Monthly Archives: August 2012

Album Review – JEFF BRIDGES – Jeff Bridges

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Sample “What a Little Bit of Love Can Do” on You Tube from JEFF BRIDGES by Jeff Bridges

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Dear Music Appreciators,

Buy this album if…

…you go for anything Jeff Bridges does cuz The Dude can do no wrong – and if that’s the case, why stop now?

…you loved Crazy Heart, you’ve been wanting a full-length Jeff Bridges album to remind you of how much you loved Crazy Heart, and you’re okay with half a full-length Jeff Bridges album that reminds you of Crazy Heart (arguably tracks 1, 3, 5, 7, and 10).

…you don’t mind a little dark/jazzy/nightclubbish upright bass action or dark, churning, desert-highway-at-night rock guitar with your “country” music.

…you aren’t overly concerned with musical genre labels like “country music.”

…you sometimes play the “sound-alike” game when you listen to an album (especially an album by a well-known actor) – as in, “Wow, ____ kind of sounds like ____ on this song.

…you’d be interested to note that The Dude kind of sounds like Kenny Rogers (5, 9), Gordon Lightfoot (1), Neil Diamond (2), Mark Lanegan (8), and Ray’s Vast Basement (4).

…you’ve never heard of Ray’s Vast Basement but are the type to look them up – The Dude would probably approve of expanding your musical horizons like that.

…you enjoy a good summary song at the end of an album – you, know the kind of song that says “Now that we’ve spent this time together, let’s sweep everything off the table and put it all in a nutshell for you – an inspiring little nutshell that will put a little kick back in your step as you turn off your record player and mosey on down the rest of this road that we’re all walkin’ together – a little road called LIFE.”

I know I enjoy a good summary song, so if you’ll excuse me, it’s time for me “to get back to the quest…”

Sincerely,

Constant Listener

Album Review – DEDICATED – Steve Cropper

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Sample “I Do” on You Tube performed by Steve Cropper and Brian May from DEDICATED

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Dear Music Appreciators,

These are the kinds of songs that can add instant, classic atmosphere wherever they’re played – partytime, workytime, or sexytime. These are soulful, rockin’, rhythm and blues sounds coming at you straight out of the 1950’s through the fabulous 21st century filter of the great Steve Cropper, a crack studio band, and a litany of guest stars including the incomparable Lucinda Williams.

If you’re not familiar with the work of the highly influential group The 5 Royales or soul guitar god Steve Cropper, turn on the Amazon.com samples for a listen while you look these guys up on Wikipedia or AllMusic or something.

Lucinda Williams fans should take particular notice here for her lead vocals on the classic hit “Dedicated to the One I Love,” and the highly emotional “When I Get Like This.”

Buy this, and add a little more atmosphere to your life.

Sincerely,

Constant Listener

 

Album Review – TAILGATES & TANLINES – Luke Bryan

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Sample “Harvest Time” on You Tube from TAILGATES & TANLINES by Luke Bryan

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Dear Music Appreciators,

Although the album cover and album title suggest this is simply a collection of songs about partying with Mr. Country McDreamy in a v-neck t-shirt, that is just the half of it. The first half of the album is basically about having a good time or the effects of having a good time – whether it’s good dancing’, good lovin’, good drinkin’, or bad drinkin’ and losin’ it all. These are fairly fun and pleasant songs, but they border on being run-of-the-mill Nashville Top 40 style – let’s call it cotton candy country…

The last half of the album grasps for something deeper, darker, and truer – and suddenly Luke Bryan has substance. “Harvest Time” is reminiscent of a Ryan Adams or John Mellencamp style ode to one’s hometown. “Muckalee Creek Water” displays story-telling confidence worthy of Garth Brooks. “Tailgate Blues” has a familiar, folksy, hymn-like quality to it. You get the idea.

First half of album = cotton candy
Last half of album = meat and potatoes

FOR FANS OF: Any good looking Top 40 country act, Garth Brooks, Ryan Adams, John Mellencamp

TOP TRACKS: “Harvest Time,” “Muckalee Creek Water,” “Tailgate Blues”

FINAL GRADE = A-

Sincerely,

Constant Listener

Album Review – BEGIN – David Archuleta

This review also appears on Amazon.com here

Sample “Everybody Hurts” on You Tube from BEGIN by David Archuleta

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Dear Music Appreciators,

This is an album of nine covers and one original song from the ever popular runner up from American Idol Season Seven. His fans will gobble this up, and rightly so, as Archuleta possesses a beautiful singing voice that injects just about every song he attempts with some kind of seemingly angelic purity that is likely consistent with his clean-cut Mormon image.

