2006 was a good year to be a Who fan. The band hit the road for their first true "world" tour to promote their first new studio album in 24 years (although surprisingly, it's not my #1 album of the year). In addition, all of Pete Townshend's solo albums were reissued (most with bonus tracks), and the three more John Entwistle solo albums got similar treatment.
Oh, and while I was updating my overall review index, it struck me that this is the 20th year I've done these reviews. That's kind of amazing. Hope you like review #20 …
Roger "Syd" Barrett's body of work is thin but legendary. As the lead singer, songwriter, and guitarist for Pink Floyd, the band released a pair of classic debut singles ("Arnold Layne" and "See Emily Play") and their magnificent debut album, The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn in 1967. Sadly, that proved to be the total of Syd's polished work. As his reported schizophrenia mixed with psychedelic drug use, he became erratic and unpredictable and the remaining Floyds dropped him from the band. Waters, Gilmour and Wright did help Barrett's fledgling solo career, producing and playing on his two 1970 solo albums (The Madcap Laughs and Barrett), but those albums are miles away from his work of the Floyd. They're essentially rough demos that have been beefed up enough for release. The songs on those albums are tremendous, but the stark, chilling renditions that make it clear that Barrett's mental state never really recovered. Apart from glimpses in early 70's (a few concerts with a new band called Stars, aborted sessions for a 3rd solo album, and his now legendary surprise appearance at Pink Floyd's sessions for Wish You Were Here), "Syd" pretty much disappeared and went back to being Roger, living with his mother in Cambridge until he passed away earlier this year. Syd's story is a sad one, thinking about what could have been. His brilliant songwriting never really had a chance to flourish.
The Soft Bulletin 5.1
How do you make a perfect album even better? Why, remix it for 5.1 sound, of course! Like their 5.1 version of Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots, The Soft Bulletin 5.1 pulls out all the stops and really explores what can be done with 6 speakers. The album is still amazing (it was my #1 pick for 1999, and I'd still rate it that highly). Along with the DVD audio version, you get a newly remixed version of the album in a brand new running order (that sort of merges the old US & UK running orders). The remixes aren't radical changes, just subtle tweaks to improve the already stunning sound. The bonus material is wonderful stuff that was originally only on B-sides, promo samplers and the like. If you liked the album, it really is worth buying this version instead to get the remix, the 5.1 surround sound and the extra songs.
tracks: "Race For The Prize", "A Spoonful Weighs A Ton", "The Spark That Bled", "Slow Motion", "What Is The Light?", "The Observer", "Waitin' For A Superman", "Suddenly Everything Has Changed", "The Gash", "Feeling Yourself Disintegrate", "Sleeping On The Roof", "The Spiderbite Song", "Buggin'"
bonus tracks: "1000 Ft. Hands", "The Captain Is A Cold Hearted And Egotistical Fool", "Satellite Of You", "Up Above The Daily Hum", "The Switch That Turns Off The Universe", "We Can't Predict The Future", "It Remained Unrealizable"
Everything Must Go
10th Anniversary Deluxe Edition
Following the bleak and brilliant The Holy Bible and the disappearance and presumed suicide of guitarist/lyricist Richey James, the remaining trio changed direction. Leaving the punk anger of The Holy Bible in the distance, Everything Must Go turned the Manics into a Britpop band with a huge, anthemic sound. "A Design For Life" is a huge highlight, coupling a scathing lyric mocking upper class views of the working class with majestic strings and a classic melody. "Small Black Flowers That Grow In The Sky" couples a chilling lyric about the mistreatment of animals (which could possibly be interpreted as an allegory about the self-destructive Richey) with a delicate acoustic guitar and harp arrangement. A brilliant album from top to bottom, and the Manics' finest moment to date.
Disc one's bonus tracks include a slate of superb live versions on Everything Must Go songs along with a lush remix of "A Design For Life". Bookended by short, strange versions of two traditional songs ("Dixie" and "Glory, Glory"), disc two is made up of demos (some electric and some acoustic) and some great outtakes and b-sides that are pretty much as good as anything on the main album. In addition, a DVD is included with a documentary about the making of the album along with some videos and TV performances. However, the CD is an import, so the DVD is in PAL format and won't play on most US players (but it will play on most computers). If you've already got Everything Must Go, it's absolutely worth rebuying to hear the new additions.
tracks: "Elvis Impersonator: Blackpool Pier", "A Design For Life", "Kevin Carter", "Enola / Alone", "Everything Must Go", "Small Black Flowers That Grow In The Sky", "The Girl Who Wanted To Be God", "Removables", "Australia", "Interiors (Song For Willem De Kooning)", "Further Away", "No Surface All Feeling"
bonus tracks: "Enola / Alone" [live], "Kevin Carter" [live], "Interiors (Song For Willem De Kooning)" [live], "Elvis Impersonator: Blackpool Pier" [live], "Everything Must Go" [live], "A Design For Life" [live], "A Design For Life" [Stealth Sonic Orchestra Remix], "Dixie", "No Surface All Feeling" [Demo], "Further Away" [Demo], "Small Black Flowers That Grow In The Sky" [Demo], "No One Knows What It's Like To Be Me" [Demo], "Australia" [Acoustic Demo], "No Surface All Feeling" [Acoustic Demo], "Interiors (Song For Willem De Kooning)" [Acoustic Demo], "The Girl Who Wanted To Be God" [Acoustic Demo], "A Design For Life" [First Rehearsal], "Kevin Carter" [First Rehearsal], "Mr. Carbohydrate", "Dead Trees And Traffic Islands", "Dead Passive", "Black Garden", "Hanging On", "No One Knows What It's Like To Be Me", "Horses Under Starlight", "Sepia", "First Republic", "Australia" [Stephen Hague Production], "The Girl Who Wanted To Be God" [Stephen Hague Production], "Glory, Glory"
One of the all-time great debut albums, Pretenders mixes punk rockers like "Precious", "Up The Neck" and "Tattooed Love Boys" with classic pop songs like "Brass In Pocket", "Kid", and their cover of the Kinks' "Stop Your Sobbing". The bonus disc is a mix of demos and outtakes that are a fascinating listen. For instance, the chorus of "Brass In Pocket" originally had Chrissie Hynde singing "You're special, so special" instead of "I'm special, so special", changing the whole perspective of the lyrics. Worth picking up.
