Monday, November 29, 2010

My Amazon Reviews: James Taylor "New Moon Shine"

New Moon ShineJames Taylor Taps His Still
4 Out Of 5 Stars

This was the moment that James Taylor became comfortable with his music again. "New Moon Shine" threw off the studio gauze that began clouding his albums from "Flag" onward, coating everything with less distinction than each album to follow, to nearly a point of parody ("That's Why I'm Here" and "Never Die Young" for the smarmiest examples). But for his first album of the 90's, Taylor dumped the Vegas glitter and cheesy somnambulant oldies covers to make shimmering, country-folk album that reminded us of what a true talent the man possesses.

"Copperline" is almost textbook James Taylor; the story of growing up in the backwoods and going back. Told with a touch of nostalgia, a shot of wistfulness and a dash of disappointment, it captures just what makes him a great songwriter. Then there's "Native Son," where Taylor uses the life of a Civil War soldier to comment on the Gulf War, beautifully. Not as successful but still a lot of fun is "Slap Leather," using a rollicking arrangement and cowboy metaphors to rail against the obliviousness of the 80's narcissism. (And may be the only song to use the words "Big Mac Falafel" as part of the lyric.)

"New Moon Shine" was notable also for the fact that Taylor was returning more to the traditional roots of his earlier singer songwriter confessional days. "Shine a Little Light" does this well, as does "The Water Is Wide," a traditional song Taylor covers exquisitely well. He's playful ("Got to Stop Thinking About That"), humorous ("Frozen Man") and earnest ("Copperline") is ways he hadn't allowed himself in many a moon. The only dud is the obligatory oldie, a so-so cover of Sam Cooke's "Everybody Loves To Cha Cha." "New Moon Shine" was James Taylor, reinvigorated, and set the course for the rest of his decade.

 Live At The Troubadour (CD +DVD) The Best of James Taylor James Taylor James Taylor at Christmas  Mud Slide Slim And The Blue Horizon  

Friday, November 26, 2010

Support Me - Happy Thanksgiving!

Brightest Starz-AnthHad a great Thanksgiving with Family in Lebanon PA. Had WAY too much food. least 6 homemade pies were brought, in addition to three turkeys and one ham.

Booked our trip to IBR after hearing this would be the finale. Made me sad, but also made me and Joel determined  to attend.

And now...for all of you who do Holiday Shopping via Amazon; the reviews I regularly post include links to the Amazon site. Should you click through to Amazon via one of my album cover links and make a purchase of anything (not necessarily the album in the link), I get a commission. So anyone who wants to make a gift purchase AND help a fellow out, here are a few album covers to click through and drop a few quarters into my piggy bank.

  Starz  Violation

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

My Amazon Reviews: Starz "Coliseum Rock"

Coliseum RockTwilight of The Starz  
3 Out of 5 Stars

The last album of the original Starz run was also their last big rocker. "Coliseum Rock" was almost an act of wishful thinking; they wanted an album so big it would boost them to headliners. Instead, it became their swansong for Capitol.

And just as unfortunately, it is also the weakest of their four albums. It's hard to say exactly why, as there are several mitigating factors. First, Pete Sweval and Brendam Harkin were out, likely because of the rift started over musical differences on the poppier "Attention Shoppers" album. To that end, there are no powerpop numbers here, but that leads to problem two, and that is the rockers are almost ungodly generic. "Outfit" is almost Spinal Tappesque, and "Take Me" has a cock-rocker "orgasm" that is funny for the wrong reasons.

On the plus side, there was the fantastic first single "So Young So Bad," which became the last Starz entry on the top 100. Almost equal is "Last Night I Wrote A Letter," on which lead singer Michael Lee Smith unleashes the charismatic style that had so many predicting super-stardom for Starz. The instrumental title track is all firepower, a showcase for Richie Ranno, and leading into a full-bore "It's A Riot." "Coliseum Rock" may not have been the massive last minute breakthrough Starz wanted, but as a curtain call, it does just fine.