Despite the halo he adds to each of these tunes, not all these covers are created equal. “Don’t Give Up” just isn’t the same without Peter Gabriel’s raspy intensity and signature phrasing. The one original song “Broken” is beautifully sung, but seems to kind of stick out among all these masterfully written hits – either more originals or no originals at all might have provided for a more consistent flow through the album. “True Colors” is well done here, but the song is so overdone in general that it feels like an old corny chestnut mixed in with the cool kids. “Pride In the Name of Love” is a valiant effort but I just can’t imagine ever reaching for this “TV show singing star tries one on for size” version when I could listen to U2 instead.

And then there’s the last track – the 18th century Christian hymn “Be Still My Soul” – beautiful, and definitely befitting of the Archuleta halo – but does it really fit in with all these worldly pop songs, even if they are sung in the voice of an angel?

Sincerely,

Constant Listener

P.S.

For those who need a refresher on the artists that originally made these songs famous:

No. Title Original artist(s)
1. “Beautiful” Christina Aguilera
2. “Somewhere Only We Know” Keane
3. “Everybody Hurts” R.E.M.
4. “Don’t Give Up” (featuring Libbie Linton) Peter Gabriel & Kate Bush
5. “Angel” Sarah McLachlan
6. “Bridge over Troubled Water” Simon & Garfunkel
7. “Broken” David Archuleta
8. “True Colors” Cyndi Lauper
9. “Pride (In the Name of Love)” U2
10. “Be Still, My Soul” well, n/a really

Album Review – NOW 43: THAT’S WHAT I CALL MUSIC! – Capitol compilation

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Sample “Too Close” by Alex Clare on You Tube, included on NOW 43: THAT”S WHAT I CALL MUSIC!

Visit Now That’s What I Call Music!

Dear Music Appreciators,

If you don’t already know most of these songs, then welcome to the world of popular music during the second decade of the twenty-first century. What kind of music is popular these days you ask? Well, it’s mostly big, thumping, tricked-out electro pop songs performed by sexed up solo acts (just five out of the twenty tracks are from a “band” in the traditional sense of the word). These are songs primarily about relationships, self-affirmation, and sex delivered in a top forty style that is great for dancing, working out, or driving fast.

But this collection isn’t purely corporate hit machine pop music – refreshing diversions from the typical sounding, thumping hit pop songs include “Lights,” “Too Close,” Midnight City,” “Drunk On You,” “Here’s to Us,” and “My Oh My.” It’s also notable that this collection includes contributions from a country star, a few rock bands, and a number of singer-songwriter types.

If you listen regularly to top forty type radio stations, then whether you know it or not you will already be familiar with most of the tracks here. Although every track here has appeared on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, just two have made it all the way to number one.

For those who are interested, here are some details about the origin of each song. Single release dates are not considered, except where a studio album has not been released yet.

1. “Call Me Maybe” – Carly Rae Jepsen – from the studio album (EP) CURIOSITY released on 02/14/12
2. “Part of Me” – Katy Perry – from the studio album TEENAGE DREAM: THE COMPLETE CONFECTION released on 03/26/12
3. “Payphone” – Maroon 5 – from the studio album OVEREXPOSED released on 06/26/12
4. “Titanium (feat. Sia)” – David Guetta – from the studio album NOTHING BUT THE BEAT released on 08/26/11
5. “Lights” – Ellie Goulding – from the studio album LIGHTS released (in the U.S.) on 03/08/11
6. “Boyfriend” – Justin Bieber – from the studio album BELIEVE released on 06/15/12
7. “Scream: – Usher – from the studio album LOOKING 4 MYSELF released on 06/08/12
8. “Let’s Go (feat. Ne-Yo)” – Calvin Harris – released 03/30/12 as a single for an upcoming unamed LP
9. “Back in Time – Pitbull – originally intended to be included on MIB3 movie soundtrack, but released as a stand alone single instead on 03/26/12
10. “Want You Back: – Cher Lloyd – from the studio album STICKS + STONES released on 11/07/11
11. “One Thing” – One Direction – from the studio album UP ALL NIGHT released on 11/18/11
12. “Give Your Heart a Break – Demi Lovato – from the studio album UNBROKEN released on 09/20/11
13. “Too Close” – Alex Clare – from the studio album THE LATENESS OF THE HOUR released on 07/11/11
14. “Midnight City” – M83 – from the studio album HURRY UP, WE’RE DREAMING released on 10/18/11
15. “Everybody Talks” – Neon Trees – from the studio album PICTURE SHOW released on 04/17/12
16. “Drunk On You” – Luke Bryan – from the studio album TAILGATES & TANLINES released on 08/09/11
17. “Here’s To Us” – Halestorm – from the studio album THE STRANGE CASE OF… released on 04/10/12
18. “My Oh My” – Tristan Prettyman – from the forthcoming studio album CEDAR + GOLD to be released on 09/25/12
19. “Love Actually” – Cady Groves – stand alone single released 06/29/12, eventually to be included on a debut LP?
20. “I Don’t Like You” – Eva Simons – stand alone single released 03/26/12, eventually to be included on a debut LP?

