Monaco / Music For Pleasure

Music for Pleasure

Monaco was a side project of New Order bassist Peter Hook. Together with David Potts, the only remaining member of Revenge, the band was formed in 1995. The group is best known for the 1997 single “What Do You Want From Me?” and the album from which it was taken, Music for Pleasure, which sold over half a million copies. Hook and Potts currently perform together in Peter Hook and The Light.

The Analysis—-

What Do You Want From Me?—-Of course, I have to admit that the entire reason I fell in love with this band was because it sounded like New Order. There was nothing new from the band and I took it as a substitute. But after numerous listens, you realize the genius of the band…the vocal harmonies, the incredible contagious hooks. The bass is there of course…but the pop fundamentals are incredible…this is a brilliant track…fitting in with the Brit-pop crowd with no problem.

Shine—-Literally, still after all of this time….this song still takes my breath away. At the time this was released….things going on in my life..I felt this track was written just for me. The Hook bass line is present but understated at times…the synth line is magical…the vocal a near Bernard copycat…this still can make me tear up…this is a magical moment for me. The emotional vocal delivery tears my heart out…wow!

Sweet Lips—-The intro to the track is an airy Dance Floor stomper complete with a female singer in the back drop taking things to an even higher level. The unity of voices come together to make it a quasi Gospel stomp through feel good dance floor music. Hook gives the baritone vocal while Potts keeps things light with his magical voice…and then it all comes together to make it a joyous  ‘Come To Jesus’ track that still makes me smile.

Buzz Gum—-The intro to the song sounds like a soundtrack and then becomes a huge Oasis sounding track that somehow manages to still give me goosebumps. The wall of sound is incredible..the Brit pop sound is in place…the feel of the 90’s is everywhere. This is the best song Oasis never sang. The instrumentation is fantastic…Potts sounds so comfortable…this is just wonderful. My God when that trumpet plays at the end…..I’m done!

Blue—-Incredibly beautiful strings open the track…followed by a miraculous lonely vocal from Potts that seems to dig right into my soul. The huge swells of music are just incredible…I sit back and wonder what history would have looked like if New Order had recorded these songs…it would have been historic. This is the saddest and most uplifting track I have heard in years…it reeks of emotion….sadness and the positive. Just a miracle.

Junk—-Not a favorite track of mine, but it fits on this release like a glove. When the synth line kicks in it gives the song a sense of purpose and you feel a bit energized. Hook and his bass line are always there…even if underneath everything that is going on. This is fantastic…I take back my earlier words. Hook has a way of playing bass like few have ever have….the melody is all formed by the deep tones…just incredible.

Billy Bones—-Introducing a slight Ambient sound, the track begins quite airy and atmospheric. Hook enters with his bass line and the Potts delivers a forlorn vocal that brings sadness and desperation to your ears. This is wonderful…placed in just the right spot to make you step back and think about things. I love this.

Happy Jack—–Easy guitar and an addictive bass line come together to produce everything that New Order were not at the time. Potts opens up his mouth and gives his best spot on Gallagher impersonation. For me, I wonder, why was this release not huge? This is a genius of an album. The melody line on this song is as brilliant as anything that was being produced at the time.

Tender—–A bit odd for me….the intro to the song did not catch at first…then the female vocal began and made me think of the other off-shoot band….The Other Two…..lol…always making comparisons right? This is pleasant…I like the feel of it…but it is not a song I turn to on a regular basis.

Sedona—-Swells of music, and the release ends as magically as it began. You can feel the anticipation building as you hear the track forming with the addition of sounds hear and there….when you get those first Hook strings you feel comfortable. The track becomes alive and makes me joyous once again….just in the literal happiness of the feel of the music. A magnificent end to a very over looked release.

*****out of 5

 

 

 

The Shamen / En-Tact

En-Tact

The Shamen (/ˈʃmɛn/SHAY-men) were a Scottish electronic dance music band, formed in 1986 in Aberdeen. The founding members are Colin Angus (born 24 August 1961), Derek McKenzie (born 27 February 1964) and Keith McKenzie (born 30 August 1961). Peter Stephenson (born 1 March 1962) joined shortly after to take over on keyboards from Angus. Several other people were later in the band. Angus then teamed up with Will Sinnott, and together they found credibility as pioneers of rock/dance crossover.

En-Tact is an album by The Shamen, released in 1990. It was the first Shamen album to feature Mr C, and the last to feature Will Sinnott (who died on 23 May 1991). It fused the band’s past psychedelic rock sounds with the rave act it became, developing a style that represented multicultural dance music.

The album was included in the book 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die.

The Analysis—-

Human NRG—-This band, long forgotten by many I’m sure, still finds it’s way to my turntable on a regular basis. The hyper kinetic sound and the addictive electronic melodies were huge for during the burgeoning early House Music days….I fell in love from the first listen and have never left since…even though later material became much more ambient in nature. This track…with the high keyboard tones, the melodic vocal and the understated but hypnotic beats were trademark….classic stuff…it still plays well today.

