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Monthly Archives: August 2008

ARTIST – Buddy Holly
ALBUM – Greatest Hits
YEAR – 1996

For anyone who’s never heard of or, perhaps, never really gave Mr. Holly a chance, this is a great album. It has all of his classic tunes, ballads and rock n’ roll alike. I just wish I had grown up during his time – to have the feeling of listening to something so new. He is the real pioneer of ROCK N’ ROLL. Forgive me all of you who have these obscure notions of where the genre came from and what not, but this man, Charles Hardin “Buddy” Holley, was the real deal – he created Rock N’ Roll. What’s happening now, actually, for some time now, is bollocks. This shit people put out these days. Really, WTF???!!! I don’t think I’ve heard anything decent in at least 10 or more years. And I’ve been listening, seeking out new talents and bands; it’s hopeless.
So, back to Mr. Holly. Like many past greats, he too was the victim of a tragic and untimely death – an airplane crash. His legacy, however, is vast, forever changing music and actually introducing a completely new style and genre. How about that? Everything, I mean everything, literally, that has come after this guy played is thanks to him. All guitar riffs and choruses and vibe and flow and just all around rock n’ roll did not exist before Buddy. He invented it!!! Go now and search the net for his bio and his legacy. Do it, now!!! After you listen to anything Buddy Holly put out, during his very short active life, you will be changed. You just have to pay attention, realise that the times were different. In other words, put yourself in the appropriate context. Here’s a lame suggestion: think of Back to The Future (the first one), where Marty goes back to 1950 something to his father’s high school prom. It’s kind of like that – in so many words…
So, let’s get to it, the album. I know this is not an original LP release, it’s a compilation of his greatest. But I think it’s appropriate for it has a very good lineup of songs – a good mix of rock n’ roll and nice ballads. It’s a good starter, like I mentioned before, for those who are not familiar with his music.
“That’ll Be The Day”, the first track, is perhaps the most famous, together with “Everyday”. Now, pay attention, listen to these songs, closely, and tell me, how simple is that?! A little guitar riff, quiet bassline and a voice. It’s almost too good. But in fact it really is that fucking good!!! “Everyday” is one of my favourites. It’s so cool, with the clap sounding background that carries the whole song – all the way to the end. The little xylophone – I could be wrong – is really cool. Such a sweet song, like “Words of Love”- another favourite -, will make you think this guy is all about ballads, but then he mixes it up with pure and groundbreaking rock n’ roll. “Not Fade Away” is brilliant. Keep up with me, paying close attention to the sound of the music – doesn’t it sound familar? Well, it’s because all of the musical realm was forever changed by Buddy Holly and his music. That’s why – everybody after him sold out and copied his style!!!
Bare with me, just a couple of more songs I must get in here. Listen to “Oh Boy”, about half was through, he shouts and screams – lots of emotion – kind of like… Like modern day punk. Listen, then come back with words. The mid-fifties were a very cool time, looking back. Last song and I’m off. It’s “Bo Diddley”. Words can’t really do it. You’ll have to trust me and listen to it. This one is really the epitome of cool, the definition of rock n’ roll.