tracks: "Precious", "The Phone Call", "Up The Neck", "Tattooed Love Boys", "Space Invader", "The Wait", "Stop Your Sobbing", "Kid", "Private Life", "Brass In Pocket", "Lovers Of Today", "Mystery Achievement"
bonus tracks: "Cuban Slide" [Outtake], "Porcelain", "The Phone Call", "The Wait", "I Can't Control Myself" [Demo], "Swinging London", "Brass In Pocket" [Demo], "Kid", "Stop Your Sobbing", "Tequila", "Nervous But Shy", "I Need Somebody", "Mystery Achievement", "Precious", "Tattooed Love Boys", "Sabre Dance"
Pretenders II is a perfect example of a brilliant second album that gets lost in its predecessor's shadow. Maybe not quite as good as the debut, Pretenders II is still a killer album top to bottom, with the twin classics "Message Of Love" and "Talk Of The Town" leading the way. The gorgeous "Birds Of Paradise" is just as good, and the driving "Day After Day" should've been a smash. The bonus disc on II is mainly a live concert from the tour for the album, and it shows just how spectacular and powerful the original lineup of the band was live. Grab this.
tracks: "The Adultress", "Bad Boys Get Spanked", "Message Of Love", "I Go To Sleep", "Birds Of Paradise", "Talk Of The Town", "Pack It Up", "Waste Not Want Not", "Day After Day", "Jealous Dogs", "The English Roses", "Louie Louie"
bonus tracks: "The Wait", "The Adultress", "Message Of Love", "Louie Louie", "Talk Of The Town", "Birds Of Paradise", "The English Roses", "Up The Neck", "Bad Boys Get Spanked", "Stop Your Sobbing", "Private Life", "Kid", "Day After Day", "Brass In Pocket", "Higher And Higher" [all live], "Talk Of The Town" [Demo], "I Go To Sleep" [Guitar Version], "Pack It Up" [Radio Mix]
Back in 1988 I wrote:
Lead singer/guitarist/songwriter/producer Mike Scott took three years to make this album, but it was worth the wait. Fisherman's Blues shows a new Waterboys style, coupling a folk flavor with their "lush garage band" sound to create a new hybrid. Highlights include a cover of Van Morrison's "Sweet Thing", along with Scott's "Fisherman's Blues", "We Will Not Be Lovers", and "World Party". This album is definitely a departure from the sound of their last release, 1985's This Is The Sea, but the new sound is equally rewarding. Yet another great talent overlooked by the masses.
Those three years making Fisherman's Blues were obviously an extremely creative and productive period for the band. In 2001, The Waterboys released an album's worth of outtakes as Too Close To Heaven, which was released in 2002 as Fisherman's Blues Part Two in the US with a bonus single of more outtakes.
Now in 2006, The Waterboys dip back into the well for a double-CD "Collector's Edition" of Fisherman's Blues adding a second CD of all new outtakes. On the surface, it feels like a bad idea. I mean, how deep can the well be? As it turns out: really, really deep. The material on Too Close To Heaven felt like a bridge between This Is The Sea and Fisherman's Blues. The bonus disc here feels like a natual extension of the original album, with its own stand out tracks. The alternate version of the title track is a slower, looser version which isn't better than the official, but is a great second look at the song. A pair of Bob Dylan covers ("Girl Of The North Country" are "Nobody 'Cept You") are stunners, and the Scott originals (especially "Lonesome And A Long Way From Home") are just as good.
tracks: "Fisherman's Blues", "We Will Not Be Lovers", "Strange Boat", "World Party", "Sweet Thing", "Jimmy Hickey's Waltz", "And A Bang On The Ear", "Has Anybody Here Seen Hank?", "When Will We Be Married?", "When Ye Go Away", "Dunford's Fancy", "The Stolen Child", "This Land Is Your Land"
bonus tracks: "Carolan's Welcome", "Killing My Heart", "You In The Sky", "When Will We Be Married?", "Nobody 'Cept You", "Fisherman's Blues", "Girl Of The North Country", "Lonesome And A Long Way From Home", "If I Can't Have You", "Rattle My Bones And Shiver My Soul", "Let Me Feel Holy Again", "Meet Me At The Station", "Good Ship Sirius", "Soon As I Get Home"
All This And World War II
The 1976 film All This And World War II coupled documentary footage of World War II with current artists' singing Beatles songs backed by The London Symphony Orchestra. The double soundtrack album, long out of print, has been reissued on CD by Hip-O Select. The songs are mostly exclusive to this album - Elton's cover of "Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds" was a #1 hit in 1975, and that song is far and away the highlight. The rest of the album makes for interesting listening, but it's more an oddity than a classic. Peter Gabriel pushes his voice in strange directions on his cover of "Strawberry Fields Forever" which works better than most. And for Who fans, All This And World War II marked Keith Moon's solo debut with an off-key but weirdly charming cover of "When I'm Sixty-Four". For collectors only.
