• Lou Reed in Review: Part III

    Jun 28 2009, 15h06

    New Sensations (1984)

    Rating: 8/10

    Reed dumped Quine shortly before the recording of New Sensations and did all the guitar work himself - it doesn't matter. This album is not a guitar record at all. Instead, Lou worked on writing 11 pop songs for the 80s. And some of the songs are his best ever, with only the 'modern' tunes 'Down at the Arcade' and 'My Red Joystick' failing. Even those tracks have comedy value. Good fun and even Dylan was envious.

    Mistrial (1986)

    Rating: 6/10

    It's easy to write Mistrial off as I had done upon hearing it at first. For a start, the cover art (by his wife) is appalling and his perverse side came out again by letting Saunders produce. But many of the songs are strong and his guitar work is outstanding. The title track is one of the most under-rated songs of his career with a great lyrical hook ('you can call me mister, you can call me sir, but don't you point your finger at me') and trademark guitar blare.

    Generally, however, the ballads are bad and only really appeal on a comedy level ('Mama's Got a Lover' refers to him buying a step-dad a Father's Day card). However, his lyrics are great on tracks like 'Video Violence' and 'The Original Wrapper', if you can see past the dated production and the tongue-in-cheek titles.

    New York (1989)

    Rating: 7/10

    Mistrial marked the end of an era for Lou as he left behind the 80s and the dumb production which sometimes undermined the strong statements he was trying to make. New York couldn't be any different. This album has aged well and is comparable to The Blue Mask. Everything is stripped down and the emphasis is very much on guitar and lyrics.

    Lou is in full on serious mode and although he does sound a bit superior at times, his lyrical talent is undeniable. The one downside is that the music just isn't that captivating and borders on the generic. But he was obviously past caring (did he ever care?) and everything on here is worth listening to, even just once. In many ways, one of his most credible albums.

    Lou Reed
    New Sensations
    New York
  • Lou Reed in Review: Part II

    Jun 27 2009, 16h16

    Rock and Roll Heart (1976)

    Rating: 3/10

    This was a low period in Lou's life (he was apparently close to bankruptcy) and musically, he's just as redundant. This is a joke of an album with songs that Reed clearly wrote in less than 10 minutes. Horns, keyboards, false happiness throughout and of course the best song is an unreleased Velvets track, the closer 'Temporary Thing', with the vicious opening line: 'Hey now, bitch, now baby, you better make your face, get out of here quick' That's more like it, Lou.

    Street Hassle (1978)

    Rating: 9/10

    Dumbfounding critics again, Lou bounced back with his best work in years. I've seen this album described as 'anti-Springsteen' and that's a good assessment. The irony is still all there but instead of the Boss' booming horns and guitars, everything is filthy. From the mix, the vocals, to the lyrics, it's as murky as the title and cover would suggest. And hey, Bruce is on it anyway. He turns up on the end of the title track, which may well be the best song of Lou's solo career.

    Lou is on the offensive throughout and you'll either find 'I Wanna Be Black' hilarious or never want to listen to him again. It's that kind of album.

    The Bells (1979)

    Rating: 7/10

    For the first time in his career, Lou used collaborators on all songs, relying heavily on Nils Lofgren. And if one thing can be said for The Bells, it's his strangest album - and this from a man who released Metal Machine Music and Berlin. None of the songs are conventionally commercial but it's still a remarkable entertaning listen with only the title track - a perverse, unlistenable excercise in torture - being a downer.

    It's fair to say that it's also Lou's last 'drug album' (he's speeding on some of the tracks and sounds completely spaced out on others) as afterwards his career took a different direction, with narratives on how he had cleared up his act. A cool way to finish the 70s, though.

    Growing Up In Public (1980)

    Rating: 3/10

    Comparable to Rock and Roll Heart in its idiocy at times, Growing Up In Public is actually a huge waste. He came up with a load of good lyrics but failed to write any decent melodies or music. And the band? Awful. Hardly a good song on here, sadly.

    The Blue Mask (1982)

    Rating: 7/10

    With the help of Robert Quine, Lou got his act together and started to play guitar again for the first time in over 10 years. This album is not for everyone. Not commercial like Transformer or funny like Sally Can't Dance, The Blue Mask is a serious statement in guitar rock and lyricism. And unlike the drivel which had came before, Lou is sincere on every track, to the extent that almost everything is a personal statement or confession. Not party music but an album to be respected.

