Album Review : A Very Special Christmas 3 (1997 Special Olympics International Ltd.)

The Special Olympics is a mirror image of The Olympics, although the athletes face even greater challenges. They may be physically or mentally impaired in one form or another, but all have that inner drive to be the best at whatever sport they compete in. One of the biggest challenges is finding the funds to make it possible to participate. This  series of cd’s was put together to help fund Special Olympic athletes. In this season of giving it reminds me of a  Special Olympics event I watched in which the winning athlete waited at the line to cross hand in hand with the 2nd place athlete.

I Saw Three Ships (Sting) – A quiet song with powerful vocals. Of note on this one is the appearance of Sting’s daughter Mickey on the flute.

Christmastime (The Smashing Pumpkins) – The powerful vocals of Billy Corgan are at the forefront on this original. The orchestra in the background is really cool too.

Children Go Where I Send Thee (Natalie Merchant) – The sax and organ are the backbone of this song. The amazing back and forth vocals of Natalie Merchant and Schiavone Mcgee mixed with the New Testament Missionary Baptist Choir make this a song not to be missed.

Santa Baby (Run Rev & The Christmas All-Stars featuring Mase, Puff Daddy, Snoop Doggy Dogg, Salt N’ Pepa, Onyx, Keith Murray) – A wonderful version of 90’s rap. Many of the names have changed, but unlike some of the songs of that era, this one still sounds great today.

Oi To The World (No Doubt) – This song originally done by The Vandals is a great mix of bass, drums and guitar. It doesn’t hurt that Gwen Stefani is singing either.

Blue Christmas (Sheryl Crow) – I always think  of Elvis when I imagine this song, but this sexy, sultry, smoky version by Sheryl Crow will make you forget the blues. The guitar and harmonica work are really well done here.

Christmas (Blues Traveler) – You just know the musicianship will be top notch here, led by amazing guitar and harp work. This one does not disappoint. The interlaced lead and background vocals in the back half of the song are really great.

Oiche Chiun, Silent Night (Enya) – Another quiet song featuring the powerful Irish Gaelic vocals of Enya.

The Christmas Song (Hootie & The Blowfish) – This band is no longer since lead singer Darius Rucker has gone off into solo Country music. I was tired of this band back in the 90’s  since they were all over the airwaves. After years of not hearing them, it seems I have missed them a little more than I would have expected.

Ave Maria (Chris Cornell with Eleven) – I wasn’t sure how this song would hit me. This is a song that chokes me up, and since I am still reeling from the shocking loss of Chris Cornell, it’s a double whammy. The background music from Eleven is distracting to me. Also there are unnecessary background vocals from Natasha Schneider. It’s almost like a circus song. I would have preferred if Chris had done this one A Capella. A must have, rare song for any fan of Chris Cornell. This song just reminds me that we will never hear new music from him again, and that makes me sad.

Christmas In The City (Mary J. Blige featuring Angie Martinez) – Another rap song featuring a mix of harder edged vocals with the wonderfully beautiful voice of Mary J.

Santa Claus Is Back In Town (Jonny Lang) – A rockin’ blues song is always a nice addition. With Jonny Lang and company, you know it will be done right. The axe work is not surprising the star on this one.

Christmas Song (Dave Matthews & Tim Reynolds) – I will admit I am not a big fan of Dave’s voice. I find a lot of his music to be annoying. This one was recorded live at the Paramount Theatre, Denver Colorado on Feb. 18, 1997. The wonderful acoustic guitar work by Tim Reynolds, and the audience cheering are the stars for me here. Dave’s voice doesn’t really bother me here, so I can appreciate this song.

Christmas Is Now Drawing Near At Hand (Steve Winwood) – Steve seemed to fall off the face of the earth for me after his amazing 80’s albums, Back In The High Life, Chronicles, and Roll With It. Perhaps those albums were so great, it was tough to reach those great lofts in the 90’s. His version of this traditional is amazing. His voice seems deeper here than what I remember. It almost has a Jethro Tull feel, and I like it.

