Friday, 13 December 2013

Monday, 23 February 2009

Rodrigo y Gabriela - Live In Manchester And Dublin (2004)

RATING: 7.5/10

1. Foc
2. Hola
3. One/Take 5
4. Mr Tang
5. Paris
6. Libertango
7. Captain Casanova
8. One

Well I've finally gotten around to ripping my Rodrigo y Gabriela albums and so I thought I'd give this one a review.

For any not familiar with Rodrigo and Gabriela, they are a Mexican duo who play classical guitar. Despite a lot of their work resembling Spanish flamenco etc, their roots actually stem from thrash metal, a fact that doesn’t surprise after just a short listen.

Dublin is where they moved to and eventually got their foot in the door of the music world.

What is so endearing about Rodrigo y Gabriela is not just the fact they are technically both brilliant guitarists, that cannot be denied, but rather the fact that they give a lot of thought into their compositions. Rather than being happy to wow a crowd by their incredibly fast playing, they obviously take a great deal of time thinking about a song’s structure. Indeed, it may all be flamenco/thrash metal on the outside but dig a little deeper and there are very similar elements to classical music and composition. They certainly have a passion for music and a love for expressing their style as each tune is crafted with care and detail, getting the most out of two guitars as one can.

As if anyone were not convinced by their thrash metal influences and background, they are happy to provide covers of songs such as Orion and One by Metallica, the latter of which appears on this album. Once again, even with the covers, they have taken the time to make it sound as good as it can with beautiful arrangements. One doesn’t lose any of its power in the crossover from electric to classical guitar, all of the notes are present, so are the drums in places and the whole thing builds up wonderfully. One is actually performed twice on here; as the last track with a string accompaniment and as the third track which suddenly blends in to the classic tune Take 5. Throughout the recording you will hear snippets of other tunes including Master of Puppets and Seven Nation Army, and as cheesy as it could be, they actually make it work and fit in perfectly.

This entire album is very enjoyable and very accessible, you don’t have to like thrash and you don’t need to be interested in flamenco. Just put it on and enjoy. Also check out their self-titled album and their new album Live in Japan, though I have yet to get this.

Lynyrd Skynyrd - One More From The Road - Deluxe Edition (2001)

RATING: 8/10

  1. "Introduction/Workin' for MCA" – 5:32
  2. "I Ain't the One" – 3:47
  3. "Saturday Night Special" – 5:39
  4. "Searching" – 4:00
  5. "Travellin' Man" – 4:37
  6. "Simple Man" (bonus track) – 6:56
  7. "Whiskey Rock-a-Roller" – 4:48
  8. "The Needle and the Spoon" – 4:35
  9. "Gimme Back My Bullets" (bonus track) – 4:01
  10. "Tuesday's Gone" – 8:25
  11. "Gimme Three Steps" – 5:11
  12. "Call Me the Breeze" – 5:50
  13. "T for Texas" – 9:14
  14. "Sweet Home Alabama" – 7:29
  15. "Crossroads" – 4:16
  16. "Free Bird" – 14:25
  17. "Introduction/Workin' for MCA (alternate & previously unreleased)" – 5:42
  18. "I Ain't the One (alternate & previously unreleased)" – 3:52
  19. "Searching (alternate & previously unreleased)" – 4:13
  20. "Gimme Three Steps (alternate)" – 4:42
  21. "Call Me the Breeze (alternate)" – 7:27
  22. "Sweet Home Alabama (alternate)" – 5:43
  23. "Crossroads (alternate)" – 4:46
  24. "Free Bird (alternate)" – 14:55

One More From The Road, recorded at the peak of their short career in 1976 showcases Lynyrd Skynyrd for what they really were; a talented bunch of musicians who were proud of their roots, loved music and loved to perform, never ever taking themselves too seriously.

As far as studio albums go, they never did any better than their 1973 debut “pronounced 'lĕh-'nérd 'skin-'nérd “ which is a great album. However, when you hear the songs played live, the studio pressing always seem a little flat in comparison. It is this reason that One More From The Road is Skynyrd’s best album. The 2001 deluxe edition is fantastic, offering more tracks and some alternate versions, but also super sound. It contains everything I love and look for in a live album; great sound, great crowd, atmosphere, fun and brilliant tunes.

