The Cranberries / Gold

Gold

The Cranberries are an Irish rock band formed in Limerick in 1989 by lead singer Niall Quinn, guitarist Noel Hogan, bassist Mike Hogan, and drummer Fergal Lawler. Quinn was replaced as lead singer by Dolores O’Riordan in 1990. Although widely associated with alternative rock, the band’s sound also incorporates indie poppost-punkIrish folk, and pop rock elements.

The Cranberries rose to international fame in the 1990s with their debut album, Everybody Else Is Doing It, So Why Can’t We?, which became a commercial success. The Cranberries have sold over 40 million records worldwide. The band achieved four top 20 albums on the Billboard 200 chart (Everybody Else Is Doing It, So Why Can’t We?No Need to ArgueTo the Faithful Departed and Bury the Hatchet) and eight top 20 singles on the Modern Rock Tracks chart (“Linger“, “Dreams“, “Zombie“, “Ode to My Family“, “Ridiculous Thoughts“, “Salvation“, “Free to Decide“, and “Promises“).

In early 2009, after a six-year hiatus, the Cranberries reunited and began a North American tour, followed by shows in Latin America and Europe. The band recorded their sixth album Roses in May 2011, and released it in February 2012. Something Else, an album covering earlier songs together with the Irish Chamber Orchestra, was released in April 2017.

On 15 January 2018, lead singer Dolores O’Riordan was found dead in a London hotel room. She had recently arrived in London for a recording session.

The Analysis—-

Disc One:

Dreams—-Perhaps THE track that helped to define the sound of The Cranberries, the remarkable combination of Irish tinged folk rock combined with an Alternative sound, allowed the band to be embraced by massive amounts of fans. The driving and wonderful vocal from Dolores is the key to all of these songs here. One of the defining vocalists of the 90’s, I never get tired of the magic found in here voice.

Sunday—-With a beautiful string based intro, the song puts you in a certain frame of mind from the very first notes. The swells of quiet music takes nothing away from the power of the band…instead it shows diversity and musical growth. This is a beautiful track…..when the track finally opens up you are at once comfortable and familiar with the sound. This is quite beautiful.

Pretty—-Again, the music is stark and empty at the onset….really carrying the 90’s Alternative torch with the feel of the song. Dolores sounds ghostly and haunted in her vocal..it literally transports you places with the tone and the urgency. A poignant track considering the singer’s backstory.

How—-A fantastic almost tribal drum introduces the track. The voice is slight and quiet…but still manages to convey an urgency and demand to pay attention. As the song opens up further the vocal becomes louder and almost pleading in sound. This is quite wonderful….a voice like no other.

Not Sorry—-Consistent in sound, the guitars are a bit more pronounced and Alt in sound…truly reminding you of the 90’s Rock sound. Dolores is mystical and magical in tone. Not a favorite track…but it fits in with the collection really well.

Linger—-The opening guitar parts remind you immediately of the track you are listening to. As the flow of the song takes shape, it becomes more beautiful with every bar of sound. The vocal is just hear wrenching…Dolores had a remarkable range and phrasing that stood the test of time. This is a remarkable track…full of emotion and full of memories for me. I love this.

 

Liar—-A very distinct guitar sound ushers in a slight different sound for the band. This seems a bit out of place in the song placement but diversity is key…right? This sounds a bit auto biographical….Dolores sings with a bit of a punch underlying the upfront pleasant vocal. This is full of a great musical display by the rhythm section of the band…full bodied and instrumentally emotional.

Zombie—-Another massive hit for the band, it is hard to forget this track. Full of the fuzzy 90’s guitar sound from Seattle, this is energetic and poignant. Dolores is a vocal power house of this track…..making me almost lose my mind with the urgency and almost pleading style she sings with. The chorus is a masterpiece of power and fuzz…energy and heart break. This was a magical musical moment.

