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Popular Music - Part 44 - August, 2002

Graham Vine


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White Stripes - The White Blood Cells - XL: XLCD 151

The White Stripes make an enormous sound for a duo: Meg White on drums and backing vocals, Jack White on lead vocals, guitar and piano. This is rock with a harsh edge - almost punk, but with more variations in both tempo and style.

Don't be alarmed by the scuffling about and howling guitar feedback that kicks off the album - it soon settles down to good tunes and classy vocals, all backed up with Meg's driving rhythms and Jack's grinding lead guitar with some strumming thrown in for good measure.

The shortness of the tracks means that you're never bored with each of them, as if you could, with their 'in your face' approach to music-making! Another benefit, of course, is that Stripes are able to fit 16 tracks onto the one CD.

I have some favorites among this set. "Hotel Yorba" is an upbeat piece along the lines of Country Joe & The Fish, though I don't think the irony of the latter plays a part in Meg and Jack's writing. Another fave is "The Same Boy You've Always Known" for its pure almost bell-like quality to the guitar. And is that a harmonium in there? No, I thought not, just a lovely sound from an organ, beautifully played.

Some will find the album too spikey for their liking. As a Mellow type of chap I had my reservations about this. But then, after not too many hearings, it's a regular on the CD player. Well worth an audition.

For reference, complete track listing:

1. Dead Leaves And The Dirty Ground
2. Hotel Yorba
3. I'm Finding it Harder To Be A Gentleman
4. Fell In Love With A Girl
5. Expecting
6. Little Room
7. The Union Forever
8. The Same Boy You've Always Known
9. We're Going To Be Friends
10. Offend In Every Way
11. I Think I Smell A Rat
12. Aluminum
13. I Can't Wait
14. Now Mary
15. I Can Learn
16. This Protectora

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Butterfly - The Hollies - EMI: 7243 5 28245 2 6

This is one CD re-issue that just had to be done. Recently issued on CD from 1967's original(s), this seminal album from The Hollies captures so much from that era that it is almost more typical of the time than Sgt Pepper's. I have to admit to buying the LP for the sublime "Would You Believe" (I'm in love with you). But more on this anon.

You may notice from the track listings that there are two versions of each song: one mono, one stereo. Interesting. Listening intently, I believe I have identified the reason for this, to me, unique technique. On the stereo mixes, there is some ultra-wide stereo. In other words, an element of anti-phase is introduced to throw the soundstage even wider than the 'speaker spacing. In mono, this anti-phase would result in cancellation and just *must* have been omitted in the mono LP release. So when committing the work to CD, given the space, it makes sense to include both versions. How thoughtful!

All the songs were written by Clarke-Hicks-Nash (later to be part of Crosby, Stills & Nash), and they cover topics from the playful to the psychedelic to the mystical. There is story-telling, nature and love. "Would You Believe" received a lot of exposure from Kenny Everett on the radio and it's incredible the reaction I got from playing it myself on the radio recently. Who wouldn't be moved by the simply astounding solo rhythm-guitar at so low a volume just before the final chorus? A real choker.

The Hollies (who took their name from Buddy Holly) are at their best on "Butterfly", the album. With its sister release "For Certain Because" (I can't wait to get hold of that one), these mark the height of the vocal prowess and creativity for the band. Do they sound dated? Sure, but not in any sort of 'obsolete' way, any more than the best classical music is out-of-date. Well worth re-visiting.

For reference, complete track listing:

(mono):

1. Dear Eloise
2. Away Away Away
3. Maker
4. Pegasus
5. Would You Believe
6. Wishyouawish
7. Postcard
8. Charlie and Fred
9. Try It
10. Elevated Observations?
11. Step Inside
12. Butterfly

(stereo):

13. Dear Eloise
14. Away Away Away
15. Maker
16. Pegasus
17. Would You Believe
18. Wishyouawish
19. Postcard
20. Charlie and Fred
21. Try It
22. Elevated Observations?
23. Step Inside
24. Butterfly.

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Malefic Influence - David Neil Cline - Gazochtahagen: CD71400

Ever since sampling David's "Remixed+2" EP ( "Secrets...", #42 ), I have been eagerly awaiting the opportunity to review his new work. I must say the wait was well worth it. His creativity has developed, and I have already commented on his excellent musicianship. I hope the CD-buying public is ready for David's style of riff-based solid rock with a huge melody-content.

I would place David Neil Cline's music somewhere between Argent and Deep Purple, with a nod to The Gun. It really packs a punch, exercising my 38 gallon 'speakers to the full. There are sound-effects on some tracks - frogs, jungles, road-drills, you know the type of thing (?!) They make a nice contrast with the pounding that surrounds them.

This disc shows off David's vocal prowess even more than the earlier work. The blistering highs on "Suzy Homewrecker" can claim some of the strongest impact in the business. He uses tempo changes more on this disc, too. Lack of a constant 'bpm' shouldn't harm the listening experience. I don't expect there to be a club-remix of these tracks - they're fine as they are, for listening rather than bopping-to.

Dare we play these tracks on the impending Classic Rock radio station planned for North Essex? Dare we? You bet! And very welcome they will be, too. Some of these discs that are not signed to major labels can be a little hard to track down. David's website: http://members.aol.com/Dcline9720 should be your starting point for ROCK, or email Mr. Cline directly, at Dcline@aol.com for more information.

For reference, complete track listing:

1. Malefic Influence
2. Governmental Brainwash
3. Crazy Dream
4. We Just Don't Care
5. Picking Up The Pieces
6. Suzy Homewrecker
7. I've Been Told
8. A Matter Of Time

- Graham Vine -

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Copyright 2002 Secrets of Home Theater & High Fidelity
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