1.) Don’t Bore Us Get To The Chorus: Roxette
2.) Boston [ Vinyl ]: Boston
3.) Suzanne Vega: Suzanne Vega
4.) Concrete & Gold: Foo Fighters
It Must Have Been Love
It was out of the blue when, around this time last year, I heard the sad news that Marie Fredriksson had died, at the age of 61, following a long battle with a brain tumour. When musicians have played such an important part of your life, especially the formative years, as Roxette did for me, the news that they are no longer with us can be incredibly saddening and shocking. A reminder of our mortal essence in this world. Roxette are probably one of a select few bands that I absolutely adored but never managed to see live. Their records are the only remaining medium in which you can hear Marie’s powerful vocals deliver these fabulous songs.
What a Joyride
Don’t Bore Us Get To The Chorus, despite being a slightly cheesy but fun piece of wordplay for a record title is also Roxette’s first proper Greatest Hits record. Uh-oh it’s that term again “Greatest Hits”. I’ve already had a few rants about so-called “Greatest Hits” albums. How they are usually a cash-in from the record company with little or no input from the artists themselves. Usually with a track list that doesn’t blend particularly well or is absent of some fan favourites. Then there’s the devious tactic of putting one new song on the greatest hits, forcing fans to buy a £15 album just for one new song. It’s unethical I tell you!
By the mid-Nineties I was as big a Roxette fan as anyone. With Look Sharp, Joyride,
Tourism and Crash Boom Bang in my collection and being some of my most spinned CDs at the time (especially Tourism which is possibly the closest CD I own that can lay claim to be quite worn out). In 1995 Roxette produced this “Greatest Hits” collection. Featuring not one ‘new’ song but four (plus Almost Unreal from that terrible Mario Bros movie). I still didn’t buy it though. It was hard to justify spending my cash on an album that I already own 70% of! Fast forward ten years and I eventually succumbed. Now here we are, listening to it on my CD player ! The first thing of note on this collection is that despite starting with two ‘new’ songs, it then goes chronological. I think it would have been better to begin with The Look (their first US number 1) and go all in on the chronological route.
Spending My Time With Roxette
There’s plenty of big hits here, Joyride, It Must Have Been Love, How Do You Do, Listen To Your Heart, Spending My Time, etc and listening back now, you can see why they did so well. Sure, they are saccharine and sweet but they are also superb pop tunes with enough rock n roll energy and passion to levitate the music to a level not surpassed by many other acts of the 90’s. The single remix versions are good, albeit not massively different from the album versions. Joyride in particular needed to be truncated from the opening sound FX from the album of the same name while Crash Boom Bang and Vulnerable are much shorter than their album counterparts. One question though, where the hell is the superb Queen of Rain? If anything needed a remixed single version it was that, to remove the live concert sounds that blend into the opening few notes on Tourism.
Are the five new songs as good as the hits? Well, they are certainly good songs, not sure they were all “hits” though, at least not in the UK. Which raises the question of whether they actually belong here. I remember Almost Unreal doing rather well in the charts (top ten in fact) but the other four? Nah. Ok a quick check of Wikipedia tells me that June Afternoon was the only one of those other four to chart in the UK at a measly 52nd position. I don’t think anything else is missing though, perhaps they could have sneaked on Fingertips 93, Chances and possibly Neverending Love from their first album in place of those newer ‘hits’ but overall you can’t grumble too much at this superb collection of their finest work circa 1989-1995. Plus, at about 70 minutes long, it is value for money in that sense.
Suzanne Vega’s debut effort is an album to get lost inside. Her descriptive and expressive lyrical imagery convey rich personal storytelling in all sorts of guises. From the modern neighbourhood observations of “Marlene On The Wall” to the medieval allegory of The Queen And The Soldier. Featuring stripped back arrangements, yet some excellent acoustic guitar playing both in the melody and rhythm sections but also with little flicks and flurries of notes, adding texture here and there. This is
a delightful little album with some memorable tracks such as the two aforementioned alongside Undertow, Straight Lines and Small Blue Thing. Unlucky to come third but Vega’s debut came up against two belting albums in this group.
Just Another Band Out Of Boston
Having a vinyl in this group was just the opportunity that I needed to pay a visit to my local Hi-Fi dealer to enquire about a new phono pre-amp. I ended up purchasing a Cambridge Audio Alva Solo to boost and clean the signal coming from my turntable.
What a great decision that turned out to be! The soundstage is now enhanced, breathing new life into this Boston vinyl. You know when What Hi-Fi review an amp or a turntable and write some utter nonsensical bullshit about how the amp gives a “tighter control
over the sound, producing a more dynamic feel” ? Well, that’s what this new pre-amp does! Seriously ! It’s hard to describe the enhancement in sound but there’s definitely a tangible change. There’s more detail coming through the speakers, and this record
doesn’t sound as strained as it previously did, especially on Peace Of Mind, where the vocals were getting a bit shrieky at the top end. Not any more, now they sound richer and less ephemeral.
A new pre-amp can’t do anything about imperfections on the record though, if anything, now they are laid more bare than before. There’s a very slight imperfection on Peace Of Mind, just in the space before that sumptuous guitar solo from Scholtz. It doesn’t ruin the experience, it’s more of an annoyance as the sound is clipped slightly just before the first note of the solo. Elsewhere, the keyboard/organ interlude between Foreplay and Long Time has a periodic clipping lasting for about 5 or 6 rotations, just as the sound goes low.
Side two is fairly pristeen though and that’s probably because, let’s face it, as great as this debut record is, side one is far superior to side two, so it’s probably had less wear over the years. More Than A Feeling is a tough opener to follow but with Peace Of Mind and Long Time, the quality remains seriously high. Side two kicks off with Rock N’ Roll Band, an exceedingly catchy rock tune and while Smokin’, Hitch A Ride, Something About You and schmaltzy Let Me Take You Home Tonight are all a pleasant listen,
the quality of the material remains a bit lop-sided. Still a high class album though and easily good enough to proceed.
Not Happy Ever After
That leaves Foo Fighters recent 2017 effort Concrete and Gold trailing in fourth place. High quality production and musicianship no doubt and solid material too but not particularly memorable. The good stuff includes Run, La Dee Da and Arrows and to be honest there’s nothing bad on this record, it’s a fairly typical Foo Fighters album, it gets a bit shouty at times, it’s mainly hard rock with splashes of light acoustic spaces every three tracks or so. It’s the sort of album that you can enjoy while you’re driving down the motorway. Unfortunately it’s an effort that melts away when matched up against Roxett’s Greatest Hits and the debut albums of both Boston and Suzanne Vega.