    Legendary Hearts (1983)

    Rating: 5/10

    Lou's perversity really comes to the fore here. After an excellent album, he follows it up with this - a mediocre run of empty sentiment and weak melody. He has the best band of his career but he buries Quine who only takes a couple of solos on the whole record. Instead, Saunders is so high up on the mix, there may as well be no bass. There are a few good songs: 'Martial Law', 'Don't Talk To Me About Work' and 'The Last Shot' are all prime 80s Reed and display what a good band he actually did have.

    Lou Reed

    Rock And Roll Heart
    Street Hassle
    The Bells
    Growing Up in Public
    The Blue Mask
    Legendary Hearts
  • Lou Reed in Review: Part I

    Jun 26 2009, 16h11

    Lou Reed (1972)

    Rating: 7/10

    Lou's first solo album, released two years after he left the Velvets (he reportedly spent a year working with his father in an office) is one of his best. Comprised of new songs and tunes which simply never made it onto VU records (but which would be later released in out-take compilations; seven of the ten songs were Velvets tracks), it's the air-tight production which lets this one down.

    Lou sounds in great form throughout, however. Great singing and you can imagine him smiling (God, imagine that, Lou Reed smiling) while tearing through this set. Lou is musically active, too, which is something that can't be said for much of his later solo career. He's playing guitar and keyboards throughout.

    There's only one bad song and that's the closer, the Velvets re-hash 'Ocean', which was done much better with his old buddies. Bizarrely I prefer the version of 'Berlin' on here.

    Transformer (1972)

    Rating: 8/10

    It's an 8 but a high 8. Bowie produced and Mick Ronson on guitars and as a result Transformer is the most commercial album of Reed's career.

    Once again, Lou relied on some of his VU catalogue ('Satellite of Love' was not an original) but most of the material works perfectly in the context of the whole album, which is often labelled as 'glam'. It's not. Lou is as sarcastic and deadpan as ever ('Perfect Day') and there's only a few instances of high camp on the record. Gary Glitter or the Sweet would never have bothered with any of these songs. Co-incidentally, the silly songs are the least compelling.

    'Vicious', however, is a classic and one of his best ever.

    Berlin (1973)

    Rating: 7/10

    Polarising opinion like never before, critics wrote Reed off as dead upon release of this album. It's not hard to see why. He sounds dead on the record. Everything is delivered with such indifference, it's very difficult to care about the serious themes he's trying to convey. Likewise, the bloated instrumentation sounds so strangled that it's an album which is difficult to stomach. A high mark for its bravery but he would do it so much better live 40 years later when the material had space to breathe.

    Sally Can't Dance (1974)

    Rating: 7/10

    A hilarious turn-around. In complete contrast to Berlin, Lou went ahead and released a joke album. At least it's funny. The production is mostly the same with Reed apparently not involved at all (he only plays acoustic guitar on one track) but the strongs are actually strong. The title track is one of his most distasteful songs but try listening to 'Ride Sally Ride' and 'Animal Language' without smiling. If the lyrics don't get you, the absolutely absurd delivering (Lou barks on the former) and stupid instrumentation will. Lou isn't laughing though. Look at the cover, it's as if he's having a stroke.

    Also features the highly-influential 'Kill Your Sons'

    Metal Machine Music (1975)

    Rating: 0/10

    0/10 because of its sheer lack of musical content. 64 minutes of pure noise (Lou claimed there were symphonic harmonies playing underneath it all which required special hearing) and there's very little between all four 'songs', although the fourth track appears to be louder. I have listened to it (several times in fact) and it doesn't get any better. However, it was the ultimate 'fuck you' from Reed and it effectively finished him as a commercial prospect as a consequence for another decade.

    In its defence, it is the all-time album if you work in the city and hear intense drilling or traffic all day. If that kind of noise is your thing, you will love this album to death.

    Coney Island Baby (1976)

    Rating: 6/10

    Or the Many Moods of Lou Reed

    I have wrestled with this album for a while but its essentially too fluffy and the serious songs are rarely compelling enough to rate highly, although I do like the title track a lot. The poppy songs are some of his best ever and for that, it's a fully deserved 6. Lyrically, he's doing well on 'Crazy Feeling' and 'A Gift' is one of the funniest songs of his career. Thumbs down for the dire Velvets cover and the snoozy experiment 'Kicks'. Maybe the soft production undermined any kind of message he was trying to get across on this album and in the end he fell straight in the middle ground: it's not a classic with the casual or hardcore fan.