ARTIST – Portishead
ALBUM – Dummy
YEAR – 1994

Dark, gloomy, gray, sad, depressing, mellow, impossible to turn off. Some of the adjectives I usually use to describe this release. It’s excellent, outstanding, grandiose, superb. I’ve got more…
Beth Gibbons, the vocalist, delivers her vocals, it seems, in a great deal of distress. It sounds, for some odd reason, cool and soft and secure. It’s almost like a weeping, wounded woman, but yet so powerful. I just love this album. I hope to still catch them on tour, one day, who knows?!
The other master sound engineers that compose this exclusive trio are Geoff Barrow and Adrian Utley. Barrow is the producer and instrumentalist and Utley a jazz guitarist, heavily influenced by the classics. I guess that from the sound of the band and background of these musicians you could probably expect good things.
Well, this album presents things, better than good, though. Exceptional, I reckon. It’s such a mysterious and complex and serious record. It’s so cool, jazzy cool, like those heavily air conditioned smokey lounges, where people mingle and drink martinis and smoke Marlboros, surrounded by nifty 60s and 70s furniture. Imagine a sort of red, velvet sort of couches with dimmed lights. Very smooth ambiance. That’s how I feel when I listen to Portishead. It’s so fucking sweet and sour, so cool. There’s no better word, I’m sorry.
Doesn’t it give off that mood, though? All beautiful ladies chatting and drinking in a spacious environment, all very poise and self-aware, with this type of music in the background.
The album offers more, however, much, much more. It gets dramatic and depressing and almost, just almost happy. It’s like being dragged into a whirlpool of emotions, a quicksand of sentiment. Really moving stuff. Just listen to the fucking album…
Tracks. Once again, redundancy sets in. This, like all other albums posted, shares similar qualities, one of which is the impossibility of turning the CD player, or iPod, or what the fuck ever, off. It’s that good. So, let’s just say that the record starts out setting the mood, sort of ambiguous about where it’s going to take us, with “Biscuit”. Then comes “Glory Box”, which approaches the stereo as if you were walking in to that aforementioned lounge. It gets closer and closer, then she sings. Her voice, in this song at least, seems to be a bit more cheery. Then, we get depressed again. “It could be sweet has such a mesmerising drum machine that pulls you, almost dreamlike, through the song, guided by Gibbons. “Mysterons” is one of my favourites. I really enjoy those scratches and the creepy, scary movie like introduction. I won’t mention “Numb”, it’s a classic – no need. “Roads” deserves a mention, though. It’s such a deep, profound and difficult song – stay away if you’ve been recently dumped or just lost your job. It’s deep, wicked, though. Skip the James Bondian “Sour Times”, also a classic, and we come to my number one song of the album, “Strangers”. I first heard this album shortly after its release. Really enjoyed it, then I forgot it for a bit. Then, a few years ago I heard “Strangers” on a skate video I was watching and it all came back to me. How could I not have this on my iPod or playing all day long???!!! This song is perfect, perfect, top marks!!! The best is the small breath-like pause right at the beginning – about 1:14 into the song. Then roll in the beats and Gibbons to kick you in the arse. As Alec Baldwin’s character likes to put it, “good stuff, good stuff”, then it’s a pat in the the ass.

