Thursday, August 26, 2010

Disc #41: Christina Aguilera (My Kind of Christmas)



Artist: Christina Aguilera
Album: My Kind of Christmas
Released by BMG Entertainment in 2000

Listen, I'm willing to give anyone a shot. It's Christmas music, so it can't be that bad, right? In other words, don't knock it it 'till you've tried it.

The great thing about this blog is that once I've tried it, I get to knock it all I want.

To give you some perspective, let's have a brief look at the timeline of Aguilera's career, just in case you're not that familiar. She released her debut album in 1999, and it was a huge success, reaching number one on the Billboard charts and containing two #1 hit singles ("Genie in a Bottle" and "What a Girl Wants"). In 2002, Aguilera released her second studio album, along with unveiling a rather controversial new persona, "Xtina". In between these two albums, someone at BMG decided that there was a lot of money to be made of this new rival to Britney Spears. Hence, a Christmas album was throw together, and I really mean it when I say, "thrown together".

It's quite obvious that someone arranged and recorded a bunch of Christmas tunes, some traditional and others more contemporary, and said, "You're singin' these songs!" How could the new contender for Pop Princess say no?

Anyways, concerning the album itself, it's not completely horrible, but I suppose I should explain my generally negative tone. The first thing to note is the inconsistency of genres. I'm all for diversity and versatility, but this disc just had me confused. From R&B to blues to funk to traditional hymns to house to pop... I hardly knew who I was listening to at times.

There are a couple of traditional Christmas hymns on the album, but they didn't so much inspire me to sing along. "Oh Holy Night" almost had me question my faith. The Christina as I know her is the girl from "Stripped" and "Back to Basics" who is anything but modest and quite comfortable with her body image and sexuality. To hear that same woman speak the Lord's Prayer during one of my favourite sacred Christmas hymns was fairly disturbing and somewhat confusing. It's like when a lifetime smoker tells you to quit smoking because it's harmful to your health, just as they take another drag. You know they're speaking the truth, but it just doesn't make any sense to find what they're telling you convincing.

There were also a couple of highlights. Vocal talent, for one. Say what you will about Xtina, the girl's got a set of pipes. It's interesting to see her career unfold, because she certainly has been gifted with an incredible voice, and that was at least somewhat entertaining to listen to, even if it was repetitive at times.

I was pleasantly surprised to hear a very recognizable male voice on the blues tune "Merry Christmas, Baby". The guy who takes the second chorus is none other than Dr. John (Mac Rebennack). Most rock and roll fans would know exactly who I'm talking about. His vocal and piano contributions are fitting on this enjoyable blues tune. My favourite track on the album is "This Christmas", which you will probably hear on CHFI in Toronto starting November 25th about twelve times a day. Even still, it is a wonderful funk tune with a full band that fills out quite nicely. If the whole album had more tunes like these two, it would have been a great disc.

At the end of it all, it's really not a memorable album, and certainly not one I would put on at a Christmas party. There were some enjoyable moments, but there was far to much fluff in between to drown them out. I have no choice but to give this album a score of:

4

Join me next time as the experiment continues with Disc #42: Christina Aguilera (Back to Basics: Disc 1).

Friday, August 20, 2010

Disc #40: Chris Tomlin (Hello Love)



Artist: Chris Tomlin
Album: Hello Love
Released by Sparrow Records in 2008

Well, this is another solid effort by contemporary Christian worship leader, Chris Tomlin. One of the many things that I love about Tomlin's albums is that he always seems to hit you hard with a brilliant first track. I said some similar things about the first track on his previous album, which I recently reviewed, and you can listen to that opening track here. I then want you to listen to the first track from this album, "Sing, Sing, Sing". I find that they are perfect prefaces to what is to come on the rest of the disc. They just draw me right in and leave hungry for the remainder of the tracks.

I always like to pick a favourite tune when I review an album, but it has been pretty difficult on this one. There isn't one track that I do not thoroughly enjoy. I think that it's a toss-up between two tracks. The easy pick would be a song called "With Me". This is the classic Tomlin sound, full of distorted electric guitars and Tomlin belting it out vocally. I love the dissonance on the guitar chords. These ambient elements, which are all over this album, really remind me of many sounds that U2 has produced over the years, especially on some of their more recent albums. As far as I'm concerned, that's a massive compliment.

The track that competes with it is "Praise the Father, Praise the Son". I love traditional hymns, both to listen to and to sing. Therefore, I get very excited when contemporary artists write new songs in the style of traditional hymns. This tune can definitely be classified as a "contemporary hymn". The lyrics are reverent, yet accessible, and the song is simple enough to sing along to without much difficulty. These to me are important elements of a well-written hymn. I hope to do this one in the near future at my home church.

I mentioned in my previous review that Tomlin's music is very inspiring. It inspires me to worship God and draw nearer to Him. These are the very things that I ought to do, according to my belief system, so it may seem redundant or unnecessary that I need to be inspired to do such things. However, I'm nowhere near perfect, even when the things I want to do are concerned. Therefore, I need to be inspired by something. I have several things in life that inspire me: my wife, my kids, my church family, just as a few examples. This music is another thing that inspires me and reminds me of my identity.

Here's a question for you (since I'm not going to let you just read these reviews with out a little work on your part). What inspires you? What do you believe in, and what encourages you to continue believing those things? Maybe you don't know, or have never even considered it. I recommend that you find something to inspire you. It could be a person in your life, or maybe you respond to music in the way that I do. If you can't think of anything, try this album out. Go and grab it, or listen to it online. If you want it in your hands, just ask me and I'd be happy to lend you mine. Whatever you do, find some inspiration in your life. I think that it is extremely important, regardless of what you believe in.

So comes again the time to award a score. Although I think I like this album a little bit more than its predecessor, I think that I will give it the same score of:

8

I would hate to think that Tomlin's albums couldn't keep getting better and better.

Please join me next time as the experiment continues with Disc #41: Christina Aguilera (My Kind of Christmas).

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Disc #39: Chris Tomlin (See The Morning)



Artist: Chris Tomlin
Album: See The Morning
Released by Sparrow Records in 2006

First off, I'm a big fan of Tomlin's music. This is the first album of his that we acquired, and hats off to Nora's brother, Ben, for giving it to us. It's been very inspiring. When the first two tracks are so dynamite, how could it not be? They were both big hits, at least in Christian music circles, and perhaps even outside the Christian loop (at least in the United States).

You start off with "How Can I Keep From Singing?", which is a great song about expressing praise to God. It is then followed by "Made to Worship", a call to believers in terms of our identity and purpose.

I'm a big guitar fan, and this album is full of great guitar rock. The sound is not heavy, just full of warm, rich electric guitar tones, blended with full-bodied acoustic guitar sounds on rhythm. The first two songs contain this type of sound, but my favourite on the album is definitely "Rejoice", which contains the title lyric. This song also illustrates Tomlin's incredible vocal ability, which is evident in both his range and tone.

This is truly an inspiring album, both lyrically and musically. I will touch on this a little more when I review his next CD. For now, I will simply give him a score, once again abiding by the extremely strict parameters of The Mike Jones Scale of Disc Awesomeness:

8

Please join me next time as the experiment continues with Disc #40: Chris Tomlin (Hello Love).

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Disc #38: Chantal Kreviazuk (Colour Moving and Still)



Artist: Chantal Kreviazuk
Album: Colour Moving and Still
Released by Sony Music Entertainment in 1999

When I first threw this disc in the player, I was immediately reminded of a time in the late nineties when girls had just stopped wearing brown plaid shirts over all their outfits and they all looked forward to Lilith Fair every summer. Not an overly strong period in recent Western pop-culture, but a stepping stone noe-the-less(I'm sure).

Lilith Fair jokes aside, this album is not so bad. The problem for me is that it's just not my cup of tea. I can certainly appreciate Chantal's musicality and song-writing ability. There were one or two tracks where her vocal ability really made me raise my eyebrows. She writes some good songs, but I guess this specific style of music is not my thing.

The song you are probably most familiar with from this album is "Before You". As I reviewed this video, I remembered that I really liked it when it came out. It wasn't because I loved her music, though I always have enjoyed this tune, or because I had a huge crush on Chantal (which was often the case with videos that I loved featuring female artists). I specifically remember enjoying the deep greens in the forest scenes, and I always thought that the whole TV screen concept linking the different settings together was a great idea.