Sincerely,

Constant Listener

Album Review – UNDERWATER – Joshua Radin

Sample “Underwater” on You Tube from UNDERWATER by Joshua Radin

This review also appears on Amazon.com here so stop by and drop me a “helpful” vote!

Joshua Radin

Dear Music Appreciators,

Joshua Radin has the kind of singing voice that makes me want to take off all my clothes and slip into a candlelit bubble bath. And I don’t take baths.

So far Radin is Mr. Consistent, having now released an album every two years since his debut in 2006 – each of them sharing to some degree the same bubble bath quality:

2006 = WE WERE HERE
2008 = SIMPLE TIMES
2010 = THE ROCK AND THE TIDE
2012 = UNDERWATER

And he has proven to be Mr. Reliable to directors and producers, having placed over 75 of his songs in television shows and movies.

The Joshua Radin story is seldom told without mention of Josh’s friend SCRUBS star Zach Braff helping him find his big break, or Ellen DeGeneres choosing Josh to play at her wedding.

But what about this album? Is it good?

Yes.

Tracks 1-4 have a catchy, shuffling, singer-songwriter quality. “Five and Dime” introduces string based orchestral arrangements that blossom into full Nick Drake flavor on the next track “Here’s Where We Begin.” – making the song feel a little like a lost track from the BRYER LAYTER sessions.

“Underwater” had me thinking of that scene with Dustin Hoffman at the bottom of the pool in THE GRADUATE – and the song contains a pleasing surge in tempo near the 2:44 mark that that helps turn a good tune into a great tune with a great ending.

As is the case with Radin’s other records, things get a bit sleepy and less memorable during the last half of the album (except for “The Greenest Grass,” which is excellent), but it’s still all good stuff – good enough that even if you fall asleep while listening, you might keep coming back to listen again and again – and with a quality artist like Joshua Radin, sometimes even the sleepy and less obvious songs reveal themselves slowly over time and become just as valuable as the easy pleasers.

Sincerely,

Constant Listener

Album Review – A THOUSAND MILES LEFT BEHIND – Gloriana

Sample “Gold Rush” on You Tube from A THOUSAND MILES LEFT BEHIND by Gloriana

This review also appears on Amazon.com here so stop by and drop me a “helpful” vote!

Gloriana

Dear Music Appreciators,

This is my first experience with Gloriana and I know very little about them beyond the information that is available on Amazon. Sometimes that can be a good thing though, coming to a new group with a clean slate, no expectations, uninfluenced by any hype…

Basically, this is Lady Antebellum. This is top forty twang pop. I’m guessing this group will find legions of female fans. The two male singers appear to be very attractive, with just the right mix of metrosexual country and bad-boy accents (check the tats on Blondie’s right arm). And the female singer sandwiched between them is the dude fan bait.

I had high hopes for this album when I heard the twangy, opening guitar lick and the harmonies on the words “old” and “soul,” but then things quickly got less interesting (lines like “…everything I need is in your eyes,” can seem awfully contrived in this kind of musical setting). Then a song about making love in a parking lot, then a song about making love in a bedroom, then a song about kissing on a porch, then a pretty good little song called “Carolina Rose” that sounds like something Kenny Rogers might have done in his better days. Songs about falling in love and breaking up, the obligatory small town memories song, a patriotic, support-the-troops song – it’s all here, and Gloriana may look good and sound good, and this album may even have many enjoyable moments, but for me there is just something missing.

This album is like grape soda – looks good, tastes good, many people might claim its their favorite, but I won’t be craving it without some caffeine.

Sincerely,

Constant Listener