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All reviews - Music (21)

Woke this sleeper

Posted : 9 years, 6 months ago on 18 October 2008 03:43 (A review of Wake the Sleeper)

So, Uriah Heep, that'll be some crusty old band from the seventies then. New album produced by Mike Paxman, the man that guided Judie Tzuke's career? Hardly a credible advert for a British prog band. But let's not judge a book by its cover. 'Wake the Sleeper' is the Heep's 21st studio album and for me, symbolically, is the key of the door to the prog-rock mansion.

Their first studio album for almost ten years, this is a true return to the form of 1982's 'Abominog'. The replacement of Lee 'The Bear' Kerslake by masterclass stick wielder Russell Gilbrook makes a pleasing enhancement to the Heep's bottom end sound, while Trevor Bolder (he of The Spiders From Mars) takes over on bass.

This is exceptionally good music played by exceptionally good musicians, exemplified by the Bolder-penned 'Angels Walk With You' with it's incredible mid-riff crisis between the guitar of Box and the keyboards of Lanzon. Even now I have the chorus of 'Overload' zipping around in my head. There isn’t a duff track on this album and I highly recommend it to everyone.

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Only by the Night review

Posted : 9 years, 6 months ago on 18 October 2008 03:38 (A review of Only by the Night)

'Only By The Night' by the Kings of Leon plopped through my letter-box in the last few weeks. It's pretty much what we've come to expect from KoL, especially 'Crawl', 'Sex On Fire', and 'Use Somebody', but I was a bit disappointed. Basically they don't seem to have progressed from their earlier work, this is just 'Because of the Times' volume 2. Not a bad thing, but not a great thing either.

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Tissues and tension

Posted : 9 years, 6 months ago on 18 October 2008 03:35 (A review of Passion and Warfare)

This purchase was inspired by seeing the pocket-sized guitar wizard(ess), Chantel McGregor (she's 21 from Bradford and plas like Jimi Hendrix, I kid you not) play 'For The Love Of God' by Steve Vai. Now I like virtuoso guitar playing but have no albums of this guy, so I bought his 1990 album, 'Passion And Warfare'. Basically this album is fourteen guitar instrumental tracks with a bit of chat/lyric here and there. If you like fretwork onanism (and I do), then this album is an essential purchase. I could listen all day to this stuff, if only there were more tissues in this damn box!

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Bird Feeder

Posted : 9 years, 6 months ago on 15 October 2008 12:24 (A review of Silent Cry)

Silent Cry, Feeder’s sixth studio album, comes gorgeously presented in a stylish black slip box with gold lettering, and artwork by award winning designer / typographer Nils Leonard. Coming two years after a “Best of” and three years after the last original material, fans have waiting a long time for this. I for one was not disappointed. The current line up has been together for six out of the band’s sixteen year life-time, and they have honed their own distinctive sound as well as pushing out fresh ideas on this album. Like Guy (of Elbow) Grant Nicholas has also kicked the big name producers into touch and taken over most of the recording for himself. Now, I’m not sure if it’s just me but on some of these tracks Grant’s vocals have a vibrato that puts me in mind of Martin Rossiter (singer with Gene back in the ‘90s), now that is one beautiful voice. If you’re a Feeder fan, you know what they sound like so here are just the icings on the cake. If you’re not a fan, shame on you, buy this album at once!

1. The album kicks off with their single, 'We Are The People', standard Feeder-fare in the style of 'Comfort In Sound', except a good bit heavier, as indeed the whole album is.

2. 'Itsumo' kicks bottom with some serious Placebo inspired guitar and drumming work.

3. 'Miss You' would, in the hands of any other band, be a hardcore wall of noise, but Feeder give it the clarity of a rock anthem with a catchy hectic riff.

4. 'Tracing Lines' starts life as a Strokes’ track before unveiling an Oasis-like chorus, some serious indie-rock playing and a tidy guitar solo.

5. The title track, 'Silent Cry', was the first track on which I noticed the “Rossiter effect”. The song itself starts dark and emotive and develops into a rampant rock-beast by the second chorus.

6. 'Fires', I love this track. I can just imagine the crowd, lighters aloft singing along to the hypnotic, lines "she lights the fire, she lights the fire."

