Monday, May 20, 2013

Bella - No One Will Know

Where did I get this album? Who gave it to me? Who are these guys? Where do they come from? Who are their influences? Why is their music so awesome? Why do I love it so much? Why do I think I can review this album in all questions? Who else thinks Bella sounds like a more beautiful/less aggressive version of The Sounds? Who else loves rock with female vocals and synths as much as I do?  How many stars will I give this album?

Baleeted? Why do you even ask? How could you think that I would ever delete this?

Bee Gees - Bee Gees 1st

If you think you know the Bee Gees simply because you've heard their disco output, think again. This is a band that has been a lot more than merely the greatest disco group of all time. Before the 70's, the 60's happened. The Bee Gees were around in the 60s, not as an anachronistic disco band, but as a chamber pop group. No, really, the Bee Gees were a lot like The Left Banke. They had great songs and beautiful arrangements and large teeth. Check out "Holiday" or "Every Christian Lion-Hearted Man Will Show You" for proof of this fact. The Bee Gees first album (aptly titled Bee Gees 1st) is much more than you think it possibly could be. This is one of the best chamber pop albums of the 60's, and you owe it to yourself to hear what these guys were capable of before John Travolta ever donned the gigantic lapels.

Baleeted? No. I will always need pop like this.

Beck - Sea Change

While Beck is guilty of many musical crimes, the goodness of this album almost (but not quite) absolves him of them. Sea Change is the point at which Beck began to show both maturity and musicianship. Of course it didn't hurt that Roger Joseph Manning, Jr. and Andy Sturmer (both of Jellyfish fame) played about a dozen instruments each on this album. As a Jellyfish fan, you'll never convince me that Roger and Andy weren't the real reason why this album is great.

Sea Change is simply gorgeous. It's layered thick with a wide variety of instruments, and the melodies are the very best Beck has ever created (It's not hard. The dude has a bunch of total turds in his catalogue). Anyway, let's not let my overall dissatisfaction with Beck overshadow the fact that this album is brilliant and beautiful. The songs are the stars of this album, not Beck, which is why it works so well. If you hate everything else Beck has ever done (and I wouldn't blame you if you do), this album will still be completely accessible to you. It's just that good.

Baleeted? No. This is the greatest evidence we have for the fact that Beck could make great music all the time if he really wanted to.

Beck - Odelay

Odelay is more listenable than Mellow Gold, but not by a wide margin. They're really both the same album. They both have only one real hit ("Where It's At" for Odelay and "Loser" for Mellow Gold) and everything else on both albums are a musical thumb to the nose. While you can listen to Beck and think that he's sticking it to the man with his non-conformity, I actually find that turds like this are more of an affront to the listener. Remember that the man made millions of dollars on this album while you wasted time trying to understand every song other than "Where It's At." If you're keeping score at home, the joke is on you, not the man.

Baleeted? Yes. I can't stand Beck's early stuff. He was such an arrogant jerk.

Beck - Modern Guilt

After two straight turds (note that I'm listening to Beck's album alphabetically, not chronologically. That's how they're laid out in itunes), I came upon this gem of an album. Modern Guilt is a breath of fresh air in the Beck catalogue. After years of forcing people to smell his feces and pretend they were roses, Beck actually made a decent album with songs that you can actually sing along with and everything. Modern Guilt is still off-kilter and non-conformist, but it doesn't think it's better than you, which is a nice change for Beck.

Baleeted? No. I need something to remind myself why anybody ever liked Beck in the first place, and this works.

Beck - Midnite Vultures

This album is basically Mellow Gold with a 13 minute self-congratulatory fart at the end of the album instead of a mere 7 minute fart. I hate this album. I hate it so much.

Baleeted? Yes. And with relish. Lots and lots of relish.

Beck - Mellow Gold

People like Mellow Gold because it has "Loser" on it. That song opens the album on a decent note before its descent into pure crapitude. I described "Steal My Body Home" as a slow-motion headache. That label can be applied to the rest of this album as well. This is a headache. This is a headache caused by a wisenheimer who thinks he's better than us. As with all the albums from this period, Beck wraps the album up with a 7 minute self-congratulatory fart. Let's not let him get away with this kind of crap.

Baleeted? Yes. And don't think I won't be smiling when I do it.

