Key To Music Grades

A - You will never be whole without it
B - Highly recommended
C - Flawed, but still pretty good
D - It's your money, not mine
F - Why couldn't this have been burned in Fahrenheit 451?

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Blue Öyster Cult - Secret Treaties (1974)

Let's get some things out of the way first; some of this will be generally repetitive, but I feel the need to reassert myself. 1) I love Buck Dharma. Even in songs that I tepidly wave my meh scepter at, I totally dig his guitar-work. 2) BOC lyrics are fucking stupid. Like Pete Sinfield or Bernie Taupin, Sandy Pearlman is a poet (cough, cough) and poets love to relish; therefore 3) poor Eric Bloom, who was tasked with singing this poetry; it's in his sincerity that I find him annoying.

That said, let's begin. I've set the bar mighty low, haven't I? Fortunately, this is probably BOC's most cohesive album. When I say there aren't any bad songs, it's because there really aren't any. Despite stupid titles like "Career Of Evil," Subhuman" and "Dominance And Submission," the album is pretty solid. Sure, the harmonies and textures are still a bit odd, but that's BOC. What should really get you ramped up, though, is the album's final three tracks. The tasty opening riffage of "Harvester Of Eyes," the manic flailing (and abrupt ending) of "Flaming Telepaths" and the grandiloquence of "Astronomy" are the main reasons I come back for refills, but there's so much more to them than that. I wish they were streamlined into one long epic song, really, but I suppose sometimes it's more feasible to eat a slice rather than a whole pie. Oh well. I know people know their hits, but hits sometimes are just shining beacons on otherwise incredibly dross albums. With this one, you won't skip a track. Just taste the tastiness already, because Buck Dharma's gonna git you wit it. B

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

King Crimson - Three Of A Perfect Pair (1984)

I thought perhaps of writing a review in consideration of the holidays, but since I'm not technically writing this anywhere near Christmas and I'm becoming a bit weary of this business, I'm going to simply say nasty clever things about a band I actually like. Or try to. The man and his kingdom of poo will undoubtedly put up a spirited defense in my absence and so I will parry in advance by saying: duh!

Here's a bit of curlicue logic, so follow me: Fripp never intended to reform KC and had instead formed a band to be called Discipline, which resulted instead in Fripp realizing he had merely reformed KC and they thereunto released the excellent Discipline as KC, circa 1981. Discipline was a dizzying amalgam of tautly conceived tunes featuring lovely arpeggios, delicious bass blurblings and the odd vocal croonings of Adrian Belew. Ever drank powdered Gatorade? When I was in Iraq I used to mix powdered Gatorade into a water bottle particularly because I became disgusted with plain water. Well, sometimes I would be in the unenviable position of drinking most of it and having additional water available, but no extra powder. So what I would do is pour a little bit of water from one bottle into the one I had, hoping to get more bang for my buck. Invariably, it tasted a little less sweet, but was still more bearable than plain water. Still having no access to powder, I would pour just a touch more water into the bottle. The result of my gambling? Colored water. Yuck.

So if you want to listen to Three Of A Perfect Pair, you will be drinking colored water -- a thoroughly diluted mutation of an original with barely any trace of what tasted so good about it in the first place. I obviously won't go more into why Discipline was so good, because that's another review, but be aware that, as my additional aside, Beat (1982), is the equivalent of slightly less sweet admixture before it became ruined. There. F

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Ella Fitzgerald - Ella In Berlin: Mack The Knife (1960)

I love scat. It tastes great in tea, looks good atop antique furniture and is extremely amusing when practicing pivot points from G Major to A minor. Most of all, it's best when it comes from the great Ella Fitzgerald, one of my favorite singers of any genre. And if there's anything Ella can do, it's scat. Mid-tempo scat, improvisational scat -- hell, Ella is like the Eddie Van Halen of scat; she can do it without looking like she's exerting any kind of effort, and that's simply unheard of for some people. Can you imagine if she tried "Eruption?"

So why so much ado about this live performance? Well, cutting aside the numerous applause tracks, this is a fairly solid collection of some of Ella's most known songs and includes one of the most memorable renditions of "Mack The Knife," in which Ella completely forgets the words and must improvise on the spot with some amusing filler, notwithstanding her subsequent spot-on imitation of 'ol Satchmo. I mean, wowzas. Also of particular interest is "How High The Moon" -- possibly featuring the best scat solo ever and with some additional improvised melodic renderings. This is not to say you should listen to it just for the scat; Ella's versions of "Just One Of Those Things" and "The Lady Is A Tramp" focus more on Ella's vocal interpretations than her ability to form wordless strings of syllables. And for that, I suggest you listen to them, especially if you happen to be one of those jazz snobs who feel scat has no place in real jazz. I mean, really, fuck you. B-

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Queen - Sheer Heart Attack (1974)

I think Jazz is probably Queen's best album, but I think this one more purely exemplifies the diversity of their total sound, and that's why I chose it instead. Perhaps I will review Jazz after this in my frenzied quest to supply you with sustenance in the months ahead while suffering from lack of hatter. Funny, you probably won't be reading this until well after it's been written. Therefore, I am speaking to myself presently, but to an unknown audience in the future who may clap or boo me long after I've fallen below the proscenium. How's that for metafiction, sweetums?

"Brighton Rock" is a fucking doozy. A helluva way to start an album: Freddie's in high register, Brian wants to kick your face in with his Red Special; and oh, I love those harmonic group choruses. "Killer Queen" is another great tune naturally from Paris, guaranteed to blow your mind. Brian's guitar is spot-on again -- I mean, but when isn't it? It's especially tasty here, though, in my humblest of humbles. Additionally, no Queen record can do without their signature pomp track -- you know, camp in not so much its highest form, but perhaps in its nascent state; and that song is "Bring Back That Leroy Brown." Vintage, baby! "Tenement Funster" is another great track; if memory serves, it's Brian who's doing some not-too-shabby vocal duties. Most of the album is otherwise pretty solid, although there are a few weaknesses -- "In The Lap Of The Gods," "She Makes Me (Stormtrooper In Stilettos)," "Dear Friends." Oh damn, I almost forgot "Stone Cold Crazy." Is not that proto-metal at its finest? Rubber tommy water guns and overlapping guitar solos like snakes coils. Lovely stuff. B+

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Nirvana - In Utero (1993)

Not that I buy into the whole Cobain mythical genius bullshit, but let's use this album as an example, or evidence if you will, of the emperor's brilliance. That being the case, not only does the emperor have no clothes, but his subjects are stoned out of their fucking minds. This -- a great album? By what measurement on whose yardstick? I find it hard to stomach that a mediocre garage rock album such as this is hoisted so high. Oh and I've no beef bouillon with garage rock, but I do with this fairly unremarkable tripe. Sure, sure, "Dumb" is a great song. I enjoy the living piss out of it. I love "Very Ape." I like "Heart-Shaped Box" and "Rape Me" and even "All Apologies," which I felt was overplayed like hell in 1993. But these are more or less average tunes at best, even what I would consider weak tunes for Nirvana. Great album? Hey Seattle! Over here! Yeah, over here! You fuckers had nothing better to do during the constant rain than to be proud of something. Yes, I know you have a lot to be sorry for -- Pearl Jam, the Mariners -- but come on! This is not that good! In all seriousness, thusly: Nevermind or Incesticide are better albums, period; Cobain is not a great guitarist, as many will tell you; and lastly, Grohl's Foo Fighters have beaten hindsight to the punch by clearly being the better band, and that's not really saying much. C