The Rolling Stones discography : Part Four – The 90’s until today

With four records to review in the last 29 years, this review was quick to do. Quite interesting though as apart from the last blues covers album releases in 2016, I did not remember at all the other three in terms of content. I even listened to “Stripped” from 1995, thinking it was a covers’ album while it was actually a sort of live album. Anyway, here is the final package of the whole review. I hope you liked it and that it made you want again to listen to classic records or forgotten ones from this incredible band.

Complete review: Part I (the 60’s) – Part II (the 70’s) – Part III (the 80’s)

 Voodoo Lounge (1994) : Once again, the band delivers the goods on this LP, supervised by the excellent producer Don Was. Five years since their previous album, in times when in five years music trends can be created and over with, the Rolling Stones would now face the same questions again and again: “why are we still doing it having in mind we won’t have an impact anymore?”, “Shall we stick to our blues roots (Keith) or try to update our sound (Mick)?”, “Do we really love each other?”. I guess the answers lie in the questions… This album anyway is particularly successful in getting a dynamic and modern sound while keeping the band close to their essence. A few tracks are really amazing and are regularly played in concerts. So, in a nutshell, another very good one! Oh, and by the way…, Bill Wyman is not a Rolling Stones member anymore if anyone is interested…(8/10). Key tracks : “Love Is Strong“, “You Got Me Rocking” & “Moon Is Up“.

 Bridges To Babylon (1997) :  Considered by many fans and critics are one of the worst ones, I tried once again to listen to it without prejudice and fresh ears and I must say I was quite excited as totally oblivious of this album. I know it may appear as a lack of critical sense (which is the ANTI-ME!) but I have to admit this one really good as well. Of course, there are a few misses here and there, due to Mick’s eagerness to sound sometimes like a real cool hip-hop dude but overall a very enjoyable album. Look at the three tracks I selected and tell me these are not great ones! (7.5/10). Key tracks : “Anybody Seen My Baby“, “Out Of Control” & “Saint Of Me”.

 A Bigger Bang (2005) : …and here we are, the Rolling Stones releasing an album of original songs in the 21st century; who would have thought about it really? This album was mainly the brainchild of Keith Richards and one can feel indeed a nice and constant blues rock feel through it. The main issue is that there are 16 songs on this album and a few of them are just okish. It would have made a killer 10-track LP but overall still a nice and dignified effort.  (7/10). Key tracks : “Let Me Down Slow”, “Biggest Mistake” & “Laugh, I Nearly Died“.

 Blue & Lonesome (2016) :  More than ten years since their last studio album and with an unexpected December 2016 release (meaning a bit late to be in the traditional best of lists…including mine), this album is actually only made out of blues covers. The original plan for the band was to gather in a London studio and rehearse original material. It looks though that nothing good came out of it and the band started to play a few obscure blues covers to have fun and get the energy. One song was recorded, then a second one and little by little the band realised they had a new album. And what an amazing album this is! To me, blues is a great form of music to catch on stage but somehow slightly boring and repetitive on records…which is not true at all here. The Rolling Stones play as if their lives of men in their seventies depended on it, the sound is huge and pure and Mick sings with an ageless voice. One of their best records ever. (9/10). Key tracks : “Commit A Crime“, “All Of Your Love” & “Ride ‘Em On Down”.

 

…and so the verdict is that there is no awful Rolling Stones record, that a few forgotten ones are excellent and deserve to be listened to again and that their classics are even better than their reputation. Long live to The Rolling Stones!

 

The Rolling Stones discography : Part Three – The 80’s

…and here we are, reaching the infamous 80’s, the decade when all major artists (Neil Young, Paul McCartney, David Bowie,…) faced supposedly difficult artistic times. I guess this is also spontaneously the kind of comments one would do about The Rolling Stones in the 80’s. But apart from the pink and yellow aerobic outfits worn by Mick Jagger, were the 80’s such a bad time in terms of pure music releases? Well, it looks that was not so…and I must say as I had a really good time listening to all these records again.

Complete review: Part I (the 60’s) – Part II (the 70’s) – Part IV (the 90’s until today)

Emotional Rescue Emotional Rescue (1980) : This album can be considered as a little brother of their previous LP “Some Girls“. Of course, it would be known if it were such a good album but there are a few amazing tracks also here, trying to mix their rock’n’roll roots with a bit of disco. A few songs are also very original, which makes this album a very singular one. To (re)discover . (8/10). Key tracks : “Dance (Pt.1)“, “Down In The Hole” & “Emotional Rescue“.

Tattoo You Tattoo You (1981) : Another Rolling Stones album just one year after their previous one; we are indeed talking about another age here compared to their production sequence in the years to come. This album was supposed to express their returning back to their original roots…and this is not really so as to my mind, when you have Keith Richards in your band, you will always more or less be close to your blues and rock’n’roll roots. Not the masterpiece a few fans or journalists want this to be, this is still a very solid album…and it has “Start Me Up” on it, one of their greatest live songs ever! (7.5/10). Key tracks : “Start Me Up“, “Heaven” & “Waiting On A Friend”.

Undercover Undercover (1983) : With its nice and modern cover, this album could appear as a desperate tentative to remain hip amongst a young public fan, at a time when hip-hop was starting to grow as a genre. I must say this album aged quite well and a few songs are really rough and primitive. Once again, having Charlie Watts and Keith Richards in your band is the best cure to fight the disease other artists got in the early 80’s in terms of awful sounds. (7/10). Key tracks : “Undercover Of The Night”, Too Much Blood” & “Pretty Beat Up“.

Dirty Work Dirty Work (1986) : Ok, the cover is ugly and one can feel the animosity between the Glimmer Twins at that stage. This is supposed to be their weakest album of all times and I remember reading a quite critical review in the NME at the time. On a personal matter, this was the year when music for me was magical with all these amazing bands and artists such as The Smiths, The Fall, Prince, The Go-Betweens, Sonic Youth, Elvis Costello,… (have a look at NME’s 1986 list and you will be amazed). However, the beauty in listening back with no prejudice to albums is that one can be surprised sometimes. And I was, in particular by the constant aggression and energy felt throughout the tracks. Another one to (re) discover I must say. (7.5/10). Key tracks : “One Hit (To The Body)”, “Harlem Shuffle” & “Winning Ugly.

Steel Wheels Steel Wheels (1989) : And here we are, reaching the end of the 80’s…with one of their best albums of all times. I am not sure many music lovers share this with me but I remember being a huge fan of this album at the time of its release and a new listening did not change my mind at all. I could easily have chosen 5 or 6 excellent tracks, in particular the amazing “Continental Drift” recorded with Moroccan musicians. Let’s not forget that The Rolling Stones were virtually no more and that Mick Jagger just came back to Keith Richards when he realised he would never had as much success with his solo career. As Keith told him on the phone, “…darling, this thing is bigger than the both of us…” (9/10). Key tracks : “Mixed Emotions”, “Rock And A Hard Place” & “Can’t Be Seen”.

So the 80’s were actually quite a good decade for The Rolling Stones. Stay tuned for the final part of this review and their latest releases since the start of the 90’s!

The Rolling Stones discography : Part One – The 60’s

Five years ago, I started an ambitious task: review and rate all The Rolling Stones‘ studio LP’s. Not that huge a burden actually as there are not so many of them despite a career above fifty-five years now. I started with the 70’s… but forgot a bit about this review for the other decades. Their recent excellent gig in Paris and a special issue of les Inrocks 2 on their complete discography made me want to resume this task again so let’s ignite our time machine and travel back to the 60’s.

