Thursday, 29 November 2012

The Bryan Ferry Orchestra - The Jazz Age - Review



Bryan Ferry has been recording covers of classic 1920's+ songs way before it became fashion in the past few years. His cover versions are never cheap knock-offs, so it's no surprise his newest project which goes into an entirely opposite direction (or does it), is indeed not the complete disaster it could have easily been. It's obvious it was made in good taste, with love and with a portion of subtle humour.

But then this is Bryan Ferry, so I was actually never really worried about this project. Bryan has shown his appreciation and feel for the 20's - 50's pop music over several decades now, therefore him deciding to rework his own compositions, hits as well as as a few lesser known songs, as 20's jazz instrumentals seemed kind of logical and almost obvious.

Most of the album works just brilliantly. Love Is The Drug works well as the original hit as it does as a jazz instrumental, and you can still hear the song in it. In some cases the new arrangements are even improvements on the originals - Avalon is a case in point (my personal taste here...Avalon is my least favourite Roxy Music album).

The whole album is a joy, it just brings a giant smile on my face and keeps it there for its whole 37 minute duration. It's not easy, picking a few highlights on this sort of cohesive instrumental project, but apart from the aforementioned Love Is The Drug and Avalon, I could mention I Thought or Virginia Plain. I Thought in particular is an absolute delight. I had no idea I could love another version of this song as much as I do the studio version of it which is featured on Frantic. Its upbeat rearrangement is in such a stark contrast to the melancholy of the original it's amusing, but it just works so well.

Admittedly, this album is not for everyone. An appreciation for pre-50's music is probably required, as well as being familiar with the Bryan Ferry songbook, which allows you to appreciate the record in all its sometimes hilarious yet tasteful glory.

For me this is hands down one of the best albums of 2012. In a year of underwhelming albums and an overwhelming doom and gloom mood, The Jazz Age brings joy, laughs and good music. I'll be damned if I don't take this witty little retro record over 80% of this year's releases.


Friday, 23 November 2012

My Musical Diary XXXIX

Apart from Little Mix's debut album and a bit of Iggy & Lana I haven't been listening to much else this week. I did watch some interesting stuff though (this amazing Bowie tribute video for one) and the infamous Give My Regards to Broad Street, a Paul McCartney-written music film. Here we go then:

Little Mix - We Are Who We Are



Little Mix released their debut album this past Monday and I've been listening to it a lot. I do like most of it and hope to review it over the weekend here on my blog. We Are Who We Are was one of the instant stand-outs for me...it's a nice piece of optimistic pop. My brain tells me it's not exactly the smartest thing ever written and recorded but my ears and heart don't care.

Paul McCartney - Eleanor's Dream



Finally got the chance to watch Give My Regards to Broad Street in full a few days ago and once I accepted it wasn't a proper film or a proper musical, I actually enjoyed quite a lot of it. My favourite part was Eleanor's Dream, featuring historical costumes and some nice score music which used elements from Eleanor Rigby. I'd seen bits of this sequence before and always thought the visuals were beautiful, the colours very painting-y, and was curious about the context of it in the film. Well, I'm none the wiser after seeing the film. But it looked and sounded pretty. Success.

The video that I chose here starts right with my favourite motif of this piece, which repeats throughout the whole sequence.

David Bowie - Space Oddity



Finally got to the release of Bowie's second album in my Any Day Now book and as everyone knows, Space Oddity was Bowie's first proper hit (reached no. 5 in November 1969) but I haven't given it my love here yet. Apart from Heathen's songs, Space Oddity was one of the first Bowie songs I ever heard a decade ago, while discovering his music for the first time. While I had to find my way to most of his other songs, I connected to this one right on the first listen. I understood its musical language and I immediately made up my own story on top of the song's. It was the first Bowie song that I truly loved.

The girl who grew up reading about Space and who later, once she already figured out she wouldn't become an astronaut because she was shitty at maths, spent many an evening reading Ray Bradbury's short stories, knew after she finished listening to Space Oddity for the first time, that Bowie was going to stay in her life. And he did.

Here's an earlier version of the song, recorded for the Love You Till Tuesday promotional film. The video is cute but I put it here because I have soft spot for this first version of Space Oddity. It's less fancy than the famous version but it features some nice vocal harmonies and a flute.



Iggy Pop - Dum Dum Boys



This song combines the industrial Berlin influences (and Bowie influences) with the hypnotic sound of The Stooges first record's We Will Fall. You look at the duration of the song and go...that's a bit too long! But the song grabs you and doesn't let you go until the very end. People like me don't need drugs, Iggy's enough.

