Blog Archives

A Meeting of the Minds

Sometimes I get tired of spitting bile about music that I hate, and cave in to blogging about something that I actually enjoy. This is one such post, and the thing I enjoy is the album, Nilsson Sings Newman.

As the title suggests, this is an album by the singer Harry Nilsson, featuring the songs of Randy Newman. The concept of a covers album might seem a little odd these days, but back in 1970 (when this album was released), it was much more common. It would be difficult to count the number of “Such-a-Body Sings the Someone-or-Other Songbook” albums that there released, way back when. Unlike many covers records, the songwriter in question was actually involved in the album’s production: Newman played piano on all of the tracks. In fact, he and Nilsson were the only two performers on the album, or so the ever-reliable Wikipedia informs me.

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Baby, I Write a Blog This Way (Part 2)

This is part two of my Live Blog of Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way”. Second part, same as the start: I basically just played the album and jotted down notes as I went along…

8 – Bloody Mary

0.00 Is this a song about Queen Mary the 1st? If so, it’s good that she knows British history.

1.15 No, she’s mentioned Jesus and the Crucifixion, so chances are she’s talking about Mary Magdalene. She’s bviously trying to upset the Catholic Church again.

2.00 I’m convinced that this is actually just one of the earlier songs on the album, but slowed down a bit. One less song to write!

2.30 I’d say this was the mid-album filler, if it weren’t all filler.

9 – Bad Kids

0.00 Guitars! Shouting! This is real Rock ‘N’ Roll.

0.35 She’s basically saying what a bad person she is. Acceptance is the first stage of recovery.

1.10 This is the most Madonna-like one yet. And that’s saying something.

1.30 I think she just sang: “I’m a twit”. Well, you’re three quarters right.

1.50 I wonder if Lady Gaga wrote the “We Buy Any Car” jingle.

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Baby, I Write a Blog This Way (Part 1)

The launch of a new Lady Gaga album is a momentous occasion. It must be, because her publicity machine tells us that it is. Like any major event these days, it deserves a live blog. That’s right; I’m going to listen to all of “Born This Way” and jot down my thoughts as I go through. If I can form cogent thoughts whilst listening to such banal ear candy. Now, I admit that this blog post is a little late; the album has been out for a while now. However, it’s only just been made available on the free version of Spotify. What, you didn’t think I’d actually bought this nonsense, did you?

Are you sitting comfortably? Then I’ll begin…

1 – Marry the Night

0.00 She’s singing about marriage? I didn’t think she’d be the type to settle down.

0.20 The music is vaguely religious sounding. It must be a church do.

0.50 She sings that she’s a “Warrior Queen”. She likes to point out that she’s a woman as often as possible, as some people still aren’t convinced.

2.45 This is just pretty bog standard dance music so far. She said her album would be “like heroin”. More like Bacardi Breezer.

3.30 Even the handclaps sound synthesised. She could’ve just moved her hands close to a microphone!

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Addition by Subtraction

Being a stereotypical music snob, I don’t buy music that I think I will enjoy; I buy stuff that I think has the most indie cred. The Minutemen’s Double Nickels on the Dime, which often gets listed alongside The Smiths’ first album, as a classic of 80s indie rock, sounded like it fitted the bill. So, I thought I’d buy it and share my thoughts on it with you, dear reader. There’s only one problem: I’ve never been able to listen to it all the way through. It’s not that the music’s bad, it’s just that there’s too much of it. The album clocks in at over 73 minutes, which is long even for one that was originally a double-LP. I’m not against long albums, but the major problem here is that it’s 43 really short songs!

The Minutemen’s music is basically somewhere between indie rock, punk, jazz and beat poetry. It’s gimmicky, and not a gimmick that I think is clever enough to sustain a double album. Around song 12, I find myself drifting off, and I’m only roused from my aural slumber at track 19, “Corona”, as that was used as the theme tune to Jackass. After that, I mentally tune out again, before I finally turn it off completely.

