Life Went On No Matter Who Was Wrong or Right

Some of my co-workers and I started sharing some of our favorite music. We’ve been doing it for a while, but now we’re actually reviewing them and sharing those reviews with one another. So here are the three albums that were suggested to me this week.

A note on how I rate things. One star means I don’t think it qualifies as music. Five stars mean I wish I wrote the thing. Most music for me is a three.

Haim – Days are Gone (2013)

This album was my coworker’s fourth favorite album of last year, which is an admirable feat considering the top three were basically flawless albums in his mind and it was one of his favorite overall years for music in a long time. But not for me.

I think part of it is I don’t really like a lot of new music. Even the new bands I like are really just updating old styles of music. I know the 80s are making a comeback, and these sisters really let you know that. But I wasn’t really a fan of that part of the 80s. At first, anyway. It’s still there in the third track, but there’s also a lot of classic rock going on. And most of the album stays somewhere in the between.

If you’re into Michael Jackson, I think you’ll like this album. This may come as a shocker, but I’ve never been an MJ fan. In fact, if you talk about someone called “MJ,” I’ll probably think of Spider-Man’s girlfriend.

But please … not that one.

Or, if you specify that it is “Michael,” I’ll probably think Michael Jordan. Which tells you the last time I watched pro-basketball.

Anyway, Chris showed me a video he took at their show last Wednesday. It was of the middle sister and main singer, Danielle. He said, “surprisingly, when I saw them live they rocked it up about 10 notches. I couldn’t believe how fantastic they were at their instruments. Danielle is one of the better guitarists I’ve seen live in a while, in fact.”

He hasn’t posted it online yet and I couldn’t find a comparable video, but he was right, she was shredding it. And that’s really lacking from their studio recordings.

But I can’t judge albums based on what they don’t have. I should judge them on how well they followed through on what they did have. None of it was bad, I just didn’t love it. It was just retro synthpop rock. The whole album is just meh to me. There weren’t any real highlights, but the only real low light was My Song 5, which had some just weird vocoder stuff going on. So that’s why it gets a two instead of a three.

Billy Joel – Turnstiles (1976)

While Haim’s album was just okay with only one real low light, this album is similar but the opposite. While most of this album is just okay, there are actually a couple of songs that stuck with me.

I know Billy Joel is a good piano player (I mean, duh), but Prelude/Angry Young Man really surprised me. Most of the album was exactly what I expected from Billy Joel, but this track literally made me sit up and pay more attention. Styx synth and all. This song has been stuck in my head for days, even though I’ve listened to some other really great music. That’s how I know I really like it.

I’m also going to highlight Miami 2017 (I’ve Seen the Lights Go Out on Broadway). I’m not sure exactly what it is about this song, but I really like it. It’s a solid rock tune.

On the other side of things, All You Wanna Do is Dance seemed like it should have been a Jimmy Buffett song. That isn’t a bad thing, in and of itself. If it weren’t for the poorly synthesized steel drums, it could have been great. Kudos for the island groove. Whatever-the-opposite-of-kudos-is for the hack drums.

All in all though, a pretty good album. 3/5

Led Zeppelin – III (1970)

I had thought about sharing some Zeppelin with my coworkers earlier, but I never knew which album to share. Part of that is I never listened to them in terms of albums. I just had a random collection of songs. It took me a long time to realize that the song Houses of the Holy was not on the album Houses of the Holy.

But as it turns out, this album has some of my favorite Zeppelin tracks. And not just the heavy Immigrant Song, although that is a good one. To me Zeppelin has always been a mix of The Darkness-inspiring hard rock and Middle Earth-inspired folky stuff. And this album is exactly that. Except the Middle Earth bits. That’s highlighted more on their next album.

But this has some great tunes like Celebration Day and Out On the Tiles, which work themselves into some pretty intricate grooves. Or Bron-Y-Aur Stomp and Hats Off to (Roy) Harper, which have some seriously impressive slide guitar work. They are great tunes, but they’re not even my favorites on this album.

I remember listening to Tangerine while we drove through the Mojave on our way to Disneyland. I love how easy and un-hurried that song is. That’s the Way has a similar feel.

And I remember playing along with Gallows Pole in my parents’ basement. It starts out so simply, but as the situation being played out in the lyrics becomes more urgent and desperate, the music mirrors that. I love it.

But to me the crown jewel of this whole album is Since I’ve Been Loving You. It starts out a little slow, but it gets moving and I don’t even really notice that it’s seven and a half minutes long. And that’s not even the best part. Go back and listen to the opening with just the guitar and organ.

You actually don’t have to listen very hard to hear John Bonham’s bass drum pedal squeaking. I love it. To others that squeak might be annoying. It is probably an easy thing to edit out of the recording. But to me it says that there’s a real dude playing those drums (for another song about that, check out The Limousines’ rather ironic Internet Killed the Video Star). I feel like more and more of today’s music is lacking real musicians. Instead, they’re just artists who sing songs they didn’t even write. That’s why I love it when guitarists – or anyone, really – flubs a note during a solo. Or when bands just take some times to jam out on a song. You can’t do that with pre-programmed backing tracks. You have to have real musicians. That squeak is the antithesis of over-produced “music” conveniently packaged for mindless consumption. It is real, human, imperfect art.

Rant over.

All that being said, this easily gets a four from me. I wasn’t sure I could quite give it a five. And I’m not exactly sure why.

Electric Light Orchestra – Time (1981)

I had heard a couple of ELO’s greatest hits on the radio, but never really listened to them until another artist I love listed ELO (and specifically this album) as their inspiration. So I took a deeper dive in and fell in love. 4/5

If my coworkers ever let me know what they thought about this album, I’ll post it here. In the meantime, give it a listen and let me know what you think.

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