Lana Del Rey - Gods and Monsters



In the land of gods and monsters, I was an angel,
Looking to get fucked hard.

Now, top these lyrics.



video bonus:

Robbie Williams - Different

I hate the song, more or less, but the video is quite good.





Thanks for reading and come back next week for more of my blabbings about my favourite songs.

Till then....

Love, Peace and Ringo! x

Saturday, 17 November 2012

My Musical Diary XXXVIII



Musically, the past week existed for me in the name of Bryan Ferry & Lana Del Rey. So no surprise they appear in my top 5 songs this week. Here we go!

Bryan Ferry - These Foolish Things



Been listening to Bryan a lot this week - and coincidentally he has a new album out very soon - and since These Foolish Things is one of my favourite albums of his (this guy know how to cover someone else's song & often times even improve on it), I ended up listening to this song a few times. It then got completely stuck in my head for several days and I didn't really mind. He delivers it very, very well (I love the fact he uses an English accent, not a mid-Atlantic one). And looks hot while delivering it, too, as the above video shows...

Lana Del Rey - Bel Air



And from one unique vocalist with great looks we move on to the next one. Lana released The Paradise Edition of her debut album Born to Die this week and all of the new songs on it are really good. Bel Air though, is a special, eerie one. It could even be a Kate Bush song, it does have the Kate quality to it. The piano in the verses, the angelic vocals in the chorus... Amazing.

Little Mix - Going Nowhere



And here is my favourite new girlband. Their new album comes out on Monday (at least in the UK...I hope here soon as well) and one of songs on it was co-written by my dear Nicola Roberts. I can totally hear her in this song (esp. in the lyrics) but at the same time the production retains Little Mix's own throwback sound (whereas Nicola is more of a sonic visionary). A pretty good song. Looking forward to the album.

Michaela Paige/Neon Trees - Everybody Talks





I discovered this song last week thanks to one of my favourite contestants on The Voice US who, sadly and mindbogglingly, got eliminated too soon. Since I can't buy the contestants' versions of songs on iTunes, I at least bought the original. I feel kind of bad I didn't listen to this band before, because I knew about them thanks to The Killers who championed them a few years ago and who also had them as a support act on one of their tours. I don't like the band's frontman's voice as much as I like Michaela's but it's a good song either way.

Bryan Ferry - Sign of the Times



Bryan's own song, released in 1978. A response of sorts, to the punk rock movement (and probably also to Jerry Hall leaving him for Mick Jagger). I wonder what he was on when he wrote this one, and especially when he recorded the vocal. And it doesn't end there. The video is another big WTF. The beard, the eagle. What on earth?? But I love the absurdity of it all.



Thanks for reading guys........see ya next week! (Share & comment if you want etc.)

Peace, Love and Ringo! x


Saturday, 10 November 2012

Robbie Williams - Take The Crown (Deluxe edition) - REVIEW



Robbie is back!

With a new album as well as on the very top of the UK singles chart. Even though his album reunion with Take That was a critical as well as commercial success, it's nice to see him releasing new solo material again.

Recently I've realised he's pretty much the only male mainstream solo artist that I listen to - and have listened to for over a decade. Unlike say Adam Lambert or MIKA, his vocal style is quite relaxed (e.g. he doesn't produce sounds only audible to dogs) and the number of popular music genres he sings is even broader than the fusion of styles in the aforementioned singers' output. But at the same time, the biggest quirks in his discography are electro-pop sounds and rapping about his childhood - stuff that both my classic rock loving friend and my pretty songs loving mum can digest easily.

He earned my respect with his Royal Albert Hall concert (hearing him sing My Way live was the moment I stopped thinking of him as that twat who sheds his skin and probably can't sing live) and once I started to properly listen to Pet Shop Boys (which coincided with Robbie's decision to go more electronic) I've become a fan.

That all being said...I was at first very excited about the new album. Then I heard a few samples on iTunes and was a bit underwhelmed, which in turn made me initially very positively surprised when I finally bought the album this week and gave it several proper listens. Let's break the album down song by song:

Be A Boy: One of the few songs on the album that are memorable right on first listen. Initially it's for the wrong reasons (the backing vocals are reminiscent of Use Somebody's backing vocal hook) but the more it's played the more the song grows on the listener and grips them with an arrangement which would sit comfortably on either of Robbie's previous albums. And then there are the lyrics about coming of age in several ways. One of my very favourites on the album.

