Berlin / Best Of Berlin 1979-1988

Best of Berlin 1979-1988

Berlin is an American new wave band. The group was formed in Orange County in 1978 by John Crawford (bass guitar). Band members included Crawford, Terri Nunn (vocals), David Diamond (keyboards), Ric Olsen (guitar), Matt Reid (keyboards) and Rod Learned (drums). The band gained mainstream-commercial success in the early 1980s with singles including “The Metro“, “Sex (I’m A…)“, “No More Words” and then in the mid 1980s with the chart-topping single “Take My Breath Away” from the 1986 film Top Gun.

The Analysis—-

Blowin’ Sky High—-For me, Berlin was one of the under-rated and under appreciated bands of the early 80’s. The tight musicianship, combined with the strong and flexible voice of Nunn helped to create a landscape of material and helped the band become mainstays on MTV. Crawford had an unmistakable guitar style that ebbed and flowed around the vocal. This track, never a huge hit…which I don’t understand, has that rhythmic guitar song that drives it to great heights at the chorus aided by super strong drums. This is a standout track.

No More Words—-There is always a remarkable power and slight anger to be found with many of the songs from Berlin. Nunn delivers a huge vocal….full of an underlying rage and betrayal that makes it instantly approachable. The song…full of trademark 80’s synth sounds comes across now as a bit dated. But if you zero in on the vocal and all of the power from the band, you will find yourself hooked all over again. The ‘breaks’ in the song are classic.

Like Flames—-I have never understood the fickle ways of American pop music listeners! For me, this may be one of the best tracks the band ever produced…but it received little or no attention from fans and/or radio. The vocal is so full of emotion…the band plays with a renewed intensity…the hook of the song stays in your brain for days after just one listen. The galloping musical intro of the song is shattered with a ballsy yell from Nunn. The vocal that follows is so strong and filled with emotion…this is by far my favorite track from this band. It literally makes me want to jump up and down and lose control.

 

Take My Breath Away—-Taken from the blockbuster film Top Gun, this track is largely considered to be the reason for the demise of the band. A mega-hit all over the world, it moved from the traditional sound of the band into a sound the rest of the band was uncomfortable with. Berlin was never really known for the ‘love song component’ and this really did not fit the image the majority of the band had set for themselves. I can take or leave this track..it became too huge, too overplayed and too worn out. The vocal is a bit to whispery for me…the arrangement robbed Nunn of that powerhouse alto she had become known for.

Sex [I’m A…]—-The single that primarily brought the band to the forefront of the New Wave movement in the early 80’s, this is laden with a synth line and effects that drive you to the dance floor. The trademark sounds of the song…full of everything that defined the time period, the song was just interesting enough in content to have us all paying attention. The two vocal delivery is really nice and seldom heard from the band. the synth line is straight out of the Moroder playbook. Still plays really well.

Now It’s My Turn—-Driving synth lines introduce the song and finds Nunn delivering another slight wispy vocal that takes a bit to grow on you. there is a strength in the subtle approach she uses, and the double track lay out gives a bit more bolster and power to the song. Not a favorite…but it plays really well with this release. The chorus is catchy and well delivered….combing a perfect mix of drums, guitars and synth lines.

Masquerade—-Another really favorite track of mine, I love the end of the song the most off all…when all the double tracks of the song play at once…giving it an irresistible hook appeal you can’t ever forget. Again, the band finds a brilliant middle ground that is able to deliver fantastic guitars and drums with the requisite 80’s synth sound. The vocal is at the very front of the mix…Nunn truly shines here. A remarkable testament that the band had a true direction and ability to deliver.

 

You Don’t Know—-As the track begins, there is a slight throwback sound to the 60’s style music….it seems to fall away as Nunn begins her vocal. This is a bit of a weak track for me. The sound is less power packed and seems a bit airy to me. I’m glad to have it, but I generally skip over this track.

Matter Of Time—-A nice jaunty synth line opens the track. as Nunn begins to sing in an almost robotic style vocal, it fits perfectly into the 80’s playbook of Pop/New Wave songs of the time. the guitars and drums are much more pronounced and up front in the mix. The chorus is a double track affair that sticks in your head and reminds me of something right off of a Josie Cotton record. This is superb.

The Metro—-Another track that allowed the band to continue stacking up hits and plays on MTV, this is a track that can be found on about every 80’s hits compilation. Recognizable from the very first note, the schizoid synth line is addictive as hell. Nunn delivers a mysterious sounding vocal that as the song progresses really shows the power that she is able to emit. This is addictive…it has that perfect recipe of lyrics…vocals and synth line that still sounds incredible today. A true classic.

Will I Ever Understand You—-Much more powerful and guitar based than the past few tracks, this was the kind of stuff that helped to propel the band past the ‘New Wave’ era of the early 80’s. You can’t listen to this and possibly deny the power packed vocal style that Nunn delivered later in the band’s career. There is such a subtle slight angry edge to her vocal….it is sublime but damn effective.

For All Tomorrow’s Lies—-A bit of a lackluster performance for me here. I much prefer the band when they have that more aggressive sound that attracted me to them in the beginning. This is sappy, syrupy sweet and laden with too much melancholy. The vocal is nice…but lacks a true emotion for me.

**** out of 5

 

R.E.M.—-Part Lies Part Heart Part Truth Part Garbage 1982-2011 [Pt. 2]

Part Lies, Part Heart, Part Truth, Part Garbage: 1982-2011 [Explicit]

The Analysis—-

Disc Two:

Everybody Hurts—-Continuing with a track that again brought worldwide attention to the band, Stipe sounds literally crushed in his vocal delivery. The heaviness of the song lyrics are matched perfectly with the understated style of guitar and gentle drums. A true favorite track of mine.

Man On The Moon—-Fun and a bit lighter than the previous track, I have always loved this song. he duel vocals are remarkable….raising Mills and his talents to a whole new level. This is brilliant….addictive and remarkably fresh for the time we are in now. I love this song.

Nightswimming—-Such an odd and rather ominous intro, Stipe enters with his melody heavy vocal that gives the song it’s very structure. This is a remarkable track…beautifully stark and full of an indescribable intensity and beauty. A true standout.

