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:


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:


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:


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