tracks: "Magical Mystery Tour" [Ambrosia], "Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds" [Elton John], "Golden Slumbers / Carry That Weight" [The Bee Gees], "I Am The Walrus" [Leo Sayer], "She's Leaving Home" [Bryan Ferry], "Lovely Rita" [Roy Wood], "When I'm Sixty-Four" [Keith Moon], "Get Back" [Rod Stewart], "Let It Be" [Leo Sayer], "Yesterday" [David Essex], "With A Little Help From My Friends / Nowhere Man" [Jeff Lynne], "Because" [Lynsey DePaul], "She Came In Through The Bathroom Window" [The Bee Gees], "Michelle" [Richard Cocciante], "We Can Work It Out" [The Four Seasons], "The Fool On The Hill" [Helen Reddy], "Maxwell's Silver Hammer" [Frankie Laine], "Hey Jude" [The Brothers Johnson], "Polythene Pam" [Roy Wood], "Sun King" [The Bee Gees], "Getting Better" [Status Quo], "The Long And Winding Road" [Leo Sayer], "Help!" [Henry Gross], "Strawberry Fields Forever" [Peter Gabriel], "A Day In The Life" [Frankie Valli], "Come Together" [Tina Turner], "You Never Give Me Your Money" [Wil Malone & Lou Reizner], "The End" [The London Symphony Orchestra]
Without The Aid Of A Safety Net (The Full 1993 Glasgow Barrowland Show)
Originally released in 1994, Without The Aid Of A Safety Net would be the first of six live albums for Big Country. This reissue expands the album to a double-CD that includes the entire show. The show is excellent, split between an acoustic "unplugged" first half and an electric second half. Stuart Adamson's banter with the enthusiastic audience adds extra charm to the album, and the song selection that includes the band's hits plus obscure Big Country recordings like the B-side "Winter Sky", and their cover of "The Tracks Of My Tears", along with a pair of Neil Young covers makes the show a real treat. A must for Big Country fans.
tracks: "Harvest Home", "Peace In Our Time", "Just A Shadow", "Broken Heart (Thirteen Valleys)", "Winter Sky", "The Storm", "Chance", "The Tracks Of My Tears", "Rockin' In The Free World", "All Go Together", "We're Not In Kansas", "Look Away", "What Are You Working For", "Steeltown", "Ships", "Wonderland", "Long Way Home", "Alone", "In A Big Country", "Lost Patrol", "Hey Hey, My My (Into The Black)", "Fields Of Fire"
The 40th Anniversary Celebration
Normally, I don't review DVDs for these pages, but this one was too tempting to pass up. The DVD documents the reunion concert staged to coincide with the 40th anniversary of the Bonzo Dog Band's debut single, "My Brother Makes The Noises For The Talkies". Founders Neil Innes, Roger Ruskin Spear, Rodney Slater, Sam Spoons and Vernon Dudley Bohay-Nowell are backed by Innes' current touring band. Former Bonzo "Legs" Larry Smith joins in for a few songs as well. Of course, the big gap is left by the late Vivian Stanshall, whose parts are covered Innes and occasional guest stars like Stephen Fry (who's got the perfect voice for the "posh" side of Viv's vocals) and Adrian Edmonson (who's got the guttery growl covered).
During the show, Innes jokes that they haven't rehearsed, and the show makes it seem like maybe he's not kidding. The music sounds great, it's just the weirdness like Roger's trouser press solo that doesn't quite work out right. However, everyone seems to be having a total blast on stage, and you easily forgive the miscues. It's too much fun not to.
There was one disappointment for me though. I saw "The Intro And The Outro" in the track listing, hoping for a live version, but that song (and "Slush") are just the regular album versions played over the end of the DVD.
tracks: "Cool Britannia", "My Brother Makes The Noises For The Talkies", "Little Sir Echo", "Falling In Love Again", "I'm Going To Bring A Watermelon To My Girl Tonight", "Noises From The Leg", "The Sheik Of Araby", "Hello Mabel", "Jollity Farm", "The Equestrian Statue", "We Are Normal", "The Strain", "The Sound of Music", "Exodus", "Trouser Press", "My Pink Half Of The Drainpipe", "I'm Bored", "Sport (The Odd Boy)", "Mr. Apollo", "Look At Me, I'm Wonderful", "I Left My Heart In San Francisco", "Rhinocratic Oaths", "Mr. Slater's Parrot", "Monster Mash", "I'm The Urban Spaceman", "Canyons Of Your Mind", "The Intro And The Outro", "Slush"
Eels With Strings: Live At Town Hall
A wonderful live album from the "Eels With Strings" tour, which basically coupled an "unplugged" Eels lineup (including toy piano, musical saw, and trash cans as drums) matched with a string quartet touring to support last year's brilliant Blinking Lights And Other Revelations. Great stuff.
tracks: "Blinking Lights (For Me)", "Bride Of Theme From Blinking Lights", "Bus Stop Boxer", "Dirty Girl", "Trouble With Dreams", "The Only Thing I Care About", "My Beloved Monster", "Pretty Ballerina", "It's A Motherfucker", "Flyswatter", "Novocaine For The Soul", "Girl From The North Country", "Railroad Man", "I Like Birds", "If You See Natalie", "Poor Side Of Town", "Spunky", "I'm Going To Stop Pretending", "Suicide Life", "Losing Streak", "Hey Man (Now You're Really Living)", "Things The Grandchildren Should Know"
1000 Years Of Popular Music
In 2003, Richard Thompson released a live CD of his "1000 Years Of Popular Music" show only available on his web site. Here's the concept, cribbed from my review of that web-only CD:
In 1999, Playboy Magazine asked Richard Thompson for his choices for the "ten greatest songs of the millenium". Of course, as with all these "best of the millenium" polls, they were really looking for the best songs of the pop era, or the best songs of the 20th century at most. Thompson waggishly sent in a more appropriate list, including songs going as far back as 1068 AD. Not surprisingly, Playboy didn't use Thompson's list, but it did inspire a live interpretation of the same idea.
This live CD & DVD pair is from a later run of the show. Same concept, but with a few new additions, including a great version of Bowling For Soup's "1985". Just as much fun as the original, but now with video as well.
tracks: "Sumer Is Icumen In", "King Henry V's Conquest Of France", "So Ben Mi Ca Bon Tempo", "Bonnie St. Johnstone", "O Sleep Fond Fancy", "Remember O Thou Man", "Shenandoah", "Blackleg Miner", "I Live In Trafalgar Square", "There Is Beauty In The Bellow Of The Blast", "Java Jive", "Night And Day", "Orange Coloured Sky", "Drinking Wine Spo-Dee-O-Dee", "A-11", "See My Friends", "Friday On My Mind", "Tempted", "Oops!… I Did It Again", "Cry Me A River", "1985", "Sam Hall"
Weller and his band in top form touring to support As Is Now. In the past, Weller's policy was to only play songs from his most recent work. He ended his policy on 2001's acoustic live album Days Of Speed, when he featured songs from his whole career, including songs from The Jam and The Style Council. Catch-Flame! is the electric equivalent, turning his current band loose on Jam classics like "In The Crowd", "Town Called Malice", The Style Council's "Long Hot Summer" and "Shout To The Top", along with new songs like "Come On / Let's Go" and "From The Floorboards Up". The band sounds fantastic throughout and Weller is in fine form. A great show and a terrific career overview.
