Monday, August 21, 2017

Marti Jones-Used Guitars (1988)


Whether they're used, borrowed, rented, built from scratch or brand new, guitars always make for an appealing music-listening affair, especially when the lovely voice of singer Marti Jones is singing along with them. I thought now would be a perfect juncture to share Marti's final 80's album in a third "Music Spectrum" feature presentation, considering that I'm still infected with the rock music bug. Besides that, a Marti Jones fan and blog follower helped to remind me about "Used Guitars", which I now see has become quite the rarity in the folk rock genre. I could pick any one of the eleven songs here and have wonderful things to say about it, no matter how big or how small. The opener called "Tourist Town" charms me because of the light pop/rock rhythm and the colorful imagery painted by the lyrics (being tempted to hide away in a town and having her sights set on the lights). "The Real One" has a touching, bittersweet taste to it, because it talks about not letting a special lady slip away (or, in Marti's words, the Mona Lisa, which she gives reference to when she sings 'smiling like Mona Lisas' early in the song. Once again, we have a song that has aged well over time because it totally sounds like something that could've been recorded in another era: "Ruby". And once again, it's one of those slow-and-sensual piano jazz tunes I like that swing and sway every so gracefully with the smoky voice of a soulful lady leading the way. Love how the music rises and climaxes in the grand final movement, and that by itself is enough to make this one a real gem! Humorous moments arise on both "Twisted Vines", which begins with a funny story about her meeting a guy in a cemetery, "I Don't Want Him (Anymore)", which begins in similar fashion with the silly dialogue. But once the laughs are over, Marti delivers a pair of seriously good tunes, with the former having a very cool, funky pop beat and a great energetic hook (it reminds me of Sherry Kean's "People Talk"; if you haven't heard this song, I highly recommend it!) while the latter features a guest male vocalist performing alongside her and has both the best hook and this album's best musical arrangement (at least I had been instantly captivated by it when I tuned in the first time). Charming me like "Tourist Town" did are "Back Of The Line" and the lively rockin' "Each Time" (a fun song about being a fool for love and constantly going back to your lover when those tempting promises of love you better than before are irresistible). Then there's something exquisitely delightful about "You Can't Take Love For Granted"; it must be the way her voice gracefully sings the title lyrics and the words of the chorus, plus the acapella break at the end with the whispered alternating voices of the men and women in the background. And as you'd expect after enjoying a flurry of guitar-driven selections in the first thirty or so minutes, closing out this easy-listening affair is the intimate acoustic piece, "If I Can Love Somebody". Well Marti definitely puts her guitar to excellent use on all of these songs.....just as I'm sure you and your ears will put this entire "Used Guitars" album to good use:

1. Tourist Town
2. Wind In The Trees
3. The Real One
4. Ruby
5. Back Of The Line
6. Twisted Vines
7. Keep Me In The Dark
8. You Can't Take Love For Granted
9. I Don't Want Him (Anymore)
10. Each Time
11. If I Can Love Somebody

Sunday, August 20, 2017

MOTELS-All Four One (1982)


