Wednesday, November 23, 2016

"Planet Waves"

Bob Dylan:  "Planet Waves"
Secondhand Vinyl Album
Purchased at Last Stop CD Shop in Sioux Falls, SD
Original Release Date:  1974
My Rating:  5 Stars

Side One
On A Night Like This
Going Going Gone
Tough Mama
Something There Is About You
Forever Young

Side Two
Forever Young 
You Angel You
Never Say Goodbye
Wedding Song

   Once upon a time a young pretentious art major refused to listen to Bob Dylan simply because everyone told her she should. Perhaps the term, "everyone," is a bit of an exaggeration.  Okay, once upon a time a young stubborn art major refused to listen to Bob Dylan because her then boyfriend constantly insisted that she must.  Yep, that statement sounds a bit more accurate.  
   No matter how much time goes by I can't help thinking about, "he who shall remain unnamed," when I listen to Dylan records.  I clearly remember his persistent argument, "I didn't like Bob Dylan's voice at first either!  You have to concentrate on his lyrics and the stories he tells! Besides, you love Neil Young and listen to his singing!"  While my ex-boyfriend is long gone his words still resonate with me and's freak'n annoying.  Of course, he was totally right.  Luckily, not long after the last gasp of that relationship, I lifted my Bob Dylan ban and since have become quite the fan.  I like to think of this occurrence as poetic more ways than one.  
   This all being stated, I don't recall most Dylan fanatics ranting specifically about the album, "Planet Waves," and lately I've been wondering, "Why not?"  This record is yet another magnificent collaboration between Bob Dylan and The Band.  I can truly think of no other ensemble to better compliment Dylan's storytelling than Robbie Robertson's group of talented musicians. My favorite moments on, "Planet Waves," include the intensely romantic ballads of, "Going Going Gone," "Dirge," and, "Wedding Song." Honestly, the sublime sounds of this album inspires my tears for multiple reasons, but none make me more sad than all the time I wasted not listening to, "Planet Waves," out of sheer spite.  

Thursday, November 17, 2016


Echo And The Bunnymen:  "Crocodiles"
Secondhand Vinyl Album
Purchased at the Fargo Record Fair
Original Release Date:  1980
My Rating:  4 Stars

Side One
Going Up
Do It Clean
Stars Are Stars

Side Two
Villiers Terrace
Read It In Books
Pictures On My Wall
All That Jazz
Happy Death Men

   It's not uncommon for me to have a preconceived notion of what an album is going to sound like.  Sometimes the expectation I've constructed in my head does not accurately define the actual sounds emanating from my stereo.  When this happens it takes this blogger more than a few listens to form an honest opinion.  Otherwise I simply find myself entangled in the idea, "Wait, this isn't right. Where's my 80's New Wave?  I want angst damn it!  Angst!"  These were the exact sentences running through my head upon the first listen of, "Crocodiles," by Echo And The Bunnymen.  
   Eventually, after my initial confusion, I reminded myself most musicians experience an evolution process throughout their body of work.  One can't judge a group's entire discography by their greatest hits collection.  Basically, every band has to start somewhere.  Apparently, by the sound of their debut album, the starting point for Echo And The Bunnymen was somewhere between Prog Rock and Punk.  No wonder after my first listen I was left thinking, "Wha?"
   Despite these feelings of disorientation, I eventually found myself warming up to this new concept of a rather old band.  In particular, it was the psychedelic soaked songs of, "Going Up," "Do It Clean," and, "Happy Death Men," that convinced me that this group's later, more Emo based work, is not necessarily their best.  In conclusion, don't always trust the, "Crocodile," tears of Echo And The Bunnymen.  They weren't always so brooding.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

"Strange Weather"

Marianne Faithfull:  "Strange Weather"
Secondhand Vinyl Album
Purchased at the Fargo Record Fair
Original Release Date:  1987  
My Rating:  5 Stars

Side One
Stranger Intro
Boulevard Of Broken Dreams
I Ain't Goin' Down To The Well No More
Sign Of Judgement
Strange Weather

Side Two
Love Life And Money
I'll Keep It With Mine
Hello Stranger
Penthouse Serenade
As Tears Go By
A Stranger On Earth