tracks: "The Weaver", "Out Of The Sinking", "Blink And You'll Miss It", "Paper Smile", "Peacock Suit", "From The Floorboards Up", "The Changingman", "Savages", "Going Places", "Up In Suze's Room", "Porcelain Gods / I Walk On Gilded Splinters", "In The Crowd", "Come On / Let's Go", "Foot Of The Mountain", "You Do Something To Me", "Wishing On A Star", "Wild Wood", "The Pebble And The Boy", "That's Entertainment", "Broken Stones", "Long Hot Summer", "Shout To The Top", "Town Called Malice"
Crazy Horse At The Fillmore 1970
The first release in the "Neil Young Archives Series", Crazy Horse At The Fillmore 1970 catches the original lineup roaring through three classics from their debut Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere (the title track and the two epic guitar workouts "Down By The River" and "Cowgirl In The Sand") along with three then-unreleased songs. "Wonderin'" is loose country-rock, a mile away from the forced rockabilly of the official version released many years later on the ill-fated Everybody's Rockin'. An absolute must for Neil Young fans.
tracks: "Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere", "Winterlong", "Down By The River", "Wonderin'", "Come On Baby Let's Go Downtown", "Cowgirl In The Sand"
Greatest Hits Redux
Freshly recorded to compete with a greatest hits album coming from their old label, Greatest Hits Redux bills itself as being created "by popular demand" to capture studio recordings of the live arrangements of Cracker's best. "I See The Light" is probably the most improved, adding a nice Hammond organ part to the song, but it's not radically different. The later tracks aren't all that different from the studio recordings. If you want a Cracker best of, go for 2000's Garage d'Or. It's a better selection, and for me, I'd rather hear the original versions.
tracks: "Teen Angst (What The World Needs Now)", "I See The Light", "Mr. Wrong", "Low", "Get Off This", "Lonesome Johnny Blues", "Euro Trash Girl", "Sweet Thistle Pie", "Big Dipper", "The World Is Mine", "Duty Free", "Ain't Gonna Suck Itself", "Something You Ain't Got"
RT - The Life And Music Of Richard Thompson
Definitely a box set for the "hardcores", RT is a five CD career overview, only all the tracks are live. As a result, it's a little staggering at first, but there is a ton of great stuff on here. The sound quality varies a bit, but it doesn't ruin anything. The discs are linked with thin "concepts" which actually a nice organization to the box, making it seem a bit less sprawling. For me, the initial highlights were on the covers disc, with a couple of great Who covers, a blazing "Ça Plane Pour Moi", and a witty "Why Don't Women Like Me?". But there are highlights all across the set. Great idea, wonderfully done.
tracks (Walking The Long Miles Home - Muswell Hill To L.A.): "Now That I Am Dead", "Genesis Hall", "Josef Locke", "Willy O' Winsbury", "Don't Sit On My Jimmy Shands", "Nobody's Wedding", "Madonna's Wedding", "Walking The Long Miles Home", "Withered And Died", "Beat The Retreat", "The Great Valerio", "Walking On A Wire", "Never Again", "The End Of The Rainbow", "King Of Bohemia", "Killerman Gold Posse", "Lotteryland", "Now Be Thankful", "Shoot Out The Lights", "Outside Of The Inside"
tracks (Finding Better Words - The Essential Richard Thompson): "I Feel So Good", "Push And Shove", "Time To Ring Some Changes", "Cooksferry Queen", "Waltzing's For Dreamers", "I Want To See The Bright Lights Tonight", "I Misunderstood", "Meet On The Ledge", "Down Where The Drunkards Roll", "Gethsemane", "Tear Stained Letter", "Wall Of Death", "1952 Vincent Black Lightning", "From Galway To Graceland", "Crazy Man Michael", "Dimming Of The Day", "Beeswing"
tracks (Shine In The Dark - Epic Live Workouts): "Valerie", "Don't Let A Thief Steal Into Your Heart", "Ghosts In The Wind", "Crash The Party", "For Shame Of Doing Wrong", "Calvary Cross", "Sloth", "Night Comes In", "Drowned Dog Black Night", "Put It There Pal", "Willow Tree / Bean Setting / Flying Saucers Rock 'n' Roll"
tracks (The Songs Pour Down Like Silver - The Covers & Sessions): "Substitute", "Tempted", "(The Story Of) Hamlet", "Oops! I Did It Again", "Ça Plane Pour Moi", "Why Don't Women Like Me?", "Time Has Told Me" - Richard Thompson & Raymond Kane, "Shenandoah", "Danny Boy", "Move It", "Willie And The Hand Jive / Not Fade Away", "Loch Lomond", "Job Of Journeywork", "Napoleon's Dream", "Sally Rackett (Haul 'em Away)", "God Loves A Drunk" - Norma Waterson, "The Angels Took My Racehorse Away" - Dave Burland, "Poseidon" - Judith Owen & Richard Thompson, "Wall Of Death", "You'll Never Walk Alone", "I Ain't Marching Anymore", "The Who Medley (My Generation / I Can't Explain / Substitute)"
tracks (Something Here Worth More Than Gold - Real Rarities): "Albion Sunrise", "How Many Times Do You Have To Fall?", "Bad News Is All The Wind Can Carry", "Mrs. Rita", "Shady Lies", "Lucky In In Life, Unlucky In Love", "Dragging The River" - Albion Country Band, "Alexander Graham Bell", "Someone Else's Fancy", "Modern Woman", "Woman Or A Man?", "My Daddy Is A Mummy", "You Got What You Wanted", "In Over Your Head", "Dear Janet Jackson"
Orphans: Brawlers, Bawlers & Bastards
Orphans started out as a collection of rarities (B-sides, soundtrack songs, etc.) but ended up as a 3 CD set with 30 new songs mixed in with the rarities. The results are a wonderfully weird trip through all of Waits' styles. The first CD, Brawlers, collects the up-beat and the noisy, like the mutant rockabilly of "Lie To Me" and the Rain Dogs-flavored "2:19" and "Bottom Of The World", while still making room for slower material like Waits creepy take on "Sea Of Love". However, the centerpiece of Brawlers is "Road To Peace", a pointed epic about the current Middle East situation. The second CD, Bawlers, collects Waits ballads, highlighted by the sweet "Tell It To Me" and twisted takes on "Goodnight Irene" and "Young At Heart". The final CD, Bastards is where the album really gets odd. It's a collection of Waits experimental side, mixed in with several monologues and shaggy dog stories.