O Holy Night (Tracy Chapman) – Her vocals are chilling and beautiful. This song is every bit as awesome as Fast Car. You will not grow tired of this one.

We Three Kings (Patti Smith) – The “punk rock laureate” ends this one off on a high note. The mix between spoken word and subtle, but powerful vocals make this one to make you sit up and take notice.

9.75/10

 

 

 

 

 

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Album Review : The Clash – Combat Rock (1982)

I read today in my newsfeed that Joe Strummer had died on this day 15 years ago in 2002. Since this album is 35 years old it is kind of a double tribute.

In 1982 I remember visiting my older cousins in the city. They were fully entrenched in the New Wave scene at the time. I got to hang out with them and a group of their friends, and I was the outcast. I wore jeans, hi tops, a concert shirt and had long hair, while they looked like they came out of a Flock Of Seagulls video. I was a metalhead, and I didn’t fit into their clique. I don’t remember much about that night but I do remember the music. When the needle dropped on Combat Rock, I sat up and noticed. This wasn’t metal, but there was something cool about it. Looking back, it was an album that wavers, arena rockers, metalheads, punks and rastas could all appreciate.

Know Your Rights – “This is a public service announcement. WITH GUITAR!” I like those kind of public announcements.

Car Jamming – The drumming on this one is wicked, and the reggae beat of the guitar is cool.

Should I Stay or Should I Go? – I do tire of hearing this song every day on the radio, but I do respect it. Overplayed yes, but there is no denying that it has lasted this long on radio for a reason.

Rock Casbah – See comments on song above.

Red Angel Dragnet – It has sort of a Talking Heads thing going on, and I like it. The spoken word also quotes the great movie Taxi Driver, so it also has that going for it.

Straight To Hell – A sort of protest song about mistreatment of the “boat people”. Walk softly and carry a big stick must be Joe’s motto.

Overpowered By Funk – In 1982 Funk=Punk as far as both being out of fashion. That didn’t stop The Clash from funkifying a punk song. It may the first punk song to feature rapping with the addition of guest Futura 2000.

Atom Tan – This song reminds me of a Bowie song mixed with some Joe Perry licks from Chip Away The Stone, and of course that’s a good thing.

Sean Flynn – The subtle, multi-layered sax and pounding drums dominate this song. It’s a tribute to Errol Flynn’s son, Sean, who was a journalist during the Vietnam War. He was taken prisoner in 1970 and never seen again.

Ghetto Defendant – Alan Ginsberg provide guest vocals on this one. He originally had wanted to get The Clash to add music to some of his recordings, but the opposite happened. I would have loved to have been a fly on the wall during conversations that may have arose during these sessions. Apparently there were other recordings during these sessions, but they have never seen the light of day.

Inoculated City – There is a part in the middle of the song that features a recording of the toilet bowl cleaner 2000 Flushes. I have no idea why.

Death Is A Star – This song is a sort of protest song to violence in the movies. This song that has a sort of 1920’s jazz feel to it. It is an unfitting ending to an otherwise great album. Not actually a bad song, but it just seems out of place, and sort of a lacklustre ending to the album.

9/10

 

 

Album Review : Big House – Pretty Things (Limited Edition EP Cassette, 1990)

Bad timing. Any band that was releasing their first album in the early 90’s, and still had a 80’s hair metal sound knows these words very well. When 1990 hit it was as if a switch was turned off. Then when Smells Like Teen Spirit hit the airwaves, not only was the switch off, but the transformer blew up.

Canadian band Big House was one of those bands. They had the look, the sound and the attitude. However, the buying public wasn’t buying it, as it were. Too bad. If they had found a time machine to take them back to the Sunset Strip in 1982, they may have been one of the big ones. As it was, they were a footnote at the end of the era.