ARTIST – Beastie Boys
ALBUM – Ill Communication
YEAR – 1994

The Beastie’s fourth release, in my view, evidently, is their best – actually, make it my favourite. It’s always a matter of judgment whether a record is a band’s best or not. So, in order to prevent heated debates, I consider this to be the trio’s most appealing, again, in my opinion.
This 1994 release has got such an urban sound. It’s raw and powerful, even if it has elements of buddhist hymns mixed in. I have detected a pattern in my posts. It’s the fact that the albums I choose are the most complete, in the sense that they can be listened to from start to finish without fast-forwarding or song skipping. The selections have all been based on personal motives and this pattern I guess represents the reason why I chose these particular recordings.
Nowadays, the Beasties are more mature and their albums are evidence of that. Their material has volume and depth and range. But the one that most pleases these ears is ILL COMMUNICATION.
It was produced by Mario Caldato Jr., a native of Brazil and master mind behind other great releases. It had the Grand Royal label behind them, now extinct – a pitty. It’s got some wicked collaborators, such as A Tribe Called Quest’s Q-Tip and Biz Markie. The songs, one after the other, seem to follow no logical flow. In fact, the mix-up is what’s appealing. From the first track, “Sure Shot” to the fourth, instrumental, “Bobo On The Corner”. It’s really a great compilation of these artist’s talents. A quick reminder, that I’m afraid not many people are aware of, is that the three man group play real instruments – yes, believe it or not, Adam “MCA” Yauch, Adam “Adrock” Horovitz and Mike “Mike D.” Diamond play the fuck out of the bass, guitar and drums, respectively. And what sounds, man.
The personal feel of Ill Communication represents a very urban, very cosmopolitan sound. It’s got a rough-cut, vinyl, scratchy sound. The beats, therefore, seem to stand out through the static. The rhymes are, as always, grand. You must listen to this album, start to finish. The, and only then, can you have a reasonable understanding of what I’m blabbering about.
The 70s funky grooves are also thrown in there. And yes, I do love the 70s. The discoesque vibe on some of the instrumental tunes are brave, crammed in the album among big, heavy tracks.
I love this album. One that goes on my all-time top 10 list. Yeah, I think it’s that fucking good.
It also has a close to home feel ’cause of the time I acquired it. It was during my last year living in Canada, while I was in my teens. It was a good time – nostalgia has once again kicked in. Sorry about that. I don’t wanna get all emotional and shit. So, let’s move on.
To the songs. Number one: “Sure Shot”, “’cause you can’t, you won’t and you don’t stop.” is the chorus on the first track, and perfectly introduces this talented trio of rappers/rockers/posers/tibetan freedom fighters/producers/musicians, etc. The next track, “Tough Guy” is a rare specimen nowadays, that brings back earlier recordings, in particular their first “Licensed to Ill” – it was their rock/rap interpretation. The french woman on the, I believe, answering machine is great, that kicks off “B Boys Makin’ with the Freak Freak”. The flowing beats and distorted vocals, together with the samples… Damn… “Root Down” became a classic, along with “Sabotage”, also thanks to Spike Jonze and his awarded and celebrated music video. Probably my top selection is “Get It Together”. I imagine you’re probably thinking “that’s obvious”. Well, it is. Q-Tip’s vocals and demeanor sums it all up. He’s the shit! This song’s got a particular sweet feel, sort of 70s alcoholic good cop movie – whatever the fuck that means. You figure it out! “Sabrosa” is the 70s tribute, for real. The guitar riffs in the intro are there, man, check it out. It’s like the theme song for some cheesy TV show. Moving on, “Alright Hear This” is cool, it’s got these wicked scratches and big ass bass, coupled with fast, brutal vocals – awesome! But then, it gets better. It’s “Flute Loop”, with Adrock’s screechy and almost angry and matter-of-fact rhymes. The flute moves the song along through the chorus. Really good tune. The outro, “Transitions” has a brilliant build-up. It’s an instrumental song, but a damn fucking good one. The drums coming in at the intro is sweet – almost accoustic. This closes a perfect Beastie Boys album. What a transcendental song. A top marks production and recording.

ARTIST – João Gilberto
ALBUM – João Voz e Violão
YEAR – 2000

To speak of Bossa Nova these days is a redundant effort. Everything that needed to be said has been said. Not being the greatest of connaisseurs of the Brazilian musical movement, I have had the chance to listen to a decent amount of material. Living here, you can’t really get away from it – not that you would, anyway.
This album came at the right time for me. I was just getting back into listening to one of the greatest contributions to brazilian music – Bossa Nova – and was greatly rewarded by this release. It represents, at least to me, the essence of the movement, what it became, and in great part, thanks to Mr. Gilberto himself. The basics, as the record title suggests: voice and guitar. That’s it. That’s all the genius needs. I won’t go into any particulars regarding the history of Bossa Nova, because, like I mentioned previously, I’m not an expert on the subject. Nevertheless, it must be noted that this musical movement began in the early fifties. It was a bit different than what it is now, as it is known now. A good reference may be the album PRINCÍPIOS DA BOSSA, that compiles a lot of good material from Bossa’s roots.
João Gilberto is responsible for bringing the “batida”, or beat, to the guitar. It’s a sort of samba beat, but played on a guitar – yeah, that’s exactly his triumph. His soft, quiet and almost inaudible voice is all part of the style. And on this particular effort I think it stands out the most. He came from Bahia, as one of the tracks on the album declares, to Rio in the 1950s and immediately got involved with the carioca bohemians. Rio de Janeiro was a very different place back then, less populated, still the capital of Brazil, and with a very passionate heart. It was this climate and the bohemian state of mind of its members that brought Bossa Nova to the forefront.
The main artists of the period range from Antonio (Tom) Carlos Jobim to Carlos Lyra, or DIck Farney to Os Cariocas. João Gilberto came and swept these guys away with his guitar playing and his peculiar demeanor. His first hit was “Chega de Saudade”, which, luckily, has no proper translation, not in any language I can think of. The “Missing you Blues” just doesn’t live up to the original title.
When this was released people were readily turned on to the new style of guitar playing. That’s been his main trait ever since, which revolutionised the entire movement. After he introduced himself and his guitar playing Bossa Nova was forever changed. He’s responsible for the sound we now automatically associate to Bossa Nova, the soft singing and the guitar playing as if it carried and imposed the rhythm, which it actually does; no longer is it the drums.
Now, for my favourites, on this record. I want to make it clear that a few of my favourite compositions are not on this album. It is, in fact, a rather commercial album, nonetheless excellent. It’s simplicity is brilliant. Listening closely to the album, start to finish, you feel his mood swings. He appears to transmit joy in some melodies, as in “Da Cor Do Pecado”, and a bit of mellancholy in “Eclipse”, sang in Spanish. All through the album you can almost hear him smile – if that’s possible. It’s a very endearing effort. One of the best from his very large collection of releases.
So, first off, is the leading track, “Desde Que o Samba é Samba”. It was written by Caetano Veloso, and his interpretation is simply beyond anything you can put into words. They are beautiful lyrics, with an even more exquisite reproduction by Gilberto. It’s a perfect start to a nearly perfect album. The next song I thoroughly enjoy as well, “Você Vai Ver”. It’s what we hear in Brazil call “dor de cotovelo”. Better put, it’s a love song, all clichés included. “Desafinado”, the fifth track, is one of my favourite Bossa Nova compositions, of course, composed by Jobim. “…que isto é bossa nova, isto é muito natural…” It talks about the “out of tune” or “desafinado”, somewhat ironically challenging critics of the movement. It’s splendid. He closes off in style, with his trademark and perhaps one of Bossa Nova’s most famous songs “Chega de Saudade”. It’s always great to come back to this album. It’s sad, depressing, reflective, pensive, happy, joyful, mesmerising and overall brilliant. All those emotions in one package. Pretty great.