   I'm happy to report that, for the most part, I'm able to shop for vinyl among others without fighting. Please note that I wrote, "for the most part."  Unfortunately, sometimes wishlists overlap.  It's these occasions that can get a little competitive...a titch intense...okay, freak'n cut-throat. However, what can one expect when dealing with hard to find, often out of print albums?  Sometimes a collector just has to get aggressive.
   Thankfully, I didn't have to resort to violence when finding Marianne Faithfull's, "Strange Weather," at the Fargo Record Fair.  At the time my father was distracted by his own quest for treasures.  Actually I just yelled, "SQUIRREL!" and pointed in another direction before hastily paying for this album and stashing it in my tote bag.  Like I said folks, vinyl shopping can get rough. I wasn't about to give this selection to my equally interested father.  
   While I do feel slightly guilty for hoarding a prize both of us would certainly covet, I have to state, "I'M SO HAPPY I DID!"  "Strange Weather," is an album featuring Marianne Faithfull's unique, and often haunting, interpretation of a selection of songs whose origins range from the 1930's to the 1980's.  The most notable pieces on this album include a stark a cappella version of Leadbelly's, "I Ain't Goin' Down To The Well No More," the serene bohemian feel of Bob Dylan's, "I'll Keep It With Mine," and the ballroom swank of, "Penthouse Serenade."  Mostly this blogger was amazed at how cohesive an album Faithfull was able to accomplish, despite the wide range of material she covered.   Of course, having the the help of one of my favorite guitarists, Bill Frisell, along the way sure didn't hurt.  
   Yep, it's albums of this quality that don't make me feel so bad about not sharing with dad.  Besides, he owes me for all of those Donovan records he stole from me.


Thursday, November 3, 2016

"Nativity In Black"

Nativity In Black (A Tribute To Black Sabbath)
Secondhand Vinyl Album
Purchased at the Fargo Record Fair
Original Release Date:  1994
My Rating:  4 Stars

Side One
After Forever:  Biohazard
Children Of The Grave:  White Zombie
Paranoid:  Megadeth
Solitude:  Cathedral

Side Two
Supernaut:  1,000 Homo DJ's
Iron Man:  Ozzy Osbourne w/ Therapy?
Lord Of This World:  Corrosion Of Conformity

Side Three
Symptom Of The Universe:  Sepultura
The Wizard:  Bullring Brummies
Sabbath Bloody Sabbath:  Bruce Dickinson w/ Godspeed

Side Four
N.I.B.:  Ugly Kid Joe
War Pigs (Live):  Faith No More
Black Sabbath:  Type O Negative

   Basically, "Nativity In Black," is the first album of many at the Fargo Record Fair that spawned the reoccurring thought, "Well, this is definitely coming home with me."  I instantly recognized this record's cover from my time spent working for the Barnes & Noble music department.  Back then I remember looking at it and thinking, "Man, that looks like a kick ass line up of bands for a Black Sabbath Tribute!"  Unfortunately, at the time I never got around to actually listening to this album.  Today I regret this since I'm now convinced it contains music I could really party to. However now, many years later, I can truthfully state that, "Nativity In Black," is a record that's even fun to hear while sober.
   I feel I must clarify I love a good compilation album.  In fact, these types of records have been the springboard for much of my music collection.   While I don't anticipate buying a whole lot of Heavy Metal in the future, I do believe this now annoyingly strait-laced listener could use a little loosening up from time to time.  Nothing says lack of control more than headbanging to Megadeth performing the song Paranoid.  Not that I would ever do such a thing...
   In this listener's opinion the highlights of, "Nativity In Black," include the recognizable rollicking guitar style of White Zombie, the smarmy sass of Ugly Kid Joe, and of course, the heavier than heavy vocals of Type O Negative that persuade even the most devout Christian listener to flash a little bit of the devil horns. However, when doing so make sure you've got your other hand free.  As stated earlier, this is music that makes one want to slam a beverage or two and then crush the container on your forehead...even if that container says Starbucks on its' side.




