Not So Daisy Picture Perfect Anymore

For more than a year, some of my friends and I have been sharing music. We’re supposed to review/rate what gets shared with us, and share those reviews with the group, but that doesn’t always happen.

Bon Jovi – Lost Highway (2007)

Tim shared another Bon Jovi album. Some people might be annoyed that I’ve shared quite a bit of ska or video game music, but at least I’m not sharing the same three artists. The only times I’ve repeated an artist is because nobody reviewed them the last time, so I tried again. If a band drastically switched genres, I wouldn’t be so annoyed. But the game is more about giving others something that you like to listen to while they work, and not necessarily about always coming up with something new every week. So while it’s a little lazy, it’s not really that big of a deal. I just have to vent for a paragraph. On to the review.

When Tim introduced the album, I was under the impression this was Bon Jovi “going country.” There were some, but I wouldn’t say most. Seat Next to You felt more like a blend between folk and soft rock, which I guess could be country. The lyrics on Whole Lot of Leavin’ were very country inspired and Til We Ain’t Strangers Anymore was understandably so as well, but I think One Step Closer was the most country song on the album. And I think it was my least favorite.

We Got It Going On was heavier than I was expecting. I know it’s has Big and Rich playing and singing, but it didn’t feel like any country song I’ve ever heard. It felt more like hair metal. I’m not sure I cared for the words, and I don’t typically like the talking guitar effect, but the overall feel of the song was great. I liked the bridge especially.

I think I Love this Town felt more like kind of campy late ’50s or early ’60s rock and roll. But louder and slightly more distorted. I didn’t love it, but the way it ended was a good end to the album as a whole, so there is that.

This was ok. It just didn’t excite me as much as other stuff this week. Plus, I kind of got tired of the sound of his voice. 3/5

Meco – Christmas in the Stars (1980)

And Tim shared a Christmas album which features Jon Bon Jovi’s first studio recording. It’s a Star Wars Christmas album, which I’m not sure how I feel about. But also, there’s no “artist” attached to it. Anthony Daniels (C-3PO) does some narration/singing, but I can’t say he’s responsible for this album. Domenico Monardo produced it under the name Meco, but I don’t know who actually wrote/arranged and performed this.

I could only find it on YouTube:

 

Sometimes when things are campy, I can appreciate them from a nostalgia point. But the lyrics on this album went too far. Some of them were really painful. And Daniels’ performance was appropriately robotic, but that’s not what I want to listen to.

I’m actually a little disappointed it doesn’t have a cover of A Day to Celebrate (or whatever the name of it was) from the Star Wars Holiday Special. If you’re going to do Star Wars Christmas, go all the way. It would have made this better.

The music itself isn’t terrible, but it isn’t good enough to make up for the rest of it. The best of these (by far) is R2-D2 We Wish You a Merry Christmas – the song sung by Bon Jovi. That’s not really saying much, as it’s the only song that isn’t bad. I’m giving this album a 2/5, and I think that’s pretty generous.

Vince Guaraldi Trio – A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965)

Spencer took up the Christmas spirit … with the only Christmas album I shared last year.

There’s only one whole Christmas album I really love. This is it. Part of it is this is the only one of those Christmas specials I really love.

I’m not a total Christmas Curmudgeon. I listen to Christmas music year round, but after Halloween, there’s just too much of it and not enough of everything else.

And there’s so much crappy Christmas music. For example, Bob Dylan’s Christmas album is terrible. Or even half decent Christmas music by people who do it just to make a buck. It doesn’t help bring the spirit of the season. It just makes me think of the over-commercialization of what should be one of the most religiously significant observances of the year (and don’t even get me started on the timing of the whole thing). No wonder the Star Wars album got the meaning of Christmas wrong.

But this album is great. Vince Guaraldi and company are most excellent musicians. 5/5

Scott Weiland – The Most Wonderful Time of the Year (2011)

If you hadn’t heard, Scott Weiland (lead singer for Stone Temple Pilots and Velvet Revolver) died last week. So Chris followed Tim’s suit and shared two albums, one a Christmas album and one not, sung by the same person (more or less in Tim’s case).