Overall, Orphans is a little intimidating due to the sheer size, but the results are amazing. Waits' best album in years.
tracks: "Lie To Me", "LowDown", "2:19", "Fish In The Jailhouse", "Bottom Of The World", "Lucinda", "Ain't Goin' Down To The Well", "Lord I've Been Changed", "Puttin' On The Dog", "Road To Peace", "All The Time", "The Return Of Jackie And Judy", "Walk Away", "Sea Of Love", "Buzz Fledderjohn", "Rains On Me"
tracks: "Bend Down The Branches", "You Can Never Hold Back Spring", "Long Way Home", "Widow's Grove", "Little Drop Of Poison", "Shiny Things", "World Keeps Turning", "Tell It To Me", "Never Let Go", "Fannin Street", "Little Man", "It's Over", "If I Have To Go", "Goodnight Irene", "The Fall Of Troy", "Take Care Of All My Children", "Down There By The Train", "Danny Says", "Jayne's Blue Wish", "Young At Heart"
tracks: "What Keeps Mankind Alive", "Children's Story", "Heigh Ho (The Dwarf's Marching Song)", "Army Ants", "Books Of Moses", "Bone Chain", "Two Sisters", "First Kiss", "Dog Door", "Redrum", "Nirvana", "Home I'll Never Be", "Poor Little Lamb", "Altar Boy", "The Pontiac", "Spidey's Wild Ride", "King Kong", "On The Road"
hidden bonus tracks: "Dog Treat: [a concert song intro], "Missing My Son" [a great shaggy dog story].
OTHER NOTEWORTHY RELEASES
The soundtrack album for the new Cirque du Soleil show, Love takes highlights of the Beatles catalog and "mashes in" bits of other Beatles songs. For instance, between the a cappella version of "Because" that opens the album and "Get Back", you hear the final "A Day In The Life" chord stretched out, the opening chord of "A Hard Days Night", and bits of the drum and guitar solos from "The End". However, the amount of manipulation varies considerably from track to track. It's fascinating listening, and having legendary Beatles producer George Martin and his son Giles in charge makes this feel more like experimentation instead of a cheap cash-in. It's fascinating listening, but certainly no substitute for the original recordings. Don't buy this if you're looking for a "greatest hits", buy it if you want to hear the Beatles recordings in a new way.
tracks: "Because", "Get Back", "Glass Onion", "Eleanor Rigby / Julia (Transition)", "I Am The Walrus", "I Want To Hold Your Hand", "Drive My Car / The Word / What You're Doing", "Gnik Nus", "Something / Blue Jay Way (Transition)", "Being For The Benefit Of Mr. Kite / I Want You (She's So Heavy)", "Help!", "Blackbird / Yesterday", "Strawberry Fields Forever", "Within You Without You / Tomorrow Never Knows", "Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds", "Octopus's Garden", "Lady Madonna", "Here Comes The Sun / The Inner Light (Transition)", "Come Together / Dear Prudence / Cry Baby Cry (Transition)", "Revolution", "Back In The U.S.S.R.", "While My Guitar Gently Weeps", "A Day In The Life", "Hey Jude", "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (Reprise)", "All You Need Is Love"
Whew. Apparently the "outlaw country" Cracker of Countrysides was indeed a one-off. Greenland has the band back in solid form with an album reminiscent of The Golden Age, with a nice mix of styles, from the heaviness of "The Riverside", the folk-tinged "Something You Ain't Got", the moody "Sidi Ifni", the quiet "Fluffy Lucy", and the pure pop of "I Need Better Friends".
tracks: "Something You Ain't Got", "Maggie", "Where Have Those Days Gone", "Fluffy Lucy", "The Riverside", "Gimme One More Chance", "I'm So Glad She Ain't Never Coming Back", "Sidi Ifni", "I Need Better Friends", "Minotaur", "Night Falls", "Better Times Are Coming Our Way", "Everybody Gets One For Free", "Darling We're Out Of Time"
Jet's second album picks up largely where their debut left off, mixing big classic rock hooks on songs like "Bring It On Back", "Come On Come On", and "Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is" with the gentle title track. Like their debut, Shine On isn't necessarily a big innovation, but does every band need to break new ground?
tracks: "L'Esprit D'Escalier", "Holiday", "Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is", "Bring It On Back", "That's All Lies", "Hey Kids", "Kings Horses", "Shine On", "Come On Come On", "Stand Up", "Rip It Up", "Skin And Bones", "Shiny Magazine", "Eleanor", "All You Have To Do"
Tom Petty's third solo album has him closer to working solo than his previous efforts. Backed only by Heartbreaker Mike Campbell and producer Jeff Lynne, Highway Companion is aptly titled - this feels like an album to play on a long, leisurely trip. The opener "Saving Grace" is a slice of John Lee Hooker-flavored blues, but the real sound of the album is more in gentle, folky songs like "Damaged By Love", "Square One" and "The Golden Rose". Oh, and this is easily the least "Lynne" sounding of any of Jeff's productions. You'd never guess he was the producer.