Wednesday, August 17, 2016


Bauhaus:  "Mask"
Reissued Vinyl Album:  (Gift)
Original Release Date:  1981  Beggars Banquet
My Rating:  (5 Stars)

Side One
Hair Of The Dog
The Passion Of Lovers
Of Lillies And Remains
Hollow Hills

Side Two
Kick In The Eye
In Fear Of Fear
Muscle In Plastic
The Man With X-Ray Eyes

   One of the first things I noticed about the album, “Mask,” by Bauhaus was the summary that was written on the inside cover.  It read, “This is for when your sex is full of Voodoo.  This is for when your clothes are imaginary.  This is for when your flesh creeps and never comes back.”   “SOLD!” I thought as I anxiously put the album on my turntable.  Honestly, at the time I doubted this record could live up to such a glowing, (or perhaps in Goth speak it would be glowering,) review.  However, within the first thirty seconds of the opening song I realized I was about to experience something special.  Not only did this intoxicating mix of Goth and Punk fulfill the promise of making my, “flesh creep,” it excited me so much I almost felt like my skin was on fire. 
   In my opinion the above summary’s nod to Voodoo is an accurate description of the music found on, “Mask.”  The whole album possesses a sort of dangerously alluring, “black magic,” vibe that overshadows any weaknesses that may otherwise be present.  Despite the fact that this blogger found herself deeply entranced with these songs, I was able to identify some flaws on the album.  The main one being I didn’t care for the lead singer’s voice.  In fact, I found it to be fairly generic.  While the vocalist was clearly passionate about what he was singing, his voice lacked the type of range I would have liked to hear partnered with these compositions.  To be totally honest I felt that when the lead singer wasn’t actually singing he was at his best.
   An example of this can be found during the magnificent song, “Of Lillies And Remains.”  This piece begins with an artsy spoken word introduction that is paired with staccato percussion and random electric guitar picking.  The lyrics recited in choppy speech state, “To hide from Peter, who has fallen to the old cold stone floor, wheezing and emitting a seemingly endless flow of ectoplastmic goo from ears and mouth.”  Between these obscure lyrics and catchy beats a listener can’t help but feel like doing something crazy like dancing creepily by firelight.  Let me repeat that.  This band inspires one to dance, simply by spoken word.  It’s a confusing but fantastic feat. 
   Of course the next song continues this theme with the title, “Dancing.”  The sounds of this piece create a delightfully out of control feeling through the use of bass lines and abstract horn trills.  At the same time Bauhaus is able to display impressive mastery over their music through the use of mimicry and repetition.  The singer screams, “Dancing on flick knives, Dancing a stiletto groove, Dancing our nine lives away, Dancing in the Louvreoeoeoeoe….” trilling the last word of this phrase much like the horns that accompany him.  It’s subtleties like this that elevate a good band to a great one.
   Some of the most accessible songs on the album include, “The Passion Of Lovers,” and, “In Fear Of Fear.”  During, “The Passion Of Lovers,” a listener is inspired to participate in the, “sing-song,” chorus.  More than once I found myself uttering, “The passion of lovers is for death said she, The passion of lovers is for death.”  All the while this addictive verse is combined with what sounds like low monk chanting.  Of course, Bauhaus is too interesting of a band to leave it at simply that.  Instead they intermix peaceful chants with the sounds of tense guitar jangles.  In the end an intense juxtaposition of serene calm mixed with the disturbed is displayed.  In addition, this feeling of mainstream accessibility continues during the song, “In Fear Of Fear.” The track begins with a Punk rock introduction that would make any stick in the mud want to fist pump along to the strangeness.  Of course, the fact that this is the, “black magic band,” Bauhaus is enough to make a listener a tad paranoid that one’s arm may mysteriously fall off during the process.
   Finally, this blogger found the last song on the album to be the most remarkable.  The title track, “Mask,” possesses a sludgy, almost pulse-like, beat that conjured images of someone trying to painfully crawl up a mountain.  Halfway through the piece this song inconceivably transforms into something seriously beautiful.  I use the word inconceivable because I simply don’t understand how Bauhaus does it.  I guess its just songs like, “Mask,” that prove that this band is definitely into the dark arts and they’re quickly recruiting.    

