Thursday, April 23, 2009


Hank was a fine singer who ensured his place in popular music history by the exceptional quality of his songwriting. His songs were often recorded by pop singers of the time and this practice has continued ever since. He rarely recorded covers - so rarely that the ones he did record are often thought of as his own songs anyway. This compilation was originally released on vinyl and later re-issued on CD. As far as song selection goes, this is the ultimate double CD of his music. The sound quality is plenty good enough for me, though it might be interesting to hear it digitally re-mastered with the latest technology. Virtually every famous song associated with Hank can be found here, including all his own hits on the American country and pop charts. You can also find all the songs that have become popular via cover versions, some of which were only B-sides for Hank. The most significant omission (and it took me a while to notice that it was missing) is Honky tonkin', a great song but not absolutely essential. Tribute albums and other cover versions continue to be recorded, not just in country and pop music, but also Cajun, jazz, rock and other genres, so each new generation gets reminded of Hank's legacy. There have been many compilations of Hank's music but this is the only one that contains all the essentials and no more. As such, it is the ideal compilation for most people. I thought that the more recent British 4 CD budget box (Hillbilly hero) might include all the songs from this set but it does not cover his whole career and therefore omits several obvious songs including Jambalaya, You win again, Kaw-liga, Your cheating heart and Take these chains from my heart although it does include Honky tonkin'. So if you only want one collection of Hank's music, make it this one. -AMAZON. COM


Wednesday, April 22, 2009


The Bee Gees started the second phase of their extraordinary careers with 1975s stellar "Jive Talkin'" (#1 for 2 weeks in 1975) a song that heralded the beginning of their rule as disco masters. They continued their ascent with the equally danceable "You Should Be Dancing" (#1 for 1 week in 1976) and peaked a few years later with their trio of #1 hits from "Saturday Night Fever" - "How Deep Is Your Love" (#1 for 3 weeks in 1977), "Stayin' Alive" (#1 for 4 weeks in 1978), and "Night Fever" (#1 for 8 weeks in 1978). The brothers managed to stay on top of the music world with their next CD, "Spirits Having Flown," which yielded 3 more #1 hits - "Too Much Heaven" (#1 for 2 weeks in 1979), "Tragedy" (#1 for 2 weeks in 1979), and "Love You Inside Out" (#1 for 1 week in 1979). "Greatest" was released in 1979, on the heels of this phenomenal late 70s success. In addition to these great #1 songs, the set includes their two other Top 10s from the period - "Nights on Broadway" (#7 in 1975) and "Love So Right" (#3 in 1976). One of my favorite songs here is "Fanny (Be Tender with My Love)" which only went to #12 in 1976 but is a beautiful ballad worthy of greater attention. The Bee Gees were so huge at the time that they even managed to score a hit on the country chart: "Rest Your Love on Me," the b-side of "Too Much Heaven," peaked at #39 in 1979. I also really enjoy the non-hits, some of which were singles for others. "(Our Love) Don't Throw It All Away," for example, peaked at #9 in 1978 for their brother, Andy Gibb. In addition, two other songs from "Saturday Night Fever" are included: "If I Can't Have You" (#1 for 1 week in 1978 for Yvonne Elliman) and "More Than a Woman" (#32 in 1978 for Tavares). I particularly like "If I Can't Have You": their version adds some fantastic urgency to the lyrics - a really great song. Finally, some top-notch album cuts are here: "Love Me," "You Stepped Into My Life," and "Children of the World" (from 1976's "Children of the World"); "Spirits (Having Flown)" (from 1979's "Spirits Having Flown"); "Wind of Change (from 1975's "Main Course"). I'm really surprised that "Love Me" was never released as a single, as it sounds like a sure-fire hit. I really love "Greatest," and the Bee Gees have been enjoying a critical and popular rediscovery in recent years; they were even inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1997. This collection, however, has gone out of print and been replaced by the subsequent "The Bee Gees - Their Greatest Hits: The Record," a 2-disc set with 40 songs. That collection comprises hits from their entire career, from "New York Mining Disaster" (#14 in 1967) to "Alone" (#28 in 1997). However, "Greatest" is much more focused on their disco era success and thus sounds very cohesive. -AMAZON.COM



