Thursday, April 29, 2010
Artist: Barenaked Ladies
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:
Join me as the experiment continues and we journey back into the mid-nineties with Disc #16: Beck (Odelay)
Wednesday, April 28, 2010
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:
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
Artist: Barenaked Ladies
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:
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
Artist: Barenaked Ladies
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:
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).
Saturday, April 24, 2010
Artist: Bachman-Turner Overdrive
Album: BTO's Greatest
Relesed by PolyGram Records in 1986
As I mentioned in the blog about Yes' greatest hits compilation, these albums are a great way to get into a band if you're not sure what album to purchase. After you find out what you like, you can start buying some studio albums. However, in some cases you might not need to go any further than the "best of" album.
I picked up this album, second-hand, during my stint of 70s music a few years back. In my opinion, it's a must have for any Canadian Rock 'n Roll fan. It contains massive hits such as "Lookin' Out For No.1", "Roll on Down the Highway", "You Ain't Seen Nothin' Yet", and "Let it Ride". Not the least of these is one of the most recognizable Canadian rock tunes of them all, "Takin' Care of Business". I doubt there is a Canadian over the age of 15 who hasn't heard this song.
All these songs are great and I enjoyed listening to them. After the first run-through (this time around), of which I am dedicated to listening to the album in its entirety, I found myself skipping from hit to hit, avoiding the other tracks. It's not that they weren't familiar to me, it's simply that they're just not that catchy.
I want to return to my previous comment about not needing to listen to more than a greatest hits album for some artists. This is a band that I believe fits into that category. Over the course of about 10 albums, they had just a handful of hits. Understood, these hits were huge and are worth listening to, but there's not much else going on. Unless you're a huge BTO fan, this album is all you need.
I like most of this album, but I'm really only lookin' out for the number ones. The rest of the tracks can just let it ride. On THE MIKE JONES SCALE OF DISC AWESOMENESS, BTO scores a:
Join me next time as the experiment continues and we take care of more business in the "B" section with Disc #12: Barenaked Ladies (Gordon).
Thursday, April 22, 2010
Artist: Audio Adrenaline
Album: Some Kind of Zombie
Released by ForeFront Records in 1997
This is a first for the experiment, as this is a CD that I have never listened to at all. It's a pretty old one from Nora's collection, and it's just never made it into the player since we've been together. After listening to it a few times, I think that's a real shame! According to Nora, this is one of their "weaker" albums, and if this is so, I can't wait to listen to some more.
After a few times through, I heard what I needed to hear, but it was a very satisfying album. There's a great mix of up-beat 90s rock tunes, along with some mellower rock to go along with it. I had the main riff of the opening track, "Chevette", stuck in my head for days. It's pretty smokin'!
From a spiritual point of view, I found this album to be very uplifting. Which brings us to the second first for the experiment that this album holds. This is the first Christian album in my collection that we've come to. I believe that a person's collection of media says an awful lot about who they are and what they believe in. I am, and have been for a long time, a believer of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Just to clarify, this means that Jesus, the Son of God, died and then rose from the dead as a sacrifice for my sins, and my Salvation from them. I have chosen to follow Him and the teachings of the Holy Bible.
I don't intend for this blog to be a platform for my religious views, but as I mentioned, the music you listen to is often a product of your beliefs. You will probably not buy and listen to something that contradicts your belief system. So, as it will not be the main focus of the experiment, it will definitely come up from time to time, as will many of my opinions and view points.
Lyrics aside, I found this album enjoyable. It wasn't amazing, but it was encouraging. Although I feel I could use a little more time with this album, I will give it a score of:
Join me next time as the experiment continues with Disc #11: Bachman-Turner Overdrive (BTO's Greatest).
Wednesday, April 21, 2010
Released by Modular Recordings in 2005
Before I begin this review, I have to announce some changes. First, I have decided to just listen to the CDs in alphabetical order, top to bottom. I stated in the first post that I would take one from the top, one from the bottom, and meet somewhere in the middle. Apparently, this is already confusing me, as you may have noticed that Wolfmother should not be after Yellowcard, and I should be listening to a CD from the top of the alphabet. I didn't even notice I had gone out of order until after my last post, where I announced Wolfmother would be next. Since I already announced it, I will follow through so as not to disappoint all you Wolfmother fans out there, eagerly waiting.
