Quick Review (LP): Their Satanic Majesties’ Request by The Rolling Stones

The Rolling Stones
Their Satanic Majesties’ Request
Decca; 1967

My Rating: D (35/100)

Best Tracks: "2000 Man", "She’s a Rainbow"


Listen to what the flower people say…

NOTES

  • "Sing This All Together" is almost completely ludicrous, except for the part that’s actually a song.
  • I dig the plinky little piano line on "She’s a Rainbow." It’s sort of a neat tune, one of the better ones on this album.
  • There are most definitely a few "MAKE IT STOP!!!" moments on this record. ("Gomper")
  • “2000 Man” is a pretty cool tune. Not amazing or anything, but decent.
  • Coming as it does right in the middle of one of the greatest run of albums in rock and roll history, there is just so much to despise about this record.
  • I’ve always been a naysayer when it comes to Sgt. Pepper’s, so you can probably imagine that I thought this record was awful. It really does remind me of something from the annals of Spinal Tap. The band seems to agree, since they never went down this road again. I guess it’s best to let The Beatles be The Beatles.
  • AMG offers the counterpoint here, but if the band don’t like it, then why should I?

ATTRIBUTES
Cohesion (4.5/5)
Concept (3/5)
Consequence (2/5)
Consistency (2/5)
Songs (3/5)

Quick Review (LP): Cardinology by Ryan Adams

Ryan Adams & The Cardinals
Cardinology
Lost Highway; 2008

My Rating: C (48/100)

Best Tracks: "Born Into A Light", "Go Easy", "Natural Ghost", "Sink Ships"


An easy-listening hard rock record. In other words, a misstep.

NOTES

  • I dig the laid-back groove of "Born Into A Light." It’s hard to beat Adams playing alt-country with a crack band.
  • "Go Easy" is sort of gorgeous, though not outstanding.
  • "Natural Ghost" sort of sounds like Queensryche. That’s a good thing.
  • "Stop" sounds like a Love Is Hell leftover.
  • This is a strong guitar album. The band uses a lot of different guitar styles, and their playing is excellent.
  • Falls short on the songwriting front, and the album lacks any sort of grand vision. Also, I mean that thing up there about easy listening hard rock.
  • All in all, a frustratingly average record. There’s a few strong moments early on, but all interest is lost by the end. It’s as if Adams mistakes his prodigious talent and crack backing band for excellence itself. Unfortunately, it just don’t work that way.
  • As Adams’ career progresses, he seems to be more into the guitar playing. He’s playing hard rock these days. Given his prolific songwriting and manic personality, he’s sort of like a hybrid of Rivers Cuomo and Axl Rose. Think about it.
  • Pitchfork review is spot on.

ATTRIBUTES
Cohesion (3/5)
Concept (3/5)
Consequence (4/5)
Consistency (3.5/5)
Songs (3.5/5)

Quick Review (LP): Between the Buttons (UK) by The Rolling Stones

The Rolling Stones
Between the Buttons (UK)
Decca; 1967

My Rating: A (95/100)

Best Tracks: "Yesterday’s Papers", "Back Street Girl", "Complicated", "Who’s Been Sleeping Here", "Something Happened To Me Yesterday"

Cool, calm, and collected.

NOTES

  • Love the verse/chorus inversion on "Yesterday’s Papers." The backup singers hit the mark.
  • Also, I love the way Jagger sings at a subdued level. He really doesn’t overdo it here as he is prone to doing.
  • "Back Street Girl" is such a beautiful tune. A total reversal of the lyrics. A genius moment.
  • "Cool, Calm, Collected" sort of has a McCartney vibe. Cute.
  • They couldn’t resist the urge to put a flute in the mix on "All Sold Out." It was the 60’s I guess.
  • Man, the fantastic melodies and playing just abound. "Who’s Been Sleeping Here" is great!
  • "Miss Amanda Jones" sounds like their early 70’s work.
  • "Something Happened To Me Yesterday" is so Beatles-esque. Sounds like it was acid-fueled.
  • I love the vibe of this record. They’ve really left the blues behind at this point, and they are making something entirely their own (and entirely British!). The songs are all brilliant, and what’s great about that is none of these are considered their greatest hits. This is a great deep cut record, and one of the Stones’ most unique.

ATTRIBUTES
Cohesion (5/5)
Concept (5/5)
Consequence (4/5)
Consistency (5/5)
Songs (5/5)

Quick Review (LP): Aftermath (UK) by The Rolling Stones

The Rolling Stones
Aftermath (UK)
Decca; 1966

My Rating: A (95/100)

Best Tracks: "Mother’s Little Helper", "Stupid Girl", "Lady Jane", "Under My Thumb", "Out of Time", "I Am Waiting"

As in the band goes nuclear here.