What’s The Frequency, Kenneth—-Such a joyous and noisy track. I remember falling in love with this the first time I heard it. The electricity from the instruments are just phenomenal. The driving guitar line is incredible….the tone of the song urgent and intense…..just fantastic.

 

New Test Leper—-Sedate and delivered with a beautiful understated acoustic guitar, Stipe sounds almost defeated and broken in his vocal delivery. This is a strong track…..truly accessible but very Indie at the same time.

Electrolite—-Really almost an extension of the previous track, this carries the same feeling over. The lyrics are intense…the music understated and the vocal delivery almost heavy with a certain sadness. he understated elements of the song make it even more powerful for me.

At My Most Beautiful—-Piano heavy and still understated in the instrumentation, this has an almost ghostly feel to it. The simple strains are powerful….the vocal pushed to the back of the mix making you feel a sadness and heavy emotional feel. This is dark but beautiful.

The Great Beyond—-I don’t really feel a familiarity with this track….it seems naked and uninspired to me….I’m left with an empty feeling from the starkness of the song. Not a throw a way……but not a favorite either.

Imitation Of Life—-Returning to a more familiar and accessible sound, this sounds like an invigorated band that decided to return to the sound the fans fell in love with. This is much more pleasant…sounds inspired and had an addictive chorus that is just brilliant.

Bad Day—-Electric and almost with a funk line in the underbelly, this sounds like a throwback to It’s The End Of The World….delivered in the same urgent feel and jerky jaunty guitar. Stipe sounds a bit hollow…like the freshness of the band really had left him.

Leaving New York—-Again sedate and delivered with an odd style vocal that really never resonated with me….like Stipe thinks he is in a stage play or something. This is not on my list of favorite tracks by any means. Only the chorus saves the song for me…..

Living Well Is The Best Revenge—-The electricity and urgency side of the band returns in a fiery display of guitars and drums. Stipe sound possessed as he delivers his lines fast as lightening and with a renewed purpose. This is a fantastic, noisy track.

Supernatural Superserious—-Perhaps one of the last truly meaningful and powerful tracks from the band before the demise, the electricity of the band is in full force. Mills returns on the backing vocals and fills out the song remarkably well. This is a huge track for me….I love Mills voice and the melodic quality of Stipe’s singing.

Uberlin—-With a nice throwback sound to the mid 90’s, this track sounds much better to me now listening back on it. The understated instrumentation seems to wrap itself around the emotional feel of the lyrics. Really a beautifully constructed song.

Oh My Heart—-This for me…..is just a mess. The attempt to deliver a Spanish style feel to the guitar falls flat. Stipe sounds like he is singing in another room. Even the addition of Mills can’t even come close to saving this song.

Alligator_Aviator_Autopilot_Antimatter—-A nice vigorous feel to the electric side of the band, the music has an urgency that is nice…but there is so much happening here that it all comes about as a musical mess full of chaos and incongruity. I really don’t like this. Even Kate could not save this.

A Month Of Saturdays—-Empty and uninspired. Naked and without form……a band that has lost direction…..Stipe sounds bored and tired.

We All Go Back To Where We Belong—-The swan song is a pretty but uninspired track that leaves me sad to see them go…but happy to know that they knew when the inspiration was gone. This is pretty…..but really does not resonate with me.

**** out of 5

 

 

 

 

Black Sabbath / The Dio Years

The Dio Years [W/Bonus Track]

Black Sabbath: The Dio Years is a 2007 compilation CD of material from recordings made during vocalist Ronnie James Dio‘s tenure in the band. The CD contains full album length, remastered tracks culled from all three studio albums: Heaven and Hell (1980), Mob Rules (1981), Dehumanizer (1992), and the live album Live Evil (1982). It also contains three new recorded songs: “The Devil Cried“, “Shadow of the Wind”, and “Ear in the Wall”.

The Analysis—-

Neon Knights—-You notice, with many of the Dio compositions with the band, that the trademark heavy sludge of Ozzy era Sabbath is missing. This sound is clearer and crisper…and delivered with a much faster pace. Ronnie sounds remarkable…that trademark vocal and lyrical imagery reminding me how much I miss the man. This is a fantastic track…the ebbs and flows are remarkable…still allowing for the Iommi bass line but making it more accessible.

Lady Evil—-A great drum intro to the song ushers in a nice throwback sound to 80’s Heavy Metal. Ronnie delivers lyrics that were to become trademark to his career….mystical and magical. The band lends a hand on the chorus…filling out the track. The musical clarity is fantastic…I can almost see Ronnie on the stage with his wide arm gesturing that he was known for.

Heaven And Hell—-With a bit of return to the classic Sabbath sound, this has a remarkable melody line that will stick in your head. The intro leads to the clear and crisp vocal from Dio….painting a picture that flows right through your headphones. There are magnificent power chords on this track that are all in the right place….they magically fall away to allow for the vocal…and the chorus is huge. I love this version of Black Sabbath. The track gives way to an all out jam session that speeds everything up to a frantic pace…..but Ronnie never falters. Extraordinary.

Die Young—-Seeming to offer up a bit more band technology with the intro to this track, the music swirls and swirls to reach the apex of the beginning. The guitars and drums enter and the track is off to a nice faster pace and energy. The imagery that Dio paints with his lyrics are unlike any songwriter at that time. The energy of the song is incredible…as are the ebbs and flows of the music. Dio almost whispers the intro to the chorus….giving everything a mystic feel….and then we return to magical Metal.

Lonely Is The Word—-Beginning with a huge blast of guitars, the slow sludge of early Sabbath compositions are missing…even though you feel Iommi through the entire track. This has never been a favorite track of mine, but it stands on its own if for nothing but the soaring vocal from Dio.

The Mob Rules—-Again with the crisp guitar sound beginning the song…and then the growl from hell as Dio kicks off the track. The song is really fast…with a damn catchy melodic line flowing through the entire thing. Tony has a very prominent and loud bass line that plays through the whole track…but never drowns out the crisp modern guitars. This is just fantastic….

Turn Up The Night—-Returning to a deeper bass heavy melody line, the chug chug of the Iommi sound is nice to hear. Dio sounds so good on this track…you notice you can catch every single word that he utters which is remarkable for Heavy Metal. There is a literal wall of sound playing through this track…but every section shines and no one suffers.

