Reviews by jfclams
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When Steve Mariott split from the Small Faces to form Humble Pie, what was left of the group (Ian McLagan, Ronnie Lane, and Kenney Jones) joined forces with Rod Stewart and Ronnie Wood for a new venture, and became the Faces. From there, they proceeded to record four of the most unassuming, beguiling, down-to-earth rock releases of all time, along with one so-so live album. Out of the four studio records, this is the one that sounds most like a late-period Small Faces album, so it's clear the Small Faces part of the group were running the show. The good thing was, how seamlessly Stewart and Wood fit into the Marriott role and in some cases, kicked things up a notch ("Flying"), while Lane was given room for his ever-burgeoning contributions ("Stone", "Devotion"). This was and is a highly underrated record.
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It's hard to have anything but mixed emotions listening to Easy Action, also known as that album sandwiched between the ACB band's debut, and Love It To The Death which everyone considers to be their real debut. Which is natural, but Easy Action has its merits, of the off-beat variety. Nine fairly crazy songs that were simply in need of some direction and belief, but without it, the band was in danger of feeling like rebels without a cause. Not even their own producer (David Briggs) cared at this point, referring to the music as "Psychedelic Shit" (according to drummer Neal Smith), but amongst the confusion there are flashes of geniune horror, like the rampaging "Kingdom of the Spiders".
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Everything Is Wrong was basically the ultra-serious version of Beastie Boys' albums like Check Your Head and Ill Communication, where it was anything-goes, experimenting with different genres, except put in a general electronica context, and then on top of that, the overall mood is one of…well…just look at the album title and cover. I usually keep political context out of these reviews, but it has to be mentioned here – Moby is vegan, and obviously believed that our entire society was an illusion – therefore, it’s the overriding theme of the disc, plain and simple. The problem I have with this is, he seems to be so angry and/or depressed that, one way or another, he cannot properly focus this energy to make this disc entertaining (forget about great), although at certain points it does get mildly interesting. We can roughly divvy up the tracks here into a few general areas – the up-tempo/electronica tracks, the ambient/chill/ballad tracks, and the rock tracks. Out of all of these, the most interesting by far are the rock tracks, but there’s only two of these, the vague hair-metal of “All That I Need Is to Be Loved” and the really garbled (in a cool way) blues-thrasher “What Love”. Moby himself does the vocals on both tracks and sounds awkward, and the overall vibe is very off-the-cuff, but other than that, they work reasonably OK, as if somehow you get the feeling this is the kind of music that comes more natural to him. The up-tempo tracks take up most of the first part of disc. I’m not going to name all of them, but the most notable one probably is “Feeling So Real”, which is so up-tempo it sounds like it should be mashed up with Benny Hill chase videos – that’s how ridiculous it gets. Otherwise, Moby’s up-tempo stuff, at this stage, is strangely retro-sounding compared to his colleagues in the genre at the time, like Chemical Brothers and Prodigy, and especially next to artists like Autechre and Aphex Twin. But at least they could be construed as unintentionally funny, whereas the chill out ballads and instrumentals are meant to be taken dead serious. And those tracks are all on the second half of the album! I don’t know, in general, these exercises simply bore me, but one of them, “God Is Moving over the Face of the Waters”, pretty much just looped the same maudlin passage over and over, and was begging for a voice-over from Morgan Freeman or Peter Coyote. That one was extra special in the excruciating department. Then the next, and thankfully last song, “When it’s Cold I’d Like to Die”, featuring a vocalist who sounded a bit like Death warmed over, came on to complete this documentary-inspired torture-by-aural boredom. All in all, the positioning of these New Age-derived tracks really dropped the bottom out of this disc, for me at least. My guess is that they were intended as intense background music for the accompanying essays and facts Moby diligently listed in the liner notes. To tell you the truth, I actually enjoyed the essays, though. They were honest, forthright, well-written, and I can respect the viewpoints. But overall, I’m just wondering why he didn’t put some of this passion into his music! To wrap this up, Moby at this time in his career appeared to be a bundle of nerves and going in like sixteen different directions from a technical perspective. Unfortunately, he wasn’t able to translate that into a coherent experience, at least not for this listener.
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Wizzard was both Roy Wood's musicial outlet and eccentric answer to his departure from the project he started with Jeff Lynne, Electric Light Orchestra. An album and a couple of songs into that project, something was not working, because he walked out and formed a separate band with different musicians, many of whom he knew from ELO or The Move (like Rick Price). Wizzard was essentially a more radical take on the ELO concept, expanding on Wood's glam look, the number of band members, and the varying nature of sound, as the singles were artsy but more mainstream, while the album material was far more experimental. Which leads us to Wizzard Brew. Compared to Wood's solo effort Boulders, which was a whimsical delight, Wizzard Brew is the orchestral equivalent of industrial anvils clanging in a smoky factory for four months straight. Roy screams "you can dance YOUR rock and roll" with all the contempt of a scorned artist whose had enough of the audience (or colleagues) who will never fully get his art, over a destructive background of stumbling cowbell-tinged drums and a bank of horns, saxes, and strings wanting to squelch the life out of the listener's ears. It goes on from there in much the same fashion - 13-plus minutes or so, through a multitude of passages, on the epic "Meet Me at the Jailhouse" - which, depending on your point of view, could be seen as Roy's magnum opus...or his gigantic misfire. Throw in some traditional music-hall on a couple more tracks, a diving, twisting medley-style tour of the States ("Buffalo Station/Get on Down to Memphis"), and a thought-provoking ballad ("Wear a Fast Gun"), and this brew is boiling over in more ways than one. It may too much for some to bear, but fans and those with adventurous tastes will appreciate this effort.
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The airbrushed images on the cover match up with the vapid, empty statements within. About the only thing that keeps this hulk barely afloat is "Talk Dirty to Me" - which is at least fun from a nostalgic point of view - every other song is atrocious from so many angles. Possibly subsequent albums were better, but here what you get is a ton of recycled glam-metal clichés and half-hearted good times. Our old cat - bless her heart - dragged in half-dead animals with more personality than this album.
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