The Cardigans – First Band On The Moon

The Cardigans - First Band On The MoonI’m a bit embarassed about this one, to be honest. I got sucked into the Cardigans the same way I got into Merril Bainbridge – I was wondering “Did they really just sing what I think they just sang?” Mind you, I was already reeling from months of unfortunate radio exposure to “LoveFool”, also known as the “love me, love me, fool me, fool me” song, and I had truly grown tired of it. “LoveFool” annoys me on many levels, not the least of which is the “I don’t care how you treat me, just don’t leave” message that the lyrics present – does anyone really want their daughter or sister listening to something like that? “Been It” just flat shocked me – it’s a much better song musically, and the lyrics are much more cohesive in that they actually mean something – though I think it’s the first time I’d ever heard the word “whore” on top 40 radio before the Cardigans came along. Something about the message woven into the Cardigans’ lyrics bothers me greatly as someone who is aware that people – especially impressionable young people – do receive these messages loud and clear. We already have plenty of “ho” lyrics coming from male rappers…do we really need to hear a female singing “Maybe I was your whore” and encouraging that Rating: 2 out of 4line of thought among women and girls who are listening (to say nothing of the men who are listening)? The Cardigans have the musicianship to hold their own, and Nina Persson’s vocals are effective at both the wispy and the gutsy ends of the spectrum…but the lyrics need some serious work. Later efforts such as “Erase / Rewind” proved that they could do better than this.

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  1. Your New Cuckoo (3:57)
  2. Been It (4:06)
  3. Heartbreaker (3:42)
  4. Happy Meal II (2:37)
  5. Never Recover (3:21)
  6. Step On Me (3:48)
  7. LoveFool (3:21)
  8. Losers (3:06)
  9. Iron Man (4:20)
  10. Great Divide (3:17)
  11. Choice (3:26)

Released by: Mercury
Release date: 1996
Total running time: 39:09

Tori Amos РBoys for P̬l̬

Tori Amos - Boys for PèlèIs it possible that the immensely talented Tori Amos stretched her stylistic envelope about as far as it could possibly go with her 1992 debut album? Or could it be that her subject matter is finally getting so “out there” that I’m losing track of her? Much of the lyrics of 1992’s Little Earthquakes seemed, at least on the surface, to deal with rape; the abusive element continued in 1994 on Under The Pink, which concerned itself with a number of vindictive themes.

So far, I am at a total loss as to what Boys for Pèlè is about. I really can’t decipher most of the lyrics. Tori’s got a penchant for all kinds of clever wordplay and secret messages, but for some reason I’m drawing blanks on a lot of the words this time around. Maybe I just haven’t “been there.” Or maybe she is straying far and wide of what originally drew me to her music. I really can’t tell yet.

Lyrics aside, Boys for Pèlè isn’t especially innovative in the music department alone; “Professional Widow” struck me as being a second dose of “God” from her last album, and I believe I would’ve liked it a lot better if it had been a piano rendering instead of the “funky harpsichord” treatment it got. (I’ll state right here and now, I just do not like the sound of the harpsichord. I don’t like it if the music being played on it was composed centuries ago or mere months ago. This album is smothered with harpsichord, or at least a clavinet trying to pass itself off as one. Urgh!)

At the same time, Boys for Pèlè does exhibit some intriguing new additions to Tori’s repertoire that bear examination next time around. A really jazzy little tune (“In The Springtime Of His Voodoo”) comes out on top as my favorite – it’s a real cookin’, swinging little number! Loved it. I also liked the very percussive “Caught A Lite Sneeze”, the first single off the album. The two big surprises were a couple of numbers on which Tori is joined by a small brass jazz group, and another which features what sounds like a southern gospel choir. Both of these elements are surprising to find on Tori’s music, and they meld with it beautifully.

Still, I found the innovative to be in the minority, but still well worth a listen. When Little Earthquakes was first released, it hit me like a revelation – it was like nothing I’d ever heard before. Now, here it is four years later, and3 out of 4 my biggest criticism of Tori’s two albums since her debut is that both of them tried to improve on areas that needed no improvement, and both of them retained weaknesses that could’ve used some work. Tori has never quite managed to surpass her first effort. Or equal it.

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  1. Beauty Queen / Horses (6:07)
  2. Blood Roses (3:56)
  3. Father Lucifer (3:43)
  4. Professional Widow (4:31)
  5. Mr. Zebra (1:07)
  6. Marianne (4:07)
  7. Caught a Lite Sneeze (4:24)
  8. Muhammed My Friend (3:48)
  9. Hey Jupiter (5:10)
  10. Way Down (1:13)
  11. Little Amsterdam (4:29)
  12. Talula (4:08)
  13. Not the Red Baron (3:49)
  14. Agent Orange (1:26)
  15. Doughnut Song (4:19)
  16. In The Springtime Of His Voodoo (5:32)
  17. Putting the Damage On (5:08)
  18. Twinkle (3:12)

Released by: Atlantic
Release date: 1996
Total running time:

The Beatles Anthology, Volume 2

The Beatles Anthology, Volume 2Slightly more accessible than the first volume of the Anthology, this collection covers what is likely more familiar and beloved ground to many – the years that spanned Rubber Soul, Revolver and Sgt. Pepper in which the Beatles abandoned the stage and ensconsed themselves in the studio. And it’s good. It’s really good. For every interesting live/early piece on Anthology 1, Anthology 2 has an unreleased or remixed studio track (and a few live ones too, from Blackpool Night Out and Shea Stadium).