Voodoo—-Again, the power chords are strong when the song begins but fall away to allow for the train like bass to drive the song. This has never been a favorite track of mine…and even here on this collection it sounds a bit dated and stuck in time. Thank God for the remarkable vocal….keeps me coming back.

Falling Off The Edge Of The World—-With an odd really tender beginning, Dio begins his vocal in an almost tender manner. The swirling string lines are accompanied by a strong drum intro but the track is very slow to really start. I really didn’t expect to hear that familiar Sabbath sludge to come out of the slight beauty….but the murky darkness is there…then the crisp guitars enter and send to track off to a fast pace as you feel everything brighten up. There are many moods and shifts on this track…the one wonderful constant is Ronnie’s voice.

After All [The Dead]—-Beginning the trio of my favorite tracks from Dio era Sabbath, this track really hearkens back to the early days of the band with the deep, slow and methodical sludge that the band was known for. Dio enters with a vocal that I can really hear Osbourne singing to be honest. The track is huge…with constant down shifts on the bass that remains a constant despite it. It is the simple part of the song when Dio utters…’After All’ that makes the track for me. This is a masterpiece.

TV Crimes—-Back to a full and dramatic rhythm section with the steam engine bass playing leading the track. The vocal is fantastic…Dio is so clear and concise and sounds so big for such a little guy.  The energy of this track is contagious as hell….giving you the urge to just sit and jam the fuck out. This is one of the bands best concoctions in my opinion. It has the best of everything that made this band a monster.

I—-Hands down, my favorite Dio-era Sabbath track. I love the vocal inflections…I can see Ronnie on the stage with his remarkable gesturing…and his ability to take over a stage with his presence. The remarkable bass line that begins the song…is classic Sabbath…while Dio rises above it with his voice. The guitars enter and the song becomes so large. This is fantastic….I could listen to this song over and over and over again. Everything about it is classic!

Children Of The Sea [Live]—-A classic and oft played version of this track, this could have well been a classic Dio track….indeed he played it many times live when he was on is own. This is trademark Dio fodder….the remarkable thing is the power of the voice…even in a live setting…rising well above the instruments and filling the audience with the grandiose track. The melody line is fantastic…and transcends so well live…..just incredible.

The Devil Cried—-Recorded during the re-vamped Dio era Heaven And Hell and towards the end of the legends life, this is still magnificent.Its hard to believe when you listen to the track that 1] Dio was ill and 2] that the band ever took a break from recording. The sound is much fuller….but ebbs to allow for the mystical and magical vocal to enter. Dio just sounds magnificent….crisp and clear…even though you recognize some double tracks going on. But the track as a whole from Musicality to song content…..is a true winner.

Shadow Of The Wind—-Deeper in sound and energy, Iommi has a bass style that is so huge…the sound literally shakes my headphones. The sludge and slow stepping pace of the music hearkens back to classic Sabbath sound…..but Dio makes his mark none the less….double tracked vocals are a surprise…and the lack of energy is a bit apparent….but a great track none the less.

Ear In The Wall—-Faster and full of undeniable energy, this starts quick right out of the gate. The drums are huge…and the bass chug chug chug is incredible. Dio sounds a bit less than inspired…but he delivers regardless…..again we have double tracked vocals…which on 13 was a new thing…but leans towards Ronnie’s declining health. This is really nice….but not a favorite of mine.

****1/2 out of 5

 

 

 

The Human League / Anthology-A Very British Synthesizer Group [Deluxe]

Anthology - A Very British Synthesizer Group (Deluxe)

The Human League are an English electronic new wave band formed in Sheffield in 1977. After signing to Virgin Records in 1979, the band released two albums and a string of singles before attaining widespread commercial success with their third album Dare in 1981. The album contained four hit singles, including “Love Action“, “Open Your Heart“, and the UK/US number one hit “Don’t You Want Me“. The band received the Brit Award for Best British Breakthrough Act in 1982. Further hits followed throughout the 1980s and into the 1990s, including “Being Boiled“, “Mirror Man“, “Fascination“, “The Lebanon“, “Human” (a US No. 1) and “Tell Me When“.

The band began as an avant-garde all-male synthesizer-based group. The only constant band member since 1977 has been vocalist and songwriter Philip Oakey. Keyboard players Martyn Ware and Ian Craig Marsh both left the band in 1980 to form Heaven 17. Under Oakey’s leadership, the Human League then evolved into a commercially successful synthpopband with a new line-up including female vocalists Joanne Catherall and Susan Ann Sulley. Since the mid-1990s, the band has essentially been a trio of Oakey, Catherall and Sulley with various sidemen.

Since 1978, the Human League have released nine studio albums, four EPs, 30 singles and several compilation albums. They have had five albums and eight singles in the UK Top 10 and have sold more than 20 million records.

The Analysis—-

Disc One—-

Being Boiled [Fast Version]—-Now…..I will be the first to tell you that I have been a fan of this band for a very, very long time…..but in the same sentence I will tell you that I never paid much attention to the very early works of the band. I thought most of it was rudimentary and frankly unappealing. The best thing Phil ever did was to include the girls in the band and round out the sound of his deep baritone voice. Of course, this track is essential in the history of the band. If this is indeed the fast version, God help us…it is slow, plodding and dark. But the remarkable synth sounds made from such early equipment still remains. The writing was on the wall…this is not the best…but it still plays rather well.

The Dignity Of Labour Pt. 3—-This track has some shinier and brighter synth lines in it…and the pace is a bit more acceptable to me. The missing link is the shine that later material had to it. This is full of space sounds and a dense landscape that is had to grab hold of…..when the piano synth enters, the song becomes brighter…but the dredge is hard to escape from.

Empire Human State—-A nice rhythmic synth line propels this track along at a dance floor pace. The vocal is lone and distant to me….I think the best thing the band ever did was add the girls. The lyrics are shit,,,just pure nonsense and lackluster. I really don’t like this very much…this sounds like Thomas Dolby in kindergarten.

Only After Dark—-Ugh…..I really don’t care for this very much either. The redeeming think about this is the overdubs that combine the vocals  delivered on two different plains…a higher tone and the deep baritone…leading to a landscape of built in harmonies…a shape of the things to come.

