, doesn’t feature too much in the way of endless guitar solos. Considering the man’s talent and reputation at the time, it seems strange looking back that this album didn’t feature more guitar solos from Angus. It’s about 80% riff and 20% solo at best. Fortunately, this doesn’t affect the quality of the album one bit. The riffs used are heavy enough, catchy enough and good enough to carry the whole album. Some are even more memorable than the melodies. Hells Bells being a case in point but also see Givin The Dog A Bone, Let Me Put My Love Into You and of course one of the most epic riffs ever, Back In Black. Back In Black is a metal song that Johnson sings almost like a rap and it still sounds pretty fresh 40 years later. Apparently Eminem wanted to sample the riff for Sing For The Moment
but AC/DC allegedly told him to “Go write your own riff”. He eventually used Aerosmith’s Dream On of course.

If you want to hear Angus doing 5 minute scales and frantic fingerwork, go listen to If You Want Blood You Got It – one of my favourite live albums of all time. As far as Back In Black is concerned though, this is one lean & tasty, classic metal riff-fest, expertly crafted by AC/DC and super producer Mutt Lange.

Rockabye Bye Bye

Like a 12 year old me running the 800 metres, Clean Bandit’s second studio album What Is Love starts full of enthusiasm and energy but about half way through seems to get an annoying stitch in the proverbial gut, dramatically affecting its performance,
before finally creeping over the finish line in a bit of a whimper and a small amount of annoying pain. Boy does this album start brilliantly though. It rushes out of the blocks with 5 banging pop tunes: Symphony, Baby, Solo, Rockabye and Mama.

Originally I thought that Sean Paul offered absolutely nothing to Rockabye but now

These guys are on the way up

after a few listens I realise that I was definitely right(!). You could remove his vocal completely and it would have no effect on the song. I initially thought the lyrics a bit clever, assuming that the first verse was told from the viewpoint of a young woman being told she’ll be looked after by her squeeze but then offering a clever twist whereby the same lyrics are used to describe the same young woman being left alone with a baby to bring up. However it looks like I invented all that in my head because in actuality all that happens is that the same verse is repeated with no clever switcharoo. What can I say? They should have gone with my idea.

Last Goodbye Bye Bye

What is impressive with this Clean Bandit album is all the production tricks and flicks on display, making it sound very modern, levitating the impact of most of the songs.
The clever vocal sampling on Solo being one such example. All the featured vocalists are on top form and sound superb. The diverse vocal talent lends a nice richness and keeps things fresh. Some of the songs on here can’t be helped though, even by sound-engineering-wizardry and this is where the stamina problem sets in. Craig David’s We Were Just Kids is a bit drab, Out At Night is overly simplistic to the point of annoying me and the final track In Us I Believe seems to be going nowhere until the sound producer decides to introduce some interesting percussion beats towards the end.

The album really impressed me on the first few listens but loses it’s appeal after repeated listens. Don’t get me wrong, Clean Bandit have created a very solid pop/dance album here and were probably more the victims of a strong group than anything else.

“Music should strike fire from the heart of man, and bring tears from the eyes of a woman”

If Clean Bandit have been hearing Symphonies, well they must have been listening to this Best Of Beethoven album which features no less than four of them. Who could possibly compete with Beethoven right? Well, as I’ve said many a time. This ain’t no critics choice award, this is me telling you which album is better when listened to side by side. Beethoven and all his reputation means little to me, just play me the songs and I’ll tell you how good they are. Ok, so this *is* Beethoven and I can’t avoid that I’m already familiar with 90% of this album because it’s so god-damn famous it’s ridiculous.
I mean, even my 10 yr old knows Beethoven’s 5th Symphony and can hum it. I guess there’s a reason why it’s so famous but then again, there’s plenty of famous things that are shite. Like Doctor Who and Facebook and Blackpool Tower. For pete’s sake you’re looking at a man who put Bryan Adams and Roxette albums above Thriller and Dark Side Of The Moon. Reputation means NOTHING TO ME!

“Beethoven can write music, thank god, but he can do nothing else on Earth”

Ok so reputation aside, now that I’ve spun this vinyl several times what do I think? Well, Beethoven certainly had a flair for the dramatic, his symphonies rouse triumphantly and his piano compositions spellbind. No piece more dramatic than the opening 5th Symphony, containing posssibly a better riff than Back In Black? It’s an engaging start, a piece of music filled with hope, abundantly enriching us all, as young children
are enthralled by the authority of an adult. This compilation then immediately changes pace with the second piece, Fur Elise, which is so spectacularly good I could listen to it all day, literally 24 hours and I still wouldn’t be bored with it. This is a piece of piano music which is equally romantic and delicate and breathtaking and technically beautiful. Just wow. Romance No. 2 is quite beautiful too, that lovely violin communicates with my soul. Forget air guitar, I’m doing ‘air conducting’ right now.

So far so good but once we reach Eroica, the compilation starts to hit a problem. Eroica is a solid, if unspectacular composition, which drags on way too long. Symphony No. 7 gets a tad tiresome too and the final track Symphony No. 9 wanes a little at 6 minutes.