Second, after reviewing a number of discs so far, I feel that I have been too generous with the scores. It seems as though I may not be leaving much room at the top. Therefore, you may see scores that are a little lower than before. It is also possible that I will give a future disc a score that is lower than one of the first 8 discs, but I may like it more. I suppose only I will know.
Now that you've been filled in, let's move on to Wolfmother's debut full-length album. If you're not familiar with this hard rock band from Down Under, they are very much reminiscent of 1970's hard rock. I recently described them to a friend like this: It's as if Led Zeppelin and The White Stripes met at a party one night, hooked up, and the love-child produced from their one-night stand was Wolfmother.
I received this album for Christmas in 2006 from my good good buddy, Rob Jones. He was home for the holidays from a year in Australia (the first of five) and thought that I should have some authentic Australian rock music. I thank thee, Rob, as its presence has blessed my collection.
In many ways, I find the music to be quite simple. The band is a three-piece, so you get the standard guitar, bass, drum and vocal combo, with the occasional organ or synth added in for depth. The riffs and solos are not overly complex, but are very effective. For hard rock, head-bangin' music, it's pretty easy to listen to (in my opinion).
My favourite tune on this album is "Joker & The Thief", hands down. Start off with a catchy, repeating, "tapped-on" riff, then add some heavy power chords with some low bass and organ. Once you get to Andrew Stockdale's screeching vocals, you're already in for quite a ride. I may be quoted as saying, "This song makes me want to drive fast!"
The album isn't incredibly diverse, but it's super fun to listen to. Also, this album would be a great one to play along to if you're getting into electric guitar. An average player could probably pick up the chords, riffs, and even some of the solos without too much difficulty. Go pick up your axe and give it a shot!
I don't think I would listen to this one every day of the week, but it certainly is an enjoyable listen every now and then, and it's great when you just want to turn it up to eleven and rock out! Although the old Mike might have wanted to give this album an eight or nine, the new Me will grant it a score of:
on THE MIKE JONES SCALE OF DISC AWESOMENESS. They released another album last fall which I do not have. Anyone want to take a trip to Deja Vu Discs with me? They might have a copy by now. Or someone could just donate it to me (that's a long-shot, but you must have known it was bound to happen sooner or later).
I hope you'll join me next time, despite the changes (or maybe because of the changes) as the experiment continues with Disc #10: Audio Adrenaline (Some Kind of Zombie).
Monday, April 19, 2010
Album: Lights and Sounds
Released by Capitol Records in 2006
I think this is my first listen to Yellowcard's "Lights and Sounds". If not, it's the first serious run-through, and the only time it has been for a spin since we acquired it. Yes, acquired, since we didn't actually purchase this one. Nora works at Sick Kids Hospital and sometimes gets extra donations if the people organizing the gifts feel they are not appropriate for the age group or the specific interests of the kids that are there at the time. Thus, we received this album.
I realized pretty soon into the album why we never played it after the initial listen. I wouldn't say that it is bad in terms of music, or production value. It's just not memorable. I listened to the whole album once, then again, and really didn't want any more. I wasn't artistically offended, but I wasn't fed either.
The album itself is meant to be an informal concept album, based on negative feelings towards the city of Los Angeles (where the band is based). I got that from some of the tracks and isolated lyrics, especially the tune titled, "City of Devils". However, I don't find the congruity that I enjoy in a concept album, let alone a good "regular" album, which typically has considerably less amounts of common threads holding it together.
I will say that I did enjoy the lyrics of the politically charged "Two Weeks From Twenty", which tells the tale of a young man who feels he doesn't fit in, joins the army, and is then killed. This metaphorically, but directly, points the finger at "the man to blame", and is obviously referring to the States' current military campaigns overseas. I always enjoy it when artists of this present apathetic generation say something (anything!) about how they feel regarding the current state of affairs (in any context: political, social, religious, etc.).
You already get my feelings on this album, but there's one more thing that really bugs me. On the first listen to, I immediately recognized that the lyrics to "How I Go" are an almost word-for-word plot outline of the 2003 film "Big Fish". As soon as I got home I ripped open the liner notes to see if any credit was given to the film: none. I thought I had better look into it a little further before I ranted about it here. As far as I could search (and keep in mind that I am not very good at Internet), I couldn't find any reference to any lawsuits or copyright infringement accusations. I guess it's not a problem, but I still think it's dirty pool.
