Articles

  • [190] Grateful Dead – American Beauty (1970)

    17 mars 2010, 22h09m

    Grateful DeadAmerican Beauty

    My brother loves this record. At first I didn’t have a clue why. American Beauty sounded too much like an imitation of Crosby, Stills & Nash (maybe not & Young).

    Of course it didn’t help that Grateful Dead sounded completely different on Live/Dead, where they were the ultimate jam band. And now they’re doing this soft folky countryrock-thing? What the heck? Everyone is allowed to change styles of course, but it made the CSN-impression harder.

    However, there are some nice tunes to be found here, and actually it’s quite an enjoyable album. The harmonies are less striking than with CSN and that can be a good thing. The singer has a pretty voice and the melodies are catchy. What marks this album is its simplicity: every song is quite calm (but different from the others) and finished. No fringy details, no sound effects, just plain good songs, Box of Rain, Friend of the Devil, Operator, Ripple and Truckin’ being the highlights.

    The big mystery of this album is the song Attics Of My Life. Why on earth they decided to put a boring stinker as this on the album (as if creating it wasn’t bad enough) is beyond my intelligence.

    The term that’s made for this album is “lovely”. Maybe my appreciation for this album doesn’t go beyond liking it, but there are definitely worse things to spend your time with.

    (Het best: Box of Rain, Friend of the Devil, Operator, Ripple, Truckin’)
  • [189] Van Morrison – Moondance (1970)

    17 mars 2010, 22h04m

    Van MorrisonMoondance

    I fell in love with the beauty of Astral Weeks. Where Astral Weeks has a rather sad atmosphere, Moondance is the sunnier and jazzier side of Van Morrison. It’s also beautiful of course. And It Stoned Me is not only a great song title, but also the most terrific song on this album. Swinging goes easily on Moondance, that has a charming 50s sound. Caravan is the typical song to play in your car while driving through France (nice trumpets!). Into The Mystic is so simple and so beautiful, what a beautiful piano. The happy rhythm of Come Running is gracefully accompanied by a (small) background choir, which makes this a catchy song. Second best song on this album is Brand New Day: the sweet beginning, the background choir, the piano, the shivers… Finally Glad Tidings seems to be an alternate version of Brown Eyed Girl, so it can’t be bad.

    Yes, Moondance is another pearl made by Van Morrison… but it’s not Astral Weeks.

    (Heelmooimooi: And It Stoned Me, Into The Mystic, Brand New Day)
  • [188] Deep Purple – Deep Purple In Rock (1970)

    17 mars 2010, 21h58m

    Deep PurpleDeep Purple In Rock

    For those who are still following my journals, yes it's been a long time... And as my life will even get busier I don't expect me continuing the 1001 albums list at a fast rate... But step by step I eventually hope to reach the end. So, first some reviews that were already written (but never ended up here on last.fm... until now). Old music, I'm back again!

    Hmm, yes, oh well… So, here’s Deep Purple. Again a hard rock / heavy metal (I find it hard to distinguish the two) album, after Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin, but different nonetheless. It sure is heavy, and it sure is hard, but is it equally interesting?

    Although I can’t complain about the songs, they don’t drive me completely wild. It’s not that Deep Purple is unoriginal: of the threesome their songs have the most unusual compositions and the most unexpected turns (although they don’t do acoustic or soft psychedelic trips like Led Zeppelin / Black Sabbath). Technically it’s admiration all over the place, but somehow they don’t reach Led Zeppelin (I love Led Zeppelin III) or Black Sabbath (more excitement, more fun)

    One super great exception of course is Child in Time, which is without doubt one of the best songs ever made. The slow beginning with the soft voice of Ian Gillan, who slowly goes mad screaming and then the super great electric guitar combined with the Hammond organ… to be followed again by the soft beginning and the going mad at the end. It’s a song that stays interesting no matter how many times you hear it, and the ten minutes fly by so fast every time… Actually, this is the song that proves what is lacking in the other songs: a perfect balance between hard and calm.

