Round 2 – Group 13:
1.) Wonderful Life: Black
2.) Willpower: Will.I.Am
3.) 8 Mile: Eminem & Co.
4.) Covenent: UFO
Don’t Rise Again
Coming in the later years of their career (although somehow, still over 18 years ago), Covenant is a more ‘mature’ UFO record and by ‘mature’ I really mean ‘bland’.
A record with all the right ingredients and personnel but all the wrong songs I’m afraid. So disappointing considering it was a follow up to Walk On Water which kicks ass!
It’s hard work picking out a good track here amongst this bundle of insipid, ordinary rock music. Sure, Unravelled is ok, yet sounds like a reject from previous effort Walk On Water.The rest just sound like rejects. Rise Again and Serenade are about passable. Mogg tries his best to inject something into these limp melodies and Schenker sounds like he could be doodling that lead guitar over *any* generic rock album. Yes, it’s a bit disjointed and I’m suprised the record company allowed this one through the out door. How this beat Elemental and The Masterplan way back in group 19 I’ve no idea, I must have been smoking something strong that day.
Run Rabbit Run
As somebody pointed out the other day, 8 Mile is technically a musical isn’t it? Its first half is a showcase of Eminem’s, 50 Cent’s, Obie Trice’s and D12’s raw hip hop talent.
Opener Lose Yourself is a pop/rap anthem, commercial to the point of being liked by people who don’t just normally dislike Hip Hop but who also normally dislike Eminem. You can’t deny its brilliance with its non rap chorus that you can sing along to and uplifting vibe “You only get one shot, do not miss your chance to blow, cause opportunity comes once in a lifetime”.
The album immediately slips into classic hip hop territory straight after with Love Me, a 3 way between Shady, Obie and Fiddy, then the brilliant origin song 8 Mile with the
rythmic, rumbling train sounds filling in for the beat. Adrenaline Rush and Places To Go are great with Rap Game making a strong case for second best track here (after Lose Yourself of course).
The second half of 8 Mile unfortunately dips in quality a bit too much to sustain it as a challenge in this group. Nas, Rakim and Young Zee all take turns to underdeliver. Macy Gray doesn’t seemt to belong here and even Jay Z’s effort is a bit sub-par. Eminem ends the compilation with the quality of Rabbit Run but this can’t save it from being beaten by the clinical production of Willpower.
Scream & Shout, get that cheese out!
Given its cheesy nature, it probably won’t win me any street credibility to place Willpower above 8 Mile but that’s ok because I don’t have any credidibility anyway, ‘street’ or otherwise. Look, it’s a fun album ok? Hello and This Is Love are a powerful dance pop duo to open the album with and Freshy is actually ok if you give it a chance.
There are some dips in quality like the slightly annoying child vocal on Ghetto Ghetto and just-about-passable Gettin’ Dumb but there’s also plenty of musical ideas and some strong collaborations, Britney Spears, Justin Bieber, Nicole Scherzinger to name a few. Scream & Shout, Fall Down, Far Away From Home and Reach For The Stars are all strong electro-pop numbers with Will.I.Am’s funky rap spin sprinkled over them. I’m giving second place to Willpower.
No Need To Run and Hide
When these four albums were randomly drawn out, my mind wasn’t immediately drawn to Wonderful Life being a contender to win the group and yet here we are. Sure, this was a very even matched set of four albums, possibly the closest round two group so far actually but Wonderful Life, a no. 3 album in the UK Album chart back in 1987 clearly defeats the rest of this group. There’s no disputing that I need any more listens before I make up my mind either because I listened to this album over and over whilst trying to record it digitally from my original 1987 vinyl and learned a lot about music editing in the process. This process strengthened my view of Vinyls’ superiority over CD, at least for albums pressed in the 80’s.
Excuse a small digression if you will but I think this is a very important point that needs to be made. Are Vinyls better than CD? It’s an emphatic yes, at least for this album.
If you listen to the CD and Vinyl rip side by side there is a *clear* difference. The Vinyl rip sounds more dynamic, more alive – it’s way more compelling. It’s clearer too and thanks to a little software program I wrote, it’s been amplified digitally which gives it more presence when listening to it in the car (a noisy non-sterile environment – the stuff of an audiophiles nightmare).
The same difference goes to a bunch or other Vinyls I’ve ripped lately, Rainbow’s Straight Between The Eyes and Blackfoot’s Marauder. Both are clearly miles better than their CD counterpart. Now, this may actually have more to do with the CD being a poor quality reproduction than the Vinyl being generally better. With modern music, CDs can sound incredible. I genuinely believe that most of the 1980’s albums that I replaced on CD sound dreadful compared to the vinyl, with a few exceptions where I bought the ‘remastered’ CD. These typically sound great actually, like my remastered version of Pink Floyd’s The Wall.
The reason there’s still a debate around vinyl versus CD (or vinyl versus digital these days) is because nobody is ever comparing the same thing. If you compare a well pressed vinyl for the 1980’s against the ADD (Analogue to Digital conversion) CD version, the vinyl is superior. If you compare a nineties CD against a nineties vinyl the difference is much less clear. At the end of the day, all I know is that there’s some albums (like ‘Bad‘ by Michael Jackson) that I’ve bought on tape cassette, then vinyl, then CD and *then* remastered CD and that probably makes me a mug and the record company very happy but they eventually got it right with the remastered version even if I do begrudge forking out money for something I already own 3 times.
Back in ’round 2, group 13′ land, we have a solid, well crafted Wonderful Life album which kicks off with the title track, a moody pop synth anthem with uplifting lyrics over minor keys and depressing overtones. The one thing I’ve noticed listening back to this album is the superb range of Colin Veancombe’s vocals. He makes great use both the high falsetto and baritone range. The mid tempo songs like Everything’s Coming Up Roses and I’m Not Afraid are the strongest stuff here but this album is tight. It carries heavy jazz influences but also busts out some nice clarinette and makes good use of brass instrumentation. When I was a kid I always thought Sweetest Smile a bit boring but now I find it a compelling and emotional end to the album. Maybe this isn’t a classic
album but the quality shines out and it’s a joy to spin. It might struggle in round three but for now, Black take top spot.