This raises a number of questions. Is it OK to use someone else's creative ideas for your own artistic work and benefit? Is there a percentage of ideas you can use that are acceptable before you get sued? Or, did Yellowcard just fly under the radar? Like I wrote earlier, even if it's a non issue, I think it's bad form. At very least you should acknowledge where you stole the ideas from, especially when they come from copyrighted material (for your own liability's sake).
Well, I think that's quite enough. I might have loved this album ten years ago, but it doesn't do anything for me now. Even with some political mustering, I've come away in want. And if you really want to write a song that ticks me off, go ahead and steal some one's ideas and not give them credit for it. I feel passionate about giving this album a score of:
on THE MIKE JONES SCALE OF DISC AWESOMENESS. Before I wrote this blog, I was going to give it a 4 or 5, but I'm even more ticked now after writing about it. Tough luck guys. At least you have thousands of dollars more than I do. That should cover the counselling you need after being crushed by reading my blog.
Join me next time as the experiment continues and we recover from the worst score so far with Disc #9: Wolfmother. (insert any air-guitar move here)
Saturday, April 17, 2010
Artist: Andy McKee
Album: Art Of Motion
Released by Candyrat Records in 2005
What can I say about the spell-binding music of solo acoustic guitarist Andy McKee? I should start from the beginning. I first heard his music when I was forwarded a link to a YouTube video of Andy playing "Drifting". It was sent to me by Dean Westacott, who received it from Tony Rossi (guitarist from the Daniel band). It seems as though a few other people got that link as well, since the video has had well over 29 million views to date. Here's the link to that first video I watched:
If I'm remembering correctly, he has won awards for his "fingerstyle" based on the performance of this tune. I was blown away instantly, and I immediately watched all the other videos of him that I could find. I found them to be just as impressive, even though he uses a fairly unique style of playing on "Drifting". Before I watched the others, I wondered if this guy would just be a one-trick-pony, but that idea was quickly exacted from my mind as I heard and viewed more of his playing.
My wife, being the intuitive and thoughtful woman that she is, saw my interest in Andy and picked up his most current CD at the time (the one I'm reviewing now) for my upcoming birthday. In addition to the tracks I had already viewed on the Internet were several other tunes, all just as enjoyable.
Although I have my favourites on this album, I enjoy all the tracks very much. I find some of the tracks intense and thought-provoking, while others are very soothing and relaxing. I sometimes find myself getting emotional when listening to different tunes, which is in the absence of lyrics, since his music in strictly instrumental.
I think that "Drifing" is my favourite track on the album and it was the one that initially drew me to Andy's music. A very close second is "The Keys to the Hovercar" which is loads of fun to listen to. I watch him play these songs, and it still makes me wonder how he actually accomplishes it. His talent is astounding.
There are very few times that I would object to listening to this album. If you're not familiar with Andy, check him out on YouTube. There's lots there to see, but start with the two that I've mentioned. I definitely need some more of his albums in my collection, as this is the only one I possess.
I have no other choice but to give Andy a score of:
I know that I have given two 9s already, but don't worry; The average will drop soon enough.
Join me next time as the experiment continues with Disc #8: Yellowcard.
Friday, April 16, 2010
Album: The Ultimate Yes:
35th Anniversary Collection (Disc 3)
Released by Warner Strategic Marketing in 2004
We can give an obligatory round of applause to the marketing guys for this, the third disc in The Ultimate Yes compilation. As is often the case in these greatest hits sets, there are a bunch of "previously unreleased" tracks thrown in there to reel in some extra cash. A three-disc set is always better than a two-disc right? You usually end up with one or both of the following scenarios. Either you get the "alternate takes" of familiar songs, or you get unreleased crappy tracks that got cut from other albums. Both are present here on disc 3.
First, there are only 5 tracks on the disc, which is a bit of a rip. Two of them are acoustic versions of other tunes ("Roundabout" and "South Side of the Sky"). The acoustic version of "Roundabout" is a fun, "swinging" version of the tune. "South Side" is also done well, but these were already good songs, and it just seems that they're trying to milk their value from the hardcore fans. I suppose it's been effective, since I own it, and I'm not even hardcore.
The other tunes aren't really that memorable, especially bassist Chris Squire's arrangement of "New World Symphony", based on Dvorak's "Symphony No. 9 in E Minor". In my defense, I didn't buy this album for the bonus disc (though I was hoping for a little more). Hence, this album receives a score of:
Join me next time as the experiment continues with Disc #7: Andy McKee.
p.s I'm super stoked to write about this next one, and it may also contain the first video of the experiment.