Complete review: Part II (the 70’s)Part III (the 80’s)Part IV (the 90’s until today)

Let’s start this review with something important to mention first. It may appear weird in our current age but until “Between The Buttons” included, there were different versions between UK and US albums. In other words, there are actually more US albums and those were including singles, meaning these versions may appear superior sometimes. It has been decided here to stick to the UK versions as a)…well, this is a UK band b) the UK versions reflect much better the evolution of the band. It will mean for instance that “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” is not reviewed here as absent in the UK version of “Out Of Our Heads“. The “Singles Collection: The London Years” boxset is therefore very much recommended to get all these amazing singles in one place.

RS64.jpg The Rolling Stones (1964) : Is there a better way to introduce The Rolling Stones to the world that spend a few minutes analysing this cover? These guys are indeed a bit menacing, dedicated, rough and away from the light in real life as they are shot on this great picture. This first album is basically a testimony of what the band were at this early stage, i.e. young UK lads playing American blues as if their life depended on it. All songs are covers apart from one Jagger/Richards track and a few of them are a bit clumsy but overall no better way to say to the world: “Hi, we’re The Rolling Stones and we’re here to stay”. (7.5/10). Key tracks : “Route 66“, “I’m A King Bee” & “Walking The Dog“.

TheRollingStonesNumber2.jpg The Rolling Stones #2 (1965) : Nothing much to add vs. the review of their first album as this is basically the same formula: young UK band covering US blues numbers with a tremendous energy. The boys were still in their learning phase and would have plenty of time to write classic songs in the future. (7/10). Key tracks : “Everybody Needs Somebody To Love“, “Time Is On My Side” & “Off The Hook”.

Out+of+Our+Heads+-UK-.jpg Out Of Our Heads (1965) : Their 3rd album was a bit disappointing as one would have expected a real evolution of the formula, which was not the case at all. The three Jagger/Richards tracks are solid and promising but the majority of the covers are not as good as those from the previous two albums. Time to change the formula then for the upcoming fourth LP? (7/10). Key tracks : “Mercy, Mercy”, Heart Of Stone” & “I’m Free“.

RSAftermathUK.jpg Aftermath (1966) : …and the answer is yes, of course! No more covers here but fourteen original Jagger/Richards songs. The band were still searching and trying a few things, which may appear incredible now when one thinks as how controlled famous bands have been by their record company in the following years. There is in particular a blues/drone number called “Goin’ Home” which lasts more than eleven minutes and stills sound as fresh now as fifty years ago. (8/10). Key tracks : “Mother’s Little Helper”, “Under My Thumb” & “Out Of Time”.

BetweenthebuttonsUK.jpg Between The Buttons (1967) : Another famous cover which is self-explanatory. The boys appear tired and slightly under the influence whereas Brian Jones in particular looks to lose the plot… Not far from the reality as the genius founder of the band was feeling more and more that he was losing the control of his band…and this despite his tremendous sense of arrangements. Not a big step forward overall vs. their previous album but still a very good one (8/10). Key tracks : “She Smiled Sweetly”, “Cool, Calm & Collected” & “Complicated”.

Rolling Stones - Their Satanic Majesties Request - 1967 Decca Album cover.jpg Their Satanic Majesties Request (1967) : This would finally be the end of this stupid US vs. UK policy and one could enjoy the same album all over the world. This is probably their least beloved album…and to me one of their best! Let’s have in mind that 1967 was the year of The Beatles‘ “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” and indeed it looks The Rolling Stones had in mind to enter the so-called psychedelic music whatever the consequences. Many critics and fans consider it as a flawed piece but this is not the case at all when one listens without prejudice. A few songs are very interesting in their sound texture in particular. Above all, there are also a few songs which to me are amongst the best ever written by Jagger/Richards. …And this is the only album with a song credited to Bill Wyman… and this is the last LP on which Brian Jones was really involved. Re-discover it! (8.5/10). Key tracks : “Sing This All Together”, “She’s A Rainbow” & “2000 Light Years From Home“.

BeggarsBanquetLP.jpg Beggars Banquet (1968) : I did not put the “toilet” cover although it is that which is available now and which was originally intended by The Rolling Stones. But no revisionism in this blog: the record was released with its white cover and that is the way it was. This is the first record of The Rolling Stones golden era of four immense masterpieces in a row and no better way to start this era than with the bongo introduction of “Sympathy For The Devil“. Their best album so far although to my mind it does not deserve the perfect rating as a couple of tracks are only very good… and not sublime (9.5/10). Key tracks : “Sympathy For The Devil”, “No Expectations” & “Street Fighting Man“. 

LetitbleedRS.jpg Let It Bleed (1969) : This is to me their absolute best record, hence the very rare rating I gave as for all albums everyone should have. Strange also that this fantastic album was actually their first release after firing Brian Jones in the summer of ’69. We all know the story about the way poor Brian Jones would not survive for a long time and be found dead in his swimming pool in July of that year. Enter the young and very gifted Mick Taylor on guitar but also key collaborators such as Nick Hopkins on piano or Bobby Keyes on saxophone. The rule to select three tracks is a bit ludicrous here as it means “You Got The Silver“, “Love In Vain” or “Midnight Rambler” for instance have to be eliminated! I defy anyone not to have shivers down their spines while listening to the first guitar notes of the record and the first words …”Oh, a storm is threatening my very life today…” (10.5/10). Key tracks : “Gimme Shelter”, “Live With Me” & “You Can’t Always Get What You Want“.

Stay tuned for Part III and the 80’s ; I promise it will be done before 2022!

Spoon – Complete discography and review of the 30th June, 2017 concert (London, O2 Forum Kentish town)

A bit like those great American bands such as Shearwater or The National, I must say I really discovered the greatness of Spoon’s music in 2007 only, i.e. more than ten years after their first studio album. I guess I am faulty by having read too much British press at the time…whereas I got a better balance subsequently while perusing the internet. In musical trends, one generally goes from US grunge to Britpop whilst actually there were many interesting and original bands doing their own thing. Better late than never as they say so here are two reviews for the price of one of one of the best and singular band of our times.

  • Discography: the studio LP’s

 Telephono (1996): Always weird to discover old albums of favourite bands and quite difficult to be objective and not think about what would go next. This is not the case with bands such as Radiohead for instance as I bought their first album the week it went out and I can judge each record by its merit. Anyway, Telephono is a very solid debut album albeit lacking a bit of singularity. Quite influenced by bands such as Pixies or Pavement, this album is made out of punchy and short songs. One could already feel the excellence of Jim Eno on the drums but Britt Daniel’s voice is not as precise as it is now. Best tracks: “Don’t Buy the Realistic“, “All The Negatives Have Been Destroyed” and “Towner“. Rating: 7/10

 A Series Of Sneaks (1998): Not as rough as the first album but not as great and polished as the masterpieces to come, this album deserves to be discovered and listened to with fresh ears. One could very much feel the influences of the 90’s US rock sound on a few songs whereas a few other ones are really singular and could have been written anytime in the 60’s, 90’s or today. A testimony of a band growing up with grace. Best tracks: “The Minor Tough“, “Metal Detektor” and “No You’re Not“. Rating: 7.5/10