They said it was leaving me
The magic was leaving me
I don’t think so
I don’t think so

They said it was leaving
They said it with joy
Now I could make this last forever
And be a boy, and be a boy


Gospel: A real grower. Fell in love with it when listening to it for the third time. For some reason the word that keeps popping up in my mind is "sweet" - but not in a schmaltzy way. In a mature, subtle sort of way. It's entirely possible at least part of the song is about Rob remembering his teenage masturbating-in-his-room days but it could just be me projecting stuff...

Candy: Sweet, silly Candy. This song is so catchy, so naturally it made it to the very top of the UK charts. I love dancing like a loon to it when it comes on the radio (and it's VERY popular in my country), I love singing along those "hey ho"s. It's a feel good silliness and it's not supposed to be deep, so I take it as such. Will it ever feature on a potential My Fave Robbie Songs list? Nope.

Different: The future second single. On first listen it left me completely underwhelmed. I even joked it was the Gary Barlow Ballad Effect. I completely tuned out while listening to it for the second time. The thing is, the verses are quite good, including the solid lyrics but once the bridge comes the song kind of dissolves and the chorus is 100% pure Barlow at his worst, including incredibly cliché lyrics. (For the record I do like some of Gary-written ballads and mid-tempos. This one is not it.) I personally hate the chorus and as a result 70% of the song. It's a shame (no pun intended) but it doesn't mean it won't be a hit. I really really dislike Take That's Rule The World - and it's one of their biggest hits in the UK...

Shit on the Radio: Not a song I would skip while listening to the album but at the same time the song's not exactly very...interesting. Average unobtrusive uptempo pop song.

All That I Want: A late 70's Roxy Music vibe combined with vocals reminiscent of crooney Iggy Pop or David Bowie...and all that wrapped in an 80's new wave-ish pop production. It actually works really well and it's one of my favourite songs on the album.

Hunting for You: This song has a kind of indie folk-pop vibe. The sort that is pretty popular these days but I couldn't name one artist playing it...fun. maybe? I quite like the song but I suppose I wouldn't buy it if it weren't Robbie's.

You could waste away in fashion
When you chase
The daylight home

Into the Silence: A ballad/mid-tempo song which is far superior to Different. Its lyrics are not sucky for one. Still, I don't exactly love this song, it's a wee bit too overproduced.

When karma reaches you
I wanna be there 
to catch that fall
Get down beside you 
and watch you crawl


Hey Wow Yeah Yeah: The note I made while listening to this song for the first time reads "Kylie's Timebomb on testosterone". I suppose that pretty much sums this one up. The liveliest, rockiest song on the album.

Not Like The Others: This one would fit on any pre-Rudebox album. An easily approachable rock song. It could easily be a crowd-pleaser on Robbie's stadium-sized gigs. A jumping, fist-pumping opportunity.

Underneath the covers
You and I are not like the others

Losers: A natural progression of sincere guitar ballads such as Misunderstood, Make Me Pure or Better Man. While in Make Me Pure Robbie adds but not yet, here he is all grown up and over it. Lissie, an American folk-rock singer songwriter duets with Robbie on this one and they sound good together.

Don't care about being a winner
Or being smooth with women
Or going out on Fridays
Being the life of parties
Don't care about being harder
Or being Daddy's favourite
Or if you think I'm a mimic
Or if I am a loser

Reverse: This poor little song is not exactly memorable. I suppose it will grow on me at some point, because it's not a bad song, or even a boring song. Most likely it suffers from being placed where it is on the album. Reverse actually reminds me of the stuff on The Killers' recent album Battleborn. Which could explain why it's not exactly memorable. ... Oh well.

Eight Letters: We already know this one from Take That's Progress, where it also was the official closing track. Take That's version is sung by Gary Barlow, who is a more proper and more pretty-sounding vocalist, but being a Robbie fan of sorts I obviously prefer Robbie's singing, therefore I like this version better than the original. And it's not only because of the vocal, the arrangement and production of this version are more organic sounding (and not dissimilar to the sound of Kylie Minogue's Abbey Road Sessions album).



What is the final verdict then?
Take The Crown is Robbie trying to get back on the top of the charts and so far he's been successful with that goal. Mainly thanks to Candy, which sounds nothing like the rest of the album though. The album itself is a less obvious brand of pop - a fusion of his classic brit-pop sound and his more recent electro/synth-pop leanings, and this mix works pretty well, actually. But the album also has one big flaw...it doesn't exactly grab you right on the first listen and many of the songs need to be listened to several times for one to get hooked on them. This could be a problem, it being presented as big pop album and all. But the quality is there. With each listen I find another favourite and that rarely happens to me with a new pop album.