Thursday, April 15, 2010
Album: The Ultimate Yes:
35th Anniversary Collection (Disc 2)
Released by Warner Strategic Marketing in 2004
I find Disc #2 of this compilation very different from the first. The lead track is from an early 70s album, followed by a few more tracks from albums later in the 70s. These are followed by some big hits from the early 80s, and then some select tracks from albums spanning the next 20 years. You can hear that distinct Yes sound throughout, but as a group of songs, it's pretty scattered.
The first disc is spread out over a 3 year period, so you really get a sense of where the band was at musically in that time. I find it a lot more difficult to get into disc #2 because it is so spread out.
This album has a lot of decent tunes on it, but there is one song that stands head and shoulders above the rest. This is of course the biggest hit in Yes' entire career: 1980's "Owner of a Lonely Heart" from the album 90125. I heard this song on the radio today at work, and it's so much fun to listen to. I am often surprised when I think about that, because the instrumentation and technology used in the song are so very specific to that era of music (of which I'm am not typically a big fan). However, this song always puts me in a good mood. In my opinion, some songs are so good that it does not matter what the instrumentation is.
My wife and I have an ongoing debate regarding whether art is objectively beautiful, meaning there are specific universal markers that make art good or bad, or whether its beauty is subjective (left to the eye of the beholder). I've typically been on the objective side of the argument, and although I'm positive she will disagree with me here, I think "Owner" helps my case. This is in the sense that I typically don't like the sounds used in the song, but love this song, which would suggest that there are elements of music that are universally "good", and they are present in this song. Nora hates this song. So it doesn't really matter how I argue here; she will be on the subjectivity side.
If you grew up in the 80s, you will probably like this disc. I think it's OK, but I usually opt for the 1st disc. If I put it in the player, I most likely just want to hear "Owner" again. Therefore, on THE MIKE JONES SCALE OF DISC AWESOMENESS, this disc receives a score of:
Join me again as the experiment continues and we tackle the third installment of this compilation with Disc #6.
Tuesday, April 13, 2010
Album: The Ultimate Yes:
35th Anniversary Collection (Disc 1)
Released by Warner Strategic Marketing in 2004
If you're a music lover (and you're still in to buying actual pieces of plastic, not just files on iTunes), here's a tip for you. Always take time to go into a used CD store, should you come across one. You never know what you can find when you invest some time in there. I snagged this beauty at a new/used CD store in Tallahassee, Forida. Like I mentioned in an earlier post, the sweet corn industry was very good to me and fueled much of my CD purchasing in the early part of the Millennium. So, when you're in Florida picking corn and you have very few expenses and you're being paid very well, you always spend some time (and money) in a used CD shop.
A greatest hits or compilation CD is a great way to get into any band. I only knew a few Yes tracks at the time and I knew I was digging their sound, but I wasn't ready to take the plunge and get one of their albums. Enter the greatest hits collection (for a discounted price).
I was absolutely blown away. I had already found a liking with bands such as Rush, Genesis, and even the sounds of guys like Dream Theatre. Yes slid in there real nice. I am always happy to give this disc a spin.
As you may have noted at the top of this post, I'm only going to review this compilation one disc at a time. I will do this for all multi-disc albums, but it's especially fitting here where the tracks follow somewhat of a chronological order. This could get a little scattered if I were do it all at once. Plus, who wants to read a blog that is already longer than it should be, and then add two more discs worth of ranting.
I hardly know where to start when reviewing this disc. Let's begin with time. Most of the tracks on this disc come from the early 70s. This is one of my most favourite eras of rock music, and is the main reason that I like it so much. At times I'm bobbing my head, grooving along to the jams. At other times I'm mesmerized by the musical complexity and the sheer talent of the players.
Pretty much every track on this disc is a winner in my books. I just can't get enough of it. I was recently telling a friend about it, to whom I intend to loan the album to, and the word of advice I gave to him was "endure". Some of these tracks are extremely long, with more than one of them clocking in at over ten minutes. Most people aren't ready for that type of stuff yet. but if you can hang in there, you're in for a real treat.
The gems here are of course the big hits. "Roundabout", "Starship Trooper" and "I've Seen All Good People" are most likely the biggest. They are amazing, but I believe that the only thing they've got that the other tracks don't is familiarity.
I could go on, for a very long time, but I will tell you one thing. If you're a big music fan, and you are fond of the progressive rock movement of the 70s, you must listen to Yes. You will enjoy it. If you can't decide on what album to get, pick this one up, or get your hands on some other compilation out there.