Girls Can Tell (2001): Thee years without a new album may appear a long time for a young band but this lapse of time was explained first by being on a new label and also by the release of the excellent “Love Ways” EP in 2000. If such a thing exists, this is the album where the band really found their identities and the “Spoon sound”. By this, I mean getting away from the Pixies / Pavement influences and getting closer to the skeletal drums and guitar sound which makes the band immediately familiar. Not great yet…but getting closer to it. Best tracks: “Everything Hits At Once“, “Lines In The Suit” and “This Book Is A Movie“. Rating: 8/10

 Kill The Moonlight (2002): The energy was there and now Spoon were getting closer and closer to their sound. This album is probably even more interesting in that sense compared to the previous one although I found the songs not as memorable. Typically the kind of records one would describe as transitional, which means very often that it is full of hidden treasures. Best tracks: “The Way We Get By“, “Stay Don’t Go” and “Don’t Let It Get You Down“. Rating: 7.5/10

 Gimme Fiction (2005): The first true great record by Spoon and very often considered as their best by a portion of their fans and the press. Not so much the case here although I must admit this album being amongst their best. This is really the time when the band finally achieved all their potentials by mixing guitar oriented rock with soul influences and once again this skeletal mood difficult to describe but which is really their own. Good to note as well that this is the start of a series of albums beginning with an amazing track. Best tracks: “The Beast and Dragon, Adored“, “My Mathematical Mind” and “I Summon You“. Rating: 8.5/10

 Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga (2007): This is a very special album for this blog as I entered Spoon’s world through this amazing album. It remains for me Spoon’s masterpiece and one of the few fantastic albums in rock music where every track you listen to seems to be better than the previous one. I am torn between recommending this album directly to anyone not knowing Spoon or having them listen to this album later but at one stage in your life you should discover this album. Best tracks: “Don’t Make Me A Target“, “The Ghost Of You Lingers” and “The Underdog“. Rating: 10/10

 Transference (2010): Spoon were probably in an ideal position in 2010 as they were starting to reach a bigger audience while keeping their more indie rock fan base. As they had built their career with a step by step approach, their new record was again a balance between keeping their sound and experimenting. This made Transference another gorgeous album which was almost as good as their previous masterpiece…and finished in this blog’s end of the year Top 3! Nice William Eggleston cover as well. Best tracks: “Written In Reverse“, “I Saw The Light” and “Got Nuffin“. Rating: 9.5/10

 They Want My Soul (2014): A kind of weird record as the band seem harsher and more independent than ever in their words while being probably a bit less inventive than previously. All this is relative really as this is an excellent record full of inventive pop songs. Britt Daniel’s voice keeps on getting better and better as well. Best tracks: “Rent I Pay“, “Do You” and “I Just Don’t Understand“. Rating:  8.5 /10

 Hot Toughts (2017): …and here we end our provisory 21-year journey until Spoon latest LP, which was our LP of the month in March of that year. One of their best albums so far and to me probably their best song ever with “Hot Thoughts“. Interesting to notice also the presence of a weird keyboards and saxophone track at the end of the album, proving if need be that this band is here to stay and ready to innovate. Best tracks: “Hot Thoughts“, “I Ain’t The One” and “Tear It Down“. Rating: 9/10

 

  • Concert Review: Kentish Town Forum, 30th June 2017

Spoon, London, June 2017

So indeed great expectations from this gig as you may guess, knowing that the band have indeed more and more followers, a bit like R.E.M. had in the past before becoming massive. Held in the nice Kentish Town area and in the excellent Forum theatre, I found the band even better that my first gig in 2014 at the Shepherds Bush Empire.

It goes certainly without saying but when one is in a position to live from what they like to do, without any financial stress and a solid critic and fan base, one is necessarily in a better position regarding creativity within a nice context of achievement. This is really what I felt by watching Spoon. You can feel a sense of completeness from the band in their music but also on the fact that they know they have an audience ready to follow them through their musical ventures.

It is indeed a sort of paradox but to me the band have never been so pop and arty simultaneously in their music. Britt Daniel is definitely reaching his potential in being a singer and a leader while the band is excelling in all styles, with a particular mention as always to the great drumming of Jim Eno.

The setlist was really cool and well balanced. I will show to the world my Nick Hornby side below as I associated tracks with albums:

  • Telephono and A Series Of Sneaks: none
  • Girls Can Tell: 1 song (“Anything You Want”)
  • Kill The Moonlight: 1 song (“Stay Don’t Go”)
  • Gimme Fiction: 3 songs (“I Turn My Camera On”, “My Mathematical Mind” and “I Summon You”)
  • Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga: 4 songs (“Don’t You Evah“, “Don’t Make Me A Target”, “The Underdog” and “Black Like Me”)
  • Transference: 1 song (“Got Nuffin”)
  • They Want My Soul: 4 songs (“Inside Out”, “Rent I Pay”, “Do You” and “Rainy Taxi”)
  • Hot Thoughts: 4 songs (“Do I Have To Talk You Into It”, “Can I Sit Next To You”, “I Ain’t The One” and “Hot Thoughts”)

The Cure: studio albums review and Wembley live show 01/12/16

I decided recently to try whenever possible to listen to the discography of the bands I am about to see live a) not to look ridiculous when the people beside you sing by heart all the words of the most famous songs of that group b) to have a bit of perspective and enjoy in due respect the set list I am going to hear.

I did it for Wilco (cf. show review) but also for The Cure who were playing in London Wembley Arena as part of the current world tour. But first let’s focus on their studio discography.

 Three Imaginary Boys (1979): A bit like the first U2 LP, I would recommend to listen to this record on its own, i.e. not anticipating any future evolution or sign of greatness for the band. And a good record it is! One can find in this first LP the influences of the times in a post-punk vein to make it short. But the pink lamp/fridge/hoover cover and also the way songs are structured show that this band is different from their peers. There is nothing goth or any other ludicrous label associated with this band but one can already feel a singularity in these stories, associated with a very lean trio dynamic. You will also find in this album probably the less groovy ever Jimi Hendrix cover (“Foxy Lady”)…but as well one of the best. A very promising debut, still great to listen to after all these years. Best tracks: “10:15 Saturday Night”, “Meathook” and “Three Imaginary Boys”. 8/10

 Seventeen Seconds (1980): The first record of the so-called gloomy trilogy but in reality there are as many similarities with the first record than with those to come later. The band and their leader Robert Smith are not reaching greatness yet…but it does not mean this record does not stay on its own. One can feel the start of a very personal atmosphere in music but never at the expense of a sense of melody and commercial potential. There are a few standards that will stay forever in all The Cure’s sets and this is probably the first album where one can hear Robert Smith’s very original guitar sound. By the way, I have never understood why he is regularly forgotten when one mentions guitar’s main innovators… Best tracks: “Play for Today” , “A Forest” and “Seventeen Seconds”. 8.5/10

 Faith (1981): Faith could be considered as the first The Cure album where one can find their very personal atmosphere and overall themes. This is the place where Robert Smith starts to be a really singular voice and the moment when people realised that there was more than a standard post-punk band. It is very difficult to distinguish a track above the rest as this album is very much a moody one. Having said this, “Primary” remains one of the best songs ever. Another very singular factor is the use of a 6-string bass, which gives this scary and warm sound throughout the record. Not a bad place for those who want to start with a record by The Cure. Best tracks: “Primary”, “Other Voices” and “Faith”. 9/10