Overall, I really like Highway Companion, but I seem to be running completely counter to the general consensus. I found this one enjoyable but not classic and most reviews I've seen are gushing. By contrast, I thought Petty's last album, The Last DJ was a masterpiece and the one of the best albums of Petty's career, and I've yet to see anything better than an iffy review.
tracks: "Saving Grace", "Square One", "Flirting With Time", "Down South", "Jack", "Turn This Car Around", "Big Weekend", "Night Driver", "Damaged By Love", "This Old Town", "Ankle Deep", "The Golden Rose"
bonus tracks (iTunes Edition): "Saving Grace" [live], "Square One" [live]
Under The Covers, Vol. 1
Billing themselves as "Sid 'n' Susie", Matthew Sweet and former Bangle Susanna Hoffs deliver a fun album of classic 60's covers with some very interestering selections like Love's "Alone Again Or" and Neil Young's "Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere". Highlights include a terrific cover of another Neil Young's classic ("Cinnamon Girl") complete with stunning lead guitar from Television's Richard Lloyd and a great take on The Stone Poneys' "Different Drum". I hope there's a "Vol. 2".
tracks: "I See The Rain", "And Your Bird Can Sing", "It's All Over Now, Baby Blue", "Who Knows Where The Time Goes?", "Cinnamon Girl", "Alone Again Or", "Warmth Of The Sun", "Different Drum", "The Kids Are Alright", "Sunday Morning", "Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere", "Care Of Cell 44", "Monday, Monday", "She May Call You Up Tonight", "Run To Me"
Edge Of The World
Y'know, I really hate it when I read reviews where it's clear that the album, book, movie, or whatever just isn't something the critic would normally like. That being said, I'm not a heavy metal fan, so I'm not the reviewer to tell you whether Edge Of The World is a good heavy metal album or not. However, as a Who nut, I felt compelled to at least cover this album in my review for the year.
Despite the band credit, Edge Of The World is pretty clearly just a solo album from Judas Priest guitarist Glenn Tipton, recorded back in 1996 but rejected by the record company. I'm afraid it's only been released now because John and Cozy are no longer with us. You can definitely hear John's playing on the album, but for an Entwistle fan, this is more a curio than a real addition to John's catalog.
tracks: "Unknown Soldier", "Friendly Fire", "The Holy Man", "Never Say Die", "Resolution", "Searching", "Give Blood", "Crime Of Passion", "Wall Cave In", "Edge Of The World", "Stronger Than The Drug"
THE TOP TEN FOR 2006
(in my exasperatingly less-than-humble opinion)
Bob Mould and Richard Morel have been doing DJ shows as "Blowoff" for a few years now, but finally decided to go into the studio for their own music. The result is far more of a blend than I would've expected. Morel sings the majority of lead vocals and Mould's slashing guitar blends nicely with Morel's keyboards. Blowoff falls somewhere between dance, pop and Sugar-style power-pop, and the results work fantastic. The opener "Hormone Love" starts with a blast of Mould guitar and Morel's smooth voice. "Life With A View" turns that sound upside down with Mould's vocals and Morel's keyboards driving the song. A few of the songs go too far into pure dance territory than I care for, and I still prefer Mould's solo efforts, but this is quite a good album. Definitely worth a listen.
tracks: "Hormone Love", "Here And Now", "Overload", "Saturday Night All The Time", "Life With A View", "Man Keeps Winning", "Lemonade", "Tag It", "Fallout", "Get Inside With Me", "Beautiful", "The Ballad Of Mark Dirt"
Broken Boy Soldiers
A indie rock supergroup, The Raconteurs gives Jack White a talented band to work with instead of the minimalist White Stripes guitar/drum sound, and the results are amazing. However, despite being the most well-known Raconteur, this isn't simply a Jack White solo album. Brendan Benson's lead vocals are a terrific complement to White's, and they give the album a real band feel. The punchy garage rock of "Steady, As She Goes", "Hands", and "Level" is balanced out by the soulful pop of "Together". As much as I like The White Stripes, if the choice is albums like the last Stripes effort, Get Behind Me Satan, or a new Raconteurs album, I'd much prefer the latter. Here's hoping this isn't a one-off.
tracks: "Steady, As She Goes", "Hands", "Broken Boy Soldier", "Intimate Secretary", "Together", "Level", "Store Bought Bones", "Yellow Sun", "Call It A Day", "Blue Veins"
Robyn Hitchcock & The Venus 3
Olé! Tarantula is Robyn Hitchcock's first real rock album since the '02 Soft Boys reunion, and it's terrific. His backing band, The Venus 3, is made up of R.E.M./Minus Five members Peter Buck, Scott McCaughey and Bill Rieflin, and they get Hitchcock back to the twisted psychedelic pop he does best. Highlights include "Adventure Rocket Ship", the horn and harmonica powered "Olé! Tarantula", "'Cause It's Love" (a dream songwriting collaboration between Hitchcock and XTC's Andy Partridge), and "N.Y. Doll" (a tribute to the late New York Dolls bassist Arthur Kane). Catchy melodies, bizarre lyrics, and great playing from his bandmates - great stuff all around. Best Robyn album since Nextdoorland.
tracks: "Adventure Rocket Ship", "Underground Sun", "Museum Of Sex", "Belltown Ramble", "Olé! Tarantula", "(A Man's Gotta Know His Limitations) Briggs", "Red Locust Frenzy", "'Cause It's Love (Saint Parallelogram)", "The Authority Box", "N.Y. Doll"
Songs And Other Things
In 1992, Tom Verlaine released a pair of albums, the solo instrumental Warm And Cool and the third album from the reunited Television. Fourteen years later, Verlaine's up to the same tricks. The instrumental Around is the followup to Warm And Cool, and Songs And Other Things is his new vocal album. Songs And Other Things is a slice of prime Verlaine - mixing slightly off-kilter pop and rock with mesmerizing guitar work. Highlights include the charming "The Earth Is The Sky" (vaguely reminscent in feel of "Postcard From Waterloo"), the almost-funky guitar heroics of "All Weirded Out", and the delicate half spoken/half sung "Blue Light". Verlaine's best album since his 1987 masterpiece Flash Light.
tracks: "A Parade In Littleton", "Heavenly Charm", "Orbit", "Blue Light", "From Her Fingers", "Nice Actress", "A Stroll", "The Earth Is In The Sky", "Lovebird Asylum Seeker", "Documentary", "Shingaling", "All Weirded Out", "The Day On You", "Peace Piece"
After Keith Moon died in 1978, The Who regrouped for two more studio albums, 1981's Face Dances and 1982's It's Hard. On both, The Who played it safe - neither album takes many chances. Now, 24 years later, Pete Townshend and Roger Daltrey have reunited for a new Who studio album, and it's easily the most diverse in the band's history. It's also the closest Who album to a Pete Townshend solo album. Pete wrote all of the songs, played the lion's share of the instruments, and produced.
