30 November 2013

30th November - Michael Jackson's Thriller

Artist – Album: Michael Jackson - Thriller
Released: 30th November 1982
Sounds Like: 65 million Thriller fans can’t be wrong
What can I tell you about Michael Jackson’s Thriller that you don’t already know? Chances are: nothing. The best selling album of all time, it has worldwide sales estimated at between 51 and 65 million. In the UK, it has sold 4.3 million copies, which means that one in every 6 households owns the album. In the US, it’s even more impressive: 29 million copies sold, one in every 4 homes proudly displaying Michael Jackson’s sculptured fa├žade. Seven of its nine tracks were top ten hit singles, with only the gentle ballad ‘The Lady in My Life’ and the fantastic, funky ‘Baby Be Mine’ saved as album tracks. I’ve read some reviews that described it as hits-plus-filler but if 78% of the songs were singles that’s hardly going to be a sticking point. Thriller was a phenomenon, a trailblazer, a once-in-a-lifetime album.
It’s also very good, although that can sometimes get lost amidst the numbers. Almost all the tracks are classic MJ: smooth, polished blends of soul, motown and rock. There’s something for everyone, from the monster hits of ‘Thriller’, ‘Beat It’ and the untouchable ‘Billie Jean’, to the lesser-known-though-no-less-awesome ‘Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’’, ‘Human Nature’ and ‘P.Y.T. (Pretty Young Thing)’. The one anomaly is the god-awful duet with Paul McCartney ‘The Girl is Mine’, a schmaltzy jingle describing a “doggone girl” who is inexplicably attracted to both Wacko and Macca. If you manage to make it through the first 3 and a half minutes of torture you are rewarded with spoken dialogue between the two leading men, bad enough to make suicide seem the only sane way out.
Still, otherwise it is very good record. But then you probably already knew that.
Albumaday... rating: 9/10

1.       Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’ – 6:03
2.       Baby Be Mine – 4:20
3.       The Girl is Mine – 3:42
4.       Thriller – 5:57
5.       Beat It – 4:18
6.       Billie Jean – 4:54
7.       Human Nature – 4:06
8.       P.Y.T. (Pretty Young Thing) – 3:59
9.       The Lady in My Life – 5:00
Listen to ‘Baby Be Mine: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hG9OzYVSg3c

Also released on the 30th November:
1970: George Harrison – All Things Must Pass
Also released on the 30th November:
1979: Pink Floyd – The Wall

29 November 2013

29th November - The Charlie Daniels Band's Fire on the Mountain

Artist – Album: The Charlie Daniels Band – Fire on the Mountain
Released: 29th November 1974
Sounds Like: A little bit country, a little rock and roll.


I have to say, redneck country rock would never have been my first choice to soundtrack a boozy weekend in Scotland with the lads. Shows how much I know about redneck country rock. Fire on the Mountain is full of quality jam-orientated blues-rock, covering the range from up-tempo rockers like ‘Caballo Diablo’ and the fantastic ‘Trudy’ to loose ballads such as ‘Georgia’. Its music that gets your gussie up, music that makes you want to get tanked up on moonshine and wrestle ‘gators.

I don’t know much about Charlie Daniels’ backstory – apparently he’s a fundamental Christian, all for vigilantism and the war on terror, and dead set against abortion and the theory of evolution (ain’t they all?!) – but this album at least is a worthy addition to the tradition of Southern rockers such as ZZ Top and The Allman Brothers.

Albumaday... rating: 7/10

1.       Caballo Diablo – 4:28
2.       Long Haired Country Boy – 4:03
3.       Trudy – 4:51
4.       Georgia – 3:06
5.       Feeling Free – 4:10
6.       The South’s Gonna Do It – 4:00
7.       New York City, King Size Rosewood Bed – 3:26
8.       No Place to Go – 11:24
9.       Orange Blossom Special – 3:00

Listen to ‘Trudy: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kBlstHesDzQ

Also released on the 29th November:
1994: Nick Lowe – The Impossible Bird

28 November 2013

28th November - The Jam's Sound Affects

Artist – Album: The Jam – Sound Affects
Released: 28th November 1979
Sounds Like: Something to be thankful for

Hot dawg, it’s Thanksgiving!

Over here in Britain we don’t really celebrate Thanksgiving, and with plenty of good reasons: the tale of the pilgrims and the Native Americans breaking bread together doesn’t really relate to us; having another big family meal just a month before Christmas seems just a touch greedy; our particular brand of football is miles better than NFL (ooo, fighting talk!); and – ok, we admit – we couldn’t throw a good parade to save our lives.