I’m amazed how normal this is. It’s mostly pretty straight forward, simple Christmas classics sung by a competent singer who doesn’t feel the need to add in annoying little ornamental vocal fills, etc.  I feel like he knows the point of this specific music: the message. Let’s go back to that keyword “mostly.”

Ok, fine, I’ll Be Home for Christmas was a bit schmaltzy, but considering it’s the exception, I can’t imagine he wasn’t doing it on purpose. Or he was doing it late one night drunk. Silent Night was too much. The combination of latin jazz and cheap built-in keyboard accompaniment drove down the value of the song. And What Child is This? got close. The jazz groove was interesting, and I’m not sure the vocal arrangement was quite right. Especially on the outro. But the trio (and flute solo) was a good choice. Anything more would have been over the top. And while I love me some good reggae music and I love O Holy Night in general, I’m not sure the two go together. Any other lyrics and I might have liked it a lot more. As is, it was so close to greatness and so far away at the same time. And it seems like most of these songs end (in the last 20 seconds or so) quoting some other Christmas carol (Jingle Bells, for example). Maybe not, but it’s enough that I noticed it.

It wasn’t all bad. It was actually mostly pretty good. Even the original Christmas tune (which was a great place to put the latin jazz/reggae grooves) was surprisingly good. Still, I’m rounding up to give it a 3/5.

Stone Temple Pilots – Tiny Music: Songs from the Vatican Gift Shop (1996)

Most of my exposure to STP comes from the two albums they released after this one. Although I think I had heard Art School Girl on the radio years ago. But it’s been a while since I’ve listened to them at all.

I forgot how much I like STP. I like his voice. I can’t exactly put my finger on what it is about it either. It’s not exactly whiny or fried, but there’s just something so stereotypically ’90s while at the same time not sounding so dated as to be out-of-place even now. That’s how their whole sound is, and I like it. And I like their songwriting. It’s not overly complicated, but it’s not boring either.

That being said, And So I Know was a lot more chill than I was expecting, and it was a nice change. Adhesive was similar, but only alright. The muted trumpet solo was decent and unexpected. The two instrumental tunes were also really good.

Ride the Cliché felt a little dated, but even then it wasn’t bad at all. However, Pop’s Love Suicide and Tumble in the Rough were a little too complex for their own good. They felt dated and not so great. 3/5

Stillwater We Can't Write v2Stillwater – We Can’t Write (2003)

Scott shared the album we made in high school. Back in September, I talked a little about our high school rock band and some of the musicians who were influencing me when we wrote and recorded this. If you want to go back and listen to that playlist on Spotify, you can do so here. By the way, since that post I did think of one other song I would have included, but I’ll save it for later.

I’m not sure I can give a real review of these eight tracks. I’m too biased.

High school-level production values not withstanding (clicky bass in Hour of Need, I’m looking at you), the main reason I can’t give this a 5/5 is because there are some things I wouldn’t mind redoing. Or just changing. In the past 12 years I’ve decided how I’d rework almost every one of these songs to make them better. I get that there’s a fine line between always striving for your best (which sometimes means tweaking old things) and living in the past. I’ll always have these old recordings, and I think it would be great to do a 15- or maybe 20-year, higher-quality re-recording and re-release; acknowledge who we were back then, but also have a more mature version of those songs.

Even as is, there are some clever lyrics and some plain amazing musical moments. I’m proud of what we wrote. I may want to revisit it and sink a little money into getting a little professional polish, but I still think it’s got some real talent on there. It is more biased than any other review I’ve written in the last 87 weeks, but I see this album as four-fifths-tapped potential.