"The Passion Of Lovers": 

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

"Mind Games"

John Lennon:  “Mind Games”
Reissued Vinyl Album:  (Purchased from
Original Release Date:  1973  Record Plant Studios
My Rating:  (4 Stars)

Side 1
Mind Games
Tight A$
Aisumasen (I’m Sorry)
One Day (At A Time)
Bring On The Lucie (FredaPeeple)
Nutopian International Anthem

Side 2
Out The Blue
Only People
I Know (I Know)
You Are Here
Meat City

   I don’t think it’s false to state many people believe Yoko Ono destroyed The Beatles.  While this accusation may not be entirely untrue, it’s this blogger’s opinion that she perfected the individual, John Lennon.  I’ll freely admit to the fact that I’m not always wild about Lennon singing with The Beatles, but when John sang to Yoko it’s a whole different story.  It’s a story about something more than simply a music legend.  In my opinion, the John Lennon who wrote about Yoko Ono was someone more relatable.  During this period of his career he came across as just a man who obviously loved a woman.  As a result he created some absolutely beautiful music for her. 
   During the album, “Mind Games,” my favorite example of Lennon’s unapologetic devotion to Yoko can be found during the song, “Out Of The Blue.”  This fantastic ballad features a simpatico relationship between not only piano and guitar, but also man and woman.  Lennon passionately breaks into the lyrics, “Every day I thank the Lord and Lady,” emphasizing a rather forward thinking opinion towards gender equality.  Later he continues with an almost primal growl, “All my life’s been a long slow knife  I was born just to get to you  Anyway I survived long enough to make you my wife.”  It’s lyrics like this that make a blogger’s knees go weak.  The song, “Out Of The Blue,” is an example of one of the world’s largest superstars unabashedly stating he lives only for a woman.  At the time John Lennon was a 1970's rock star without machismo!  Instead, he was a man with a modern way of expression.
   Continued future concepts can be found in several songs on the album.  A good example of this is the piece, “Bring On The Lucie.”  This song features the futuristic floaty sounds of guitar mixed with horns.   As a result, Lennon created the perfect euphoric composition to compliment yet another one of his peace anthems.  In addition, more contemporary sounds can be found during the song, “One Day At A Time,” where dreamy vocals lull a listener into John and Yoko’s seemingly Utopian love affair.  While this blogger will admit that some of this pair's combined work can come off as pretentious, it’s my opinion that the songs featured on the album, “Mind Games,” does this while still encouraging a listener to, “Come and be pompous with us.”
   Of course, no other piece on the album makes me want to join the John and Yoko, "commune," more than the title track, “Mind Games.”  I have to admit that it places at least in my personal Top 50 songs ever.  I love the music’s’ mantra sound.  I also adore the drippy idealism of the lyrics. However, mostly I admire the conviction John Lennon displayed towards the topics of love and peace.  He sang, “Love is the answer and you know that for sure.” A person hears this and walks away thinking, “Damn it, he’s right!  How can it be so simple?” 
   Of course after the album, “Mind Games,” is done playing reality returns to a listener.  “The answer,” is not so simple.  Even for a huge star like John Lennon things obviously did not go perfect.  However, while listening to this record of love and peace this blogger can’t help but get caught up in its’ promises.  While I'm admittedly not an expert in the actual history of John Lennon, I do know that he composed stunning songs that displayed extreme humility when it came to the topic of love.  This is something even modern day male performers rarely do.  In addition, Lennon focused a lot of these forward thinking tendencies toward the concept of peace.  He sang, “I want you to make love not war  I know you’ve heard it before.”  I want to answer him by stating, “Yeah, I’ve heard it before but I’ve never wanted to believe it so bad.”

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

"Every Picture Tells A Story"

Rod Stewart:  “Every Picture Tells A Story”
Secondhand Vinyl Album  (Received as a gift)
Original Release Date:  1971 Mercury Records

Side 1
Every Picture Tells A Story
Seems Like A Long Time
That’s All Right
Tomorrow Is A Long Time