    More soon!

    Lou Reed

    Lou Reed
    Sally Can't Dance
    Metal Machine Music
    Coney Island Baby
  • Photograph: The Very Best of Ringo Starr (2007)

    Jun 23 2009, 15h55

    Talk about an oxymoron, I hear you say!!

    Well, you're the oxymoron for thinking that about this thoroughly enjoyable 20 track 2007 compilation from good ol' Ringo!!!

    The main criticism that was levelled at Starr during his career (and probably still is) was the strength of his voice. But along with being an excellent and original drummer, Ringo's foghorn voice is what elevates so much of this otherwise pedestrian material to jovial levels. He's no Dennis Wilson but he is eons ahead of Keith Moon who surely had one of the most laughable voices ever committed to vinyl (Phil Collins aside).

    His vocal reputation was not helped by the dross he had to sing with the Beatles, notably 'Yellow Submarine' - one of the worst Beatles songs ever.

    But as mentioned, it's Ringo's sincerity and straightforward delivery which make these corny songs so great. Who else could get away with "You're Sixteen (You're Beautiful and You're Mine)" and its utterly ridiculous, borderline smutty lyrics? Not Bill Wyman anyway!

    There is one genuine classic on the whole record, that being "It Don't Come Easy" a song written with George Harrison. With trademark Starr fills and a snappy Harrison solo, it was a deserving hit.

    Elsewhere, there is the exercise in nostalgia ("Photograph" - not a Nickleback cover, strangely enough), an atrocious Elton John song which he rescues with a brilliant vocal performance ('Snookeroo") and the hilarious anti-drug message ("The No-No Song"). Who else but Ringo could make the sappy Harrison tribute "Never Without You" work? There's also a good cover of "Act Naturally". Sadly, the Lennon donation "(It's All Down To) Goodnight Vienna" is a bit disappointing.

    The formula never changes. It's fat horns, soaring strings, twangy guitars and thunderous low-end piano all the way. Add hilarious vocals and good drumming and you've got a decent compilation of songs.

    And what about the cover? It's tasteful! Baring in mind that Ringo was responsible for some of the most horrific cover-art ever (even GG Allin never pushed it as far as ol' Richard), the picture on Photograph is very sharp indeed. But let's never forget the cover to Ringo the 4th in which his head is between a woman's legs! Fun for all the family!!! (the Mansons that is)

    10/10 for effort, great fun. Put it on at your next gathering and alienate your family and friends.

    Ringo Starr
    The Beatles
  • The Kinks: All Day and All of the Night

    Jun 23 2009, 14h50

    I've posted this before but what harm can it do to put it up again.


    The KinksAll Day and All of the Night
  • Brian Wilson: Imagination (the lost Beach Boys album)

    Jun 22 2009, 11h06

    Listening to this great Brian album again yesterday had me thinking that this would have been the ideal reunion record had tragic events and stupid squabbles not got in the way. Carl Wilson died shortly before the album's release, in February 1998, and Al Jardine was in the process of suing Brian. Meanwhile, Mike Love and Bruce Johnston were doing their best to charge on with their own idea of the 'Beach Boys'.

    It had been rumoured that Mike and Brian were writing songs again in the mid-90s but it proved to be once again another false dawn. Instead, their last studio effort was the dreadful Stars and Stripes Volume 1 from 1996 and the Beach Boys' only venture into country music. Devoid of originality, the only high point was Willie Nelson's cover of 'The Warmth of the Sun'.

    Clearly Mike Love had no intention to produce any new material (despite perennial claims to the contrary and annual rumours about albums entitled 'Mike Love, Not War') but Brian continued anyway and produced Imagination in July 1998, a decade after his magnificent eponymous debut.

    The album itself is a bit of hodge-podge of the old and new, as Brian's solo material has been in recent years. There are five (!) Beach Boys covers, albeit with 'Let Him Run Wild' being the sole mainstream effort. The reading of that particular classic is not so good but the versions of 'She Says That (Sherry) She Needs Me' and 'Keep an Eye on Summer' are stellar.

    The originals stand alongside his debut album in terms of strength. The title track and 'Lay Down Burden' (dedicated to Carl) are wonderful songs and are as good as anything the Beach Boys had done in 20 years.

    It's sad listening to the album, however, knowing that these tracks could have been performed by the Beach Boys and probably fairly adequately with good production. Mike would have sounded great on 'South American' , 'Sunshine' and the fade-out to 'Your Imagination', while Carl, ironically, could have easily handled 'Lay Down Burden'. What about Al and Bruce on 'Dream Angel' ?

