Index to Music Reviews Home Page

 

Music Reviews

Popular Music CDs - Part 13 - February, 1999

Graham Vine

Divider

Ratings:
Extraordinary
Good
Acceptable
Mediocre
Poor

Divider

"Believe"

Cher

Warner Brothers; 9 47121-2

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)

Disco is back! And it's in the delightful form of Cher. Now I can't speak for the flares or the Afro style hair-dos, but we have the beat and the synth-drums and hey, there's that vocoder used so successfully by the Electric Light Orchestra in the mid-'70s. There's even a sample from ELO's 1981 album "Time", right there in the opening sequence.

Now everyone has heard the world-wide smash hit of 1998, "Believe", so we need to ask if the remainder of Cher's new album (of the same name) is up to the same high standard. Yes, what there is of it is well up to that standard. It's short - only 44 minutes all told, and one or two tracks are fillers. But the rest are good, and several of them could be turned into hit singles.

"Believe", the album, is fun but still manages to appeal on different levels. The chorus-line from "Believe" goes " . . . do you believe in life after love . . ." and is printed boldly on the CD cover and makes me wonder whether we should read more into the sentiment of the song. In a similar vein, "Runaway", track 3, has the lyric " . . . if I can't find love, I gotta runaway . . ." It's all rather reminiscent of the words in "Goodbye To Love" by the Carpenters.

All the songs are pretty up-beat, with "Dov'e L'Amore" having a latin beat and flavor to it, but mostly, they sound a bit like "Believe", the single. There's a track called "The Power", and that has the sound Cher was developing earlier in her career, producing songs like "Dark Lady" and "Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves". So we are on familiar territory - nothing to ruffle too many feathers.

The weakest of the songs, to my ear, is track 7, "Takin' Back My Heart". I wrote earlier that the album has fillers. Well, "Takin' Back My Heart" is probably the most skippable number. But with the already brief nature of the album, that would leave only nine, average-length, tracks to play. A couple of balads would no doubt have bulked-out the album and given it more texture. But we have to consider what is on offer, and the simple message from all this is: if you liked "Believe", the single you'll like "Believe", the album.

For reference, full track-listing:

1. Believe
2. The Power
3. Runaway
4. All or Nothing
5. Strong Enough
6. Dov'e L'Amore
7. Takin' Back My Heart
8. Taxi Taxi
9. Love is the Groove
10. We All Sleep Alone

- GV -

Divider

"Greatest Hits"

Joe Cocker

EMI Electrola; 7243 4 97719 2 5

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)

This particular Greatest Hits compilation marks out the past few years of Joe's recording career - those years he has spent with EMI. The tracks are taken from eight of Joe's previous albums including, I'm delighted to report, three tracks from "Across From Midnight", one of my favorite albums of the past year. There are two new tracks here: Joe's amazing version of "What Becomes of the Broken Hearted" and a live version of "That's All I Need to Know", previously heard on "Across From Midnight", but this time out duetting with Eros Ramazzotti.

While on the subject of live tracks, Joe's hit of 30 years ago, the Lennon-McCartney song "With a Little Help From My Friends" is represented here by a live version edited from the album "Joe Cocker Live In Dortmund". Now far be it from me to criticize Joe or his producers, but the feedback which is in evidence on this track is simply unacceptable. We expect a certain amount of trouble in a live concert, but the audio-manipulating tools available to the sound engineer these days could readily have been employed to reduce or eliminate the howl-round.

No problems whatsoever with the Jeff Lynne produced track taken from the Joe/Jeff collaboration "Night Calls". It's the title track from that album that we have illustrated on "Greatest Hits", and I want more! As well as writing and producing the track, Jeff plays most of the instruments - that is, all of them apart from lead-guitar and drums. The perfect foil for Joe's gravelly but always in-tune voice.

I guess out of a sense of 'completeness' there is a version of "Delta Lady" on "Greatest Hits". To me this sounds like a remake and not the original hit. Possibly the rights to the original recording are owned by others. Whatever the reason, the track could hardly have been omitted, so maybe it's a tasteful compromise been artistic integrity and business realities. The production values are certainly up there with the best.

"Greatest Hits" by Joe Cocker has been my prefered listening ever since I got it. So that'll be my recommendation then...

For reference, full track-listing:

1. Summer in the City
2. Could You Be Loved
3. The Simple Things
4. N'Oubliez Jamais
5. Have a Little Faith in Me
6. What Becomes of the Broken-Hearted
7. Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood
8. Delta Lady
9. You Are So Beautiful
10. That's All I Need to Know (Live) Duet with Eros Ramazzotti
11. Let the Healing Begin
12. Tonight
13. Night Calls
14. Don't You Love Me Anymore
15. When the Night Comes
16. You Can Leave Your Hat On
17. Unchain My Heart
18. With a Little Help From My Friends (Live)

- GV -

Divider

"Wild in the USA"

Bow Wow Wow

Cleopatra; CLP 0424-2

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

Bow Wow Wow's music has been described as ". . . a pastiche of Latin and African beats, '50s rock and roll, and spaghetti western soundtrack . . ." but, as someone who likes elements from all of these genres, I found nothing to attract me to their new album, "Wild In The USA". The album is based on live performances from the 1997-1998 era, augmented with some remixes of earlier Bow Wow Wow material. As these remixes are also featured in the live performances, the amount of repetition is annoying to the point of
aggravation.

"I Want Candy" was perhaps Bow Wow Wow's biggest international hit - so on "Wild In The USA" we are treated to three versions of it. One is a live performance, and the other two are remixes. Hey, Bow Wow Wow, why not include the original single for good measure. Then we can get really sick of it! You know, the song is an OK rendering of some Bo Diddley-style '50s Rhythm and Blues, but to afford it some kind of cult status is like putting a nursery-rhyme on a pedestal!

For an album billed as a live work, hearing the remixes first is quite bizarre. Fans must surely want the fresh concert performances first and be able to skip those remixes. The remixes should have been added at the end.

All in all, I was very disappointed with "Wild In The USA". I was hard-pushed to find much that resembled a melody, and any excitement the band may capture in a live performance fails to translate to the audio-only medium. The vocals comprise a shouted lyric, in the main, and the Latin and African beats seem to be lost in a synthesized pseudo rhythm-section. The recommendation for music fans is to look elsewhere for something to spend your money on.

For reference, full track-listing:

1. I Want Candy (remix)
2. W.O.R.K. (remix)
3. C30 C60 C90 Go! (remix)
4. Do You Wanna Hold Me (remix)
5. W.O.R.K. (remix)
6. I Want Candy (remix)
7. Giant Sized Baby Thing
8. Louis Quartorze
9. Baby, Oh No!
10. Sexy Eiffel Tower
11. See Jungle
12. Mile High Club
13. Uomo Sex Al Apache
14. Prince of Darkness
15. Go Wild in the Country
16. Aphrodisiac
17. I Want Candy
18. C30 C60 C90 Go
19. Do You Want to Hold Me
20. What's the Time (Hey, Buddy)

- GV -

Divider

© Copyright 1999 Secrets of Home Theater & High Fidelity
Return to Table of Contents for this Issue.