Endless Wire is basically two half-albums. The first half (from "Fragments" through "You Stand By Me") is a collection of unrelated songs, with a ton of diversity. The album opens in classic Who form, bubbling synthesiser and slashing power chords, but "Fragments" quickly changes into something more subtle and less bombastic. Four songs in the first half ("A Man In A Purple Dress", "Two Thousand Years" "God Speaks Of Marty Robbins" and "You Stand By Me") are folky, acoustic guitar numbers that seem more like Townshend solo numbers, or even demos. Three of the others are more standard Who fare, the occasionally clunky "Mike Post Theme" and the excellent "Black Widow's Eyes" and "It's Not Enough".
The second half is a mini-opera titled "Wire & Glass". Although based on Townshend's novella The Boy Who Heard Music, "Wire & Glass" doesn't tell the story on it's own - you really need to read the novella to get it. However, the mini-opera still stands up quite well anyway. Made up of small pieces (each of the first eight parts are under 2:30 in length, and most are under 2:00), "Wire & Glass" is the better half in general. Only the operatic "Trilby's Piano" doesn't really work. The opener "Sound Round", the title track, and "We Got A Hit" are the highlights, and "Mirror Door" is close, coupling average verses with a killer chorus. The two bonus tracks, extended versions of "Endless Wire" and "We Got A Hit" are wonderful as well.
Overall, I was disappointed at first, but Endless Wire continues to grow on me. I certainly wouldn't put in the same league as Who's Next or Quadrophenia, but it's far better than It's Hard and I like that Townshend is aiming high and taking chances rather than just playing it safe.
Given that I'm a total Who nut, I figured a more detailed review of Endless Wire was in order, so I've written up a more detailed review … Endless Wire Track-by-Track.
tracks: "Fragments", "A Man In A Purple Dress", "Mike Post Theme", "In The Ether", "Black Widow's Eyes", "Two Thousand Years", "God Speaks Of Marty Robbins", "It's Not Enough", "You Stand By Me"
tracks ("Wire & Glass"): "Sound Round", "Pick Up The Peace", "Unholy Trinity", "Trilby's Piano", "Endless Wire", "Fragments Of Fragments", "We Got A Hit", "They Made My Dream Come True", "Mirror Door", "Tea & Theatre"
bonus tracks: "We Got A Hit" [Extended Version], "Endless Wire" [Extended Version]
The Anderson Council
The Fall Parade
The Anderson Council's myspace site lists their influences as "Early Who, The Jam, The Kinks, XTC, Elvis Costello and The Attractions, Sloan, The Creation, The Kinks, Syd Barrett, The Pink Floyd… you get the picture". They're not kidding. Basically, The Anderson Council couple perfectly catchy 60's-style pop songs and play them with thundering power chords and rolling drums. They may not be breaking new ground here, but the results are too great to argue with. "Pinkerton's Assorted Colours" is the biggest standout, coupling Who-style power with clever references to the early Pink Floyd, but the album as a whole is pretty damn addicting. "Partridge" coule be a long-lost XTC song, and "What Do You Know?" throws in a little psychedelic guitar. If you're a fan of any of those influences you really NEED to hear this.
tracks: "Beautiful", "Friday's Girl", "Meghan Allison", "Looking At Louth", "Partridge", "Strawberry Smell", "Fake Lane", "Pretty People", "Pinkerton's Assorted Colours", "What Do You Know?", "The Next One", "Archie's Theme", "Mind Elevator"
Living With War
Living With War: In The Beginning
Should've seen this coming. Young's last album, the pastoral Prairie Wind, ended with the gospel-flavored "When God Made Me" - a attack on the Religious Right's hijacking of religion for political ends. Obviously, too subtle. This time around, Young goes for the throat. Described by Young as a "folk-metal protest record", Living With War teams him with the rhythm section from his noisy Eldorado EP, and adds a trumpeter and a 100-voice choir, and takes direct aim at the Bush Administration and their policies.
Musically, Living With War is pretty much straightforward Crazy Horse-style jams. Nothing really fancy here, just good old fashioned loud Neil Young rock. With plain lyrics, this would be a pretty great Young album, although maybe not up to the standards of Ragged Glory.
Lyrically, I expected Living With War to be an album-length version of "Ohio", something that made it's points, but not quite fully developed. I was very wrong. Young is both bitterly angry and very literate throughout the album. The centerpiece is "Let's Impeach The President", highlighted by the bridge with contradictory sound bites from President Bush with Young chanting "Flip! Flop! Flip! Flop!" "Families", "Living With War", "Shock And Awe", and "Roger And Out" all take aim at the Iraq war, and "Lookin' For A Leader" starts the 2008 call for a new president, suggesting that "maybe it's a woman, or a black man after all".
Later in the year, Young released Living With War: In The Beginning, which is simply the initial rough mix of Young and the band. No chorus, no Bush quotes in "Let's Impeach The President", and no "America The Beautiful". I expected to like these raw versions better, but to my surprise, I think the album works better with the chorus and the soundbites. However, it's still worth picking up this version of the album because of the bonus DVD. It's a collection of videos for each of the songs (with the chorus) done up as a mock newsfeed on "LWW" (like CNN) along with video of the recording sessions for each song and various TV appearances and the like.
