Mark Knopfler: Golden Heart (1996)

Mark Knopfler
Golden Heart; 1996
Warner Brothers
My Rating: 78/100
As frontman and artistic visionary for the wildly successful pub/prog act Dire Straits in the 1980’s, Mark Knopfler might not have become a household name but his signature guitar style was as omnipresent as the voice of Huey Lewis. After Straits fell apart in the early 90’s, Knopfler embarked on a solo career which begins with GOLDEN HEART. Judging from these results, leaving behind the overamibitious aspects of his mid-80’s work may have been the best move Knopfler could make. While acknowledging the requisite lyrical guitarism and flawless execution, Knopfler makes his greatest strides as a songwriter. There isn’t a skipper on here, which could only be said of one Straits album (their last, actually, ON EVERY STREET), and there are at least five songs that are as close to perfect as an artist can get. Additionally, Knopfler plays up the Celtic and Euro-continental influences, making this a world/roots rock record of sorts, a fabulous modernization of folk styles. With GOLDEN HEART, Knopfler artistically eclipsed the work he did in Dire Straits, and the great thing is, it keeps getting better from here.
Cohesion (4.5/5)
Concept (4.5/5)
Consequence (4.5/5)
Consistency (4.5/5)
Tracks:
1. Darling Pretty (4.5/5)
2. Imelda (4/5)
3. Golden Heart (5/5)
4. No Can Do (4/5)
5. Vic and Ray (4/5)
6. Don’t You Get It (5/5)
7. A Night in Summer Long Ago (4.5/5)
8. Cannibals (3.5/5)
9. I’m the Fool (5/5)
10. Je Suis Desole (4/5)
11. Rudiger (5/5)
12. Nobody’s Got the Gun (3.5/5)
13. Done with Bonaparte (5/5)
14. Are We in Trouble Now (3.5/5)

MK_Golden_HeartMark Knopfler
Golden Heart; 1996
Warner Brothers

My Rating: 78/100

As frontman and artistic visionary for the wildly successful pub/prog act Dire Straits in the 1980’s, Mark Knopfler might not have become a household name but his signature guitar style was as omnipresent as the voice of Huey Lewis. After Straits fell apart in the early 90’s, Knopfler embarked on a solo career which begins with GOLDEN HEART. Judging from these results, leaving behind the overamibitious aspects of his mid-80’s work may have been the best move Knopfler could make. While acknowledging the requisite lyrical guitarism and flawless execution, Knopfler makes his greatest strides as a songwriter. There isn’t a skipper on here, which could only be said of one Straits album (their last, actually, ON EVERY STREET), and there are at least five songs that are as close to perfect as an artist can get. Additionally, Knopfler plays up the Celtic and Euro-continental influences, making this a world/roots rock record of sorts, a fabulous modernization of folk styles. With GOLDEN HEART, Knopfler artistically eclipsed the work he did in Dire Straits, and the great thing is, it keeps getting better from here.

Cohesion (4.5/5)
Concept (4.5/5)
Consequence (4.5/5)
Consistency (4.5/5)

Tracks:

1. Darling Pretty (4.5/5)
2. Imelda (4/5)
3. Golden Heart (5/5)
4. No Can Do (4/5)
5. Vic and Ray (4/5)
6. Don’t You Get It (5/5)
7. A Night in Summer Long Ago (4.5/5)
8. Cannibals (3.5/5)
9. I’m the Fool (5/5)
10. Je Suis Desole (4/5)
11. Rudiger (5/5)
12. Nobody’s Got the Gun (3.5/5)
13. Done with Bonaparte (5/5)
14. Are We in Trouble Now (3.5/5)

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REM: Out of Time (1991)