When it comes to Emerson Lake & Palmer, one of two pieces is usually voted the band's pinnacle of achievement: "Karn Evil 9" from 1973's BRAIN SALAD SURGERY or the titular suite from 1971's TARKUS. And if "Karn Evil 9" is one of my top candidates for Best Prog Work Ever, "Tarkus" is a monolithic achievement nevertheless, one of the first sidelong epics in the annals of progressive rock, and one of its greatest. Flying high on Keith Emerson's savage keyboards, grounded by Carl Palmer's seismic drumming, embroidered with Greg Lake's dour vocals and complementary bass licks, "Tarkus" alternates peaks of the loftiest beauty with storms of the basest profanity. There's a plot in Lake's overblown lyrics somewhere - I think it has to do with war, and the armadillo-tank on the LP cover, and something about a manticore as well - but lyrics have never been all that important in prog. They sound profound, and that's all that matters. The suite is partitioned into seven movements, but it's often difficult, amidst the hail of screaming organ solos and percussive whiplash, to discern where one ends and another begins. Besides, I listen to "Tarkus" as a whole, a mammoth example of everything good (and bad) about prog rock, so it's rather pointless to focus on the individual parts. It's a monster, to be sure, some of the most intricate, bloodthirstily confrontational music of the rock era. Two prog workouts ("Bitches Crystal", "A Time & a Place"), a pair of goofy throwaways ("Jeremy Bender", "Are You Ready Eddy?"), and a bipartite mini-epic ("The Only Way (Hymn)"/"Infinite Space(Conclusion)") flesh out the remainder of the disc. After a behemothic opening like the title cut, the rest of TARKUS should be an anticlimax, and in many ways it is. But if it doesn't achieve the demented grandeur of Side I, Side II allows the band to calm down, stretch out, and defuse their self-conscious pomposity a bit. "The Only Way (Hymn)"/"Infinite Space (Conclusion)" in particular is great, featuring ecclesiastical organ, blazing bass figures, and a couple melodies "borrowed" from Bach. If 70s prog ever needed a "poster band", there would be few acts better qualified to fill that role than ELP. By the same token, TARKUS plays about as near a 70s prog "poster album" as any album possibly could. -AMAZON.COM


I grew up in Jamaica and as a teenager I can recall seeing the posters at the bus stop advertising an upcoming concert... and The Wailers were headliners. But I never truly listened to Bob untill the Live album came out.

I remember sitting in my room one Saturday listening to the horse races on the radio, and in betweem each race the DJ would play No Woman No Cry. The words were haunting.. "And I remember when we used to sit... In a Government Yard in trenchtown..." The vouce and lyrics seemed magical... so simple yet so beautiful. That was about 30 years ago and I have been a fan ever since. Bob's music spoke to me personally, as it did to people all around te world. As it will speak to you once you play this album. But don't stop there... buy more... listen to songs like Concrete Jungle; Talking Blues, and Roots Rock Reggae. In fact let your next album be the Live at the London Lyceum and you will get a flavour for the infectious Bob.

If you have a Jamaican friend have him/her explain the lyrics (if needed). But regardless, just enjoy the music. Enjoy it with fans from Africa, Europe, Canada and now the USA. I saw Bob once in Tampa and was amazed at the 'good old boys' in Cowboy hats and bandanas that screamed for Bob and sang his songs. I knew then that Bob's music was truly intended for the world to love.

When Bob died I heard the news over BBC radio. I was 20+ years old then but I cried. I had lost a good friend. Then I reached for my records and played Rastaman Chant, and cried some more when Bob sang... "One bright morning when my work is over I will fly away home.", the background containing soulful conga drumming. But as the song ended I felt better.. bob's music made me feel better. Fly on BOB. And you my friend... listen to the Music on Legend and experience an upliftment... fly with Bob. Enjoy Legend! But remember there is more great Marley music awaiting you. -AMAZON.COM