Nightclubbing—-This is much in the same vein as the previous ‘singles’ that were released by this band…there is an overriding tone of synth darkness and deep dub sounds that really never appealed to me. The synth effects seem to be on a constant loop that just keep repeating themselves in a monotonous toneless manner. Phil rarely has any vocal inflections and this is really awful to me. Not ready for Nightclubbing!

Boys And Girls—-A dark atmospheric synth opens the track, the big difference is the higher tone of Oakey’s voice…giving the song a lighter feel. The double track vocal adds to the fuller more bright sound of the track…giving the band a seemingly new life and tone. This is much more accessible, and the lyrics really lean towards the crowd that was gravitating to the band….disenfranchised and stigmatized. This is nice.

The Sound Of The Crowd [Instrumental]—-I really would have preferred the version of this track with lyrics. This is not strictly an instrumental but almost like a dub version of the original. You notice the brighter synth tones almost immediately….of course there is a dark underlying tone…but the song was the future of the band…brighter….positive and damn accessible. I love this…a whole new beginning for the band.

Hard Times—-Brighter and full of classic synth sounds of the 80’s, the girls make their appearance and the band takes a dramatic turn toward higher success. The synth sounds are so contagious and the mix of Oakey and the ladies sounds almost like a totally different band. The song is huge in my head phones…taking me back to a time when New Wave was just emerging and we misfits had finally found a band to fall in love with. The slight out of tune synth line makes the track even more charming.

Love Action [I Believe In Love]—-Beginning with an odd synth line that almost meows at you, the layers of sound are fantastic through the headphones. Phil lends his trademark baritone…but the tone just seems lighter and more accessible. The main melody line that pops up in the song will stay in our head and makes me want to pull out all of my old classic vinyl from the 80’s…just fantastic.

Open Your Heart—-Hands down…no argument, my favorite track ever from The Human League. The vocal is extraordinary, the slight out of tune delivery adds to the charm of the song. The energy of the synth line bends my heart into folds. The ladies add to the mix…but it is Oakey at his finest here. This is a classic track that never received the attention it deserved. This IS The Human League!!! You can’t ignore the fantastic synth lines and the jubilant feeling that it gives off…even if the song is not really a happy one……I just love this!

Don’t You Want Me—-Perhaps this song, above all others at the time, helped to define the 80’s synth and New Wave movement. The song still sounds fresh and appealing all of these years on….with a instrumental line that is contagious and ageless. This is the band at the peak of their career…when the cross over to the US was in full swing. A great, great song….but not the best the band ever released…..just the best known.

Mirror Man—-To say that expectations were high after the success of Dare would be an understatement. The band delivered above par music with the release of the follow up EP….short in content…but full of quality singles. The die hard fans snatched it up…..MTV followed it closely…but the band found it hard to keep its place after Don’t You Want Me….for me…the songs like this from that EP were better quality and stand the test of time even better.

You Remind Me Of Gold—-The synth lines of this track are so lively and jaunty…you can’t help but fall in love with it. Phil enters with his trademark baritone and the ladies join him and give the track the warm softer element that it needs. I love all the squeaky lines of the keyboards…this is fantastic…at times the song almost becomes noisy….fantastic.

[Keep FeelingFascination [Extended]—-A shining moment in the bands career for sure. I have some remix versions of this song, where the bass level was so intense the speakers almost shut it out altogether. This is as contagious and catchy as anything the band has ever done. The opening synth lines that mimic Church organs open up to hat huge thumping bass line and the swirls of synth in the background that sneak up on you. The vocals are exquisite…the melody line….unforgettable. This is wonderful. Phil ups his vocal…the overdubs are incredible. Just a fantastic track.

The Lebanon [7″ Version]—-Politically charged at the time and very timely. This track carries a sadness to it….even though the music tries to override that sentiment. The lyrics at the time were very appropriate and could apply to anywhere in the world in this day and age that we live in. This is a pretty intense song when you listen to all the words…but loses some of the power because it is so damn pleasant.

Louise [DJ Edit]—-I really love this song…..being one of those people involved with someone from very far in my past…the song touches me…because real life reunions like this are very possible. The deep tone of the vocal is remarkable….and the combination of all the voices at certain times and certain words give the song a remarkable contagious and romantic feel. This is just a wonderful reminder that anything is possible.

Disc Two—-

Life On Your Own [Single Version]—-This is phenomenal…..the deep bass that propels that song..perfectly matched with the higher tones of the synth line. A slight odd song lies underneath of the whole thing…giving the song a weird flavor that finds a place in my heart. Phil delivers the chorus in his upper register that takes this song to a whole new level. This is just incredible…so nice to hear again.

Human [Extended Version]—-A song that really gave The Human League a second life in the mainstream listening community. Not a favorite track of mine, but it still plays very well today and catches the band at another creative high. The synth line and the bass deliver an unforgettable melody that still manages to pop up in my memory listening bank from time to time….funny….I have a 45 pressing of this song.

I Need Your Loving [DJ Edit]—-Noisy and less melodic, it appears The Human League thought they could copy Prince and deliver a funk fueled dance floor track that really falls flat for me. This is lackluster and the band sounds incredibly bored to me. This did not age well…it plays no better today than it did upon release. I really have disdain for this…..ugh!

Love Is All That Matters [DJ Edit]—-Returning to a more accessible sound somewhat with this single, the funky overtones are still evident. The melody of the song…provided by the ladies voices really give the track the familiar and friendly sound that we are accustomed to. Phil sounds a bit bored with the entire affair…so I still affirm that the main melody and success of this track was the responsibility f the girls….and they deliver very well.

Heart Like A Wheel [William Orbit Remix]—-Helping to add to the nine lives theory, this track helped to bring attention back to a foundering band that needed a new listening base. This is jaunty, happy and full of energy. The synth line is playful and full of energy. The combination of the voices throughout the entire song help to make it sound fresh and invigorating. This is a wonderful track….fantastic!

Soundtrack To A Generation [Edit]—-Odd at the onset, the jaunty almost New Order like synth line takes the song to a nice place. Phil delivers a vocal that sounds a bit strained and forced…..really not the best the band had to offer, I could think of a few other songs that could have taken this ones place. The shout B-52’s like delivery is not the band that we love…this is a waste really.