 Pornography (1982): This LP is a peak in The Cure’s discography but also one of the best of all times in rock history, period. This is not the kind of music one would play at a dinner’s party unless your friends are goth or unless you want to part ways with not so good friends as each one of the eight tracks here is very intense and deserves to be listened to with concentration and almost worship. The quick and easy thing to say is that this is the final step in the Seventeen Seconds/Faith/Pornography trilogy but the reality is more complex. Robert Smith had to take a step backwards after this album as he was touching a kind of limit in his commitment. This is what he did by touring as a guitarist with Siouxsie and the Banshees and by working with Steve Severin on their side project The Glove before returning to something less heavy with The Cure. Best tracks: “One Hundred Years”, “The Hanging Garden” and “Pornography”. 10/10

 The Top (1984): “The Top” is probably my preferred album by The Cure and I admit I must be one of the few here. It is commonly agreed amongst rock critics that this is a transitional album and that it was more a Robert Smith/ Lol Tolhurst record than anything else. It came also after the pop/jazz singles period favoured by the band with tracks such as “Let’s Go to Bed”, “The Lovecats” or “The Walk” (all collected on the excellent compilation “Japanese Whispers”). However, for me, this album is close to a perfect balance between Robert Smith’s pop sensitivities, a tough atmosphere inherited from the trilogy described above but also new sounds (Spanish guitar, middle-eastern moods, etc…). Close to perfect and as fresh now as when it went out. Best tracks: “Shake Dog Shake”, “Birdmad Girl” and “The Caterpillar”. 10/10

 The Head On The Door (1985): For you French readers, if you were interested by rock and pop music at that time, it probably brings back memories. This was indeed the album with which The Cure became famous there. It was due in particular to the song “In Between Days” and its accompanying clip which could be seen in heavy rotation on tv but also for those facts always difficult to analyse when a so-called underground band becomes massive: right timing, more mature sound, one radio hit (hello R.E.M….). Quite a good album but not my favourite of theirs as to me the sound is indeed too polished and perfect. Difficult to explain really…knowing that there are a few songs in this album which are amongst their best. Best tracks: “Close To Me”, “A Night Like This” and “Sinking”. 8/10

 Kiss Me Kiss Me Kiss Me (1987): This record was probably the most expected one of The Cure’s discography as it came two years after the huge global success of “The Head of the Door”. Would Robert Smith and his band become a pop band far from the underground beginnings or would The Cure go back to their original sound? My feeling by listening to this record again is that the band came back with a sort of gentle middle finger, meaning let’s go back with a 18-track double album where we will play whatever style of music we enjoy. But let’s be clear here: this is not a vibe/jam sort of album as the 18 songs stand on their own and can still be played and enjoyed today in live gigs. Of course, there are a few moments of relative weakness but the overall quality and diversity is amazing. Take the first two songs as an example: you have first the deep and demanding “The Kiss” with its 3.52 seconds wah-wah guitar solo intro and then the beautiful pop song “Catch”. The album goes on like this throughout all the tracks and deserves to be listened again in one go to get an immense rewarding pleasure. Best tracks: “The Kiss”, “How Beautiful You Are…” and “Just Like Heaven”. 9.5/10

 Disintegration (1989): Their last album from the 80’s…and their best ever? Although The Cure started in the 70’s and are still well alive, especially on stage, they will forever be considered as a typical 80’s band. …and what better way than ending that decade than with such a masterpiece? This record is probably that where Robert Smith and his band perfected at best the art of creating amazing songs without losing their pop side. All twelve tracks (with an average length of 6 minutes!) are beautiful and fascinating and the three tracks I kept below could change on a daily basis depending on the mood of the day. As mentioned in South Park, is “Disintegration” the best album ever? Best tracks: “Lovesong”, “Fascination Street” and “Disintegration”. 10.5/10

 Wish (1992): I remember being slightly disappointed when this album came out as I felt there was not the same balance as for “Disintegration” but this is an album that has aged very well with time. I know late-style The Cure (long intros, heavy usage of the wah-wah guitar pedal, screaming voice) is not everyone’s cup of tea but I personally think that this is actually what kept on making the band still very relevant. There are also a few very radio-friendly songs in this album so a kind of ideal record to re-discover. Best tracks: “From The Edge Of The Deep Green Sea” “Friday I’m In Love” and “Cut”. 8.5/10

 Wild Mood Swings (1996): The beauty of this review is that it made me listen again to records not heard for ages. I had basically no real memories about this album despite it being a very good one. Not really different from “The Head on the Door” in terms of balance between long moody songs and short pop ones. Robert Smith would start a sort of cycle here, meaning he would take his time between albums but would focus on quality…and quantity as The Cure’s albums will keep on being quite long and often over 1 hour-time. Best tracks: “Want”, “Mint Car” and “Numb”. 8/10

 Bloodflowers (2000): Robert is now on a “one-album-every-four-years” mode as indeed there is probably no real need for constant new material in a career full of many gems. The band and their leader took a huge amount of time to finalize this album which Robert Smith consider as part III of a trilogy including “Pornography” and “Disintegration”. They actually played the three albums in a row, as can be seen in the “Trilogy” DVD. However, considering this album as good as the other two would probably not be a fair statement. “Bloodflowers” is indeed a very good album by The Cure with all the great things one likes to find in their albums (long songs, dark themes, great guitar playing) but something is missing probably on the melody side. Still better though than 90% of all music production. Best tracks: “Out Of This World”, “Watching Me Fall” and “39”. 7.5/10

 The Cure (2004): A self-titled album produced by the infamous Ross Robinson responsible for crimes against humanity such as Korn or Limp Bizkit? No, please do not run out as this is actually a pretty solid album. Of course, the more it goes, the less innovator Robert Smith and his band will be but this is an album where the musicians play on their strength, with a probably edgier sound that their last efforts. Maybe not the record I will spontaneously listen to very frequently but I really enjoyed (re)discovering it again. Best tracks: “Lost” , “The End Of The World” and “Us Or Them”. 7.5/10

 4:13 Dream (2008): …and here we go for the latest (and last?) The Cure album. This, their thirteenth album, did not bring any musical revolution in 2008 and I am pretty sure that many of you forgot that this LP actually existed. A quite good one I must say although it sounds as if Robert Smith did not really decide if he wanted to make a gloomy and heavy record or a light and poppy one. The band are at the top of their game but melodies are not really memorable and a couple of songs a bit weak. A nice record overall but not the one I would recommend for newcomers. Best tracks: “Underneath The Stars”, “The Hungry Ghost” and “Sleep When I’m Dead”. 7/10

And that’s it really. There are of course many compilations, live or rarities albums or boxsets to discover for die-hard fans but this review was focused on the studio albums.

  • Wembley Arena, London, 1st of December 2016

Let me first recognize that my mission to listen to all The Cure records (including live, compilations, etc…) miserably failed as I am finishing this post more than two months after the gig. However, I must say that I realised again how strong The Cure’s discography was and how creative Robert Smith is. So time well spent!

The Cure, Wembley Arena

The show in itself was not that surprising as the band was the same as the one I enjoyed seeing late 2014 at the Hammersmith Apollo. However, I was again flabbergasted by the quality and dedication of the band after so many years. There is to me a constant freshness in their music that makes it as if it was conceived yesterday.

The Cure, Wembley Arena, Simon Gallup

I found however the concert not as extraordinary as the previous one first because The Wembley Arena is not really a friendly theatre and secondly because the setlist was a bit expected and focused on the most famous songs. But these are tiny caveats really as I went home once again delighted and impressed to spend a wonderful evening with such an amazing band. Long live The Cure!