Side 2
Maggie May
Mandolin Wind
(I Know) I’m Losing You
Reason To Believe

   Never before have I reviewed an album I’ve held so dear to my heart.  Up until this point I’ve been subconsciously pussyfooting around my favorite records.  It’s like I feel unworthy to write about them.  I can’t quite manifest the mystery of their, “greatness,” into words.  Basically, despite my flair for alliteration, I have no right to write about them!  However, finally I feel ready to tackle the albums that make me feel so, "much," I finally have proof I’m not a robot.  In contrast, the music emanating from my turntable this week was so perfect it caused me to suspect that the musicians involved couldn’t possibly be human.  To state it simply, no earthly being could construct sounds this spotless. 
   The album, “Every Picture Tells A Story,” by Rod Stewart kicks off with its rollicking title track.  Instantly, this listener found herself deliriously happy.  Suddenly, the year is 1971 and Rod is lamenting in his trademark rasp, “I was accused!”  In this blogger’s opinion it’s undeniable that certain songs become anthems of their time.  It does not escape this listener’s attention that during the 1970’s there were musicians that undeniably contributed more introspective subject matter than what Rod Stewart provided.  However when I hear a song like, “Every Picture Tells A Story,” smothered in blues and gospel, and served up with Rod’s signature sass I can’t help but smile and think, “Damn, they just don’t make ‘em like that anymore.”  By the end of this song a listener finds themselves in a near feverish frenzy, praising the chants of Stewart’s soulful backup singers.  “Every picture tells a story, don’t it?” they resound and this listener can’t help but sing along in appreciation of a decade that’s music often defines classic rock.  
   Later in the album, Stewart shows his skill in the realm of ballads.  Both, “Seems Like A Long Time,” and, “Tomorrow Is A Long Time,” display Stewart’s uncanny ability to meld less mainstream genres of music into extremely accessible songs that appeal to a wider audience.  Suddenly, the old time folksy sound that one would think could only appeal to other musicians, the elderly, and elitists becomes interesting to everyone.  It’s this listener’s opinion that other than his unique voice, the knack for creating accessibility is Rod's greatest feature.  OK, and his hair...gotta love his hair. In addition, Stewart achieves universal appeal by using wit and humor in his lyrics.  Basically, even when Stewart’s singing a serious ballad it seems probable that he's got a smirk on his face and a sparkle in his eye.
   This is extremely apparent during the album’s most recognized song, “Maggie May.”  While I find this piece to be heavily pop driven, I notice several instruments being used that I can't identify.  “Is that a ukulele,” I found myself wondering.  Despite my obvious lack of expertise when it comes to identifying string instruments, I am still able to seriously, “get down,” with my folk self.  Rod sings, “All you did was wreck my bed And in the morning kicked me in the head,” and a listener can’t help but smile along in agreement.  “Been there buddy,” this blogger thought while marveling at Stewart’s awesome ability to make unpleasant situations, enjoyable.
   My favorite songs on the album include, “Mandolin Wind,” and, “Reason To Believe.”  Musically, I admit that the folk inspired, “Mandolin Wind,” is far superior to my other choice.  However, “Reason To Believe,” has been a favorite of mine since I was a kid.  Again, I would like to emphasize how accessible this record is to its audience.  I mean come on, Stewart and his band were able to transform the mature sounds of string instruments into something fun for a child to listen to.  In fact, if I were asked today the perfect word to sum up an album like, “Every Picture Tells A Story,” I would say fun.  Actually, fun doesn’t quite do it justice.  I would describe this record as delightful, frivolous, and amusing.  You know, exactly like Rod’s hair.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

"Come On Pilgrim"

Pixies:  “Come On Pilgrim”
New Reissued Vinyl Album  (Purchased at Last Stop CD Shop, SF, SD)
Original Release Date:  1987 4AD
My Rating:  (5 Stars)