Still, the real point of Thanksgiving is to take a moment and appreciate all the things in life that you have to be thankful for. At least, that’s what Friends and The Simpsons have taught me. And what am I thankful for today? The Jam. I’m thankful for spiky, psychedelic, and ever so British rock. I’m thankful for the infectious ‘Monday’, the acoustic marvel of ‘That’s Entertainment’ and the bristling ‘Man in the Corner Shop’. I’m thankful for ‘Start!’ despite of its shameless thievery of an old Beatles classic.  

It’s more of a thanksgiving special than a thanksgiving turkey.

Albumaday... rating: 8/10

1.       Pretty Green – 2:37
2.       Monday – 3:02
3.       But I’m Different Now – 1:52
4.       Set the House Ablaze – 5:03
5.       Start! – 2:33
6.       That’s Entertainment – 3:38
7.       Dream Time – 3:54
8.       Man in the Corner Shop – 3:12
9.       Music for the Last Couple – 3:45
10.   Boy About Town – 2:00
11.   Scrape Away – 3:59
Listen to ‘Start!: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fdSqpT6gfDU

27 November 2013

27th November - The Crickets' The "Chirping" Crickets

Artist – Album: The Crickets – The “Chirping” Crickets
Released: 27th November 1957
Sounds Like: Ooo-ee-oo, just like Buddy Holly

Music is full of big what-if questions: What if, instead of his first guitar, Elvis had received a bicycle or a rifle for his tenth birthday, as he had wanted? What if Dylan had never gone electric? What if The Sex Pistols hadn’t played that legendary Manchester gig? What if God was one of us? Another biggie is raised by today’s blog – what if Buddy Holly had lived?   

It’s hard to overstate the influence of Holly – The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and Bob Dylan all cited him as a massive inspiration on their burgeoning careers. His brand of rock and roll may have been a little more clean cut than that of a few of his contemporaries, but he had a huge hand in bringing underground black music to a wider, whiter audience. He played with the likes of Little Richard and Chuck Berry, and he incorporated the Bo Diddley shuffle into a number of his songs. He was the subject of two brilliant tunes in the form of Don McLean’s ‘American Pie’ and Weezer’s ‘Buddy Holly’. He even made glasses cool. In the wake of Elvis’ forced hiatus for national service, the space was open for Holly to become a worldwide superstar. But then he died aged just 22. 22! An unbelievably young age – when I was that old I was sleeping in my mate’s spare room, performing menial odd jobs like stuffing letters into envelopes for the local university.

Released just a year and a half before his fatal plane crash, The Crickets’ only album was also Holly’s first, but it makes a fine argument for him being music’s most tragic loss. ‘Oh, Boy!’ and ‘Maybe Baby’ stand as two of the finest cuts from the era, whilst the attitude-tastic ‘That’ll Be the Day’ and the stuttering, funky ‘Not Fade Away’ (a personal favourite) belong with the best of all time.
Albumaday... rating: 10/10

1.       Oh, Boy! – 2:07
2.       Not Fade Away – 2:21
3.       You’ve Got Love – 2:05
4.       Maybe Baby – 2:01
5.       It’s Too Late – 2:22
6.       Tell Me How – 1:58
7.       That’ll Be Day – 2:14
8.       I’m Looking for Someone to Love – 1:56
9.       An Empty Cup (And a Broken Date) – 2:11
10.   Send Me Some Lovin’ – 2:33
11.   Last Night – 1:53
12.   Rock Me My Baby – 1:47 

Listen to ‘Not Fade Away: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AyTtFNGzFsE

Also released on the 27th November:
1970: The Kinks – Lola versus Powerman and the Money Go Round
Also released on the 27th November:
2000: The Avalanches – Since I Left You

26 November 2013

26th November - The Roots' Phrenology

Artist – Album: The Roots - Phrenology
Released: 26th November 2002
Sounds Like: Head music

Last month we went to the Museum of Science & Industry to visit the new brains exhibition (that is, a new exhibition about brains and not an exhibition about new brains…). Now, I’m not really sure what fun things we were expecting from the grey subject matter, but I don’t think either of us imagined that it could be so harrowing and depressing. Amongst the horrors of trepanning and Nazism, the confining of people suffering from microcephaly to freak shows and the gore of the operating table, we learnt about phrenology, a popular pseudo-science in the 19th and early 20th century which purported that the shape of the skull and head could be used to determine intelligence and character. Colonial Europeans used phrenology to persecute races they had “proven” their superiority over. The whole exhibition was, quite literally, mental.