Death of a ladies’ man – Leonard Cohen’s studio albums

I never had a simple relationship with Leonard Cohen and his music. Of course, I have always recognised the beauty of his songs and the fantastic character he was but he never touched me like artists such as Neil Young or Bruce Springsteen did for instance. Michka Assayas did in October ’16 one full week of programs on his songs and I must say it made me re-discover the work of this great man. His recent death was a shock as well although one could only see that he was very active until his last days and that he had a beautiful and blossoming life until the end. I thought listening again to all his studio albums was probably the best way to reflect on his work and give my modest feedback…

 Songs of Leonard Cohen (1967): His debut album when he was already 33-year old, which already made him different from his contemporaries who very often had finished their careers at that canonical age. The story is quite known for those interested by his life: Leonard Cohen was already a celebrated poet and writer but he realised there was more money to be made in the music business, hence this first LP. This is probably his most classic and famous record, which bears in particular the worldwide known song “Suzanne”. The formula is simple: Leonard sings with his beautiful deep voice ten songs with a very lean instrumentation (very often a bit of acoustic guitar and that’s it). What makes this record eternal is the quality of the songs and their peculiar stories which were very often true and just facts that Leonard Cohen lived and put through poetry. Best tracks: “Sisters of Mercy”, “So Long, Marianne” and “Hey, that’s no Way to say Goodbye”. 9/10

 Songs from a room (1969) :  …and here is for me the first concrete example of a not-that-great LP from Leonard Cohen… The music is really boring and the sense of melodies very often nonexistent. What remains then for the listener? A few great songs for sure but not all of them can be considered as such. Listen without prejudice and I guess many of you will feel that way. Best tracks: “Bird on the Wire” , “The Partisan” and “You know who I am”. 7/10

 Songs of Love and Hate (1971) : has an album ever had such a clear title? Probably the best album from Leonard Cohen and that where he has never been more bitter or sharper in his words. As usual, if you like very complex music chords, forget it but if your idea of music is authenticity, great lyrics and emotional songs sung from a gravel voice, this is for you. Another recurring trend in his career is the way a few of these songs will have better singers cover them, like “Avalanche” covered by Nick Cave in 1985 for instance. …and as Lloyd Cole once said in a concert I attended in the early 00’s, “Famous Blue Raincoat” is (one) of the best songs ever. Best tracks: “Avalanche”, “Dress Rehearsal Rag” and “Famous Blue Raincoat”. 9/10

 New Skin for the old Ceremony (1974) : this is probably my favourite album from the great Canadian. The main reason is probably because to me this is the one where the musicality is the best, in the sense that one feels a close-to-perfect balance between his traditional guitar sound and added production. Probably the album where you will be able to listen to real sounds of drums and bass… and even a bit of groove. Well, we are not talking about Pharell Williams but you know what I mean,a “groovy” Leonard Cohen. Fantastic songs once again but this has been a recurring thing throughout his career so nothing new here. Best tracks: “Lover, lover, lover”, “There is a war” and “Take this longing” . 9.5/10

 Death of a Ladies’ Man (1977) : this is actually where things start to be embarrassing and awkward… This album does not have a good reputation for sure but I did not care one second about such consideration and was actually quite excited to listen to it again with fresh ears. For those who know their music history, they will be familiar with the fact that this record was produced by the formerly great Phil Spector. However, the guy was already on a declining slope and more famous for his eccentricities than for his work as his masterpieces were already behind him…and yes, that’s the one where he put his gun on Leo’s temples during a recording session. But the issue does not come from this but more from the fact that these songs are overall ok but often poorly producted and sometimes with weak melodies. I challenge everyone to listen to the song “Fingerprints” and find it good. So not his best record for sure… Best tracks: “Paper Thin Hotel”, “Dont’ Go Home with your Hard-On” and “Death of a Ladies’ Man”. 5/10

 Recent songs (1979) : not the most famous album of the great Canadian but one of his most solid ones. After the Phil Spector’s atypical record, Leonard Cohen was back to his more traditional sound but in a warmer way than usual and helped by subtle musical gems. One amazing song with “Came so far for Beauty” whereas the rest can be heard as a long moody sequence of tracks, sung quite beautifully. One thing though that would start a trend felt also in the next records: this is the place where one can feel the first (over?) use of female choirs. I have nothing against it (hello, Spiritualized) but here this is sometimes a bit out-of-place as far as I am concerned. Best tracks: “Humbled in Love”, “Came so far for Beauty” and “Our Lady of Solitude”. 7.5/10

 Various Positions (1984) : the first of his muzak albums… For those not familiar with the meaning of muzak, there is an expression in French :”musique d’ascenseur” (elevator music). This is probably too harsh as there are amazing songs in this record and sometimes the balance is really good as on the opener “Dance me to the end of love”. But overall, the music is much too dated with the sound of these awful 80’s synthesizers and organs and also these female choirs which do not bring anything at all. The best example being by far the immense song “Hallelujah”. The world should be eternally grateful to John Cale for spotting such beauty in this song and covering it in a style that Jeff Buckley would make its own a few years later. Best tracks : “Dance me to the End of Love”, “The Law” and “Hallelujah”. 6.5/10

Image result for i'm your man cover I’m your Man (1988) : as reviewed above, it would be foolish to say that Leonard Cohen had actually retired from music so talking about a comeback would be improper. However, that was the general feeling from all critics and audience alike as this LP was not really expected either in terms of being available but also in terms of music excellence. I know I am probably not consistent by criticizing on one side an album like “Various Positions” and praising “I’m your Man” when one focuses on the musical production. The only difference is that here Leonard Cohen goes until the end of his vision by incorporating only new sounds rather than being between a rock and a hard place. To make it short, this album uses new technology as good as the Pet Shop Boys do it. But that would be nothing without the songs of course and here you definitely have a few classics so re-discover this album again if not already the case. Best tracks : ” First we take Manhattan”, “Everybody knows” and “Tower of Song”. 8.5/10

Image result for the future leonard cohen The Future (1992) : unless you are the #1 worldwide fan of the late great Canadian, I guess everyone with a sense of artistry will admit that the cover with the bird, the heart and the handcuffs will not deserve a prize. ..and yes, I know this cannot be a criteria when one has in mind the cover of the Beach Boys’ “Pet Sounds“. Anyway, this is neither the greatest Leonard Cohen LP… nor a tragedy as the songs are quite enjoyable in a sort of soporific-it’s-cold-outside-let’s-stay-home-read-a-book-and-play-this-record but this is not the main thing I want from music. As usual, there are a few great songs and “The Future” is one of them for sure but also a few embarrassing moments like the last almost-instrumental track “Tacoma trailer”. Best tracks : “The Future”, “Waiting for the Miracle” and “Democracy”. 6/10

 Ten New Songs (2001) : This record came out after nine years of silence, the longest interval between two albums at a time when Leonard Cohen was reaching his 67th year, so still a young man compared to other veterans. However, one can really feel here a man completely out of current trends, doing what he does best, ie singing calmly deep words with his gravel voice on top of quiet music. Once again, the music background is the real issue here as this is really to inoffensive and cheesy. Not terrible to one’s ears but quite boring to be honest. Not the kind or records you want to play regularly if you like music and the thousands of other exciting records to listen to. Best tracks: “In my Secret Life”, ” A Thousand Kisses Deep” and “By the Rivers Dark”. 5.5/10

