When You Think You’ve Got the World All Sussed Out

Some of my co-workers and I have been sharing some of our favorite music, rating them, reviewing them and sharing those reviews with one another. I thought I’d share my thoughts on their suggestions (and their thoughts on mine) with you here.

Here’s how I rate things. If I give something one star, it 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.

Fleetwood Mac – Rumors (1977)

This is a classic. This is one of those albums (and artists) I got into because they influenced some of my influences (like Jack and White). I love almost every song on this album, but I bet my favorites aren’t the ones you’re thinking of.

Dreams is a classic. That’s where the album really starts. A great chorus and some great harmonies. If you’re going to listen to one Fleetwood Listen to that one. Don’t Stop would be the one to listen to if you’re only going to listen to two. I love how the whole song feels a little … driven.

But those aren’t my favorites. I love The Chain and especially Never Going Back Again. The guitar work in both of them is just great. I never learned Never Going Back Again, but sometimes I’ll pick out The Chain on my banjo and my wife will sing it. Lyrically, I don’t really know what’s going on in Never Going Back Again to compare it to The Chain‘s kind of oppressive words, but the mood of the one is completely opposite of the other.

Gold Dust Woman is the musical average for the album – and it’s a 4/5. Sometimes I really like it and other times I just like it. It depends on my mood, maybe.

Also, Go Your Own Way gets a lot of radio play, but I don’t think it’s really anything special. And I’ve never really been a fan of You Make Loving Fun.

Radiohead – The Bends (1995)

It’s stuff like this that makes me remember why I used to be a Radiohead fan. This is so normal. Why can’t they go back to their older style? I’m sure I’m not their target audience. In fact, I bet they’d say they have no target audience. They just make the music they want to make and if people want to buy it, they have that option.

In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if Radiohead fanboys say they were selling out, and now they’ve broken free of The Man. And I’m also sure my coworker Phil would say they’ve have since broken free of music as well. And some Radiohead fans would misunderstand Phil’s intent and agree with him.

When Chris shared this, I thought I hadn’t heard any of this album before. But as I listened, I realized I had heard most of it before. The title track? Great. High and Dry? Absolutely fantastic. It really reminds me of something Stone Temple Pilots would have done. Same with Bullet Proof … I Wish I Was, although I enjoyed that just a little less.

This album is refreshingly ’90s. As much as I want more of this Radiohead, it did get a little long. It could have ended with Black Star, and I might have given it 4/5. But it doesn’t quite get up there.

Certainly not lacking in energy, I think I like Streetlight Manifesto‘s cover of Just more than Radiohead’s original.

The one real lowlight was My Iron Lung. Mostly, it was very reminiscent of The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper and the Lonely Hearts Club Band or Magical Mystery Tour. But at times I was forcibly reminded that this was played by a mid-’90s alt. rock band. I’d give this song a 3/5 by itself, so it’s not bad. I just wanted a little more Beatles.

Styx – Pieces of Eight (1978)

When I was in high school, I was a huge Styx fan. I think I have all of their albums (I know I did about five years ago) and I have a couple of their albums on vinyl.

I’m kind of indifferent about the studio version of Sing for the Day, but I remember seeing them play it live and that was great. I saw them with Kansas and Journey – all three of whom are somewhere between prog rock and classic ’70s/’80s straight up hard rock. Anyway, when they played Sing for the Day live, they definitely let the prog side run wild.

Blue Collar Man is pretty sweet, but my favorite song on the album is Renegade. It might be my favorite Styx song ever. I love everything about this song. When I was in high school, the trombone player in my band and I came up with a more funk version of this song to have our band cover. I don’t know if it’s just the nostalgia, but it was pretty sweet. I can admit it wasn’t quite as good as the original.

Queen of Spades is also pretty good, but otherwise those are the highlights. This isn’t Styx’s best album. I like the vocals, guitars and synths, but most of this album is just a 3/5.

The Nightmare Before Christmas soundtrack (1993)

Last week Chris shared something that helps him get in the Halloween mood. So I’m following in the same vein. Other than Oingo Boingo, the thing that gets me most in the Halloween mood is, of course, this. I say “of course” because it’s still Danny Elfman.

Oh, and it’s arguably a Halloween movie. But I think it’s more of a Christmas movie.

In case you’ve never seen this movie (shame on you), here’s Tim Burton’s original three-page poem as narrated by Christopher Lee with animated visuals based on the movie:

I think that’s better than Patrick Stewart’s narration on the album. Apparently they tried to get Vincent Price to do it, but he was ill and declined.

When Burton wrote it, he took inspiration from the Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer and How the Grinch Stole Christmas tv specials, as well as the A Visit from St. Nicholas poem. I don’t think I saw this film until about seven years after its release. And I loved it. And the older I get, the more I love it. My favorite line? When the mayor says, “Jack, please, I’m only an elected official here, I can’t make decisions by myself!” I don’t think I understood that when I first saw this movie.

But I’m getting away from the music. I think this was the first vinyl album I bought. It’s a double album with images from the movie printed inside the clear vinyl. I got into Oingo Boingo because I loved the music in this film. I can find no fault with this music. This ranks up there with other albums I’ve shared like Abbey Road, S&M, and Wolfmother’s self-titled. Do I really have to go into how awesome this soundtrack is? I really think it speaks for itself. 5/5

My favorite tracks are Jack’s Lament, Poor Jack (which thematically and musically mirror one another), and Sally’s Song. I think I like them because they are mostly melancholy with bursts of … whatever the opposite of melancholy is. Joy, I guess.

As a side note, if anyone knows where I can pick up the Haunted Mansion Holiday soundtrack, that’d be nice.

If you don’t know what I’m talking about, from late September to early January, Disneyland shuts down the Haunted Mansion for a while to get it ready for the holidays. They overlay the whole ride (queue area, grounds and all) with a Nightmare Before Christmas theme. It’s my preferred time to visit Disneyland, right before schools let out for the semester break.

And they change the music. Some of it’s from the film. Some of it is Danny Elfman freaking out Christmas songs. And some of it is Danny Elfman’s arrangements of the original music. They even got the original voice actors to come back and add in dialogue. It’s the closest thing we’re ever going to get to a sequel.

Anyway, here’s what my coworkers had to say about this:

“I’ve always liked The Nightmare Before Christmas. I clearly remember seeing it in the theater and being REALLY creeped out by Oogie Boogie. To this day I still get uncomfortable when his big number comes on.  But the soundtrack for me has always been what makes the movie. It reminds me of a Broadway musical, like Phantom of the Opera in structure, style, and tone. New thing for me though, it wasn’t until I listened to it this time around that I realized Patrick (Xavier Picard) Stewart was the narrator. Added a new level as I pictured him saying those lines. So yeah, as far as it goes this is about as good as it gets for movie soundtracks.” 4/5 -Tim

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