Round 2 – Group 22:
The Beatles’ ‘1‘ album was released in 2000, on the 30th anniversary of the band’s break-up and features virtually every number-one single the band achieved in the United Kingdom and United States from 1962 to 1970. Working chronologically, it starts with those great early beat hits of Love Me Do, Can’t Buy Me Love, She Loves You, etc and eventually gets more progressive and groundbreaking as you work you way through the 27 tracks, taking in such musical works of art as Eleanor Rigby, Yesterday, Come Together, Let It Be, Paperback Writer, Help, Ticket To Ride, Hey Jude and the rest. It’s a truly great and comprehensive body of work and begs the question whether any album could ever come close to topping such a sumptuous assemblage.
Well, that remains to be seen. Yes, for sure this compilation easily wins this group but in my view, compilation albums are vulnerable in this competition, espeically against beautifully crafted albums that embue an holistic body of work. Remember that albums are not just a collection of songs, they are more than the sum of their parts. The ordering, the vibe, the themes, all help to catpult the experience. Some compilations though, like this one, are truly great in their own right and will prove difficult to beat. Round three will be interesting, no doubt!
Can’t Buy Me Success like this
Being the 2nd consecutive round two group where we’ve seen The Beatles, after Sgt. Pepper won the previous group, it’s been a wonderful experience over the last couple of months to revisit and spend a bit of time with the Fab Four, I think I’ve fallen back in love with the Beatles. It’s also interesting to note that there’s no crossover from Sgt. Pepper to this compilation, as nothing on Sgt. Pepper rose to the top of the charts. The material on this collection though is simply magical. Sure, some of the songs are starting to show their age a little bit, a few sound a little simplistic, especially against today’s polished production, yet despite that, these songs are, on the whole, still incredibly well produced for the period. The mix is sometimes inconsistent, Can’t Buy Me Love sounds quiet and Help seems to start a split second too late(!). Containing those infectious early hits (From Me To You, I Want To Hold Your Hand, Love Me Do), the cracking rock riff on Paperback Writer, the supreme melodic excellence of Ticket To Ride, 8 Days a Week and Help, which all sound better than ever, this is a truly superb collection and the third Beatles album through to round 3 as group topper here.
To Go Boldly
Iron Maiden’s 15th studio album Final Frontier, with it’s Star Trek title and Eddie the space astronaut cover art, should be an epic space metal opera. While there are a few spacey references, “contact earth”, “land this thunderbird”, etc, much of the lyrical
themes seem more nautical, like an elongated return to Rime Of The Ancient Mariner or Ghost Of The Navigator. With an intro that seems to go on forever, longer than some albums I own infact, leaving you gasping, the album remains hard to get into. It has that same style of intensive metal as preceeding album Matter Of Life or Death, it’s just not as memorable. It’s almost laborious to listen to the full 70 odd minutes of this album, especially without anything truly dazzling on here.
The gruff riffs are heavy not particularly melodic, some of it gets quite dull if I’m being honest. The Isle Of Avalon & The Man Who Would Be King being two tracks that seem lethargically devoid of interest. Don’t get me wrong, this is Maiden and Final Frontier is good in spurts. There’s definitely some cracking metal, coming in waves of sporadic 2/3 minute passages, especially during Coming Home, The Alchemist and The Talisman. These moments do not rescue it though, when I first listened to this album back in October 2013 [link], I remarked that I was unconvinced by it and needed to listen to it at least 5 more times. Well, I’ve listened to it about a dozen times in the last month and I’m still not convinced, I’m a big Maiden fan but Final Frontier has
reached the limits of its musical universe in this group without coming close to anything else here.
Whenever I listen to Chronicles by Steve Winwood, it gives me a warm familiar, comfortable feeling. Winwood is a consummate professional and this album features some accomplished instrumentational and musical performances. I’ve been enjoying this collection of songs since I was a kid. I first heard Steve Winwood through his song While You See A Chance, which was on an old mixtape my brother lent me. It was such a good mixtape too, having Sting’s Englishman New York, some Clannad and to be honest I can’t remember what else now! It was too many years ago. I remember wanting to keep hold of it and was most disappointed when my brother asked for it back. I remember us arguing about it because not only did I not want to give it up, I could have sworn he told me I could have it, lol!
Beyond the comfort, there’s an overfamiliarity to Chronicles, I’ve listened to it maybe a hundred times, if not more! There’s no doubt that it’s dripping with class, check out the funky guitar riff bubbling under the surface of Wake Me Up On Judgement Day and alongside While You See A Chance, there’s three belters on here in Help Me Angel, Valerie and Higher Love, all expertly arranged.
Where this album falters slightly against the much tighter experience of This Addiction is in the more pedestrian moments. Vacant Chair’s 6 minute run time is bloated, I’ve never felt the need for its overly repetitive final third. Elsewhere, Arc Of A Diver is one of the songs that despite my admiration for it, feels a little dull with repeated listens, My Love’s Leavin‘ is a bit like that too. Also, the sound mix is a bit off, Valerie and While You See a Chance are much louder than Talking Back To The Night and Higher Love, that has always bugged me, especially as they usually fix this for compilations in the engineering process.
The American Scream
Onto This Addiction then, Alkaline Trio’s seventh studio album. This was released in the same year as Maiden’s Final Frontier and is one tight little album, assaulting you with its exciting and dynamic power chords, and some splendidly dark melodies.
This was another album that I wasn’t 100% convinced by when I first bought it back in September 2011, rather interestingly it finished ahead of another Maiden album (Best Of The B Sides) in Round 1, Group 143 [link]. Back then I recognised that it was another excellent delivery, yet not quite at the same level as the three previous Trio albums, Good Mourning, Crimson and Agony & Irony. Well, I think I like it even more now, ten years later!
Yes, Dine Dine My Darling remains the weakest track here and for some reason forces me to muse the prospect of a crossover of that reality cooking show Come Dine With Me and that old Cameron Diaz film The Last Supper, don’t ask me why. It doesn’t help the album fly out of the tracks after the solid title track but with Off The Map, Lead Poisoning, Eating Me Alive, Dead On The Floor and one or two other top songs, this is a very entertaining and purposeful album. I’ve even come to appreciate Dorothy too, which, in retrospect, sounds very Sadie like. Alkaline have always been a bit too edgy to go truly mainstream but they easily have the second best album on offer here.