Progen [Land Of Oz]—-Most people will immediately recognize this track as Move Any Mountain…a huge underground dance hit in the early 90’s. This is hyper kinetic…fast but with a vocal that addictive as hell. The MC that was added gives the band a depth that was missing…this is an incredible song…a footprint in musical history. I love looking back. This laid the framework for bands like Blackbox and C+C Music Factory.

Possible Worlds—-Using a brilliant vocoder before people even knew what one was, this is fantastic. With a slight ambient beat going on underneath the synth line, this is a nice cool-down track for the after party…combining dance and a chill atmosphere the title of the song says it all.

Omega Amigo—-Expanding on the quasi-ambient feel, the track opens with nice synths and a slow pace..but becomes a track that is a favorite of mine. The bass line provides a perfect trance dance rhythm that sucks me in. The vocal is just OK for me…almost too pretty for the song…but it is the music that is the star of the show. There are slight 80’s leanings to the voice that i like…this was a magical time….

Hyperreal—-Really an ambient and airy feel, the song denies the title…lol. This is perfect for those after long night parties at the crib. The vocal is much nicer on this track,,,you fall right into the trace like delivery. This release…in it’s entirety….was truly a masterpiece for the youth of the 90’s who were raving and dropping in…..still fantastic.

Lightspan—-You can almost feel the huge strobe lights and sweaty crowds as this track begins. The staccato vocal is perfect for dancing by yourself like no one cares. I love this…the ability of a band this early in the 90’s to deliver such magnificent technology is awesome. The sound and vocal snippets are perfect for mixing in and out of….just brilliant.

Make It Mine V2.5—-Yet another classic track is you ever perused the dance floors of the early 90’s, this has every fantastic element of The Shaman included on one track. The music…at times can almost come across as angry and ugly…the vocal is literally fantastic…it just seems to float over my head….a brilliant moment in music history.

 

Oxygen Restriction—-With a classic and familiar bass beat at the intro of the track, you have heard it 1000’s of times repeated on rap tracks. The song as a whole is a bit to airy and full f space for me…I was never a true ambient fan…none the less, the song placement is perfect on the record…giving you the needed variety. Really Nice!!

Evil Is Even—-A bit to spacey for my taste, the form of the song takes a very long time to appear and never really becomes much more than a wall of sound and repetitive effects….a downer for me…just not my cup of tea. The quasi African sounds are interesting….but the repetitive nature of the song continues FOREVER!!!

Human NRG [Massey]—-Not differing in a dramatic form from the original, the vocal seems much clearer but the beats sound a bit more muddled. The high tones of the synth with the slight reverb make the track a spacey kind of ordeal..I love the air that magically flows through the underbelly of the song.

Make It Mine V1.3 [Pirate Radio]—-The intro to this remix seems more updated and appealing to the ‘straight’ club crowd that was loving C+C Music Factory and classic New Order at the time. This is a long extended musical version that goes on for a very long time…with just snips of the vocal here and there…a DJ’s dream I suppose…making mixing in and out a bit easier.

Oxygen Reprise V2.0—-Not a noticeable difference in this version. I like the ‘rolling’ synth lines that appear in between the vocal…the hyper beats that play in the background but never take over the song. The vocal seems more sedate….this is preferable over the original actually.

Hear Me O My People [Orbital-Expect Delays]—-Brilliant…..the vocal snippets combined with the static synth lines is just magnificent. I love this track….really forgetting that it was on this release. The track is a huge epic sort that has all of these underlying messages of Apartheid and the urgency of freedom fighters…this is a magnificent track…the message was clear.

****3/4 out of 5

 

 

Queensryche / Condition Human

Condition Hüman

Condition Hüman is the fifteenth studio album by American progressive heavy metal band Queensrÿche. It was released on October 2, 2015 through Century Media. It is the second studio album recorded with vocalist Todd La Torre, after Geoff Tate was fired from the band and gave up the rights to the name after a two-year lawsuit regarding the rights to the Queensrÿche brand was amicably settled.

The album’s first single, “Arrow of Time,” became available for streaming on July 20, 2015, the day the album’s title and release date were announced. It was recorded in early 2015 at Uberbeatz Studios in Washington and produced by Chris “Zeuss” Harris.

The Analysis—-

Arrow Of Time—-Everything about this opening track including the vocal reeks of classic Queensryche. It is amazing how much Todd sounds like Geoff Tate. The song is catchy as hell…reminds me of the classic sound the band started to develop around the Rage For Order time. The vocal is extraordinary….the music this band is making is just not much in demand anymore…it is glad to see bands still trying to keep this sound alive. This is a fantastic start.