At the end of it all, I really have nothing negative to say about this album. If you like Chantal or other artists like her, you will enjoy this album. You have the Mike Jones guarantee on that one. As for me, I'm not overly thrilled with it, so I am forced to give it a score of:

6

I was going to give it a 5, but I bumped it up because of some special appearances by her husband, Raine Maida, and the drummer from his band, Our Lady Peace, Jeremy Taggert. I love it when artists collaborate with each other, and I'm kind of addicted to reading the liner notes of an album to find out who popped up on the disc as a special guest.

Please Join me next time as the experiment continues with Disc #39: Chris Tomlin (See The Morning).

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Disc #37: Casting Crowns (Lifesong)



Artist: Casting Crowns
Album: Lifesong
Released by Provident Label Group in 2005

Before you begin reading this post, click on this link to the title track for this album. I think it sums up the general feel of the album, and can double as the soundtrack for today's review. A big thank-you once again to Mike and Jan for getting us these wonderful discs.

This album is the band's sophomore disc, and is of course the follow-up to my last review , which was of their debut album. In my mind, this disc is a direct continuation of their first, if not a step forward into something new. If the first disc was mainly focused on pointing out the short-comings of the church, this one suggests how we might respond to those challenges.

However, it wouldn't really be a true Casting Crowns album without reminding us at least a little bit of how we're messing things up as a group of people. "Stained Glass Masquerade" and "While You Were Sleeping" are probably the most direct of these types of songs on the album. Though it may just seem like non-constructive criticism to some, the band refers to it as "a ministry of discipleship". I think it's very important to point out the problems in the way me live as a body of believers, but it is almost more important to try and find a solution and take steps towards it.

If you're going through a tough spell in life right now, listen to "Praise You in This Storm". If you like, you can check out the lyrics here. This song depicts an individual who is overwhelmed by the storms of life, yet in his trials, he still looks to the one who is with him. Just remember, there's always someone there for you, no matter what you're going through.

Musically, the overall sound of this album is much bigger than their debut. You will hear more tracks with string arrangements and heavy power chords from distorted electric guitars than on their first disc. The sound isn't much more complex than it's predecessor, but its got more depth.

All being said, I think I like this album about the same as the last one. in fact, I might like the music a little more but the lyrics a little less. That being said, it's not by much. Therefore, I will give this album the same score as the last on The Mike Jones Scale of Disc Awesomeness:

8

Please join me next time as the experiment continues with Disc #38: Chantal Kreviazuk (Colour Moving and Still).

Friday, August 6, 2010

Disc #36: Casting Crowns (Casting Crowns)



Artist: Casting Crowns
Album: Casting Crowns
Released by Beach Street Records in 2003

If I could use one word to sum up this album, it would be: refreshing. I've listened to it before, but not in quite a while. I'd forgotten how well done it is. I owe a huge thanks to my in-laws, Mike and Jan, for giving this album to us. It's very encouraging. It's a pretty strong mix of self-examination, both as individuals and as the Body of Christ as a whole, and sincere worship of the Father.

As the disc starts out, it seems pretty harsh. The first two songs criticize the Church at large for not praying ("What If His People Prayed") and not reaching out those coming into the Church from the outside("If We Are The Body"). I don't actually believe it's all that harsh; I think it's realistic. Even if we are doing our best to follow the example that Christ has set out for us, which most of us aren't, we still fall short of the mark.

It lightens up a little bit after the first two tracks, but still challenges us to examine ourselves and realize that we're not as great as we often like to think we are. Lyrically, I think that I can relate the most to "Who Am I". It is a good reminder for me when I do something that I think is really awesome, that it's not by my strength that I can do it; it's only through the Lord. In addition, it humbles me by reminding me that Jesus didn't die for me because I deserved it. I truly don't deserve it, but He died for me because He loves me. It is His death that makes me great, not the things I do.

Not because of who I am

But because of what You've done

Not because of what I've done

But because of who You are

Musically, this album is quite simple, and that is not meant to be a negative statement. I believe that the powerful part of this album is the convicting and uplifting nature of the lyrics. The music is solid and engaging, but it doesn't distract what really draws me in to this disc. i find the music quite enjoyable, but not challenging like many other artists and genres that I enjoy.

My favourite song on the album is the last track, "Your Love is Extravagant". Even though I know that they did not compose this song, and usually that would bug me on an album, I think they've done a fantastic job with the tune. I find it so relaxing, and it gives me such a peace when I listen to it. Whether you believe in the same things that I do or not, I recommend this tune to if you feel at all tired, weary, depressed, lonely, or afraid. Hopefully it will give you the comfort that you need.

I'm a big fan of this album, and there's never a time that I've had it on and I don't feel good afterwards. Though I usually look for something a lot more complex, musically speaking, the power of the lyrics makes it highly enjoyable and uplifting. I'm quite confident in giving this album a score of:

8

Please join me next time as the experiment continues with Disc #37: Casting Crowns (Lifesong).

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Disc #35: Capstone (Integreality)



Artist: Capstone
Album: Integreality
Released by Capstone in 1999

I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised upon listening to this CD. I have heard these guys live before at least once. I remember them coming to Tyndale College during frosh week of my first year. I enjoyed their music, but wasn't really into them or that circle of artists in the way that many of my peers were. The one song I do remember is "You Are My Rock". Since these guys were a few years prior to the YouTube days, it was hard to find anything on them. However, I was able to find an amateur video of lead singer Joel Auge singing this song solo in 2007. It's a great tune and one that has for some reason remained in my memory.

The first thing that I noticed on this album was the mixing. At first I felt that the rhythm section was mixed way too loud and that I could hardly hear the vocals. As the tracks went on I found that some tracks were the opposite, and some were mixed just right. The word that sums it up is inconsistency. I was initially disappointed, but as I listened to the disc a few more times there was something that distracted me from this technical flaw: musicality.

These four guys are incredible musicians. Not only that, but the songs are very well written. Some tunes, like "You Are My Rock", are simple and catchy. Others are rather deep and complex, such as "Invention", and my favourite on the album, "Never Let Go". Eventually, I didn't even notice the mixing problems anymore. I was simply able to enjoy the great music that these guys have produced. All being said, it's a half-decent job for an independent (and probably very low-budget) release.

As far as Christian worship music goes, I find it to be raw and very sincere. It's very much focused on the Lord. Some lyricists tend to point out the flaws in ourselves as imperfect human beings and direct us to how we ought to live. There is value in that and we all need to hear it at some point during our life, no matter what we believe in. This music however, generally focuses on praise of the Father. I find that this is the best place to start when worshipping. We always have stuff going on inside, whether good or bad, but He NEVER changes, so we can always worship him for who He is: the un-changing Rock.

Due to the mixing problems that I pointed out, I cannot give this album as high of a score than if it were mixed more professionally. None-the-less, it is a very inspiring album created by some extremely talented musicians. Because of how much I enjoyed it, I will award it a score of:

7

All the best to the members of Capstone, in whatever opportunities you may be pursuing at this time, musical or otherwise. Please join me next time as the experiment continues with disc #36: Casting Crowns (Casting Crowns).

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Disc #34: Bryan Adams (11)



Artist: Bryan Adams
Album: 11
Released by badman Ltd. in 2008

During the same visit to Deja Vu discs in which I picked up the latest Ben Folds album, I also picked up Bryan Adams' 2008 release, "11". My recent blogging has rekindled my wife's love for BA, so I decided to pick up this disc as a Mothers' day present. Needless to say, it went over very well.

As far as the album goes, I don't think I have very much to say. I recently reviewed its predecessor, "Room Service", and as I think about the two albums, I have a hard time separating one from the other. The music is still very good and he definitely knows how to write catchy pop songs and romantic ballads. There just weren't many moments when I thought, "Wow, that sounds awesome." I enjoyed it, but not that much.

If you want to get a good sense of what the album is like, just listen to the lead single, "I Thought I'd Seen Everything", which you have probably heard on the radio. That pretty much sums up the general feel of the whole disc. In fact, it kind of sums up the last 15 years of Bryan's career. Now, just before you go and accuse me of going on a major BA bashing spree, let me reiterate the fact that I do very much enjoy this album and his music in general. However, I also enjoy being surprised and challenged musically, and this disc did neither for me.

At the end of the day, it was a decent listen. If you're a big BA fan, you will love it. It's everything you could hope for in a BA album. Is he starting to slow down? Who knows! Apparently he still puts on a great live show. All that being said, I will award this disc a score of:

6

Join me next time as we continue our trip through the "C"s with Disc #35: Capstone (Integreality).