    It's probably true that the Beach Boys were destined to never collaborate again - too much animosity existed between all members.

    But Imagination is a good album to reflect on what might have been had it gone a bit better.The Beach BoysBrian Wilson
  • The Beach Boys: Keepin' The Summer Alive, Concert, Carl & The Passions, 15 Big Ones

    Jun 21 2009, 17h47

    Keepin' The Summer Alive (1980)

    Bruce Johnston's production lets things down and kills the best songs (title track; 'Goin' On') The latter is probably the last great song the Beach Boys ever did. As for Johnston's own 'Endless Harmony' it is another laughable schmaltz that he should have donated to Manilow.

    Concert (1964)

    If you've heard the original tapes, you'll realise that the Beach Boys were an AWFUL live act (the singing is always good however). Only Carl Wilson was an adequate onstage musician and even he needed prompting to solo. Al Jardine was no guitar player and Brian was never comfortable in public anyway. The way around all this mediocrity? Patch it up in the studio and slather a load of teenage screaming later on. Fairly convincing, apart from the rather obviously hand claps on 'I Get Around'. Absolutely awful track selection (there's 'Johnny B. Goode' but no 'Surfin USA' and also the excruciating 'Little Ol' Lady from Pasadena' and 'Monster Mash'!!!)

    Carl and The Passions, So Tough (1972)

    Elton John's favourite Beach Boys album! No wonder, it's shite!....

    It's not but it's not particularly interesting either. Where's Brian? Three good songs ('You Need a Mess of Help..', 'Marcella' and 'All This is That' (one of the best non-Brian songs ever)) surrounded by some really mediocre work.

    15 Big Ones (1976)

    Oh, so careless. But the title never fails to make me laugh. Best song: 'It's OK'
  • The Who: It's Hard

    Jun 21 2009, 14h52

    What better way to get over a hangover than to listen to the Who's worst ever studio album. Yes, that's right....Tommy!

    No wait, It's Hard.

    Let's start with the cover. Pete Townshend is looking at you with pity for daring to listen to such drivel. And then there's some kid playing an arcade game, behind the Who's best ever drummer (after Simon Phillips) Kenney Jones. There are two other guys on the cover. No idea who they are.

    So onto the songs. Opening up is 'Anthena' (written about famous tv presenter Anthena Turner) First lyric: 'Athena, I had no idea how much I'd need her'

    You'd be right to turn off then.

    'Athena, my heart felt like a shattered glass in an acid bath
    It felt like one of those flattened ants you find on a crazy path
    I'd have topped myself to give her time she didn't need to ask
    Was I a suicidal psychopath?'

    'It's Your Turn' has the anthemic, bogus keyboard riff that would prove so popular on that great Kinks hit 'Down all the Days (till 1992). Opening line: 'Up here on the ledge, I'm getting pushed to the edge' Listening to that, I'm getting reminded of a much better song Townshend wrote about 10 years earlier.

    The lyrics get worse!

    'I was a face in a magazine,
    When you were still playin' with your plasticine,
    Now you're doggin' my tail, ridin' the slipstream,
    You can take the fans and the enemies
    The little girls who squeeze and tease
    Then pass on their social disease,
    Go get your penicillin.'


    The title track, admittedly, is not bad but is nothing new (actually, a poorer take on 'You Better You Bet'). Again, stupid keyboard backing (and flubbed guitar solo) and the unforgettable refrain 'It's hard, it's so very very hard!' Ever tried using that on the dancefloor? Sure, it works every time!

    'Dangerous', written by the bass player Bill Wyman is not bad but Daltrey's singing is again terrible.

    'Eminence Front' is a classic Who song with no involvement from Daltrey (thank God) and it sounds as though it would have suited Townshend's solo work well. What's it about? Who cares. Great groove, excellent drumming from Jones.

    The record takes another nosedive with 'I've Known No War', thanks to Daltrey's macho singing, destroying any kind of message there was in the tune.

    'One Life's Enough' is another decent effort but why are the synths on this album so bad??? Was Townshend using his daughter's toy keyboard??

    'One at a Time'. God awful and the worst production I've ever heard from the Who (another Entwistle track).

    'Why Did I Fall for That?' Ironic! Actually, not too bad a track but sounds very familiar to something else they did.