Guardian—-I like the speedier guitar on the opening of this track…the guitar is very reminiscent of stuff off of Operation: Mindcrime and Rage…with vocal effects added in the backdrop. The double track vocal gives a nice full sound…and make no doubt…this dude can scream with the best of them. This is really nice. This has such a ‘classic’ Queensryche sound to it.

Hellfire—-Delivering the requisite ‘Hair Metal’ ballad, the band stays true to the recipe that cemented so many metal bands in history. This is such classic in sound…you will think you stepped back in time and listened to a ‘lost’ Queensryche record. I’m not sure if this is purposeful or not. Scott must get a lot of Tate comparisons…you can’t deny it. Even the vocal phrasing is the same…none the less…it is nice to see the band still plugging along. Really not a ballad s it progresses.

Toxic Remedy—-A nice huge guitar intro…..a landscape of sound followed by the trademark drums. The vocal at the onset of the song is a bit weak for me and uninspired…I love the double tracking though. It makes the song so large. The music is really the star of the show on this track for me. The band sounds better than ever.

Selfish Lives—-From the onset, this is like stepping back in time and listening to a track that would fit perfectly on Mindcrime. I wonder if some of these tracks were actually leftovers….the sound is perfect and the lyrics seem to cover the same subject manner. Add the vocal style and you feel like you have discovered old gems from a time long ago.

Eye9—-Beginning with a seldom heard awesome bass line, the song is a bit convoluted at the onset…but the muddled feel clears up as it progresses. The sharp guitar blasts give me a sense of energy. The vocal and the lyrics are pure Progressive Metal…this is a great track…no wonder it was released as a single…perhaps the highlight of the release.

Bulletproof—-Intricate guitar kicks off the track….the classic ballad sounds in full effect here. The vocal literally soars on the chorus…making this a huge addictive song. the guitar delivery delivers emotion and the drums…understated but very present are key to the feel of the song. This guy can really sing!

Hourglass—-Powerful and with a huge wall of sound from the very first note, the music dies away a bit to allow for the vocal. Again, the double track voice gives a fullness to the song. The chorus is huge..a sing a long chorus that does tend to stick with you a bit. This is classic in sound…but fresh enough to keep my attention.

Just Us—-In full ballad form for this track, the vocal is right in your face as the song begins. The gentle sounds of the band allow for the voice to be the star of the show. The lyrical content…a bit juvenile is classic required ballad material on every record. I could do without this…nothing really new here.

All There Was—-Great guitar effects and drums open up this track. There is an aggression and urgency to the music that catches me attention right at the onset. The vocal is pretty predictable…for me, the drums….really in the front of the mix, and the guitars keep the track interesting. I rather like this.

The Aftermath—-An odd little snippet that could have been a great song…..

Condition Human—-Ending the release less than aggressive, I would have preferred a huge galloping track that was designed to leave me hungry for more from this new entity of a classic band. Instead I am left with a feeling of relief that it is over. The saving grace for this track is the huge chorus…the guitars seem to float over my head. For me…it full form. this is a bit of a disappointing release.

*** out of 5

 

 

 

 

 

Martha Wash / Something Good

Something Good

Martha Wash (born December 23, 1953) is an American singer-songwriter. Known for her distinctive and powerful voice, Wash first achieved fame as one half of the successful act Two Tons O’ Fun who sang backing for American disco singer Sylvester. After gaining their own record deal, they released three consecutive commercially successful songs which all peaked at number 2 in the dance charts. The duo was renamed The Weather Girls in 1982 after they released the multi-platinum single “It’s Raining Men“, which brought the band to mainstream pop attention.

After the disbanding in 1985, Wash made a successful transition into house music as a featured artist on several successful songs. Her success on BillboardDance chart has earned her the honorific title The Queen of Clubland, with a total of twelve number-one songs on the chart to date.

Wash is also noted for spurring legislation in the 1990s that made vocal credits mandatory on CDs and music videos after being denied proper credit and royalties for the platinum-selling number one song “Gonna Make You Sweat (Everybody Dance Now)” after she had been labeled “unmarketable” due to her weight. In December 2016, Billboard magazine ranked her as the 58th most successful dance artist of all-time.

In January 2013, Wash released her second studio album Something Good. The album’s second single “It’s My Time” was written by Swedish singer-songwriter Helena Johansson. In March 2013, she was a special guest for the New York City Gay Men’s Chorus during their spring production “Big Gay Sing 6: Club Night Out”. In 2014, the album’s final single “I’m Not Coming Down” peaked at number two on the Dance chart.

The Analysis—-

Alright—-Even if you are not familiar with the name Martha Wash, if you have ever listened to current or 90’s dance music you know the voice. This song…is literally fantastic. Wash sounds ageless and delivers a fantastic positive message with her music. This is less dance and more mainstream, but the strength of the vocal and the addictive chorus makes it spectacular.

Destiny—-Such a brilliant vocal mastery from Martha. This is a bit deeper and more comfortable in range…but the power is still very apparent. The chorus…once again is the magic that draws you in and makes you stay for the rest of it. This is addictive as hell…delivered with practice and power. A brilliant and powerful message.

