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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