Side 1
Isla De Encanta
Ed Is Dead

Side 2
The Holiday Song
Nimrod’s Son
I’ve Been Tired
Levitate Me

   To begin I’d like to ask a question, “Can an albums’ worth be solely based on the scream of one man?”  My first instinct would be to answer, “No, of course not.”  However, its records like, “Come On Pilgrim,” by the Pixies that make me hesitate.  I guess I simply want to take notice of the fact that a lot can be communicated through merely a scream...especially if it’s vocalist, Black Francis, who’s doing it.
   To begin, I consider myself a huge fan of the Pixies.  What can I say, I was an art major in college during the end of the 1990’s.  There was simply no way for me to avoid this bands’ music.  That being said it’s extremely hard for me to listen to a Pixies album and not feel instantly transformed back into the paint covered, chain smoking, flannel wearing delinquent I used to be.  As a result this music always gives me a kind of anxious feeling.  As soon as I hear the first note to one of their songs I start to feel like I’m doing something bad.  This is due to the fact that admittedly I’ve done a lot of, “shady,” things while listening to these tunes.  To clarify, I’ve partied a lot to the Pixies.  For someone who has been proudly sober for five years these parties signify a lot of bad stuff…oh ok, and some serious fun too.  Despite the fact that many of my memories from this time are pretty murky, I clearly recall what was usually playing on the stereo.  I probably should since I was the one demanding to hear it.
   Ironically there’s just something so intoxicating about the music of the Pixies.  Drunk or sober one can’t help but feel slightly out of control while listening to these songs.  An audience is given merely a glimmer of what they’re in for during the album, “Come On Pilgrim,” with the opening track, “Caribou.”  During this song a listener is introduced to vocalist Black Francis’ rather unsettling voice.  Through its’ frequent ragged breaks a tension is clearly evident.   This is despite the fact that lyrically one can’t understand a word this man is singing.  Finally, he hauntingly wails the one word a listener can clearly understand.  “Caribou…” Francis sings, leaving this blogger still mystified by what this song could possibly mean.  
   The theme of ambiguity continues with songs like, “Vamos,” and, “Isla De Encanta,” both of which are recited in what seems like an anarchist’s hybrid of Spanish and English.  If I didn’t know better I’d say the Pixies were actually just screaming nonsense to abstract guitar riffs. However, upon looking up the translation of these songs I learned that, “Isla De Encanta,” means island of enchantment or love.  During this particular song Black Francis gives his signature tortured scream in between verses stating, “Island of Enchantment I’m leaving!”  Despite the fact that this vocalist’s sound always seems so out of control he’s about to physically jump off a ledge, his lyrics indicate that this chaos is actually planned.
   Later this album introduces the song, “Ed Is Dead.”  While I appreciate transcendent guitar playing paired with anthem type background vocals, I have to attribute the success of a song like, “Ed Is Dead,” to the lead vocals.  Here Black Francis musters some seriously unhinged, “AYAYAYAY’S,” that transform his otherwise effeminate voice to something similar to a yipping rabid dog.  Here again, due to ambiguous lyrics, a listener can’t be sure why, “Ed Is Dead.”   However, after hearing Black Francis’ crazed screams, an individual sure as hell believes that, “Ed,” is never coming back. 
   The second side of the album, “Come On Pilgrim,” is a little more accessible to the average listener.  The instrumental arrangements of songs like, “The Holiday Song,” and, “Nimrod’s Son,” are reminiscent of early surf music…with questionable topics of morality…and some foul language.  Just think of it like this….surfing is something that seems out of human control.  The Pixies also seem out of control and their music often makes me feel like I’m drunk.  As a result the album, “Come On Pilgrim,” makes me want to get super trashed and hop on a surf board.  Of course, this would most likely result in my death by drowning.  I have no doubt that Black Francis would pervert the whole incident by shrieking that this was the whole plan from the beginning.
   Lastly, if I were to be ill advised by this deranged music and hit the waves with half my senses I wouldn’t have to worry about death.  As my favorite song on this album states, someone will surely be there to, “Levitate Me.”  During this piece Francis whines, “Come on pilgrim  You know he loves you  Levitate me  Higher Place  Levitate Me.”  It’s hard for this listener not to attach religious connotations to this song.  In fact, this blogger finds it impossible to reach the end of, “Come On Pilgrim,” and not experience something slightly spiritual.  When I listen to this record I can’t help but envision something in between a daydream and a nightmare.  I see myself diving right into this music in pursuit of the Isla De Encanta.  Suddenly I realize I can’t swim!  I end up flailing around in filthy surroundings all the while screaming, choking, and drooling.  I’m physically and emotionally exhausted from trying to save myself and finally when I think I will never regain control again someone is there to, “Levitate Me.”  Huh, when one really considers it listening to the Pixies is exactly like being drunk.  No wonder I crave them so much.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

"Beauty And The Beat"

The Go-Go’s:  “Beauty And The Beat”
Secondhand Vinyl Album (Purchased at Last Stop CD Shop, Sioux Falls, SD)
Original Release Date:  1981 A&M Records Inc.
My Rating:  (4 Stars)

Side 1
Our Lips Are Sealed
How Much More
Lust To Love
This Town

Side 2
We Got The Beat
Fading Fast
You Can’t Walk In Your Sleep (If You Can’t Sleep)
Skidmarks On My Heart
Can’t Stop The World