Refuse 2 Run – The first thing I notice about this one is the bass. The bass is really prominent on this one (it actually is on the entire album), which is unique for a band in this era. I get a bit of Paul Stanley in the vocals, which obviously is a good thing. Sort of a Kiss meets Cinderella, meets Poison.

Dollar in My Pocket (Pretty Things) – Sweet bass and wonderful vocals dominate this one for me. The vocal enunciations almost have a faux British accent at times, which can sometimes be distracting, and can come across as fake and hokey. It seems to fit in well here though. The blend of softer vocals, screams and background vocals are a nice touch., and the guitar work near the end is pretty cool.

All Nite – I like this one. The vocal mix of the whole band when they sing “All Nite” and “All Right” sound really great. It was a great song to blast out the car windows while cruising the main drag.

Can’t Cry Anymore – Wailing guitar starts this one off, and the great guitar continues throughout. Of course there is that thumping bass. I think I hear a bit of Slaughter in there. There is a little bit of wah influenced guitar near the end, which is unique as well for this genre.

A nice 4 song EP. None of the songs are weak, and they don’t sound too generic. They will still hold up in 2017. All 4 songs were included in the band’s 1992 eponymous first album. For a review of that album, and some more in depth info about the band, please visit Mikeladano.com.

8.5/10

 

(Blog Dylan)Album Review : Bob Dylan – The REAL Royal Albert Hall 1966 Concert (2LP, Black Friday RSD 2016)

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Thanks to Danica from Living a Beautiful Life for including me in this group post, and to Bruce from Vinyl Connection for the artwork.

This is the actual concert from Royal Albert Hall in 1966. For decades, there was a bootleg floating around that was in actuality a recording of the performance at Manchester Free Trade Hall on May 17, 1966. I’m not sure why there was a mix up of the shows. Perhaps the bootlegger mixed the tapes up, or perhaps the Royal Albert Hall was more famous.

This recording was during a transition period for Dylan. He wanted to branch out in his music, and his fans were having none of it. Near riots were caused because Dylan actually wanted to play songs in the way that moved him. Can you imagine? A musical artist not doing exactly what his fans wanted. The shame.

Dylan invited members of The Hawks (later The Band) out on this tour and the majority of his fans were upset. They wanted Dylan to stick to his acoustic folk leanings. They didn’t want amplified Dylan songs. Here are 2 of many quotes from newspapers of the time. ” “Turn the drummer off!”, shouted a voice from the gallery, and about 9,000 of us in the Albert Hall agreed. To those that once admired Bob Dylan, for his apocalyptic imagery, his black humour and the flinty individuality of his music, it is disappointment enough that he now uses an R & B group to give his working a backing it doesn’t need.” The other paper reads ” “This is my last visit here.” said an angry Bob Dylan at  his final British concert at London’s Royal Albert Hall on Friday. Sadly, some of the audience didn’t seem to care. They hooted, barracked, and stalked out in protest when, after the interval, Bob appeared with his electrified backing group, Dylan’s excursion into rock-n-roll angered them. They wanted the pure guitar-accompanied folk singing of the first half.”

This 2 LP set has his acoustic folk songs on the first platter, and the electrified portion with the so-called R & B group, The Band (all but Garth Hudson, who had left the tour earlier due to stress). They weren’t officially known as The Band yet, they were The Hawks, as they were previously the backing band for Ronnie Hawkins.

The first album in this gatefold is a wonderful example of the live music fans would have enjoyed up until this point in his career. The arrangements changed a little, but we hear Dylan in his prime. Just his guitar, harmonica and wonderful voice. Unlike most of my previous reviews, I did not go into detail about these songs. Suffice to say they are all awesome.

The first thing I noticed about the second disc is that the label is blue. The first disc label is red. Right away you know there is going to be a difference between the two. Start the record and the crowd cheers and the music is a little sedate for a short while and then…bam. The volume level goes up 10 fold.

Tell Me, Momma – A song that introduced the world to the electrified Dylan. It was never recorded on an album, and only ever played on this particular tour.