 

Ode To My Family—-Quite poppy and catchy, Dolores even sounds a bit relaxed vocally as the track begins. The almost whispered vocal at the onset is almost buried in the instrumentation. The double track voice gives the song that needed emotional punch in your gut. When the voice moves up front…you feel every single word she utters…a wonderful song.

I Can’t Be With You—-Surprisingly poppy in sound, the guitars are so understated on this track…the saving grace for me is when the chorus hits and opens the song wide open. The vocal…even understated is still full of a certain urgency and magic. this is brighter that I expected…but still has a punch in the chorus.

Empty—-This track….seems slight and starkly naked to me at times. The music is so understated and pushed to the back…you get no power chords at the onset. The magical vocal is very upfront and displays a range that is seldom heard from Dolores….rising and falling in tone and emotion. this is a bit to stripped down for me…but I love when the strings enter and give the song an almost magical quality.

Everything I Said—-So quiet and understated for me, I much prefer the band when the emit those huge power chords and energy. The ballad after ballad on this collection becomes a bit tiresome at times…but it is the catalog I suppose. This is quiet all the way around…even the vocal seems a bit less than inspired…but the words…if you pay attention…may just rip your heart out.

Ridiculous Thoughts—-Stark…I know I have used that word a lot here, musically this is so understated at the onset….and then SURPRISE….the track opens wide open and delivers a more powerful performance that goes back in the glory days of more 90’s inspired Alt-Rock. This is a welcome change after the last 6 tracks. The band sounds phenomenal…and Dolores sounds like a new breath was breathed into her….just wonderful.

Dreaming My Dreams—-Very quiet and delivered almost in a naked way, Dolores almost whispers her way through the song. The guitars are acoustic in sound and the drums are relegated to cymbals and a slight high hat. The cello…or strings lay the foundation of this very understated track.

Daffodil Lament—-Again…..the introduction sets the tone for more lament and regret….the guitars are missing…the piano seems to lead the song…then in the back drop…way removed…there is a magical noisy element to the song that makes me smile and brings me a joy. The song ebbs and flows with power and sadness…but still delivers a magic that I love about the band.

So Cold In Ireland—-Ending the first disc with yet another stripped down and melancholy tack that brings a sadness and haunted feel. The vocal is so full of that Irish brogue….I love the tone….but I need some energy at this point….and then the chorus hits and the song becomes muscular and driving….I love this song.

Disc Two:

Salvation—-Delivering an almost punk sound, this is full of energy and a certain magic the band had in the early days of the career. This is addictive…..energetic and damn entertaining. The instrumentation is driving and inspired…I never get tired of this. The vocal sounds inspired as well…..conveying an urgent message that needed to be heard by everyone. Wonderful.

 

Free To Decide—-Full of a magical melody from the very onset, the vocal seems to wrap around right in the music. the lyrics….seem even more important on this day for me. Dolores sounds amazing and convincing…like she was emerging from a darkness…that never really went away. I love this song so much….makes me really miss her.

When You’re Gone—-Such a sad song now….the thing that I love about this track…the guitar has a magical Johnny Marr sound to it….in fact the entire thing reminds me of The Smiths. The lyrical content is so sad to me….although I love the quasi-50’s feel to the song as well. This is a very favorite track of mine. So important now….

 

Hollywood—-Quiet for the first bar, then a barrage of sound smacks you in the face with a remarkable energy. Dolores sounds almost possessed at times with her driving vocal. This is a wonderfully fantastic song…the lyrics make you sit back and think about your life and the drama you might cause yourself. The huge wall of musical sound is extraordinary…..I love this.

Cordell—-Beautifully melodic and dense from the onset, the guitar is exquisite…even it it’s quiet form. Dolores delivers and understated but incredibly powerful vocal. You can feel the pain and the melancholy…the added double track vocal fills everything out….a rarely heard masterpiece of music.