 Dear Heather (2004) : First to all, “Dear Heather” is really the kind of record to listen to in specific moods and times of the day… In other words, quite a good record to listen to late at night, ideally in the umpteenth floor of a big tower with a view on the lights of the city… and not the kind you want to hear if you want super exciting music. This album is a bit the extreme for me regarding my muzak tolerance…but the songs are sometimes great, the mood makes sense very often and Leonard sings with the weight and wisdom of a not so young man. The thing is that there are really great songs but also terrible ones (hello “Undertow” and “Dear Heather”). Really difficult to judge on an objective manner so let’s be charmed by the great man and let’s not be too harsh… Best tracks : “Because of”, “The Letters” and “There for You”. 6/10

 Old Ideas (2012) : The first album of what I would call the farewell/twilight trilogy and a very good surprise to be honest. I bought this record quite mechanically I must say as when you are a music lover,… well you buy new records by Leonard Cohen, Radiohead, The Rolling Stones or Daft Punk whatever the reviews or the possibility of streaming… and this is one of those records I probably listened to a couple of times only. This is a much better one than his three previous efforts mainly due to the fact that the music is warmer and played with beautiful new instruments, such as a banjo or a violin. Interesting to note as well that Leonard Cohen is now clear about how to sing or rather how to tell stories whereas I was not convinced by his previous records. A few great songs and more than ever the regular themes of guilt, religion, disappointment, etc…on which Nick Cave based his career! Best tracks : “Going Home”, “Amen” and “Darkness”. 7/10

 Popular Problems (2014) : Another very solid effort from master Yoda and what a pleasure to get news from him on a regular basis so late in his career! Another thing I like about Leonard Cohen and his albums is that they are short and concise, which is a quality that fellow hip-hop artists should benefit sometimes. A very sharp album, where neither a word nor a note is superfluous. One should not be surprised by the quality of the writing when one knows the author but still there is such youth in these words that difficult not to be impressed. As usual, the music would benefit from having even less and I guess you understood that I am not a huge fan of female choir. What a pity that Leonard Cohen did not record with Rick Rubin as Johnny Cash did, as the results would have been amazing. Best tracks: “Almost like the Blues”, ” Did I ever love you” and “Nevermind”. 7.5/10

 You want it darker (2016) : Hopefully the last album from the great man as a) it looks it was conceived as such by his author b) nobody wants albums like the ones done after Jimi Hendrix and Kurt Cobain died… This record has been out since mid-October 2016, i.e. two/three weeks before the sad news of the passing of Leonard Cohen and the mood is indeed very religious. Although not the masterpiece claimed in a few reviews, this is a beautiful way to say goodbye, thanks in particular to the great production of his son Adam Cohen. I am repeating myself but these last three albums will probably get better and better every year and this is quite difficult to judge such a fresh piece of art. Best tracks : “You want it darker”, “It seemed the better Way” and “Steer you Way”. 8/10

The verdict

14 studio albums in a row in around 3 weeks. Am I clearer on my musical relationship with Leonard Cohen? Slightly… I definitely recommend for anyone to own his four best albums and then one could create a great playlist with a few tracks here and there from the other LP’s. What is sure is that the world has been a better place with Leonard Cohen and that his influence on bands or on a certain way of seeing life and art has been immense. Musically speaking, it is true that not all his LP’s were great but who could say so apart from a few amazing artists? Alternatively, I would recommend one of the recent live albums (London or Dublin for instance) but also the fantastic compilation curated by les Inrocks in 1991 called “I’m your Fan”. Great covers by Pixies, Lloyd Cole, Nick Cave, Ian Mc Culloch…and so on. Probably the best way to listen to these songs is when they are sung by others.

R.I.P. Leo and thanks for making life on Earth a bit easier.

 

Black Sabbath, the classic albums with Ozzy Osbourne!

Black Sabbath… The name itself could make a few of you running away thinking this blog has been hijacked by a bunch of metal fetishists. But no, please stay. I must say I had the same cliché in mind before I discovered the beauty of this band a few years ago. There are actually two bands in their history : the first one with the classic line-up and Ozzy Osbourne as the lead singer and …other ones with different musicians and singers which frankly I do not know at all but seems to be much less interesting (of course, you will always find people telling you they prefer early Beatles or late-period Roxy Music but they must be good liars or a bunch of morons). So here we are in 2014, the year after the classic Sabbath line-up reformed, recorded a quite good LP with Rick Rubin (“13”) and has toured the world…No better time then to revisit their first six albums which are not only metal but simply rock classics.

Cover (Black Sabbath:Black Sabbath) “Black Sabbath” (1970) : A 7-track album to start with, beginning with the sound of thunder and rain and a quite scary cover ; this is black metal! Except that this is more a blues band than anything else. So, yes for sure, one can find the pseudo-Satanic feel one can expect to meet in a metal album but this is frankly more funny than scary stuff. And the tracks are immense : long but structured jams lead sometimes by Ozzy Osbourne’s almost soulful (!) voice but mainly by Tony Iommi’s heavy weighted guitar riffs which are really upfront in the mix. Not bad for a guy who only has eight valid fingers (read story if interested). A very good album to begin Sabbath’s discovery for any rock fans with open ears (8/10). Top tracks: “Black Sabbath”, “N.I.B.” and “The Warning”.

Cover (Paranoid:Black Sabbath) “Paranoid” (1970) :  Second album just a few months after the first one and within the first year of recordings. This might probably be their most famous and accessible LP. Songs are (sometimes) more concise and the band are much more mature in their sound, doubling melodies very often with voice and guitar. That makes it an album that everyone can whistle along but which keeps its great metal/blues sounding with an inch of psychedelia (cf. “Planet Caravan”). And even if still short in number of songs (not a criticism here), it does contain the great anti-Vietnam song “War Pigs” on which generation of fathers and sons have been competing on the late Guitar Hero video game! (9/10). Top tracks: “War Pigs”, “Paranoid” and “Iron Man”.

Cover (Master of Reality:Black Sabbath) “Master Of Reality” (1971) : Sabbath’s third album went out quickly as well after the previous one. We were at a time when Marketing departments were more naive and when bands were putting out records when songs were available. Same formula, i.e. eight songs out of which two instrumentals and six long tracks. This album is a grower due to the fact that melodies are less easy to find out but the mood of the songs is really nice with slow and peaceful moments mixed with more punchy and bluesy ones. Once more, listen to this album and your clichés about Black Sabbath being a hard rock band will vanish (8.5/10). Top tracks: “Sweet Leaf”, “Children of the Grave” and “Lord of this World”.

Cover (Black Sabbath, Vol. 4:Black Sabbath) “Black Sabbath, Vol.4” (1972) : This fourth LP was not that different sound-wise from the previous one, alternating pure heavy rock songs, ballads and a couple of interesting instrumentals. The real difference lies however in the way this album had been recorded as the band were super coke and drugs consumers at that time, hitting the best clichés of “Spinal Tap“. This does not appear though while listening to this album as the band were still on top of their game (8/10). Top tracks: “Wheels of Confusion/The Straightener”, “Changes” and “Snowblind”.

File:Black Sabbath SbS.jpg “Sabbath bloody Sabbath” (1973) : … or how to (slightly) lose the plot… Although the tracks when good were really good, this is an album which does not have the same quality level in all songs. This is probably due to the fact that rumours of internal tension were growing every day, coming from still strong dependency from drugs and unsatisfied egos. Add up on top of this the will to experiment a bit awkwardly with strings, synthesizers or more complex arrangement and you find yourself with a partially very good LP (7.5/10). Top tracks: “Sabbath Bloody Sabbath”, “Sabbra Cadabra” and “Killing Yourself To Live”.