Brightest Starz-Anth  Starz  Violation

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

My Amazon Reviews: A-Ha "Stay On These Roads"

Stay On These RoadsA Road Less Travelled
3 Out of 5 Stars

The third album from A-ha was their first to show any slips in quality, after their first two albums of impeccable, smart Synth-pop. "Stay On These Roads" sounds disjointed and rushed, like the songs were brought together in a hurry without regard for the more coherent flow of the debut and the great "Scoundrel Days." Still, there's plenty of enjoyable music here, and a couple of obvious missed opportunities to keep the band's commercial fortunes alive in the USA.

In fact, this was the last A-Ha album to even chart in America, peaking at a measly 148 before vanishing. It also contains one of the very few failed James Bond theme songs, "The Living Daylights." (Oddly enough, a rerecorded version. The original can be found on the A-ha singles collection.) Full of the usual dramatic pulse of the John Barry themes, "The Living Daylights" is every bit as good as Duran Duran's "View To a Kill," yet for some reason, only took off overseas. The same fate befell the poppier "Touchy!" which was a top ten international hit.

Once again, the quality was good, even if the attention wasn't being paid. The danceable "The Blood The Moves The Body" and the emotional title track again show why vocalist Morten Harket is such a unique voice in pop music. There's also the six-minute plus "Out of Blue Come Green," which may be his best vocal in the whole of A-ha's canon. "Stay On These Roads" has a bit too much filler for my tastes, but the high points still make it a good album.

25: Very Best of Hunting High & Low Scoundrel Days (Remastered Deluxe Edition)

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

My Amazon Reviews: Halford "Resurrection"

ResurrectionJudas is Rising,
 4 Out Of 5 Stars

When Rob Halford decided to mount his Harley and leather up for a return to metal, he did so in grand fashion. "Resurrection" roars in on a glorious racket of double-time drums, twin lead guitars and defiant lyrics. Sound familiar? If you nodded and emphatic Yes to that question, you'll be wild for this CD. It was the follow-up to his Nine Inch Nails collaborative project, Two (which I have to admit, I really liked, if the public otherwise ignored it).

Rob's nom-de-band works his own personality and well known past to great effect. The title track opens the disc with his demonic operatic howl multi-tracked, just in case you were wondering what direction "Resurrection" was going to head in. Bruce Dickinson of Iron Maiden does a bit of reinforcement by co-writing and sing with Rob on "The One You Love To Hate." There's even an ode to moderation in the surprising "Slow Down."

For the most part, though, Halford the band is delivering the goods you'd expect. I picked up the remastered version, which sounds killer. It also sounds like it was recorded in 2010 as opposed to the original release of 2000. "Resurrection" has held up really well over a decade, and having wrestled the rights to his non-Priest catalog back, it now comes direct from Rob's own private MetalGod records (IE: it's his business now, as opposed to a monolithic record company). Worth getting again for that reason alone, and worth getting the first time if you passed on it at the turn of the century.

 Voyeurs Made of Metal Turbo Screaming for Vengeance (Exp) British Steel: 30th Anniversary Edition 

Sunday, November 14, 2010

My Amazon Reviews: Seal "Commitment"

6: CommitmentSeal Sells Sentiment  
3 Out of 5 Stars

Seal claims that he's happier now than ever before. Which might be great for him, but it's disappointing for us. While I still find him to be one of the most remarkable vocalists of our time, "Commitment" finds him riding straight up the middle of the road. Instead of the soul baring we heard even up to Seal IV, we now are listening to comfortably bland love songs coated with producer David Foster's bland strings and syrupy arrangements.

In fact, if it weren't for Seal's still potent voice, this would probably be a two star album. Face it, very few singers could sing "I'm one of your secrets, I belong to you and you belong to me" without sounding ridiculous, but Seal gets away with it. And don't get me wrong, as someone who rated the over-produced "Soul" with four stars, I am fine with well done plush. "Letting Go" and "The Weight of My Mistakes" are the best songs here; Seal sounds like he's really committed to the performance. The rest of the time, "Commitment" sounds like sentimental fluff.

Soul  Hits Human Being Seal