Tell Me When [Edit/Remastered 2003 ]—-This is a slick return to the shiny and accessible pop lines that the band did the best with. Phil sounds re-invigorated and the ladies are present as always. The pace of the song hearkens back to the early days of the band…this is driving and forceful…but melodic and damn catchy at the same time. The chorus of the song is the key…and it stands the test of time very well. This is wonderful.

One Man In My Heart—-This is fantastic….letting the ladies really have a spotlight on the trademark and necessary vocals that made this band huge. The melody line that runs through this song are almost Do-Wop inspired and make you feel a happiness that you can’t explain. Although Phil does add vocals…this track belongs to the ladies and they shine like an indelible star!

Filling Up With Heaven—-Not sure how I really feel about this song…..at the time of recording, technology was/is so advanced but it seems like the band is still using the same Korg’s and Moog’s that they always used. All of the mass vocals on the chorus are confusing and disjointed and the higher tone keyboards are awful. This just sounds uninspired.

Stay With Me Tonight—-Propulsive synth lines send this moving at a nice pace…then the vocal hits you . At the beginning, Phil barely sounds like himself….but the familiarity emerges. To me, this song is the complete opposite of the last entry…there is so much technology going on that it threatens to drown the band and the necessity of their voices. This is unorganized and messy.

All I Ever Wanted [Radio Edit]—-Not sure why this is here at the end of the release…perhaps a re-issue was in order for the anniversary of the band. This is classic in sound…the deep wavy bass synth is wonderful. The ladies add to the dissonant vocal from Phil…when he breaks into the higher tones it is much warmer and approachable. Nice…but why? Oh…this was from 2001……joke!

Night People [2016 Edit]—-I love this track…this is such a fun and jaunty track. The synth lines are contagious as hell….the vocal is full of echoes and memories of the old days if you will. This is just fantastic…reminding me of the material from Fascination. I love the energy, the sentiment and the mood.

Never Let Me Go—-This is the sound again of a re-invigorated band. he deep deep bass that runs through the underbelly of the song is just fantastic. The ladies lend a vocal line that sticks in your cerebellum…refusing to let go for hours after a listen. This is melodic…huge and driving. I love this…there is just life after life for this band.

Sky [Radio Edit]—-The latest proper new release from the band, this is deep and intense. The melody line that runs through the track is classic and wonderful. I like the combination of the voices and the slight overlays from Phil. This is nice…not the best of the band…but a damn valiant effort showing us that this band is still alive and well. Very Nice!

**** out of 5

 

 

 

 

Gary Numan / Here In The Black- Live At Hollywood Forever Cemetery 2016

Everything Comes Down to This (Live at Hollywood Forever Cemetery)

Gary Anthony James Webb (born 8 March 1958), better known as Gary Numan, is an English singer, songwriter, musician, and record producer. Born in Hammersmith, London, he first entered the music industry as the lead singer of the new wave band Tubeway Army. After releasing two albums with the band, Numan released his debut solo album The Pleasure Principle in 1979.

Most widely known for his chart-topping hits “Are ‘Friends’ Electric?” and “Cars“, Numan achieved his peak of mainstream popularity in the late 1970s and early 1980s, but maintains a loyal cult following. His signature sound consists of heavy synthesizer hooks fed through guitar effects pedals, and he is considered a pioneer of commercial electronic music.

The Analysis—-

I Am Dust—-To have the chance to see Numan live is a pure joy and indescribable experience. On the stage, Numan sheds his Asperger’s and becomes a type of human monster…flailing around on the stage and delivering his darkest sounds possible thanks to new technology and mastery of years of experience. This release, recorded on Halloween, wrapped up the US jaunt of his Here In The Black tour…..it is fitting we begin with this track off Splinter. The crowd is jubilant, and the sound is impeccable…you catch every groan from the synth lines and every nuance that was captured in the studio. Numan sounds literally possessed by the music…..making you feel ice cold and incredibly excited at the same time. This is exquisite.

Metal—-A constant track in Numan’s live shows, this goes way back to the early days of his career. The amped up version plays so well live…you could never tell the date or the age of the song. The guitars are aggressive while still maintaining the irresistible synth line of the original. Numan delivers his trademark whine of a singing voice that brings a smile to my face no matter how many times I hear this.

Everything Comes Down To This—-My favorite track from the Splinter release, I was super excited to see that this was included in the live set. This is not a happy song…I think there were some problems going on during the recording of Splinter with his marriage. But live this is even more intense and devastating. The groans and effects that come from the synths are just amazing….the huge guitar burst make the song a huge masculine love song…Numan pleads for forgiveness and second chances. This is just fantastic.

The Fall—-A huge guitar intro brings out the crashing synth line and beefs up this track like you can’t believe. The aggressive Industrial style keyboards are better than Trent has managed in years. Numan enters with his ghost like vocal and the song settles into a damn catchy melodic affair. This is triumphant. I never gelled with the Jagged CD…but this track is awesome.

Here In The Black—-One of the most mysterious and majestic songs Numan has recorded in recent history, the escalating synth line drives the song and the crowd to near mania. The whispered delivery of the vocal is full of echo’s and a built in atmosphere all of its own. This is just brilliant….it plays so well live….that synth line is to die for.

Films—-Stepping way back in the Numan catalog, films is another track that always lands on my favorites list….along with M.E. The vocal delivery is what makes this song so fantastic….Numan’s whine and the updated synth lines making the song even more powerful. I guess you can tell….I love this man.The original feel of the song is firmly intact…but the added crash of the synths provide an update that makes it even more powerful.

The Calling—-Slowing down the tempo provides a bit of a cool down for the crowd and Numan delivers this incredibly dark rack with mastery. His vocal is so clear and powerful…rising over all of the effects to allow you to feel the loneliness…the despair and the pain. the stage literally swells with emotion as the song progresses…your headphones will literally sob with this delivery. A master!!!

Down In The Park—-It is hard to breathe new life into such an aged track that has been played literally thousands of times. It is always nice to hear this again…but due to overplay it looses some of the shine for me. Consider the age of the track and the story it told way back when, it is phenomenal it still plays so well. A true classic.