We kick off with them being introduced to the stage and straight away they plunge in with the opener to Working For MCA, immediately demonstrating that the sound quality is perfect for a live album. All instruments are clearly heard, each lead guitar is discernable which is often not the case on the studio recordings. And this is so important with bands such as Lynyrd Skynyrd. Every member with an instrument is so underrated and often overlooked that it is tragic. The three lead guitarists all have the skill and talent to front a band of their own and they complement each other so well. During live shows they clearly love playing alongside each other making performances so electric and vibrant, often extending solos by improvising and feeding off each other’s performance. Not to mention that the piano is clearly heard throughout and also stands its own ground against the guitars, adding yet another wonderful layer to the songs and also an element that many rock groups overlook.

My own personal highlights of the album are:

Simple Man- A track I overlooked on their debut album, but this really stood out on the live album. A simple song about the advice that Ronnie Van Zant got from his mother and grandmother, overlayed with a simple yet catch guitar riff.

Tuesdays Gone- I’ve always thought that this was a good song but too long for what it was. Here it is just as long but seems more fleshed out. I adore the guitar tones at the beginning of the song, Powell’s piano sounds wonderful and I love the harmonica over the verse. Definitely ignites a song that fell flat on the debut.

Gimme Three Steps- An underrated Skynyrd song, this is what they are all about. It’s a fun song, full of energy, with catchy guitar parts all about dancing with a girl only to have her partner come in and thinks she’s cheating on him.

Call Me The Breeze- Brilliant cover of JJ Cale’s song, once again full of energy and brilliant showmanship by the guitars and piano. This almost feels like the perfect jamming track, none of the band seems to want this song to end as the rip through it.

Free Bird- Yeah, I actually like Free Bird, maybe because it is actually a good song and just because it’s always played it doesn’t mean that it’s no good. On this album we have two versions, both over 14 minutes long, but the extra time isn’t solely because of extended guitar solos in the second half as one would imagine. Although the solo is longer, there is also an extended piano solo before the second verse. In fact, it is this very interpretation of the song on piano that got Billy Powell a spot in the band.

If you are unfamiliar with Skynyrd then this album is the best place to start. As I have said, the songs here are so much better than their studio equivalents, so even if you have heard their albums this is still something you should check out.

A year later Lynyrd Skynyrd's plane crashed killing lead singer Ronnie Van Zant, lead guitarist Steve Gaines, his sister and backing vocalist Cassie Gaines, the assistant road manager and both pilots. Lead guitarist Allen Collins was badly injured and nearly had an arm amputated. Gary Rossington, lead guitarist, broke both arms and pelvis as well as numerous other injuries. Pianist Billy Powell nearly had his nose ripped off as his face suffered many cuts.

The plane that crashed had been inspected only a few months before by Aerosmith who rejected the plane feeling that it wasn't sfae and that the crew weren't fit to pilot.

Obviously, the crash pretty much ended the band. The classic line-up was gone and the surviving members didn't play for years. These days Lynyrd Skynyrd are touring again, albeit with a hugely different look. Ronnie's brother Johnny is now lead vocals and Billy Powell and Gary Rossington are the only original members to still play in the group.

Despite only lasting four years, Lynyrd Skynyrd left their own mark on music, helping to define 'Southern rock', causing the most clichéd and annoying jokes in music ('play Free Bird') and being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Were they the best band ever? Not by a long shot but they certainly had a lot of talent and technical expertise but they chose to have fun and enjoy themselves instead of following the route that a lot of others took. Not to overlook the fact that they were more entertaining than a lot of rock acts from their time and they put on one hell of a show, which they seemed to enjoy just as well as the crowd. Not everyone's cup of tea, but I only drink from my own mug.

Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band - Hammersmith Odeon London '75 (2006)

RATING: 8/10

Disc: 1
1. Thunder Road
2. Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out
3. Spirit In The Night
4. Lost In The Flood
5. She’s The One
6. Born To Run
7. The E Street Shuffle
8. It’s Hard To Be A Saint In The City
9. Backstreets

Disc: 2
1. Kitty’s Back
2. Jungleland
3. Rosalita (Come Out Tonight)
4. 4th Of July, Asbury Park (Sandy)
5. Detroit Medley
6. For You
7. Quarter To Three

During their career Bruce Springsteen and The E Street Band have made a name for themselves as one of the live acts to see. Their peak of popularity and success came in the mid 80s and it all started around here. Recorded on 18th November 1975, just three months after the breakthrough album Born To Run, Springsteen and his band had yet to carve their reputation in stone. Here we have a real treat for the audience, who would mostly know of him and his records, but have yet to hear about and experience the magic made when performing on stage. This was the start of Springsteen trying to break into the UK and Europe.