Monday, July 26, 2010

Disc #33: Ben Folds (Way To Normal)



Artist: Ben Folds
Album: Way To Normal
Released by Sony BMG in 2008

A few things to note about this album before I begin. First, you may remember that this disc was featured in The Lost Albums: Part 1. Well, I missed it so much that I just had to go out and grab it. I'm so glad that I did. Second, you may have noticed that this takes us to a previous letter in the alphabet: "B". I have decided that if I acquire a disc during the experiment and we have already passed it alphabetically, I will just review it right away so it doesn't get lost in the shuffle. Also, I just wanted to listen to this awesome album again. Over and over and over in my car.

In my opinion, this may very well be Ben Folds' finest work. It is also his most obscene. Ben has never been one to shy away from vulgarity, and it shows on this album. Even though I would like it so much more were it not for the frequent bomb-dropping, it's still such a great album.

Once again I'm quite taken by the way he's able to illustrate complex domestic themes of stagnancy and apathy in long-term relationships. The pictures he paints seem far too familiar (not personally, but socially speaking). The big single from this album, "You Don't Know Me", captures it quite well. The other track that does it is another one of my favourites from the album, the closing track, "Kylie From Connecticut". The core of Western culture is very much rooted in the strength of the family unit. It seems that society has been rebelling from it in secrecy for years, but rising divorce rates and increasing accounts of family dysfunctions are bringing it more and more to the surface. I believe that Folds has hit the nail on the head when it comes to emulating the deep-seated frustrations and emotions behind the break-down of the common family unit. It doesn't so much offer a solution, but at least it brings light to a problem that so many people face.

Amidst all the heaviness however, there are many lighter moments. Beautiful song-writing and humorous lyrics are matched up nicely in one of the funniest tunes on the album, "Effington". I chuckle every time I hear, "Effington could be a wonderful Effing place." Another sunny moment for me is the light satire found in "Brainwascht". Not only is this song funny, but it really reminds me of the Ben Folds Five sound. In fact, of his three solo albums, this is the one that I believe sounds the most like the old "Five" albums. I recently had a dream in which I was in some body's basement and Ben Folds was there playing this song. We all sang along and then I asked him what his favourite song was which he had wrote. He said that it was "Trusted", which is so convenient since that is one of my all-time fave BF songs. I hope to return to that dream some day. Somebody get Leo on the phone for me.

So, we must once again say good-bye to Ben Folds, but there are a few more albums of his that I don't own, so perhaps we will meet again. Even with your dirty potty-mouth, you never let me down. Hats off to you, and enjoy your score of:

8

Join me next time as the experiment continues with Disc #34: Bryan Adams (11).

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Disc #32: Cake (Comfort Eagle)



Artist: Cake
Album: Comfort Eagle
Released by Columbia Records in 2001

Once again, massive apologies for the 6 week sabbatical. The PC took another bad pill but she's back in service. I sincerely hope this doesn't happen again so that the experiment can continue to run smoothly.

Without further ado, we will continue our journey with a much anticipated review of one of my very favourite albums: Cake's Comfort Eagle. If you're not a big Cake fan, you may have no familiarity with any of the tracks on this album. Hopefully, you have at very least heard "Short Skirt/Long Jacket" as it is the theme song for the TV show "Chuck". "Short Skirt/Long Jacket" was in fact the only successful single from this album. They were about to release the title track as a single, but decided against it due to some of the lyrics lining up a little too close with the events of 9/11, which had just occurred. They released "Love You Madly" instead as the second single, which did not appear to burn up any charts. That's a real shame because it's a fantastic song and a pretty funny music video concept.

Sometimes I can't decide if I like this album so much because it's awesome, or because it brings back so many good memories. In the summer of 2002 we were picking corn in the States, and this was definitely part of the soundtrack of the summer. Being a relatively short CD (about 40 minutes), we were able to get through it a large number of times. The opening track, "Opera Singer", has some great hand claps in it. Hand claps were a big deal in the corn field. We loved singing songs together in their entirety, with full instrumentation being emulated as we picked corn. You add hand claps to that song and you've got yourself a winner in the field.

Memories aside, I think that this is a fantastic album. Musically, it's clever and well put together. I love the feel of the types of instruments they use on this album. The guitar sound is one of my favourites on the album. It sounds like he usually uses some sort of Gibson hollow-bodied electric guitar; probably an ES-330. It produces a wonderful funk sound in this rock band that makes some fairly funky rock music.

Lyrically, I find that there is great balance on this disc. Some of the tracks are straight-forward, like the two singles I mentioned earlier. Many others are cryptic and metaphorical, such as "Opera Singer", "Commissioning a Symphony in C", "Long Line of Cars", and "World of Two". The liner notes don't say explicitly who penned the lyrics, but my suspicion is that it was lead vocalist John McCrea. If so, he is a double-threat on this album as his way with words combine quite nicely with his creative use of vocal expression.

I could go on for a lot longer, but the best thing for you to do is just go out and get the album. You won't be disappointed. I've put a couple other friends onto this disc over the years with zero complaints thus far. I'm still trying to curb my generosity with the scores I give out, but I just can't ignore how much I love this album every time I put it on. Thus, I must give it a score of:

9

I hope you will join me again shortly as the experiment continues with Disc #33: Ben Folds (Way To Normal).

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Disc #31: Cadet (Cadet)



Artist: Cadet
Album: Cadet
Released by BEC Recordings in 2001

This was a new one for me, as I've never heard any music by Cadet before. I may have heard of the band when I was younger and more in tune with Christian music circles, but none of my friends had any of their music. Come to think of it, I don't believe Nora has ever mentioned even owning this album. I think I have just discovered why.

After listening to this album once through, I came to an interesting conclusion. It wasn't bad music, nor did I hate what I was listening to, I just wasn't inspired at all. There wasn't one moment that either disgusted, or excited me. It is perhaps the most apathetic I have ever felt.

The only really annoying thing about this album is the second track, "God-Man (Jesus is My Superhero)". I can live with calling The Lord your "superhero", as there are many teens who might relate to that on some level. After the chorus, when they shout out, "It's God-Man!" now that's disrespectful. It's not controversial, it's just straight-up rude and immature. Did no one on the record label stop and think about the implications of the lyrics on this track? I guess not.

I don't know what else to say about this disc. This is probably because there really isn't much to say at all. Their only saving grace is the fact that they are promoting a very positive message. For that, I will bump Cadet's score up to a:

3

Join me next time as the experiment continues with Disc #32: Cake (Comfort Eagle).

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The Lost Albums: Part 1 (A-B)

I've prepared a little treat for you all. As I've been going through my discs, I've been thinking about the CDs that I used to have but have been lost, stolen, traded or sold at some point over the years. Periodically throughout the experiment we will explore these discs. I won't go into the contents in great detail, but it will be fun to discuss them briefly.


Artist: Aerosmith
Album: Big Ones
Status: Traded

I'm pretty sure I traded this one to Ben, but I have no idea what I got in return. This is one of the first CDs I ever owned. It played and played. I guess I grew tired of it. I'm not a big Aerosmith fan, but it would be a good one to still have in the collection.


Artist: Alanis Morisette
Album: Jagged Little Pill
Status: Sold

I sold this one to my sister once I though it wasn't cool any more. I think I sold it to her for 7 bucks, I probably thought that I was ripping her off, and was proud of myself. Sarah, I'm sorry I used to be a jerk. I'm not sorry I don't have this CD anymore.


Artist: Barenaked Ladies
Album: Maybe You Should Drive
Status: Traded

Another one that went to Ben, and I think it was in the "Dumb and Dumber Trade". It was the first BNL album I owned and I should have kept it. I may go pick it up again. I want to hear "Jane" again. Oh Wait! I hear it every day at work on CHFI!


Artist: Ben Folds
Album: Way To Normal
Status: Lost

My sister-in-law got me this album just the other year, and I have no idea where it has gotten to. I thought it was one of his best so I hope to get it back someday soon. Perhaps I will take matters into my own hands...


Artist: Blink 182
Album: Enema of the State
Status: Sold?

I think I sold this one to Deja Vu Discs, but I can't remember. I might have just tossed it one day in an effort to be more pure. I don't know if it helped, but it did blow some of the chaff out of my collection. I loved these guys in high school. The big difference between me and the band is that I have matured since then.