Living With War:
tracks: "After The Garden", "Living With War", "The Restless Consumer", "Shock And Awe", "Families", "Flags Of Freedom", "Let's Impeach The President", "Lookin' For A Leader", "Roger And Out", "America The Beautiful"
Living With War: In The Beginning:
tracks: "After The Garden", "Living With War", "The Restless Consumer", "Shock And Awe", "Families", "Flags Of Freedom", "Let's Impeach The President", "Lookin' For A Leader", "Roger And Out"
The Flaming Lips
At War With The Mystics
At War With The Mystics 5.1
Apparently partially inspired by Black Sabbath (whose "War Pigs" has been a frequent live cover for the Lips), At War With The Mystics carries on from the style of The Soft Bulletin and Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots, but with a new heavy rock power on some of the songs, and a bit of political commentary in the lyrics. "The Yeah Yeah Yeah Song" mocks the Religious Right with a brainless "yeah yeah yeah yeah, yeah yeah yeah yeah" chant answering the lyrics questions about life. "The W.A.N.D." and "Free Radicals" are the heaviest tracks on the album, but still irresistable catchy and weird. "Pompeii Am Götterdämmerung" sounds like it could be a long-lost Pink Floyd song from their pre-Dark Side days, something that might have fit nicely on Saucerful Of Secrets. The album isn't all bombast, however. "Goin' On", "Vein Of Stars" and "My Cosmic Autumn Rebellion" all have that gorgeous, lush, elegant sound that the last two albums had (all three could have fit nicely on either of the last two albums). Overall, the Lips are contiuning to evolve, keeping the best of the recent past, and adding in new sounds & textures. The third absolutely brilliant album in a row. The Flaming Lips have got to be the best band in the world today.
This time around, the 5.1 version was released the same year as the original album, and like the other two "5.1" releases, it features a CD of the album along with a DVD audio version packed with extras. Two of the outtakes ("Why Does It End?" and "Your Face Can Tell The Future") are excellent, as just as good as anything on the album. The rest are "merely" very, very good.
tracks: "The Yeah Yeah Yeah Song (With All Your Power)", "Free Radicals (A Hallucination Of The Christmas Skeleton Pleading With A Suicide Bomber)", "The Sound Of Failure / It's Dark… Is It Always This Dark?", "My Cosmic Autumn Rebellion", "Vein Of Stars", "The Wizard Turns On… The Giant Silver Flashlight And Puts On His Werewolf Moccasins", "It Overtakes Me / The Stars Are So Big, I Am So Small… Do I Stand A Chance?", "Mr. Ambulance Driver", "Haven't Got A Clue", "The W.A.N.D. (The Will Always Negates Defeat)", "Pompeii Am Götterdämmerung", "Goin' On"
bonus tracks (At War With The Mystics 5.1 only): "Why Does It End?", "You Gotta Hold On", "Your Face Can Tell The Future", "The Gold In The Mountain Of Our Madness", "Time Travel?? Yes!!", "Bohemian Rhapsody", "My Cosmic Autumn Rebellion (The Inner Life As Blazing Shield Of Defiance And Optimism As Celestial Spear Of, "Goin' On", "Unmade Bed / No Quarter", "The Sound Of Failure / It's Dark … Is It Always This Dark??", "Vein Of Stars", "Vein Of Stars" [Operatic Spook], "The Yeah Yeah Yeah Song (With All Your Power)" [Chicken Fried Hoedown Protest Rally], "The Yeah Yeah Yeah Song (With All Your Power)" [In Anatropous Reflex]
The Twilight Singers
A Stitch In Time
In his May, 2006 appearance on The Daily Show With Jon Stewart, Denis Leary ended his segment by not just plugging his stuff, but also a few other favorites. He held up a copy of Powder Burns, calling it "the best album I've heard in ten years." The music Denis uses in his show "Rescue Me" is generally excellent, so I got curious and checked this out. He was on to something here.
Completed by generator power in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, Powder Burns has a moody (and occasionally ferocious) sound coupled with bleak, personal lyrics fueled by leader Greg Dulli's battle to escape drug addiction. The album is more of a single piece rather than just a collection of songs - the best comparison I can make is to Eels' classic Electro-Shock Blues. The highlight is the chilling and spooky "Bonnie Brae", which mixes eerie verses with an anthemic chorus, although the rest of the album is just as good. Rockers like "Underneath The Waves" (which hints at the effects of Katrina) and "My Time (Has Come)" add some balance to songs like "Bonnie Brae" and the similarly dramatic "Candy Cane Crawl". An amazing album.
Later in the year, The Twilight Singers also released an EP called A Stitch In Time, which is almost as good as Powder Burns. Worth grabbing as well.
tracks: "Toward The Waves", "I'm Ready", "There's Been An Accident", "Bonnie Brae", "Forty Dollars", "Candy Cane Crawl", "Underneath The Waves", "My Time (Has Come)", "Dead To Rights", "The Conversation", "Powder Burns", "I Wish I Was"
A Stitch In Time:
tracks: "Live With Me", "Sublime", "Flashback", "They Ride", "The Lure Would Prove Too Much"
James Dean Bradfield
The Great Western
While the Manic Street Preachers take a break, bassist Nicky Wire and guitarist James Dean Bradfield recorded solo albums. Bradfield's solo effort, The Great Western (named after the rail line between Cardiff and London) is a masterpiece. With Bradfield's powerful voice and songwriting, the result sounds a lot like the Manics of Everything Must Go, with some of the balladry of Lifeblood mixed in. Songs like "That's No Way To Tell A Lie", "On Saturday Morning We Will Rule The World" and "Émigré" could almost fit on a Manics album, but there's a bit more of a pop feel. The lone cover, a simple acoustic rendition of Jacques Brel's "To See A Friend In Tears" is an absolute stunner.
In general, I'm a big sucker for albums that have a unified feel, like they're a single piece rather than a collection of songs. The #2 and #3 albums in this review fit that bill, and in earlier drafts of this list have had each of those at #1. The Great Western isn't a concept piece, it's not experimental, but the songs are just too good to ignore. It's one of the few albums where I pulled every song into my iPod - there are just no weak spots.
tracks: "That's No Way To Tell A Lie", "An English Gentleman", "Bad Boys And Painkillers", "On Saturday Morning We Will Rule The World", "Run Romeo Run", "Still A Long Way To Go", "Émigré", "To See A Friend In Tears", "Say Hello To The Pope", "Wrong Beginning", "Which Way To Kyffin"
ALL THE BESTS
Just click on the album cover to see that year's review.