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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