REM
Out of Time; 1991
Warner Brothers
My Rating: 90/100
REM apparently spent three years exploring their options. After producing six albums in as many years, the band catapulted into the national spotlight in a big way with OUT OF TIME. It also marks a huge stylistic shift for the band, featuring a far more acoustic delivery and incorporating rootsy instruments like the mandolin, accordion, and symphonic string arrangments. Although it is common practice to slam this album for its cutesy excesses (witness the silly rapping on “Radio Song” and the delightfully annoying “Shiny Happy People”, both of which are actually decent songs), it’s the lesser known tracks that really shine. While “Losing My Religion” was the song that redefined the band’s sound, “Belong” and “Texarakana” both came out of left field and stand as huge artistic leaps for the band. “Near Wild Heaven” jangles its way into a masterpiece of nostalgic pop (featuring lead vox from Mike Mills), while “Me In Honey” features an irresistibly soaring chorus and classic REM riff. All in all, what’s not to like about this album? It may not be their most influential or the one that all the cool kids talk about, but I can’t think of another time when REM made such irrepressibly joyful music. In a world of pretense and image, OUT OF TIME stands as REM’s boldest musical statement, and one of the most consistently delightful records in the history of rock and roll. OUT OF TIME? Try timeless.
Cohesion (5/5)
Concept (4/5)
Consequence (5/5)
Consistency (5/5)
Tracks:
1. Radio Song (4/5)
2. Losing My Religion (5/5)
3. Low (4/5)
4. Near Wild Heaven (5/5)
5. Endgame (5/5)
6. Shiny Happy People (5/5)
7. Belong (5/5)
8. Half a World Away (5/5)
9. Texarkana (5/5)
10. COuntry Feedback (4/5)
11. Me In Honey (5/5)

OutOfTimeCoverREM
Out of Time; 1991
Warner Brothers

My Rating: 90/100

REM apparently spent three years exploring their options. After producing six albums in as many years, the band catapulted into the national spotlight in a big way with OUT OF TIME. It marks a huge stylistic shift for the band, featuring a far more acoustic delivery and incorporating rootsy instruments like the mandolin, accordion, and symphonic string arrangments. Although it is common practice to slam this album for its cutesy excesses (witness the silly rapping on “Radio Song” and the delightfully annoying “Shiny Happy People”, both of which are actually decent songs), it’s the lesser known tracks that really shine. While “Losing My Religion” was the song that redefined the band’s sound, “Belong” and “Texarakana” both came out of left field and stand as huge artistic leaps for the band. “Near Wild Heaven” jangles its way into a masterpiece of nostalgic pop (featuring lead vox from Mike Mills), while “Me In Honey” features an irresistibly soaring chorus and classic REM riff. All in all, what’s not to like about this album? It may not be their most influential or the one that all the cool kids talk about, but I can’t think of another time when REM made such irrepressibly joyful music. In a world of pretense and image, OUT OF TIME stands as REM’s boldest musical statement, and one of the most consistently delightful records in the history of rock and roll. OUT OF TIME? Try timeless.

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

Tracks:

1. Radio Song (4/5)
2. Losing My Religion (5/5)
3. Low (4/5)
4. Near Wild Heaven (5/5)
5. Endgame (5/5)
6. Shiny Happy People (5/5)
7. Belong (5/5)
8. Half a World Away (5/5)
9. Texarkana (5/5)
10. Country Feedback (4/5)
11. Me In Honey (5/5)

Radiohead: Top 12 Non-Album Tracks, 9-7

9. “Lull” from KARMA POLICE SINGLES: You could argue that some of Radiohead’s best b-sides might have replaced tracks on some of their albums. “Lull” isn’t really like that. Recorded during the OK COMPUTER-era, its closest kin is the far superior “Let Down.” No, the charm of “Lull” lies precisely in its qualities as a throw-away. Unlike other b-sides of the era, it features appregio guitar progressions rather than Jonny’s inflammatory work and a wonderfully upbeat melody. “Lull” is all musical efficiency, as if written by Radiohead for a songwriting workshop. So there you go – the “Lull” referred to is a case of writer’s block. If only every band’s creative lull sounded this good.
8. “Kinetic” from PYRAMID SONG SINGLES: Mentioned early and often in Ed O’Brien’s journals during the KID A sessions, the glacial pace of “Kinetic” speaks volumes on Radiohead’s new approach to making music. How many bands would name a song “Kinetic” and leave it in first gear? What’s really great about this track though is how it reveals the creative process that led to the first great album of the new millenium. No guitars. No backbeats. Just go to your dark place, kids. All in all, an aural feast.
7. “How Can You Be Sure?” from FAKE PLASTIC TREES SINGLES: HCYBS must have been a strong contender for inclusion on THE BENDS. It features one of the grandest pop melodies in the band’s catalog, and comes close to the acoustic glory of “Fake Plastic Trees” and “(nice dream).” The ?female? vocals that accompany Thom are a rather nice touch, the sort of thing the band might explore again if they ever do find their happy place. File this one under “might have been a hit.”