Splinter—-The slow and almost maddening build up to this track fills you with anticipation. the sound of this is odd…lots of chants going on in the backdrop of the song and a slight Oriental feel to the music. Numan turns towards his disdain for God for the basis of this song…it plays well and sounds incredibly fresh. The instrumentation that the live band brings to these songs are just incredible…..a fantastic dense depressing track.

Dead Son Rising—-Beginning with a higher tones synth line and a clear and distortion free vocal, Numan delivers this mundane track with a new and fresh approach live. I love this version….the mystery of the track seems to swirl around the stage as the synth becomes almost maddening with repetition. I like this…but sometimes skip over this during casual listening.

A Shadow Falls—-Returning to the deeper synth line, the surprise is when Numan opens his mouth and sings a note which you seldom hear. I am accustomed to the deeper baritone of his voice and to hear him stretch to catch these notes are mesmerizing. This is slow…melodic and full of intensity. Just about perfect.

Lost—-Quiet and introspective, I think this further solidifies the assumption of some personal problems going on in recent years with Gary and Gemma. This is so sad, touching and personal…I can’t imagine what it must be like to play this live and on display for everyone to hear and share. This is phenomenal….getting this piece of him seems like a treasure. The huge burst of energy at the end of the song further cements the urgency and the plea……just incredible.

When The Sky Bleeds—-This is not a favorite track of mine…but the melody line of the song is impossible to ignore. Numan delivers a vocal that is clear and soaring…begging for a reason to continue with life and needing hope. The aggression kicks in and then ebbs….causing you to almost sit on the edge of your seat the entire song. A masterful delivery.

Unforgiven—-Powerful guitars soar above the multi layered synth lines and give this an almost soundtrack feel. Numan enters with his plaintive and begging vocal that makes you pay attention to every single word that is uttered from his psyche. This is intense….dark and driving. A masterpiece of a song that plays better live then on record.

Love Hurt Bleed—-Another track from Splinter that is in the vein of driving NIN synth  lines and Industrial style rock. Numan fits in perfect….delivering his vocal between aggressive bursts of music…this has such a huge backbone…..and the recent trademark Numan sound is all over this track. A masterpiece.

A Prayer For The Unborn—-Sad and introspective with a horn effected synth line, the slight crunches from the other keyboards provide a stark landscape of music for Numan to muse over. This is intense….it has always touched me and made me somewhat sad. That Numan is willing to share such personal moments from his life seem like a privilege to me. This will always remain a favorite track of mine.

Cars—-Over thirty years on, and with major reworking, this track still plays well live. I can’t imagine how sick Numan must be of this song…but he delivers it like it was the first time he has ever preformed it. This is a classic…defining the 80’s….reworked and defining the new Numan generation.

I Die; You Die—-Delving way back in time once again, Numan again manages to stay true to a generation that adored him and still deliver to the generation that view him as a modern God. This has all the trademark synth lines of the original recording…but the huge driving drums add beef and masculinity Numan sounds in such clear voice…you can’t help but pull out old records and give them a re-listen.

Are ‘friends’ Electric?—-One of, if not the oldest track in this song list, this is essential Numan. The song still carries the same alienated feeling and the mastery of the emerging synth machines at the time…but are beefier and so much larger. This is a classic track….I can never tire of this ever……Numan does a great job re-working this.

My Last Day—-Ending this phenomenal show, Numan allows for a slower and darker tense track to say goodbye. This is a gentle ode to his children and perhaps to his fans as well. This is momentous and brilliant. Tender and leaving you walking to your transport shaking your head and whispering to yourself that you have viewed a God in his element.

***** out of 5

 

David Bowie / Legacy

Legacy

David Robert Jones (8 January 1947 – 10 January 2016), known professionally as David Bowie (/ˈbi/), was an English singer, songwriter and actor. He was a figure in popular music for over five decades, regarded by critics and musicians as an innovator, particularly for his work in the 1970s. His career was marked by reinvention and visual presentation, his music and stagecraft significantly influencing popular music. During his lifetime, his record sales, estimated at 140 million worldwide, made him one of the world’s best-selling music artists. In the UK, he was awarded nine platinum album certifications, eleven gold and eight silver, releasing eleven number-one albums. In the US, he received five platinum and seven gold certifications. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1996.

Born and raised in South London, Bowie developed an interest in music as a child, eventually studying art, music and design before embarking on a professional career as a musician in 1963. “Space Oddity” became his first top-five entry on the UK Singles Chartafter its release in July 1969. After a period of experimentation, he re-emerged in 1972 during the glam rock era with his flamboyant and androgynous alter ego Ziggy Stardust. The character was spearheaded by the success of his single “Starman” and album The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars, which won him widespread popularity. In 1975, Bowie’s style shifted radically towards a sound he characterised as “plastic soul“, initially alienating many of his UK devotees but garnering him his first major US crossover success with the number-one single “Fame” and the album Young Americans. In 1976, Bowie starred in the cult film The Man Who Fell to Earth and released Station to Station. The following year, he further confounded musical expectations with the electronic-inflected album Low (1977), the first of three collaborations with Brian Eno that would come to be known as the “Berlin Trilogy“. “Heroes” (1977) and Lodger (1979) followed; each album reached the UK top five and received lasting critical praise.

After uneven commercial success in the late 1970s, Bowie had UK number ones with the 1980 single “Ashes to Ashes“, its parent album Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps), and “Under Pressure“, a 1981 collaboration with Queen. He then reached his commercial peak in 1983 with Let’s Dance, with its title track topping both UK and US charts. Throughout the 1990s and 2000s, Bowie continued to experiment with musical styles, including industrial and jungle. Bowie also continued acting; his roles included Major Celliers in Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence (1983), the Goblin King Jareth in Labyrinth (1986), Pontius Pilate in The Last Temptation of Christ (1988), and Nikola Tesla in The Prestige (2006), among other film and television appearances and cameos. He stopped concert touring after 2004 and his last live performance was at a charity event in 2006. In 2013, Bowie returned from a decade-long recording hiatus with the release of The Next Day. He remained musically active until he died of liver cancer two days after the release of his final album, Blackstar (2016).

