Neverending Randomplay #301-#310
Neverending Randomplay is a feature in which I let my J-River Media Center choose what we get listen to. My collection currently stands at 18,396 titles. The lion's share are rock of all genres, with a mix of pop, blues, country, pre-rock, jazz, reggae, soul, electronic, avant-garde, hip-hop, rap, bluegrass, trance, Afrobeat, J-Pop, trip-hop, lounge, worldbeat, commercial jingles, etc. filling it out. I don't influence the track selection in any way; whatever comes up, comes up. Rated 1-5 stars.Back | Next
301. Paul McCartney: Don't Let The Sun Catch You Crying ***
This is the closing number from Tripping the Live Fantastic, McCartney's chronicle of his 1989 world tour, his first since 1976. Written by Joe Greene, the song is best known for Gerry and The Pacemakers' hit version from 1964. McCartney does a far more soulful version than his Liverpool rivals mustered; there's actually a little weight to the arrangement, a little hint of a bluesy gospel sound to his vocals. It's still a lightweight pop number to be sure; McCartney is still McCartney, and while he is considerably more soulful than Gerry and the boys, he's still ex-Beatle Paul, playing up the charm to a stadium crowd. However, Robbie McIntosh supplies some fine bluesy guitar licks, Linda McCartney had improved at the keyboards since the early 70's, and the horn section lends some color. In some respects, it is an interesting track; rather than a another note-for-note version of an old Beatles or Wings song (which the album is full of), it's a title that McCartney hadn't waxed before. Whether you like it or not depends on your feelings about McCartney; fans will be impressed, non-fans will ask you to put something else on.
302. Vanilla Fudge: She's Not There ****
Vanilla Fudge is one of the more colorful relics of the 1960's. A hardcore psychedelic band, they were among the bands that helped provide the missing link between psychedelia and heavy metal. Consisting of organist Mark Stein, bassist Tim Boger, drummer Carmine Appice, and guitarist Vince Martell, the Long Island NY band specialized in enormous, slowed down, psyched-up quasi-improvasitory versions of contemporary hits, sprinkled with originals. Best known for their gigantic fudged up version of "You Keep Me Hanging On", they lend similar treatment to the Zombies' "She's Not There". It's a good song choice; the presence of Rod Argent's organ on the original make it the perfect foil for Vanilla Fudge's considerable excesses. It comes from their 1967 self-titled debut, which remains their best album. Stein's organwork is the real draw, but Martell gets into some raga-rock, and all four members bring something to the table. The band disbanded in 1970; Bogert and Apiice formed the heavy metal band Cactus, and later worked with Jeff Beck in Beck, Bogert & Appice.
303. Fairport Convention: Tale In A Hard Time *****
Fairport Convention's second album, What We Did on Our Holidays, which was released in 1969 and includes "Tale In A Hard Time", is where the band's sound really cohered into something unique and interesting. It's the closest they ever came to folk-rock in the rock sense, and the addition of Sandy Denny to the lineup lends a winsomeness and depth to the backing vocals that give "Tale In A Hard Time" an elegiac beauty that haunts after it ends. The real star on this cut however is Richard Thompson, whose strange lead guitar is neither folk nor psychedelic; the lyrics are full of weighty conumdrums, the vocal harmonies shine, and the song has genuine forward momentum. The band, which has continued with various lineups into the 00's (without Thompson, or the late Denny), never quite made another album like What We Did on Our Holidays; their sound came to incorporate much more British Isles folk and less rock. "Tale In A Hard Time" is a perfect balance of the two; an almost flawless number.
304. The White Stripes: The Hardest Button to Button *****
You'd have to live on another planet (or at least in another country) not to have heard of Michigan natives The White Stripes. The hype around them is immense, and daunting; their image is weird and impenetrable. Their minimalist hard rock, consisting of Jack White's guitar and Meg White's drums, doesn't leave a lot of room for a song. Yet, they are also one of the only consistent major rock acts of the 2000's. "The Hardest Button to Button" is evidence why; a cross between glam rock and metal in its riffs, complete with absurdist lyrics delivered in White's thin, whiney, but ultimately winning vocal. The real meat is on the guitar, which galvanizes and crunches and awakens the nervous system in ways it hasn't been awakened since the grunge era. Meg pounds away in accompaniment; there is no bass. How can two people make such a dense, complete sound? Hard to say. However, it goes a long way towards supporting the hype. From Elephant, recorded in England and released in 2003.
305. Simple Minds: Love Song ****
Simple Minds were a much better band than people usually remember them to have been. Part of the discrepency is the enormity of their biggest hit, "Don't You Forget About Me" from The Breakfast Club, which typecast them as a synth-based quasi-New Romantic group, which actually was pretty far off the mark. In fact, the band didn't write that hit, nor did they particularly like it themselves. "Love Song", from the band's fourth album Sons and Fascination, released in 1981, is closer to their essential sound. Written by Jim Kerr, is feature prominent synth, but isn't synth-pop; it's a fairly sweaty rocker, with good playing from the band, and excellent Kerr vocals; producer Steve Hillage (ex-Gong) accentuates the drums and bass, and envelops the band in an echoey gauze. The lyrics are good too; the "Love Song" in the title is an ambivalent love song to America: "America's a boyfriend, flesh of heart, heart of steel" . Much of Simple Minds' best work, which stretched into the mid-80's is in a similar vein; well worth exploring even if you hated The Breakfast Club.