The Roots are clever guys (despite having the sloping brow and cranial bumpage of career criminals) and I’ve taken the fact that they have named their fifth album Phrenology as a warning to avoid stereotyping them as regular hip hop or R&B artists, rather than some sort of ill-advised attempt to reignite scientific racism. Black Thought, ?uestlove and co flit between genres with the energy of crackling synapses: ‘Rock You’ is, unsurprisingly, hard rock, ‘!!!!!!!!’ is a punky soundbite, ‘Break You Off’ is smooth neo-soul and ‘The Seed (2.0)’, well, “we’ll name it rock and roll”. All is achieved with an expertise and exciting experimentalism that few in the early millennium Neptunes-dominated hip hop scene could match, and the album is a clear influence on contemporary stars such as the New Orleans brainbox Frank Ocean.

Albumaday... rating: 8/10

1.       Phrentrow – 0:18
2.       Rock You – 3:12
3.       !!!!!!! – 0:24
4.       Sacrifice – 4:44
5.       Rolling with Heat – 3:42
6.       WAOK (Ay) Rollcall – 1:00
7.       Thought @ Work – 4:58
8.       The Seed (2.0) – 4:27
9.       Break You Off – 7:27
10.   Water – 10:24
11.   Quills – 4:22
12.   Pussy Galore – 4:29
13.   Complexity – 4:47
14.   Something in the Way of Things (In Town) – 7:16

Listen to ‘The Seed (2.0): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ojC0mg2hJCc

Also released on the 26th November:
1965: The Kinks – The Kink Kontroversy

25 November 2013

25th November - Rivers Cuomo's Alone II: The Home Recordings of Rivers Cuomo

Artist – Album: Rivers Cuomo – Alone II: The Home Recordings of Rivers Cuomo
Released: 25th November 2008
Sounds Like: The cutting room floor
Bit of a tricky one this – should I really be covering Alone II, a compilation of various unreleased material from sourced from songs recorded with Weezer, earlier bands, and self-recorded demos? It’s not technically a real album but an anthology, and I certainly wouldn’t ever stoop to include a Best Of on my blog. But then, the point is that none of these tunes have been released before and they have been selected and sourced by the artist himself, so it is kind of like a real album. Hmmm… Tricky… Fortunately, I can cite precedent: in July I covered They Might Be Giants’ Long Tall Weekend because I couldn’t find anything else, and so, with reference to the TMBGLTW case, it is decreed that I am allowed to cover Alone II.
Which is a relief, because again there wasn’t much else. And it is actually Quite Good.
While there isn’t anything that screams out as a lost Weezer classic – if there ever was such a thing, it stands to reason that that would have surfaced on Alone I – Rivers Cuomo remains one of history’s greatest ever power-poppers and there’s no shortage of diamonds in the rough, next to the 30-second instrumentals and Beach Boys covers. Amongst the favourites are the bouncy ‘I’ll Think About You’, the manic ‘My Brain is Working Overtime’ and  The Purification of Water’, which pleasantly deviates away from the power chord driven formula on the back of a apocalyptic Hammond organ.
It’s hardly essential, but Weezer and indie rock fans in general could do a lot worse than giving this a spin.
Albumaday... rating: 6/10
1.       Victory on the Hill – 0:50
2.       I Want to Take You Home Tonight – 3:56
3.       The Purification of Water – 3:56
4.       I Was Scared – 2:54
5.       Harvard Blues – 0:31
6.       My Brain is Working Overtime – 3:27
7.       I Don’t Want to Let You Go – 3:46
8.       Oh Jonas – 0:26
9.       Please Remember – 0:37
10.   Come to My Pod – 1:31
11.   Don’t Worry Baby – 2:58
12.   The Prettiest Girl in the Whole Wide World – 2:44
13.   Can’t Stop Partying – 2:18
14.   Paper Face – 3:20
15.   Walt Disney – 2:50
16.   I Admire You So Much – 0:46
17.   My Day is Coming – 4:23
18.   Cold and Damp – 3:35
19.   I’ll Think About You – 3:01
Listen to ‘I’ll Think About You: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y-ahhiRs010