I Don’t Believe You – Dylan introduces this as an “old” song even though it was only released 2 years before. He says “It used to be played like that, but now it’s played like this. The times they are a-changin’ .” This may have both been in reference to the album title and to the newer, rockin’ way this is played here.

Baby, Let me Follow You Down – The traditional song was first done by Dylan on his eponymous album from 1962. Dylan also performed this song at The Band’s farewell concert, The Last Waltz.

Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues – We hear the audience yelling “What happened to Woodie Guthrie Bob?”, quite possibly to play more folk songs. He answers “These are all protest songs, now come on. It’s not British music, it’s American music, now come on.” I can only assume Bob felt the audience was protesting him playing this style, and he reminded him his songs are all protest songs. The original version from Highway 61 Revisited took 16 takes to get it right. This one was perfect with one take.

Leopard-Skin Pillbox Hat –  The audience yells at Bob. He tells them the “Shh”. They continue to yell, and he says “Come on up here and say that.” This is the first song of the night from the just released Blonde On Blonde.

Of note for me was the fact that at the end of side c, the needle stuck in the runout groove and did not stop play as it should on my turntable. This has only happened on one other record of mine, and I can only assume it is a defect in the pressing. This is a minor inconvenience, but one I would not have expected.

One Too Many Mornings – Not the usual finger-picked version. Also, this one has some cool background vocals from The Hawks.

Ballad of a Thin Man – A few boos from the audience start this song off. The song was written as a protest to the media people of the day. It also has many references which may be about outing a homosexual in the lyrics. This song is described by Al Kooper (who played on the original version) as being “musically more sophisticated than anything else on the Highway 61 Revisited album.” Kooper also recalled that at the end of the song, (original) drummer Bobby Gregg said “This is a nasty song, Bob.” Kooper adds “Dylan was King Of The Nasty Song at that time.” All I know, is this live version is amazing.

Like a Rolling Stone – Dylan starts this one off by saying “We’d like to dedicate this one to the Taj Mahal.” I have no idea what he was on about. The original version was written after Dylan got back from an exhaustive British tour in 1965. He was considering quitting the music industry, and he used his frustrations to write this song. It was heavier than any previous Dylan song, and the record company balked at both the length and the harder edge. It was only after a promo copy had been heard by influential dj’s that it was released as a single. Thankfully this song became Dylan’s highest charting single, and a staple in his live shows. It closes the concert out, as it usually did on this tour, and ends this album on a high note.

In my opinion, this album is a must for even a casual Dylan fan. It comes in both 2LP and 2 cd versions. If you are a completest, you can buy the 36 disc version called The 1966 Live Recordings. That set features all of the live shows on his tour, but vary in terms of sound quality since many are audience recordings, and with 36 discs of mostly the same setlists, it will get repetitive. But for the 99% of us that like/love Dylan, this one is just perfect.

10/10

 

 

 

R.I.P. Pat DiNizio – Album Review : The Smithereens 11 (1989)

My local radio station has been playing The Smithereens lately and it made me remember how awesome they are. I had been planning an album review of theirs for a while, and then I heard the awful news this morning that their vocalist/guitarist Pat DiNizio has passed away. I felt the best tribute I could give would be a review of one of their most popular albums, 11.

A Girl Like You – An amazing song that still gets radio play today. The drumming, bass and especially the guitar work here are incredible. Although my favourite part is the mix between the lead and background vocals. Maria Vidal guests here and her addition really sets this one over the top. It really reminds me of an early TPOH song, and that is really high praise indeed.

Blues Before And After – This song is put in a really tough spot. It has to follow that incredible lead single. However, the harder edge of this one make you sit up and notice. This song can equally appeal to a blues fan, a top 40 follower and a hard rocker. It has cross-over appeal that make it awesome. Many will like it even better than the first song.

Blue Period – Violins, cello,  drums and a harpsichord dominate this slower paced song. This is a lovely duet with guest singer Belinda Carlisle.

