Eva by Heart
Nominated by Jackie Berry
After a long and testing day at work and being sardined on the tube with Arsenal fans, Eva by Heart was a welcome release.
I always wonder about posthumous hits. I am a very sentimental person and try to protect myself from this by applying cynicism. Does the poignancy of the singer’s death add to the appeal of the music? Terry Wogan played her loads, that’s why she’s popular. Sooty would have a hit record if Terry’s old geezers or gals heard it enough times…
To lift from Wikipedia, jazz critic Ted Gioia writes: ‘You might be tempted to write off the ‘Cassidy sensation’ […] as a response to the sad story of the singer’s abbreviated life rather than as a measure of her artistry. But don’t be mistaken, Cassidy was a huge talent, whose obscurity during her lifetime was almost as much a tragedy as her early death.’
I couldn’t say it better than that.
I really enjoyed this record, for its own sake. It’s really simple, with powerful traditional songs like Wade in the Water and How I can keep from Singing? balanced with more gentle ballads like Songbird and the lovely I Know you by Heart.
A beautiful, soulful voice. I hope she was imagining a confident and happy future when she was singing this – it sounds like it.
Not to be confused with Bryan Adams, says the Wikipedia entry. Why not? It’s easily done.
Singer-songwriter + guitar + powerful vocals + ROCK chords + multi-generational appeal. Bryan Adams is Canadian, true, but that’s splitting hairs. ‘Husky and energetic’ could apply to them both.
This album is a great listen – it’s just really enjoyable rock (or alt-rock-country, as the Guardian described him).
He’s got an impressive back catalogue and is older than he looked hiding behind his fringe on Jools Holland last week.
The maturity shows in his music – he knows how to write a good melody. The opening track Gimme Something Good would have been on repeat play on the juke box when I was 18 (ok, that might not be the greatest testament, but I could imagine it being played over and over and over, like Power of Love by Jennifer Rush was. That doesn’t help. I’ll stop digging and hope you get what I mean).
Am I Safe is another great track, in an album of good tracks.
It’s all in there – U2, INXS, Eagles… and of course… Bryan… totally rocking out!
The Sensual World
We listened to the Sensual World coming back down the M1. Though this time the sun was shining, I didn’t find this an easy first listening.
Ben said it took few goes for him to ‘get’ the album, and that was aided by his adolescent memories of the Babooshka video. Anyone who looks that great has to sound great, always.
So Kate had to prove herself with this one for me. Title track Sensual World is sexy, mmh yes. She was inspired by Molly Bloom’s soliloquy in James Joyce’s Ulysses (not got round to that one yet – maybe I will now) and includes Irish instruments. Love and Anger is fierce and fine, and another single from the album.
And This Woman’s Work is a work of genius.
‘I know you have a little life in you yet.
I know you have a lot of strength left.’
Kate Bush works best for me like this, where her soaring, powerful voice is used to propel a simple story, or even feeling. I got lost in some album tracks. Fog was just that for me, and a couple seemed too complex and conceptual. (I feel my ‘taste’ is emerging in these reviews, and it prefers music more neatly packaged and patterned).
She is a legend, as the response to her recent live shows demonstrates. The Sensual World, was her 6th album, and she’s never stopped developing. I’ll keep listening.
Dance-punk. Deserves praise
Original power beats
Set a pulse racing
Neil Young reminds me of Kermit the frog. Young is a few octaves lower and Canadian, but to me they share the same, beseeching tone.
And stuck in traffic on the M1, this fleeting similarity between the world’s favourite frog and one of the world’s favourite rock/folk musicians got carried away in my mind’s eye. Kermit was singing Neil Young, Animal was playing the harmonica, and Miss Piggy was flicking her porcine mane as the overlooked waitress in the first song, Unknown Legend. Then all the little animal muppets popped up to sing the choruses, swaying in time.
And that’s probably sacrilege to Neil Young fans. I’m expecting frog spawn through the letterbox.
Released in 1992, this was his 20th album and it is really strong. His vocals aren’t for me, sorry, but the music – piano, banjo, acoustic guitar – are excellent. I found the first song lovely and Harvest Moon was a deserving hit. Maybe it deserved more than the solid grey skies around Doncaster.
I’m on the road this weekend, so I’m keeping it short!
(What about a duet on Kermit’s great hit, Rainbow Connection? Shucks, Debbie Harry beat him to it)
Nominated by Sally Dickson
Rumours is a great album, packed with hits. I’m a bit cynical, always thinking ‘it can’t be that good’ but I really enjoyed listening to this.
Many of the songs are well known hits in their own right – Go Your Own Way, Dreams, The Chain, You Make Loving Fun – so it was good to hear them as an album, building up the intensity. And I really sang along, big style. It may be a bit ‘middle of the road’ (ie loads of people like it) but it’s very accomplished.