Back in the solo piano realm, we have pretty Moonlight Sonata, and excellent Bagatelle. These and the Triple Concerto in C help to save side 2 (it’s a vinyl, remember?) and rise this collection above the rather more dispensable What Is Love.
Despite the presence of real genius and some excellent material, that 20 minutes of dullness in the middle keeps it behind Blunt and AC/DC.

Stop The Clock (at 36 minutes)

At only 36 minutes long Blunt’s latest album Once Upon A Mind seems only half finished. Didn’t he have any more songs? Could he not have a waited a few months to finish it? You’d think he’d be more self-aware too, what with releasing a single called ‘Halfway‘. Just like how this album is only ‘Halfway‘ finished *troll face*.

Despite the feeling of being short-changed this album does contain all the usual Blunt musical class that we’re acustomed too. His vocals sound gorgeous as usual, especially on the final track The Greatest. Sound production is top-notch and overall it’s another quality album from Blunt. Featuring two excellent openers in The Truth and Cold, he goes on to show that he still knows how to punch you in the feels with claustrophobic and emotional tracks like Monsters and How It Feels To Be Alive. Probably not his best work but good enough to see off Beethoven’s compilation.

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Lionels & Legends are here to Entertain You

Round 1 – Group 213:

1.) Legends:  Various
2.) Songbook:  Robbie Williams
3.) Definitive Collection Disc 2:  Lionel Richie
4.) Monsters Of Rock Live:  Various

Legends In Their Own Front Rooms

Another free Newspaper disc (Daily Mail) from many moon ago, Legends is eclectic even for me. I mean, who deliberately puts Tony Bennett, Bob Dylan and Reo Speedwagon on the same disc?

A bona-fide celebratation of music history and diversity in one collection, this Legends disc is a right treat, with some splendid songs like Billy Joel’s Piano Man, Mr Tambourine Man by The Byrds, Bridge Over Troubled Water by Simon & Garfunkle, Music To Watch Girls By by Andy Williams, ELO’s Mr. Blue Sky, Forever Autumn by Justin Hayward and many more, 20 tracks spanning 76 minutes of uninteruppted quality.

Ok, so maybe Bonnie Tyler sneaking on with ‘Speed Of Light‘ let’s the side down slightly. I mean, it’s not even Total Eclipse? Come on! Despite that little hiccup though, this is a worthy group winner and an excellent compilation, so good in fact that I’m still listening to it right now, while I type up this blog post.

Man Pop Machine

According to a recent Graham Norton episode that I watched, which Robbie Williams graced with his presence, the perennial pop star has just achieved his 13th number 1 album. Let me just say that one more time for those at the back. Robbie Williams has had THIRTEEN NUMBER ONE RECORDS!!!! This doesn’t even include all his stuff with Take That, you know, that small boyband band, that occassionaly ruled the charts.

Songbook is a kind of greatest hits but with a few of his personal favourites thrown in too I’m guessing. I wasn’t prepared for how much I would like the ones I wasn’t familiar with, like The Trouble With Me or Me & My Monkey, a modern day allegory depicting Robbie’s inner personality battling addictions.

I’ve probably never given Robbie the credit he deserves for his penmenship, his lyrics are quite clever at times and communicate with a strength and emotion. Count the pop culture references on Viva Life On Mars, Star Wars, Beach Boys even a little Pet Shop Boys easter egg sneaks in “Lake Geneva to the Finland Station“.

Despite not typically known for his strong vocals, the live tracks here of his biggest and best loved hits, Let Me Entertain You, Angels, Rock DJ are actually all very good performances with decent sound production. Of the studio tracks, Nan’s Song is probably the weakest link in this otherwise excellent Songbook collection, yet I can forgive him the sentiment and salute his ability to continuously entertain me (somehow).

Hello, Why Is It Not Me You’re Looking For?

I’m not sure why I split Lionel Richie’s Definitive Collection into two albums for this competition. I haven’t done that for any other 2 disc collections, like Monsters of Rock Live in this very group. I’ll try to be more consistent in future.

Lionel always oozes class and has created some timeless classics. This disc includes Endless Love, Hello, 3 Times a Lady and Easy. With quality like that, winning this group should be ‘Easy‘ right? Well erm, no. Those songs definitely are timeless and I do like them but they all come at once like a slow running river of liquified ‘lovey dovey soppy woppy’.

It’s not until we get to the funky Brickhouse that this collection livens up a bit but that’s also where the quality tapers off slightly with the likes of Flyin High, Machine Gun and Zoom. This suprised me as much as it suprises you but Robbie Williams’ more vibrant Songbook clearly defeats Lionel’s more pedestrian offering.

King Of The Monsters

That leaves us with Monsters Of Rock: Live which I had great hopes for. Hopes that were dashed after a single listen. I can forgive that they seem to have borrowed some artists from a ‘Monsters Of Pop’ album with the likes of Gary Numan and T’Pau making the cut. There’s certainly some well known tracks on here too but there’s also what I would call a highly dynamic level of both performance quality and production quality.