Take The Crown is a success, if a less obvious one.

Friday, 9 November 2012

My Musical Diary XXXVII

Another Friday, another Diary... Enjoy!

Robbie Williams - Be A Boy






The opening track of Robbie's brand new album Take the Crown is a fast grower and makes a fitting bridge between Robbie's previous album. At this moment my favourite new Robbie song. More about those in my upcoming review of the album.

They said it was leaving me
The magic was leaving me
I don’t think so
I don’t think so

They said it was leaving
They said it with joy
Now I could make this last forever
And be a boy, and be a boy


Kylie Minogue - Can't Get You Out of My Head

The Abbey Road Sessions, an album with reworked versions of Kylie's hits, came out the previous week and it's actually quite amazing. The new arrangements make me like songs that I wasn't previously so keen on as well as even improve on some of my Kylie favourites. Can't Get You Out of My Head is the latter case. The original is pretty much a perfect pop song, but the new version adds an orchestra and injects new drama into this song. Like this it would work perfectly as a Bond song, for instance. But the whole album is a treat. Definitely a recommended listen!

Enjoy a live version of this arrangement:



Christina Aguilera - Just A Fool (feat. Blake Shelton)



(song starts at 1:08, but watch the introduction too :) )

Xtina is going to have a new album (Lotus) out soon as well and she's previewing some of the tracks on her YouTube channel. If you feel like it, check all of them out. It's shaping up to be a pretty good pop album, in my opinion.

My favourite from these songs is a duet with her fellow coach on The Voice, CMA Entertainer of the Year and one of the most successful American country singers of today, Blake Shelton. I didn't know Blake prior to The Voice but he sure has become one of my favourite TV personalities. I'm still not familiar with his music (though I own a few of his wife's songs...his wife = Miranda Lambert), so I don't quite know how this song compares to his usual stuff. Country music today is very pop-oriented - I'd never guess Taylor Swift was a country artist, for instance - so I guess Just A Fool would fit comfortably in a pop-country artist's discography. Both Christina and Blake sound great on this song, it's the sort of power pop Kelly Clarkson does...it sounds like an actual meaty song, not some thrown together dance fluff, but it still could be a big hit, in the US, as well as here.

Sparks - This Town Ain't Big Enough For the Both of Us



Apart from Robbie and Kylie's new albums I wasn't really listening to much else last week, and because both albums are all good mature pop, I got a craving for something batshit crazy. And this song immediately popped into my mind. So I finally bought it on iTunes a few days ago and keep enjoying this nutty amazingness...

David Bowie - When I Live My Dream



One of the songs featured on Bowie's very first album, released in 1967 (on the 1st June, the same day The Beatles' Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band album came out). Even though there are many weird-ish songs on it, to my ears Bowie is most successful at straight 60's pop tracks such as this one.

I'm in the process of reading a book on Bowie's early years called Any Day Now: The London Years and I finally arrived into the period in which Bowie started his solo recording career. I have a soft spot for his two 60's albums, plus since I read about the first album in the book two days I ago I've had this little ditty stuck in my head. Through all the weirdness and ever-changing quality of his career and musical output, this man always knew how to write an ear worm...

Here's a video (taken from a promotional film, called Love You Till Tuesday, which was released in 1969, the version of the song is different to the original album version embedded above). Even though David was wearing a hideous wig here, he's still darn cute. Also, his first serious girlfriend, Hermione, appears in the video.



Video bonus:

Amanda Palmer & the Grand Theft Orchestra - Do It With A Rockstar

This video's just come out and, obviously, I love it. Even though I hope my mum won't walk up on me when I watch it. There's nudity. And sex. Duh! The song's called Do It With A Rockstar after all. The best part of the video is the very end, in which one of my very favourite cool people on the planet, Jherek Bischoff, the bass player in the Grand Theft Orchestra, reveals his preference in bed companions...



By the way, I did see Amanda and the band live last Monday and loved it. Thought I would write a blog, alas didn't...what could I write after all? If you can, go see them play live, because they are GREAT. Especially Jherek. Hawk.

Thanks for reading, share...comment etc....and till next week...

Love, Peace and Ringo! x

Saturday, 3 November 2012

My Musical Diary XXXVI

Hola! Sorry about the lack of blog yesterday. My fingers had an encounter with super glue (which is in no way super, it's just useless shite). Here are my five songs of the past week - hope you'll enjoy them, as well as my blabbings.