Bowie Legacy is a greatest hits album by British musician David Bowie, released on 11 November 2016 through Sony Music Entertainment.

The album’s contents are mostly identical to the two-disc edition of Bowie’s previous greatest hits album Nothing Has Changed(2014), with a few differences between both releases. “Love Is Lost” and “Sue (Or in a Season of Crime)“, which were present on Nothing Has Changed, are replaced by three new selections: “Lazarus” and “I Can’t Give Everything Away“, both from Bowie’s final studio album Blackstar (2016), and the radio edit of the Heathen song “Slow Burn” (which also appears on the three-disc version of Nothing Has Changed). Additionally, a previously-unreleased mix of “Life on Mars?” is present instead of the original version from Hunky Dory (1971).

The Analysis—-

Disc One:

Space Oddity—-Of course, we as music fans are very familiar with this track, as well as many on this release. What surprises me more than anything is how well this song still plays today….never giving hint at the age or the inexperience of Bowie or the track. The mystical elements live very well…the double tracking on the vocal give it a big feel despite the technology. Truly a genius.

The Man Who Sold The World—-I have been a lifelong fan of Bowie…owning around 80 Bowie releases. I do have my favorites as well as songs I tend to pass over. This is one of those songs I usually overlook on a casual listening day…..hearing it today, I ask myself why? The remastering of the track brings out some of the classic background effects that bounce from speaker to speaker….the overdubs fill out the regular mono sound of the original. Fantastic.

Changes—-Overplayed on classic rock radio, this sounds as dated as it is to me. Although it was a track I cut my Bowie teeth on, I guess I’m a little burnt out on it. The ebbs and flows in the track are remarkable…giving it a somewhat joyous feel…and the chorus still sounds as huge as it always has. A great song….but just overplayed a bit.

Oh You Pretty Things—-I love the wonderful almost vaudevillian sound of the piano at the onset of the track. Bowie delivers an almost sideshow sounding vocal that is jaunty and sounds slightly amused. I love this track, the way the chorus opens up with a slight funk brings a smile to my  face…..tracks like this make me fall in love with the man all over again.

Life On Mars? [2016 Mix]—-This always brings to mind the Warhol days of Bowie and the Studio 54 days when he was so public in NYC. I love the ever present piano and the way that the chorus builds and builds and lands with an exhilarating feel on your brain. This was in my opinion Bowie at his finest…..a brilliant track. Although the ‘2016 Mix’ does not sound any different to me. The remastering is incredible though.

Starman  [Single Mix]—-There are certain songs in the Bowie catalog that immediately fill me with an inner happiness I can’t quite explain. Life On Mars is one…..Starman is another. There is just a good feeling to the vocal and to the music. I love the funkier feel to this mix….still sounding classic yet a bit fresh. This is brilliant Bowie…..a true master. When that chorus hits me, I can’t help but grin.

Ziggy Stardust—-Bowie is his best persona and best Rock n’ Roll mode, Ziggy still plays very well today although a bit far-fetched these days. I love the introduction of the more ‘cool’ laid back vocal and the brilliant upfront guitar. This is noisy, glamorous and driving.

Moonage Daydream—-This another one of those Bowie tracks I tend to skip over on a regular basis while listening casually. The vocal is brilliant, although moved back from the music a bit. The piano is as present as the guitars and the drums really bolster the backbone of the track. Everything comes together really well. The center ‘break’ in the song is fantastic.

The Jean Genie [Single Mix]—-Really noisy and with a funky bass line playing underneath the track, this is full of attitude from the very onset. The harmonica and slight blues feel gets on my nerves a bit….but it is classic Bowie. This version has a slight echo that plays through it……getting on my nerves a bit.

All The Young Dudes—-I have never been a fan of Bolan or of this track. I guess it is pivotal in the Bowie catalog…but for me it was never Bowie at his finest. I like the way Bowie almost talks his way through the track, but anything that is too blues based tends to rub me the wrong way…none the less…this remastered version sounds so clear and full.

Drive-In Saturday—-It is odd to me how this song starts the milli-second you press play. Like many Bowie classics, this song is laid back and then tends to open up wide when the chorus hits. I like the laid back feel and the added horns to the song…giving it an almost doo-wop feel at times. This is great to hear again….never gets old.

Sorrow—-Beginning with gorgeous strings and that classic Bowie croon, this has many good memories for me. Taking leave from the more heavily guitar based tracks, this is more acoustic and breezy for me….and the horns that play during the ‘breaks’ add a touch that are irreplaceable. The double track vocal makes the song very large. Brilliant!

Rebel Rebel—-Returning to the more guitar driven based Bowie catalog, Bowie again almost talks his way through this track. Although this song has been heard probably a million times by my ears, it still sounds fresh and new to me. I love the fuzzy feel to the production….this is fantastic.

Young Americans—-Ushering in the ‘funky’ Bowie era, the horns are magnificent and the horns add to the flavor. With background vocals by a then unheard of Luther Vandross, this has a funky stab at disco and funk. The drums are wonderful and chorus is another of those tracks that just makes me feel happy.

Fame—-Famously written with John Lennon in 15 minutes in a Soho apartment, this track never gets old. The music is so full….funky and with an undeniable flavor of the mid 70’s. This is classic Bowie…when his oddity was the attraction. The vocal effects live in infamy…this is a brilliant track……just a slight distortion adding to the fullness of the sound.

Golden Years—-I know this is a huge track in the Bowie discography….but to me, this was never one of his best compositions. I think maybe it has just been overplayed….and of course, it helped to make him an even more household name…but I pass on this almost regularly.

Sound And Vision—-For me, this is one of the best Bowie tracks ever recorded. I have countless pumped up remixes of this song…but this original version…with its almost archaic drum machine sound still plays the best. Bowie is in such good voice…and when he hits that baritone stride of his it is incredible. The female backdrop vocals give it an almost fun feel. This is crooning Bowie at his best.

Heroes—-Perhaps one of the most intense Bowie tracks in his entire catalog, this moved away from the funky music stage and carried that German sound that belied his change in address. This is airy but heavy….mystical but poignant…..sad yet joyous. Classic yet fresh!