The good:

  • Deep Purple’s live version of Smoke On Water is absolutely superb, excellent, it even features the late great Ronnie James Dio doing a guest verse.
  • The Stranglers do a great job of No More Heroes, although I’d hardly group them under a ‘Monsters Of Rock‘ banner, they were more pop/punk and not exactly stadium fillers, right?
  • Fleetwood Mac’s Black Magic Woman is pretty tight though so that’s good.

The bad:

  • Oh dear is Chicago’s 25 or 6 to 4 a bootleg recording? Was the sound engineer off sick that night? Is this really the best version of this song they could find?
  • Most of Nazareth’s A Broken Down Angel is sung by the crowd which doesn’t make for a great audio experience, plus who are Nazareth?
  • I happen to really like Jefferson Airplane’s Somebody To Love, that is, when I can hear it, which I can’t here.

In summary an insipid & lacklustre live collection, overly long and barely good enough to warrant keeping around.

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Take That have no Patience for Silverstein and Boston tell Swing Out Sister to Turn It Off

Round 1 – Group 212:

1.) Odyssey:  Take That
2.) Corporate American:  Boston
3.) Discovering The Waterfront:  Silverstein
4.) Where Our Love Grows:  Swing Out Sister

 

In The Twist Of Pure Emotion

Much like the theory of Quantum Entaglement, the career of Take That and my own personal life journey have been inexplicably linked through the years, despite the vast distance between us. When Take That first hit the charts in the early 90’s, they were the antithesis of a good band in my eyes. They couldn’t play instruments, they couldn’t write music, all they could do was prance around in music videos lip-synching to uninteresting songs. Over time, as the hits kept coming and the Top Of The Pops appearances never diminished, I found that I could no longer ignore the relentless quality of Sure, Babe, Back For Good, A Million Love Songs and Never Forget. The stupid boy band image/antics couldn’t shield my adolescent self from the songwriting craft under the surface.

In 1994 I had two epiphanies around the same time, one was that I found my hatred for Alex Ferguson and his stupid Manchester United team disolve into admiration and respect for probably the best football team I’ve ever seen and the second was that my disdain for Take That grudgingly turned into a cold acceptance that this Gary Barlow character was not only a wonderfully talented song writer but also seemed to be a really nice chap to boot. What was going on?

Take Spat

Then came the dark years when Take That split up. I didn’t need to ring the special hotline that they set up to help people through the trauma, although I’m sure a few of the girls at my school probably needed to. Next was the the Robbie/Barlow chart rivalry, which turned out to be less of a rivalry and more a case of Barlow disappearing into obscurity while Robbie went truly global.

I must be one of only a dozen people that went out and purchased ‘Open Road‘, on a cassette no less. I backed Barlow all the way, he had all the talent and Robbie was, to quote Liam Gallacher, just ‘a fat dancer from Take That‘. I hadn’t learned my lessons though as Robbie proceeded to release great pop like Angels, and Let Me Entertain You, and South Of The Border and I Hope I’m Old Before I Die and I found myself doing another 180 and becoming a big fan of this new pop showman.

Still, I knew in my heart that Barlow was a real talent. In this business, sometimes that’s not enough. 16 yr old me would have scoffed at the idea that older me would celebrate a Take That comeback but back in 2006 when I found out that the incredible pop song that I’d been hearing on the radio for the last few weeks was actually Take That and written by Barlow (it was ‘Patience‘), I felt genuinely happy for both them and myself. Patience wasn’t a one-off either, Take That’s (Barlow’s) newer material rivals their old
90’s output, possibly even surpassing it. Take a look at some of the new era songs here on Odyssey. Giants, Spin, Cry, Greatest Day and Rule The World. The Odyssey mixes don’t sound dramtically different from the originals but do blend the string of classic pop hits together in a coherent way. Odyssey then is a celebration of Barlow’s songwriting legacy, a fun collection and one hell of a back catalogue, the strongest album here.

So What The Hell, Order Your Mercedezes and Leather.

Corporate America is the embodiment of smooth melodic rock n’ roll. Jazzlike in its smoothness, Beach Boy-esque harmonies and probably not much actual rock n roll to be honest (trollface). It’s a shame that Boston albums are almost as rare as public appearances by Kate Bush, this being only the fifth studio release by the band in 2002. The album also introduces two new members in Fran Cosmo and Kimberley Dahme and would be the last appearance of original vocalist Brad Delp before his death in 2007.

The songwriting of Cosmo and the female vocals of Dahme definitely take the band in a different direction at times. I’m not necessarily complaining though, Kimberley Dahme’s vocals and harmonies are quite beautiful and blend very well with the now two male vocialists. Her own song, With You is also quite beautiful but not very Boston-like, it comes over as a folk effort.