Beck - The Information

Before he became the jerk who released an album as sheet music, Beck was the pretentious guy who released The Information with no cover art. It was just graph paper, a few stickers, and a mandate to create your own cover art. I know he's trying to stick it to the man as well as challenge our notions about what modern music is and what it can be, but it's also pretentious and annoying.

Lucky for Beck, there are a few decent songs on this album. Songs that actually fit a mainstream conception of what a song can be. Songs you can actually play at a party and not get scowls from people who aren't cool enough to like Beck's more awful-sounding stuff. I'm talkin' bout "Think I'm in Love," "Soldier Jane," and the title track.

Baleeted? No. Despite its lack of artwork, this is actually a listenable album. You can't say that for everything Beck has done.

Beck - Guero

Beck has always seemed to have an affinity for Mexicans, which really comes through on Guero. This is his most Mexican album. It's filled with the sort of beats you'd normally associate with hip-hop, and because of the Mexican connection, it sounds like Control Machete is going to kick in at any moment, especially on the title track.

Anyway, as I descended into Beck madness, I found that I hate a lot of his work, but this album gets a pass. It's just good enough to keep around.

Baleeted? No. The title track and "Girl" are this album's saving graces.

Beck and the Descent Into Madness (or at least anger)

In order to write all my final papers and finish all my presentations and final projects this semester, I had to do a lot of late nights. In the final stretch of finals week, I got up at 7:00 am on Thursday (after going to bed at 2:00 am on Wednesday) and didn't go to bed until 2:00 am on Saturday. I also happened to be listening to Beck. Before this point I had never really enjoyed Beck, but I felt like I should. The following are facebook posts which I made along the way in this descent into madness.

VOTM - In the Summertime by Mungo Jerry

These are the most fierce mutton chops I've ever seen. Also, it's summer now and I love this song. Enjoy.

The Beau Brummels - The Best of the Beau Brummels 1964 - 1968

After listening to 14 Beatles albums in a row, I was prepared to feel sorry for The Beau Brummels because how could they compare with the majesty of The Beatles? What I found in listening to this album was that The Beau Brummels didn't need my pity at all. They're a dandy 1960s pop group which stands very well on their own merits.

Take a song like "Don't Talk to Strangers." This is a song with a full range of dynamics, interesting harmonies, and a dynamite chorus. This is simply a great song and its status in relation to The Beatles doesn't even enter the picture. If you're looking for a little off-the-beaten-path 1960s pop, you could do much worse than The Beau Brummels. Take a listen to "Fine With Me" and try to tell me you can't dig it. You already dig it, you just don't know it yet.

Baleeted? Not while I still love 60s pop tunes.

Beatnik Beatch - Beatnik Beatch

As a Jellyfish fan, Beatnik Beatch was something of an unattainable necessity. I wanted to find this album for years, and when I finally found it I couldn't help but be a little disappointed by it.

Beatnik Beatch features Roger Manning and Andy Sturmer in their pre-Jellyfish days, and there are hints of eventual Jellyfish greatness, but this album never really ascends to those heights. I wanted this to be more like Imperial Drag (in terms of quality, not necessarily in terms of approach) but it's not really the impressive Jellyfish side project I hoped it would be.

Baleeted? No, but only because I looked for it for so long.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

The Beatles - Abbey Road

Abbey Road is simply great and you don't need me to sell it to you. I just want to rant a little bit about how this album was laid out.

While Let it Be was the last Beatles album to be released, Abbey Road was the last album the band recorded. The last song on the album as the band had it laid out was "The End." Not only does its title make a perfect epitaph for The Beatles, its message does as well, "And in the end the love you take is equal to the love you make." That's how The Beatles should have ended their final album, and they would have, if not for an engineer who chose to splice the 23 second instrumental "Your Majesty" onto the end of the album. "Your Majesty" is completely unnecessary and mars an otherwise perfect exit. I'll never stop being annoyed by this. It's the musical version of the guy who can't help but cough loudly during the minute of silence for victims of any given tragedy. Do yourself a favor and delete "Your Majesty" if you own this album in a digital format.

Baleeted? No. Because Beatles.