Baby Be Good – More amazing background vocals from the 60’s girl band, The Honeys (including Brian Wilson’s former wife, Marilyn). Another song in the TPOH mindset.

Room Without A View – Michael Hamilton adds some great guest guitar work. This song reminds me a bit of a Barenaked Ladies song.

Yesterday Girl – It has sort of a late 80’s alternative meets 60’s rock. The organ work is cool. The dual Rickenbacker’s of Jim Babjak and Pat DiNizio mixed with the harder edge of Michael Hamilton set this song apart.

Cut Flowers – The Honeys are a welcomed addition. The bass and drums have a cool driving beat. The sparingly used guitar work is sedate but piercing at the same time. It reminds me of Shadowy Men On A Shadowy Planet.

William Nelson – This one feels like Bare Naked Ladies met the Shadowy Men and they all tried their hands at a Springsteen song.

Maria Elena – Amazing guitar work done with a touch of Spanish flair. The back and forth vocals between Pat Dinizio and producer Ed Stasium are very cool indeed.

Kiss Your Tears Away – This one has a Jeff Healy meets The Byrds. If you like amazing 60’s style guitar mixed with great vocals, this song’s for you.

I can imagine the 1989 version of myself would have listened to just the first 2 songs on repeat. The 2017 version of me enjoys this entire album though. It has a lot to offer fans of many music genres, and it doesn’t sound dated.

9/10

Various Artist # 9 : The Wild Life (OST, 1984)

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Thanks to Bruce from Vinyl Connection for including me in the various music blog posts.

This was a teenager movie from 1984. I am assuming that I saw it back in the day, but my memory is a little hazy. Of note, Nancy Wilson from Heart, Ronnie Wood from The Rolling Stones, and Lee Ving from Fear play bit parts in the movie. This soundtrack is just a snippet of the music that was in the movie. In fact, many of the songs that were not on the album were probably better than a lot of the ones that were. Just as a snippet of what musicians were omitted: Hendrix x2, Steppenwolf, Peter Wolf, Huey Lewis & The News, Little Richard x 2, Billy Idol, Buffalo Springfield, Prince, and Madonna. For rock fans of the mid 80`s, this is possibly the biggest omission of all. Van Halen added much of the instrumental work that has never been released. Cameron Crowe wrote the screenplay, and Eddie (he`s called Edward on the album cover) Van Halen recorded the score. This movie has never been released to dvd or bluray because of the music rights. The only way to hear the tunes is to locate a vhs copy or to check out Youtube. Here`s a link to the VH background music. Note the beginnings of many a Van Hagar song here.

Donut City (Edward Van Halen) – This sounds like a Loverboy-Turn Me Loose outtake with EVH on guitar. This was the last recorded song EVH recorded before Sammy came on the scene. Cool guitar of course, but not as cool as any off of 1984.

Metal Of The Night (Hanover Fist) – A weird choice here. I have no idea why they chose a Canadian band here. This short-lived group got their 30 seconds of fame on this soundtrack. It`s a decent song.

It`s Not Easy (Charlie Sexton with Ron Wood) – The credits also mention Keith Richards and Anton Fig play on this one. I`m not sure why it was just “with” Ron Wood. I guess no one would know who those other guys were. A song in the same vein as a fun time Huey Lewis 80`s tune.

Human Shout (Andy Summers) – Did somebody call The Police? The others must have been off on other calls. Too 80`s sounding for me. The vocals are decent, the rest not so much.

Wild Life (Banarama) – I liked this band back in the day. Not for the music though. Speaking of 80`s sounding. Imagine the Spice Girls with awful keyboards and electronic drums. I listened to the entire song for you people. UGGGGGHHH!

Mind My Still Have I (Alain Johannes) – Um. What`s up with that title? Also, what`s up with the copying Eddie Rabbit – Drivin` My Life Away and trying to cover that up by adding in cheesy keyboards.