Scholz of course is known for his high-tech guitar arrangements but these seem to be subdued here. Cryin’ is probably the only track that gives us an actual guitar solo with only flashes of ‘serious’ riffage elsewhere on the album. Scholz does still prove his outstanding songwriting ability with the title track Corporate America, easily the strongest effort here. A melodic rock anthem that espouses the dangers of globalism and global industrial exploitation, a theme even more prevalent in the forefront of people’s minds today.

Unable To Break Out

Where Our Love Grows continues the Swing Out Sister trademark pop/jazz style. I actually thought that this was one of their albums from the 80’s. That’s how dated it sounds. That’s not a negative thing you understand, at least not in my mind.
Eventually, on the third or fourth listen, that throbbing synth psuedo alarm on Certain Shades Of Limelight gave away its more modern nature. Each song is pleasant enough, with just enough pop sensibility to prevent the album from descending into a dreary jam session. Certainly the opening two tracks of Love Won’t Let You Down and Where Our Love Grows have fairly catchy melodies with Corinne Drewery’s soft agreeable vocals providing texture and emotion. This is one of those albums that doesn’t
do a lot wrong except that it occassionally flirts with boredom if you let your mind wander. Not overly grand or impressive, not doing enough to ‘Break Out‘ of this group (ahem), simply just an enjoyable album worthy of the occassional listen.

Shout In Your Sleep

Discovering The Waterfont is Canadian Screamo band Silversteins’ second studio album. I’ve given this outfit both a bit of stick but also some kind words in the past and I’m happy to report that this effort is better than the previous 2 albums that I’ve heard.
Not by much though, it still has too much unecessary shouting and a few bland numbers but it is an improvement to their debut When Broken Is Easily Fixed. The musicanship, especially the guitar arrangements is much better here and used to good effect on tracks like Smile In Your Sleep and The Ides Of March. The production

Get ready for another soothing Silverstein lullaby

values have stepped up too and this helps deliver solid versions of My Heroine, Call It Karma and title track Discovering The Waterfront.

They do have a knack for expressive song names too, with the likes of Fist Wrapped In Blood and You’re Sword Vs. My Dagger, Beethoven & Strauss could learn alot from these guys, no? Shout out to the melodic heavy rock of Already Dead too, a good track and one which sounds inspired by Iron Maiden due to its melodic centre while seemingly aping the concept of AC/DC’s Night Prowler. A decent effort but ultimately well short of the top two.

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Beethoven & Bach get Tangled Up by too much Party Rocking on The Road To Hell

Round 2 – Group 17

1.) Road To Hell:  Chris Rea
2.) Sorry For Party Rocking:  LMFAO
3.) Tangled Up:  Girls Aloud
4.) 100 Relaxing Classics Volume 2:  Various

Bach in Time

To tell you the truth I’ve always been way more enraptured by rock n roll than by classical music. I would be lying if I said it didn’t quite bore me most of the time. And so
here we have the single volume of my 5 CD set ‘100 Relaxing Classics‘ that actually made it through to round 2. At the expense of Nik Kershaw’s Greatest Hits no less, back in group 83. That Kershaw compiliation is a bit of a distaster though, so this probably doesn’t say alot.

What do we have then? A collection of true composing masters such as Beethoven, Tchaickovsky, Mozart, Bach, Strauss, etc, etc bringing us pieces such as Bagatelle in E Flat, Symphony no.6, Piano Concerto No.1 and other assorted generic titles. Well, rock n roll definitely has better song names, no?

Going Chopin for some new music

So, as I commenced the listening sessions for this group I was prepared to be bored, quite bored and to be honest 100 Relaxing Classics Volume 2 is quite boring at times.
It’s also quite captivating. I found myself wanting to put it on again and again and this took me by surprise. Sure, some of the big band orchestral stuff certainly isn’t my
bag and sounds better suited as backgroud on some TCM channel movie, yet some of these pieces are rather beguiling, especially the ones feeaturing prominent violin and piano solos.

It starts to get interesting while delivering Bizet’s Minuet L’arlessienne Suite No 2, then later on there’s some lovely piano on Rachmaninov’s Rhapsody On A Theme From Paganini, Bach’s Prelude No 1 In C From Book 1 The Well Tempered Clavier and the aformentioned Bagatelle In E Flat Op 126 No 3 by Beethoven.
Worth a mention too is the beautiful classical guitar on Albeniz Sonata. But probably my favourite track here is sadness inducing violin-led piece Prelude In A Op 28 No 4 by Chopin, which is very nice indeed.

Now this all sounds rather like I’m coming over all pretentious, but worry not, despite some of its charm, this collection of legendary composers is still largely forgettable and easily beaten by Girls Aloud’s pop packaged Tangled Up and also easily beaten by the outlandishly cheeky & cheesy dance/electro/pop/rap edifice of Sorry For Party Rocking by LMFAO. Looks like my salt of the earth, man of the people reputation is still intact, phew !

Put that Sass to work

I’ve previously praised Girls Aloud’s material for being lyrically smart and well-crafted. Tangled Up delivers that in spades. Some of the melodies and pop hooks are absurdly good. The Girls do a decent job with the vocals too, they can all sing pretty good but what really draws me in is the songwriting flair of Miranda Cooper, responsibile for top tunes such as Call The Shots, Girl Overboard, Can’t Speak French and Fling. They tell the tales of a care-free woman bestriding the thrills and spills of modern love. I can almost put myself in her shoes(!)