'Only the lonely, only the lonely can play.....' I somehow found myself humming those memorable words to the chorus of another favorite 80's hit sometime last week. I can attribute that to me always having some kind of song playing in my mental jukebox, plus the fact that I'm constantly nostalgic about the 80's. It surely must've been the distinctive, slightly-yodeling voice of THE MOTELS leading lady that had captured me the very first time I heard "Only The Lonely" playing on the radio station. In fact, there's a definite yodel at the very end when she holds the note on 'only' with the main beat dropping out for a moment at the end. So 80's, so new wave and so much still a lovely song to listen to after all these years! Though it's only one of the songs that I like on this "All Four One" album, which I have absolutely no idea why it hadn't been in my music collection up until now, seeing that I'd already gone through the 'M' entries and had everything updated and organized (or so I thought). Me being a fan of the new wave tunes with the cute, catchy hooks meant plenty of fun times for me on "Take The L" (as in take the 'l' out of 'lover' and it's over ', which is something that never occurred to me before, and that's coming from a guy who likes these little word game kind of nuances) and "Forever Mine" (I'm always a sucker for these bouncy, dancey pop/rock bubblegum love songs because they're just so 80's; loved it even more because of the extended jazzy instrumental midway through). Speaking of jazz, I totally wasn't expecting to hear along like "Change My Mind"—those sensual, slow-tempo bluesy types that gives you that vintage jazz club feeling. Well it definitely has aged well, because it doesn't sound like it was recorded back in 1982. A pleasant surprise for me, of course, with me being a jazz music lover at heart anyways. It's new wave all the way on the opener, "Mission Of Love" (another typically catchy 80's-spirited jam) and Track #7's "Tragic Surf", which tells a rather haunting story about a man whose voice she keeps hearing, peaked by a brief moment of humorously maniacal laughter. Then there was "He Hit Me (And It Felt Like A Kiss)": First I was drawn to the title, which led me to propose the prediction about love that hurts so good, too good to let go of. Then there was the fun accompaniment of the castanets clicking beneath the rhythm, giving the song a playful 'tango' feel to it. And then it was the down-t-earth lyrics, which revealed the back-and-forth game of love that culminates in a sweet, happy ending:

1. Mission Of Mercy
2. Take The L
3. Only The Lonely
4. Art Fails
5. Change My Mind
6. So L.A.
7. Tragic Surf
8. Apocalypso
9. He Hit Me (And It Felt Like A Kiss)
10. Forever Mine
11. So L. A. (Apocalypso Version)
12. Schneekin (Apocalypso Version)
13. Mission Of Mercy (Apocalypso Version)
14. Who Could Resist That Face (Apocalypso Version)
15. Only The Lonely (Live)

BLONDIE-The Hunter (1982)


With all things rock music having been at the forefront of my mind the past few days, there's been a sea of bands swimming through my ears whispering 'listen to me!', or something to that suggestive effect. So a couple of days ago, while thinking about some of the more popular acts from my favorite decade and the ones whom I haven't heard much beyond the radio airwaves, the new wave bunch fronted by Debbie Harry, who are famous for the big hits "The Tide Is High" and "Heart Of Glass", suddenly became the focus of my attention, if only for an hour last Saturday night. interest. That came way of the band's final 80's release, "The Hunter", which generated quite a few moments of delight with the typically-catchy new wave sounds of tunes like "Dragonfly", "Danceway" and one that was particularly fun, "The Beast"—mostly because of Debbie's rather candid and colorfully humorous rap being delivered all throughout against the dancey beat. Before either one in that trio, however, I'd enjoyed the first of a couple of beautiful music journeys with "Island Of Lost Souls". It's totally not rock and totally not pop; it's just something unique made up of a breezy island rhythm, a smooth jazz accompaniment and a touch of ethnic jungle ambiance. That combination, plus Debbie's light and sweet vocals (I especially like when she does that playful 'ya ya ya ya ya ya' in the closing movements) makes for some sweet and easy listening, and propelled me to want to make this song a new addition to my 'Easy Listening Radio Mix' playlist. As for that second beautiful music journey? That came way of the title track—well, the complete title being "The Hunter Gets Captured By The Game"—whose exotic, breezy flow and haunting ambiance made it so easy for me to get lost inside the production and caused me to forget what the song was actually about:

1. Orchid Club
2. Island Of Lost Souls
3. Dragonfly
4. For Your Eyes Only
5. The Beast
6. War Child
7. Little Caesar
8. Danceway
9. (Can I) Find The Right Words (To Say)?
10. English Boys
11. The Hunter Gets Captured By The Game
12. War Child (Extended Version)

Thursday, August 17, 2017

DIE LAUGHING-Running From The Guns (1990)