It reminds me of my FVSB (first very serious boyfriend), who liked Fleetwood Mac because his dad did. His dad was an electrical engineer in the Navy, and their house was full of fantastic (and fantastically safe) wiring. There were speakers built into the bathroom, and I remember sitting on the loo (or the ‘head’ as he called it) listening to Stevie Nicks.
So I think these songs were well embedded, waiting to be released. And they have been.
‘Sweet wonderful you, You make me happy with the things you do’
The Human League
Nominated by John Bergman
The Human League were my first taste of glamour. I remember watching Don’t You Want Me aged 11, and thinking the women singers were just so cool. Fascinatingly, frighteningly cool.
That waitress in a cocktail bar knew she’d find ‘a much better place, either with or without you.’ So dismissive! So brave! Being ready to do without one of those ‘men’. But so dangerous… ‘You’d better change it back or we will both be sorry,’ (sounds a bit childish now). A brilliant psycho-drama for a pre-teen to get stuck into.
Phil Oakey was a bit ‘fanciable’ too, though I remember being unsettled by his fringe. I was a strange child.
It is deceptively simple music. It sounds sparse and simple to pick out on a keyboard. A few synths, a drum track. But the effect is impressive. Oakey’s voice creates the drama and tells the story. Easy when you know how.
There are deserving hits on this album – Open your Heart, Love Action, Don’t you Want Me – and the other tracks are interesting too. I am the Law and Seconds stand out.
And it’s got another one of my very, very best lines, in Open you Heart.
‘But if you can’t stand the test, you know your worst is better than their best.’
And you can catch them at the Hammersmith Apollo on 6 December! Phil still looks fanciable, and better without the fringe I reckon.
Nominated by Wess Hattingh
This tasty slice of synth pop almost made me miss my change on the tube. I was in the zone, bopping away, and things just got better – all the people crowding the carriage suddenly disappeared! A wave of surprised delight went through my mind, before I realised we were at Finsbury Park and I had to follow most of them quickly onto the Piccadilly Line.
Big in Japan is the only Alphaville song I’m familiar with, their classic dancing-round-the-handbags debut from 1984. Salvation seems quite different – less catchy, less formulaic and a lot weirder, in a nice way. It has a gently hypnotizing quality, with a mix of chilled synth music and earnest vocals that remind me of Brian Wilson (the former Beach Boy who went rogue).
And the lyrics are bizarre, while making a strange musical sense.
Monkey in the Moon is the best. I can’t work it out, but ‘it’s made for you’ and there’s a rabbit involved too.
Pandora’s Lullaby: ‘And when the subway brakes to preserve some suicidal bee
I stop to breathe for a while. Maybe it was me’. Maybe it was…
Salvation made me happily oblivious to Caledonian Road, Holloway Road and Arsenal. It is therefore great!
(Like the music, the cover art is also great but inexplicably symbolic. The cross, I get, the red motif means something (or nothing) and the greyhound – faith, loyalty? Purple fabric? It’s the pile of plates on the inside cover that stumps me.)
Welcome Interstate Managers
Fountains of Wayne
Nominated by Jill Hopper
Welcome Interstate Managers helped me skip into work this morning, and then pick my feet up walking home tonight.
The 16 songs are packed with clever lyrics and appealing melodies. I thought they were getting progressively silly, but now realise I was listening on shuffle play… What with yesterday’s live album mix-up, am I’m losing my edge?
I really enjoyed this record and want to have the energy to say loads more than I can today. But I haven’t, I’m afraid.
So I’m going to include a big shameless direct link to the Fountains of Wayne website, where they include YouTube clips of fans singing their songs – like this acapella group doing I Want an Alien for Christmas, in a car. Watch the band videos, and check out the fan videos tag for Hey Julie and Hackensack. Sing along, tap your feet, shake from side to side, smile!
August and Everything After: Live at Town Hall
Nominated by John Bass
Ok, I’ve realised that I listened to the live version of the Counting Crows’ debut album (released 2007) , rather than the album itself (released in 1993).
And the crowd loved it, taking over the chorus line to Omaha from front man Adam Duritz, and doing a whole lotta whooping throughout. To be honest, the songs didn’t grab me after one listen (might be a grower) but I always get a tingly feeling when its obvious the audience is having an amazing time. Singing in unison is so powerful. I won’t repeat what Public Enemy got us chanting at Reading Festival in 1992, but I really remember the experience.
As the name suggests, this live version of August and Everything (a great title for an album that sold millions of copies) was recorded in Town Hall, New York. I had been picturing a big festival arena, with guys in cowboy boots lifting blonde-haired girlfriends onto their shoulders. Everyone had a bottle of Bud, and everyone had a great time
If you like Americana guitar rock and full-hearted singing give it a go!
(And hello to those in the USA who’ve been visiting my blogs. I don’t know if you are the same few people, or an ever-changing audience, interested in music, MS or both, but I appreciate it.)