KarmaPolice9. “Lull” from KARMA POLICE SINGLES: You could argue that some of Radiohead’s best b-sides might have replaced tracks on some of their albums. “Lull” isn’t really like that. Recorded during the OK COMPUTER-era, its closest kin is the far superior “Let Down.” No, the charm of “Lull” lies precisely in its qualities as a throw-away. Unlike other b-sides of the era, it features appregio guitar progressions rather than Jonny’s inflammatory work and a wonderfully upbeat melody. “Lull” is all musical efficiency, as if written by Radiohead for a songwriting workshop. So there you go – the “Lull” referred to is a case of writer’s block. If only every band’s creative lull sounded this good.

Radiohead_pyramidsong8. “Kinetic” from PYRAMID SONG SINGLES: Mentioned early and often in Ed O’Brien’s journals during the KID A sessions, the glacial pace of “Kinetic” speaks volumes on Radiohead’s new approach to making music. How many bands would name a song “Kinetic” and leave it in first gear? What’s really great about this track though is how it reveals the creative process that led to the first great album of the new millenium. No guitars. No backbeats. Just go to your dark place, kids. All in all, an aural feast.

Fakeplastictrees1

7. “How Can You Be Sure?” from FAKE PLASTIC TREES SINGLES: HCYBS must have been a strong contender for inclusion on THE BENDS. It features one of the grandest pop melodies in the band’s catalog, and comes close to the acoustic glory of “Fake Plastic Trees” and “(nice dream).” The ?female? vocals that accompany Thom are a rather nice touch, the sort of thing the band might explore again if they ever do find their happy place. File this one under “might have been a hit.”

Radiohead: OK Computer Collector’s Edition Disc 2 (2009)

Radiohead
OK Computer Collector’s Edition Disc 2; 2009
Capitol Records
My Rating: 71/100
By now we realize that Radiohead is never stretched for high quality material. With this collection of b-sides, Radiohead proved themselves to be a fanboys dream. The three P’s – “Pearly,” “Polyethylene”, and “Palo Alto” – are fabulous cross-eyed rock songs, while “A Reminder” is one of the most gorgeous songs the band has ever recorded. The band showcases a penchant for the hushed on “Melatonin” and “How I Made My Millions,” and “Lull” is just a brilliant little throwaway. Still, what this disc shows more than anything is that Radiohead was experiencing the kind of once-in-a-lifetime inspiration that most bands never experience. My only gripe with the collection over all is that it covers previously released material. Surely there’s something lost in the vaults from the OKC sessions that could stand the light of day? “Big Boots?” “Lift?” “Follow Me Around?” “I Promise?”
PS The live tracks are pretty great as well.
PPS The ZERO 7 remix is worth it, the FILA BRAZILA remix is dull.
TRACKS
1. Polyethylene (Parts 1 & 2) (5/5)
2. Pearly (5/5)
3. A Reminder (5/5)
4. Melatonin (4/5)
5. Meeting in the Aisle (5/5)
6. Lull (5/5)
7. Climbing Up the Walls [Zero 7 mix] (5/5)
8. Climbing Up the Walls [Fila Brazila mix] (3/5)
9. Palo Alto (5/5)
10. How I Made My Millions (5/5)
11. Airbag [Live in Berlin] (4/5)
12. Lucky [Live in Florence] (5/5)
13. Climbing Up The Walls [BBC Radio 1] (5/5)
14. Exit Music (for a Film) [BBC Radio 1] (5/5)
15. No Surprises [BBC Radio 1] (5/5)