Besides having turned a 'deaf ear' to my favorite 'hair band' rock before the past couple of days, something else within the wide arena of rock I had tuned out on and had been missing was the 80's and post-80's new wave music (and, of course, all of the quirkiness and weirdness that always comes along with it). When "Running From The Guns", the only known full studio album released by the obscure duo that called itself DIE LAUGHING (not to be confused with the British goth band by the same name), was requested a few days ago and I knew that I had access to it, I felt the timing was perfect for doing a feature presentation on it Once again, we have a short-lived band that I have had absolutely no knowledge about and know nothing about its origins for as long as I've been aware of its existence, yet the music is nothing short of spectacular! For those of us that crave music with catchy hooks, infectiously dancey beats and senselessly fun lyrics that you don't really need to completely understand, every one of the ten tracks is a sure delight! You can quickly tell the opener called "Humans" was inspired by life back in the 80's when the lead guy starts singing something about loving the human race. After that, it's the bizarre lyrical adventure that is "One Thing For Sure", which is the first place where I had noticed the impressive background vocalists chiming in during the chorus. It's more melodic synthpop and less rock on one of my favorites: "Anywhere At All". The musical arrangement is so cool—electronic ambiance mixed in with spurts of jazz, with the real jazz/pop party coming alive in the closing movements when the beat picks up tempo and the backing vocalists chime in with the repetitive 'take me, shake me'. "Suspicion", I loved, as soon as I heard the chords and the swirly woodwind accompaniment beneath the beat; it really sparks my senses! Besides that, some of the weirdest yet most colorful lyrics on the album can be found here, highlighted by when he says something about her being like a Spanish inquisition, which is one of the many bizarre things that prompts him to declare ' that's my suspicion '. "Safe In The Dark" is an awesome thrill ride; what begins with a rather eerie ambient flow explodes into one of those rockin' jams you hear on those 80's action movie soundtracks! The title track is the most entertaining of them all; besides the dancey beat, it's great how they incorporate everything from the traditional children's bedtime prayer—'now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep'—to the memorable lyrics from QUEEN's "We Will Rock You" and the BURNING SENSATIONS hit, "Belly Of The Whale" to get their message across about running from guns and the ones that love you (which I still find rather perplexing). Then there are a couple of jams where I hardly retained any of the lyrics at all, but still had a blast with them: "I Don't Need You" (those terrific backup vocalists shine all throughout this one) and "Don't Stay" (I got attached to the super-catchy chorus of If it gets you down, gets you down, gets you down, don't stay'). Almost kind of ironic that this album's cover artwork pictured above seems to indicate two hard-rockin' guys, because it turns out that the music makes for some very easy listening on the ears:

1. Humans
2. One Thing For Sure
3. Anywhere At All
4. Suspicion
5. Safe In The Dark
6. Running From The Guns
7. I Don't Need You
8. Kundalini
9. Don't Stay
10. Swept Away

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

DEF LEPPARD-Adrenalize (1991)


Now here's something that totally gets my adrenaline pumping! I had been meaning to get back to listening to one of my most beloved 'hair bands' from the 80's after having tuned a 'deaf ear' to them for far too long! Last I checked it had been over three years since I re-indulged in their "Hysteria" album. I almost went back a bit further to relive 1983's "Pyromania", which I don't remember nearly as well as "Hysteria", but then I realized I had no memory whatsoever about their 1991 album. The great thing about music recorded and released just a couple of years into the 90's is that it possesses that same wonderfully-80's feel-good air about it. So you an imagine the 80's music lover in me was all ears when the familiar voice of Joe Elliot and the gang slammed into m ears on the awesome opener, "Let's Get Rocked". He states exactly how I felt with the very first statement: 'do you wanna get rocked?' A resounding and enthusiastic 'yes!' silently responded somewhere within, and the good times would roll on after that! As usual, I got major thrills out of all the jams with the big, catchy chorus hooks, particularly "Heaven Is", "I Wanna Touch U" (I found myself singing along with the chorus loudly and proudly, as if it were in attendance at a concert!) and my new-found favorite, "Tear It Down" (found myself singing along with the chorus here, too—the loud, gritty voices collective shouting 'tear it down' in rebellious, in-your-face unison—but the funny thing is I forgot what it was that they were wanting to even tear down anyway?). I'm getting that Pour Some Sugar On Me' vibe (paying tribute to one of DEF LEPPARD's most memorable hits here) on "Make Love Like A Man", which has some of the coolest lyrics on the whole album: don't call me Gigolo, don't call me Casanova': Then there's the energizing "Personal Property", which totally captures the 'hair band' spirit with its simple theme about a lady who belongs only to him. The lyrics area lot of fun on this one, too—something about her being a drive-in for his eyes to see only, pus the cheeky twist on the old adage when he says 'finders keepers, losers may weep', as if to say that he found the lady first and no other guy can have her. No great metal rock album would be complete without that one signature emotional power ballad. Completing that fulfillment here in "Adrenalize" is the gem "Have You Ever Needed Someone So Bad". For some reason, this one seemed familiar; it's possible I may've even heard it on the radio airways back in the day. Besides me loving the breezy flow and the melody, particularly the hook when the song's title are delivered by their high and lofty collective vocals, just the whole message of the song captivates, as it asks a valid question to not only the rock music audience, but to any lovesick listener out there in the world:

1. Let's Get Rocked
2. Heaven Is
3. Make Love Like A Man
4. Tonight
5. White Lightning
6. Stand Up (Kick Love Into Motion)
7. Personal Property
8. Have You Ever Needed Someone So Bad?
9. I Wanna Touch U
10. Tear It Down

SOUNDGARDEN-Down On The Upside (1996)


I think I planted something when I listened to Chris Cornell's "Scream" album a few days ago. As I stayed on my alternative rock kick, the former vocalist for SOUNDGARDEN popped back into my mind when I was debating which artist from the post-grunge camp I wanted to check out next. Remembering that I hadn't ever listened to a full SOUNDGARDEN album yet, 1996's "Down On The Upside" soon became my hour-long listening companion for the latter part of my Tuesday night. Those same stunning, soulful vocals I enjoyed on "Scream" are 'screaming' just as powerfully all up and down "Down On The Upside", establishing themselves loud and clear on the opener, "Pretty Noose", where his repeated painful words of ' I don't like what you got me hanging on ' somehow getting stuck in my head. I absolutely love the sound showcased on "Dusty" (where this album's title is given)—everything from the stunning voice amidst the power rock shouting 'turn it back around' to the stylistically uneven funky rhythm. "Ty Cobb": that was a legendary pro baseball player, right? So then why do the lyrics on this one have absolutely nothing to do with baseball? It's just one of the bizarre things featured here; the other is the fact that the song starts nice and slow with a lovely acoustic melody before—BOOM!—they hit you with the high-speed rockin' thrill ride that even has a bit of a foot-pattin' country spirit to it and actually made me feel like dancing in some spurts! "Blow Up The Outside World": Now THIS is a power ballad! Such wonderful melody and excellent vocals all throughout which of course, I got lost in and completely became oblivious to why Chris and company want to blow up the outside world. "Never The Machine Forever" is a real grunge rock gem. The guitar work is go good and so infectious that I was quite literally bopping my head up and down to the beat during the extended instrumental phases, with his repeated words of 'sleep tight for me, I'm gone' getting stuck in my head. Enjoyed my second high-speed, break-neck adrenaline rush with "No Attention"; in fact, the guys rock it out so hard on this one that, at times, I only really understood the repetitive 'no attention' with everything else being a musical blur! Chris Cornell's music is rapidly growing on me, and I look forward to seeing what else I can dig up from his SOUNDGARDEN in the days ahead:

1. Pretty Noose
2. Rhinosaur
3. Zero Chance
4. Dusty
5. Ty Cobb
6. Blow Up The Outside World
7. Burden In My Hand
8. Never Named
9. Applebite
10. Never The Machine Forever
11. Tighter & Tighter
12. No Attention
13. Switch Opens
14. Overfloater
15. An Unkind
16. Married With Children

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

CREED-Human Clay (1999)