Regardless of their commercial intent, Metallica had to make The Black Album. Their previous album "And Justice For All" had many brilliant moments, but it also edged toward excess. It's important to keep in mind that many of Metallica's influences wrote punchy 3-4 minute songs with a killer riff and solo. And their Garage Revisted album demonstrated their love to do something like that. But, they hadn't really done that since their early days, and they had gotten so far away from that by the time of "And Justice For All." As a result, The Black Album was an artistic, as well as commercial, commitment. Keep it simple; keep it memorable; keep it real.No doubt, the craft paid off; Metallica's singles (Enter Sandman, Wherever I May Roam, Sad But True, Nothing Else Matters, Unforgiven) have become hard rock classics. Each song has killer hooks; they groove even, and the latter ballad is as powerful and moving as any song they've ever done. Sure, Bob Rock's production is a bit too smooth, but listen to the demos and realize that The Black Album is still thrash. Dismiss its difficult, then, consider that similar efforts by thrash outfits like Megadeth, Testament, and Anthrax were much, much less successful.If there's any substantial flaw to The Black Album, it's that it reveals what true metal aficionados already know -- Metallica is an average thrash band with world-class compositions, The Beatles of the long-form composition. When you compare The Black Album with Pantera's "Vulgar Display Of Power." Where The Black Album waters down thrash's edge (relentlessly midtempo, simpler rhythms, production), "Vulgar Display of Power" distills it, retaining the creativity, craft, yet making it even more vicious. And compare it to Metallica's older work, and you miss out on the richness, dynamics and depth.As a whole, though, The Black Album is a great kick-a** album. As close to the perfect mainstream heavy metal album anybody has ever gotten to. It also suggested that if Metallica could combine The Black Album's discipline with their 80s richness, their best work would lay in the future. Boy were we wrong . . .



Regardless of how much criticism Phil Collins has received over the years for his solo career and for "what he did to Genesis", serious music listeners know better, & there's simply no denying that his solo debut "Face Value", which came out in early 1981, is a masterpiece. It's an album that makes good on the theory that an artist does their best work in times of personal turmoil. Phil simply began 'fooling around' as a means to comfort himself in the wake of a painful divorce. Apart from a cover of the Beatles' "Tomorrow Never Knows" & a retooling of the Genesis song "Behind the Lines", Phil wrote everything here himself, & not only is his songwriting consistently terrific, but you also get a healthy dose of eclecticism. That said, this ain't some run-of-the-mill soft rock or adult contemporary album. Even with all the brilliant songs Phil has written over the course of his career, the first track here, "In the Air Tonight", remains a signature song that's perhaps his most enduringly popular, & for good reason. Although the idea of suddenly switching from a very quiet part to an ear-blastingly loud part was not a new one, the song is staggeringly powerful & was a very innovative production, containing ominous drum machine, creepy synth, atmospheric Fender Rhodes, vocoder, violins, smoky electric guitar, (played by long-time Collins & Genesis cohort Daryl Steurmer), heavily echoing vocals, & of course, those ferocious, booming gated drums. Add to that the haunting lyrics & melody, & Phil`s passionate, tormented wailing on the fade, & you get one of the most cathartic songs ever recorded. But the genius doesn't stop there. Side 1 of the album (i.e. the first six tracks in its vinyl release) is often very quiet, such as on the starkly affecting "The Roof Is Leaking" which seems to be about the hardships of a family living in the US in the mid 1800s, & has Phil's vocals backed by just piano, banjo, & slide guitar. The wistful "This Must Be Love" is a wonderful, mellow love song with excellent backing vocals from Stephen Bishop, whom Phil was a great admirer of--he even slips the phrase "never letting go" into the song, the title of a Bishop song. He gives a finger-snapping horn-laden treatment to "Behind the Lines", & "The Roof Is Leaking" segues into the dramatic, fast paced wordless piece "Droned" which gives way to another instrumental-plus-wordless-chanting track with the feel good "Hand In Hand" (which features a children's chorus). Some pretty adventurous stuff indeed, & not exactly busting with "radio fodder" either--it's easy to see why Phil was surprised at the album's huge commercial success. It seems that "In the Air Tonight" simply captivated the public, & carried the rather uncommercial album. The first song on `side 2' didn't hurt either though--"I Missed Again" was also a hit, & it's a hook-heavy song with bright-sounding horns & containing uncanny, sophisticated chord changes. "You Know What I Mean" is a gorgeously melodic and tender ballad--it segues into the defiant, catchy kiss-off song "Thunder and Lightning", & the following track is the musically & lyrically contemplative "I'm Not Moving", which is yet another gem. The extremely sad, but hopeful love song "If Leaving Me Is Easy" is terrifically soothing --it has atmospheric strings, Fender Rhodes, & high falsetto vocals from Collins--rarely would you hear Collins' voice get this high on record ever again after this album. He then gets psychedelic for "Tomorrow Never Knows"--it's a terrific version, slower than the Beatles version, & has ominous looping drums, & great, punchy Collins vocals. Phil tacks on a brief reprise of him singing "Over the Rainbow"--apparently, this, along with covering "Tomorrow Never Knows" in the first place, were done as a tribute to John Lennon, who died in the same time period that the album was being completed. The production of this album, by Collins and assisted by Hugh Padgham, is masterful & supremely tasteful, & in the end, this album is truly timeless. Phil puts himself into the recording, & he ends up with an album that's oozing with deep feeling and is all the better for it--"Face Value" is a brilliant album from one of the finest artists of all time. Although this CD version is not an "original recording remastered" version of the album, the sound quality is still truly excellent, a testament to how well it was originally recorded. I highly encourage you not just to get this album (if you don't already) since it's absolutely essential, but also the "Face Value" DVD that's part of the "Classic Albums" series--it prominently features Phil himself, including performances from him, & it's a terrific look at the making of this incredible work of art.