I think it will come as no surprise when I give this disc a score of:
on THE MIKE JONES SCALE OF DISC AWESOMENESS. This music may not be your cup of tea, but I love it to pieces (in the most masculine, rock-and-roll way possible).
I hope you will join me next time as both the experiment and our journey into the extensive career of Yes continues with Disc #5: Yes.
Monday, April 12, 2010
Artist: Amy Swift (and Friends)
Album: A Christmas Gift of Song
Released by Amy Swift in 2008
Before I begin my rantings(as my sister has labelled them), I want to point out two things. First, you might have noticed this, the second CD at the top of the alphabet, is Amy Swift, which means that my collection is alphabetized by first name. This was not my decision, and I was appalled when Nora organized the CDs. However, it was something I just hadn't gotten around to doing, and was grateful that she had done it. After I got over the initial shock, which was mostly music snobbishness, it really didn't bother me at all. If you know what method your CDs are organized in, it's not hard to find what you want. I don't really care that they're not organized by last name. We will revisit this issue once again when we get to the "The" bands.
Second, you will also notice that all our Christmas CDs are mixed in with the rest of the collection. That of course means that I will be listening to all of them during this experiment, despite the fact that it is the middle of April. This creeped me out at first, but as soon as I put this CD on I simply remembered that I love Christmas music, especially when it's not being butchered 24/7 on CHFI 98.1 for 30 days straight. Just had to make those two things clear. On to Amy's CD.
According to my all-remembering wife, this CD was a fundraising exercise her cousin (Amy) was doing at Christmas time in 2008. I don't know how much funds she was able to collect, but I think it was a great idea as it seems to have paid of in a number of ways. Amy is now attending arts school in New York City, has already appeared in at least one off-Broadway production, and is currently touring the U.S. with a children's production. Go Amy!
Amy has a wonderful voice, perfectly suited for music theatre. I was impressed with her tone, pitch control, and the timing of her switch to vibrato. You can tell that the background tracks are pre-recorded, and there's really not a whole lot to the arrangements. Nonetheless, it was still a very enjoyable listen. You can get away with that sort of thing when you're doing familiar songs that everyone enjoys singing along to.
I wasn't a huge fan of the male a-capella quartet that does a couple tracks on the album. I love this style of vocal music and I'm rather skeptical when I hear it, so don't take it too personally boys. They seemed to be in pitch with each other for the most part, but I found the arrangements to be rather shallow at times. The parts often over-lap each other. In some instances I think it was intentional, but at other times it just sounds lazy (on the part of the person who arranged it, who remains unknown).
All in all, this was an enjoyable listen, and quite suitable for any Christmas gathering. If Amy has improved even a little bit during her time at school, I think she has a wonderful career in music ahead of her. Even though I liked this CD, the amateur nature in which it was produced forces me to give it a:
on the MIKE JONES SCALE OF DISC AWESOMENESS. And yes, I do recognize the nature of the production and the reason behind it, which justifies how it was made. However, it is what it is, and it will remain in my collection and probably take a spin this Christmas season.
Join me next time as the experiment continues and we dive into the marvelous world of 1970's rock with Disc #4: Yes.
Released by Zealand in 2002
At some point early in my early University days, I visited a coffee shop in Uxbridge with some friends during summer break. It was probably after a long week of corn picking. The place was called "Beanz" and there was a guy doing some solo acoustic stuff in one of the rooms. He was playing a lot of familiar radio tunes, mostly songs I grew up with, and I really enjoyed it. The sweet corn industry was always very good to me, so I bought one of his CDs. I recall giving it a listen, but it never grew on me.
A year or so later, Christmas break 2004, to be exact, I was having a drink with a friend at "The Lion" in Stouffville. She said that her friend Chris would be playing some songs after the game was over. He came over to talk to us a few times, and I recognized him right away as Zealand. I can't remember if I told him I had one of his CDs or not, but I certainly did not tell him that I had barely listened to it.
But I have now, and for an indee album, it's pretty decent. It's a fairly easy listen, mostly driven by acoustic guitars and a basic four piece rock band, with some innovative sounds from Toronto based guitarist Kurt Swinghammer. If I had to give it a label, I'd say it's like Blue Rodeo with a hangover. Less country but more depressing, if that's even possible.
I did enjoy it, and will probably give it another listen, though it might have to wait until after the experiment. There are way too many discs to get through to do replays at this point.