I don’t usually post what my friends said about an album I didn’t share. I don’t know why I didn’t in the beginning of this game, but once I thought about doing it I didn’t have the first dozen or so weeks worth of conversations saved anymore. Anyway, because this is an album I wrote, I’m sharing what everyone thought about it (if they chose to review it at all):

“The mixes and some performances are rough, some of the sounds are really cheap (like the distorted long notes that maybe are supposed to be a guitar on Hard), but there are some good ideas here. I was impressed with some of the vocal harmonies of the opener. I liked the progression of Hard. I’ll admit that the guitarist really needed a few more takes of you had to be there. I think Hard was my favorite track.

I’d say this is a typical recording from a talented highschool band, but the rough mix and all makes it so I probably won’t be coming back to it, so its bound to the 3s.” 3.6/5 – Spencer

“Very brave of your guys to share this album. And I have to give you props, it was better, and more enjoyed than I thought it would be. But I want to be fair and treat it like I would any album in this game. For the record, my official rating by those standards is a 2, but I would give it a 3-3.5 on a personal scale.

So onto the review. Let me start by saying I think the lyrics and composition of the music was a lot of fun. You guys obviously know how to play your instruments and how to play off each other. I could see myself jamming to this live at a park or local event. But, I don’t think the vocals really match the music. Their good, but the instrument playing far outshines. Also, there was a lot of noise on these recordings. It clearly wasn’t done in a studio, and I’m sure you did the best with what you had, but it just didn’t sound “ready” for release. I think a really good editor could clean a lot of that up and make it sound more crisp. I did get the feeling like this was a “just out of high school band,” but you could tell the potential was there if none of you had jobs, school, or family to take care of (which I’m sure at least one of the three kept you from dedicating lots of time to refining and pursuing the dream). So in the end, yeah I liked it and it was fun, but I need to be fair in my reviews.” 2/5 – Tim

Paramore – Brand New Eyes (2009)

One of the side projects I was in during my later undergrad years covered a few Paramore songs, partly because they were a favorite of our singer. Our drummer saw them as a kind of guilty pleasure, but I’m not sure I understand why. I guess they’re kind of emo, but they can rock pretty hard.

In fact, I’m not sure I have any guilty pleasures. That is I don’t feel guilty about anything I like, music or otherwise. I’m pretty open about the things I like and why I like them, even if some of them are kind of geeky (video game soundtracks, I’m looking at you).

Anyway, Where the Lines Overlap is my hands-down favorite track on this album. Other good ones are Careful, Ignorance, The Only Exception and Misguided Ghosts.

Here’s what my friends thought about Paramore:

“Paul and I have a mutual friend (Jer) that introduced me to Paramore. I listened to the few tracks he played in the car, and looked up a few, but really didn’t get into it. Even still, listening a couple times, this doesn’t really excite me. A lot of the time I feel like she’s yelling at me too much. The guitar doesn’t do a ton for me either, the riffs seem bland. The slower songs are by far the best of the album. When The Only Exception came on it was was the first I realized that radio song was from Paramore. Even still, that songs a bit redundant, though still good. Misguided Ghosts was even better. And I actually thought All I Wanted did a good job of making her intense singing stand out without getting overused. Ignorance was kind of a lowlight. I don’t usually think this but the lyrics seem juvenile to me. It sounds like a teenager whining about how everyone judges them. I feel like the singer here sounds really good, but the writing doesn’t utilize her talent well. So overall, mostly meh.” 3.3/5 – Spencer

“Paramore is very good at what they do. They establish a really good rhythm and central music concept (not lyrics or storytelling here) and find was to pull away from it and come back in an unexpected fashion. I can’t say I enjoyed the album as a whole though, because it kept getting repetitive to me. Paramore is just one of those bands where I could listen to a track here or there, then move to something else, before coming back again later. The album just isn’t a good straight through piece. My personal tastes would really give it a 2, but there is something there that goes beyond my tastes and pushes it to a 3.” 3/5 – Tim

Please share with me your thoughts on Stillwater. I’m always interested to know what you thought about the albums shared this week, but in the interest of perfecting my craft, there’s additional interest in hearing feedback on what 17-year-old me did.

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