Artist: Busta Rhymes
Album: When Disaster Strikes
Status: Discarded

Everybody makes mistakes, right? I found $40 one day in the mall parking lot when I was a young teenager (so young, so stupid). I went and bought two albums. This was one of them. I'm so sorry. I threw it out only the other year because I hate throwing away CDs, but I just couldn't bring myself to sell it to Deja Vu Discs. Why would I want to tempt someone else to make the same mistake I did? It was only logical to give it the ol' heave-ho. It should have happened years ago.


So that completes the first installment of The Lost Albums. I hope you enjoyed it, and I hope you join me next time as the experiment continues with Disc #31: Cadet (Cadet).

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Disc #30: Bryan Adams (Anthology-Disc 2)



Artist: Bryan Adams
Album: Anthology (Disc 2)
Released by Badman Limited/ A&M Records in 2005

My apologies once again for the lengthy hiatus. On the Mike Jones Scale of good/sucky, computer viruses score SUCKY, every time. The good news is that I'm back online and it's going to keep on coming. We're on our 30th disc, and there's lots more to go, so I've got to keep the pace up.

We must return with Mr. Adams one more time as we look at the second disc of his "Anthology". Right off the bat I'm going to say that I didn't enjoy it as much as the first disc. There are still a large number of large hits, but they are much more sappy in general. That being said, it's still a gong show, with massively successful singles such as "Please Forgive Me", "All for Love", "Have You Ever Really Loved a Woman?", and that's just the first three tracks!

I love "The Only Thing That Looks Good On Me Is You", but every time I hear it I can't help but remember how nasty he looked in the video. He may be a heart-throb, but this video made him look gross. However, this disc also contains two tracks that I've already reviewed from "MTV Unplugged", and they are "I'm Ready" and "Back To You". These are two of my favourite BA tunes ever.

I have two complaints about this disc that I would like to highlight at this point. First, I've never been a big fan of artists releasing a greatest hits compilation shortly after a studio album comes out, and putting a bunch of those new tracks on the disc. It's one thing if the track is already a huge hit single, but that's not the case here, as at least two of the "new" tracks he has put on this album are not hit singles. They're decent tunes, but how can you know that they will have the impact and longevity of some of the other massive hits on this release?

Second, and this one really bugs me, is the selected recording of "When You're Gone". The original release of this tune is a wonderful due,t with Mel C, formerly of The Spice Girls. Before you criticize, listen to the track because it's loads of fun. On this disc, however, a version has been recorded not with Mel C, but none other than Pamela Anderson. What? Pamela Anderson? You're joking right? Well, maybe she can sing. I'll listen to the track before I judge.

Yeah, that's what I said to myself, trying not to be a judgemental person. Have you ever been to a karaoke bar, and some chick gets up there and tries to act like she knows what she's doing? If she was drunk, it might make sense, but she's totally sober. She sort of hits all the notes, but her tone makes you develop a facial tick. That's what Pamela Anderson's vocal talents are like. I have no clue how this decision was made, but that person needs to be fired. ASAP. PA certainly has one or two assets, but neither one of them are singing.

At the end of the day, this is still a great album, chalked full of mega-hits. I had fun listening to it, despite a few draw-backs. Therefore, this disc will receive a score of:

7

Join me next time as the experiment continues with a little surprise...

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Disc #29: Bryan Adams (Anthology-Disc 1)



Artist: Bryan Adams
Album: Anthology (Disc 1)
Released by Badman Limited/ A&M Records in 2005

First off, a big thanks to Ben Wideman, who took us to one of America's largest independent music stores the last time we were visiting L.A. We took a lengthy tour through Amoeba Music and picked up this gem, along with a couple other classic albums that we will come upon later. If I had been living near this store during my bachelor days, I would have way more school debt, because all of my money would have gone to Amoeba. We will meet again, and hopefully I will have more disposable funds.

One thing that I really like about greatest hits compilations is that, unless you are already a massive fan, you get to hear some songs you aren't familiar with, along with the big hits you love. For example, the first track on this disc, "Remember", is one that I have never even heard before. It is from an early demo that Bryan did, but it's still something new, and I'm glad that a few tracks like this made it onto his anthology.

This first disc is comprised mainly of his hits from the 80s, with a few from the very early 90s. It's a healthy blend of all-out rock tunes with some strong rock ballads. There's not a whole bunch of big guitar solos, but I love some of the riffs. One of my faves is in the duet with Tina Turner, "It's Only Love". This tune starts with a great rock riff, and is one that any of you budding electric guitarists could pick up pretty easily.

You know I love a good sing along, and this CD certainly has many of these. There are a few songs I'm less familiar with, but I was wailing along with Bryan's raspy vocals through the majority of the tunes. There are some huge hits on this first disc, such as, "Heaven", "Summer of '69" and "(Everything I Do) I Do It For You". These are international super-hits which almost anyone can hum along to. That's not what impresses me about this album, but it sure gives me some respect for just how influential his music has been. You've made your country proud Bryan!

This album has great hits, great rock, and is loads of fun to sing along to. It would be great at any party you could throw (keep that in mind as BBQ season is now fully upon us). All that being said, I'm gonna be bold and give this one a score of:

8

Join me next time as the experiment continues with the other half of this compilation with Disc #30: Bryan Adams (Anthology - Disc 2).

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Disc #28: Bryan Adams (Room Service)



Artist: Bryan Adams
Album: Room Service
Released by Badman Limited in 2004

Since I bought Nora this album for Christmas several years ago, I haven't really given it much of an opportunity. However, I have to say that it is really easy to listen to. It took me a few days to figure out why I really liked this album. It's much more rock-y than most of his earlier stuff. Well, it's pop-rock really, but way less love-ballad and more rock guitar.

I will briefly skip ahead to the next disc, Adams' "Anthology", only to mention the DVD that comes with it which features a concert in Lisbon, Portugal, from the "Room Service" tour. He and his band are definitely portraying the rock and roll guy image, all wearing blue jeans and tight black t-shirts. It's a fun look, and they really do rock out.

I think that is a fitting illustration of the feel of this album. It's a good blend of up-beat tunes and slower jams, but all rock. I'm a big fan of "This Side of Paradise" and "Open Road", both of which you may be familiar with. I also love the opening track, "East Side Story", and think that it's a great way to kick off the album (please ignore the horrible Harry Potter video and just enjoy the song). Even though I'm not a huge BA fan, and don't have any of his previous studio albums, I was still able to get into this disc fairly easily.

He may not be the heart-throb that he was 15 years ago (or maybe you still think he is), but he still knows how to put together a solid album. It has just enough cheese that I'm not sick to my stomach, unlike many of his earlier hits. Due to the amount of enjoyment this album produced in me, I will give it a score of:

7

Join me next time as the experiment continues with another BA album on Disc #29: Bryan Adams (Anthology - Disc 1)

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Disc #27: Bryan Adams (MTV Unplugged)



Artist: Bryan Adams
Album: MTV Unplugged
Released by Badman in 1997

How do you make cheesy love ballads even cheesier? Just add strings to an all-acoustic set. Cheesy as he is, I do have a soft spot for Mr. Adams. As mentioned a few posts ago, "So Far So Good" was one of the albums I grew up on, so there's always a place for Bryan in my (musical) heart).

This album is pretty much a live greatest hits collection, minus the electric guitars and plus strings and other interesting instruments such as the tin whistle, Irish bagpipes, and the dobro (steel blues guitar). All the tunes are familiar and fun to sing along to. I've found in the past that even people who wouldn't say they are Bryan Adams fans will recognize and sing along to his popular songs. I guess that's the true sign of a well established international artist.

As far as I know, this is the only legitimate recording of "Back to You" that has been released, and that's one of my favourite BA songs. He also does a fun, bluesy rendition of "Let's Make a Night to Remember" and a great bluegrass version of "I Think About You."

I'm not going to say to much more here, because there's a double-disc greatest hits compilation coming up and I will talk a whole lot more about BA when we get there. I like BA, but he's not my favourite to listen, although I always find myself singing and bopping along. Therefore, since this album finds itself on the lower side of good, I will award it a score of:

6

Join me next time as the experiment continues with another BA installment on Disc #28: Bryan Adams (Room Service).

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Disc #26: Blue Rodeo (Five Days in July)



Artist: Blue Rodeo
Album: Five Days in July
Released by Blue Rodeo Productions in 1993

This is one of those sleeper albums that I wasn't introduced to until long after it was released. In my defense, I was ten years old when it came out, but I still never really had much interest in Blue Rodeo for about another decade. This was definitely an album that was listened to a lot in the summers picking corn. I owe much of my music listening experience to my buddies from the corn field. Thanks guys. I think it was either Jeff or Dustin who had this one. Perhaps it was both. I remember for sure listening to it in Dustin's old powder blue Pontiac 3000. That was one heck of a corn car. Right up there with the Cutlass Classic (AHEM).