Animal Instinct—-So full of a magical melody, this track is damn addictive…I listen to this over and over again. The blend of harmonious vocals suck you right into the sound. This is another magical track that does not get played enough….this was a band being so creative and working so well together. I really love this.

Promises—-A slow intro ushers in another magically muscular track that is full of energy and aggression. Dolores sounds driven to deliver her message…I love the huge sound of the music….it matches and at the same time compliments the vocal in a way that only this band could do. This is just fantastic.

 

You And Me—-Quiet and a bit introspective…but it fits my ears perfectly at this very moment. The stark quality of the song is wonderfully welcome and lifts me from my seat in a magical way. The voice literally wraps right around my cerebellum….giving me warmth and comfort. wonderful song placement.

Just My Imagination—-A bit hit and miss for me…..the poppy feel of the song confuses me a little bit. i love the double track vocal…the magical harmonies add a bit of depth to a fairly unforgettable song. That is just my opinion. I love the mood…there is a happy feel to the song…it is rather uplifting.

Never Grow Old—-Haunting and really sad at this current time. I never really listened to this so intently as I have today….it makes me tear up and feel a bit empty inside…I have lost so many personal heroes in these last few years….this is a sad lament…read into it as you will….for me there is a message.

Analyse—-Bombastic and magically aggressive from the very first note, this is a wonderful track. This has that same melody quality that drove certain songs to the top of the charts…I wonder why this was not far more heard on radio and by fans. This is just fantastic….fairly simple lyrically…the feel of the song says more to me than the words actually do…it you can understand that. This is a wonderful moment in time.

Time Is Ticking Out—-Another magically melodic track that is muscular in sound…you still poignant somehow. Dolores delivers a remarkable vocal…the chorus threatens to stay in your brain for days after just one listen….the Cranberry recipe was in full effect here. I love this song.

This Is The Day—-Sounding almost like a continuation from the previous track, this has many elements of songs that really propelled this band into the upper escalations of Modern Rock. Not only the vocal mind you, the music and the feel the band delivers was as important as the voice. This is a huge song…in sound and delivery. I love this.

New New York—-Aggressive and driving guitars literally create a wall of sound that threatens to drown out even the vocal. This track quiets a bit….but carries a true New York energy throughout the entire song….calling Lou Reed to mind. I love the energy of this song…..fantastic. Huge and Muscular.

Stars—-Rounding out this compilation with a nice melodic track that makes me relaxed…and allows me o look back on a beloved band…..love them and cherish that almost every song has a wonderful memory for me in my own personal history. Isn’t that what music is all about….memories…love…joy…sadness…..the humanness of life….thank you Dolores!!!

*****out of 5

 

 

 

 

The Restless Romantics / A SoundCloud Sampler

“The Reckless Romantics were a power trio based out of Los Angeles, CA and lead by Raphael Ascanio. Fueled by beer, whiskey, marijuana, and Raphael’s lament, the trio existed and performed improvised renditions of Raphael’s regrets, failures and lamentations. The band is currently on hiatus until the drummer is out of jail.”

The Analysis—-

Drinking About You—-Wonderfully constructed in the way the best 80’s synth pop was, this takes me back to the New romantic movement of that time. The disembodied vocal…full of a slight pain and loneliness still manages to sound suave and relaxed. A remarkable throwback sound that is at the same time, quite modern.

 

For Aurora—-Literally reeking of the classic Morrissey/Marr compilations of the mid 80’s, the slight and exquisite jangly guitar sound is fantastic. The higher tuned guitar seems to lay right on top of the vocal…creating a wonderful blanket of sound that makes you want to snuggle deep into. Masterfully delivered…this is fantastic.

 

Demo—-This live recording really catches the energy and the raw feel of the band. The style is classic Joy Division to my ears…the bass leads the song…but the crashing drums gives off a remarkable energy. The vocal sound is fantastic for a live demo…the deep baritone literally wraps around my head. This band has really captured me….I anxiously await more material from this up and coming band.

 

**** out of 5

 

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