7. 'Heads Held High', starts like an acoustic Foo Fighters track, then explodes into glorious anthemic choruses.

8. A fuzzy ‘kazoo’ sound (keyboards I guess) kicks off '8:18', which alternates wildly: Quiet – Loud – Quiet – Loud - Middle 8 – Quiet – Loud.

9. On 'Who’s The Enemy' I can hear that Rossiter vibrato again in Grant’s vocals. There is a fantastic, pompous Muse-like guitar/string section in the middle, "Running away, losing our way, we're fighting with ourselves but who's the enemy?"

10. 'Space', is just a little musical interlude before…

11. 'Into The Blue', takes us off to stylish, sexy, garage rock.

12. 'Guided By A Voice', features lots of ooh, ooh, oohs over white noise.

13. 'Sonorous', has that Muse thing going again, sort of 'Black Holes And Revelations'. The sound is a bit Richard Ashcroft and a bit Rossiter. This track is another of the album highlights.

14. 'Yeah Yeah', the first bonus track, pretty standard Feeder stuff

15. 'Every Minute', This reminds me of a Kings Of Leon track, but I can’t quite put my finger on which one.

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Dial 11 on your vloume

Posted : 9 years, 6 months ago on 15 October 2008 12:21 (A review of Seldom Seen Kid)

Elbow’s new album, their fourth to date, The Seldom Seen Kid. The great thing about Elbow is that you know that on the first listen, all the tracks will sound the same. It’s only as you play the album over and over, that the swarms of unrelated sounds gradually coalesce into recognizable melodies, vocals, etc. The lyrics are personal, meaningful and compact. Phrases are only repeated to build tension and release, and there isn’t much that you could actually call a chorus or a verse. This is more like poetry set to a sonic background. The package itself has a wonderful booklet containing the lyrics alongside artwork by rail enthusiast Oliver East. For the first time the band have done everything themselves, recording, mixing and producing. The album is mastered using a dynamic system that makes it sound too quiet, in fact you are advised to TurnMeUp to experience the fullness of the sound (I turn everything up to 11 anyway).

1. 'Starlings' starts the album with a clockwork, gentle wash of background noise, somewhat similar to Genesis’ 'Carpetcrawlers' before being punctuated by, seemly random, bursts of short-lived orchestral chords. Great waves of sound surround Guy Garvey as he begins to sing “so yes I guess I’m asking you / to back a horse that’s good for glue / if nothing else”.

2. 'The Bones Of You' is one of the emotional high-points of the album, with a soaring, infectious chorus “five years ago and three-thousand miles away”. We are borne along on waves of flamenco riffs. As the track fades, you can faintly make out the strains of Gershwin’s 'Summertime', and pedestrians can be heard walking passed the studio.

3. There are gorgeous touches of piano through 'Mirrorball' that gradually transform into lush stringed sections.

4. If you’re after monstrous guitar riff and bass runs, check out the middle of 'Grounds for Divorce'. Done with a kind of country-style, with plenty of big whoa, whoa, whoas, pedal steel guitars, and handclaps.

5. I found 'An Audience With The Pope' slightly plodding but with an interesting, Chinese sounding intro.

6. If I had to pick perfection from perfection it would have to be 'Weather To Fly'. Starting with high-pitched vocals over piano, it drifts into beautiful lyrics, touched with Sigur Ros styled horns, the melody looping round and around, with Peter Gabriel-esque vocals.

7. 'The Loneliness Of A Tower Crane Driver' (I kid you not) has drum-beats striding in huge boots all over it. In the middle is a quiet section before the whole thing builds up into a gigantic industrial rhythm.

8. Elbow are nothing if not different, but 'The Fix' is different even for them. Co-written by and featuring on guitar and vocals the Sheffield troubadour Richard Hawley, this track tells the story of a horse race fix. The sordid tale is unfurled along a furtive bass line and some sneaky brushing on snare drums.

9. 'Some Rio't comes in with a Pink Floyd-ian start over Craig Potter’s keyboards. There are no drums at all. Guy Garvey is almost reciting the lyrics. Ethereal.

10. A passionate celebration comes with 'One day Like This'. Lots of strings. A soaring chorus. A choir sings “so throw those curtains wide”. This is a happy clappy anthem in the style of Sgt Pepper. “Holy cow I love your eyes.”