    Well, neglecting the fact that this song overshadows all other songs on this album, the other songs turn out to be nice if you listen carefully: the start of the album, Speed King, has the most appropriate hard beginning and has a catchy riff, Bloodsucker is simply a song on speed, and great speed it is, and Flight of the Rat features a great organ out of control.

    So, hmm, yes oh well… this isn’t bad! But Child in Time can be found on almost every Best of compilation cd ever made (even the free ones), so that makes this album not really a must… unlike Led Zeppelin (did I mention already I love Led Zeppelin III?)

    (Boven alles uit: Child in Time!)
  • [187] Led Zeppelin – Led Zeppelin III (1970)

    13 nov. 2009, 14h42m

    Led ZeppelinLed Zeppelin II

    Immigrant Song is a song to put in a frame. It’s exciting, modern and has one of the most rhythmic riffs ever. And the yell in the beginning of the song is so famous I bet they even know it in outer space.

    The good news is that Immigrant Song sets the example for the other songs on this album. Where Led Zeppelin I and II brought variations on the same trick (excellent guitar, drums and a lot of dramatic singing by Robert Plant), Led Zeppelin III contains much more variation. Good as Led Zeppelin I and II were, the variation on Led Zeppelin III is what this music really needs. It must have taken some guts to do something completely else than what characterised their music so much.

    The heavy guitars are often left behind, and there are many acoustic moments on Led Zeppelin III. Friends for instance, that starts with an acoustic guitar is a quite calm song, but together with Robert Plant’s high voice and some violins (yes, really!) it becomes a very haunting song. Another one is Gallows Pole which could easily be a Whites Stripes song. Or Tangerine, which is almost a pop song! (But a beautiful one) This is instantly followed by another pearl “That's the Way”: a simple melody but heartbreaking lyrics…

    Another highlight is the calm but containing a lot of tension Since I've Been Loving You, where Robert Plant reminds me a bit of Janis Joplin… but I mean it as a compliment! (It’s only the question whether Janis Joplin has a manly voice whether Robert Plant has a womanly voice)

    I know I really like an album when I constantly think: “I HAVE to make Person X hear this.” Well, this is now the fate of my brother, but he doesn’t know it yet. How lucky he is! I wish I could discover this album all over again.

    (De max: Immigrant Song, Friends, Since I've Been Loving You, Tangerine, That's the Way)

    So beautiful lyrics:

    And yesterday I saw you standing by the river,
    And weren't those tears that filled your eyes?
    And all the fish that lay in dirty water dying,
    Had they got you hypnotized?

    And yesterday I saw you kissing tiny flowers,
    But all that lives is born to die.
    And so I say to you that nothing really matters,
    And all you do is stand and cry.

    I don't know what to say about it,
    When all your ears are turned away,
    But now's the time to look and look again at what you see,
    Is that the way it ought to stay?


    (That's the Way)
  • [186] Neil Young – After The Gold Rush (1970)

    13 nov. 2009, 14h22m

    Neil YoungAfter the Gold Rush

    Of course it helps to appreciate an album when you know almost all numbers by heart… I have an infinite admiration for Neil Young, as many others have, and that admiration is based on a lot of songs present on After The Gold Rush. It is easy enough to mark Neil Young as a guitar wonder, but this album proves that even without extended sublime guitar solos Neil Young can make the most fragile and precious music. With his characteristic high voice he creates some very vunerable songs (After the Gold Rush, Only Love Can Break Your Heart, Birds), but of course there are exceptions: Southern Man is the real guitar song on this album, and one of Young’s finest.

    This album is classic from beginning to end, obvious, timeless, natural, and really just perfect…. Except maybe for the cover Oh Lonesome Me, which reminds me just a bit too often of the more beautiful version on M. Ward’s Hold Time, sung together with Lucinda Williams. But it’s this small imperfection that accentuates the excellence of the other songs.

