Sunday, May 23, 2010

Short reviews of some CDs I've bought/listened to recently

The title of the entry says it all. In the last month or so I've either purchased or borrowed several albums, some new and some old, and I decided to grace you all with a little bit about each one and whether or not I feel it is worth your time to check any of them out. Here goes:

Tom Waits - Blue Valentine: This was from way back when Waits was doing his piano balladeer/jazz singer routine, but about two albums before he started his Captain Beefheart/distorted blues phases. In comparison to an album like Small Change, the songs on this album are much more sparse. It is probably due to the fact that Waits loses a lot of the string parts common in his earlier work and adds electric guitar and keyboards to his sound. His songs are still about bohemians and lowlifes like in his prior work, but there seems to be more of a harder edge to the music and his vocals. You can see where he is going with this in his next album Heart Attack and Vine, which contains much more guitar and has some edgier, more raw sounding songs. Heart Attack and Vine is the real transition album before he became the Howlin' Wolf of this generation, but Blue Valentine is the transition to the transition, if that makes sense. I wouldn't really recommend it unless you have more than a passing knowledge of Tom Waits' music. It's a good album, but I don't think it would really turn anyone on to him that wasn't already a fan. If you would like to hear a song on this album,, you should check out "Christmas Card From a Hooker in Minneapolis." Overall, I would give this album a 6.5 out of 10.

Iggy and the Stooges - Raw Power (Legacy Edition): This is a reissue of the seminal 1973 album by Iggy Pop and his band the Stooges. In 1997, it was released on CD with a new mix done by Iggy. The original was done by David Bowie and was criticized for being too tame sounding. The Iggy mix is the exact opposite and is too loud to really enjoy. Seriously, it is the loudest album put out on CD ever. The Legacy Edition corrects this wrong and has rereleased the Bowie mix. It, other than the fact it is very quiet, is a much better mix. There are better textures and nuances in the music that were lost in Iggy's mix. One only needs to hear the version of "Gimme Danger" from it to really hear what I'm talking about. As for the quality of the remaster, the sound could be boosted a bit and still be able to preserve the integrity of the material, like with the excellent reissues of the Beatles catalog that came out last year. The second disc contains eight live tracks and two unreleased songs. The concert is cool to hear the Stooges back in their heyday since there is precious little good quality recordings of them at that time. I feel that this disc could have been better and they could have included some of the older songs that were never officially released like "I Got A Right" and the studio version of "Cock in my Pocket" (there is a live version included on the second disc). Overall, I would say anyone who is a fan of old school punk, a hardcore David Bowie fan, or a major fan of Iggy Pop should buy this album just to have the David Bowie mix of the album. If you can get it without the second disc for $10 I would do it, but it is only like $13 for the two disc version. The first disc is a 10 of 10 and the second disc is about a 6 (since it is only for essentialists), so we'll give it an 8 out of 10.

Dead Weather - Sea of Cowards: For those not in the know, the Dead Weather is a Jack White (of the White Stripes) side project where he plays the drums and shares some vocals with lead singer Allison Mosshart of the Kills. The band is rounded out by Dean Fertita of the Queens of the Stone Age on guitar and Jack Lawrence of the Raconteurs on bass. Their first album came out last year and was a lo-fi 70s inspired rock album that was above average, but did not reach the quality of either of Jack White's other bands. With Sea of Cowards, they have really turned a corner and put out a great rock album. My favorite track on it has to be "The Difference Between Us." There isn't really a weak track on this at all and I would recommend it to anyone who is a fan of Jack White's music or alternative rock in general. It is a solid 8.5 out of 10.

Stone Temple Pilots - Core: This is the first STP album from back in 1992. It features the hit songs "Sex Type Thing," "Creep," and "Plush." It is also my least favorite of all their albums. It isn't bad, but it is very much a period of the times and apes Nirvana ("Creep") and Pearl Jam ("Plush") a bit too heavily. By the mid-90s, their sound became more defined with the hard riffs evident here and Scott Weiland's vocal evolution into a David Bowie/Jim Morrison/Iggy Pop hybrid. That being said, "Crackerman" is fucking awesome and so is "Piece of Pie." I would recommend this to STP fans (who probably already own it) and people who liked early Pearl Jam and the later imitators like Creed. That isn't to call STP a cheap Pearl Jam knockoff, but Core only hints at what they are capable of. I'll give it a 7.0 out of 10.

Rolling Stones - Exile on Main Street (Deluxe Edition): This is a reissue of the 1972 album by the Stones, an album that I would say without hesitation is the greatest rock album of all time. The deluxe edition contains a second disc featuring ten extra tracks, which were mostly written back in the day, but had new vocals and guitar pieces added to them. As far as reissues go, you can't get much better than this. The sound quality of the original album has been boosted and enhanced, but not in a way that interferes with the integrity of the original album. Jagger's vocals are still low in the mix, the band is still loose sounding, but you can hear everything in the album (the horns, the background vocals) much better. The second disc is pretty neat. "Plunder My Soul" is the highlight of this disc and the songs in general are pretty cool, although not totally essential. At the very least, you should own the single disc since its the best album ever and the remaster does a great service to the original album. Either way, this is easily a 10 out of 10.

Bruce Springsteen - The Wild, The Innocent, and the E Street Shuffle: This isn't the best Bruce album or even his Bruciest album, but it is definitely my favorite one. Bruce gets down with his white boy Jersey funk/jazz/rock fusion in a way he never really does again after this. "The E Street Shuffle" is possibly his funkiest song, "Kitty's Back" is his best jazzy rocker and "Rosalita" is in the top 2 or 3 Bruce songs ever. If you don't like that song, there might be something wrong with you. It is easily his most fun song to listen to and in general, this album is lighter in subject and tone than a lot of his subsequent work. I would recommend this to anyone who is a fan of Bruce Springsteen and 70s singer-songwriter rock. No doubt, a 10 out of 10.

That does it for this entry. Hopefully someone found it interesting. If anyone who reads this has checked out something new recently, leave me a comment and let me know about it.

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