The Beatles - The Beatles (aka The White Album)

This is the album you make when you, as a band, can't stand each other. Lennon and McCartney actually worked separately on this album, recording tracks without even speaking to each other. McCartney even took over some of George and Ringo's duties when he didn't like the way they played his songs. Oh, and I think it needs to be mentioned that this is where Yoko Ono really started influencing John (as heard on the abysmal "Revolution 9"). This is the sound of a band falling apart, and even though it features some very good tracks, it's hard to love this one as much as The Beatles' other albums. In many ways, the white album exposes a lack of focus and cooperation, which is part of the reason it's a two album set instead of a single tight disc. Don't get me wrong, I love "Glass Onion," "Happiness is a Warm Gun," "Helter Skelter," and a lot of the other tracks on this album. It's just that the infighting you hear in this album never stops breaking my heart. If the greatest band in history can't get along, what hope do we mere mortals have?

Baleeted? No. Because Beatles.

The Beatles - The Magical Mystery Tour

This is one of the most glorious failures in musical history. Hot on the heels of Sgt. Pepper, The Beatles set out to pretend that they were someone else again, and created a film to support their new album. The film was a critical and commercial flop, but the album turned out to be something special. I really love most of the tracks on this album. "Fool on the Hill," "Your Mother Should Know" and "Strawberry Fields Forever" are just a few of the excellent songs from this album. While this album and its supporting film never reached the Sgt. Pepper heights the band intended, it's hard to have anything but love for the music itself. Oh, and don't forget that this is where "I Am the Walrus" comes from. That's a great song in a very weird way.

Baleeted? No. Because Beatles.

The Beatles - Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Heart's Club Band

While you have to give The Beatles credit for a great number of things, the one which is most relevant to this album is the fact that they had a tendency to zag when the public wanted them to zig. Not only would they zag, they would do it so well that zagging would become the only acceptable thing to do.

Sgt. Pepper is as big of a zag as you could ever hope to make. The biggest band in the world got tired of being themselves and reinvented themselves as something different. This is one of the first and most important and influential concept albums. Not only that, it's freaking fantastic to listen to. Oh, and you can really tell that the band has started abusing drugs at this point.

Baleeted? No. Because Beatles.

The Beatles - Help!

The Beatles rebounded quickly from their Beatles For Sale blues with Help!, which is a monumental album for a number of reasons. First of all, it is the soundtrack to the film of same name, which means that the band was even more busy during this period than they were for Beatles for Sale, and secondly, it features a staggering number of hits. The last time I bothered to check, "Yesterday" was the most-covered song in the history of music, and it's not even my favorite track from this album (that would be "You're Gonna Lose That Girl"). Help! is a major achievement for a band whose career is marked by almost nothing but major achievements.

Baleeted? No. Because Beatles.

The Beatles - Beatles For Sale

In simply looking at the cover of Beatles for Sale, it is obvious that the band is worn out from touring and tired of being constantly hounded by the press, their fans, and basically everybody on the face of the earth at the time. This weariness really shows in the songs. Gone is the enthusiasm of A Hard Day's Night. Also, it appears Lennon/McCartney songwriting machine hit a snag when composing this album. "Eight Days a Week" is the only truly recognizable hit, though there are other great tunes on the album.

While Beatles For Sale appears to be an evolutionary step backward, it's important to remember that 1) there are still plenty of good songs on the album and 2) The Beatles moved forward from this point and created some of their best work.

Baleeted? No. Because Beatles.

The Beatles - A Hard Day's Night

On A Hard Day's Night, The Beatles really hit their stride as both songwriters and performers. There's a frantic energy running throughout A Hard Day's Night which simply sweeps me away every time I hear this album. At this point in their careers, it's obvious that not only were George, John, Paul, and Ringo (listed in order from my favorite to least favorite) getting the hang of being the biggest band in the world, they were still enjoying it. By the time they hit Beatles For Sale, being a Beatle was a bit of a chore, but on A Hard Day's Night, it was still the best thing in the world.

Baleeted? No. Because Beatles.

The Beatles - With the Beatles

The Beatles' second album in 1963 finds them opting to cover a few R&B classics in addition to the many fine originals on the album. During this era, record labels expected a whole lot of output from their bands, and this resulted in a good deal of filler (see: all The Beach Boys' early albums). While it would be easy to call "Roll Over Beethoven," "Please Mr. Postman" and "You Really Got a Hold on Me" filler, The Beatles can't help but make everything their own. The filler on this album doesn't sound like filler, and originals like "It Won't Be Long" and "All My Loving" show why Beatlemania was simply a public necessity in reaction to the band's music.