There's something so relaxing about the music on this album. The song writing is great, and the instruments they use compliment the songs so well. I've never been a big country music fan, especially at the time I was introduced to this album, but I love their use of instruments that are typically classified as "country". The pedal steel, when you take it out of its country context, is a gorgeous sounding instrument. This album is the perfect blend of folk, rock, and country. I think that anyone who likes rock, but not country, would still love this music.

I always have a hard time deciding which song is my favourite on this album. I usually flip flop back and forth between "5 Days in May" and "Hasn't Hit Me Yet". That being said, there are so many other tunes that I love on this album, such as "Bad Timing", "English Bay" and "Head Over Heels". I also love the addition of Sarah McLachlan's backing vocals on "What is This Love", "Dark Angel" and "Know Where You Go/ Tell Me Your Dream". She fits in perfectly on this album.

Outside of this album, which unfortunately is the only one that I have from these guys, they have a whole load of hits. I highly recommend checking them out. I have been told by a number of people, and I agree with them, that this disc is a great place to start. As far as I'm concerned, this album is very deserving of a score of:

8

It's full of great music that inspires me, it brings back lots of memories and is great fun to sing along to, alone or with old friends. I'm offering a free barbecue for the first person who tells me they want to come and hang with me to sing this album together. That's how much I like it. Plus, I love barbecue, so it's really a win-win-win situation for me.

Join me next time as the experiment continues with Disc #27: Bryan Adams(MTV Unplugged).

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Disc #25: Bing Crosby (20th Century Masters: The Best of Bing Crosby - The Christmas Collection)



Artist: Bing Crosby
Album: 20th Century Masters: The Best of Bing Crosby - The Christmas Collection
Released by MCA Records in 1999

Before I begin this post, I would like to extend sincerest apologies to my faithful followers. I'm sorry the posts have been a little sparse of late, and hope to get back on pace this week. The half-dozen of you are VERY encouraging. Thank you so much for your support and comments!

So here we are with yet another Christmas album. Only 25 discs in and we hit our third one. It was weird having air-conditioning and Christmas music on at the same time, but they're both so good that I was able to get over it quickly.

Because it is so obviously seasonal, Christmas music has it's limitations. However, can you really go wrong when you get Bing Crosby to sing some of the most memorable and well known songs of the 20th Century? The answer is no. This album is enjoyable any time of the year. Especially in "the most wonderful time of the year".

Of all the classic male vocal performers, Bing is probably my favourite to listen to (followed extremely closely by Frank Sinatra). His tone is so warm that it makes me feel like I'm under an afghan by a warm fireplace in a ski-resort chalet. If that image doesn't make you feel cozy, you need to listen to more Bing.

It's great to hear someone sing a lot of the classics again. I don't need to revisit that atrocious BNL album that I reviewed a little while ago. You can read it yourself if you want to. I'm also still scarred from a whole month of listening to nothing but CHFI's all Christmas music broadcast last season. Only Bing has been able to ease the pain of that memory.

Well, I haven't said much about the music itself, but what is there to say? Love-able music sung by a legendary vocalist; it's always a great listen. All that being said, it does have it's place, and driving down a sunny highway with the windows down is not it. Therefore, I will award The Old Groaner a score of:

6

Join me next time as the experiment continues with Disc #26: Blue Rodeo (Five Days in July).

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Disc #24: Billy Joel (52nd Street)



Artist: Billy Joel
Album: 52nd Street
Released by CBS in 1978

There are certain songs and albums that just bring back a lot of memories. This is one of them. When my parents first split up, my dad had something that I had never seen before, and always looked forward to when we visited him: a CD player. Not everyone in the early 90s had one, so it was somewhat of a novelty. His collection was small at first, but we played those discs over and over on the weekends. Some of the first ones I remember are Rod Stewart's "Downtown Train", Supertramp's "Breakfast in America", Bryan Adams' "So Far So Good", Billy Joel's "Piano Man", and of course, Billy Joel's "52nd Street".

It's hard to tell why I liked this album so much. Why do you still like something that you listened to when you were younger? Do I like it because it's good or because it's familiar? In this case, maybe both.

Before we continue, I must tell of the acquisition of this album into my personal collection. In my fourth year at college, they decided to get rid of the old juke box, and were selling off the CDs. I couldn't help but take a jaunt through the collection, outdated as it was. The discs were selling for one or two dollars each, so when I saw one of my childhood favourites, it was a no-brainer.

Although it is full of late-seventies cheese, this is a well composed album, consisting of many catchy tunes. I played this album a couple times through in the car, and did my best version of karaoke Billy Joel. The weather's getting a little nicer, so I had the windows down. I then found myself turning down the volume as I got to a red light. Sorry Billy, it was just instinct. I didn't mean to do it. It was just an autonomous reaction. Does that mean that deep down I really don't think that it is good music?

For time's sake, let's say that the answer is "no". Everybody loves at least a little bit of Billy Joel. Some memorable tracks that you may know are "Big Shot" and "Honesty". Even my sister-in-law got in the car and said, "Hey, 'My Life!' I love that song!" So do I, Anna, and who doesn't? I just wish the album was longer. It's quite short, and probably only runs at about 45 minutes.

All cheese aside, this is a fun album to listen to. I'm not sure how much you would like it if you didn't grow up with it like I did, because it's pretty dated. Putting all of this into consideration, I think that I will give this one a score of:

7

I know that I might take some criticism for that score, but go ahead with your own life. Leave me alone.

Join me next time as the experiment continues with Disc #25: Bing Crosby (20th Century Masters: The Best of Bing Crosby - The Christmas Collection).

Monday, May 17, 2010

Disc #23: Bille Holiday (Love Songs)



Artist: Billie Holiday
Album: Love Songs
Released by Columbia in 1996

I think that for this review it is fitting to start with my summary of the album. Overall, I feel so relaxed when I listen to this disc. On many of her other recordings, Billie Holiday is so profound and can stir many different emotions. Here, however, she just makes me feel at peace.

Her voice is unique, yet soothing. It's not jarring or startling like it has the potential to be. She had quite the talent. This album is packed to the brim with classic jazz standards, including "All of me", "They Can't Take That Away From Me", "Them There Eyes", and "Let's Do It", to name just a few of the sixteen classics on this compilation. In my opinion, you really can't go wrong with Billie. As it says on the back cover, "Lady Day could sing any song."

The other thing I found interesting while listening to this music was the skill of the backing musicians (who include Count Basie and Roy Eldridge). Holiday is obviously showcased on these recordings as she is the lead vocal, but the musicians are so ridiculously talented. You never hear skill like this on the radio today. It's a real shame. Still, these guys take the back seat and let Lady Day do her thing. We need this again. I wish I grew up in that era (either that or the seventies).

This isn't the type of album I would put on while cruising down the highway, but it sure is nice to curl up to on the couch on a lazy Sunday afternoon. I'm not over the moon about this disc, but I certainly have no complaints. I will award a score of:

6

Join me next time as the experiment continues with Disc #24: Billy Joel (52ND Street).

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Disc #22: Bif (I Bifficus)



Artist: Bif aka Bif Naked
Album: I Bificus
Released by Aquarius Records in 1998

Before the comments start flying, it should be made known that I am quite embarrassed that this album is in my collection. I can't even blame it on my wife. I should have tossed it years ago, thus avoiding this situation. However, this is all part of the experiment.

I started listening to it on my way to work this morning. I had just finished listening to "Songs For Silverman" for the second time through, so I threw on the next CD in line, Bif. What a dichotomy. I was so sad. Going from beautiful piano arrangements and compelling lyrics to... something I don't even really know how to describe.

Here's what's been happening to me recently. I listen to great music on the way to work, and then I get to work and listen to crappy music on the radio. Now, some radio stations are good, but not the ones that have been chosen at my work place. So, by the end of the day, I'm really looking forward to getting into my car and listening to some great tunes. Especially lately, since I've had BNL, Beck, and Ben Folds, all in a row. This was not how I felt at the end of the day today. I wanted to stay at work and listen to crappy pop music. Anything would have been better than what was waiting for me in the car.

There are so many things that I could rant about. I think I'll feel better if I just let it all out. First of all, some thing's wrong with the mixing of her voice. There were several times that I could barely hear the vocals over the instruments, and I almost turned it up, but then I remembered that I didn't care. I assume that when you're making an album, you want your fans to hear your voice properly, what do I know about mixing? I do know that even good mixing wouldn't help the over all quality of this recording one iota.

