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.
Guns ‘n’ Roses – Appetite for Destruction (1987)
I used to be a big G’N’R fan, but have kind of drifted away from them for years. I never before realized that the first six songs are (more or less) all about violent life in the big city and the last six are all about love (kinda).
First, let me go over the front side.
I get why Nightrain isn’t one of the iconic G’N’R songs, but I’ve always thought it was one of the better tunes. One of the short lived high school bands I was in (after Stillwater) took our name from this album: Mr. Brownstone. We weren’t nearly as hard as G’N’R, but Mr. Brownstone has the best groove on the album. And it’s one of the few G’N’R songs where Axl isn’t doing his falsetto as much.
Paradise City also has some pretty good movement. I think it’s better than Welcome to the Jungle.
I forgot how much It’s So Easy swears, but musically it was still more interesting than Out to Get Me. Although they’re both kind of unimaginative hard rock.
The back side is generally not so good (or as good as I remembered it). Sweet Child of Mine is the obvious exception (although the hits on the front were better), and both Anything Goes and Rocket Queen grew on me. 3/5
Thoughts from my friends:
“This is a classic. The best selling debut album of all time. But I don’t like it.
I know I know. It just kind of epitomizes 80s glam that I’m really not that into, and most of all, Axl’s voice annoys me a lot. Too nasally.
Even the mega hit, Sweet Child of Mine runs too long for what musical content is actually in it. By the time they ask “Where do I go from here?” I want to answer, “I don’t care as long as its away from me.” Part of the negativity here is that I just don’t get it. It seems overrated to me. Its ok, but this stuff doesn’t really get me that excited and the vulgarity just seems like they’re telling how hard core they are rather than showing it with the music.
I had never heard much of any GNR until after my mission, and I walked away rather unimpressed for how some of my companions talked it up. That’s pretty much the result from this listen through too.” 3.5/5 – Spencer
“I suppose I’ll briefly comment on this one too since I’ve heard it enough. Really should give it another listen to be sure, but overall my impression of this album was always more of respect than enjoyment. Having said that, I absolutely LOVE the singles. Some of the best rock anthems of all time for sure. I think my favorite non-single is “You’re Crazy” and at the moment I can’t place why other than it’s the only non-single that I can even remember without re-listening to the album. Sorry, pretty lame review, but there it is.” 8/10 – Chris
Barenaked Ladies – Everything to Everyone (2003)
My uncle introduced these guys to me back when they released Gordon. I’ve been in to them off and on ever since. I’m not saying there’s a causal relationship, but when I get more into songwriting, I find myself being back into BNL.
I remember picking out a song on the banjo one day, and asking some friends if it was something they had heard before or if we should run with it (I constantly have a problem of not knowing if I wrote a song, or if I heard it somewhere). A week later one of them got back to me. I was playing the main riff from For You. Suffice it to say, they’re an influence on my songwriting.
Mostly. There’s still stuff they do that I don’t, and don’t think I ever will. Barenaked Ladies certainly aren’t the only alt. rock band to have rap-inspired vocal performances, but they still seem to do it in a unique way. On every album they seem to have a song with “rap” verses or choruses (but never both). And Another Postcard is might be favorite from any of their albums. They’ve got great harmonies throughout the album, and even when they don’t, their melodies let me harmonize with them.
The weakest song on the album (for me) was Upside Down. It was kind of forgettable. Which is relatively impressive. 4/5
I also listened to some acoustic bonus tracks. They were good, but I’m not sure that those recordings really added anything.
From my friends:
“Not as impressed with this one as I thought I would be. I like BNL, but I think they are better when they rock out a bit more. This album just felt like meandering to me, and less like a well throughout cohesive album. In fact, several times I had the thought that many of these songs were just them spit balling ideas. Still pretty good, and really talented. But just a middle of the road album for me.” 3/5 – Tim
“Sorry Spencer, I only reviewed the other two because I’ve heard them enough to be confident in my assessment without revisiting. I know I’m cheating there. I’ve heard this album before, back in it’s heyday, and I actually remember liking it more than I thought I would. I’ll have to revisit it and be sure, but my guess based on decade+ impressions would be I’d give it a 6/10. I’ll give her a listen and come back to ya…” – Chris
The Dave Brubeck Quartet – Time Out (1959)
Similar to last week‘s Bach suggestion, these songs all have a similar technical theme (although not a musical one, and certainly not a lyrical one as it’s all instrumental). Which means you get to learn a little music theory.
Late ’50s west coast jazz (which is what this is) isn’t really much different than most other popular music – then or today – concerning time signatures. They’re pretty much all 4/4. If you have no idea what that means, listening to Colonel Hathi’s March (The Elephant Song) from Disney’s The Jungle Book is an ideal example. The important part is there are four beats. Some songs are 3/4 (think “waltz”: 1 2 3, 1 2 3, 1 2 3), but between the two time signatures, that covers about 95 percent of the music you’ve ever heard. Maybe more. There are some prog bands and math rock bands that do things differently, and even more traditional rock bands will occasionally slip in an extra measure of something, but it is very much the exception and not the rule.
With this record, Dave Brubeck wanted to explore other time signatures. The most notable song on the album (actually written by their saxophone player, Paul Desmond, for their drummer, Joe Morello), Take Five is also (ironically) Dave Brubeck’s most well-known song. By the name, you might guess that it’s in 5/4, and you’d be right: 1 2 3, 4 5. It’s a fine sax and drum duet, but boring for every one else.
And always being one of the other people, it’s never been my favorite Brubeck tune. I’ve always liked the album opener, Blue Rondo à la Turk, more. It’s based on a traditional Eastern European rhythm in what western music writes as 9/8: 1 2, 3 4, 5 6, 7 8 9.
It’s rhythmically some of the most interesting music you may ever listen to, although unless you were listening for it, you may never realize that anything was different.
Here’s what my friends thought:
“This one is a classic. I’ve listened to it several times. I agree the opening Blue Rondo is possibly the strongest on the album since Take 5 gets tired. That said though, Take 5 is the 5/4 time 101. Anyone remotely interested in Jazz should be aware of it, and a player has to have played it a few times. It was my first intro to strange meters, and thats an important skill for jazz players. Really I don’t think its boring for everyone else, because the bass has to walk in 5/4 which can’t be an easy task, and its only a quartet, so mostly just the pianist has the boring part and that riff is pretty fun.
All that said, its a classic, but west coast jazz isn’t my favorite of the genre. Still, for west coast jazz, this one is still a good listen. It’s truly great.” 4.3/5 – Spencer
“This was a nice chill album to listen to. Got me through the work day and had a great arrangement from track to track. Well worth the listen.” 4/5 – Tim
“Sorry, I know I’m not reviewing everything this week, but I had to chime in on this one as it’s one of my favorite albums of all time. Much of that has to do with growing up with it – my dad was always listening to it when I was little and then trying to play the tunes himself on the piano. This, to me, is a flawless album. Not a week spot on the thing. “Take Five” ranks in my top 15 songs of all time, even though it’s a bit of an odd man out on the album as it was written by (and showcases) the sax player more than anything. But, again, not a weak track on this album. A classic I own on vinyl.” 10/10 – Chris
Please leave your own thoughts in the comments below.