Band : STYX
Album : Edge of the century
After a split and several years from their last release, the "near" original line up of Styx releassed a new album (1990). Dare I say it, after "Paradise Theater", I think this is their best recording. It has all the classic Styx cliche sounds and Dennis DeYoungs vocals feature on all the best tracks. My favourites are, "Show me the way" - a Styx classic, "Carrie Anne" again with that unique Styx sound and the final cut, "Back to Chicago". That said the entire album is great with some rockers and softer songs too. Unfortunately their next album (and last) tour, although including the "Girls with guns" guitarist, ommitted D. DeYoung (a result of poor health), although he still sings on the recording. My rating: 7/10.
Band : Electric Light Orchestra (ELO)
Album : Disovery
ELO are back in vogue with covers, samples and a recent greatest hits (All over the world) releases charting globally. This album was released when ELO were at their artistic and commercial peak (1979) and feature no less than 5 hit singles from the 9 album tracks. Shine a little love (re-mixed by the Love freaks) has just hit the UK top 10 and was originally the 1st single from this album, making the top ten then in over 20 countries. The album sold a genuine 8.5 million copies (forget the claims of record companies album sales today - the last album to sell in those quatities was U2 from almost 5 years ago). later hits included "Don't bring me down" (UK3 and US 4) plus Confusion, Last train to London and the diary of Horrace Wimp. But this album has not a single weak track and "need her love", "wishing", "midnight blue" and "on the run again", must all have been single competitors. In short one of my absolute favourites and a must have if you like great tunes and complex arrangements My rating: 10/10.
Band : Elton John
Album : Jump up
I'm not that big a fan of Elton John, mainly because I think he is a prat, but he has made some great albums and this, less than successful, one is great. It features US hit singles "Blue eyes" (also a UK hit) and "Empty garden" and has some unusual deep voiced vocals by "John". Apparently Rod Stewart had made a comment to him about having a high voice, so he made an extra effort to get the guttural sound on this album. Best track on the album (for me) is the much more up tempo "Where have all the good times gone" which I can't believe was never a single. A further track, "All quiet on the western front", was released as a belated Christmas single in the UK, but failed to chart – it is good none the less. My rating: 7/10.
Posted 24.09 .2005
Band : Paul Carrack
Album : One good reason
If the name Paul Carrack doesn't mean a lot to you, this is the guy who shared lead vocals for "Mike and the Mechanics" and in previous incarnations was lead singer with "Ace" and also a member of "Squeeze". This album came out in 1987 and has the big US hit "Don't shed a tear", which miraculously failed to chart in the UK. The album has several good tracks including a duet cover of "When you walk in the room", the title track and "Collrane". All told it's a good, but not exceptional, album and the high point throughout is Carrack's great vocals. My rating: 7/10.
Artist : The Motors
Album : Approved By
This goes all the way back to 1978, probably my favourite year for music and the Motors had their only two UK hit singles back then. "Airport", the first single was, if I remember correctly, a number 2 UK hit and combined synths and guitars with a good rock beat. Personally, I preferred the follow up "Forget about you" which had a slight ELO tinge to it (or I thought so). The rest of the album certainly sounds dated now, but I think good pop and rock should represent and reflect the period it was recorded in, so maybe that's not such a bad thing. Incidently, it did not sell many copies, so I wonder if mine is worth something!. My rating: 7/10.
Band : Electric Light Orchestra
Album : A new world record
This is an astounding album and is as good as ELO's "Out of the blue". Up to ANWR, ELO's album success was pretty much confined to the USA, but this album changed all that. It spent 106 weeks in the UK chart, broke them in Auz and across Europe and sold 5 million copies plus. The singles were the brilliant "Livin thing" (UK 4 and USA 14), "telephone line"(UK 8, USA 7 - and a million seller) and in the UK "Rockaria" (9) and the USA "Do ya" (24). But this is a genuine album and how anyone managed to differentiate singles from album tracks is beyond me. That said two other massive high's are the opening cut, "Tightrope", with strings, guitars, background operatic vocals and synths and also the superb "So fine". This album really is the Electric Light Orchestra at their brilliant best with the catchiest tunes and heaviest orchestraion you are ever likely to hear. If you are thinking of getting one of the new greatest hits compliations, save your money and get this and the 2 albums that followed it instead. And the ELO revival continues.... M&S have just been using "Mr Blue sky" on TV ads to promote their new designer wear. A couple of weeks back, the one minute plus advert aired 17 times in a single evening. My rating: 10/10 and that's not enough!.