If you've ever heard Bif naked before, you know that her vocal ability is less than savoury. She sounds like an even more strung out version of Alanis Morrisette. I kicked a cat in the barn once and it made a more pleasing sound. Maybe that explains the mixing.

The lyrics, which are totally uninspiring, are a healthy blend of teen angst and potty humour, with a large dollop of immaturity thrown in there for good measure. Adding the lyric "You peed my name in the snow" to a love song, does not enhance the emotional value of the tune. If it was any one else, I would have called this satire, but I'm not giving her that much credit.

In terms of genre within the album, she's all over the map. It goes from punk to alternative to goth to dance, all in just a few tracks. If I wasn't already totally turned off intellectually, I would have been confused.

Just when I thought it couldn't get any worse, I got to hear two songs over again in the form of remixes by none other than The Boomtang Boys. Oh Yippee! You may remember the "big" hit, "Spaceman". In the late 90s, just about anyone could produce a hit. The dance version of that song might have been even bigger, at least in dance clubs. Needless to say, it lacked longevity.

If you think I'm being too harsh on poor Bif, let me give you some insight into my thought process. Part way through the album I said to myself, "You're just being biased from the start. You should give her a chance and focus on the music in order to extract the positive points from the songs." That was 100% unsuccessful. I obviously never listened to it after I first bought it because there is nothing good on this album. Once or twice a song would start up and it sounded promising. Ten seconds into it she had already dashed any hope of creating good music.

I was planning to give this album a score of 2, but then my clever wife asked me what in our collection is worse than Bif Naked. I couldn't think of anything, which gives me sound reason to award the lowest score possible on THE MIKE JONES SCALE OF DISC AWESOMENESS:

1

I will be tossing this disc, or maybe giving it one more shot at Deja Vu Discs before throwing it out. If for some weird reason you want it, let me know quickly. Also be warned that I might never speak to you again.

Please join me next time as the experiment continues and we enjoy some incredible vocal talent with Disc #23: Billie Holiday (Love Songs).

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Disc #21: Ben Folds (Songs For Silverman)



Artist: Ben Folds
Album: Songs For Silverman
Released by Epic in 2005

I have to be honest with you; when I first got this CD, I didn't love it. It's not that I didn't like the music, because I love pretty much everything that Ben Folds does. It's just that nothing really jumped out at me. So, after a few listens, it pretty much sat on the shelf. Until now...

After giving it another go, I'm starting to hear the things that I missed earlier on. Of all Folds' albums, I think I like the piano playing the most on this one. There are a number of songs where it sounds like he touches every key on the manual. The two songs that illustrate this the most are "You To Thank" and "Trusted". Give it a listen.

Although the songs on this album are growing on me, something seems to be missing here that his other albums have. Perhaps it's his always interesting social commentary. No, that's here too. Well, I'm still not sure exactly what it is, but I like the other albums better.

All that being said, this is still a brilliant album that I highly recommend. Start with the single, "Landed". It might be a familiar place to spawn some interest in the rest of the disc. The video is pretty funny too, but don't let that distract you from the music!

So, it's about time that I break my tradition of handing out "8s" to Mr. Folds. After several minutes of review with my "Idiot's Guide to THE MIKE JONES SCALE OF DISC AWESOMENESS" close at hand, I have decided to give this album a score of:

7

I know, it's only one less, but it's still some great music, and I just couldn't bring myself to lower it any closer to the dreaded "5" mark.

Join me next time as the experiment continues, we say good-bye to Ben Folds, and say hello to Disc #22: Bif (I Bificus). Yuck.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Disc #20: Ben Folds (Ben Folds Live)



Artist: Ben Folds
Album: Ben Folds Live
Released by Epic in 2002

This disc marks another first for the experiment: the first live album. This one is unique because it was recorded on Folds' "Ben Folds and a Piano" tour, which was just as it's title describes it. So, he has three albums worth of material with his band, plus another album of solo stuff (on which he played almost all the instruments), and he decides to do a whole tour with just a piano. Brilliant.

Ben Folds fans are the type that know all the words and love to sing along, so this tour was very successful, and has produced an amazing live album. One of my favourite things about his live performances is his tendency to get the audience involved musically. He teaches them some parts to "Not the Same", and it sounds beautiful. I saw him in the spring of 2009 and it was amazing to be a part of that with him and so many other fans.

He also splits the crowd into two groups and gets them to do the sax and trumpet parts on "Army". The track on the album also includes Ben teaching the audience how to do sing the parts, as a trial run before he gets them to do it during his actual performance of the song. Again, loads of fun.

Because I only have one of his three studio albums (and one out-takes album, "Naked Baby Photos") with Ben Folds Five, some of these songs were unfamiliar to me, but I've grown to love them from this live album. However, it's quite amazing how he transforms the band tunes into solo acts. If you had never heard the recordings before, you would have no idea they weren't written for just one piano and a vocal.

One of my favourite songs from "Rockin' the Suburbs", "Fred Jones Part 2", is performed on this album. Not only that, but Ben is joined by the same guy who lent his backing vocals on the studio album version of the track: John McCrae of Cake. He has a warm, yet eerie tone to his voice which I find so fitting for the song, and I'm glad he appears on this live version.

Everything about this album makes it a wonderful sing-along, except for the cursing. Once again, it's my only negative comment. I can get over it, but I would enjoy it just that much more if it was absent. So, as is my tradition, I will award Ben Folds yet another score of:

8

Join me next time as the experiment continues with another BF album on Disc #21: Ben Folds (Songs for Silverman).

Monday, May 10, 2010

Disc #19: Ben Folds (Rockin' The Suburbs)



Artist: Ben Folds
Album: Rockin' The Suburbs
Released by Epic in 2001

Even though this debut album is not really a debut album, it`s still an amazing debut album. This was Ben Folds' first album as a solo artist, but he did have the experience of three studio albums with Ben Folds Five under his belt going into it. None-the-less, what a way to break into the music world on your own.

We listened to this album a whole lot in the summer after it was released (and many summers after that). Sometimes albums get really overplayed during corn season. This one might be runner up only to Cake's "Comfort Eagle" (that one is coming up shortly, once we get to the "C" section).

A common trend while singing songs in the corn field is the hand clap. Who doesn't like clapping? Everyone can do it. You don't have to be a good singer, or even have a great sense of rhythm to just clap on the beat. The first track on this album, "Annie Waits", has some great claps at the start. Go and try it for yourself! It's fun, isn't it? It's even more fun in a car full of guys driving around the American country-side. I think about it every time I put the album on. The only times I don't actually clap along to this song are when I'm driving, and even then I try to squeak one or two in there.

I could probably go on for a long time about this album, and comment on every song. It's a great one for sure. I will mention again that I don't care for the cursing, but I just don't sing them when I'm rocking along.

I will comment on one beautiful song. My bride walked down the aisle to "The Luckiest" on our wedding day. I think of her every single time I hear it. If it's on when we're together, we always exchange a glance and a smile. It brings back great memories of that day, and every day after. Thank you, Ben, for the song. More importantly, thank you, Nora, for making everything in my life something worth living for.

If you're not yet convinced that you should have some form of Ben Folds' music in your library, now is the time to go get an album. Start with this one. You won't be disappointed. Once again, I will award Ben Folds a score of:

8

Join me next time as the experiment continues with Disc #20: Ben Folds (Ben Folds Live).

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Disc #18: Ben Folds Five (Whatever and Ever Amen)



Artist: Ben Folds Five
Album: Whatever and Ever Amen
Released by Sony Music Entertainment in 1997

When I first sat down to type out this particular review, I had total writer's block. I was quite surprised that I had nothing to say about this, one of the gems in my collection. What could explain this lack of inspiration? A day or two later, I realized what had happened.

When listening to this album, it didn't feel like the experiment at all. I've had this one for so long, and it's one that is so familiar to me, that it was not a strain to listen to at all. I loved every song on the album. Sometimes I sung along, and other times it just became the soundtrack to my thoughts. There's not much I don't enjoy about this album, but I can't just leave it at that, can I.

In case you're not familiar with the band, Ben Folds Five is a group that was fronted by pianist Ben Folds. This album is the second of three studio albums the band released. Ben Folds then went on to do a number of solo albums, just as Ben Folds. It seems that some people who are unfamiliar with this history assume it is just one group or person for all his albums. This is most certainly untrue.