ok compRadiohead
OK Computer Collector’s Edition Disc 2; 2009
Capitol Records

My Rating: 71/100

OK, we get it now. Radiohead is a great b-side band. With this round back in 97/98, Radiohead proved themselves to be a fanboy’s dream. The three P’s – “Pearly,” “Polyethylene”, and “Palo Alto” – are fabulous cross-eyed rock songs, while “A Reminder” is one of the most gorgeous tracks the band has ever recorded. They showcases a penchant for the quiet and powerful on “Melatonin” and “How I Made My Millions,” and “Lull” is just a brilliant little throwaway. Still, what this disc shows more than anything is that Radiohead was experiencing the kind of once-in-a-lifetime inspiration that most bands never experience. My only gripe with the collection over all is that it covers previously released material. Surely there’s something lost in the vaults from the OKC sessions that could stand the light of day? “Big Boots?” “Lift?” “Follow Me Around?” “I Promise?”

PS The live tracks are pretty great as well.

PPS The ZERO 7 remix is worth it, the FILA BRAZILA remix is dull.

TRACKS

1. Polyethylene (Parts 1 & 2) (5/5)
2. Pearly (5/5)
3. A Reminder (5/5)
4. Melatonin (4/5)
5. Meeting in the Aisle (5/5)
6. Lull (5/5)
7. Climbing Up the Walls [Zero 7 mix] (5/5)
8. Climbing Up the Walls [Fila Brazila mix] (3/5)
9. Palo Alto (5/5)
10. How I Made My Millions (5/5)
11. Airbag [Live in Berlin] (4/5)
12. Lucky [Live in Florence] (5/5)
13. Climbing Up The Walls [BBC Radio 1] (5/5)
14. Exit Music (for a Film) [BBC Radio 1] (5/5)
15. No Surprises [BBC Radio 1] (5/5)

Pitchfork’s Review

All Music Guide Review

The Beatles: Revolver (1966)

