Peter Gabriel – Peter Gabriel I

Peter Gabriel IPeter Gabriel’s first solo effort is an eye-opener for this kid who’d heard little of the former Genesis frontman until 1986’s So. I’ve always been impressed and inspired by the vast expanses of Gabriel’s musical style, and his 1977 album is no exception. So much has been made of Gabriel as world music spokesman and human rights activist, I sometimes think we’ve forgotten the splendor of Peter Gabriel, rock musician. The straight-ahead pop of “Solsbury Hill”, the harmonies of “Excuse Me”, and the orchestral-rock anthem “Down The Dolce Vita” speak to that oft-overlooked ability that Gabriel has to synthesize different styles, and come up with tunes that cross genre lines without sounding like cheesy attempts at crossovers. The music is also boosted by Bob Ezrin’s crisp production – I really wish Ezrin had produced the second album as well (which was instead handled by Robert Fripp). While Fripp clearly had a seminal influence on Gabriel, 3 out of 4there’s something clean and uncluttered about Ezrin’s presentation on the first album that I really liked. Rather than cloaking the vocals with layers of instrumentation – and, for the record, contrary to some reports, Peter Gabriel can sing – the vocals were crystal clear here. Come to think of it, so was everything else, and that’s something that I miss occasionally in Peter Gabriel’s thickly layered latter-day output.

Order this CD

  1. Moribund the Burgermeister (4:19)
  2. Solsbury Hill (4:20)
  3. Modern Love (3:37)
  4. Excuse Me (3:20)
  5. Humdrum (3:23)
  6. Slowburn (4:34)
  7. Waiting For The Big One (7:26)
  8. Down The Dolce Vita (4:43)
  9. Here Comes The Flood (5:54)

Released by: Atco
Release date: 1977
Total running time: 42:25

Star Wars – music by John Williams

Star Wars soundtrackLet’s have a show of hands. How many people became soundtrack-collecting addicts after listening to the original Star Wars soundtrack on vinyl approximately seventeen gazillion times in the 1970s? Thought so. Not only is George Lucas credited with salvaging the science fiction film genre from the clutches of pretentious high-concept 2001 wanna-bes and B-movies, but John Williams is credit for reinvinting the art of scoring movies. With Star Wars, it shows – the London Symphony Orchestra is in fine form, and seldom has a composer so thoroughly (or correctly) assessed the dramatic and emotional needs of the movie’s score.

This is the 1997 re-re-re-release, which was unleashed not only to cash in on the premiere of the Special Editions of the original trilogy, but to put the complete score, every note of music recorded for the entire movie, on the record for soundtrack fans. There’s even music that wasn’t heard in the movie:4 out of 4 stars some bonus archival material is included at the end of disc one’s final cut, with several alternate takes of the main theme – but after hearing the umpteenth take on this track, one’s ready to skip to disc two and leave the endless alternate takes to the music students.

    Order this CD in the StoreDisc one:

  1. 20th Century Fox Fanfare (0:23)
  2. Main Title / Rebel Blockade Runner (2:14)
  3. Imperial Attack (6:43)
  4. The Dune Sea of Tatooine / Jawa Sandcrawler (5:01)
  5. The Moisture Farm (2:25)
  6. The Hologram / Binary Sunset (4:10)
  7. Landspeeder Search / Attack Of The Sand People (3:20)
  8. Tales Of A Jedi Knight / Learn The Ways Of The Force (4:29)
  9. Burning Homestead (2:50)
  10. Mos Eisley Spaceport (2:16)
  11. Cantina Band (2:47)
  12. Cantina Band #2 (3:56)
  13. Binary Sunset – alternate version (2:19)
    Star Wars soundtrack - 2004 editionDisc two:

  1. Princess Leia’s Theme (4:27)
  2. The Millennium Falcon / Imperial Cruiser Pursuit (3:51)
  3. Destruction Of Alderaan (1:32)
  4. The Death Star / The Stormtroopers (3:35)
  5. Wookiee Prisoner / Detention Block Ambush (4:10)
  6. Shootout In The Cell / Dianoga (3:48)
  7. The Trash Compactor (3:07)
  8. The Tractor Beam / Chasm Crossfire (5:18)
  9. Ben Kenobi’s Death / TIE Fighter Attack (3:51)
  10. The Battle Of Yavin (9:07)
  11. The Throne Room / End Title (5:38)

