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Popular Music CDs - Part 9 - October, 1998


Graham Vine & Son

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Ratings:
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Good
Acceptable
Mediocre
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"Electric Fire"

Roger Taylor

Parlophone; 7243 4 96724 0 6

Performance: Star (605 bytes)Star (605 bytes)Star (605 bytes)Star (605 bytes)
Audio: Star (605 bytes)Star (605 bytes)Star (605 bytes)Star (605 bytes)

Roger Taylor really is multi-talented. Best known as the Queen drummer, many will find a number of surprises on this, his new solo CD. For instance, he plays all the instruments . . . not all the time, you understand, and not on all of the tracks, but you get the idea. And there is a wide range in his songwriting as well. In fact, he wrote or co-wrote all the songs bar one - more of which anon. Most are rock-based, but there are a couple of excursions into dance-groove-land.

It's time, at this stage, to issue a warning. The language is somewhat colourful in a couple of places - I do not imagine "A Nation Of Haircuts" or "Working Class Hero" getting much radio-play, and that's simply because of the bad language. "Working Class Hero" is the old John Lennon song, off the album "John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band".

The album is littered with references. Clever and ironic touches show that Roger is making a point throughout, and this is surely the reason "Working Class Hero" was included. There is even a quote written and spoken by Mervyn Peake, one of the few authors I have dwelt on myself for more than one book.

So there's songwriting, singing, musicianship, and even drumming. Not that Roger plays drums on every track. Much too busy playing all those other instruments. The album has a flavour of Queen about it, but with the sharp lyrics and beautiful guest vocal appearances by Treana Morris, Roger is sure to carve out a substantial fan-base with these tracks.

For reference, full track-listing:

1. Pressure On
2. A Nation Of Haircuts
3. Believe In Yourself
4. Surrender
5. People On Streets
6. The Whisperers
7. Is It Me?
8. No More Fun
9. Tonight
10. Where Are You Now?
11. Working Class Hero
12. London Town - C'mon Down

- GV -

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"Drive"

Bic Runga

Epic; 488580 2

Performance: Star (605 bytes)Star (605 bytes)Star (605 bytes)Star (605 bytes)
Audio: Star (605 bytes)Star (605 bytes)Star (605 bytes)Star (605 bytes)

You know how it is. You hear the single. Love it. Then great anticipation for the album, and suddenly there's that anticlimax.

Such was my experience with the album "Drive" from New Zealand's Bic Runga. Her single of the summer, "Sway", promised so much in a Tasmin Archer sort of way. And yet, something is really there. Hang on, let's have another listen.

"Drive" has grown on me. It has a minimalist approach to the arrangements with acoustic guitar, tracks with no percussion, little use of effects, but still enough depth to keep one's attention. I think this is where the strength of the album lies. Instead of hearing it and liking it straightaway, it has to develop its grasp on the listener, so there is less likelihood of getting bored quickly.

There are many highlights, from the single "Sway", to the bluesy "Hey", sounding a bit like an updated "Stay With Me Baby", and then there's "Suddenly Strange" with its dynamics ranging from "Strawberry Fields..." to lush string backings.

The melodies on these tracks take many unusual turns, and this ultimately is what holds the interest but appears initially to make the album unapproachable. I'm glad I persevered.

For reference, full track-listing:

1. Drive
2. Sway
3. Hey
4. Bursting Through
5. Swim
6. Roll Into One
7. Suddenly Strange
8. Sorry
9. Heal
10. Delight
11. Without You

- GV -

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"Nu-Clear Sounds"

Ash

Infectious Records; INFECT60CD

Performance: Star (605 bytes)Star (605 bytes)Star (605 bytes)Star (605 bytes)Star (605 bytes)
Audio: Star (605 bytes)Star (605 bytes)Star (605 bytes)Star (605 bytes)

This is the second album from Northern Ireland's Ash and is released as a follow-up to 1996's "1977".

From the very start of the disc, we can see that Ash mean business. "Projects" is a cacophony of wondrous guitars and a gorgeous vocal melody which is slightly reminiscent of Underworld's "Born Slippy". Track 2, "Low Ebb", is a bit of relie,f and Tim Wheeler's vocals are delicate and melodious, yet there is still a slightly unnerving feeling from the rumbling guitars that at, any moment, the song will break into a heavy rock track, but it never does.

"Jesus Says" is the third track (and the current single) and is again different from both tracks one and two. This is a surprisingly uplifting song considering that the opening lines are, "One million light years from home, throwing up and feeling small." Its upbeat and catchy chorus makes the track stand out as one of the best on the album.

Track four is somewhat unusual - it has distinct undertones of Gerry and the Pacemakers and Buddy Holly. The harmonies provided by the other members of the band only help to add to this general feeling that the tune provides, and with a name like "Wildsurf", it is hardly surprising.

We have yet another contrast with "Death Trip 21". It is more in the style of the Chemical Brothers: hard thrash guitar, dance drum beat, and an almost indiscernible melody line. A beautiful melody-dominated, almost ballad, follows with "Folk Song". The song contains a lush, full harmony line which includes a string section, helping to produce a richer, fuller sound than on previous tracks.

Our calm is broken by the punk-like "Numbskull", and it is not any shock that this track is on the album when we consider where they began their musical careers. But it is obvious that they have developed immeasurably since those days.

"Burn Out" is another of the slower tracks but again it is a song full of promise. The track develops steadily throughout but does not do anything that is obviously strange.

Track nine - "Aphrodite" impresses greatly, and it has a beautiful melody and wonderfully understated harmony. The chorus of the song is very catchy, and this is what generally makes a hit record, so I would not be amazed to find this as one of the singles released from the album.

"Fortune Teller" is an all-out romping rock track that will have everyone up on their feet, jumping up and down and waving their arms in a euphoria-induced craze.

The final song on the album is called 'I'm Gonna Fall'. Here the band calms down once more, and by the end of the track, even after just one hearing, you will be humming out the chorus.

This album is a stunning work, especially when you consider that the band members are barely into their twenties. The record is, as their record label - Infectious.

For reference, full track-listing:

1. Projects
2. Low Ebb
3. Jesus Says
4. Wildsurf
5. Death Trip
6. Folk Song
7. Numbskull
8. Burn Out
9. Aphrodite
10. Fortune Teller
11. I'm Gonna Fall

- Bill Vine (Graham Vine's son) -

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© Copyright 1998 Secrets of Home Theater & High Fidelity
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