REVOLVER came out 13 years before I was born, and I only discovered it in 2000 or so,
when I was really learning alot about The Beatles. Now I would not call myself a
Beatles fanatic. I recognize the universality of their appeal, I concede that they
have written innumerable fantastic and classic tracks, but I know people who WORSHIP
The Beatles, and I am not one of them. REVOLVER, though, is just brilliant through and
through. I mean, I can’t believe the way John Lennon was writing guitar riffs in 1966.
“She Said, She Said,” “And Your Bird Can Sing?” Shred. They cover most of the ground
they would later take 30 tracks to hit in 14 here, from sad and elegaic (“Eleanor
Rigby”) to lethargic (“I’m Only Sleeping”) to avant-rock (“Tomorrow Never Knows”), and
the quality is so high throughout that there is no denying this is the greatest album
of their career, and probably in the top 10 of all time. This one should be taught in
schools.
1. Taxman (5/5)
2. Eleanor Rigby (5/5)
3. I’m Only Sleeping (5/5)
4. Love You To (5/5)
5. Here, There, and Everywhere (5/5)
6. Yellow Submarine (5/5)
7. She Said She Said (5/5)
8. Good Day Sunshine (5/5)
9. And Your Bird Can Sing (5/5)
10. For No One (5/5)
11. Doctor Robert (5/5)
12. I Want To Tell You (5/5)
13. Got To Get You Into My Life (5/5)
14. Tomorrow Never Knows (5/5)THE BEATLES – REVOLVER
MY RATING: 100/100
REVOLVER came out 13 years before I was born, and I only discovered it in 2000 or so, when I was really learning alot about The Beatles. Now I would not call myself a Beatles fanatic. I recognize the universality of their appeal, I concede that they have written innumerable fantastic and classic tracks, but I know people who WORSHIP The Beatles, and I am not one of them. REVOLVER, though, is just brilliant through and through. I mean, I can’t believe the way John Lennon was writing guitar riffs in 1966. “She Said, She Said,” “And Your Bird Can Sing?” Shred. They cover most of the ground they would later take 30 tracks to hit in 14 here, from sad and elegaic (“Eleanor Rigby”) to lethargic (“I’m Only Sleeping”) to avant-rock (“Tomorrow Never Knows”), and the quality is so high throughout that there is no denying this is the greatest album of their career, and probably in the top 10 of all time. This one should be taught in schools.
1. Taxman (5/5)
2. Eleanor Rigby (5/5)
3. I’m Only Sleeping (5/5)
4. Love You To (5/5)
5. Here, There, and Everywhere (5/5)
6. Yellow Submarine (5/5)
7. She Said She Said (5/5)
8. Good Day Sunshine (5/5)
9. And Your Bird Can Sing (5/5)
10. For No One (5/5)
11. Doctor Robert (5/5)
12. I Want To Tell You (5/5)
13. Got To Get You Into My Life (5/5)
14. Tomorrow Never Knows (5/5)REVOLVER came out 13 years before I was born, and I only discovered it in 2000 or so, when I was really learning alot about The Beatles. Now I would not call myself a Beatles fanatic. I recognize the universality of their appeal, I concede that they have written innumerable fantastic and classic tracks, but I know people who WORSHIP The Beatles, and I am not one of them. REVOLVER, though, is just brilliant through and through. I mean, I can’t believe the way John Lennon was writing guitar riffs in 1966. “She Said, She Said,” “And Your Bird Can Sing?” Shred. They cover most of the ground they would later take 30 tracks to hit in 14 here, from sad and elegaic (“Eleanor Rigby”) to lethargic (“I’m Only Sleeping”) to avant-rock (“Tomorrow Never Knows”), and the quality is so high throughout that there is no denying this is the greatest album of their career, and probably in the top 10 of all time. This one should be taught in schools.
1. Taxman (5/5)
2. Eleanor Rigby (5/5)
3. I’m Only Sleeping (5/5)
4. Love You To (5/5)
5. Here, There, and Everywhere (5/5)
6. Yellow Submarine (5/5)
7. She Said She Said (5/5)
8. Good Day Sunshine (5/5)
9. And Your Bird Can Sing (5/5)
10. For No One (5/5)
11. Doctor Robert (5/5)
12. I Want To Tell You (5/5)
13. Got To Get You Into My Life (5/5)
14. Tomorrow Never Knows (5/5)
revolverThe Beatles
Revolver; 1966
Capitol Records/EMI

My Rating: 100/100

REVOLVER came out 13 years before I was born, and I only discovered it in 2000 or so, when I was really learning alot about The Beatles. Now I wouldn’t call myself a Beatles fanatic. I recognize the universality of their appeal, I concede that they have written innumerable fantastic and classic tracks, but I know people who worship The Beatles, and I am not one of them. REVOLVER, though, is just brilliant through and through. I mean, I can’t believe the way John Lennon was writing guitar riffs in 1966. “She Said, She Said,” “And Your Bird Can Sing?” Shred. They cover most of the ground they would later take 30 tracks to hit in 14 here, from sad and elegaic (“Eleanor Rigby”) to lethargic (“I’m Only Sleeping”) to avant-rock (“Tomorrow Never Knows”), and the quality is so high throughout that there is no denying this is the greatest album of their career, and probably in the top 10 of all time. Canonical. This one should be taught in schools.

TRACKS:

1. Taxman (5/5)
2. Eleanor Rigby (5/5)
3. I’m Only Sleeping (5/5)
4. Love You To (5/5)
5. Here, There, and Everywhere (5/5)
6. Yellow Submarine (5/5)
7. She Said She Said (5/5)
8. Good Day Sunshine (5/5)
9. And Your Bird Can Sing (5/5)
10. For No One (5/5)
11. Doctor Robert (5/5)
12. I Want To Tell You (5/5)
13. Got To Get You Into My Life (5/5)
14. Tomorrow Never Knows (5/5)

R.E.M.: Reckoning (1984)