Released by: RCA/Victor
Release date: 1997
Disc one total running time: 57:33
Disc two total running time: 48:15

Electric Light Orchestra – Out Of The Blue

Electric Light Orchestra - Out Of The BlueYou have to be in the mood for ELO, and a whole lot of ELO at its most ELO-esque, if you’re going to absorb this entire double album in one sitting. This album contains the singles “Turn To Stone”, “Sweet Talkin’ Woman” and “Mr. Blue Sky”, three of the best ELO singles ever to hit the airwaves. Some of the best album tracks also come from this one as well, including “Starlight”, one of the best songs ELO ever recorded. Don’t ask me why, but my favorite Jeff Lynne compositions show their 50s-retro roots quite audibly. Also included are “Jungle”, a song that sounds incredibly silly on the surface but is appealing all the same; “Standing In The Rain”, keyboardist Richard Tandy’s most jaw-dropping performance (and this was years before MIDI, children); the rough-edged Birmingham Blues (about the band’s home town – England, not Alabama); “Summer And Lightning” and “Night In The City” (two of the very few songs in which every possible good clichè of ELO’s sound converges), and one of my favorite instrumentals, “The Whale”. 4 out of 4 starsSome would argue that this is the last time ELO really sounded good, and that’s not entirely untrue. Out Of The Blue also marks the beginning of ELO’s most commercial phase of existence; the adventurous ELO of old didn’t return until 1981.

    Order this CD in the Store

  1. Turn To Stone (3:47)
  2. It’s Over (4:08)
  3. Sweet Talkin’ Woman (3:48)
  4. Across the Border (3:53)
  5. Night in the City (4:01)
  6. Starlight (4:26)
  7. Jungle (3:51)
  8. Believe Me Now (1:21)
  9. Steppin’ Out (4:39)
  10. Standin’ in the Rain (4:21)
  11. Big Wheels (5:05)
  12. Summer and Lightning (4:14)
  13. Mr. Blue Sky (5:05)
  14. Sweet is the Night (3:26)
  15. The Whale (5:02)
  16. Birmingham Blues (4:23)
  17. Wild West Hero (4:42)

Released by: Jet
Release date: 1977
Total running time: 70:12

Split Enz – Dizrythmia

Split Enz - DizrythmiaThis is perhaps the least listenable of all the Enz’ albums. You’d think that I, a solid Crowded House fan, would adore Dizrythmia for the arrival of future Crowdies lead man Neil Finn, but on this album his talent is still very much in the process of developing and maturing. The whole collection isn’t a total loss, as it features favorites such as “Bold As Brass” and the downright sinister “Charlie”, as well as my personal favorite on this disc, “Crosswords”, a wonderfully silly song with a surprisingly complex 2 out of 4arrangement. To describe this album in a single phrase – this is Split Enz in flux. It becomes obvious that the amazingly polished sound of Second Thoughts was a bit of a fluke early in the band’s history. Still, a lot of Enz fanz like this album, so I could very well be wrong.

Order this CD

  1. Bold As Brass (3:31)
  2. My Mistake (3:02)
  3. Parrot Fashion Love (3:54)
  4. Sugar and Spice (3:48)
  5. Without a Doubt (6:08)
  6. Crossroads (3:26)
  7. Charlie (5:32)
  8. Nice To Know (4:24)
  9. Jamboree (6:36)

Released by: Mushroom
Release date: 1977
Total running time: 40:21

10cc – Deceptive Bends

10cc - Deceptive BendsThough it contains one of the two songs most everyone thinks about when the name 10cc comes up, this album is pretty much average. “The Things We Do For Love” has earned its classic status, but there are other great songs on this album, including the wonderfully beautiful but offbeat ballad “People In Love” and the very strange and well-produced “Honeymoon With B Troop”. (Well-produced in this case meaning that the effects and acoustic treatments used on various voices and instruments are absolutely perfect given the song’s subject; and it’s just so weird, ya gotta love it!) But there are some simply average tracks, such as another well performed and produced track, Feel the Benefit, which is an attempt at emulating the epic-scale structure of such pop medleys as the Beatles’ “Golden Slumbers” / “Carry That Weight” / “The End” that comes across as just that, a smaller-scale copy. Most of the album is pretty good, though; and it comes from that remarkable convergence of talents that seemed to take place all around the same time; 1977 3 out of 4brought us this album with one of 10cc’s biggest singles, ELO’s Out Of The Blue, Alan Parsons’ I Robot, The Rumour’s Frogs, Sprouts, Clogs & Krauts, John Williams’ Star Wars soundtrack, and many others – at least in my book, 1977 seems to have been a musical flashpoint.