11. The final track proper is 'Friend Of Ours', written, I suspect, in memory of “Bryan” who died two years ago and to whom the entire album is dedicated. Starting with acoustic guitar, the track gradually eases in a plaintiff piano and the lightest of brushing on the snares. Guy’s vocals are gentle, cracking with emotion. Later we get the string and brass and even electric guitar, but this is terribly subdued stuff. Heart-rending music.

12. And finally, the bonus track, 'We’re Away'. A crooner’s song, I can imagine Guy on stage, in a suit, singing into a bulbous microphone like some high pitched Frank Sinatra.

Very highly recommended.

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A second helping

Posted : 9 years, 6 months ago on 15 October 2008 12:17 (A review of Folklore & Superstition)

Where their first album was full on heavy rocking all the way through, F&S shows a maturing style. 'Blind Man' seems to flow naturally on from the first album and 'Please Come In' has an opening worthy of Led Zep, but it softens as the track goes on. 'Reverend Wrinkle' is a great track and pulls the album into the realms of heavy metal. 'Soulcreek' on the other hand is much more mainstream and has a Yeah Yeah sing-along chorus. 'Things My Father Said' is a soft-rock, Aerosmith ballad moment, and to me it sums up the variety of styles that BSC can achieve without compromising their under-lying Southern rock foundation. Track six is 'The Bitter End', which, though it ebbs and flows, is a full on metal track with fantastic vocals and frantic drumming.

'Long Sleeves' is quite heavy but has a really melodic chorus, Don’t ask me why / I’ve seen children die / Watched men take their lives / I’ve seen woman cry / My momma always said to wear long sleeves. Brilliant riffs. 'Peace is Free' is probably my current favourite track, a real Embrace-style anthem. This is probably the song most likely to be a single, being the most Nickleback in style. 'Devil’s Queen' really has my head nodding up and down. Full on hard rockin’ riffs with a bit of voodoo harmonica, a great chorus, and a superb guitar solo that should gone on for at least another ten minutes. Track ten is 'The Key' and they must have been on the wacky baccy when composing the lyrics for this one. A spooky, metal riff opens into a simple guitar solo which then leads into distorted starting vocals. The chorus is a bit Lunca Coil, it’s that heavy. But the middle eight is real Southern rock with tambourine tapping and howling harmonica before the weird vocals come in again. Someone, please, help me find the key.

'You' features Corey Taylor-like vocals in another radio-friendly ballad. Very mellow and a great sing-along chorus. It takes true love to stand the test of time. And it takes you babe to make me smile. OK, it sounds cheesy but it really works. 'Sunrise' yanks us back to the hard rock/metal sound with alternating loud/soft passages. This is slightly spoilt by switching to a reggae-style which is a bit incongruous and light-weight against the rock riffs. This is probably the weakest song on the album. Shame. The final track is 'Ghost of Floyd Collins'. This opens with cawing crows and a hill-billy talk over before a wave of heavy drumming and big rock riffs sweep us into the story. The lyrics are a bit vague, only hinting at a story that never really gets told. Great guitar playing, lovely time shifts, mammoth riffs, spot on drumming, fantastic bass line and it all ends in a stony silence, book-ended by the crows.

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What an original name!

Posted : 9 years, 6 months ago on 15 October 2008 12:14 (A review of Second Album)

The second album from Curved Air is called Second Album. It reached number 11 in the UK Charts on 9 October 1971, and the single Back Street Luv / Everdance became a UK number 4 chart hit on 7 August 1971. The line-up for this album consisted of: Ian Eyre (bass), Sonja Kristina (vocals), Francis Monkman (guitars, keyboards, VCS3 synthesizer), Florian Pilkington-Miksa (drums), and Darryl Way (violin, piano, vocals)

With the introduction of a VCS3 synthesizer this album seems much more focussed, yet also has a greater variety of styles. To me it’s a much stronger offering, more personal and mature than their first. The album opener is Young Mother with its echoes of Pink Floyd’s On The Run or early Genesis, particularly in the jazz-styled synth work. This is followed by the outstanding single Back Street Luv, really the only piece of their work that I actually recognised before buying these albums. Dark and brooding verses are interspersed with boppy choruses. Jumbo is almost like a song from the musicals with Sonja singing in the style of Elaine Paige. Not literally, but that kind of singing where each note of the tune matches a word in the lyric. It’s a beautiful ballad reminiscent of Renaissance (the band not the era). Track 4 is You Know, great guitar work but possibly the weakest track on the album. The final track on side one is Puppets, a beautiful yet menacing tune with a clockwork beat.