Though Folds writes all the songs on this album, and most of them exclusively, the other two members of the band (bassist Darren Jesse and drummer Robert Sledge) lend a major influence to the sound of the trio. Sledge has a unique jazz/rock style of drumming, and Jesse uses a particular "fuzz-tone" on his bass which gives Ben Folds Five one of it's signature sounds.

This album has a wonderful blend of up-beat rocking tunes and mellow, pensive, slow ones. I love the opener, "One Angry Dwarf and 2000 Solemn Faces"; it's a fabulous way to kick off an album. It took me a while to get into them, but the last two tracks, "Missing the War" and "Evaporated", are beautiful ballad-type tunes. Folds really is a wonderful composer.

The big hit from this album, and possibly one of the biggest of his career, is "Brick". This simple but beautiful song is Folds' reflection on his own personal experience of having to abort a child with his girlfriend in high school. Although the plot isn't overly cryptic, the lyrics never explicitly say what it's about. I think this song caught people's attention not only musically but also emotionally.

There's an element of "raw-ness" that I love about this album. It was recorded in Folds' apartment, and he often leaves in little comments from various individuals at the end of a track. My favourite "blooper" is right near the climax at the end of "Steven's Last Night in Town". There's a big crescendo, and then a complete silence before starting up again. If you listen closely, you can hear some one's cell phone go off right in the middle of the break. For whatever reason, they left it in, and it always makes me laugh.

The only thing I really don't care for about this album (and all of Ben's music, for that matter) is his tendency to be a bit of a potty-mouth. It never bothered me when I was younger, but as I've grown up and tried to cut cursing out of my vocabulary almost entirely, especially since having children, I find myself wishing that my favourite artists would cut it out too. Ben likes to throw the "bombs" around quite frivolously at times, and that bugs me. It's something I'm willing to overlook somewhat in this case, because I love the music, but it just means that I won't put it on when the kids are around, which is a shame because I love letting them listen to all types of music.

I have a lot of great memories associated to this album. It's one that most of my peers are familiar with, so it's a great one to put on with old friends. If you've never heard it, I highly recommend you sample it in whatever way you can. It's the type of music that can bring people in from across the barrier of genres. Check out "Kate" if you want another good track to sample.

Well, the moment of truth comes again. This album is truly worthy of a score of:

8

on THE MIKE JONES SCALE OF DISC AWESOMENESS.

Join me next time as the experiment continues with another one from Mr. Folds in Disc #19: Ben Folds (Rockin' The Suburbs).

Monday, May 3, 2010

Disc #17: Beck (Mutations)



Artist: Beck
Album: Mutations
Released by Geffen records in 1998

In the late '90s, I didn't quite have the income that I had in the early 2000's picking sweet corn. Therefore, when I bought a CD, it was usually a pretty safe buy. Either I had a lot of singles to go on, or a friend had the album and I knew I would like the majority of the tunes. The former is the reason I bought Beck's "Odelay". "Mutations", on the other hand, only had one single ("Tropicalia") which I liked, but usually wasn't enough to go grab an album. However, I loved "Odelay" a whole bunch, so I went out and got "Mutations" based on its predecessor.

How disappointing. First of all, "Mutations" is nothing like "Odelay". "Tropicalia" is really the only song that resembles "Odelay" in any way. For the most part, the album is super-chill. I don't have a problem with music that is chill, in fact there are times that it's all I want to listen to, but for some reason I just can't get into this album.

In addition to the album feeling kind of sluggish, it doesn't have that same experimental element that I loved on "Odelay". It's still evident, but not to the extent that "Odelay" is.

There's one thing you must remember about Beck: he beats to his own drum. He will record and release the kind of music he wants to, when he wants to. Some rumours I've heard suggest that he released "Odelay" to intentionally have some radio hits, but then did "Mutations" because it was the kind of music he wanted to record, even though he knew it wouldn't have the same commercial success. He then repeated the pattern with "Midnite Vultures", followed by "Sea Change". This behaviour reminds me of Neil Young, which is a huge compliment to you, Mr. Hansen.

I don't need to tell you to get this album. If you're a Beck fan, you've already got it, because most Beck real fans are 100%. If you're not a fan, you wouldn't like it. It's not catchy enough for you. Trust me.

The music is good, and I have great respect for Beck in those regards, but it just doesn't do it for me. Perhaps this is the reason I never bought another Beck album again. Therefore, I shall award "Mutations" by Beck a score of:

5

Join me next time as the experiment continues with Disc #18: Ben Folds Five (Whatever and Ever Amen).

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Disc #16: Beck (Odelay)



Artist: Beck
Album: Odelay
Released by Geffen Records in 1996

I don't listen to this album very often, but I throw it in now and then. It seems to me that every time I do, I am surprised that I've forgotten how much I like it! I bought it several months after it had been released, probably after a few singles were already getting overplayed on MuchMusic. I thought that some of the tracks were really weird, but I still loved it and knew every word.

As I've re-listened to it over the years, it's not just the catchy tunes that make me enjoy it so much; it's the weird stuff that really impresses me. Looking back at the music that was being produced at the time, I can clearly see how much of an innovator he was, not to mention a brilliant musician, composer and producer.

It is the innovation itself that is the common thread throughout this album. The tracks are musically diverse, but there's an element of experimentation, creativity, and randomness that is evident in every song. There are some catchy hits that really stand out, such as "Devils Haircut", The New Pollution", and "Novacane". Of course, what child of the '90s could forget the classic hit, "Where it's at"? If I said to you, "I got two turn-tables and a microphone," what would you say back to me? You would say, "Where it's at!" Anyone would.

If you want to sample another really cool track that wasn't a radio single, check out "Hotwax". It's probably my fave on the album (followed closely by "Where It's At"). I want to call it funk, but it's more like he just took the best elements of funk music and then did his own thing to make a really cool song.

I don't usually bring music videos into this but it's a part of the culture and we all watched them growing up, and maybe some of us still do. I just watched the video for "Where It's At" on Youtube because I remembered watching it a lot on TV when the single was popular. I have a question for those of you who still watch TV. Are music videos still this weird? I have no idea what's going on in this video (this was a trend in the '90s if you ever saw a video from that era). I thought it was cool at the time because it was a little out there. Now I just think it's weird. Beck, it works in the music, but not in the video man.

I know I'm trying to curb my score giving, but I love this album so much! I was grooving so hard in the car on the way to work for two days straight. According to THE MIKE JONES SCALE OF DISC AWESOMENESS, that deserves a score of:

8

Join me next time as we take one more look at Mr. Hansen with Disc #17: Beck (Mutations).

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Disc #15: Barenaked Ladies (Snacktime!)



Artist: Barenaked Ladies
Album: Snacktime!
Released by Desperation Records in 2008

I am saddened by the fact that this is the last BNL album I will be reviewing. At least it will end on a high note. My apologies to any hard-core BNL fans that I upset with my last post. It's not my fault their Christmas album is so messed up! Hopefully I can make up for it here.

In late 2007, BNL set out to release a collection of songs aimed at children. The result: Snacktime! We bought it in the spring of 2008 with the anticipation of the birth of our first child pending in June. To be honest, I think I listened to the album more before she was born than since. I'm not ashamed to say how much I love it.

Lots of other people loved it too. The album was so well received that they had a big contract with Disney to do a number of shows, and possibly some cruises as well. Unfortunately, just before the large and highly anticipated tour was to begin, front man Steven Page was arrested on alleged cocaine possession. Disney pulled out, the band cancelled their tour, and they decided (mutually) that Page should leave the BNL. I think about this every time I pick up the album, and even though it doesn't change how great it is, I can't help but feel that it is somewhat tainted because of the real life incidents.

Drug charges aside, this album is super fun! Even though it is very juvenile in content, I find it to be more mature over-all than their Christmas album, or even something like "Gordon". It's hard to know what to comment on specifically. The tunes are diverse but they all fit together so well. It isn't short either, with 24 tracks and about an hour of music.

I think my favourite is "Pollywog in a Bog", sung by bassist Jim Creegan. It's nice to hear a different voice for a change, and his is well suited for this tune. The video is lots of fun too.

Check out the title track, sung by Gordon Lightfoot, for some special guest celebrities sharing their favourite snack foods.