First things first. Not having heard anything but the album masters of the many songs heard in different forms here, the main reason I bought Anthology 2 was “Real Love”, a song which has been stuck in my head since November 1995 when it aired on TV. This is a beautiful song. I thought “Free As A Bird” sounded just like what it was, a Lennon solo piece with overdubs from the other Beatles. “Real Love”, though it is also an incomplete Lennon demo, sounds and feels more like a Beatles song. It hits that soft spot in everyone’s heart, that corner of everybody that – despite all cynical efforts to deny it – is a hopeless romantic. What a great song. On the technical side, great production by my musical hero, Jeff Lynne.

The rest isn’t bad, either. Included are such interesting items as a no-vocals mix of “Eleanor Rigby”‘s string quartet, an instrumental rehearsal of “I’m Only Sleeping” (one of my personal favorite Beatles tunes), the basic rhythm tracks and vocal of “I Am The Walrus” sans overdubbed strings and effects, truly weird takes 4 out of 4of “Tomorrow Never Knows” and “Your Mother Should Know”, and some very nice stripped-down takes of “Across the Universe” (another beautiful song), “Hello Goodbye”, and many others. The booklet is, again, wonderful to read whether you’re listening to the CDs or not.

How could they top this one with Anthology 3? I asked myself…

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    Disc one

  1. Real Love (3:54)
  2. Yes It Is (1:50)
  3. I’m Down (2:54)
  4. You’ve Got To Hide Your Love Away – false starts (2:45)
  5. If You’ve Got Trouble (2:48)
  6. That Means A Lot (2:26)
  7. Yesterday – first take, guitar only (2:34)
  8. It’s Only Love (1:59)
  9. I Feel Fine – live TV appearance from Blackpool Night Out (2:15)
  10. Ticket to Ride (2:45)
  11. Yesterday (2:43)
  12. Help! (2:54)
  13. Everybody’s Trying To Be My Baby – Shea Stadium, 8-15-65 (2:46)
  14. Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown) – first take (1:59)
  15. I’m Looking Through You (2:54)
  16. 12-Bar Original – instrumental (2:55)
  17. Tomorrow Never Knows – first take (3:14)
  18. Got To Get You Into My Life – no brass (2:54)
  19. And Your Bird Can Sing – second take, blooper (2:14)
  20. Taxman (2:32)
  21. Eleanor Rigby – string quartet only (2:06)
  22. I’m Only Sleeping – instrumental rehearsal (0:41)
  23. I’m Only Sleeping – first take (2:59)
  24. Rock ‘n’ Roll Music – Bukodan, 6-30-66 (1:38)
  25. She’s a Woman – Bukodan, 6-30-66 (2:55)
    Disc two

  1. Strawberry Fields Forever – John’s demo (1:42)
  2. Strawberry Fields Forever – first take (2:34)
  3. Strawberry Fields Forever – seventh take (4:14)
  4. Penny Lane (3:13)
  5. A Day in the Life – no orchestral overdubs (5:04)
  6. Good Morning, Good Morning – no brass (2:40)
  7. Only a Northern Song (2:44)
  8. Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite (1:06)
  9. Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite – seventh take (2:33)
  10. Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds (3:06)
  11. Within You Without You – instrumental tracks only (5:27)
  12. Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band – reprise (1:27)
  13. You Know My Name, Look Up The Number (5:44)
  14. I Am The Walrus – no orchestral overdubs (4:02)
  15. The Fool on the Hill – Paul’s demo (2:48)
  16. Your Mother Should Know – 27th take (3:02)
  17. The Fool on the Hill – fourth take (3:45)
  18. Hello Goodbye – 16th take (3:18)
  19. Lady Madonna (2:22)
  20. Across the Universe – recorded 2-68, John & guitar only (3:28)

Released by: Capitol
Release date: 1996
Disc one total running time: 63:37
Disc two total running time: 64:21

Men At Work – Contraband: The Best of Men At Work

Men At Work - Contraband: The Best of Men At WorkYes, it’s another entry in my fascination with music from Australia and New Zealand, but the difference here is that everybody’s heard of Men At Work. Normally, I shy away from “best of” albums unless I only like one or two singles a band does in the first place, or unless the band in question concentrates all their energy on their singles and seems to fizzle out on the album tracks. The latter describes Men At Work. I used to have their first two albums, but gladly traded both in for this CD, which includes some material from a third album I had never heard of. The booklet included is insightful, if a little 3 out of 4too slap-on-the-back-ish and self-congratulatory. And naturally, all of the band’s well-known (and even a few less well-known) singles are present. This CD is still widely available, so if you remember Men At Work fondly like I do, it’s probably a good pick for you.

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  1. Who Can It Be Now? (3:19)
  2. Down Under (3:40)
  3. It’s a Mistake (4:31)
  4. Hard Luck Story (3:41)
  5. Still Life (3:49)
  6. Underground (3:02)
  7. Upstairs In My House (4:00)
  8. I Like To – live   (4:25)
  9. High Wire (3:00)
  10. Maria (4:34)
  11. Be Good Johnny (3:33)
  12. Dr. Heckyll & Mr. Jive (4:36)
  13. Overkill (3:43)
  14. The Man With Two Hearts (3:55)
  15. Snakes and Ladders (3:16)
  16. Down By The Sea (6:48)

Released by: Legacy
Release date: 1996
Total running time: 64:06