They might have indulged Miranda with her track ‘I’m Falling‘ though, not saying I dislike that one but it’s a bit different from the rest and hard to imagine teeny boppers relating to. Anyhow, this entire album is solid, certainly more unfluctuating than Sorry For Party Rocking. So why does the terribly named LMFAO duo’s second studio album beat Tangled Up into 2nd place? Well, it certainly has a couple of naff songs (Shots/Hot Dog) but boy are there some bangin’ tunes on here.

The Calvin Harris collaboration Reminds Me Of You is superb, an epic club sound with some fastidious rapping. The #1 UK single Party Rock Anthem, featuring it’s classic zombie video is another banger and yes I even think I’m Sexy and I know It is good too, despite its obvious novelty vein. The party vibe continues elsewhere with Champagne Showers, We Came Here To Party and Best Night featuring will.i.am (who also produced much of the album). A very entertaining effort that sees off the challenge of Tangled Up.

This ain’t no technological breakdown

Released in 1989, The Road To Hell is Chris Rea’s 10th studio album and his most commercially successfull, topping the UK album chart for three weeks when it landed.
The entire albuum is a creation from the mind of a singularly talented individual.

MUNICH, GERMANY – MAY 16: Chris Rea performs on stage at Rock Im Park on May 16th 1997 in Nuremberg, Gremany. (Photo by Bernd Muller/Redferns)

Not only is all the music written by Rea but he produced the album himself and plays keyboards and some remarkable guitar, including that trademark slide guitar. An album rooted in blues with Rea’s exquisite songwriting craft holding it together, Road To Hell produces strong track after strong track, the rhythm section from I Just Wanna Be With You is good enough to listen to on its own if you were so inclined, it’s gorgeous!

The album also includes the marvellous eight minute Looking For A Rainbow, the catchy That’s What They Always Say, lyrically pleasing Texas and his biggest ever single Road To Hell (part 2) which got to number 10 on the singles chart. This is a superb album and is separated from the rest of this group by a huge gulf in quality.

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Xzibit has to Let Go while 2Pac gets Mystified by Fleetwood Mac

Can you guess who slept with who?

Round 2 – Group 16:

1.) Tango In The Night:  Fleetwood Mac
2.) Let Go:  Avril Lavigne
3.) Greatest Hits:  2Pac
4.) Man Vs. Machine:  Xzibit

Call The Cops When You See 2Pac

When two hip hop albums get drawn out randomly in the same group it’s a logistical nightmare to schedule the listening of them around when the family is out of the house. Listening to them in the car is just as challenging, you can’t exactly have 2 Of Amerikas Most Wanted slinging through the car stereo speakers on the school run can you? It doesn’t exactly set a good example. First world problems right?

2Pac’s Greatest Hits is an almighty collection of every solid track he produced during his short life. It’s wall to wall soothing, slick R&B style hip hop and gansta rap. A tremendously good rapper able to mix up the styles and unlike a lot of contempories 2Pac’s rapping style is fairly melodic and rythmic. At times he displays a masterful talent even if I’m not totally down with the track at hand. The combination of rapping and backbeat on tracks like Trapped, I Get Around, Picture Me Rollin gets mesmerising after a few listens.

He Ain’t Mad At Cha

At 2 hours in length though, it becomes hard work to finish it in one sitting and for all the mammothly enjoyable stuff like Dre’s bouncy party California Love, 2Pac’s clinical rapping on Brenda’s Got A Baby or Troublesome and the controversial Hit Em Up inflaming East Vs West tensions, as you dig through the entire collection you start to want to skip a few of them. The ones’ with unecessary wailing for example or the murdering of Bruce Hornsby’s The Way It Is .

I’m sure many Hip Hop fans will be outraged that I put Avril Lavigne’s debut above 2Pac’s Greatest Hits, well this is how I see it folks, I make no apologies for shamelessly enjoying Let Go as an album experience slightly more than 2Pac’s collection. I do mean slightly, Let Go barely scrapes in above it but I’m sure I’ll be forgiven and regain some credibility from the street when I say that 2Pac is most definitely a class above Xzibit. Word.

The Game Is 10% Skill and 90% Hollywood

Yo dawg, etc, etc

Regardless of it’s inabiltity to compete in this group, Man Vs. Machine is certainly a well produced hip hop record. I guess that’s no surprise when you get help from the likes of  Dre, Eminem, Nate and Snoop who all pitch in at various points. Dre’s Symphony in X Major becomes like a blueprint for the style of the whole album. Serious rapping with a light touch coupled with pop sensibilities. Multiply, Heart Of Man (with its sampling of Toto’s Africa) and Losin’ Your Mind all sound commercial with the catchy and err, ‘sexually dominant’ Choke Me, Spank Me, Pull My Hair competing with Eminem’s My Name Is for best track on the record.

