Saturday, May 28, 2016

Honky Château - Elton John

So its May, and this is my favorite month. Later next month I'll have a 50th anniversary review, and maybe another one too. But for now I'm just gonna do this to so it, and since I've been listening to it why not. This being the fifth studio album by famous British pianist and singer/songwriter Elton John. The LP was released in May 1972, following Madman Across The Water, released 6 months prior in November 1971. The title of the album is named after the location it was recorded, Château d'Hérouville in France. A number of people recorded at the location and a number of albums were recorded there, mostly in part. Some include Low, Long Live Rock n RollThe Idiot, The Slider, Obscured by Clouds, MiragePin Ups and Elton's next two studio records following the this.
  1. Honky Cat: This tune happens to be a personal favorite of mine. It's songs like this that show country and western honky tonk can have a fun side. The song automatically pulls you in and I love that banjo, played by Davey, and the other string instruments here. I also love the acoustic guitar and how the keys compliment the bass and everything.... Everything works here. It all isn't exactly the same thing and the brass just rocks. Lyrically the song is a perfect song in the vein of a Goodbye Yellow Brick Road. This really is a fucking amazing song and has some tasty vocals from John. I also should mention, I fucking love this arrangement. Really really really really really great. I wouldn't cut a single second to be honest. Even those little rolls, the work in this song and add to it. 
  2. Mellow: Opening with piano, this feels like a song like maybe Your Song. It actually really reminds me of, but with a weird drum beat sort of. Upon first listen the song dint flow as well as some if the other songs here. Like there are parts that could work, but its too abrupt and doesn't have time for the parts. I want to mention upon multiple listens though, the chorus also reminds me a bit of Shine Your Light but a lesser version of said song. The solo section has a violin played by my boy Jean-Luc and Sir Elton plays plays an organ. While I think this kinda works, it doesn't really. I hate to say this but this songs a bit of a hot mess. It's not terrible, but I feel like this should have been left on the cutting room floor and not on the record. It doesn't feel up to the other songs I love on here. I think the problem is the song doesn't have enough time for the parts to breathe or flow and just work naturally. It's not like the organic way the song was almost. It's almost like it was planned not like it just evolved into that. Or maybe they didn't practice it enough. Who knows. 
  3. I Think I'm Going to Kill Myself: You know, considering how PC I am I don't think I can listen to this without cringing and finding Mr John and Taupin very inconsiderate people. But if your someone who isn't an idiot, you'd know it's tongue-in-cheek. I mean really, there's a fucking tap dancer on the track from the Bonzo Dog Do-Dah Band. So when I finally got to the song it has its actually a great song. There is a novelty honky-tonk feeling but the arrangement is awesome. Really, listen to the bass and the piano and the other instruments and their rhythms. I love it and its really how you make a pop song interesting. This is kind of a perfect song, the harmonies and contrasts in the sections and the instrumentation. This is another top notch pop song from the John/Tapin camp. Plus its lyrically hilarious, talking about a teenager who doesn't get his way so he acts dramatically. Very tongue-in-cheek. I also love the inflection he uses in the chorus its damn fucking kooky. 
  4. Susie (Dramas): This sort of reminds me of another song by this guy, off the bat. The chorus isn't half bad, but I'm not sure if it works so much or not. I mean it fits snugly on the record, but as a track. After a few listens I do like the chorus more than I did, but that being the high light.... Is that enough. It's a decent tune but not a stand out. 
  5. Rocket Man (I Think It's Going to Be a Long, Long Time): Probably the best known song off the album, it is. There is a very very sad feeling to this song. I mean, lots of outer space song have this sort of undercurrent of sadness but yeah. The harmonies in that pre-chrous are haunting and in the refrain are amazing. The slide adds to the atmosphere and really, can you find a problem here. It kind just is crafted quite fucking well. Then an ARP (synth) comes in, played by engineer David Hentschel, and it adds another texture to the song in such a successful way. It's so good. There's also great use of the acoustic guitar in this track. I also think it was smart to have the bass less present in the mix. Plus while strings would add to it, I think the slide and ARP do a well enough job. So it wouldn't be all that necessary. 
  6. Salvation: This song... I didn't know really. I mean it ain't half bad, but I couldn't make heads or tails time 1. I liked the guitar tone, and like the epic feeling... But was it warranted. Like I feel like its kinda like pushing this big feeling on me.  About a minute in I feel like this could be the middle or ending and not just the beginning. I actually felt like a part of the song was missing from the song. Where was the build to make this gospel feeling supposed to pay off. I mean there is a quite part, but like..... Is it long enough o get me invested in the track. The second time around maybe it worked better, in terms of the second part where it repeated after the soft part. I don't know. But then it still felt that way after a number of listens. 