Boys Keep Swinging—-Sounding European influenced and flirting with all aspects of sexual identification, this still sounds wonderful today. The huge bevy of voices that join David on this track help to make the sound large…the organ that plays in the background adds to the slight old feeling of the song.

Fashion—-Scary Monsters….& Super Creeps remains to this day my favorite Bowie release…..sounding different than anything that he had been doing during the Berlin Trilogy. This has a emerging 80’s feel that is filled with more synth sounds and handclaps….but the guitar is always there as well. Bowie delivers an almost dis-embodied robot vocal…..just fantastic.

Ashes To Ashes [Single Version]—-Going back to my earlier comments about Bowie songs that make me feel elated and giddy….I cite this track as well. This video is hilarious with the archaic firming Technics…but the song has a joyous and fun feel to it…..even though it is not happy. Answering the request for Space Oddity Pt. II…this answered the call quite well….Bowie is such good voice…actually singing again.

Disc Two:

Under Pressure [with Queen]—-An absolutely brilliant idea to combine the voices of Bowie and Mercury, this track never gets old…despite Vanilla Ice…lol. I love the unique sound…the Queen music but the familiar strains of Bowie filling out the song…this was a triumph of imaginable proportions…..

Let’s Dance [Single Version]—-The single and video that brought Bowie to worldwide dominance, I still love this song. It had every 80’s definition in it while still allowing Bowie to be himself as well. Although this album and 3 singles were panned by many die-hard fans, I consider it Bowie at his most creative spurt in years.

China Girl [Single Version]—-The 80’s defined right here in this moment…..this is brilliant. Allowing Bowie to sound different yet the same…..carrying on some material from Scary Monsters, China Girl is another step from that release and his fascination with the Orient at the time. This is magnificent…and the Stevie Ray Vaughn feel is heard loud and clear….just brilliant.

Modern Love [Single Version]—-Bowie…despite his age at the time of this recording, sounds fresh…young and invigorated. Heavy on synth and a prominent drum, Bowie delivers a classic 80’s track that will live in infamy The horns are fantastic and the mood is joyous….the chorus and backdrop vocals sound incredible.

Blue Jean—-As quickly as Bowie rose to prominence, he seem to crash and burn with this release…although personally I consider this one of Bowie’s finest moments. There is an urgency and anger to this track that makes it driving and impactful…and the classic Bowie croon sounds so wonderfully brilliant. To me….this track should have been huge…without the 20 minute video.

This Is Not America [With Pat Methany Group]—-.Laid back and mellow, Bowie sounds fantastic when delivering his lines…although the proper chorus vocal seems pushed to the back of the mix. This is poignant and Bowie hits notes not heard in years…this is a fantastic single that many people forget…I love this.

Dancing In The Streets [With Mick Jagger]—-Ummmm……no!!!! Just dreadful in my opinion. Despite their history, this should have never have happened.

Absolute Beginners—-I like this…..but the singles released at this point seemed to find Bowie dis-enfranchised and upset with the demands that were being put upon him. This has an ‘old’ feel to it…..reaching back to the mellower days of Bowie and finding him rather introspective. This is so nice.

Jump They Say [Radio Edit]—-For me, this song was all over the place….the music is erratic and jerky….the only constant being the more mellow croon that Bowie began to use after the Let’s Dance era. The horns are great on this track…but the music seems disjointed and schizophrenic to me…almost drowning out the wonderful vocal.

Hallo Spaceboy [with The Pet Shop Boys] [PSB Remix]—-A shining moment for me in my own personal music journey….combining two of my favorite acts together under one roof….the idea was so incredible I though i might have a coronary…the result was even better. The combination of these two creative forces resulted in a single of a lifetime….I never, ever tire of this nor will I ever.

Little Wonder [Edit]—-Entering into his dubstep phase, I never liked the erratic music behind the almost gentle vocal. I wonder how Bowie reconciled his vocal over this erratic and maddening beat that drives the song. This is noisy and perhaps more brilliant than I give it credit for…..I love the chorus……but it is just everywhere musically.

I’m Afraid Of Americans [V1]—-Bowie working with Reznor was yest another re-invention of the Bowie persona and worked incredibly well for me. The music is noisy and a bit disjointed…but the vocal matches the urgency that Trent brought to the production. This was a fantastic creative stretch in Bowie’s career….much like Gary Numan these days.

Thursday’s Child [Radio Edit]—-Brilliantly orchestrated and moody, Bowie returns with that older age croon that defined much of his later work. This is remarkably melodic and dark…yet beautiful and joyful…a look back and a look forward…this plays so well with the backdrop vocals. I love the feel of the song….again making me smile.

Slow Burn [Edit]—-This track has a definite throwback feel to it….allowing Bowie to continue his new singing style but remaining true to his sound. The strength of his vocal is remarkable…his occasional falsetto making the entire song rather spectacular. I love this….

Everyone Says “Hi” [Edit]—-On this track, Bowie at the onset sounds almost unrecognizable…delivering word after word that sounds almost child-like and playful. The music is uplifting and joyful…easing any woes that might be in your brain…this is fantastic as well….I love the bouncy feel to the gentle acoustic guitar.

New Killer Star—-A slight bluesy lazy vocal seems to drive this song as much as the punchy jaunty guitar. The chorus is a sing songy type deliver that drives the speed of the song, while the chorus calms things with the croon…this is just wonderful. This is a return back to the old days.

Where Are We Now?—-The unintentional [or intentional?] swan song begins with Bowie still sounding remarkably young and poised….with a strong voice and an introspective message. The music is stripped bare and the voice is the star of the show…the moodiness is sad and sorrowful….but the swells of the music makes you happy you ever discovered this genius.

Lazarus—-With the music sounding remarkably modern and fresh….horns are slight in the backdrop and you notice the darkness of the song now. The tense delivery is what keeps you on the edge of your seat….but you notice how Bowie sounds….incredibly fresh and healthy….driven and poignant…..incredible.

I Can’t Give Everything Away [Edit]—-Happy in delivery, the music is fresh and jubilant. The vocal sounds incredibly fresh for a man who knew that he was dying and kept it all a secret…perhaps this was a message for all of us. I think this may not be the last we hear of The King….but if it is….I will die a happy man as well.

***** out of 5