We open with Thunder Road, one of Bruce’s best loved and well known songs, but here everything is stripped down to a piano and vocals. Roy Bittan really is a great pianist and here is no exception, it’s a beautiful rendition of the song, often sounding like something Jim Steinman would write. A very laid back start to the album.

Tenth Avenue Freeze-out comes next, delivering the energy that, these days, we come to expect from the band. I never really liked this track on Born to Run, but when I first heard it live it changed my opinion of it. The band seem to have a lot of fun with this track and put a lot of energy in it. The best version is on Live In New York, but this one is still great to listen to.

From here on the party never really lulls, the energy is kept cranked up, all members are on full form and are each allowed to shine, especially Clarence Clemons on saxophone enjoying the chance for some solos of his own.

The only downside to a live album such as this, recorded so early in an artist’s career, is that there are a lot of favourite not on here due to them not being created yet. Having said that though, they certainly make the most of what they have, often improving on some of the ‘flatter’ tracks (Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out as already stated).

All-in-all this is a very enjoyable album, even for those not familiar with some of the tracks. This does not read as a ‘best of’ like later live albums would be, but it certainly is an interesting look at the beginning of Springsteen’s career and the birth of his live reputation.

The Beatles - Abbey Road (1969)

RATING: 7.5/10

I wasn't going to do a review of a Beatles album for some time but as it is Beatles Day here in England then I can hardly miss this chance to pay a small tribute to the fab four.

I cannot say anything new about Abbey Road, it has had nearly four decades of reviews and praise. Just think about it, this work of art is nearly fourty years old. Compare it to the 'best' albums of last year. It still feels fresh and original and outranks anything that last year had to offer.

This was the last album recorded by the Beatles, after a stunning career of sublime hits and wondrous works of art they top it all off by one of their best efforts and one of the best albums ever. My favourite has always been Revolver but Abbey Road has always been second place only just. These days I think this album my just be my favourite Beatles Album.

This is such an iconic work of the twentieth century, from the famous and often imitated cover, to the fabulous melodies and lyrics. Which brings me to ask: Why are you reading this? If it is because you do not own this album, or even worse, have never heard it then quickly get it ordered and downloaded before someone sees you. Everyone should own this, in fact, in England you are sent it in the post once you become of age. It is that important to everyday life. That may be over the top but it certainly is essential to everyone's music collection, even if you only have a few albums.

One of the joys is that each member of the band seems to be at their best on this album. Even Ringo proves his critics wrong by showing them up with a great drum solo during the album's closing medley. Paul belts out some cracking vocals, very powerful stuff, John rocks like never before and George presents some of his finest songs ever. Individually they all shine in their own right and when they come together (pardon the pun) they shake the earth with their brilliance.

This album has the traits of genius running all the way through it from beginning to end. It is the trait that binds every song together to deliver the world a package of true beauty that continues to inspire and move people even after all these years.

There are a few weak tracks, mainly novelty songs, but these are merely small blips on an otherwise shining record. The highs are certainly well worth the lows.

Buy it now. Listen to it forever. You will never tire of it and neither will your neighbours if you turn it up.

Come Together- Paul's bass line opens the album, then kick in the crazy lyrics. This is a good track but I wouldn't place it in say their top 10 songs. It is just missing something to take it beyond the norm.....for a Beatles track anyway, which means it's still pretty good.

Something- A simple beautiful song, George Harrison really knows how to write a moving song whilst keeping it simple, even the brilliant guitar solo is just a simple and wonderful piece of music. Absolutely nothing over the top about this track. One of the best Harrison songs.

Maxwell's Silver Hammer-The first novelty song. A tale of a serial killer who hits people over the head, told in a light and amusing way. This song is ok, it's fine....the first few times. After a while it is certainly a track that you are going to want to skip. Even Lennon didn't like it!

Oh! Darling-Sung by McCartney I think his voice sounds great on this, even if Lennon thought that he should have recorded this instead.

Octopus's Garden-Whilst being quite catchy, I really do not like this song. It sounds too cheesy, childish lyrics, adequate vocals and nothing more.

I Want You (She's So Heavy)-Overly long. That's the first thought that comes into my head. It has some good moments but not enough to keep it interesting for 7:47. The guitar intro is great as are some little jam moments, the vocals are also very good throughout. But there is also too much that just doesn't work.

Here Comes The Sun- An amazing song, once again written by George Harrison. From the very start it's beauty grabs you. The guitar throughout is pure perfection, the lyrics shine and gradually the song blossoms into the work of genius that it is. It is both optimistic and uplifting.