File:Black Sabbath Sabotage.jpg “Sabotage” (1975) : Probably the last album of interest before the 2013 reunion, “Sabotage” is at the same time considered as the last of Black Sabbath magnificent six without being that well-known. It is true that its songs are not the most famous ones but the album has a great atmosphere throughout, mixing up new sounds (Spanish guitar!) with the band being on “classic rock” form. There is however an overall feeling that this LP marks the end of an era which makes difficult for the listener to be as enthusiastic as with the first LP’s  (7.5/10). Top tracks: “Symptom of the Universe”, “Megalomania” and “The Writ”.

Paul Weller discography : The solo years studio albums

I recently read one great Uncut magazine specific issue dedicated to Paul Weller (#11 in our TOP 100) and it made me want to listen once again to his records, starting with his solo career.

 Paul Weller (1992) : or how to be back from nowhere… After having been the most popular artist in the UK at the end of the 70’s and start of the 80’s with The Jam, the soul/dance/jazz work he did afterwards with his second band The Style Council had not really found its audience and critics were so-so. It eventually fainted, leaving Paul Weller with no recording company but moreover no real will to keep on doing music. He found the sparkle back little by little by playing back to his roots and this 1992 LP was the first one under his own name. And what a great album, mixing soul/rock influences but with a style that would become his personal one (influenced by band such as Traffic for instance or called “dad-rock” by lazy critics). Everything was already there and I remember personally being so full of joy to find him back playing such great news songs. Top songs : “Bull-Rush”, “Into Tomorrow” and “Amongst Butterflies”. (8.5/10)

Image result for weller wild wood Wild Wood (1993) : or how this LP definitely put back Paul Weller on the music scene. It was indeed with this fantastic album that Paul Weller confirmed he was back with a revenge (and was to become again one of the most popular artists ever in the UK). There is not one weak song on this LP and each of them, either being a punchy pop/rock number or a beautiful ballad has enough life and emotion to stand on its own. Lots of efforts as well to create an ensemble with nice instrumentals often linking two songs. Indispensable! Top songs : “Sunflower”, “Wild Wood” and “All the Pictures on the Wall”. (9.5/10)

Stanley Road Stanley Road (1995) : or how to confirm. This LP was probably Paul Weller’s most expected one since The Jam period as he was definitely back on the music scene and one was not disappointed as it was one of his best. I had forgotten the quality of the songs and re-listening to it again was a good reminder about how pleasant having the man back on top was (he was only in his mid-30’s after all…). Top songs : “The Changinman”, “You do something to me” and “Broken Stones”. (9/10)

Heavy Soul Heavy Soul (1997) : or how to stay at the top of the Major Leagues. This is probably Paul Weller’s most groovy LP and heavy soul indeed it is. One of these albums in which you feel at ease immediately when listening to it. The tunes are strong as well but one could feel that Weller had gone to the limit of the soul/rock formula and that something else was to arrive…  Top songs : “Heavy Soul, Pt. 1”, “Up in Suze’s Room” and “Science”. (8/10)

Heliocentric Heliocentric (2000) : or how to reach excellence. To my mind the best Weller LP, it was the one mixing still great tunes to sing along with but with a new sounding structure influenced by psychedelic rock in particular. Strings were back in the game as well, reminding the fantastic under-estimated Style Council LP “Confessions of a Pop Group“. Top songs : “He’s the Keeper”, “Frightened” and “There’s no drinking after you’re dead”. (9.5/10)

Illumination Illumination (2002) : or how to start the intermediary period. Where do you go after such a brilliant LP ? Well, you do another one, trying at the same time to have a look backwards and imagining what one’s future will be like. It gives “Illumination”, the first LP not produced by Bredan Lynch and the first one after the so-called “classic” Weller period. This LP though should be re-discovered as there are interesting songs, announcing great things to come in the future. Top songs : “A Bullet for Everyone”, “Bag Man” and “All Good Books”. (7.5/10)

File:Paul weller studio 150.JPG Studio 150 (2004) : or how to find inspiration in classics. The covers’ LP is a classic album for well-known artists and the fan is generally delighted by such an initiative. However, it gets generally thick after a couple of listening and these albums are not the ones which are the most listened to. Let’s say that Paul Weller found back enthusiasm in these songs and that his versions are indeed really good, although not revolutionary… Top songs : “Wishing on a Star”, “The Bottle” and “Early Morning Rain”. (7/10)

As Is Now As Is Now  (2005) : or quite a rediscovery. I had more or less forgotten this LP, probably as it was the album coming before Paul Weller’s latest so-called trilogy but this is a really good one. Songs melodies might appear not that strong sometimes but the music is top notch here, mixing his soul influences as ever but as well modern sounds. Top songs : “Come On / Let’s Go”, “The Start of Forever” and “From the Floor Boards Up”. (8/10)

22 Dreams 22 Dreams (2008) : or how to be fifty and be more relevant than ever. 21 moving and great songs (the 22nd dream being a poem in the booklet) with all kinds of influences raging from pastoral folk to soul and jazz instrumentals. This album reminds partly the subtleties of The Style Council when they were at the top of their games but with more experience and quality in music craftmanship. A very rich-sounding LP to listen to again and again. Top songs : “Invisible”, “Cold Moments” and “Push It Along”. (9/10)

Wake Up the Nation Wake Up The Nation (2010) : or how to get young again. This album is the second part of the latest Paul Weller’s trilogy which has been called this way to describe long albums with lots of ambitious songs whereas in reality they are really different. 16 punchy short (or sometimes very short – too short?) songs with the more than welcome presence of The Jam bass player Bruce Foxton on two tracks. Top songs : “Wake Up The Nation”, “Aim High” and “Two Fat Ladies”. (8/10)

Sonik Kicks Sonik Kicks (2012) : or how Paul Weller gets Krautrock sounding. Well, it might be too strong a statement but this is indeed true that one will find more repetition and samples throughout these songs than ever before. A remarkably fresh sounding LP by a young man of 54-year old. This LP was part of your 2012 best of by the way. Top songs : “Kling I Klang”, “By the Waters” and “Dragonfly”. (8.5/10)

11 studio albums then and I hope this post will help you chose the LP’s that you will enjoy the most. There are as well many live or different compilations albums and they are often as good as the studio ones. DVD’s/Blue Rays are very nice as well, especially those which bring back the particular atmosphere of his London Hyde Park shows.

Long live Paul and looking forward to listening to your next album!

…and here it is (update done in January 2016 / November 2017)

 Saturns Pattern (2015) : A bit less adventurous than on his last LP’s, it still remains a very good album of solid songs. More emphasis on melodies and a bit less on soundscapes, which does not mean this is a bad thing as all great artists need/like this ying and yang alternance. Top songs : “Saturns Pattern”, “Pick it Up” and “These City Streets”. (7.5/10)

A Kind Revolution (2017) : Paul Weller is slowly but surely reaching his late 50’s and it looks the older he gets, the youngest and inventive his music gets. Another very good album with a few top invitees such as soul/funk singer P.P. Arnold on one track or the great Robert Wyatt on trumpet on another one. All melodies are not that memorable but one can only congratulate Paul Weller to keep on searching and not resting on his laurels. …and it looks another album is already closed to be completed! Top songs : “Nova”, “She Moves With The Fayre” and “New York”. (8/10)

Dinosaur Jr. discography + live @ Trabendo, Paris, 6th February 2013

Dinosaur Jr. are part of these bands which we always liked and which actually never really disappeared from the radar, even if their line-up and records production might have respectively changed or slowed down. Formed in Amherst, MA, USA, the classic line-up is based around leader J. Mascis on voice and guitar, Lou Barlow on bass and Murph on drums. Their style is a mix of laid-back lyrics played furiously with saturated guitars. They were part of the mid-80’s US guitar bands’ scene with Sonic Youth, The Replacements or Hüsker Dü for instance and despite the fact that Lou Barlow went away from a long time from the band to focus on Sebadoh, they have been back together for a few years and are now touring again, hence this double-special post on their records and last show in Paris, you lucky readers!

