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.
Chicago – II (1970)
On the highlight end, I really like In the Country. It’s a sweet song that goes a little long, but that also allows for some nice variety within the track.
I’ve been a mild Chicago fan for a long time, but my wife’s family (mostly because of their dad) are big Chicago fans. So while I had a greatest hits album before, I’ve listened to all of their stuff a bit more in the last six or seven years, but still not a ton. When making breakfast on Saturday morning, their dad would apparently always turn on Chicago and use Wake Up Sunshine to summon them to breakfast. Even though he never did that when we’d visit (that I remember), I can’t help but think of him when I listen to Chicago, especially that and Colour My World. Although I didn’t love Anxiety’s Moment or Colour My World on first listen, they got better the second time around.
I know it’s been done before, but one of the covers/mash-ups of which I’m most proud in my musical career is 25 or 6 to 4 and Green Day’s Brain Stew. Now I can’t hear one without thinking of the other.
My favorite track was part of the Ballet for a Girl in Buchannon: Make Me Smile. Everything about it is great. So Much to Say, So Much to Give and To Be Free were also pretty alright.
The only lowlight for me was The Road. I can admire their unusual meter choice, but it felt disjointed. Or robotic, like they couldn’t make it feel natural. They did a similar thing (and did it better) in Fancy Colours.
It’s hard to tell, since it’s almost been a year, but I think I like this more than their debut record. 3/5
Here’s what my friends thought:
“This was a decent album. I think the first one you shared was better. As a whole it sounded good, but it got a little monotonous at times. Not enough to derail the album, but just enough for me to knock it from a 4 to a 3.” – Tim
Muse – The Resistance (2009)
We’ve done a little Muse before, and (like Rage Against the Machine) I feel like they can get a little political. But I only notice it if I’m paying attention to the lyrics, which deserve to be paid attention to unless you’re Sigur Rós and treat the vocals like another instrument, focusing less on the lyrics and more on the melodic line and tone of the voice.
I’ve never liked Undisclosed Desires. I don’t like the beat. I don’t like the strings. I don’t the remix-y production. The melody on the chorus is the best part.
Someone once said they felt United States of Eurasia was very Queen-esque. So it shouldn’t be surprising that Tim, the biggest fan of Queen I have ever met, decided to share this album (and this band again). Although to be honest, except for about six seconds of vocal harmony, I’m not sure I would have thought “Queen” without someone else suggesting it. I think the highlight of the song is the arabesque chorus section. It’s grown on me on subsequent listens. Unnatural Selection has some similar harmonies and it’s share of good moments, but I feel like it’s a little too bi-polar. Actually tri-polar. It ends pretty metal-y, which is sweet, but doesn’t fit the rest of the song, which has a hard time keeping it’s momentum. It and the next two tracks just kind of lost me, and I like them less on subsequent listens. Maybe I like them better mixed in with other stuff. The clarinet or whatever in I Belong to You was at least interesting, but didn’t quite fit. And neither did including Saint-Saëns’ piece in the middle. But I didn’t like the main feel of the rest of the song, either. Like Undisclosed Desires, I just didn’t really like anything about it.
Exogenesis: Symphony had some sweet musical ideas, but I’m not sure I liked his vocals on top of the Overture. I think they should have left it instrumental.
Again, it’s hard to tell without doing a side-by-side listen, but I think I like Black Holes and Revelations more than this. 3/5
From my friends:
“I remember seeing the music video for the opening track as my first introduction to Muse. I really like the clear vocals, the driving rock, and the cool synth sounds used throughout. I really enjoyed the whole listen. I thought United States had some serious Bohemian Rhapsody vibe in it and I liked the Chopin reference a lot. I was surprised how much of the album was quieter softer stuff but they still could pull out the stops and rock hard.
I honestly don’t know why I don’t LOVE this but Muse hasn’t really set in as a favorite. Perhaps I don’t connect with the lyrics or something. Anyway, I’ll be listening to more muse.” 4.1/5 – Spencer
Nitty Gritty Dirt Band – Will the Circle Be Unbroken (1972)
Next week, I’ll be out of town. So I’m sharing a double album this week, so if my friends don’t get around to finishing it, they’ll still have something from me next week (although there’s still a possibility I may share something next week, just not listen – because, Disney World and Harry Potter World).
This album is, to me, a genre defining album. The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band had a few studio albums under their belt when they decided to bring some old-time music legends together for a celebration of real Americana music. Most of these artists play country music, and a few of these songs are modern (which I would now define as post-USSR, but at the time this record came out I would say just post-WWII), but to me this is bluegrass and traditional American folk (not the anti-Vietnam war hippie stuff or post-O–Brother–Where–Art–Thou indie granola hipster stuff).
Growing up, for the 4th of July, we’d go to some 9th-cousin-or-something’s house in West Virginia or Georgia and sit on their porch and play what they called “hill music.” Great instrumental licks and often Southern gospel-inspired lyrics.
So enjoy. Here’s what my friends thought:
“Took me all week, but I got through it. I like bluegrass and folk stuff like this. I don’t fully understand why I like this and hate country western so bad, but thats how it is. Anyway, I enjoy it, but its not the type of thing I reach for very often. Its been a while so this was a nice changeup, but getting through 42 tracks did get a bit long. Orange blossom Special got me moving a bit, that was a highlight. A lot of it sat in the background as I was working, so I missed a lot, but it was nice background music. It didn’t strike me as the best ever folk music, but I don’t know what I would say is the best ever folk album. I guess I’m more a radio bluegrass/folk listener than an album listener.” 3.8/5 – Spencer
“I actually really like NGDB, but this album just doesn’t do it for me. I can see a musician, like Paul, really liking this, but for someone who just wants to enjoy the music, the behind the scenes became too much. This could be because it was a really long album, and for me commentary is better in doses when it comes to music. Then again, I bet a lot of people feel the same way listening to writers talk about writing, or the extras on DVDs, of which I enjoy both.
But my 2-star isn’t driven fully by my lack of interest in the behind the scenes tracks. It is also driven by the overall length, and lack of cohesive theme. The songs don’t seem to be arranged well in terms of tone and mood on the album, and while it is novel to do one take, sometimes it just felt like more polish would have benefited the song.
So yeah, two stars, which is surprising because I really like the band’s other music, or rather their own music.” 2/5 – Tim