Wednesday, June 29, 2011
Ok that’s enough of the back story. One noticeable thing about this album is that there are only 8 songs on it, and the first 3 songs are all more than seven minutes long. Big Time is classic sounding Crazy Horse territory with that unique guitar sound, though it and many of the other tracks here are overlong. Case in point is Loose Change, which has a very pleasing, if ridiculously repetitive guitar-laden midsection but does it really need to be nearly 10 minutes long?
The loping strut of Slip Away is the closest in feel to his classic 70s Crazy Horse material, with ghostly vocals harking back to the more recent Change Your Mind. After 3 tracks over 25 minutes you either buy into this or you don’t. Changing Highways is sloppy country-rock, like a weaker version of Looking for a Love (off Zuma), and Scattered again evokes the 70s (Albuquerque off Tonight’s the Night).
Tuesday, June 28, 2011
Low’s second album, released in 1995, reinforces the minimalist Low template set out in their debut. The songs here are very sparse, very one-paced and mostly very hushed. If anything it’s less varied than their debut, and generally slower.
Violence kicks things off at glacial pace, showcasing clean, ringing guitars and the clear, crisp harmonies of Alan Sparhawk and Mimi Parker, setting the tone for the rest of the album. Shame has an alluring melody to it, sung by Parker.
An early highlight is Throw Out The Line, entirely built on these aforementioned harmonies with the sparsest of guitars and drums backing it up. Turn is less melodic, based on Zak Sally’s bass strums, and it builds and builds, never quite reaching a climax. The remainder of the album continues in the vein of what went before, varying little from the ‘template’.
It’s far away from latter period Low, with no noisy bits to break it up. Definitely not an immediate album, more of a grower.
Monday, June 27, 2011
Though none of the eight songs on this album, released in 1969, were written by Scott, it shows off his ability to fully inhabit a song right from the start with the powerful Exodus, enhanced by sweeping strings. A performance that will have the hairs on the back of your neck standing up.
He takes well-worn standards like On Broadway and Unchained Melody and turns them inside out. These are songs some feel they need never hear again, yet Jimmy Scott, showing superb grasp of pacing and dynamics, gives them an interesting twist. Later Sometimes I Feel Like A Motherless Child, is a great big slab of sadness, with some wonderfully moody piano, flutes and strings.
The accompanying music is mainly orchestral jazz, with a hint of blues here and there, with piano, strings and saxophone. It provides an engaging backdrop, without overpowering the singing. It’s a perfect album for coffee on a sunny morning, with a mood perhaps along the lines of Nina Simone.
Friday, June 17, 2011
Thursday, June 16, 2011
It’s a return to country-rock along the lines of Gold. Magnolia Mountain is quite an opener, building from an acoustic strum to a full blown rock anthem with Adams singing lines of regret like “ended up with nothing but scars, the scars became the lessons that we gave to our children after the war”. Sweet Illusion has an effortless guitar part underpinning a strong steel-guitar-tinged song, slightly let down by a very strained vocal. In fact Ryan Adams’ vocals are the Achilles heel of this album, he sounds almost strangled in parts.
He doesn’t get it right on his more hushed vocals, Meadowlake Street’s falsetto doesn’t quite work either. However, it doesn’t ruin the music, which is a kind of muted country-rock ballad which explodes into life three minutes in when the full band make their entrance.
Less successful are rocker Beautiful Sorta which is almost as horrid as its title, and the hokey, cod-country of Cherry Lane and the title track. Dance All Night is harmonica-led country-rock which sounds like Hallelujah or Desire from the unreleased 48 Hours.
Better are the comfortable, effortless ones like the vaguely-MOR (in a good way!) When Will You Come Back Home, Mockingbird and Rosebud. On these songs Adams’ vocals sound huskier and less forced, which suits him a lot better. Fans of the vulnerable piano pieces and shimmering guitars on Love Is Hell will find much to like in How Do You Keep Love Alive and Blossom.
It’s not all mope ‘n’ misery. Let It Ride and If I Am A Stranger are strong uptempo country rockers, while Life Is Beautiful is a gloriously overblown country-rock ballad.
It’s a long double album, stretching to 77 minutes with several missteps along the way, but at its best it stands up with some of Ryan Adams’ better work.
Wednesday, June 15, 2011
Despite a rather pompous opening instrumental, Dorita, the album quickly settles into a highly melodic groove, albeit a somewhat dark and gloomy one. What’s Good is as perky as it gets, with Lou musing on cancer and loss. Power and Glory gets more specific, talking about “isotopes introduced into his lungs” and “cancer reduce him to dust” leading into a wonderful chorus owned by a guest appearance from Little Jimmy Scott.
Lou and fellow guitarist Mike Rathke’s guitar playing is very restrained throughout this album, nowhere more so than on the dark plea for escape that is Magician (“I’m afraid that if I go to sleep I’ll never wake, I’ll no longer exist”). Some levity cracks through the darkness, in Goodby Mass he muses “you, you would have made a joke, you would have said something like tomorrow I’m smoke.”
Later, Harry’s Circumcision details a botched attempt at altering one’s own features over a floating melody. There are faster rockier tracks here Warrior King, Gassed and Stoked but these don’t work quite as well, and are at odds with Reed’s almost professorial vocal delivery.
The title track is another dark, muted melody about “passing through the fire to the light” with a real sense of finality about it, and fittingly, it’s the last track. The album is a dark, at times overwhelming, even claustrophobic collection of music. Yet it is also warm and soothing and will resonate with fans of Lou Reed’s music.
Tuesday, June 14, 2011
Friday, June 10, 2011
Tuesday, June 7, 2011
This album came out in 1994 in the aftermath of Kurt Cobain’s death, and many people felt the title referred to this. It represented a total change of tack from Harvest Moon, with the return of Crazy Horse as the band and David Briggs in the producer’s chair.
This is a fairly essential nineties Neil Young album, hanging like the grim reaper in the corner of 1994.
Thursday, June 2, 2011
There is room for Harry Dean Stanton to lend his vocals to Cancion Mixteca, and later one of his devastating monologues forms the basis for I Knew These People. The soundtrack is a great accompaniment for solitary drives in remote locations.