RECKONING (1984) – 8: RECKONING was REM’s quick follow-up to
their debut. The band didn’t make any huge stylistic leaps here.
In fact, RECKONING might easily be written off as an album of
leftovers and re-treads if the songs weren’t so solid. While
half of the songs only achieve moderate success, the other half
register as certified classics. “Harborcoat” kicks things off in
righteous fashion. Full of intricate guitar and bass interplay,
their is no question that the band has coupled their unique
sound with more robust songwriting. “7 Chinese Bros.” and
“Pretty Persuasion” are other excellent examples of the band’s
ability to craft college rock genius. However, it’s “(Don’t Go
Back to) Rockville” that really stands out among the bunch,
truly setting the band’s country undertones to the forefront and
giving REM its first road song. For the most part, an enjoyable
and worthy record.
TRACKS:
1. Harborcoat (5/5)
2. 7 Chinese Brothers (5/5)
3. So. Central Rain (5/5)
4. Pretty Persuasion (5/5)
5. Time After Time (Annelise) (3.5/5)
6. Second Guessing (3/5)
7. Letter Never Sent (3/5)
8. Camera (3/5)
9. (Don’t Go Back To) Rockville (5/5)
10. Little AmericRECKONING (1984) – 8: RECKONING was REM’s quick follow-up to
their debut. The band didn’t make any huge stylistic leaps here.
In fact, RECKONING might easily be written off as an album of
leftovers and re-treads if the songs weren’t so solid. While
half of the songs only achieve moderate success, the other half
register as certified classics. “Harborcoat” kicks things off in
righteous fashion. Full of intricate guitar and bass interplay,
their is no question that the band has coupled their unique
sound with more robust songwriting. “7 Chinese Bros.” and
“Pretty Persuasion” are other excellent examples of the band’s
ability to craft college rock genius. However, it’s “(Don’t Go
Back to) Rockville” that really stands out among the bunch,
truly setting the band’s country undertones to the forefront and
giving REM its first road song. For the most part, an enjoyable
and worthy record.
TRACKS:
1. Harborcoat (5/5)
2. 7 Chinese Brothers (5/5)
3. So. Central Rain (5/5)
4. Pretty Persuasion (5/5)
5. Time After Time (Annelise) (3.5/5)
6. Second Guessing (3/5)
7. Letter Never Sent (3/5)
8. Camera (3/5)
9. (Don’t Go Back To) Rockville (5/5)
10. Little America (3/5)
REM_Reckoning_coverR.E.M.
Reckoning; 1984
IRS Records

My Rating: 8/10

RECKONING was REM’s quick follow-up to their debut. The band didn’t make any huge stylistic leaps here. In fact, RECKONING might easily be written off as an album of leftovers and re-treads if the songs weren’t so solid. While half of the songs only achieve moderate success, the other half register as certified classics. “Harborcoat” kicks things off in righteous fashion. Full of intricate guitar and bass interplay, their is no question that the band has coupled their unique sound with more robust songwriting. “7 Chinese Bros.” and “Pretty Persuasion” are other excellent examples of the band’s ability to craft college rock genius. However, it’s “(Don’t Go Back to) Rockville” that really stands out among the bunch, truly setting the band’s country undertones to the forefront and giving REM its first road song. For the most part, an enjoyable and worthy record.

TRACKS:
1. Harborcoat (5/5)
2. 7 Chinese Brothers (5/5)
3. So. Central Rain (5/5)
4. Pretty Persuasion (5/5)
5. Time After Time (Annelise) (3.5/5)
6. Second Guessing (3/5)
7. Letter Never Sent (3/5)
8. Camera (3/5)
9. (Don’t Go Back To) Rockville (5/5)
10. Little America (3/5)