For most kids' albums, you really only listen to it if the kids are around. I would listen to Snacktime! anytime! I think that ages 6-11 will get the most out of this album. Them and 27 year-old men with young children. The only thing holding this album back is that it's probably not one you want to throw in while you're cruising around with your buddies. Not cool. Other than that, it's wonderful, and deserves a score of:

7

Join me as the experiment continues and we journey back into the mid-nineties with Disc #16: Beck (Odelay)

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Disc #14: Barenaked Ladies (Barenaked for the Holidays)



Artist: Barenaked Ladies
Album: Barenaked for the Holidays
Released by Desperation Records in 2004

Before I begin my tirade about this album, I want to remind everyone that I do love BNL. I really do love them. I just thought you should know at the beginning of this post, because you might not believe me if I wrote that at the end.

This has got to be one of the most frustrating albums I've ever had to listen to. It is such a hodge-podge of different types of holiday songs. This is not an album you can just throw on when you've got some people over during Christmas. You go from a really sensitive, classic Christmas tune, to some ridiculous rendition of a holiday song. Or, my favourite, you listen to a very gentle original composition, and then jump right into "Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young!" sung to the tune of "Deck the Halls". If that confuses you, I mean that they literally just sing those five words to the tune.

If this was just a kids fun album, I would have nothing to complain about. I would even be happy if they split the album into two halves. One could be for goofy stuff, and the other for more serious hoiday tunes.

In BNL's defense, the album is titled "Barenaked for the HOLIDAYS", not "Sacred Christmas music by Barenaked Ladies". That still doesn't change the fact that I popped this thing out of the player as fast as I could once the last track was finished.

If there is a highlight to this album, it is definitely their medley of "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen/We Three Kings" with Sarah McLachlan. This tack is light, fun, and snappy, but I still find it respectful. I can not say the same for Kevin Hearn's "Napoleon Dynamite"-esque rendition of "O Holy Night".

These tunes on their own are OK, but the album is a mixed up mess. If it wasn't Christmas music, which I love, the score would plummet extremely low. However, there are some enjoyable moments scattered amongst the ridiculous. Therefore, I will award this smorgus-board of a Christmas album a score of:

4

Join me next time as the experiment continues with our last listen to this band (so far) on Disc #15: Barenaked Ladies (Snacktime!)

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Disc #13: Barenaked Ladies (Maroon)



Artist: Barenaked Ladies
Album: Maroon
Released by Reprise Records in 2000

First, I need to confess that I am rather embarrassed that this is chronologically the next BNL album that I own. I did at one point own their second album, "Maybe You Should Drive", but I forfeited it in a previously mentioned trade. Bad move. To make matters worse (for my reputation as a BNL supporter) this disc comes not from my original collection, but from Nora's.

But let's put the past behind us because I am glad this CD is in our library. Now, jumping ahead three albums means that there are some major differences between "Maroon" and "Gordon". First, unrest in the band before the release of their third album lead to the departure of keyboard player Andrew Creegan. At the end of the tour for that album, he was replaced by Kevin Hearn, a friend of drummer Tyler Stewart. To make things more complicated, Kevin, who was well received by both the band and the fans, was diagnosed with leukemia just as their fourth album was released, and needed some time to recover after (successful) treatment.

So, the band has been through a lot to get to this, their fifth studio album. If they were babies when they recorded "Gordon" they have now reached maturity in the world of pop music. This is a catchy album, but I feel that it kind of loses steam about half way through. The singles are dynamite, but all three of them are finished by the fifth track. "Too Little Too Late" is a great opening tune, with great energy, but that energy seems to wane after the fifth track.

Lyrically, this album is clever, as usual, but fairly inverted, and sort of depressing. Many of the tunes seems to chronicle people who are finding their lives to be somewhat meaningless and empty. All the songs were written by Robertson and Page, so it's hard to say if one was more influential than the other in terms of lyric writing. Personally, I found it difficult to get past the musical downer in the latter half of the album to really get into the lyrics. It doesn't help Maroon's case that I'm generally not a lyrics guy. Nora always listens to the lyrics first, but they are the last thing that I will focus in on. It's all about the music baby!

I haven't had a good rant in a few discs, so I guess we're due. You know what really bugs me in the music industry? I'll tell you: the "radio edit". Although I'm familiar with several of the tunes on this album, particularly the radio singles, I had never given it a full run-through. I was listening to "Pinch Me", a song I had heard on the radio hundreds of times, and was quite surprised when it got to the end. I thought the song was over, because it always ended there on the radio, and then Ed Robertson goes into a pretty sweet little guitar solo that I had never heard before. To make me even crankier, the solo had been recorded and then played backwards, which sounds really cool and is very hard to play and make it sound like it fits. I felt like I had been robbed every time I heard the song for the past ten years. I give the radio edit a score of 1 on the Cool/Not Cool scale (1 = Not Cool). Rest assured, I will rant about the radio edit many more times as the experiment continues.

To conclude, BNL has crafted a decent album in "Maroon", but not one I find easy to listen to without skipping from one track to another. Therefore, according to the strict rulings laid out in THE MIKE JONES SCALE OF DISC AWESOMNESS, I award this album a score of:

5

Join me next time as the experiment continues and we get festive with Disc #14: Barenaked Ladies (Barenaked for the Holidays).

Monday, April 26, 2010

Disc #12: Barenaked Ladies (Gordon)




Artist: Barenaked Ladies
Album: Gordon
Released by Sire Records in 1992

Before we start, I will comment on the two album covers that I've posted. The one with the guys on it is the cover from the original 1992 release. By the time I got around to purchasing the album, somebody had decided to change the cover, perhaps for a more marketable image (you can only sell those nerdy, early-nineties looks for so long). The cover may have been changed in the late '90s (97 or 98) when the album was released in the United States for the first time by Reprise Records.

Even if you grew up in the '90s and you don't have this album, you probably know a good chunk of the tunes. My first memories of this album are from when I would borrow the cassette tape from the public library. I would listen to it for two weeks straight, take it back, then pick it up again a month later. I wasn't a huge music fan yet (in fact, I wasn't even in high school yet, and didn't yet have the income to buy CDs for myself) but I loved the album. A lot of the songs are quite humorous, even silly, and that was right up my alley at the time.

Unfortunately, as my taste in music changed over the years, Gordon took the back seat and I never did purchase it until the early 2000s. At the end of high school and beginning of university, I blew a lot of $ on CDs in the summer. Thanks again Rouge River Farms! I'm pretty sure I got this Cd during a 3 for 20$ sale, or some deal like that. I figured that it was one I needed in my collection, and I was right.

It is true that many of the tracks have a silliness to them, but these guys are pretty talented musically, and this is showcased many times throughout the album. One of the elements that gives BNL their signature sound (at least on this album) is Jim Creegan's double-bass, which he plays exclusively on the album. You don't hear that in pop music a whole lot these days (or even those days).

Although I will admit that this album is sort of all over the map musically, I love pretty much all 15 tracks. It's difficult for me to pick a favourite, but I'll mention some highlights.

"Grade 9", a fairly silly song, was my very favourite growing up. It's not so much any more, but it's still loads of fun. It gets huge props for having portions of 2 Rush songs in it.

Even though it gets sort of intense near the end of the tune, "Brian Wilson" is a beautiful song. I love listening to it. It's almost "Hey Jude"-ish in the way that it starts out so soft and gentle, and ends in a bit of a frenzy. If you're into downloading, try and get your hands on the live version of this tune where they perform with Brian Wilson (of the Beach Boys) himself.

Here's an interesting fact I discovered while looking up some info for this post. During the recording sessions, the guys were having trouble with "The King of Bedside Manor". Somebody suggested recording it naked, and the guys took it seriously. They even made the producer and engineer dis-robe. Apparently it worked, and it's a technique that has been used occasionaly on subsequent albums. Now that's creative freedom (in so many ways). Just thought you should know.

Of course, I couldn't go without mentioning "If I had $1000000". This song is infamous in Canada, the US, and probably many other countries as well. It breaks through demographic boundaries, and is recognized by people of all ages. It is, like many others on the album, a little silly, but a classic for sure.

If I had to pick a favourite, it would be the closing tune, "Crazy". There are lots of wonderful bits of music happening on this track, and some great vocal harmonization as well. I often find myself clicking the repeat button on this one.

Albeit dated, this album is a must have for Torontonians, Ontarians, Canadians, and most importantly, Scarberians. I love listening to it, and it brings back a flood of memories. There are several more BNL albums to come, so I will give it a score of:

7

I was real tempted to give it an 8, but I'm still struggling to curb my over-zealous score giving.

Join me next time as the experiment continues and we jump way into the future with Disc #13: Barenaked Ladies (Maroon).