Because- It is not the best track, though a very solid one, on the album but it is a great showcase for the band. Stripped of all the trimmings that a lot of bands need to sound good, the fab four deliver amazing vocals and harmonies, only bettered by the Beach Boys. After all, the Beatles were primarily a vocal band and this song clearly reminds us of this. A fine performance.

You Never Give Me Your Money- A lovely song, sung in McCartney's best voice. The piano in the first half is great, the harmony in the second half very pretty and the guitar is once again brilliant yet not overdone.

Sun King- Sit back and relax, here comes the mid-album chill out zone. The first minute sounds similar to Fleetwood Mac's Albatross.

Mean Mr Mustard- Despite being a novelty song, it is much better than the previous two. Plus, it is only a minute long. Quite catchy, silly lyrics, nothing terrible here and nice little jaunt that quickly leads into...

Polythene Pam- One of the few times I actually notice John's accent. A daft song with a great intro that bursts open from the end of the previous track. Again, only a short song but very catchy.

She Came In Through the Bathroom Window- Written by Paul about a fan that did what the title says. This is a great follow on from Polythene Pam, the change is fantastic.

Golden Slumbers- Soaring strings, soft piano, gentle bass; a wonderful start to this song. Then we get Paul's top-notch vocals come in during the chorus. Another gentle dip and then it goes straight into...

Carry That Weight- 'You never give me your money' makes a comeback halfway in, with different lyrics, then back to Carry That Weight and then, without looking backwards we plunge into....

The End- The band on flawless form; guitars, vocals, melody and Ringo all merge into one great showmanship of their abilities. The last great piece of music they laid down. For many this is the highlight of the entire album and it is kind of hard to disagree with them.

Her Majesty- 23 seconds long and a novelty song once again. I don't see the point of this and certainly it's position on the album. We've just heard a magnificent medley of several songs and then the last track would have been an awesome and perfect end to the album and then this gets put in right at the end.

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Nirvana - Nevermind (1991)

RATING: 9/10

OK, so I have set myself the task of reviewing the second most overrated albums of the 90's (the first being OK Computer) whilst trying not to offend anyone and also trying to be fair. It has been quite some time since I have listened to Nevermind all the way through. Back in the day I listened to it endlessly and loved it. It is a great album, certainly a very important album, maybe the most important of the 90's. However, it is also a very ‘cool' album. Many people give this top marks without thinking about it because it's cool to like Nirvana isn't it? Cobain was such a tortured genius wasn't he? My friends will think less of me if I don't like this album won't they?

I personally am not bothered about what is cool, what is not, about being pretentious etc. If I like something then I like it, not because I'm expected to like it. The same goes for if I dislike something.

Having said all that, I really enjoy this album. It is a very solid piece of work; there are no problems at all with running through this from beginning to end, each song ranges from good to great and the power and energy runs throughout. Add that to the nostalgia I feel, remembering listening to it as an 11 year old, then a few years later when everyone started listening again after Cobain's death, then it surpasses being just an album; it becomes part of my coming of age.

Smells Like Teen Spirit- Straight off the bat we get a cool riff and then BAM, the power hits us. Like the album, this track is overrated and overplayed. We shouldn't let this detract from the fact that it is still a fantastic anthem, which the so-called Generation X embraced. A very powerful opener for an album, everybody's attention was grabbed and all eyes were on Seattle.

In Bloom- This next track is as every bit as good as Teen Spirit. Cobain's guttural vocals, a big fat baseline and a great solo combine to bring us a superb song that sometimes gets forgotten, wedged between two better known titles.

Come As You Are- Featuring some of the best lyrics on the album and a hugely famous intro, Come As You Are is only second to Teen Spirit when it comes to popularity and fame amongst the Nirvana catalogue. For me this is the best track on the album, Nirvana's best song in fact. Absolutely incredible.

Breed- Grohl's drums propel Breed throughout the next three minutes. Cobain is great on vocals, the lyrics are once again very good and a middle eight that loses none of the songs fire and tempo.

Lithium- ‘I'm so happy cos today I've found my friends, they're in my head. I'm so ugly, that's ok cos so are you' are my favourite lyrics from the album. The chorus is the very essence of the grunge movement. One of the best crafted songs on Nevermind.

Polly- Not as innocent as it first sounds, this acoustic track has darker undertones. A slight change in mood here as we have a softer song with no loud moments, just Kurt, his guitar and minimal background.

Territorial Pissings- Pure energy is the only way to describe this song. The drums, guitar and vocals all strain together to give this odd and almost novelty song a brute force that almost smashes it's way through the speakers.