Order this CD

  1. Good Morning Judge (2:53)
  2. The Things We Do For Love (3:30)
  3. Marriage Bureau Rendezvous (4:03)
  4. People In Love (3:45)
  5. Modern Man Blues (5:35)
  6. Honeymoon with B Troop (2:47)
  7. I Bought a Flat Guitar Tutor (1:46)
  8. You’ve Got A Cold (3:36)
  9. Feel the Benefit (11:29)

Released by: PolyGram
Release date: 1977
Total running time: 39:24

ELO Part II – Live With The Moscow Symphony Orchestra

Electric Light Orchestra Part Two - Greatest Hits Live with the Moscow Symphony Orchestra“Well,” I thought, “that’s nice, it’s in the bargain bin.” Then I did a slight double-take. “What? This is new, and it’s already in the bargain bin.” This meant trouble. The fading remnants of my favorite band were fading really fast if their new release, even though it is a live album, was entering the music store shelves at rock-bottom. And I found out why (that’s the great thing about bargains, eh?). This is, at best, an excessively mediocre live album. Years later, in 1996, I saw ELO Part II perform live when they made a stop in my home town of Fort Smith, Arkansas, and I discovered that ELO Part II does a kick-ass live show, just not on this album. Perhaps the improvement in their live repertoire is that they’ve expanded their selection of post-ELO originals, which are better suited to their live performance needs because they know what they’re capable of on stage. This album is comprised entirely – with the singular exception of “Thousand Eyes” – of classic ELO songs which people have come to know with a full string section. The Moscow Symphony can deliver the goods most of the time, but even they have their off nights, as can be heard when somebody hits an outrageously, painfully flat note in the Rating: 1 out of 4Beethoven intro to “Roll Over Beethoven”. I think as ELO Part II expands their repertoire of original tunes, their live show will only get better and better, as the new songs are tailored to the new group’s strengths. In fact, I keep hearing about a new live album called One Night which has yet to make it to the States, and I’d love to hear it, because, even though this album fell seriously flat, ELO Part II really brings the house down live.

    Order this CD in the Store

  1. Overture (2:26)
  2. Turn To Stone (3:51)
  3. Evil Woman (4:20)
  4. Showdown (5:08)
  5. Livin’ Thing (4:04)
  6. Hold On Tight (2:58)
  7. Thousand Eyes (4:28)
  8. Can’t Get It Out Of My Head (6:46)
  9. Telephone Line (5:04)
  10. Roll Over Beethoven (6:05)

Released by: Scotti Bros.
Release date: 1992
Total running time: 45:10

Fleetwood Mac – Rumours

Fleetwood Mac - RumoursIf you’re going to vomit from hearing about the Fleetwood Mac album with “Don’t Stop” on it, maybe you’d better move along to the review of Mirage. Actually, I’ve always thought “Don’t Stop” and “Go Your Own Way” are both overplayed and overrated. Of much more interest to me is the classic early Lindsey Buckingham material (specifically “Second Hand News” and “Never Going Back Again”) and the fact that I actually liked Stevie Nicks’ songs on this album. I can’t tell you how much I do not like 4 out of 4her later stuff, especially once she got into the whole “Gypsy” image a little too deep. In fact, aside from those overexposed singles I mentioned above, there are few things about this album that I don’t like. The best song is easily Christine McVie’s beautiful “Songbird”.

Order this CD

  1. Second Hand News (2:43)
  2. Dreams (4:14)
  3. Never Going Back Again (2:02)
  4. Don’t Stop (3:11)
  5. Go Your Own Way (3:38)
  6. Songbird (3:20)
  7. The Chain (4:28)
  8. You Make Loving Fun (3:31)
  9. I Don’t Want To Know (3:11)
  10. Oh Daddy (3:54)
  11. Gold Dust Woman (4:51)

Released by: Warner Bros.
Release date: 1977
Total running time: 39:03