For almost two years, 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.
Freddie Mercury – Lover of Life, Singer of Songs (2006)
Tim, in a fit of nostalgia, decided to share a double compilation album from Queen front man Freddie Mercury. While Brian May and the other guys from Queen may show up as backing performers on some of these tracks, the songs come from Mercury’s other projects and not Queen.
And many songs are on here multiple times. Or rather there are 20 song titles between these 35 tracks. Love Kills was on there six times, if I counted right.
I’m not sure I remember Queen’s version of Made in Heaven 100%, but I feel like I liked it better than his solo version, which was still fine. Although this version had a sweet heavy ending, which I don’t recall from the Queen version.
I’m a fan of Freddie Mercury, but I’m not so much a fan of Montserrat Caballé. She’s obviously talented, but I didn’t always love the classical opera style. The best part of The Golden Boy was the middle gospel section, where their vocal styles blended in better than the intro and outro. Barcelona wasn’t bad. I really liked the piano version of Guide Me Home. Sung ballads are nice, but this super stripped down instrumental seemed like the ideal version. That was the only one I liked as much or more than the “original” version on the album. For the most part, I don’t really care for the remixes.
I really loved the bass line in My Love is Dangerous. It reminded me of the underground/dungeon music from some 8-bit videogame like Super Mario Bros. or The Legend of Zelda. but I didn’t really care for the dub reggae feel of most of the rest of the song. It got better once it switched to more straightforward rock ‘n’ roll. The Egg remix of Living on My Own had a bit of that, too. The Pixel 82 remix of Love Kills obviously had a little chiptune in it, but I didn’t like it as much as My Love is Dangerous. Or the Star Rider remix of Love Kills, which was my favorite version of that song. Although the Pixel 82 remix made the best use off the rather haunting “ooh” vocals.
One of the highlights for me was I Can Hear Music, and I’m not exactly sure why. It didn’t really seem that great, but something about it (maybe the guitar solo, maybe the driving energy of the tune) just did it for me. Come to find out, it’s a Ronettes tune and when Freddie and company recorded it, they were going for the Phil Spectre Wall of Sound, which I guess I like. Love Makin’ Love. The chosen synth voice was meh, and the drums were a little loud in the mix, but the form and structure and chord progression of the song was really interesting to me. I also loved Your Kind of Lover. I just wanted more. It makes me want to go listen to the Mr. Bad Guy album version.
I was disappointed in Let’s Turn it On. You could hear that there was something else going on, like there were a dozen Freddie’s in a room doing all the vocals at once, live and you could hear the backing track from their headphones. I mean, he’s a talented vocalist, but that was just frustrating. It does make me want to get back in the studio though….
This album had some of the best stuff I heard all week, but also some of my least favorite. I’m really just a fan of some of those remixes. Without them, I would have enjoyed this album much more. As it was, it was my least favorite of the week. 3/5
“This was a lot of Freddie, and I don’t care for his solo stuff nearly as much as the whole band’s work. Not that he isn’t incredibly talented though (in fact I consider him one of the best in rock), just that his solo stuff was some of their later work and I like early Queen best. I can also see why many of these songs never made it to Queen albums. They wouldn’t fit.
Some of the hybrid classical/rock efforts like barcelona didn’t sit very well with me. They actually did a pretty good job but I didn’t start this playing for classical music. I wanted some more energy.
I think I’ve been missing the point of this album. Its really just to listen to Freddie’s great voice. I’ll try to approach the rest with that frame of mind.
Thinking of that did improve things. I liked the remix of Great Pretender than the original. But the other remixes were too dancey. I really could have lived without hearing 6 different remixes of Love Kills. Especially the whole 2nd disk was really a drag.
Overall, this didn’t really do much for me.” 3.3/5 – Spencer
Miles Davis – Kind of Blue (1959)
Don’t be fooled by only having 5 songs on this album. Many of them are around 10 minutes long. There are some “bonus track” versions of this album, but that adds up to a lot of music. I might get around to it this week, but don’t count on it.
I’m a bit ashamed that the only song I have heard before is So What. I’ve listened to more jazz than my average peer, but as a trombone player, I was always looking for trombone soloists. Plus, this isn’t exactly my go-to sub-genre of jazz. But it’s higher on the list than a lot of other stuff. I just don’t always have the attention span to listen to a ten minute instrumental track without it being a lot more engaging. I feel like it started as consumer-centered (specifically so the consumer could have something to dance to), but I’ve always thought of most jazz (including this) as more of a performer-centered genre. Not just for whose performing it currently, but also for other performers. Again, it’s better than a lot of other kinds of jazz, but that’s part of the reason why I don’t always come back to this.