    It’s the things you love the most that are the hardest to describe. This album is one of them.

    (Mooimooimooi: Tell Me Why, After the Gold Rush, Only Love Can Break Your Heart, Southern Man, etcetera etcetera, you get the point)
  • [185] Black Sabbath – Paranoid (1970)

    13 nov. 2009, 14h14m

    Black SabbathParanoid

    I really wonder how the order of the albums in the book is determined. It isn’t alphabetical and it isn’t very chronological either (except for the year chronology of course). It probably depends on the taste of the editor, and in this case I guess he was eager to prove the second Black Sabbath album IS really better than their first: only four albums after their debut, Black Sabbath’s Paranoid is presented. I guess reality wasn’t that fast :)

    So, is this one better? Yes, of course it is. It’s more challenging, and has more variation. It loses a bit of the cliché-ness that characterized their debut album so much, but the heavy metal stamp is of course still here.

    First song War Pigs features (again) great guitars… I am so repeating myself, always saying the same thing about hard rock and metal albums… but it’s true! Fantastic song, fantastic guitars… an opinion nobody can disagree with.
    But real price winner here is Paranoid of course, which is a guaranteed song in every “best songs ever” chart on the radio at the end of the year. Completely just.
    Really strange in the metal genre is the next song ‘Planet Caravan’: a dreamy and psychedelic song which makes you float to more pleasant worlds… I don’t mind!
    The genius song order results in this very calm song being followed by the more heavier guitar work and voice distortion of Iron Man. Catchy riff!

    I find the rest of the album a little less interesting, but I can’t deny the guitar work is great, heavy metal-wise, although the subjects of the songs are a bit more questionable (Fairies wearing boots? He has seen it? Huh?)

    I had to laugh recently when it was in the news that (I don’t remember the event anymore) Ozzy Osbourne had been on the stage together with Metallica, who claim Black Sabbath as one of their influences. Afterwards, Ozzy Osbourne said in an interview it was nice to pass along the candle to the new generation. Haha! Metallica the new generation, they’re already around for ages!

    But it’s true, the influence of Black Sabbath is unquestionable (even on big groups like Metallica) and that makes this album as essential as it is.

    (Uitschieter: Paranoid)
  • [184] Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young – Déjà Vu (1970)

    13 nov. 2009, 14h09m

    Crosby, Stills, Nash & YoungDéjà Vu

    The gain of a new son: Neil Young has finally arrived. Strangely the same happens as with Buffalo Springfield: where the previous CSN-album was a quite coherent one, this one seems (just like Buffalo Springfield Again) more a compilation of songs made by great individuals of course. I guess Neil Young is the one to blame!

    After the first nice but not that memorable two songs, Almost Cut My Hair tells us what it is all about: slicing electric guitars, superb singing by Crosby (reminds me a bit of Jason Molina here). It’s not a coincidence this is the first song on the album that involves Neil Young on a guitar, I guess. Great song!
    Can a guitar weep and can a voice mourn more than Neil Young’s than in Helpless? No, of course not. Shivers!
    Déjà vu is happy to present itself as a mini-suite (at least I like to think so), something CSN already proved to be good at. And the harmonic singing sounds ni-i-i-ce! Perfection is in the details…
    Where did the Simon & Garfunkel feeling go? Our House brings it back again! Happy poppy music and catchy are the key words here.
    Oh, and the softness and the sweet voice of Stephen Stills on 4 + 20 calms you down before switching to Country Girl, a typical Neil Young song with a beautiful composition (especially the magnificent end!)

    The harmonic singing was already shown off in the previous Crosby, Stills & Nash album, and is still impressive here. The coherence that characterized the previous album is a bit lost here… But that doesn’t change the fact that there are some extraordinary songs (I listed them above) on the album, more impressive than on the previous album. However, even if this album doesn’t contain one bad song, I still have a very small feeling that a few more Neil Young guitar-injections would have made this album just perfect.