Baleeted? No. Because Beatles.

The Beatles - Please Please Me

From the opening chords and vocal howl on "I Saw Her Standing There" it's easy to see why so many people went crazy for The Beatles in the 60's. Nobody could match their sound, and nobody could match their energy. They hit the scene as young idealistic mop tops with some of the best songs of their generation. Who wouldn't instantly fall in love with these guys?

When I was a kid, I heard "Love Me Do" and "Please Please Me" on oldies radio, and I actually hated them. Luckily my tastes have changed over time. I have learned to enjoy The Beatles from their humble beginnings to their turbulent ending. Great underrated track: "Misery."

Baleeted? No. Because Beatles.

The Beatles - Past Masters Volume 2

Past Masters Volume 2 covers the other half of The Beatles' non-album tracks. It's easy to forget that gems like "Lady Madonna" and "Hey Jude" were non-album singles. Once again, if you're looking for Beatles compilations with plenty of recognizable hits, the two Past Masters albums are a great place to start.

Baleeted? No. Because Beatles.

The Beatles - Past Masters Volume 1

When listening to The Beatles, it's important to remember that they pioneered the modern album. Before The Beatles, everything was about singles, but when they started dropping Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band on everybody, albums started to take precedent. That said, The Beatles have always had a tremendous number of non-album tracks because they were always churning out hit singles in addition to their transcendent albums.

Past Masters Volume 1 covers the non-album tracks from 1962 to 1965, and it's interesting to see how many recognizable Beatles tracks existed in single-only form (discounting, of course, the bastardized Capitol Records versions of early Beatles albums). Tracks like "She Loves You" and "I Wanna Hold Your Hand" are featured on this excellent compilation. When it comes to Beatles compilations, it's hard to beat Past Masters.

Baleeted? No. Because Beatles.

The Beatles - Anthology 3

As with the other anthologies, Anthology 3 will simply drive you to the studio albums, which in this case are The White Album, Abbey Road, and Let it Be. This album is for completists and Beatles researchers only. All others are better off in the studio albums.

Baleeted? No, but only because I'm a bit of a completist and I can't keep the other two and not keep this one.

The Beatles - Anthology 2

I stole this album back when I had a problem with kleptomania. I took it because I wanted to own some Beatles and I thought the anthology albums would be greatest hits compilations, and not piles of discarded tape spliced back together for people who want to hear absolutely everything the band ever did.

It was this album which drew me to Revolver, so I guess I owe it some acknowledgement. There is a version of "And Your Bird Can Sing" on this album in which two of the guys in the band can't stop laughing. It ruins an otherwise beautiful song. Because I simply needed to own the fully-realized version of this song, I went out and bought (yes, I paid money for this one) Revolver, which became my favorite Beatles album at the tender age of 15. Little did I realize how smart I was. All my friends loved The White Album because they had a strange fascination with "Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da." History has been much kinder to me and my love of Revolver.

Anyway, as with the other anthology albums, Anthology 2 inspired me to seek out The Beatles' studio albums. There is nothing in the anthologies that isn't better on the studio albums. Trust me.

Baleeted? No. If for no other reason than the fact this album reminds me of how I found Revolver.

The Beatles - Anthology 1

Boasting the first "new" Beatles tracks in a few decades, the anthology albums sparked a whole lot of interest in The Beatles in the 90's as my generation was given the opportunity to learn about the greatest band of all great bands (The Beatles are such a great band that I don't even list them as one of my favorite bands. Saying you like The Beatles is like saying you like breathing. They're both omnipresent and essential, so it almost becomes ridiculous to say that you like them because, as a human being, you simply must).

Unfortunately, the anthology albums aren't very interesting for anyone who isn't teaching a course on The Beatles. Anthology 1 provided a lot of the early tracks for the Beatles course I took in college, but that doesn't mean they're interesting to people who simply enjoy listening to the studio albums. In the same way that I don't need to follow the history of rock and roll all the way back to field hollers and spirituals, I don't need to follow The Beatles back to their Tony Sheridan days.

Baleeted? No. I keep this for historical documentation only, and will likely never listen to it again.