The Irish band's 12th studio album was originally slated to come out before the end of last year, but the band pulled it back to mold and twist it some more, after the original material recorded with Rick Rubin was shelved. They've been rocking since the early 80s, when it comes to stadium-filling anthems, there's no challenger to U2's crown. It's been a while since their last release, 2004's "How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb", but it's been worth the wait. The result is 11 songs that thematically seem to have no link (although being lost surfaces quite a few times), but sonically unite the many sides of U2: the boys from get back to basics with their strongest offering in years. It was recorded in Dublin, New York, London and Fès, Morocco (but the rumoured North African influences are hardly audible). Comfortingly, the production comes courtesy of Brian Eno, Daniel Lanois and Steve Lillywhite. There may be some quibble as to whether this is the best U2 album since Eno and Lanois first worked with the band on 1984's "The Unforgettable Fire". It starts out blustery and familiar, before gradually revealing an unexpected and almost lovable sense of vulnerability. "Magnificent" with its drum crescendos, trademark guitar riffs and a soaring Bono vocal is easily the best thing here and is crying out to be released as a single. There is the odd moment of rocking swagger which seems to be U2's way of saying that they are not too old to pull on the leather trousers yet - the trashy rock of "Get On Your Boots" and "Stand Up Comedy", the latter hinting at the muscular funk-infused rock of the Red Hot Chili Peppers. "Get On Your Boots", the album's lead single, is actually a good track : if this fails to get your foot tapping, we doubt anything will. "Breathe" suggests that the band's classic approach can still sound contemporary. And the albums ends in contemplative mood with "Cedars Of Lebanon", a Lanois-style soundscape, which takes shape amid a sonic fug that mirrors the exhaustion of its war reporter narrator: "Child drinking dirty water from the riverbank/ Soldier brings oranges he got out from a tank". "Breathe" suggests that the band's classic approach can still sound contemporary. Lyrics like 'the right to appear ridiculous is something I hold dear' on "I'll Go Crazy If I Don't Go Crazy Tonight" show that they still have a sense of humour. Apart from a couple of the tracks being a bit too long and the album cover being a bit boring, the album - over 54 minutes - is a worthy addition to their catalogue. "No Line on the Horizon is a bold, beautiful and highly speculative re-imagining of U2's music". - Telegraph "The slower, meditative efforts where Bono sings rather than screams are surprisingly lovely and hint at a future of Rubin-era Johnny Cash potential. U2 are at their strongest when they play their age but when they try and rock, it's irrelevant and cringeworthy".- L. Bazley

About Me

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A Beatles fan since December 1980.Now an oral surgeon and music journalist.He lives in Bangkok.