My Name Is is typical Em from era 2000 – 2003, even with Nate Dog’s slightly comical chorus (“Put Your Nuts On The Table….Let’s Play The Game“) this could have made the 8 Mile soundtrack. Alas the issue with Man Vs. Machine is its inability to retain a consistently high quality delivery. Too many tracks here fall flat and start to get irksome with repeated listens. End track Enemies isn’t much cop, Break Yourself gets annoying after a while and Missin U has that god-awful wailing, it sounds like somebody put an injured cat through autotune.

Step Up and Let Go

C Y4 L8er ! (Did I do that right?)

As tenuous as this link sounds, listening to these four albums back to back for a few weeks had me notice that Avril Lavigne seems to copy the ‘Step Up‘ motif on Nobody’s Fool from 2Pacs I Get Around. Maybe she’s a fan?

Anyhow on Let Go, Avril, who was only 18 at the time of it’s release, shows us she means busniess with the angsty opener Losing Grip, a conventional light/dark grunge-lite effort. Other ‘punk-lite’ efforts, the fun Skater Boi & relationship melodrama Unwanted get scattered among the opening half of this debut record but soon however, the album reveals itself as a melodic, more poppy, sing-along with a few credible songs like Mobile, Unwanted, Things I’ll Never Say and of course her big hit Complicated.

She has a solid authentic voice and the album’s production is professional with workmanlike musicanship. For a moment here, Let Go wobbled and looked like it might get beaten by 2Pac, but its blend of courageous innocence and melodic naive appeal sees it through in 2nd place safely (just).

You Know When You’ve Been Tango’d

During a discussion with a colleague many years ago, I once said that Tango In The Night was a better album than Rumours. I didn’t realise how bold that staement was until the words left my mouth. My colleague, being a muso much like myself scoffed at the idea. Rumours has The Chain and Dreams and Don’t Stop he probably said. Well I don’t care, Tango is a sumptuous album and perfect blending of layered melodic cascades and gently tumbling harmonies seeping through your speakers and elegantly gliding into your ears. The lyrics are romantic and tragic and sensual, and so is the music. That beautiful flamenco guitar on Family Man, the enveloping harp-like synth wrapping Everywhere around you, the vocal harmony and crafted perfection of Little Lies, the tribal percussion and sensuality of Caroline. A top draw effort from this tortured supergroup and the last album they ever did with the full line-up.

 

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Fingers, Heart, Soul and Mind are all slaves to the American Heartbeat

Round 1 – Group 211

1.) American Heartbeat [ Vinyl ]:  Various
2.) Nine Track Mind:  Charlie Puth
3.) Fingers Of Gold [ Vinyl ]:  Juanillo de Alba
4.) Heart And Soul – A Valentines Collection:  Various

 

Heartbeaten

Heart And Soul – A Valentines Collection is a collection of mainly famous standards, and despite a good beginning with Phyliss Nellson’s Move Closer and Al Jarreau’s Let’s Stay Together its turns into a bit of a mixed bag with a melange of live & recorded songs and non-originals. The quality of recordings is heterogeneous, for instance the live version of Slow Hand by The Pointer Sisters is excellent whereas the performance of Let’s Get It On by Marvin Gaye is poor. Gerry & The Pacemakers manage to suck all the emotion from Unchained Melody whereas The Drifters’ Save The Last Dance For Me sounds great. There’s a couple of question marks on here too, like what is this version of Tracks Of My Tears? It certainly isn’t the original and why is Dianna Ross MIA on Baby Love? A sub-standard selection.

Finger picking good

Fingers Of Gold is an old Vinyl pressed in 1970 by flamenca guitar player Juanillo de Alba. His music is flamboyent and really quite beautiful and what a talent. Such technical mastery, imagine what this guy could do with an electric guitar and a rock band! I thought it’d be a yawn-fest but it’s quite pleasant actually, albeit you have set your expctations accordingly. This whole album is one man with one instrument. No singing, no ‘phat’ beats, no Rhythm & Blues and all 8 tracks tread a similar musical path. A sensationally gifted guitar player though and culturally enrichening if nothing else. Betters the messy Valentines collection but doesn’t quite match Nine Track Mind.

One Call Away from a cancelled record deal

American singer/songwriter Charlie Puth shows on his debut effort Nine Track Mind that he has a lovely tone to his voice and makes laid back soulfully glazed pop. Until I listened to this I hadn’t actually realised he was the guy behind Let’s Marvin Gaye & Get It On, which I originally thought was a thoroughly naff song with dubious lyrics and owning the album hasn’t dented that view much. Why does this bug me so much, ‘Let’s Marvin Gaye and Get It On, like they said in the song’. Who’s *they*? Surely the line should be like *he* said in the song, you know, ‘Marvin‘, the guy you’re namechecking in the title? Also who says things like “it’s time for Karma Sutra show & Tell” or “we’ve got this KingSize to ourself”? Who else were you expecting to be in your bed with you Charlie? Obviously me and the Puth live very different lives!