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Cultural Tourism: Japan

About a year ago, I came to the realisation that almost all the music I owned was either British or American. As a self-styled music expert, I figured this was a weakness, so I set out to rectify it with a bit of cultural tourism. I decided to start with Japan, and found a suitable album: Tony Scott – Music for Zen Meditation. Here is my review of this classic record…

Tony Scott was an American jazz clarinettist, who worked with some of the musical greats of the 1950s, including Billie Holiday and Sarah Vaughan. In 1959, he went travelling in the Far East, eventually ending up in Japan. Here, he became interested in the traditional music of the country and met musicians Shinichi Yuize and Hozan Yamamoto. Together, they recorded the instrumental album Music for Zen Meditation, in 1964.

If you can find this album in record shops, it’ll be in the Jazz section. There’s a certain amount of logic to that, given Scott’s background, and the fact that the music was mostly improvised. However, this is certainly not jazz. This is traditional-sounding Japanese music, with Scott’s clarinet being used to mimic the sound of a Japanese wind instrument. As you would expect with an album aimed at meditation, it’s slow, contemplative stuff. One of the tracks is after the jump…

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In Praise of Amazon Mp3

Sometimes I feel like I’m the only person in the world who pays for music online. It’s not that I think torrenting is stealing; it’s just that I’ve never been convinced by the arguments that it’s harmless, or that it’s actually good for the music industry. Anyway, that’s a debate for another day; I’m just here to give some praise for Amazon’s Mp3 store.

For a long time I didn’t download any music, because of one simple fact: I hate iTunes. It’s far too expensive and the music files are really low quality. When Amazon launched their rival Mp3 store, I didn’t use it at first, as I figured it would be just as bad as iTunes. However, I recently started using it and I think it’s a hell of a lot better.

Amazon has massive library of music: 15 million tracks, all DRM free. The vast majority of the CDs in their normal music store are also available digitally. I’m into some pretty obscure stuff, and most of the time even I can find what I want. Individual tracks seem to be, on average, a little cheaper than iTunes but it’s when buying a full album that you make a real saving. A lot of older albums are about £3.99, and a lot of the more popular stuff is still under a fiver. There’s also special offers on “albums of the week” and some free-sampler albums…

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Radiohead – NOT Reviewed

The whole world went Gaga last week, but now it’s lost its head for Radiohead. Yesterday, they released their new album: The King of Limbs, and loads of people dashed to the internet to download it, and dashed right back there again to post their reviews. You won’t find me giving my two-penneth on it just yet, because I think it’s a mistake to review an album, or any other piece of art, so soon after first experiencing it. You need time for things to sink in and for your opinions to form properly. You might also need to experience something a few times before you really get a feel for it and can write a worthwhile review.

With music, there’s the chance an album might sound good the first time through, but not be substantive enough to be interesting after that. On other occasions, you might not really ‘get’ an album during the first play, because it might take you a while to adjust to a new musical direction. However, in the world of blogs and social networks, critics don’t have the luxury of waiting before they publish their critiques.

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Obscured by Time

‘Animals’ is sometimes labelled Pink Floyd’s ‘Forgotten Album’, as it didn’t enter the public consciousness as much as the albums they released before and after it. However, I don’t see how an album that sold so many millions of copies could be labelled “forgotten”. Some Pink Floyd records, like ‘A Momentary Lapse of Reason’ and ‘More’, have deservedly faded from memory, but there’s one lesser known offering that I think needs to be more widely appreciated: ‘Obscured by Clouds’.

The album was recorded in two weeks in 1972, as the soundtrack to a French art-house film. I haven’t actually seen the movie, so I don’t know how the songs work in context. However, that means I can review the album on its own terms, as a stand-alone piece of art.

It’s part soundtrack and part song track; there are four instrumentals and six vocal numbers. The first two numbers are instrumentals and like many Pink Floyd compositions, they’re spacey and somewhat sinister. The synthesisers sound a little primitive compared to what would come later in the band’s career but I’d imagine the time constraints meant they couldn’t refine the sound as much.

The vocal songs which follow are a mixed bag. The album was recorded before Roger Waters took control of all the writing and vocal duties for the band, so the other writers/singers: David Gilmour and Richard Wright, get a chance to contribute. It gives the album a really eclectic feel. Read the rest of this entry