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Music Reviews

Popular Music CDs - Part 17 - May, 1999

Graham Vine

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Ratings:
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Good
Acceptable
Mediocre
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"By Your Side"

The Black Crowes

Columbia; CK 69361

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

If you feel like rocking, there can be few better ways than to get hold of the new Black Crowes CD, "By Your Side". These 11 up-beat songs can't fail to get you moving.

Just to let you know the kind of thing to expect, imagine a mix of The Rolling Stones, Rod Stewart, and The Steve Miller Band. Sounds good? You bet! There isn't much in this album to move you emotionally or to go running for the music theory tomes, so this is pretty unchallenging. I wouldn't say the music is simplistic, but rather more a case of being direct and to the point.

All the tracks have a solid fuzz-guitar wall of sound, but the 'graffiti' painted upon that wall uses some different 'spray-cans' of instrumentation up-front. I love the slide guitar in track 4 "HorseHead", kind of slipping between lead and rhythm roles and the harmonica in track 1, "Go Faster" could have been taken straight out of Steve Miller's "Living In The USA". Another lead has Hammond organ on track 5, "Only A Fool". The vocals have that slight Rod Stewart sound to them, but a little less harsh. And here's
a pleasant surprise - background vocals have a distinct gospel harmony. There is even a wind section in track 7, "Welcome To The Goodtimes".

My only real criticism is that there is rather a lack of originality. Not bad enough to describe the work as derivative but maybe an injection of a few new ideas would have brightened it up a bit. While not contrasting too much from track to track, I never felt bored. This is a CD you can join in with - even if it's only on air-guitar!

For reference, full track-listing:

1. Go Faster
2. Kickin' My Heart Around
3. By Your Side
4. HorseHead
5. Only A Fool
6. Heavy
7. Welcome To The Goodtimes
8. Go Tell The Congregation
9. Diamond Ring
10. Then She Said My Name
11. Virtue And Vice

- GV -

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"Death Chants, Breakdowns And Military Waltzes"

John Fahey

Takoma; CDTAK 8908

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

Do not be misled by the title of this album by John Fahey! There's not a word sung or spoken on the CD, let alone a "Death Chant". As to "Breakdowns", well actually the tracks are quite uplifting. And as for "Military Waltzes" - how do you waltz in 2/4 time?

No, John chose the somewhat surreal title instead of describing the content of the album, so let me do it. John plays a mean acoustic guitar. Sometimes finger-picking style, sometimes slide-guitar with an open-chord tuning. All the music is self-penned, and the only additional instrumentation is provided by Nancy McLean on flute. As an aside, I have to confess this is one of my least favorite tracks (flute) with its rather rambling melody.

All of the tracks are produced by John, and in fact the originals of these recordings were pressed and released on vinyl by John himself back in the early 1960s. This brand new CD has all of the original tracks as well as re-recorded versions of most of them. With a total playing time of over 79 minutes, there can be no accusation of John short-changing his fans!

When I saw John Fahey back in the late 1960s, I promised myself I would buy as many of his albums as possible. Well I didn't. None - not any. Well, now the opportunity has arisen again, and I am pleased to say the attraction of the music is still there. You guessed I was delighted with this purchase, didn't you?!

For reference, full track-listing:

1. Sunflower River Blues
2. When The Springtime Comes Again
3. Stomping Tonight On The Pennsylvania/Alabama Border
4. Some Summer Day
5. On The Beach At Waikiki
6. Spanish Dance
7. John Henry Variations
8. The Downfall Of The Adelphi Rolling Grist Mill
9. Take A Look At That Baby
10. Dance Of The Inhabitants Of The Palace Of King Philip XIV Of Spain
11. America
12. Episcopal Hymn
13. Sunflower River Blues
14. When The Springtime Comes Again
15. Stomping Tonight On The Pennsylvania/Alabama Border
16. Some Summer Day
17. On The Beach At Waikiki
18. Spanish Dance
19. John Henry Variations
20. Take A Look At That Baby
21. America
22. Episcopal Hymn

- GV -

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"Cheap Trick"

Cheap Trick

Epic/Legacy; 491229 2

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

From the very opening ELO Kiddies (pronounced 'ello, kiddies), Cheap Trick set out their stall. Tough, driving rock with a raw edge and pointed lyrics that challenge the listener to accept or reject their premise - there is no in-between with this one. Sadly for me, the album doesn't make it. That is not to say that I cannot appreciate the skill and creativity being displayed for us, but it's that certain something I need which is missing for me.

This CD is a reworking of an original LP which was initally released solely on vinyl. The CD remastering has enabled the band to inject more of their wishes than on the earlier release. The running order has been altered, for instance, and, as the "must-have" for Cheap Trick completists, there are five bonus tracks comprised of outtakes from studio sessions of their early albums.

There are clever compositions on the album, and you can tell they have paid particular attention to their words. "Taxman, Mr. Thief", for example, with its bold allusion to the Beatles song "Taxman" from "Revolver" and their reference "...it's for Wilson, it's for Heath...". But Cheap Trick takes the thought to a higher plane: "thief" indeed!

So, it's mixed feelings with this one. A great appreciation for the skill of Cheap Trick, and yet, I have no desire to bother listening to it in the future. I must have heard the album a dozen times now but can't seem to make headway with it. But I happen to know two teenagers who are about to fight over it!

For reference, full track-listing:

1. ELO Kiddies
2. Daddy Should Have Stayed In High School
3. Taxman, Mr Thief
4. Cry, Cry
5. Oh, Candy
6. Hot Love
7. Speak Now Or Forever Hold Your Peace
8. He's A Whore
9. Mandocello
10. The Ballad Of TV Violence
11. Lovin' Money
12. I Want You To Want Me
13. Lookout
14. You're All Talk
15. I Dig Go-Go Girls

- GV -



Copyright 1999 Secrets of Home Theater & High Fidelity
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