I’m Not Coming Down—-Such a gentle introduction, Wash shows a vulnerability in her vocal and lyric. The song becomes more peppy and reminds me of a David Archuleta song. This is addictive as hell…Wash maintains a comfortable Alto vocal…but the energy that flows underneath of the song is wonderful. I love this

It’s My Time—-Full of such atmosphere and emotion, the beats are not huge…the groove is missing…..but the emotion and the feeling coming out of this woman is extraordinary. I listen to the lyrics…combined with the voice and it inspires me and makes me NEED to forge on. The power of the song is driven by the voice and the message. This is just wonderful….Wash is a true legend.

I’ve Got You—-A wonderfully large arrangement of piano and strings, this track just screams emotion. Again, the lyrical message of the song is so uplifting and positive….delivered by a powerful vocal….This is wonderful. If you are looking for a dance record…try the first release…this is introspective and meant to inspire…and it does. And that voice…it is like a favorite blanket on a cold winter day.

Proud—-Stripped bare with an almost naked feel…the vocal is so present and filled with emotion. This has a wonderful melody line that becomes addictive as well as positive. This is remarkable…Martha delivers such inspiring messages…if you feel down…put this record on and you will feel better. Man, I would love to hear this woman sing in Church….the song needs no effects or beats….just the powerhouse voice of Martha.

Dream On—-How magical that Wash tackles the Aerosmith classic. The song…in feeling….fits in perfectly with the entire positive vibe of the record. The fact that this is a Tyler song does not inhibit the Master from making it her own…and indeed she does. This is a brilliant cover….Martha displays such a strong vocal…this is just fantastic.

Something Good—-Just brilliant…right from the first note. Wash phrases her words around the music and it becomes a magical wall of pure joy. I feel so uplifted listening to this. I love the tone of the voice…the music never over powers….and the purity of it all touches my soul and makes me want to dance with happiness. I really love this record.

*****out of 5

 

 

Borknagar / Winter Thrice

Winter Thrice

Borknagar is a progressive black metal band from Bergen, Norway, founded in 1995 by Øystein Garnes Brun. The band’s style combines black metal and folk metal with progressive and melodic elements. Borknagar’s lyrics often deal with philosophypaganismnature, and the cosmos.

Winter Thrice is the tenth studio album by the Norwegian band Borknagar.

The Analysis—-

The Rhymes Of The Mountain—-Epic in sound right from the onset, the vocal that emerges is amazing. The edge of the vocal is rough, but accessible enough to allow even the casual listener to become intrigued. The drums here are amazing. The vocal play…between the pleasant clean snaps and then the surprise guttural rants keeps me really interested. This is fantastic.

Winter Thrice—-I really love moody music….I mean you can almost feel the coldness as this track begins. I love the drums as usual…the vocal here reminds me of the clean vocals from Dimmu Borgir…..so high and clear. The guitars come and go….sharp blasts and then an almost acoustic sound as the song progresses. This is epic…. the song is huge…I can’t imagine this live! As usual the song takes a turn for the dark as the Death Metal quell enters midstream…..really nice.

Cold Runs The River—-Much more aggressive right from the onset, I love this song. The vocal is brutal…seeming to be driven to madder limits by the relentless drums. The clean vocal does emerge…but the star of the show on this track is the aggressive nature of the music. The instrumentation is so thick…it just seems to swell and swell…this is literally fantastic. My favorite track on this release.

Panorama—-Returning to a more orchestral intro, the epic swells of music are magnificent. I really don’t care for the opening vocals here…it all seems mechanical and uninspired. It is the music that makes this song so incredible. The keyboards are incredible…and the drums always steal the show with this band. This song really does get better as the song progresses.

When Chaos Calls—-A gentle keyboard opens up this track before pure musical mayhem ensues. The clean vocal has a nice demented delivery to it…the drums…so fuckin fast I have whiplash. This is moody in it’s own way…but the band begins to suffer from the ‘sameness syndrome’ after a bit on this release. Thank God for the Death Metal elements that emerge here and there to keep everything a little more interesting. Sometimes this bands music just sounds like on long continuous song.

Erodent—-At this point in the release,and I don’t want to sound hyper-critical, this just sounds all the same to me. The music is very very, to much, consistent. I wish I could get an entire track with just the eerie, maniacal death rattle vocal. The clean vocal rarely has any musical differentials…everything seems to be in the same note. I would like a soaring scream here and there.

Noctilucent—-Slow and measured from the very first note, this is an even track. The music is fairly sedate and reminds me of a very peaceful, cold dark night. The sounds from the keyboards are incredible..it’s amazing what you can produce with a good machine. This is nice. The vocal finally enters….delivering much the same as we have had thus far…nothing new…this would have been a great instrumental track…in my opinion.