In places the album is insipid and underwhelming but occassionally it’s not bad, I’ve come to appreciate tracks like My Gospel, Losing My Mind and even Dangerously. The album is shaped by piano pop, he’s a bit like Daniel Powter on a Bad Day (fnarr). Actually I thought at first that he sounds incredibly similar to Panic At The Disco vocalist Brendon Urie, so similar in fact that I had to google it just to make sure it wasn’t the same person. Crawls over the line for another go in round two.

Hearts Are Burning On The Boulevard

American Heartbeat was the soundtrack of my youth, one of the first tapes I had on my little tape machine. This was before I got a stereo so I must have been about 9 years old. The tape machine had a dual purpose, it could play my music tapes, recorded from my Dad’s vinyl setup, or it could load my ZX Spectrum games, Jet Set Willy, Manic Miner, Space Invaders that sort of thing. What it couldn’t do was play music *and* load computer games at the same time, so when I did finally get my own stereo setup it was a game changer.

American Heartbeat is an AOR compilation from 1984 featuring some spectacular tracks. It’s wave after wave of melodic rock masterpieces. A compilation I’ve been listening to for over 30 years and quite possibly one of my most played tapes. I still have the tape but I no longer have a tape player! It’s not available on CD (I’ve been looking for years) and so it’s only recently that I’ve managed to give it a listen again now that I have my shiny new turntable and my Dad’s vinyl collection. My turntable records to digital WAV format so I’ve digitally recorded the whole vinyl (which itself is pretty worn out) and then I’ve pumped it through an MP3 converter so that I can play it in the car and wow!, what a great trip down memory lane this album is.

When I first listened as a small kid I didn’t know the track listing and didn’t realise there were songs from repeat bands. Toto’s three songs could be by three different bands for example (Rosanna, Africa, Hold The Line). Quarterflash’s Harden My Heart could be one of the best tarcks here and that’s saying something in company like this (More Than A Feeling by Boston, Don’t Fear The Reaper by Blue Oyster Cult, Carry On Wayward Son by Kansas and more!). These songs are so well crafted, this is true art. Representative of an age personified by radio friendly, singable melodic rock songs with enough rock attidude and electric guitars to swell the emotions of both casual and fanatic rock fans alike. This compilation is mixed to perfection too. Only many years later did I find out that most of these songs were edited versions. It was when I bought Boston’s self-titled debut album on CD that I realised they had stripped out a whole verse from the Amercian Heartbeat version of More Than A Feeling. Similarly, Journey’s Who’s Cryin Now and REO Speedwagon’s Keep On Loving You have also been shortened, the latter missing an entire guitar solo, but you know what? It doesn’t detract at all, these songs sound like they belong together and work their magic nonetheless. A true compilation materpiece.

 

 

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Whenever I Stop, Suddenly I See that The Damage Is Done to the usual Love Songs

Round 2 – Group 15:

1.) Eye To The Telescope:  KT Tunstall
2.) M6:  Mike & The Mechanics
3.) Foreigner:  Foreigner
4.) Love Songs:  Various

I Didn’t See This Coming
M6 is an organic album, lots of stripped back semi-acoustic rhythms, along with Rutherford’s accompanying electric guitars with his trademark musicanship. Packed with gorgeous vocals from Paul Young and Paul Carrack, Carrack especially sounds delicious on If Only and Asking For The Last Time.

Somebody get them another cup of coffee

For all its charm and musical chops and despite containing not one bad song, there is still something about M6 that doesn’t quite levitate it to the echelons of great albums.
Maybe it’s the lack of an absolute belter like ‘All I Need Is A MIracle‘, ‘Silent Running‘, ‘Another Cup Of Coffee’ or ‘Living Years‘ or maybe it’s the lack of diversity. It was the follow up to Beggar On A Beach Of Gold which certainly felt a bit different from previous Mechanics album. For the record, I think M6 is a superior, albeit safer album than Beggar. What Will You Do?, Asking For The Last Time and Did You See Me Coming are all brilliant songs, could it have a longevity problem? Well it still sounds great after 20 yrs but I guess time will tell!

Tell Me What Your Telescope Says

Eye To The Telecope paints marvellous mental imagery inside the listeners brain. Take Silent Sea, the nautical themes of which enhance this songs ability to conjure images of a rainswept harbour. With this debut album, Tunstall proved out of the blocks, that she’s a serious musician.
All those hours busking with a loop pedal have certainly honed her craft and if you look through her telescope you’ll discover some wondeful compositions. Sure the minor hits
of Other Side Of The World and Suddenly I See along with critical acclaim greatly helped to bring attention to a wider audience (Eye To The Telecope was nominated for the 2005 Mercury Music Prize) but dig deeper and you’ll find a quite beautiful and rewarding album here beyond those pop friendly songs.

It’s more stripped back than M6, certainly no keyboards here but splashes of beautiful grand piano. The guitar-led tracks generating a mid tempo ‘folky’/’stompy’ style while the slow ones are atmoshperic and moody, highlighting Tunstall’s vocals which are reined in and delicate on Under The Weather and Through The Dark but full-bodied on Another Place To Fall. Black Horse & The Cherry Tree is simply wonderful, possibly my favourite track here. I’ll let my heart do all the talking and put Eye To The Telecope atop this group!