Chavela Vargas - La Llorona



Featuring this song has been inspired by an episode of Grimm, a TV show I've grown fond of in the past year. The show's Halloween episode worked the Mexican tale of la Llorona into its narrative and it immediately reminded me of the soundtrack to one of my favourite films - Frida, a 10 year old biopic about the painter Frida Kahlo. The soundtrack features two versions of the Mexican folk song telling the tale of la Llorona, a Weeping Woman - essentially a ghost with whom Mexican parents scare kids into sleep. One of these versions is sung by Chavela Vargas, a Mexican singer who, after coming out at the age 81, claimed she had an affair with Frida herself. Vargas sadly passed away a few months ago but she was performing and recording well into her 90's.

I love Vargas's version of this song. It makes me understand the sad tale of la Lorona even though I don't understand Spanish. Padro Almódovar reportedly called Vargas "the rough voice of tenderness", which is the best description of her style. I'm fascinated by her singing and I hope I'll have the opportunity to hear more.

As for the Frida soundtrack...definitely a recommended listen. The instrumentals by Elliot Goldenthal are amazing, and mix with the Mexican songs used in the film so very well. One of my favourite soundtrack albums ever.

And example of one of the instrumental pieces: The Floating Bed



And the closing, sung, track Burn It Blue, performed by Caetano Veloso & Lila Downs



I haven't yet managed to watch Frida without being in tears by the end, and I suspect the above song has a lot do with that...

Willie Nelson - Blue Skies



Even though I don't listen to country much, my favourite version of this 1926 Irving Berlin song is Willie Nelson's. Yes, I like it even more than the one by Star Trek TNG's late Lt. Cmdr. Data (aka Brent Spiner). It's a great song and a great version, which made it here mostly thanks to weather, BUT if I thought about these things, I'd quite fancy this as my funeral song. There you go.

Elton John - Someone Saved My Life Tonight



I watched the Elton 60 DVD box set with mum last weekend and it was fun seeing Elton and his band age through the years (mum: "The less hair he had the bigger sunglasses he wore.") and once again I was struck by the amazing talent that Elton has. Underneath the costumes, wigs, tiaras and drama, he is an amazing songwriter as well as performer. No-one can sing his songs better. Seeing Elton play an acoustic version of Sorry and Someone in 1976 is unforgettable. No showing off, no vocal acrobatics and still no other version of these songs can surpass the simplicity and genius of these performances.

Someone is probably my favourite Elton song. If you put a gun to my head and told me I had 10 seconds to name my favourite Elton song, this one would be it. Autobiographical (the brilliant lyrics written by his main songwriting partner Bernie Taupin), a dramatic and sweeping tune, it's one of Elton's most complete songs and one that doesn't get overplayed and over-covered too much, thankfully.

And it's one more beer
And I don't hear you anymore
We've all gone crazy lately
My friends out there rolling round the basement floor


...

It's four o'clock in the morning
Damn it listen to me good
I'm sleeping with myself tonight*
Saved in time, thank God my music's still alive


*the recorded version has "with myself" but as far as I know Elton always performed it as "by myself", which is kind of more boring but also more bleak

Tubeway Army - Are 'Friends' Electric?



Last Sunday, while watching the latest X Factor UK performances on YouTube I realised, thanks to Jade Ellis's performance of Sugababes' Freak (which uses a sample of Friends) that I haven't listened to Gary Numan in ages. And Friends is definitely a great song. For me probably the best he ever wrote, but then I'm not familiar with most of Numan's solo discography. It's almost chilling how appropriate the song sounds nowadays.

You know I hate to ask
But, are `friends’ electric?
Mine’s broke down
And now I’ve no one to love

Is it a plane? Is it a bird? Is it a dildo? Is it a robot? Is it a friend on Facebook?

This is one bleak, lonely song.

Amelia Lily -Shut Up (And Give Me Whatever You Got)



After all of the seriousness of the above choices, let's have a bit of fresh poppy pop. Poppy pop can be good for the soul. Amelia Lily has just unveiled her second single. I quite like it. I live for the "oooooo dooooo"s. They are the best part of the single. They are brilliant.




Video bonus:

The Killers - Miss Atomic Bomb



The Killers released this video for their newest single yesterday. It's a sweet tour video. And it features about two seconds of a shirtless Brandon Flowers . Sadly we can only see his back. Ronnie shows us a bit more though...



Thanks for reading! Share or comment if you wish and till next week...

Love, Peace and Ringo! x