Terminus—-YES…..brutal and aggressive right from the first note…this is what I needed from this band. The dirty vocal [if you will] is extraordinary and driving. Much to soon everything is interrupted by a slower pace and the clean vocal…but the mayhem returns. I am very thankful for the variance in the sound of the song. You never quite know what to expect…I like this a lot.

Bonus Track:

Dominate Winds—-Really offering very little new, you can definitely say this band is very consistent in sound. This track sounds like the first…third and 8th. The variance is so minimal…it leaves me empty. I need a little differential to keep my attention. this release for me…was a disappointment.

**3/4 out of 5

 

 

 

 

Pet Shop Boys / Release: Further Listening 2001-2004

 

Release: Further Listening 2001 - 2004 (2017 Remastered Version)

‘Release’, featuring Johnny Marr on guitar, entered the top ten in the UK album charts on its release in 2002. This remastered edition comes with two ‘Further listening’ albums of additional tracks, including unreleased songs ‘Motoring’, ‘The night is a time to explore who you are’, ‘Run, girl, run’ and ‘Reunion’, as well as previously-unreleased John Peel versions of ‘A powerful friend’ and ‘If looks could kill’ and a previously-unreleased cover version of Gilbert O’Sullivan’s ‘Alone again, naturally’ featuring Elton John.

The Analysis—-

Disc One:

Home And Dry—-It was obvious, from the first strains of this track, that this was release going in a somewhat different direction…but change is good for the soul right? The synths are very understated and the guitar playing is very present…something never really heard on a PSB release. It took me awhile to truly embrace this song…but the beautiful voice of Tennant made it easier. This has grown on me over the years.

I Get Along—-For me, this track was perfect from the very first listen. This was, for me, the Boys attempt to embrace the Oasis crowd so prevalent at the moment. This would have been a perfect song for that entity. There is a remarkable brightness to the piano synth line….accompanied by an underbelly of sadness that sucks you in. Neil delivers a wonderful vocal…where he actually sings his way through an entire song. The crescendo on the chorus is just fantastic.

 

Birthday Boy—-A somewhat quaint and touching track. I love the gentle swells of music and the present but understated guitar strums. Neil again delivers a stellar vocal…the man never seems to age…his voice as crisp and clear as the day I first heard him sing. The melody line that runs through the song brings a melancholy feel to the listener…it is very easy to lose yourself in the feeling. The closest they came, at the time, to a Christmas song. Marr delivers a wonderful soaring guitar solo to the song….

London—-For me, this is classic PSB. The vocal play…a slight vocoder delivery is fantastic. I love when Neil really lets his voice soar and sings in that perfect clear voice of his. The song begins subtle but then becomes more lively…helping the fans to feel more at home with the classic Lowe synth sound. I love this track.

E-Mail—-A track that shows it’s age a bit…at the time we were all just becoming so dependent on E-mail for everything. This was timely at the moment…but evolution has dated it. I suppose the sentiment of the song still holds true today. The synth is so understated and simple of this entire CD…but still manages to carry the trademark feel of the band. This is nice to hear again..it’s been awhile.

The Samurai In Autumn—-Right from the onset, the listener feels a bit more comfortable with this track…it has that remarkable Lowe sound to it that literally defines the sound…just as important as Tennant’s vocal. There is always that remarkable sad feeling that runs through the underbelly of every PSB composition. This is a beautifully constructed track…with odd ebbs and flows…but a damn addictive melody line.

Love Is A Catastrophe—-Dense and layered with an emotional melody line that takes place from the first notes. Neil sings with an almost dis-embodied voice at first…then seems to allow his pain to show through. The track has an incredibly lonely feel to it…making you fall right into the despair that is lyrically produced. I really love bands that make me FEEL something. This is brilliant!

Here—-Again, this has a more pleasant and upbeat synth line that is contagious and damn poppy! Tennant phrases his words with such clarity and emotion you truly feel his emotions. The chorus is breath-taking….staying in your head and allowing you to look back on what was a really under-appreciated release at the time. This is a brilliant track. It makes me feel happy.

The Night I Fell In Love—-A wonderfully controversial song at the time it was released, as you know this was an ode to Eminem…without actually coming out and saying so. Tennant delivers a vocal that is almost giddy with enthusiasm….truly speaking of how we all feel about meeting our heroes or whatever..lol. This goes a bit further…but the sentiment is remarkable…I love this memory.

You Choose—-Rounding out the proper release with a track that carries another load of emotional feeling and lyrics. Tennant seems to have been going through something…lol. I like that he is never shy about using the proper pronouns and pretending these intense emotional songs are about women….this is gentle..layered in emotion…but left me wanting something more synth heavy on this release. But it holds up well…after all this time.

Disc Two:

Between Two Islands—-Classic in sound, there is something about the Boys and the sound they have perfected. You can never be mistaken when you hear this band. The somewhat jaunty feel to the synth is really nice. The keyboard produced horns add a body to the song..the lyrical and vocal delivery is the same fare as the proper release….love….wanting love…losing love. This is brilliant.