    (Mooimooiheelmooi: Almost Cut My Hair, Helpless, Country Girl)
  • [183] John Lennon – Plastic Ono Band (1970)

    13 nov. 2009, 14h04m

    John LennonPlastic Ono Band

    Well yes, of course the tears come first, then the crying for your mother, then the heartache over the ex-Beatles, and a solo album by one of them seems like a small patch. As if a piano-based and loaded with quite self-conscious lyrics album like this could ease that pain… Think again!

    Actually, play again: starting from the second listening (when calmed down a bit) this album grows and grows… And all those songs that don’t seem that interesting (and even a bit boring) at first, start to develop into little masterpieces. Little pieces of bitterness, most of the times simply accompanied by acoustic guitar or piano, and lyrics that cut, cut, cut (Take Working Class Hero for instance)

    Yes, it’s different from the Beatles.

    Fortunately!

    (Meesterzetten: I Found Out, Working Class Hero, Remember, Well Well Well, God)
  • [182] Stephen Stills – Stephen Stills (1970)

    4 nov. 2009, 11h56m

    Stephen StillsStephen Stills

    Crosby, Stills & Nash send out their sons: here’s the first solo album of Stephen Stills. And of course it includes some guests with the names Crosby and Nash (haha), but that’s not all: also included are Ringo Starr, Jimi Hendrix in Old Times Good Times and (yesyes) Eric Clapton on Go Back Home. Yeeha, if this album doesn’t sell, what does!

    What’s nice about this album is that Stephen Stills adds a gospel background choir to some of the songs and it is no surprise those are the best songs on this album: Love the One You're With, Church (Part of Someone), Sit Yourself Down and We Are Not Helpless. All are magnificent songs that maybe don’t sound that original, but have a perfect warm and full sound… really beautiful actually (especially Church (Part of Someone)).

    The other songs on this album are the more typical singer-songwriter stuff or actually, the more typical Crosby Stills & Nash-stuff. Old Times Good Times features a great guitar (duh) and the clean voice of Stephen Stills fits perfectly (especially in the beginning of the song). It’s no surprise the Eric Clapton including song Go Back Home sounds more bluesy, and again: nice guitar!

    Stephen Stills proves here he has enough talent to fill a complete album without the help of his friends (well, or just a little bit of help). Variation: check. Gospel choirs: check. Great guitars: check. I’m not complaining.

    (Animo: Love the One You're With, Church (Part of Someone), Old Times Good Times, Go Back Home)
  • [181] Carpenters – Close To You (1970)

    25 oct. 2009, 9h53m

    CarpentersClose To You

    I really wanted to like these guys… Never recognized by critics, in the meanwhile selling lots and lots of records… and now appearing in the 1001 albums book: that calls for my sympathy! And sure, the arrangements by Richard Carpenter are very detailed, Karen Carpenter has a very pretty voice, and the harmonic singing sounds nice.

    However, it all reminds me too much of Disney music. I don’t mind Disney music as long as there’s a movie connected to it, but that’s not the case here. The soft happy tone of the melodies (apparently there is some darkness connected to Karen’s way of singing… could be, but not enough to convince me) and especially the quite bombastic/melodramatic arrangements make me want to pick flowers and grab hands of strangers, which isn’t something I usually do.

    Well, I have to admit the album gets better near the end: Baby It's You and I'll Never Fall In Love Again (very nice harmonics!) are catchy songs (and so is Maybe It's You in the first half of the album), Crescent Noon really creates a desolate atmosphere and it can’t be denied that closer Another Song is quite original. And of course (They Long to Be) Close to You is for a reason one of their biggest hits: cheesy but right on.

    But nah, I have a small appreciation for some songs, but overall I’m not really impressed. Not bad… but nothing more.

    (Blijft maar in mijn hoofd hangen: (They Long to Be) Close to You)