U2: Achtung, Baby (1991)

u2-achtung-babyU2
Achtung, Baby; 1991
Island Records

My Rating: 10/10

In the four years between THE JOSHUA TREE and ACHTUNG, BABY, the world around U2 radically changed in a hundred different ways. Corrupt political regimes were falling all over the world, disparate cultures were beginning to converge in a universalist mish-mash, and the old guard of rock and roll was forgotten in favor of fresher, more idealistic sounds. U2 certainly faced the possibility of their own extinction – if it could happen to others, it could certainly happen to them. But like fellow alterna-rock heroes R.E.M., U2 somehow managed to not only find its own place in the music revolution, but to ride said revolution to the top of the charts with another classic album. In fact, ACHTUNG, BABY not only achieves classic status, but manages to capture the international zeitgeist of the early-90’s like no other record, combining sounds as disparate as garage rock, euro-pop, and world electronica into a completely cohesive and romantic aural experience. The collision of worlds – in this case post-modern relativism with a definite hunger for spiritual experience – is once again U2’s thematic recipe for success. ACHTUNG, BABY is doubtless one of the band’s top 3 albums, and in the opinion of this humble reviewer, probably their best.

1. Zoo Station (4/5)
2. Even Better Than The Real Thing (5/5)
3. One (5/5)
4. Until the End of the World (5/5)
5. Who’s Gonna Ride Your Wild Horses (5/5)
6. So Cruel (5/5)
7. The Fly (5/5)
8. Mysterious Ways (5/5)
9. Tryin’ To Throw Your Arms Around the World (5/5)
10. Ultra Violet (Light my Way) (5/5)
11. Acrobat (4/5)
12. Love Is Blindness (4/5)

U2: The Joshua Tree (1987)

joshua treeU2
The Joshua Tree; 1987
Island Records

My Rating: 10/10

THE JOSHUA TREE (1987) – 10: With THE JOSHUA TREE, U2 ceased hinting at greatness and became great. While atmospherics of THE UNFORGETTABLE FIRE almost engulfed the band in a holy chorus of angels, THE JOSHUA TREE lets the foursome spread out in the wide open American West. The reason this album is so great is that you follow the band on a journey through all of the ghost towns and forgotten hollers of the wasteland. Everyone knows the first three tracks, stacked like the Yankees’ batting order, and other tunes like the gentle “Running To Stand Still”, the road song “In God’s Country”, and the flowing “One Tree Hill” are gloriously mystical in the vein of UNFORGETTABLE’s better moments, but without the claustrophobic production. There are a few less than great tracks here: “Bullet The Blue Sky” aims high and falls flat, and the closing medley “Exit” and “Mothers Of The Disappeared” don’t quite do the job they should, but the rest of the album is so good that you won’t be bothered by it one bit.
TRACKS:
1. Where the Streets Have No Name (5/5)
2. I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For (5/50
3. With or Without You (5/5)
4. Bullet the Blue Sky (3/5)
5. Running to Stand Still (5/5)
6. Red Hill Mining Town (5/5)
7. In God’s Country (5/5)
8. Trip Through Your Wires (5/5)
9. One Tree Hill (5/5)
10. Exit (3/5)
11. Mothers of the Disappeared (3/5)
With THE JOSHUA TREE, U2 ceased hinting at greatness and became great. While the atmospherics of THE UNFORGETTABLE FIRE almost engulfed the band in a holy chorus of angels, THE JOSHUA TREE lets the foursome spread out in the wide open American West. The reason this album is so great is that you follow the band on a journey through all of the ghost towns and forgotten hollers of the wasteland. Everyone knows the first three tracks, stacked like the Yankees’ batting order, and other tunes like the gentle “Running To Stand Still”, the road song “In God’s Country”, and the flowing “One Tree Hill” are gloriously mystical in the vein of UNFORGETTABLE’s better moments, but without the claustrophobic production. There are a few less than great tracks here: “Bullet The Blue Sky” aims high and falls flat, and the closing medley “Exit” and “Mothers Of The Disappeared” don’t quite do the job they should, but the rest of the album is so good that you won’t be bothered by it one bit.