Searching For The Face Of Jesus—-Sounding a bit more like material from the Release album, there is guitar here…perfectly blended with the synth line that comes and goes. Tennant delivers another higher pitched vocal that to me is remarkable to look back on…it can’t be easy to sing like that. But he is…MASTERFUL…as always.

 

Time On My Hands—-Already included on the Disco 3 release, it is nice to hear this again…simply because it is a huge track. The synth line, the bass…the tempo of the song. This is what the fans crave from this band. This has one of those rare vocal snips from Chris Lowe…and it is addictive as hell. This is a huge romp through Acid House inspired dance…this is a brilliant song. When Tennant adds his voice….it becomes even better!!!

Motoring/Demo—-For me, right from the onset, this is a noisy and somewhat unorganized track. The music that lies underneath the vocal is so erratic and distracting it is hard to pay attention to the lyrics. The chorus…addictive and melodic, saves the track from obscurity. Not a favorite…and that is saying something. This is a band that rarely makes a mis-step.

Love Life—-Fantastic….this has a throwback sound that brings a smile to my face no matter how hard I try to deter it. The music that Lowe supplies is so damn addictive. Tennant seems to float right on top of the synth line…and the back drop vocals gives the song a huge feel. The break in the middle of the song is brilliant….filling the dance-floor in my brain with beautiful boys and wild girls. Magnificent!

Transparent—-Bringing out the vocoder on the vocal again. for me it does work as well on this track. You can hear Sylvia in the backdrop providing a vocal. The music is static and a little erratic. Not a bad song…but the inspiration does not seem sincere.

Sexy Northerner—-Also included on Disco 3, this track is acceptable…at least compared to the previous song. I don’t really understand the British concept of Northerners and such….so this kind of goes over my head. The pace of the song is brilliant…and the magical break in the track makes it standout as it is really unexpected. This is fantastic.

The Night Is A Time To Explore Who You Are/Demo—-I really don’t think I have heard this track before…it has a feeling of unfamiliarity. The vocal is very odd…at the onset it sounds so filtered that you would not even guess it was Neil singing. When the proper vocal comes through, it is a nice melancholy feeling track that breeds an emotional response in my psyche. I like it…but would not pay a lot of attention to it usually.

Closer To Heaven/Slow Version—-A track from the Nightlife release, this has been floating around for a really long time…not sure the necessity of it being included here. I like this version…the subtle piano synths are addictive as hell. The vocal is brilliant…to me the entire Nightlife release was a damn masterpiece. Just not sure why this is on here…..

Run, Girl, Run/Demo—-This track sounds perfectly at home on this collection. The synth lines are familiar and the vocal from Neil is literally breathtaking. There is perfection in this band, and generally they never make a mis-step. This is a brilliant, melancholy, emotion layered track that suck me right in. Masterful!

I Didn’t Get Where I Am Today—-When I listen to this, I automatically think of The Beatles right from the onset…that guitar line is right out of the sound book. When the chorus breaks in…I promise you…you will be singing this song for days. it is a perfect recipe of PSB sounds and a throwback joyous feel of shiny pop mastery. This is brilliant!

 

Always—-Falling back into the more ambient feel of the Release mood B-sides, this is moody has has a lot of dark corners. Tennant delivers a sad and lonely vocal that lies on top of the Lowe synth line and wraps around you like a warm blanket. It is easy to get wrapped up in the emotion of these songs….the ability to transport emotion is remarkable.

Home And Dry/Ambient Mix—-This version of the song is less guitar based and much darker and moody in tone. I actually prefer this version over the original..it falls easily into the PSB catalog than the other. This has a lot of ‘air’ to it…it allows for more emotion and layers of feeling. This is brilliant.

Bright Young Things/Demo—-You can tell….from the very first strains of the song, that this was recorded during the proper sessions of Release. It carries a very familiar synth line…and a familiar emotional feel to the track. This is really nice…not sure that I have heard this…this is spectacular. I have often said…some of the B-sides this band produces are even better than the A-sides…how do you choose? This is wonderful.

Kazak—-This is much needed at this point! This song travels! The speed of the synth line is spectacular…making me want to jump up and lose control. This is brilliant…the energy is literally infectious. I love it. This is a Lowe masterpiece…he always delivers these odd romping tracks that Neil tries to wrap his vocal around…this needs nothing else….just the joyous romp through abandon!

A Powerful Friend/John Peel Version—-This as well…contains an infectious 80’s inspired synth line that fills me with joy and youthful abandon. Tennant delivers such a strong vocal….this is a fantastic surprise. I love the energy…the lyrics…well…we can all relate to that. This is brilliance!