Artist : B.Streisand
Album : Guilty too
Although I must confess to being a bit of a Bee Gees fan, I am certainly no supporter of Ms Streisand and actually consider her to be one of the ugliest creatures I have ever seen. That however has nothing to do with her voice (nor should it have) or this album (which my wife bought) and which frankly is nothing short of brilliant. I heard the single "Stranger in a strange land" a couple of times before I new who was singing it. I thought it was John Anderson of YES.
Up to now I had concluded that the best song of 2005 was Daniel Powter's "Bad Day", but this single (which has not charted in the UK) gives it a run for its money and is pretty representative of the quality of tracks that "Guilty too" has to offer. Other top tracks on the album include pretty much every song and there are slow ballads and even a more up-tempo semi rocker (track 4 or 5). Barry Gibb's voice and harmonies are ever present, so his fans will be happy and BS's amazing voice and range puts the embarrassingly awful Maria Carey (or however you spell it) and "Skelitor" look a like Celine Dion to shame.
My rating: 9/10.
Band : Huey Lewis and the News
Album : Sports
Like many great 80's rock albums this did nothing in the UK - our loss. Sports was HL's 1st really big album in the USA and has an amazing 5 top 20 singles on it, the first 4 of which made the top ten. The entire album has a great beat, brilliant (but not over distorted guitar sound) and HL's distinctive vocals. In vinyl form the album has 3 of its hits on side one and 2 on side two, but every track is strong and this album was a genuine early eighties milestone along with Escape and "4" by Journey and Foreigner respectively. As far as favourite tracks go, I simply cannot choose. The ballad "If this is it" stands out as something different, but rockers like "Heart and Soul" and "The heart of rock & roll" are what makes this album the classic that it is.. My rating: 9/10.
Band : Pet Shop Boys
Album : Yes (plus Pandemonium tour)
I had just about forgotten about this blog which I once worked on actively. Anyway, here is what looks like my first new review for about 5 years.
I got a Pet Shop Boys album back in 1989 and it was OK-ish. Later I got a Greatest Hits and later still I forgot about them. Then a couple of weeks back they were on TV as one of the Glastonbury headliners and I (we) were amazed at how good and also how humorous they were. So, inspired by that I checked out their tour details and we saw them in play in Blackpool last Tuesday and they were excellent. It was a real show with costume changes, dancers and probably the most impressive stage that I have ever seen. They played for 1 hour 50 mins including 2 encores and it was a ten out of ten performance.
Inspired by this, but also half expecting a disappointment, I ordered PSB's 2009 CD entitled YES. From the concert and youtube I had already picked up on the two singles (both of which made #1 on the US dance chart), but I waited for the CD rather than explore the other tracks online.
Having had the CD for only two days I can confidently say that YES is a masterpiece of incredibly catchy songs with brilliant arrangements and the unmistakable sound of PSB at their best. Quite how this was not a #1 album with at least two #1 singles here in the UK defies logic. It is a sad reflection on the charts, radio play lists and, I suspect, a complete lack of PSB awareness amongst the few new music buyers of the last ten years. Anyway if you have about £6 to spare on Amazon this is a great buy and almost every track gets into your head and sounds like it should have been a single. I am now contemplating my next back catalogue PSB purchase – I suspect it may be “Very” with the brilliant “I wouldn't normally do that kind of thing”. (Here is the YT url if you want to see it see this video). My rating: 9/10.
Contact me at: firstname.lastname@example.org, with any opinions or views you have.