NOTES

  • "Mother’s Little Helper" is a brilliant little tune. It’s sort of like an understated "Eleanor Rigby."
  • "Stupid Girl" is a great, raucous pop song.
  • I really dig "Lady Jane." Love the Henry VIII era name-checking.
  • Nothing needs to be said about the brilliance of "Under My Thumb." Pop music glory.
  • Even the lesser known cuts like "Doncha Bother Me" and "Flight 505" sound great. They are also more indicative of the direction the band would take post Brian Jones.
  • Sure, "Goin’ Home" drags on quite a bit, but it’s sort of interesting historically. Bands didn’t record 11 minute songs back then. It’s kinda stupid though, too.
  • "Out of Time" is one of the great lesser known Stones tracks. What a fabulous chorus. You don’t get this cut on the US version.
  • "I Am Waiting" – so amazing – how did these guys go from playing blues covers to writing these classics over night?
  • The album may run a bit long. A few tracks are of questionable quality, but the rest of the songs are so good that you’ll barely notice.
  • It’s the first great Stones album, one of the best records of the 60’s, and probably one of the greatest records ever. Honestly, one of my favorite things about this record is that it is roughly a concept album. Most, if not all of the songs refer to the end of a relationship and the emotions that are left over. Tie that in with the (retro) apocalyptic coloring and font of the album cover and you’ve got something completely unified and brilliant.
  • Aftermath is also a jumping off point for the different styles they’d do in the future, but the greatest tracks here are purely Brian Jones era.

ATTRIBUTES
Cohesion (5/5)
Concept (5/5)
Consequence (5/5)
Consistency (4/5)
Songs (5/5)

Quick Review (LP): Easy Tiger by Ryan Adams

Ryan Adams
Easy Tiger
Lost Highway; 2007

My Rating: A- (83/100)

Best Tracks: "Goodnight Rose", "Everybody Knows", "Tears of Gold", "Pearls On A String"

All of his previous records, synthesized into a tight, poppy collection.

NOTES

  • "Goodnight Rose" is a solid opener, imitates Jeff Buckley’s bigger moments.
  • "Two" and "Everybody Knows" are acoustic gems. Gorgeous.
  • I’ve never been sure what to make of "Halloweenhead" – is it the musical equivalent of the airbrushed "4:20" on the album cover?
  • A trio of quieter moments figure among the best tracks: "Oh My God, Whatever, etc.", "Pearls on a String", and "These Girls."
  • Love "Tears of Gold." Now THAT‘s the kind of songwriting that I expect from Adams.
  • "The Sun Also Sets" also recalls Buckley, esp. in Adams’ vocals. He seems to be channeling Buckley quite a bit as his career progresses.
  • "Pearls on a String" is one of Adams’ all-time best. "Bluegrass-ish", as Kinsella might say.
  • "Two Hearts" is an even-keeled adult alternative rocker. It’s kinda purrty.
  • This album has slowly grown on me over the years. I thought it was good when I first heard it upon initial release, and at this point, I’m comfortable saying that Adams not only avoids all of the pitfalls that wrecked some of his earlier albums, but he really NAILS it in the songwriting department. It’s interesting that his best albums have been with The Cardinals (Cold Roses, this one). It’s not perfection, but it’s totally enjoyable, and probably in his top 3.

ATTRIBUTES
Cohesion (5/5)
Consequence (4/5)
Consistency (4.5/5)
Concept (5/5)
Songs (4.5/5)

Quick Review (LP): Out Of Our Heads (UK) by The Rolling Stones

The Rolling Stones
Out Of Our Heads (UK)
Decca; 1965

My Rating: C+ (60/100)

Best Tracks: "She Said Yeah", "Mercy Mercy", "Heart of Stone", "I’m Free"


The one that portends of great things to come.

NOTES

  • Wow, "She Said Yeah" makes me think this is the band’s great leap forward. And "Mercy Mercy" is a strong way to follow it up.
  • Of course, it has its share of catchy but otherwise forgettable mid-60’s pop fare too. ("Hitch Hike", "Cry To Me", "Good Times")
  • "That’s How Strong My Love Is" rocks pretty hard.
  • "Heart of Stone" – good track. Duh.
  • The band hints at things to come on the last 3 here. "Heart of Stone" is fairly well known, "Promo Man" sends up the music industry, and "I’m Free" is one of their most recognizable tracks.
  • Love the guitar tone on "I’m Free."
  • Oh yeah, and you’ve got to appreciate the band keeping in Charlie Watts’ drum flub on the closer. They were really churning these things out back then, huh?
  • What can I really say? The one before they struck gold. Sort of forgettable.