The side two (like a CD has sides!) only has three tracks and opens with Everdance which featured on the B-side of their second single. A driving violin led tune played in a ‘gypsy’ style. This is followed by another anachronistic offering, the rather odd Bright Summer’s Day. Musically it sounds a bit like Cockney Rebel and would actually have fitted better on the first album. The last track, at almost thirteen minutes long, is the epic Piece Of Mind. This starts with tribal drumming, synth-brass, violin and a heavy piano. The tempo changes and we are drawn up into a crescendo, then quiet. There is a beautiful piano and strings section as we set off again getting more and more frantic, then quiet. Some subdued drumming and piano work underpins Sonja reading a passage from TS Eliot’s The Wasteland. The music starts again and we’re off to Arabia for a bit in the style of Emerson Lake and Palmer before reverting back to the sea-like drumming and piano which gradually fades into the distance.

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Air Conditioning via A Fan

Posted : 9 years, 6 months ago on 15 October 2008 12:13 (A review of Air Conditioning)

Their debut album, Air Conditioning, was released in November 1970 and reached number 8 in the UK albums chart in December 1970. It’s notable for a rock interpretation of a Vivaldi piece by Darryl Way (think of Darryl as a fore-runner of Nigel Kennedy) and the fact that it was also released as the first vinyl picture disc in a limited edition of 20,000. Sadly the sound quality of the picture disc was somewhat impaired by the early technology. I understand that the CD version hasn’t been re-mastered and to be honest the first track has some vocal wobbles that I can’t believe are down to Sonja.

The line-up for this album consisted of; Sonja Kristina Linwood (vocals), Darryl Way (violin), Florian Pilkington-Miksa (drums), Andy Christie (guitar), and Chris Harris (bass). For me the stand out tracks on this album are the lengthier pieces; It Happened Today with Sonja’s double-tracked vocals, Stretch a sort of modern/classical piece with disjointed time signatures and heavy use of violin, Screw sounding like early Genesis reminds me somewhat of the Beatle’s Eleanor Rigby, the chugging beat of Blind Man, and Hide and Seek. Vivaldi is of course excellent, but a bit of an anachronism within the context of the rest of the album. The most commercial tracks were released as a single, It Happened Today / Vivaldi / What Happens When You Blow Yourself Up, and was released in 1971.

In my opinion this was Curved Air not really knowing where they were going, just sitting down and making music that they liked. There is no development. But that said, still a fine album.

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Return to form

Posted : 9 years, 6 months ago on 15 October 2008 12:09 (A review of Dig Out Your Soul)

I've heard some withering comments about Oasis recently, and I know that they tread a fine line between pub rock and Beatles pastiche/homage, crikey, John Lennon himself appears on I'm Outta Time. However, it ain't 'alf bad, in fact it's pretty damn good. OK I could witter on endlessly about Oasis finally reaching the Beatles true psychedelic-era sound, but they do it so well that it sells itself. I don't care if it sounds like they recorded it in a haze of hashish and opium, I like it. There's a bit of George Harrison-like guitar work on I'm Outta Time, Dear Prudence at the end of The Turning, but also a bit of The Who in the mix, and even Pink Floyd on the opener, Bag It Up. So stick yer hands in yer pockets and yer fingers in the air for the return of the champs.

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Rumore of their extinction are...

Posted : 9 years, 6 months ago on 15 October 2008 12:08 (A review of Visiter)

The Dodos are an American indie band, sometimes labelled freak-country, although I seen/heard a few bands that are a lot more freaky than these! Re-creating their live performances, this is, instrumentally, a rather spare work which means that when the electronic guitar is used, you really feel the benefit. It's a mixture of light psychedelia, intelligent pop, and dirty bluegrass. Long's vocals sometimes leave you wanting more but he really pulls it off in the album's closing track, God?, with his nervous quivering and strident cries. Good stuff.

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