Now here's an alternative rock crew that totally knows how to rock! For the longest time, the Florida-based CREED had remained an artist whom I'd listened to exclusively on the popular radio airwaves. Memories of my earliest alternative rock-listening days continue to be shrouded in a cloud of uncertainty, but I'm pretty sure the radio hit that got my ears and I formally acquainted with these guys is "Higher". Not sure why I didn't already have that memorable oldie saved as one of the many favorites on my revamped 'Rock Mix' playlist, but I've corrected that little blunder since finally claiming the album from which this jam can be found. 'Can you take me higher, to a place with golden streets?' is how the words to part of the awesome chorus hook go, which is why I still love this song to this day! Listening to "Higher" again today (after who knows how long!) reinforced that I'm still digging the post-grunge rock sound of the mid-to-late 90's, with further reinforcement coming by way of the intense opener, "Are You Ready?" (the lead guy's repetitive proclamations of 'life has just begun' had this one sold on me long before the thrill ride was over!), the followup "What If?" (I like when the lead guy keeps howling what if, what if, what if I?, "Never Die", "Say I" (this album's cryptic title is explained on this one; I myself need additional listens to grasp the meaning beyond just enjoying the sound of the music) and so many of the others where the gritty vocals, screaming guitars and the banging drums take center stage. I was also reminded that I'm still the sucker for the trademark moving, emotional power ballad. There's the intriguing gem called "Faceless Man" where, besides the haunting imagery painted by the words to the Lord in heaven about standing against the faceless man, I like the alternating between taking a low-key, softer approach and the intense power trip. And then there's the even more moving "With Arms Wide Open", which I suspect I may've heard on the rock radio airwaves a lot back in the day as well. If I did, I can't be sure if it was the regular album version or the 'String Version' that I've included as a bonus treat, but I know that I now prefer the latter version over the original studio recording, as the words seem to come out clearer and have a greater lasting effect on me:

1. Are You Ready?
2. What If
3. Beautiful
4. Say I
5. Wrong Way Album
6. Faceless Man
7. Never Die
8. With Arms Wide Open
9. Higher
10. Wash Away Those Tears
11. Inside Us All

*****BONUS TRACK*****

12. With Arms Wide Open (String Version)

OASIS-Definitely Maybe (1994)


'I need an oasis'. It somehow felt appropriate to begin this review with the words sung on a favorite song of mine by soul legend Roberta Flack: "Oasis". While I was in need of some cooling, refreshing air on another hot, humid afternoon in my part of the world, my ears were also aching for some refreshing new tunes. I decided to stay with the rock kick, but made the switch from my familiar 'hair bands' back to the alternative side of things when I finally got acquainted with this British crew and their debut album. I had been aware of OASIS for seemingly ages, having frequently come across their name tagged to CD's on retail store shelves and being rather curious about their music. Well I definitely satisfied that curiosity here on "Definitely Maybe", and I just may have gotten back into the alternative rock spirit after my near hour-long adventure with it. Nothing like a fast-tempo jam to get the rock juices flowing, which is exactly that the opener, "Rock 'n' Roll Star", did for me. I like the delivery and the personality put into one of my favorites: "Live Forever". In a more mellowed-out approach than many of the other power-pop jams, there's something uplifting about the story of the songwriter's confidence in how he plans to be n existence for all eternity. Familiarity met me on "Supersonic", because 'm almost positive I've heard this song before; something about what the lead singer says about the 'gin and tonic'..... "Digsy's Diner": I was drawn to the sound of this one, particularly the bouncy rhythm and the slick keyboard instrumental put on display midway through, while I was drawn to the loud guitars and the repetitive delivery of the title lyrics in the closing movements on "Slide Away". A definite highlight is the concluding acoustic guitar cut, "Married With Children". And yes, I did immediately think about the classic Al Bundy sitcom before I even started listening. Turns out that the song's theme isn't too far off from the whole being-married-and-having-situational-problems thing, as the lead guy's low-key angst reveals he's fed up with the girl and sends her his farewell wishes:

1. Rock 'n' Roll Star
2. Shakemaker
3. Live Forever
4. Up In The Sky
5. Columbia
6. Supersonic
7. Bring It On Down
8. Cigarettes & Addicted
9. Digsy's Diner
10. Slide Away
11. Married With Children