ATTRIBUTES
Cohesion (3.5/5)
Concept (3/5)
Consequence (4.5/5)
Consistency (4/5)
Songs (4/5)

Quick Review (LP): 29 by Ryan Adams

Ryan Adams
29
Lost Highway; 2005

My Rating: C+ (60/100)

Best Tracks: "29", "Nightbirds", "Starlite Diner"

Reelin’ in the years?

NOTES

  • The opener is an epic, roadhouse-style romper. Great guitar and vocals. Pretty great track.
  • "Nightbirds" smacks of Radiohead towards the end.
  • "Starlite Diner" is understated and gorgeous, but it might just put you to sleep.
  • "The Sadness" – not so sure this style works for Ryan. A little too dramatic, feels a bit out of place here.
  • There is a dark atmosphere to this record, similar to Love Is Hell. However, I don’t think this one quite has the same magic.
  • After the huge rock sound of the opener, things get very quiet and meditative. Honestly, tracks 2 thru 6 are lovely, but a little boring. Your going to need a good pair of speakers or headphones to get the intended effect. I’m guessing they’d sound really nice on vinyl though.
  • I think 29 would make a good vinyl listen on a quiet, rainy Saturday morning. It’s sort of lovely, but really slow and difficult to penetrate.
  • I like Adams’ concept, but I do wonder if his twenties were really this much of a downer? I mean, seriously, the guy was the toast of indie rock during that period.
  • In my humble opinion, Adams needs to stay away from Ethan Johns. That dude tones him down in all the wrong ways. I haven’t liked any of the albums they’ve done together.
  • I still haven’t really made up my mind about this one. On one hand, I find it terribly dull. On the other, I feel like it’s a grower with a little patience and attention.
  • Best album cover he’s had. It forebodeth for sure.

ATTRIBUTES
Cohesion (4/5)
Consistency (3/5)
Consequence (3.5/5)
Concept (4.5/5)
Songs (4/5)

Career In Brief: Belle and Sebastian

INTRODUCTION

I remember this cartoon on Nickelodeon in the mid-80’s, a show about a boy and his big white dog and their adventures in the Pyrenees. I still remember the catchy theme song too. Fast forward ten years and we find the cartoon was biographical, and that the young man went and grew up and changed his name to Stuart Murdoch and started writing songs about all the people him and the dog had met along the way. Turns out that most of the folks read a lot of the Bible and existentialist fiction and had strange sexual fetishes. Pretty engrossing lyrical fare. Go figure.

Don’t ask about Belle though. Sad story…

ALBUMS PROPER:

Tigermilk (1996) – [B+]: As a listening experience, decent, not great. As a mission statement, spot on. ["My Wandering Days Are Over"] (my review)

If You’re Feeling Sinister (1996) – [A+]: Transcendent pop vignettes. A world unto itself. ["Stars of Track and Field"] (my review)

The Boy With The Arab Strap (1998) – [A-]: Imagine 12 variations on The Beatles’ "I’m Only Sleeping" and that’s pretty much what you have here. ["The Boy With the Arab Strap"] (my review)

Fold Your Hands Child, You Walk Like A Peasant (2000) – [C+]: More of the same from the B&S Express. Murdoch getting too democratic. ["Don’t Leave the Light On Baby"] (my review)

Dear Catastrophe Waitress (2003) – [A+]: Band re-boots sound, injects with the heart of the sun, produces power-pop masterpiece. ["I’m A Cuckoo"] (my review)

The Life Pursuit (2006) – [A-]: After embracing 70’s power pop, the band mines the decade again, this time embracing funk and glam. ["Funny Little Frog"] (my review)

Belle and Sebastian Write About Love (2010) – [A-]: If there’s a record that amalgamates all of the band’s periods into one cohesive collection, then here it is. For the most part, spot on.  ["I Didn’t See It Coming"] (my review)

OTHER NOTABLE RELEASES:

Storytelling (2002) – [C+]: A film soundtrack that was, for the most, rejected by the filmmaker. About what you’d expect. Lots of incidental music, a few proper B&S tunes, and snippets of clever dialogue from the film. "Scooby Driver" is short, but a hint at where they were headed on their next LP. Overall, this one’s a skipper except for die hard fans (of which there are surely many). Besides, these sorts of collaborations rarely work out well, right?  ("Black and White Unite", "Wandering Alone")

Step Into My Office, Baby Single (2003) [2/2]: These 2 cuts are more akin to the band’s 90’s output. Pleasantly popful. ["Desperation Made Me A Fool"]

I’m A Cuckoo EP (2004) – [3/3]: Between this and the other 2 Waitress singles, Belle and Sebastian were apparently piling up greatness. Gotta love the Avalanches’ remix of "I’m A Cuckoo", and the other 2 cuts are great.