I really enjoyed So What and Blue in Green. I actually preferred the piano solo in the latter to the horn solos. Flamenco Sketches weren’t flamenco at all. I didn’t mind, but would have liked it to move a little faster. That’s as close to a lowlight as I got. I don’t think it’s an amazing album, but it was the best of the bunch from this week for me. 3/5
“Whatever the highest rating you can give is my review. Spencer picked on the one piece of music that I still play on a weekly / monthly basis. In fact, if my house is on fire and I can grab just one CD (or album in my case) on the way out, this is probably the one. That pretty much sums it up. This is still the highest selling jazz album of all time and has been referenced and sampled more than anything I can think of. None of these songs were played through even once prior to the recording. Hard to believe.” – David
“I’ve never actually listened to Miles Davis, other than in passing, or as part of a soundtrack in a movie. I can see why he was/is the legend he is. I “like” jazz, but it is hard for me to listen to too much at a time. I just meanders and doesn’t have a point most of the time (which is what Jazz is I suppose). But I didn’t feel that way with this album. It flowed so well from song to song that I felt like I was at a live performance with a small intimate group. I really enjoyed it, and was surprised how fast it went by (considering how many songs were over 9 minutes).” 5/5 – Tim
Tears for Fears – Songs from the Big Chair (1985)
Similarly to Kind of Blue, there are plenty of bonus tracks attached to re-releases of this album, but I’m not going there this week. Maybe some week if there’s a lull in the actual sharing I’ll come back to these bonus tracks.
I know I have heard (and loved) Shout and Everybody Wants to Rule the World before, but I didn’t realize I had heard Head over Heels before. That is, I didn’t know the name of that song or who sang it. Maybe I heard a cover, or maybe I just remember it from Donnie Darko, but the chorus is absolutely great. The rest of the song is okay, too.
It’s not really fair that I’ve criticized artists like Michael Jackson for having a dated sound, but it’s one of the things I love about some of the songs on this album. Just so ’80s.
I didn’t like I Believe so much. It was trying to be jazzy, but I just felt like it lacked musical direction and I got bored with it. And while I enjoyed parts of Listen, the overall track just went on too long. Again, I got bored halfway through. Those were the lowlights for me. 3/5
“Ah Tears for Fears. 80’s through and through. I enjoyed the album, but not as much as I thought I would. Outside of the hits, I just wasn’t that moved by the music. Now, the hits, and there are a lot of them, are masterpieces. They are really, really, solid, and really, really good. But the rest of the album just didn’t live up for me. And the arrangement wasn’t my favorite either. So yeah, 3 for me, but really enjoyed it.” 3/5 – Tim
“I’d heard some of these songs before. I like when I finally associate a sound I know with an artist and album. But like Chris mentioned, this is as pure 80s as it gets. And I weary of the sound. I like the synth use, but I was ready for shout to end after about 3 minutes. The guitar solo was refreshing on it, but then they went right back to the chorus and it felt long again. These guys do a pretty good job of not being too dark, like depeche mode, with some lighter tracks in between. “I believe” was a bit boring, but I liked how Head Over Heels/Broken was going places.
Overall, one that was good to listen to, but not likely for me to come back to.” 3.9/5 – Spencer
The Planet Smashers – Unstoppable (2005)
Despite the fact that I know Tim and Chris really aren’t into ska, the next album on my list (which is getting pretty short these days) of albums to share is some Canadian ska. I know the style can get repetitive, but I think it’s still fun music. Don’t worry, I think I’ve only got one other notable ska band I want to share.
What makes these guys stand out above many other ska bands is their horn section. Maybe it’s their arrangements, maybe it’s their mixing, maybe it’s the fact they have no trumpet or alto sax, just tenor and trombone, but I really like what their horns do. Plus they’ve got some good harmonies.
This is their sixth studio album. Their fifth is also pretty good. I haven’t really listened to their seventh or eighth (which is a weird word to spell).
Highlights from this album (for me) include the title track, Bullets to the Ground, Cool Your Jets and especially Looking for a Cure, which is not really ska at all. Blank Stare through Bad Mood, plus This Song is for You are also pretty good.
Here’s what my friends thought of this album:
“Paul should have shared this ska album the first time he shared one. It wasn’t bad. In fact, it was good. I felt they did a good job of arranging the music order. The music was fun, and unlike Paul’s other ska albums, I wouldn’t turn it off if it came on. It was fun.” 3/5 – Tim
“I’ve never actually listened to the smashers before. This was a fun listen, but didn’t really impress me like many RBF albums have. I’ll probably listen to more from them, but there weren’t any songs that I loved on this.” 3.7/5 – Spencer
Feel free to leave your own thoughts down in the comments section.