ARTIST – Neutral Milk Hotel
ALBUM – In The Aeroplane Over The Sea
YEAR – 1998
I’ve been listening to this band over the last couple of days. I just found out about ’em. Please, forgive my musical ignorance, but I hadn’t heard of these guys until this week, as I was searching the net. So, if anyone knows this band and wishes to comment, please do so. I’ll definitely get back to you guys later on, after I’ve seen what this band and album is all about, with a thorough review.

Ok, now, I had to get this one in. It’s one of the all-time best, and I don’t think it’s arguable, even for those who despise the “grunge” movement. This album is not only an outstanding achievement – a great listen -, but it’s innovative to the point of establishing new musical parameters and setting trends in music. I’m pretty sure NEVERMIND, NIRVANA’S second album, from 1991, will be on lots of people’s top 10 albums of the 1990s or even all-time for a long time to come. These guys revolutionised. Their sound is straight-forward rock. And even though Kurt Cobain may have said they knew little about the instruments they played, they sounded great.
Dave Grohl was one of my first influences, actually one of the main ones that led me to take up the drums. His heavy hitting, precise tempo just blew me away. There’s so much cymbals and rides, it’s crazy!!! I still love his skills. It’s got kind of like a controlled rage sort of feeling. Kurt’s manners, his cut-up William S. Burroughs influenced lyrics and his slurry demeanor makes for a great combination, all tied up with Krist Novoselic’s steady bass.
The variety of the album, their second official release – a follow-up to a great debut, BLEACH -, is also a great accomplishment. Not many bands before, during and after the 1990s managed to display such an array on their releases. All the songs on this album are great. From start to finish, you’ll have fun. The songs are a mix of heavy, hard hitting jams to some cooler, mellower bass driven melodies. Just brilliant. Kurt’s scratchy and scruffy voice sounds perfect while belching out lyrics, blending in to the mean guitar riffs and heavy drums.
This band deserves a lot of credit – hopefully it gets it and will continue to get it for many, many years to come. As a friend once said “there hasn’t really been any album after NEVERMIND that I could listen to from beggining to end and really enjoy it”. I’ll give him credit for such a bold statement. He’s probably right. I mean, an album of this calibre, at least in my lifetime, is hard to come by. So, come to think of it, I guess it is true. There was true genius at work back in ’91. It’s such a simple album, yet so complex. I think it’s greatly misunderstood; many critics assume they were lousy musicians that came together and made a record; others believe this to be their masterpiece, some even comparing Cobain to Lennon. Now, I don’t wanna step on any toes or stir up new unfruitful debates over better or worse, right or wrong, I’m just exposing my views. But, if I had to take a stand, I’d say “isn’t that what rock and music is supposed to be about???!!!” A bunch of guys getting together to make music, regardless of any profit or commercial success??? Shouldn’t that be the point? Make music, have fun, fuck it. Remember that one of the greatest recordings in history was put together in not too different a manner; I’m talking of KIND OF BLUE, considered Miles Davis’ magnus opus. A bunch of musical geniuses got together and put out perhaps the greatest jazz record ever. Well, I’m not comparing NIRVANA to Miles Davis or John Coltrane. What I’m trying to say is that sometimes all you need is a good vibe and a studio. These three guys pulled it off.
For the songs, well, I guess I could say, again, that the first is one of the best in the history of first tracks. SMELLS LIKE TEEN SPIRIT is bound to become one of those songs that go down in history and marks a before and after phase, like before LIKE A ROLLING STONE and after. I am being pretty bold, aren’t I?! Personal favourite, the one I used to listen too all day, was LITHIUM (I only found out it was a drug many years later). I love the quiet and subtle intro, just with a ride, bass and soft guitar. When the chorus comes it’s havoc. Cobain goes controlled crazy. “yeahhhhh yeahhhh yeahhhhhhhhhhhhhhh…” I have a similar feeling towards DRAIN YOU. I like the drums, of course. the double snare is pretty cool, and how about those cymbals???!!! I remember getting this CD back in 1991 and of all my friends talking about a “hidden track”. About fifteen minutes after the last tune there’s some hidden material. It was so cool back then. Anyone share this experience?

