Born This Way is frickin brilliant(!) and outshines everything else in this group. It’s more of the same dance/pop as The Fame but more relentless than it’s predecessor. This album is pure Gaga and showcases her remarkable talent, not just for writing sparkling pop songs but also her wild imagination and tight arrangments. The album starts as it means to carry on with Marry the Night which opens deceptively like a pop number before that thumping dance bass kicks in revealing it’s true intentions. The title track is another feigned-pop-into-dance record but before you get too comfortable with the style Government Hooker kicks in with one of the freshest pop/dance hooks you’ve heard in years.
In places Born This Way is a massive tribute to the 80’s, if you could take this album back in time to that decade and play the Madonna-esqu “Bad Kids” or “You and I” nobody would know it was from the 21st century and yet tracks like Government Hooker and Heavy Metal Lover sound more contemporary that anything else on the market. There’s also a bit of 90’s Euro-pop in places esecially on Scheisse (which sounds a little bit like Ace Of Base!).
What I like about Gaga though is her genuine bravery when trying out ideas, she doesn’t hide behind a forumla, instead she mixes up the styles in a manner almost reminiscent of a certain Michael Jackson. She even mixes it up within the songs themselves, take ‘Hair‘ which is totally 80’s pop in verse and chorus and yet suddenly and periodically breaks into sampled dance territory and it works brilliantly.
Staying on the subject of Michael Jackson for a moment, don’t you think that Gaga seems to carry more than a ‘whiff of Wacko’ during public appearances? Her fans carry that fanatical adulation and emotional attachment to everything she says and does which Gaga reciprocates with a Jackson-like ‘love of everything and everyone’.
Back to the album though, spoilt only by that rather pointless remix of Born This Way on the end. Ut-oh I feel a mini rant coming on……
What is it with albums that have pointless ‘bonus’ crap on the end? Why do I want to listen to the same song TWICE during one album listening session? By all means put bonus tracks on a separate disk but leave the album as it was intended by the artist, I don’t want a situation where I listen to the album 10 times but because of the bonus tracks I’m having to listen to some of the tracks more frequently than the rest, this ruins the enjoyment of
the album, the cohesion and the flow and besides the Born This Way remix by Jost and Naaf is exactly that, ‘Naaf’! Rant over!
The Black Album is the typical full-on ‘balls out’ Metallica sound with pummelling drums and gruff throaty vocals that takes no prisoners but also paradoxically the album where they bust out a lovely little ballad in the shape of Nothing Else Matters. Some truly excellent guitar playing here from Kirk Hammett too with most of the solos shifting seemingly into a progressive metal sound although that heavy heavy metal feel is never compromised, except on the aforementioned ballad Nothing Else Matters and whilst Enter Sandman has that cool riff and My Friend Of Misery has that groovy guitar-led driving metal rythmn section I’m gonna probably offend every Metallica fan out there by saying that Nothing Else Matters is the best song on the album, maybe Metallica missed their calling as an AOR band? For me then, The Black Album is much like And Justice For All and Master Of Puppets, a decent listen, maybe a little too heavy in places but nothing truly great.
Vera Lynn is an artist from another time, before Mods, before Rockers, before The Beatles, beforer Elvis, before Dinosaurs (that last one may be a slight fabrication but you get the picture). She was of course best known for being the motivational
troops sweetheart during World War 2 and this album has a very ‘Quiant English’ feel to it with English references abound: ‘Bedfordshire‘, ‘Big Ben‘ and of course those ‘White Cliff of Dover‘.
As to be expected with the age of some of these songs, the recordings are fairly below par and a bit ‘scratchy’. Beyond the production values, it’s probably fair to say that there are more than a couple of songs on here that sound extremely similar. You could
listen to Dream, Faraway Places and Harbour Lights without noticing the end of one song and the beginning of another. Whilst there are some very, very famous numbers here which are pleasant to listen to such as White Cliffs of Dover, As Time Goes By, We’ll Meet Again, Travelling Home and the West Ham Utd. anthem I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles there really isn’t anything overly brilliant here I’m afraid and in the words of Roger Waters “Vera, Vera, what has become of you?”, last place.
The biggest problem with Peter Gabriels Shaking The Tree Greatest Hits album is that it just makes me want to listen to Gabriels’ truly great album ‘So‘! In my opinion, with the exception of Solibury Hill, no song on here can touch anything contained on So and that causes a problem with the consistency of the listen. My argument is further backed up by the fact that nearly a third of the songs on this greatest hits are infact from So and because So is an album I know so well, the muddled order of the songs from So on this album just add to the incohesion and badly affect the pacing.
All that said though Peter Gabriel is a consumate musician and unique songwriter who is responsible for some giant songs like Sledgehammer and the Kate Bush duet Don’t Give Up and it’s material like this that greatly outshines anything on The Black Album or Vera’s Greatest Hits. Gabriel’s greatest hits take second spot.