Books EP (2004) – [3/3]: Worth the price of admission for "Your Cover’s Blown" by itself. It’s quite simply one of the band’s most brilliant moments, an unending source of fun. "Your Secrets" is also a great non-album cut. Even the afterthoughts of the Waitress period were excellent.

Push Barman To Open Old Wounds (2005) – [A]: This compilation may have come after the band put on some muscle with Catastrophe Waitress, but it collects a whole bunch of EP’s released in the band’s "skinny" years. This ranks up there with Sinister as one of the band’s essential releases. It features crown jewels like "Dog On Wheels", "Lazy Line Painter Jane", "This Is Just A Modern Rock Song", and "I Know Where The Summer Goes." It’s not an album proper, but this ain’t no attic dust-off either. (my review)

The BBC Sessions (2008) – [A-]: Over half of the tracks are simply BBC sessions of already released tracks, but the real treat here are the four otherwise unreleased originals that constitute the band’s session with John Peel from 2001. That set is particularly revelatory when viewed as bridging the gap between Peasant and Waitress.  [tracks 11-14]

Quick Review (LP): Heartbreaker by Ryan Adams

Ryan Adams
Heartbreaker
Bloodshot; 2000

My Rating: B (70/100)

Best Tracks: “To Be Young”, “Shakedown on 9th Street”, “In My Time of Need”


Scattered and inflated debut from an immense talent.

NOTES

  • “To Be Young” is fantastic. It sounds like a missing cut from Dylan’s Bringing It All Back Home. Nice falsetto.
  • “Come Pick Me Up” – I remember what it was like to be 16, but dang, how bout some perspective?
  • The production on “Winding Wheel” is awful.
  • A heartfelt “YES!” to everything about “In My Time Of Need.” What a beautiful song. More like this please.
  • Look, I get why so many people think this album is a classic, but the bottom line is that it is not only uneven, it is a technical train wreck of epic proportions. There are some great songs, but there’s also a lot of pretentious drivel that gets passed off as poetic flare. The rule of thumb with Radams 50 percent great and 50 percent garbage. He’s been improving on that ratio lately, but it’s more like 25/75 here.
  • Maybe I’m just approaching it from the perspective of someone who’s gotten to know Adams’ subsequent output, but this just comes off like a set demos that could have been pulled together with other sessions to form a really great debut.
  • The Pitchfork review, while surely a boon to Adams’ career trajectory, is hyperbolic and inflated.

ATTRIBUTES
Cohesion (4/5)
Concept (5/5)
Consistency (3.5/5)
Consequence (5/5)
Songs (4/5)

Quick Review (LP): In Light by Givers

Givers
In Light
Glassnote; 2011

My Rating: A- (81/100)

Best Tracks: "Meantime", "Saw You First", "Ceiling of Plankton", "In My Eyes", "Atlantic"

Talking Heads, Nawlins-style.

NOTES

  • Hyper-creative without being hyper-active.
  • Sound is similar to Vampire Weekend, with the addition of female vocals and, in general, a larger wall of sound.
  • Love the reggae plus post-punk rhythm section they have going on. The angular guitars are a nice touch too.
  • "Up Up Up" is a cool tune, but does come off like a novelty. I envision a Sesame Street performance soon.
  • I dig it when these kids hit a groove: "Meantime", "Saw You First", "Ceiling of Plankton."
  • "In My Eyes" is fantastic. Is it a bit of dissonance that gives it that sound?
  • "Atlantic" changes things up really well. Gorgeous opening.
  • Nice strings on the closer, "Words." More strings on the next album please.
  • Tiffany Lamson has a great smoky/sultry voice. She sounds fantastic on lead or on backup.
  • Givers come off like a more muscular version of Talking Heads. The music of Louisiana has obviously had a big influence on them, so they aren’t as cerebral as the indie fore-runners, but the influence is undeniable. Really brilliant stuff this.
  • I sort of bad-mouthed this band last year. I repent.

ATTRIBUTES
Cohesion (5/5)
Concept (4/5)
Consequence (4.5/5)
Consistency (4.5/5)
Songs (4.5/5)