Drain You- Another underrated track on an album with so many highlights. The balance between all elements is spot on, including the brilliant lyrics.

Lounge Act- The intro starts with a big fat meaty bass line and then the track develops quite an upbeat tempo. The vocals show off both sides of Kurt's abilities; in the first half we get his singing voice which is low and rough, then in the second half we get his scream and yell which makes his voice even more gravelly. His voice IS grunge.

Stay Away- ‘Rather be dead than cool' perhaps the most fitting and revealing lyrics that Kurt Cobain penned. A good solid track with brilliant drumming by Dave Grohl.

On A Plain- One of my favourite nirvana songs; everything about it, once again, fits together just right. I just love the way the lyrics kick in at the start.

Something In The Way- We started off with a heavy anthem but know we end the album on a quiet note. This is even more laid back than Polly and it is so much better. A very simple tune with a very simple yet beautiful harmony on the chorus, this is the most understated track on the album and, hence, the most underrated.

There is a hidden track called ‘Endless, Nameless'. It doesn't really fit with the rest of the album and isn't a great track, however there is some good musicianship going on and a few good melodies intertwined with the rawness of the singing.

Paul Wellar - Stanley Road (1995)

RATING: 8/10

With Stanley Road Paul Weller has managed to prove to his fans and his critics that he is still an important musician even in his solo days. He hasn't just written 12 good songs, instead, he's written one great album. A factor in any great album is the overall feel that perpetuates each song, making them all feel as though they deserve their place and complimenting the songs that come before and after them.

A mostly guitar driven album, Weller fuses good solos and riffs with his usual effective lyrics, often ending a song with a long instrumental that gently ushers in the next song, which gladly and competently carries the album along. However, there is the occasional song that primarily uses the piano evoking another great feel. Though these songs are quite different from the guitar based ones, they seem to come at just the right points in the album so that, not only are they a nice change of direction, but also they effortlessly fit in. To truly appreciate this fine album start at the beginning and just let it play on to the end. It far outweighs the sum of its parts, and as these parts are so good, you're in for a great journey.

The Changing Man- This was a hit in the UK and is a good indication into how this album will sound. There are some great little examples of guitar work going on here, more will follow throughout the rest of the tracks.

Porcelain Gods- This songs brings the mellow vibe with its gentle electric guitar opening. The highlights are the lyrics; 'How disappointed I was to turn out after all, just a porcelain god, that shatters when it falls'.

Walk On Guilded Splinters- Another slow bluesy track that follows on nicely from the previous. Again, the lyrics shine above all in this song. Wellar really does have a way of writing some interesting lyrics and his delivery of them are always great. The track ends with a slow jam that trickles to the end. Not a great tune, more of a little jam session that made it onto the album.

You Do Something To Me-From the beautiful piano intro we immediately know that we are going to hear something different in this song than wat was heard in the previous tracks. Simple and effective lyrics and likewise in the piano and guitars make this song so beautiful. A major standout on the album, absolutely heaven.

Woodcutter's Son-Back with a rocking guitar intro, a piano quickly joins in and we're back with a more upbeat tempo. This tune is quite catchy, and Wellars gruff voice shines throughout. Again, another track that ends with a long jam.

Time Passes-A lovely intro, great lyrics and a lovely mellow feel to it. I always forget about this track whenever I think about this album, but when it comes on I just fall in love with it all over again.

Stanley Road-The intro will have you tappin your feat to the piano and drum, another catchy little number. Despite the fact that this is the title song, it isn't anything too special. There is nothing wrong with it but there isn't that certain somethin that makes it stand out.

Broken Stones-Broken Stones is another simple yet beautiful track. Wellar can write great songs with great guitar parts that rock and groove but songs like this prove he can strip it all down and write a track that has the beauty and passion that other artists can.

Out Of The Sinking-A very bluesy song and once again some good lyrics. This song really suits Wellar's style of singing, I find he has a really underrated voice.

Pink On White Walls-I really like this song, though it is by no means one of the best on this album. It surely is underrated, it is borderline mediocre but i think it just manages to get on the right sode of the line.

Whirlpools' End-Overral I dont rate this song, but there are some good parts to it. I find it really gets good about 2 minutes in. I do love the jam that appears at the end for at least 4 minutes. Would be nice to play along in the studio.

Wings Of Speed-The final song is a strange one to end with, it has a gospek feel and almost sounds like nothing else on the album, save for the piano that was present in some of the songs. I really love this song, again simplistic and beautiful, Paul's voice holds it's own and the background singing is just fabulous. This song is too short, it needs to have a few more minutes of it. I just love it.