Make It Glamorous (Van Stephenson) – Not Van Halen. Not even Van Morrison. No need to park this Van in the back 40 though. This one has a similar beat to The Pretenders – My City Was Gone, but can stand on it`s own 2 feet. One of the better songs on the album. It is called just “Glamorous” on the back cover, but I will get into the cover later.

Who`s Gonna Break The Ice (Peter Case) – It kind of sounds like Ramones drumming with country rock. In a former life, Case opened many a show for the Ramones in his band The Nerves. I would have rather him stuck to his punk leanings, but I guess the musical wind shifted. On the cover it is called “Whose Gonna Break The Ice.”

I Go Wild (The Three O’clock) – Almost has a 90`s alternative meets 60`s rock. Weird since it was the mid 80`s. They were both ahead and behind the times. I like the way they sound. I have never heard of them, but they released quite a few albums, and are still around, at least in name. I will search out some of their albums.

No Trespassing (Louise Goffin with Charlotte Caffey) – Not a bad song. Kind of like a Go-Go`s song, which is no wonder since Charlotte was in the band at the time. Louise also had a song on the Fast Times At Ridgemont High soundtrack.

Now back to the cover. Spelling mistakes, lazy word omissions aside, the cover is confusing as hell. The front cover lists Banarama as the first band on the album and Edward Van Valen as the last. I would have been wanting to capture the buzz from the just relased 1984 album, but what do I know. The front and back are opposite, so you have to turn it around, then turn it upside down to read the print. Also, the inside record sleeve lists the songs in the wrong order. Piss poor job.

If EVH had included a number of the songs omitted, and dropped the cheesy ones, this could have been a great album. It is probably desirable for a Stones or VH fan, but for many it`s avoidable.

6/10

 

 

 

 

Various Artist # 8 : Tannoy Pro Sampler Volume 2

Tannoy is a British loudspeaker company, and this compilation is a widely varied mix of different styles and genres to show how good the speakers sound. From the liner “A lot of hard work has gone into selecting the cuts that best display the qualities and virtues of the famous Tannoy Dual Concentric technology. Apparently this cd took 2 years to make. I wonder if Axl was involved.

A Little Knowledge (Is a Dangerous Thing) : Tower Of Power – Some cool horns and a thumping bass start this one off, and sweet guitar finishes it.

Breaking Silence : Janis Ian – Ok. I have some Janis Ian albums from the 70’s. I need to pull these out. I bought them used, but never really listened to them. She has an amazing voice. This one has a much harder beat than I would have assumed one of her songs would have. I need to find this album, Breaking Silence from 1992. Apparently it was nominated for a Grammy.

Carnival : Natalie Merchant – This song is cool because it has 3 women singing almost simultaneously, and has a sort of echo. The drums are sweet, and the guitar is sublime.

Now That I’ve Found You : Alison Krause – I LOVE her voice on anything, so no more needs to be said.

Mercador De Siri : Andres Segovia – Speaking of siri, just ask her about an amazing Spanish classical guitarist. I bet she says Segovia.

Everything’s Gonna Be Alright : Tuck & Patti – I don’t know anything about this married couple. She has a bit of Christine McVie to her voice, and he is a cool jazzy guitarist.

Minuetto & Finale from Pulcinella Suite : St. Paul Chamber Orchestra – A little classical never hurt anyone.

Autumn Leaves : Johnny Mercer & Joseph Kozma – A swinging jazz number.

Round About Midnight : The Michael Petrucciani Trio – Some relaxing post bop.

Saeta : Miles Davis – Miles Davis. Enough said.

Bird On A Wire : Jennifer Warnes (Leonard Cohen) – At least one of you will say no one can ever cover Leonard Cohen. Well, I say this one is pretty good.

Somewhere Down The Crazy River : Robbie Robertson – I love this song.

Frame For The Blues : Jimmy McGriff & Hank  Crawford Quartet – Amazing organ and sax work, but with these guys that is to be expected.

All For You : Diana Krall – Her sultry, smoky voice slays me every time.

8/10