For a couple of 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.
Count Basie Orchestra – April in Paris (1957)
This may be my shortest review of an album since we started playing this game:
I love the jump in Magic, Midgets and Dinner with Friends. And I think I’ve played Corner Pocket before. It’s exactly what I’d expect to hear in a film when someone shows up at a swanky casino/hotel. What am I Here For? was pretty good too. This is solid jazz with no lowlights. The closest they get is Sweetie Cakes, which is fine. It just feels 15 years older than the rest of the album. 4/5
Here’s what my friends thought:
“This was a another good album this week. Which is a lot coming from me with a Jazz album. I mean I respect Jazz, I just don’t love it and find a lot of it to be too indulgent. But this one was really good, and is something I can see myself listening to in the background at home while doing chores or eating dinner.” 3/5 – Tim
Rage Against the Machine – Evil Empire (1996)
I like some Rage, but generally I’m not a fan of Zack de la Rocha’s vocal style or sound. It’s also hard when I don’t usually like really political messages in my music. If I wanted to be preached to, I’d listen to the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. It’s especially hard when I don’t care about what they’re preaching. I just don’t get why they’re so angry.
That being said, I love the energy of the three opening tracks, although Vietnow started to lose me a little. It reminded me of Guerilla Radio on their next album, and I think that tune was better. Tom Morello is a great guitarist, but backing a rapper means that it doesn’t always come through. Oddly, though it was the solos where I had the most complaint. The solo in Snakecharmer just sounds like feedback, and Roll Right‘s was just odd and repetitive and didn’t really do anything for me. Some riffs in Wind Below sounded like a high fidelity SNES soundtrack, but I can’t decide if that’s a good thing or not.
I haven’t listened to this album in a long while (ok, maybe it’s been a year), but I forgot that I liked Tire Me as much as I do. It’s one of the better tracks on the album. I also liked Revolver more than I remembered. I think the kind of bi-polar-ness of the tune threw me off before, but I think the manic parts would be too much without the depressing parts.
Bulls on Parade is my favorite track on the album. It does a good job about balancing it’s anger, oddness, etc. – although I’m still not a fan of the turn tables. It’s better than I remembered, but not my favorite Rage album (that’d be Battle for the Streets of Los Angeles) or my favorite this week. 2/5
Thoughts from my friends:
“I had a fling with Rage for a while. Tom Morello is a master of power chords. He’s quite criticized that he doesn’t play guitar, he plays effects. I think its pretty awesome and creative. This album is ok, but it really didn’t hold the same power in the music anymore from when I first started looking into Rage. Maybe I need to listen louder, but I remember being shocked by how hard they could drive the guitar and bassline but now it sounded more run of the mill rock. Vietnow was a bit over-the top explicit IMO, and none of the other tracks seemed as good as Bulls, but they were enjoyable. Maybe thats just nostalgia since I don’t remember any other tracks from before.
I also don’t love the political agenda in here. Strangely though I feel like Audioslave never got the same power in their music, so there may be something to having a message.
So kinda fun, but not really my thing. I like hearing Morello play so that squeezed by a 4.0/5” – Spencer
“So here’s the thing with this album for me. It isn’t anything I would enjoy on a regular basis. BUT there is a ton of talent here. The music is just crisp and well timed. When contrasted with the harsh lyrics/vocals it creates this odd environment where you are kept off base.
They really do an incredible job of controlling the audience with each track and the flow of the album. Again, not really my day-to-day kind of album, but it falls into the modern masterpiece category for me. If for nothing else than the shear sound it creates, that frankly didn’t exist in it’s current form before RAGE.” 4/5 – Tim
The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra – Plays the Music of R.E.M. (1999)
This is essentially a greatest hits collection played by some seriously talented musicians. My only real concern going in is if these songs work for an orchestra. Are the musicians too square to play ’90s alt. rock?
I liked that they kept the mandolin on Losing My Religion. And … the English horn? the oboe? whatever was doing the melody most of the time was a good choice. Nice and melancholy. The groove on Stand held up, too. They had some great keyboard solos.
Everybody Hurts really depends on it’s lyrics. Otherwise, it’s a rather boring, repetitive song. They did give the middle a little dixieland funeral band feel, but it was still a lowlight. And Strange Currencies didn’t have enough melodic movement. It was obviously centered around a lyrical line, and it didn’t translate so well. Near Wild Heaven was somewhere between those two.
I’ve listened to a lot of R.E.M., but I don’t remember Drive at all. Unless The Orchestra gave it a more Ennio Morricone-inspired Western flare. Now I have to go back and find the original….
The One I Love is the song I felt best represented this, but I think it would have been better (it was still good and enjoyable) to have the orchestra backing R.E.M. and adding texture instead of just covering them. 3/5
From my friends:
“So I appreciate the thought, but I actually got really bored by this. Someone once told me no one would be able to tell the Royal Phil. does Pink Floyd isn’t classical music. I disagreed entirely and same here. I’m not much of an REM fan, and taking rock and just playing it with orchestral instruments ends up being really boring to me. Without the lyrics it loses a lot. The melody is WAY too redundant to just have it instrumental. Switching from oboe to french horn isn’t enough to keep me interested. To me the only way to do this sort of thing is you’ve got to make the arrangement freaky. I guess this opinion comes from playing jazz charts where they’ve done this. Maybe I’ll share an album like that next week.” 2.6/5 – Spencer
Brandon Flowers – The Desired Effect (2015)
When I started my new job in August, I sat next to a guy who told me to check out Brandon Flowers’ second solo album. My coworker said he heard The Desired Effect got better reviews – implying his first one (Flamingo) didn’t get great reviews. I really liked Flamingo, although it had more country overtones than The Killers‘ stuff.
Anyway, here we are six months later and that guy doesn’t even work here any more, I’m finally getting around to listening to this album. I thought you guys might want to give it a listen, too.
The only other thing I know about this album is that it was produced by Ariel Rechtshaid, who has come up a few times in the past couple of years playing this game.
Diggin’ up the Heart was a weird mix of ’80s hard country pop rock. So actually it’s exactly what I expected to hear after Flamingo. Lonely Town was a weirder, more obtuse mix of ’80s country pop rock, and I’m not sure I liked it. At least Diggin’ up the Heart blended those elements together better. Actually, the whole album has pretty much the same (mostly ’80s inspired) feel, just blended up differently. It all makes sense as a logical step away from The Killers.
Also, Can’t Deny My Love reminded me of Stevie Nicks’ Edge of Seventeen.
The album opener and closer both grew on me, but Untangled Love were my favorite of the bunch, but I don’t like this album as much as Flamingo. 3/5
There are also two bonus tracks not on Spotify, including a better remix of Between Me and You and the title track, which is worth a listen.
Here’s what my friends thought:
“Brandon is not bad. I like his work in the killers better than this though. His first solo album was too country, and this one seems a bit too dancey. So nothing against him or his skills, just doesn’t seem to sing to me. I did want to go give it another listen but didn’t get to it.” 3.4/5 – Spencer
“This was a good album for me, solid build, and nice sound. But I don’t think he’s better without The Killers. Some artists just are better as part of a whole than individually, and this feels like the case with him. I respect his ability, and again, the album is good, it just isn’t better than his Killers stuff.” 3/5 – Tim