  7. Slave: Again at it with theses trigger words, how dare you sir. This song is pretty decent, I like the hand drums in the chorus I'm hearing. There is a country vibe with the acoustic guitar and the slide guitar. I mean it's not amazing but it ain't half bad. The only thing is that solo I felt like should have been the ending. Like a fade out during that maybe. 
  8. Amy: Of the last few song this is kind of drawing my attention again. There is something about it that is fun. There is also this feeling of a song, that reminds me if Bob Seger, but i cant recall the title. There also appears to be a violin and judging on the solo, Jean Luc? Yeah, I've heard Over-Nite Sensation so many times and its so ingrained in my consciousness I was waiting for the solo to play that solo. Also, before I look a fool and forget to mention the nice conga work from Mr. Ray Cooper. Look him up, he's been on some decent records including No Secrets and a number of Elton records. This is a kinda hard ticket but its got a bit more to it than most straight hard rock. It's a pretty solid number that takes a number of listens to dissect. I do enjoy the guitar on this track and think it's put together well and while not perfect it works quite well. This is a pretty solid tune. I really like this tune, how many times have I said that :'D. 
  9. Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters: This title made a smile a bit, it's pretty tongue in cheek. So I assume that the song may as well be too. Now to the detriment of that atempt of feeling superior, the things is, I couldn't be wronger. I assumed it to be a fun song, and this is more a ballad. This is pretty nice and has some pretty piano, the only complaint is maybe the harmonies. I'm not 100% sold on them. It kinda took me out of the song the first few listens (though they work better, or more forgivable, with each listen). I also love how the instruments are added in, and I love the guitar apreggios in thia thing. Tasty, in a tasteful way. I also like the fact that it kind of builds, but it doesn't explode. There's a sort if build and a beauty, but it doesn't ever turn EPIC. Its nice penultimate track. Thumbs up. I mean I could see it doing that, but the simplicity, kinda, works and I don't know. It's utterly satisfying as a penultimate number. Lyrically, there a few phrases I think could be cut or cleaned up, but its still a solid number. 
  10. Hercules: This thing,  well I originally heard the Here and There live version. When I finally sat down to hear the studio version.....  Well, the live version is much more engaging and exciting if I'm being frank. Now there are a number of reasons why, but a major one might lye in the fact that the main riff (that pulls you into the tune) is played on an acoustic guitar. Giving it less force and power, in a raw sense of the word. Though, there is some nice slide work, for the solo, but it still isn't nearly as fun. I guess you could say this, the closer, is a rocker that doesn't really rock. Now okay, it fits in the context of the album. It'd almost be out of place with a electric guitar playing the riff, but still. I will also mention, yes this works as the closer and is satisfying. My complaints are more in preference not in if it works or not. I mean it isn't amazing, even live, but there is a feeling that I'd wanna join in on the live version. This isn't quite at the level that a song like Honky Cat, Love Lies Bleeding or maybe even Crocodile Rock are at in terms of engaging numbers. This version, just isn't that fun. Even David's ARP, which does add a nice texture, but ultimately goes go where if I'm being frank... Again. I do like Guswhistle on the track. So to be clear, it works on in terms of context and sound, but its just I'm not as pulled in as I'd want. All though..... Amy..... What it that had some violin on it bru. 
Overall I have to give this album a 7/10. This album is pretty good, sadly its just kinda okay when its not at its highs. There are moments here I love, but then there are hot messes and songs that underwhelm. Is this his best record? In all honesty, sadly no. Is this worth checking out? I can certainly say, it definitely is. It's kinda long, 45 minutes or so, but maybe listen in chunks. But yeah, this is a classic era record by this flamboyant piano playing talent, of course it'll be worth the listen.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Controversy - Prince

This is the fourth album by Prince and was released in 1981. This album follows the amazing 1980 Dirty Mind. While it may not be as good as that album the title track alone makes this worth a listen. This was also released in October. The album before and after were also released in October. As you may know Prince recently passed away, I plan on doing a Purple Month sometime next year maybe, but for now this'll have to suffices. Now I'm a huge fan of this guy, his Cream of the crop coming from 1980-1987 (it starts to decline after 1992 a lot). Now I will miss Prince, but not sorely. Why? Well blame it on Bowie, but after he died I said.... When's Prince and Macca and my other heroes gonna die. And when I heard the news I went, that was quicker than I wanted. :( But to honor him I'll review a pretty straightforward less popular, but solid, record.
  1. Controversy: This track opens the album. This is an amazing track from every which way. This track features Lisa Coleman as a backing singer. At 7 minutes I have to say, this really doesn't feel like it overstays its welcome. It kicks off with a punch, had a solid groove. The chorus is very catchy, and the Coleman's refrain of the title is great. Oh the track also changes enough, while not a progressive composition, it changes enough to keep me interested. I love the umph that Prince does, which sounds like a sampled voice being played through a drum (essential serving as a bass drum).