On THE MIKE JONES SCALE OF DISC AWESOMENESS, Zealand receives a score of:
Join me as the experiment continues with Disc #3: Amy Swift (no relation to Taylor, but relation to me)
Sunday, April 11, 2010
Album: Trusted By Millions
Released by Sony Music Entertainment (Canada) in 1996
We kick off Experiment #1 with a real gem of 1990's vintage Canadian rock. I don't think I've listened to this one in over 10 years. To be honest, I recall trying to sell it to Deja Vu Discs a number of years back, but they didn't want it because they already had too many copies that they couldn't move.
I acquired this CD in a trade with Ben Wideman (see the link at the bottom for his blog). I believe I gave up the Barenaked Ladies' "Maybe You Should Drive" and the Dumb and Dumber soundtrack and also received I Mother Earth's "Dig". Remember, this was a relatively fair trade back in the '90s.
As I recollect, I don't think I've listened to it much at all since that time. I might have listneed to it a number of times upon receiving it, but not much since then. There are some huge hits on the album, such as: "Love You All", "Crossing a Canyon", and especially, "Lies to Me". I think that most Canadians growing up in that time would at least remember the last tune, even if they can't place the band.
You know what, it's not that bad, and it's a little heavier than I remember it being. It almost crosses over to the Alternative/Grunge side of Rock. The singles certainly stand out on the album, but the rest of the tracks accompany them well. Some of the tunes are more challenging to listen to, but I like that in an album.
A particular memory of this album is of myself trying to play "Crossing a Canyon". It is quite a simple song, consisting of only 3 chords, but I was just learning to play guitar at the time. A few of my peers (Steve Burkholder, in particular) could play it without issue, but I could never get it quite right! Maybe that's why the album didn't grow on me.
Since this is the first disc I'm reviewing, I thought it would be a good idea to set up some sort of rating system. Nothing too complicated, just a way to compare the albums. This should do the trick:
THE MIKE JONES SCALE OF DISC AWESOMENESS:
1= HORRIBLY UN-AWESOME
5= NOT HORRIBLE, BUT NOT AWESOME
10= THE MOST AWESOME
This was an enjoyable listen, but not something I would come back to frequently. This is mostly due to the change in my musical palate over the past 15 years.
Therefore, based on the rules and regulations as they are stated in THE MIKE JONES SCALE OF DISC AWESOMENESS, I hereby award this disc a score of:
Join me next time as the experiment continues with Disc #2: Zealand.
Saturday, April 10, 2010
I was looking at all my CDs the other day and thought to myself, "Do I listen to most of this stuff? Do I even like it anymore?" I then decided to do something I should have done a long, long time ago: deliberately listen to EVERY SINGLE CD IN MY COLLECTION.
As soon as my brain had the thought, my mind was right on board. We were all in agreement. Then some other part of myself piped up, "Are you really sure you want to do that? Some of those things should be left on the Ikea CD rack, their melodies just a shadow of your former self." Despite this retort, the rest of us over-ruled and decided to proceed with this, the first experiment.
So here's the deal. My commute to work is roughly one hour (round trip) every day, so that's where almost all of my listening will happen. I value my marriage far too much to try this at home. Just to keep things interesting, I will take a CD from the beginning of the alphabet (yes, I have it alphabetized), and then one from the end, until I've listened to all of them. Each disc will get its own review. I don't have an official count at the moment, but it is probably 200 CDs strong. I will get an accurate figure soon.
Another interesting twist to the experiment is the amalgamation of collections. The two shall become one upon marrying, and the same has been so for our CD collections. Of course, I know which ones are "mine", but there is no physical separation in terms of their location on the shelf. Also, some of them were a "Team Jones" purchase.
This will be especially interesting since I haven't even listened to some of my wife's CDs before. However, we are the same age and have grown up in a similar demographic, so I am familiar with almost all of her collection, with very few exceptions.
When the alphabet is completed, I will move on to soundtracks and compilations, and if I dare, children's CDs.
Before it all begins, let me make a few things very clear. I am not claiming to be some sort of profound music critic. Nor am I claiming to have an overly extensive or impressive collection, based on any criteria. I will simply be commenting on the Disc, and share insights and stories that it reminds me of, memories of the music (gag), and perhaps the exact time and location of the purchase. If I decide that a particular disc really stinks, and my wife isn't attached to it, I may offer it up to the ravenous masses (providing anyone ever reads my posts).
So, without further ado, let Experiment #1 commence!