If Looks Could Kill/John Peel Version—-I think this original is also included on Disco 3….but this is different enough to recapture my attention. The feel of the song is different than other versions I have heard before. I love the high vocal and the flowing and romping synth line that Lowe produces. This is wonderfully delivered. I love these guys.

Disc Three:

Try It [I’m In Love With A Married Man]—-ALSO taken from Disco 3….why did I buy it? This is a wonderful track…but I don’t need all of these copies of the same song. The sentiment is almost hilarious…but very relatable to anyone who has been in this position. Kudos to Neil for singing such a blatant track.

Here/PSB New Extended Mix—-Huge addictive synth lines…the kind of ‘remix’ that is a DJ’s wet dream, this has many opportunities to mix…remix….and bring everyone crashing back down in a sopping sweat filled pile. This is brilliant….I love the energy…I love that the melody line NEVER disappears….wish the vocal was more fore front. Mid track the classic vocal lines appear…I love that phrasing.

If Looks Could Kill—-I’m not going to say it again…yes this is a redux…fans already have this. Its pleasant enough…it fit perfectly in the hyper-kinetic energy of Disco 3…I would prefer something else besides redux music. I’m OK with it though…or not.

A Powerful Friend—-Huge swirls of atmosphere…..a wonderful vocal all come together out of the silence and tell a tale of something many of us can relate to. When the swirls of dark fog swirl around the song it just fills me with awe. The slight beat emerges from the dank feel…but never loses the feelings of disdain and helplessness…..this is brilliant!

Party Song—-Hyper-kinetic synth lines with a slight distortion added clear the way for Tennant to come out and invite you to the party. The way he sings/talks is phenomenal here. There are nice back tracks that fill out the track. This is fun and perfect as a filler song late at nite…I love this.

No Excuse/Demo—-i’m not so sure I’m too familiar with this track. This is dark at the onset…but seems to beg to open up as it progresses. Neil enters with a static vocal…it slowly takes shape as it develops. I like this…but this is really a bit odd for me. I like the chorus part of the song…but I would pass this up.

Blue On Blue—-With a intro synth line that sounds like Love To Love You Baby, this captured my attention right away…the familiar line comes and goes but drives the song. The vocal seems pushed to the back and comes across as ‘removed’ from the song…it is the music that is the star of this track….really great.

Jack And Jill Party/Demo—-This has a very familiar feel to it…at the onset it reminds me of If Looks Could Kill…..then it becomes a bit more static. I really dislike the vocal on this song….it is too high…removed from the front of the song and falls flat for me.

Baby/Demo—-Swirling around your head and filled with that classic trademark vocal from Neil, this is a perfect song. I love the Erasure style synth line…and how the beat and energy never drowns out the voice. This is wonderful…I’m smiling again.

Flamboyant/Original Demo—-Outside of the B-side Screaming, I believe this may be my favorite PSB track ever. Why this was never released as a proper single is beyond me. It has everything…an irresistible melody…a remarkable lyric and vocal…this for me is a pure masterpiece of music.

 

Miracles—-I enjoy this track…but it was really a mystery why this was released as a single instead of Flamboyant. I guess the content and the lyrics are more acceptable. The song…after numerous listens has become a nice part of my playlist..it does indeed contains that magical hook and synth line…the construction of a perfect pop song.

Flamboyant/7″ Mix—-There is little to add to what I consider one of the most perfect PSB songs ever recorded. There is a great musical line…a vocal that is beyond compare…lyrics full of irony and hilarity…and realism. This for me is a masterful song.

Numb/Demo—-A track that would find it’s perfect place on the Fundamental release, the demo version is as dark and magnificent as the version that landed on the album. This is a masterful song…allowing you to really feel everything that you might be feeling currently in your life. This can make me cry at the right time…or happy as well…that is the sign of a masterpiece.

In Private/featuring Elton John—-Perhaps one of the most brilliant pairings in pop music, this is a perfect storm of talent. The sentiment of the song is clear…the delivery is cataclysmic. These two phenomenal musical entities created a masterpiece I will never stop listening to. This is brilliant!

Alone Again, Naturally/ featuring Elton John—-Anyone who grew up in the 70’s can easily recognize this song….to consider these two artists tackling it is momentous. I love this version…the emotion…the feeling…the new fresh synth feeling from Lowe…this is a magical moment.

Reunion/Electro Mix—-Not really what I would call Electro, the song is still pleasant and addictive in delivery. I love the vocal…as always….Neil sounds masterful. I consider the music a slight bit downbeat…but it is addictive none the less. Really like having this.

Bright Young Things—-Really dense and intense in tone, I like the intricate synth lines that wrap around the vocal from Tennant. This is wonderfully delivered….the mood swings are subtle enough to provide interest that never ebbs. A favorite of mine…it has an epic feel.

We’re The Pet Shop Boys—-This song has been floating around for a bit…so it is not new and fresh for me….but I like the delivery here…the deep and dense feel of the synth is like the sun coming out in a storm…it develops right before your eyes. This is almost perfect…I love how Neil literally croons….magical.