  2. Sexuality: The definition of Prince's music, at least Pre-2000. Hahahahah, that's a good joke right guys?!?! But more seriously, this was released as a single, but I don't hear it. It's kind of an uninteresting synth funk number that has been done much better by The Purple One himself. It also sounds like a song I could hear being a new wave influenced maybe on a VH1 Classic rewind music video block. This isn't terrible, but I know if I heard it I'd probably just hear it passingly. Like there isn't anything here that really drives me, outside of the review, to revisit this. The only thing that I do smile at is the lyrics that were quoted in Rainbow Children.
  3. Do, Me Baby: If I'm correct this was written by André Cymone. This also dates back to 1979, though this is a re-recording from the 1981 sessions. The one thing I have to say about this song, honestly, is damn this is long. Maybe it's a bit too long. This is a sensual song, kinda like International Lover. The only thing is this isn't as good as that track. It's almost as if that was a re-write of this, but done better.
  4. Private Joy: This was actually later covered by LaToya Jackson among others. Honestly this is a pretty fun, 80's song. I really can't hate it you know. It's pretty damn fun. While I feel like it might be a bit more fit to someone else, I can't knock it you know. I don't know which I like better, I mean the cover sounds better, but this.... I think his singing is what kind of make this sound like the original of a song that was later covered by someone else and made a hit. A number of song on that list include Since You've Been Gone, I Feel For You, Blinded by the LightNothing Compares 2 U, Respect among others. This is still a nice song and worth checking out. I do appreciate the sort of distortion and segue into the next track.
  5. Ronnie Talk to Russia: Being Lisa's second track shes on, this is a very short track. Look at it as this albums equivalent of Sister. There is some nice drum work in the beginning, then when the song starts it kind of makes me think of a rocker off The River. I mean it's a fine song, it's sweet and short, not as good as Sister or memorable, but it is what it is you know. Kinda tongue in cheek.
  6. Let's Work: Originally titled Let's Rock after a dance the title was changed to make it less timely. This song is kind of simple and these not much to it. This beginning of the song, or refrain  reminds me of Le Freak. The comes the bass line for a few bats before the vocals come in, which I think is the best part of the song. I really like the way he sings and the sort of six syllables or beats he sings and the synth backing him up. This is really a top notch song from this style. And I'm pretty sure it'll make you wanna get up and dance. This also sounds like it's pretty confident and I could almost see it being on par with the next release, if not so new wavy it could also fit on there. It's pretty confident and bold and just straight up great. I also like the synth that works as sort of strings for the track. Nice ;)
  7. Annie Christian: The segue into this next track is something else. Its almost if he was aware this is odd and he wanted to get you in the mood right away. Now this isn't odd in a "I can't believe he'd cover this topic". This is odd for the way it sounds. Like I almost feel like it's not shocking, just bizarre. It has this weird feeling to it that makes me think it's supposed to have a deeper meaning to it, but I don't know. There is a really nice guitar through out, and this icy synth that sounds like lazer shots being fired. The more I listen though, the more I love every second of this. And I'm serious about the guitar, we rarely get solos and here is like a 3 minute long one behind the track. Maybe the best way to describe this is he was a Third Days Something, I don't know but some people say that is like a cult. This song has a very cult-esque feeling to it. Almost as if he was brain washed or sung by a robot. The only real logic I can find is maybe it's about the devil, and to back that up the fact Annie Christian Annie Christ sounds like Anti Christ. 
  8. Jack U Off: If I'm not mistaken this is the first track Prince misspelled. This track, while classic in its blunt title.... It isn't classic. It kind of has the silly feeling Delirious and a number of tunes here have. This is kind fun, but I'm not sure this fun feeling is right for this song. Maybe for the chorus, but like I don't know. It doesn't leave a good feeling in my ear, or mouth. I've heard far worse song, and loved them, but this just doesn't really work for me if I'm being honest. The best part is may the harmonies, but also I feel like it doesn't work too. There is also a rock and roll feeling to this, but I don't know.
Overall I have to give this a 7.5/10. This album, while less eventful than the previous album or the follow up its kind of important. I once read, and didn't realize, this is the first album with long songs, which Prince would use extensively on his next album (and other albums not necessarily to his benefit). But this really is the middle ground between DM and 1999. Ultimately the title cut and the other two tracks are a good enough reason for me to buy a cassette, Cd, vinyl and 8-track of this album. Now that being said Prince Roger Nelson will be missed but if there's anything we can do its to keep on keeping on. He wasn't one to really back track (well until more recent years) and musicians shouldn't either. So lets keep going and make Prince and the others proud.