   To begin, I can confidently state that from the first note of The Go-Go’s album, “Beauty And The Beat,” this blogger was certain she had time warped back to the most fun party of 1981.  The key word in that last sentence is, “fun,” because that’s exactly the perfect description of these lawless ladies.  Even before actually hearing this record, I found myself lured by its’ feminine wiles.  Its’ promiscuous cover art combined with an, "Oh, so girly," pink album jacket made only one statement to this blogger.  “I may not be smart, but I’m going to be a good time,” it seemed to be saying.  Who can resist seduction like that?
   Instantly as promised, this album begins with the lighthearted classic, “Our Lips Are Sealed.”  Here lead vocalist, Belinda Carlisle, laments about the burdens of being the center of gossip.  Of course, a song like this merely sparks more interest in the rumors.  A listener finds themselves humming along to lyrics like, “Can you hear them  Talk about us  Telling lies  Well that’s no surprise,” and they start to wonder, "What are the scantily clad women on this album cover up too?"  Admittedly, the only answer this blogger could come up with was, "Obviously a good time." Through pure pop prose these women coolly shrug it all off by singing, “It doesn’t matter what they say  In the jealous games people play  Our lips are sealed.”  To which all I could think was, “Ho-hum, nobody ever talks about me anymore.”
   Later in the album the party vibe continues with another mega hit, “We Got The Beat.”   Here, more than ever, The Go-Go’s start to resemble the ultimate girl gang.  A listener is bombarded by an absolutely irresistible combination of upbeat tempo and repetitive lyrics that leave a person begging to join the club.  During this song, I couldn’t help but feel like the nerdy girl who stays home on Saturday nights.  I found myself listening to these ultra-cool chicks and wanted to assure them, “Hey, I got the beat too.  No really, I do!”
   Admittedly, the second side of, “Beauty And The Beat,” does have some weaker moments.  However, these are quickly overshadowed by the stronger pieces on the album.  Highlights from this record include songs like, “Fading Fast,” and, “Skidmarks On My Heart.”  Here The Go-Go’s seem to channel the girl groups of the past.  Despite an obvious lack of literary lingo, these songs possess the kind of charming metaphorical lyrics that were present in the music of the 1950's.  During, “Skidmarks On My Heart,” the band declares, “Skidmarks on my heart  You’ve got me in fifth  You’re burning rubber like my love.”  This blogger was amazed to realize these ridiculous lyrics actually became seriously likable when combined with a surf type musical arrangement.  Likewise, during, “Fading Fast,” mediocre lyrics are combined with irresistible background vocals that inevitably give this song a retro feel.  As a result, if I were asked to compare The Go-Go’s to any other band I would probably state they’re most like The Ramones.  Not only do these ladies heartily accomplish a pop punk feel, they also give a respectful nod to the music of the past. I'm embarrassed to admit I thought The Ramones were the only punk band giving props to doo wop. 
   Finally, my favorite song on the album, “Beauty And The Beat,” is,“Lust To Love.”  I believe it sums up my feelings towards this record the best.  Carlisle sings, “Lust to love  Was the last thing I was dreaming of  And now all I want is just to love  Lust turned to love.”  During these lyrics all I can think of is how I almost didn’t buy this album when I saw it at the record store.  “The Go-Go’s,” I thought.  “Were they ever really that cool?”  While pondering this, I turned the album over in my hands and noticed, in tiny print, a thank you message written by the band acknowledging the groups Madness and The Specials.  “Wait, they were always super cool!” I instantly thought.  Suddenly, my girly guilty pleasure transformed to true love.  An all-girl pop punk band that writes tunes worthy of The Ramones.  How did these women get so cool?  I guess it’s fairly clear that we’ll never know, because as the Go-Go’s always said, “Our lips are sealed.”