    I can't bring myself to mention the last two tracks but it doesn't get much better. No originality on It's Hard and it's safe to say that Townshend was saving his best for his excellent solo career. He did not care for the Who and it really shows on this album. For that, it is a half-way interesting listen. It can't be entirely written off ('Eminence Front' is excellent) but this is certainly the worst record The Who ever released.

    Rolling Stone gave this 5/5 upon release, so go with their view and buy it now!!


    Mark Prindle.

    It's HardThe Who
  • The Best of The Beach Boys: Unreleased

    Set 14 2008, 13h06

    As one of the best and most enduring bands in pop history, The Beach Boys have one of the biggest back catalogues of any group. Yet, still so many tracks remain unreleased and their judgement throughout the years to keep so many good songs in the vault was questionable at best. Indeed, group politics played a big part in keeping several great songs off albums, in favour of dreck, particularly in the latter stages of their career. Here are some of their best unreleased songs that were either unfinished or completed and yet still didn't appear on any Beach Boys studio LP.

    'Awake' (Brian Wilson) - Recorded as a demo by Brian Wilson in 1970, the song didn't make it onto any album. It is a song probably more suited to another group, which is likely why is was given away to his wife's group, American Spring. Still, a tremendous song which holds up on this piano-only demo with Brian's falsetto still strong at this point.

    'Brian's Back' (Mike Love) - A harmless enough song, written by Mike Love, as an ode to Brian Wilson's return to recording and touring in 1976. Cornball lyrics which constantly harken back to the 'glory days' but he just about manages to stay on the right side of good taste. Would have been ideal as a closer on the otherwise terrible 15 Big Ones.

    'City Blues' (Brian Wilson) - A great demo cut by Brian and Dennis Wilson during both of their lowest drug dependant points in either 1981 or 1982. Easily better and more intricate than anything on the previous three Beach Boys albums, it eventually appeared on Gettin' In Over My Head with Eric Clapton on lead guitar. No doubt ignored because of the circumstances in which it was created.

    'Lady' (aka 'Fallin' In Love) (Dennis Wilson) - It is astonishing that a song of this quality was ignored at any point, even if it was a Dennis number. Rejected for both Sunflower and Surf's Up, Dennis released the song on his own anyway. One of the great Beach Boys lost classics without a doubt.

    'My Solution' (Brian Wilson) - A creepy number done in the manner of SMiLE, 'My Solution' was worked on in 1970 and 1980 but never released unfortunately. It is certainly one of the most interesting demos the Beach Boys ever did with clashing chords, bubbling sound effects and strange instrumentation. Brian eventually did a disappointing version on his solo album Imagination with a rotten extra verse, calling it 'Happy Days'.

    'Soulful Old Man Sunshine' (Brian Wilson, Rick Henn) - Although eventually issued on a compilation in 1998, this track was overlooked at the time (early 70s) which said more about the quality of the other songs the group were writing at the time than anything else. This is totally inspired however and very unlike anything else in the Beach Boys canon. Brian Wilson at his best.

    'Sherry, She Needs Me' (Brian Wilson w/lyrics) - With the backing track from the mid-60s, Brian did a vocal circa 1977. Why this was ignored for something like the MIU album is, again, a mystery. Easily better than half of that particular record, the song again appeared on Brian's 1998 album Imagination called 'She Says That She Needs Me'

    'Stevie' (Brian Wilson) - From 1980, this song has yet to appear at all on a Bri solo album or a compilation. Interesting, as it is a great song for the time. Easily better than anything on Keepin' The Summer Alive but didn't get past the rough demo stage, although there is a brass section on the track. Might be a tribute to Stevie Wonder?

    'Still I Dream Of It' (Brian Wilson) - Arguably the greatest unreleased Beach Boys song ever, this 1977/78 effort was lost in the shuffle of the rejected Adult Child project. With great lyrics and music from Brian, there are two versions - one with a bare vocal and piano and the 'official' version with full backing. The rough version appeared on Brian's self appraising album 'I Just Wasn't Made For These Times' in 1995.

    'You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin' (Spector, Weil, Mann) Always a huge fan of Phil Spector, Brian tackles this classic perfectly and it really puts the covers on 15 Big Ones to shame. From late 1976.

    The Beach BoysBrian Wilson
  • Only one GG in Rock Music

    Ago 24 2008, 20h01

    And it isn't Gary Glitter. Sorry, Mr Gadd

    GG Allin

    GG Allin
    Gary Glitter