TRACKS:

1. Where the Streets Have No Name (5/5)
2. I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For (5/50
3. With or Without You (5/5)
4. Bullet the Blue Sky (3/5)
5. Running to Stand Still (5/5)
6. Red Hill Mining Town (5/5)
7. In God’s Country (5/5)
8. Trip Through Your Wires (5/5)
9. One Tree Hill (5/5)
10. Exit (3/5)
11. Mothers of the Disappeared (3/5)

U2: War (1983)

U2’s first great album, WAR began the long u2 tradition of writing five or six mind-numbingly great songs and adding in a few stinkers to round it out. The reason this one gets such a high mark is that there are two absolutely classic cuts (“Sunday Bloody Sunday”, “New Year’s Day”) as well as at least four great album cuts (“Seconds,” “Like A Song…,” “Drowning Man,” “Two Hearts Beat As One”). Still, the album as a whole undoubtedly lives up to its name. From the stark production to the explosive drums to the barbed-wire guitar, U2 and Steve Lillywhite crafted a masterfully anthemic group of tracks, all rounded out by Bono’s Celtic war-cry. However, WAR’s longevity is owing far more to its underlying spiritual themes than any political trappings. When Bono declares “I won’t wear it on my sleeve!” he ties together punk and Christian sensibilities, forging a way ahead for an entirely new breed of rock and roll. It’s true – back then, no one else was writing music like this. No wonder U2 became the biggest rock band in the world.
TRACKS:
1. Sunday Bloody Sunday (5/5)
2. Seconds (5/5)
3. New Year’s Day (5/5)
4. Like a Song… (5/5)
5. Drowning Man (5/5)
6. Refugee (2.5/5)
7. Two Hearts Beat As One (5/5)
8. Red Light (3.5/5)
9. Surrender (4/5)
10. “40” (3.5/5)

U2_War_album_coverU2
War; 1983
Island Records

My Rating: 9/10

U2’s first great album, WAR began the long u2 tradition of writing five or six mind-numbingly great songs and adding in a few stinkers to round it out. The reason this one gets such a high mark is that there are two absolutely classic cuts (“Sunday Bloody Sunday”, “New Year’s Day”) as well as at least four great album cuts (“Seconds,” “Like A Song…,” “Drowning Man,” “Two Hearts Beat As One”). Still, the album as a whole undoubtedly lives up to its name. From the stark production to the explosive drums to the barbed-wire guitar, U2 and Steve Lillywhite crafted a masterfully anthemic group of tracks, all rounded out by Bono’s Celtic war-cry. However, WAR’s longevity is owing far more to its underlying spiritual themes than any political trappings. When Bono declares “I won’t wear it on my sleeve!” he ties together punk and Christian sensibilities, forging a way ahead for an entirely new breed of rock and roll. It’s true – back then, no one else was writing music like this. No wonder U2 became the biggest rock band in the world.

TRACKS:

1. Sunday Bloody Sunday (5/5)
2. Seconds (5/5)
3. New Year’s Day (5/5)
4. Like a Song… (5/5)
5. Drowning Man (5/5)
6. Refugee (2.5/5)
7. Two Hearts Beat As One (5/5)
8. Red Light (3.5/5)
9. Surrender (4/5)
10. “40” (3.5/5)

Yore: Guns n’ Terminators n’ Roses

arnietermI’ll be going to see the new Terminator flick on opening night this coming week, and I have high hopes for the renewal of the Terminator film franchise. Terminator 3 was pretty much a waste, and the series is almost to the point of needing a complete reboot, though it remains to be seen if that’s what Terminator: Salvation will do.

But this ain’t no movie blog, this is a music blog. Which brings me back to what might be the first piece of recorded music I ever bought for myself. I was nuts for Terminator 2 when it came out back in 1992, and in large part that was due to the synthetic artistry (read “joint marketing”) of the music video for Guns n’ Roses lead Use Your Illusion single, “You Could Be Mine.” Although the track itself has been oft-malgined as a “Welcome to the Jungle” re-write, I’ll take the epic hard rock posturings of just about any Illusion-track over what’s become the Chinese Democracy-era GnR. 

gnr“You Could Be Mine” is excessive, hard-nosed, and radio-ready, everything we grew to love about the Axl n’ Slash show. Somehow Arnie just fit right in with it all, and although the video suffers from a little bit of cheesy literalism (hey, that truck driver’s out-the-door, just like Axl sang!), overall it is one pure and spectacular hype-fest of operatic proportions. What a show!

Anybody else miss this kind of thing?