It’s too bad Zach de La Rocha stepped down, closing a very powerful chapter in music history. RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE was power! Hardfuckingcore! Even their first album cover was in your face. And that’s the album I’ll write about today.
I remember, very vividly, the first time I got my hands on this album. It was awesome, amazing, nothing like I’ve ever heard. I was in a point in my life – young teens – where I felt like I had to rebel or revolt against something. This album just filled that musical void. No, I wasn’t in any gangs or getting into trouble with the police. I was beginning to get a grasp on things. Seeing the good and learning to see the ugly side of things. I was a skater, baggy jeans, big shirts, etnies sneakers.
I was in Ottawa, Canada. Everything was grunge, it was the early 1990s. So, the self-entitled debut album just fucked it all up, man. I mean, shit! What a fucking recording! I’d put it on and listen to it non-stop, star to finish, all day. I made a cassette of it and put it on my yellow sports walkman – remember those?! Those were good times.
As for the skating aspect of it all, the songs are what people of the iTunes generation I guess would label as “power songs”. Kinda gay, I think, but RAGE used to get me pumped up for skating and pulling tricks and grinding rails and curbs and all sorts of mayhem.
It was beautiful growing up, and growing up there, in Ottawa made it just that more fun. The times were good for music – everyone seemed to be hating on the 1980s, which are now back more than ever -, grunge was the shit and had many great bands, some still around today. But, as I mentioned before, was there anything that even resembled RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE???!!! Fuck No!!!
I also recall the booklet – I used to buy CDs back then – and reading, on the last page, that no samplers or synthesisers were used. Now, back then I had no clue what that meant, but thought it was cool, so I used to tell everyone I knew and had reccomended the album to – yeah, what a loser, eh?! It was fun, though. And now that I know what that means makes it even cooler to think about that album. It makes it even edgier and more raw. Pure fucking IN YOUR FACE!!!
The lyrics were also tantalising – I had to research all kinds of shit, and there wasn’t any internet back then, in order to find out about what he was raging about. Turns out the guys, in particular Zach, had something to say. He still does – it’s a real shame RAGE is over. Or is it?!
Songs that I love: ALL!!! Ok, ok, ok. I’ll name a few that really stuck out back then, and still do today. “fuck you I won’t don’t what you tell me…” Yeah, of course, KILLING IN THE NAME had to be there. Again, was there anything around back then, even today, as raw and blunt as this shit???!!! NO!!! My all-time favourite track, though, that I listened to probably over a million times – for real – is TAKE THE POWER BACK. Best introduction to a song much? That big, bad bass, creeping up until Zach decides to holler “bring that shit in…”, then it’s all fucked. Wicked, wicked song. Cheers…