306. Elton John: Texan Love Song ***
"Texan Love Song" is a rustic little number from Don't Shoot Me I'm Only the Piano Player, which was released in 1973 between John's twin triumphs Honky Chateau and Goodbye Yellow Brick Road. Don't Shoot Me I'm Only the Piano Player wasn't nearly as good as either, although it isn't a bad album; the filler is on par with this tune, which features John accompanied mainly by acoustic guitar and later accordian. It's another one of Bernie Taupin's pseudo-Western numbers, displaying both humor and naivete; John's western drawl is fairly over the top and borders on silly; the ki-yi-yippie-ai-ai cowcall of a chorus crossed that border into silliness. But John's unflagging good nature saves the day, and the song's simulated off-handedness ultimately is winning. To a point.
307. Olivia Tremor Control: I Can Smell The Leaves ****
A conceptual band from the Elephant 6 collective of arty lo-fi bands, Olivia Tremor Control released three albums in the late 1990's. Their best by far was their first, Music from the Unrealized Film Script, Dusk at Cubist Castle (1996), which includes "I Can Smell The Leave" Lo-fi art-rock is a pretty apt term to describe this; the recording sounds like it was made on a 4-track, the vocals harmonize with dissonant, contrary melodies, organs noodle in and out, and the whole arrangement is pretty busy. There's a wistfullness to the overall sound, but there's also a lot going on underneath. At 1:50, it's merely a transitional fragment of a song; one of 27 cuts on the album, and as a stand-alone it isn't much. However, the whole album is worth a listen; it recalls the Beatles' White Album in places, if the Beatles had been lo-fi American semi-amateurs with Beach Boys vocals. Which is a compliment, even if it doesn't sound like one. The band went on haitus following the 2000 compilation Singles and Beyond. Six years later, it appears the hiatus is permanent.
308. Jackson Browne: Hold On Hold Out ***
Jackson Browne, once upon a time, had been one of the biggest names in rock, a bigger star than Bruce Springsteen for awhile. His best work remains his 1970's output, which was essentially California singer/songwriter pop rock, but with more of a rock sound than most of his competitors, thanks especially to multi-instrumentalist collaborator David Lindley (ex-Kaleidoscope), and on Hold Out, familiar L.A. sessionmen Danny Kortchmar, Russ Kunkel, Rick Marotta, and Joe Lala. Hold Out marked the pinnacle of Browne's career, powered by the hit single "Boulevard", it became his only #1 album. It also is a pretty weak album; songs like "Disco Apocalypse" were just plain stupid, and his more revealing, "sensitive" numbers like "Call It A Loan" revealed a disingenuous fool underneath. "Hold On Hold Out" is the grand finale, and it works up a head of steam, but never comes close to his earlier, similar numbers like "Running On Empty". Browne had a few more sporadic hits afterwards, but never regained his momentum; his last top-10 album was Lawyers In Love in 1983. His reputation as a "sensitive" performer took a hit after a particularly messy breakup with girlfriend Daryl Hannah in 1989.
309. After the Fall: Mirror Mirror ***
"Mirror Mirror" is from After The Fall, the band's 2004 debut, which also appeared on Always Forever Now, released for the U.S. market in 2005. From Australia, the band works in a by-now-standard indie mode, mixing punk, pop, and indie conventions into a pretty good, if unexceptional single "Mirror Mirror". The guitar crunch isn't anything new, but it isn't bad, and coupled with the jaunty rhythm and energetic vocals and some minimal studio trickery, it comes across as a softer focus Strokes crossed with Incubus. Not especially memorable, but nothing really wrong with it; I'd need to hear another tune from these guys before I can really offer any useful thoughts.
310. The Searchers: Where Have You Been? ***
The Searchers, from Liverpool, were one of the Beatles' chief competitors in the salad days before either had hit big. The Beatles obviously eclipsed the Searchers shortly thereafter, but The Searchers managed a successful career that lasted into the 1980's (and versions of the Searchers pop up today). In America, they were also-rans; despite charting 13 singles from 1964-1971, they never made the top-10. "Needles and Pins", from 1964, was their biggest hit; "Where Have You Been" is a fairly similar work from It's the Searchers, also released in 1964. Mild mannered, tuneful, sounding like Paul McCartney singing with Paul Mccartney, it is a slightly better-than-average British Invasion love ballad. For Beatlemaniacs who have run out of Beatles product to purchase, the Searchers are a reasonable facsimilie, although they never were very convincing rockers. "Where Have You Been?" does recall the era and sound nicely, though.
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