Feels Like The Worst Time

Foereigner’s self-titled debut is possibly the weakest of the Gramm/Jones era with the exception of Inside Information but it’s far from a weak album. For a seventies rock band they certainly use their fair share of synthesisers all over the place on this album. That electronic sound would grow stronger on later albums of course but here it is more sporadic. The hits are still absolute bangers, Long way From Home still rocks along nicely, Cold As Ice sounds as fantastic as ever and while Feels Like The First

Somebody needs to tell them that one of them brought a GUN to a photoshoot.

seems a bit more tired, the core of that song is still very strong aswell.

Outside of those three the style flip flops between ballads (Fool For You Anyway / Damage Is Done) and classical rhythm and blues (Headknocker / At War With The World). On the whole, the repertoire here maybe a bit narrow for some but you do get Starrider which comes across a bit hippy/psychedellic, and despite the second half being weaker than the first half, the album does end with a very interesting and experimental I Need You. Not a great album but one that laid the foundation for Foreigner to go on and produce some very strong albums afterwards.

Crushed

Love Songs, despite its length, is an excellent blend of real pop classics. It may have beaten Adele’s 25 to second place in group 201 but while giving Foreigner’s self-titled debut a run for its money, it eventually couldn’t live with the higher caliber of albums we are seeing in round 2 as so aptly demonstrated here.

Despite excellent songs like Crush by Jennifer Page, Something About The Way You Look Tonight by Elton John, Shania Twain’s You’re Still The One, Leanne Rimes How Do I Live and onto the superbness of You Do Something To Me by Paul Weller and classics Have I Told You Lately (Rod Stewart) and I’ll Stand By You (The Pretenders) it’s still a compilation let down by Boyzone sucking all emotion and feeling from No Matter What (is there a cover that they didn’t murder?) and the barely mediocre Even After All by Finlay Quaye which is a shame.

I did discover one thing though. High by The Lighthouse Family was a song that I used to slate when it came out, I thought the singer was tuneless and the song was pathetic, now 20 yrs later I find it a charming little song. Maybe I’m turning into an old fogey?

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No Revival from The Bends as Ed Sheeran Divides and Conquers

Round 1 – Group 210

1.) Divide:  Ed Sheeran
2.) The Bends:  Radiohead
3.) Revival:  Eminem
4.) The Last Dance:  Various

Tracks Of My Years

The Last Dance is a collection of gentle love songs and quite a lovely little collection is it too. Featuring tracks like the charming ‘Last Waltz‘ by Engelbert Humperdinck, ‘Just My Imagination‘ by The Temptations, pop ballads ‘Save The Best For Last‘ (Vennessa Williams), Three Time A Lady (Commodores) and a couple of nailed-on classics like Marvin Gaye’s I Heard It Through The Grapevine and Smokey Robinsons Tracks Of My Tears. It’s only really let down by Boyzone murdering Barry Gibb’sWords‘ and a rather uneccassary re-working of Wet Wet Wet’s Angel Eyes. Almost bettered Revival but not quite.

Tragic Bendings

2017’s Revival re-treads a lot of old ground but never surpasses any of Eminem’s previous six albums. I think it’s a bit messy in places, Arose for example is pretty poor tbh and tracks like Remind Me and Offended don’t really deliver. There is some good stuff of course, mainly in the first quarter in the shape of Believe, Chloraseptic & Untouchable which help the album make a decent start but then it descends into a
rock-sample-heavy array of pallid rap tracks.

River with Ed Sheeran feels like a missed opportunity. I was expecting Ed and Slim to do some rapping and riff off eachother, we all know Ed can rap pretty good, so why does he hold back? Later, Slim calls Donald Trump a Nazi on the political Like Home, wait, Slim is a liberal now? I don’t like to say that people have lost their edge but Marshall
seems on a downward keel, which is a shame. All that said though and Radiohead’s allegedly ‘classic’ 2nd album The Bends only Just pips Revival here thanks to a set of dreamlike & articulate tracks produced in a way that makes them seep directly into your conciousness. Much more coherent than Revival and lively than other Radiohead efforts Kid A and OK Computer, yet not an album that blows me away by any means, it nevertheless makes for an agreeable listen.

Ed couldn’t make his fans Happier

Divide has more than a whiff of Eric Clapton about it. From Perfect (which sounds uncannily reminiscent of Wonderful Tonight) and elsewhere on the guitar style on How Would You Feel which could be right at home on Journeyman or Slow Hand.
Maybe Sheeran’s overwhelming style is too prodigiously MOR for some but the kids seem to lap this shit up don’t they? Beginning with the genuinely excellent Eraser, Divide remains an engaging album of high quality with some memorable tracks like Castle On The Hill, Shape Of You, Happier and New Man. Another decent effort from the English Bob Dylan.

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