Beats, Rhymes and Life, the ’96 release is the fourth in the A TRIBE CALLED QUEST discography. In my opinion, obviously, the best. Q-Tip (Kamal Fareed), rapper Phife Dawg (Malik Taylor), and DJ/producer Ali Shaheed Muhammad have outdone themselves. Now, before I get started, just a note: I am not try to set trends or go against mainstream criticism or follow any type of bandwagon. I just play it as it is – which, in this case, is the way my opinion tilts.
This album, more contemplative than previous and post recordings, proves its worth. It’s amazing, from PHONY RAPPERS, the introductory track, to STRESSED OUT, the closing one. I mean, it carries itself elegantly, moves along with grace and concern. Top beats, very deep and poignant, accompanied by fervent basslines – all part of the QUEST’S repertoire -, and very smart lyrics. It seems to sting, to build up, but as you wander through the music, you realise it jumps and slows and twists and turns.
In comparison to the critic’s favourite, THE LOW END THEORY, this album has a different recipe. It’s a sort of subtler, more serious, beats. Intelligent rhymes and melancholy provide the spirit for this powerful recording. And, come to think of it, I think powerfull is the adequate term to qualify this piece of work.
To the tunes: My favourite is KEEPING IT MOVING – “something for your earholes, so you can clean them shits out…” -, can you get a better introduction???!!! Great!!! Just brilliant. 1NCE AGAIN is right up there. So much love, so much passion. This kind of gray, murky, rainy day song is marvellous. The big, big beats and the piao, just audible, in the background is fantastic. Of course, Q-Tip and Phife Dawg tear it up with their lyrics. It’s a lot like a love-hate relationship. The beautiful, tender female voice in the chorus together with the composition, goes well with some acid rhymes.
Last, but not at all least, there’s JAM. Yeah, I guess I did pick the more upbeat tunes. Hey, like I said before, it’s just me. Great little guitar riff. “It was friday afternoon in the middle of june…” . I’m off…

BAND: Radiohead
ALBUM: In Rainbows
YEAR: 2007
Been listening to this album non-stop for the past 2 or so months. Really! I think it’s that good. In order to comment on this particular album, Radiohead’s latest – released on the 10th of October of 2007 -, I must get on the bandwagon.
The band’s most critically acclaimed recording is 1997s OK COMPUTER. I will not go down that path; plus, I’m writing about their latest record, not their third. So, in order to avoid clichès, or at least attempt to, it must be noted that the 1997 album is indeed a great one.
However, and being that I have been an avid listener since their first release, PABLO HONEY, from 1993, I must say that IN RAINBOWS has had the greatest effect on me. It has a “different” vibe, which I am unable to put into proper English terms. While it wanders into technological waters, with synthesisers and drum machines, it appears to have a very strong rock feel. Literally, a feel, like something very edgy and profound – as if to say “there is more where that came from” and “we are that fucking good”. The first track, in particular, is mesmorising – 15 STEP. At about the 2 minutes into the song, following the chorus, and Thom Yorke’s subtle “etcetera, etcetera…” comes a big-bang of a bassline, just to foreshadow the next minute of music. You can’t get off a better start than that. Then, the second tune, BODYSNATCHERS – what an amazing sort of scratchy – distorted guitar (or is it a bass, please forgive my ignorance). One of the most trippy songs, ALL I NEED, has so much more than what you hear the first time. You have to get past scratching the surface. Get into the song, feel the grandiose and powerful synthesisers. The quiet, almost creepy drums, give way to Yorke’s desperate, but cool and soft voice. And to top it off, JIGSAW FALLING INTO PLACE has a sweet accoustic tone. The mellow introduction with the soft, or better yet, the delicate drum line and guitar make for an almost very upbeat track. Great, great stuff. Outstanding!
That’s how I feel with regards to this album, their greatest achievement, in my humble opinion. I forecast major beatings for these published words. Trust me though, guys, I am a faithful Radiohead fan. I just seem to have enjoyed this particular effort by far the most. No offense to their previous releases.