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

"Teaser And The Firecat"

Cat Stevens:  “Teaser And The Firecat”
Secondhand Vinyl Album:  (Puchased at Ernie November, Sioux Falls, SD)
Original Release Date:  1971 A&M Records

Side 1
The Wind
If I Laugh
Changes IV
How Can I Tell You

Side 2
Tuesday’s Dead
Morning Has Broken
Peace Train

   To begin, I feel it’s necessary to confess that I may not be the most impartial person to review a Cat Stevens album.  Basically, I want to fess up to the fact that every time I listen to a record by this artist I get all gooey inside and find myself eventually morphing into one big emotional pile…of love…and hope…and even sadness.  However, Cat’s music has a way of making one feel extremely peaceful toward any emotion he may ignite in a listener.  Actually, this blogger is willing to wager that spreading the feeling of inner harmony was always the end goal for such an introspective artist.  This last statement reminds me that my brother once confessed he had spent an entire afternoon listening to the music of Cat Stevens.  As a result, he stated that he was, “So damn happy he just wanted to find something to punch.”  This statement stuck with me.  I eventually constructed the hypothesis that listening to a Cat Stevens record is like taking anxiety medication.  It immediately forces a listener to calm down despite any present tension.  It just makes sense that certain individuals may experience a feeling similar to panic as a result of just how comfortable they can become.  In other words, happiness does not come easily to all of us.
   This being said, from the sounds emanating from my turntable these last two weeks I can confidently state that the artist, Cat Stevens, makes the topic of joy seem effortless.  I can’t think of better proof of this statement than the opening lyrics of the album’s first song.  During, “The Wind,” our singer proclaims, “I listen to the wind, to the wind of my soul.”  It’s my opinion that this one lyric sums up the entire feel of the record, “Teaser And The Firecat.”  So, if you happen to be one of those people who hear this type of thing and think, “Nah, I’m not game for that hippie shit,” walk away.  Seriously, just walk away now.  However, if you thrive under the spell of mysterious songwriter types who tackle weighty topics like spirituality through the simplicity of acoustic guitar, then hold on to your undoubtedly patchouli soaked hat because you’re about to meet the king of this genre. 
   Significant highlights during the album, “Teaser And The Firecat,” include the song, “If I Laugh.”  During this piece a listener is reminded that this artist’s enormous talent is not only evident in his guitar playing, but also his singing.  I found myself surprised to realize that the strongest part of this particular song was not while Cat was actually reciting his lyrics.  Instead I favored the spaces in between.  Here, the artist filled lyrical voids with some rather impromptu sounding, “da, da, da, da, da, dasss…” that possessed enough casual grace to actually spotlight this song.    In this blogger’s opinion, not every artist can hum a little tune and make it sound legitimately passionate. 
   Later in the album the song, “Morning Has Broken,” takes the topic of passion to a new level by introducing the theme of spirituality.  The thing I appreciate most about Cat Stevens’ obvious loyalty to his faith is his ability to make it accessible to an individual belonging to any denomination.  During this song it becomes clear that Cat believes God can be found all around a person, especially in aspects of nature.  He sings, “Morning has broken, like the first morning.  Blackbird has spoken, like the first bird.”  While listening to Stevens’ joyous prose, accompanied by crystal clear piano, this blogger couldn’t help but acknowledge the beauty all around her.  I too began to contemplate who may be responsible for the wondrous things in the universe.  What did I tell you folks?, “hippie shit.”
   In addition, hints of introspection continue throughout this album’s duration.  Classic songs like, “Moonshadow,” and, “Peace Train,” concentrate on themes similar to spirituality.  These topics often regard the idea of finding beauty in the unexpected.  A solid example of this can be found during, “Moonshadow,” where almost ominous lyrics create a kind of fable that eventually transforms into the simple lesson that there’s a good side to every situation.  Likewise, the song, “Peace Train,” tells a similar story.  Here Stevens’ lyrics concentrate not only on the sadness of, “the world as it is,” but also the joy of, “good things to come.”  No matter what way Cat Stevens tosses it, one can’t help but feel like this coin is going to land face up.
   Lastly, my favorite song on the album, “Teaser And The Firecat,” is, “How Can I Tell You.”  Much like the first song on the album, this song expresses great beauty through total simplicity.  To clarify, a casual listener may interpret the lyrics of this song as nothing special.  However, it’s this blogger’s opinion that these lyrics possess the honesty of someone having a private conversation with another individual.  It’s this honesty that reflects a feeling of true love.  I guess when it comes down to it, I seriously suspect Cat Stevens was in love when he originally sang this song.  In fact, to expand on this statement, I really believe this artist praises the morning.  I believe he listens to the wind of his soul, and he still waits to catch the peace train…and you know what, this hippie can’t quit smiling about all of it.