It’s A Sin/Electro Mix—-I am surprised…I don’t recall ever hearing this version before! This is incredibly fresh and sounds updated…I love this. I love the swirls of music…the slight crashes and the escalating synth line…Brilliant.

*****out of 5

 

 

 

Jay-Z / 4:44

4:44 [Explicit]

4:44 is the thirteenth studio album by American rapper Jay-Z. It was released on June 30, 2017 through Roc Nation and Universal Music Group, as an exclusive to Sprint and Tidal customers. The album is the first in a planned series of music exclusives from the Sprint–Tidal partnership. For a short time, on July 2, the album was made available for free digital download in Tidal’s site. A physical edition was released on July 7, including three additional tracks. On the same day, the album was made available to other streaming platforms, such as Apple MusicGoogle Play Music and Amazon Music.

Like Jay-Z’s previous album, Magna Carta Holy Grail (2013), 4:44 was not preceded by any singles. The album was recorded from December 2016 to June 2017, and produced by No I.D. and Jay-Z. James Blake and Dominic Maker also produced the album’s bonus tracks. It features guest appearances from Frank OceanDamian MarleyBeyoncé and Jay-Z’s mother, Gloria Carter. It also has additional vocal contributions from Blue Ivy Carter, James FauntleroyKim Burrell and The-Dream.

The album received widespread acclaim from critics, who praised its emotional and personal content. On July 5, the album was certified Platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), in recognition of one million copies purchased by Sprint and offered to consumers as free downloads.[2] It debuted at number one on the US Billboard 200, making it Jay-Z’s 14th consecutive studio album to top the chart. The album spawned one single, the title track “4:44”.

The Analysis—-

Kill Jay-Z—-There is a remarkable familiarity when you listen to a new Jay-Z release. The beats are very familiar and almost predictable…it is how the word play is delivered that is remarkable. Jay sounds a bit angry….spitting verse after verse that makes you step back and think ‘Damn…He Mad’. This is nice…exactly what was needed.

The Story Of O.J.—-Giving us an intro that is piano laden and screwed, this is odd but undeniably infectious. Jay always speaks on things that are relevant and important. There is always a magical hook in the music that sucks you in and causes an instant addiction. The wordplay from Jay is remarkable..intelligent….somehow respectable and incredible necessary. For me this speaks to much of what is happening right NOW!

Smile [featuring Gloria Carter]—-New York rap beats are unique in themselves….Jay’s vocals are even more unique. This is a great story/rap…a song of acceptance and one that speaks on inclusion and love. Jay delivers a magical flow…and the hook of the song…from his Mom is irresistible…you can’t get this out of your head after you hear that magical hook. Sometimes the words come at you so fast…there is always an urgency to get the message out…I got it!

Caught Their Eyes [featuring Frank Ocean]—-Jaunty and damn fun at the intro, this has a remarkable reggae lean to it that makes me just sit and revel in the instrumentation. Jay always has a strong vocal delivery…but here it never seems to take away from the music that is addictive and hooky as all get out. This is fresh…new…predictable…but fantastic.

4:44—-This track….well, it wears on me after a bit…all the wailing going on. I could do without the histrionics. The backdrop of the song threatens to completely drown out the lyrics of the track that Jay delivers. Not a favorite….but many others love it.

Family Feud [featuring Be’yonce]—-It’s always a guaranteed masterpiece when you combine these two superstars together on one track. I know there is much discussion about the meaning of this song…but to me…it really is about how all of the lines feed together with the hook and the beat. This is brilliant…some of the lines from Jay are practically brilliant. This is a key part of the song for me….a true standout and centerpiece.

Bam [featuring Damian Marley]—-This is just brilliant….noisy and filled with so many sounds from so many different directions…all balanced by the steady vocal from Jay. It is remarkable…no matter the chaos going on in the track…the vocal sounds perfect. Marley delivers a built in hook that sucks your cerebellum out of your ear. This is perfect.

Moonlight—-Wow….muted and perfectly delivered…the sample running through the under belly of the song is almost pretty…but Jay sounds pissed and full of venom as the song continues. I love the vocal being RIGHT in your face…this is fantastic.

Marcy Me—-A bit brighter in sound, the reverb sound that runs through the underbelly of the song is irresistible. Jay comes with line after line of remarkable and perfectly constructed lyrics. If you really sit back and listen to the release, this shit will make you think and start to analyze. I love this….every listen reveals something new to me. And that fuckin’ hook…..OMG…..

Legacy—-Brilliant….Blue Ivy…Jay-Z….irresistible horns…remarkable lyric lines. An almost perfect song. This is a bit laden with the ‘Orleans’ sound for me…but the message is clear and the words all speak for themselves. Jay is afraid of nothing…unafraid to insult anyone….able to discuss anything…all in his style…it all becomes acceptable.

*****out of 5