DISCOGRAPHY

The early years

 Dinosaur (1985) – Recommended tracks : Cats in a Bowl, Does it Float & Gargoyle – V&P rating : 6,5/10

This is probably not the record I would recommend for a Dinosaur Jr. newcomer as this is not their most accomplished record and they had to find their style. However, this is still an interesting piece of music and the idea in sounding like Neil Young with heavily hardcore guitar solo sounds is already there, even if sometimes a bit over the edge.

 You’re Living All Over Me (1987) – Recommended tracks : Little Furry Things, Sludgefeast & Tarpit – V&P rating : 7,5/10

For their sophomore LP, Dinosaur Jr. really started to find their sound, mixing laid-back and very melodic harmonies with a hardcore fury… and guitar solos, which was not the ethics of the independent scene in the late 80’s. A huge improvement and focus vs. their first LP, “You’re Living All Over me” was their first milestone towards a great career.

 Bug (1988) – Recommended tracks : Freak Scene, Pond Song & Don’t – V&P rating : 8,5/10

Not yet their most accomplished work, this is however the album for which they had been talked about outside the small US hardcore scene. “Freak Scene” in particular is their best song ever (indispensable !) and one great track to practise one’s air guitar!

Exit Lou! The mid-years

 Green Mind (1991) – Recommended tracks : The Wagon, Puck + Cry & Muck – V&P rating : 7,5/10

This album went out whereas the future of the band was more than uncertain : Lou Barlow was off and he would stay this way for many years, Murph was drumming only on a few tracks and it was more a solo project than anything else. Great single though with “The Wagon” and a very solid and entertaining album overall with the first signs of a more robust sound, which would develop throughout the next albums.

 Where You Been (1993) – Recommended tracks : Out There, Get Me & Goin Home – V&P rating : 9/10

An amazing record to my mind whereas this is probably not the album most people would refer to if asked. Which is the real shame as J. Mascis’ art has never been as accomplished, either with fantastic rock songs held by beautiful guitar solos or with a few acoustic and very moving ballads.

 Without A sound (1994) – Recommended tracks : Feel The Pain, I Don’t Think So & Yeah Right – V&P rating : 9/10

As good as their previous effort, this is not for sure the classic Dinosaur Jr. line-up as J. Mascis is the only one remaining member but a classic as well as far as I am concerned. The production is cleaner than ever on this record but it does not mean no more dirty side. The first three tracks in particular made it a tremendous start of a record and rarely has J. sung so good (well, you know what I mean…).

Hand It Over Hand It Over (1997) – Recommended tracks : I Don’t Think, Alone & Loaded – V&P rating : 8/10

Not the most popular and famous record of their career, it has however plenty of good moments, although no killer single, hence my first remark. Interesting as well for the presence of My Bloody Valentin on a few tracks and for the use of new instruments (horns in a Dinosaur Jr. record anyone?). We thought it would be their swan record at that time but life is sometimes full of surprises, especially in the music business…

The comeback years…and current times

 Beyond (2007) – Recommended tracks : Almost Ready, Pick Me Up & Been There All The Time – V&P rating : 8,5/10

Quite unexpected comeback with the classic line-up of J., Lou and Murph as the three of them were not in good terms to say the least. However, the 2005 reissues of the three first albums made them faint peace and they went on playing a few excellent shows, hence this new LP…which is great. A kind of mix of the energy of the first LP’s with the confidence and maturity that J. Mascis had found with old age. The start of another great new story…

 Farm (2009) – Recommended tracks : Plans, Said The People & I Don’t Wanna Go There – V&P rating : 8,5/10

Contrary to other reformed bands who generally disappoint with their second new LP, “Farm” is once more as good as classic-period Dinosaur Jr. The album starts slowly, due probably to less surprise and enthusiasm from the listener but is a real grower with great tracks at the end of the record. I warmly recommend the vinyl version first because as you all know “vinyl rules!” and secondly to enjoy the beautiful cover drawn by artist Marq Spusta.

 I Bet On Sky (2012) – Recommended tracks : Don’t Pretend You Didn’t Know, Watch The Corners & See It On Your Side – V&P rating : 8,5/10

First apologies to you beloved reader as really this album should have been part of our Best of 2012 list but I must admit I had not been impressed after first listening, which was a complete mistake on my side, such this new LP is accomplished. One can feel a real pleasure to play and the melodies are particularly nice. If you want to discover the world of Dinosaur Jr., why not start with their last LP and I hope these humble comments on their ten studio albums could help you go further.

Update with a new Dinosaur Jr. album!

Dinosaur Jr Give a glimpse of what yer not album cover.jpg Give a Glimpse of What Yer Not (2016) – Recommended tracks: Tiny, Be A Part & I Walk For Miles. V&P rating : 8,5/10

This is already the fourth album since the Dinosaur Jr. guys decided to give it a go around 10 years ago and the least one could say is that there is consistency in their material. Another excellent album which once again deserves to be listened to many times before giving all its subtleties. The band does what they do best, i.e. punchy melodic songs with great guitar solos. I would personally not ask for more…

THE SHOW

You can for sure see The Rolling Stones @ the Trabendo but plenty of other good bands too and tonight was my second Dinosaur Jr. show after having seen them a few years ago as the opening act for Sonic Youth. And yes, this is the original line-up with J. Mascis on guitar and white hair, Lou Barlow on bass and curly hair and Murph on drums and no hair. The show was sold-out tonight, with people from everywhere in the audience, even from Rennes, Brittany, France.

The least one could say is that this is not the sexiest band ever but they are really muscled and on shape as far as music is concerned. J. and Lou have never sung better before, Lou’s bass playing and his sense of harmonies reminds me of Paul McCartney when he did not want to get bored when playing bass in The Beatles and Murph on drums is really efficient (and dressed like a jogger…). J.’s guitar playing is a constant pleasure and the way he plays solos should be a model to every guitar player as this is always at the service of the song and not at all to show one’s technical skills.

Great set list as well, focusing slightly on the very good last LP but getting tunes from all periods ; all the hits were there! Enjoy the following video I took of “Watch the Corners” and see how old men can age gracefully…

The Rolling Stones discography : Part Two – The 70’s

As Virgins and Philistines is an ambitious blog which does not fear to climb the highest cliff, please be welcome to this new post, part of our “record by record” series. The great UK magazine Mojo recently published a long and fascinating article about the Rolling Stones in the 70’s and it made me want to listen to their records again. What the band faced in these ten years was incredible : change of guitar player, no more Beatles to ease the competition and the will to go forward, weddings, drugs, jail…name it and you will find it. And the actual records? Well, six studio albums and each of them with a different story to tell…

The Rolling Stones in the 70's

Complete review: Part I (the 60’s) Part III (the 80’s)Part IV (the 90’s until today)

Cover (Sticky Fingers:The Rolling Stones) Sticky Fingers (1971) : With the famous “zipp” Andy Warhol cover! And what an incredible album this is… Third in the series of pure Stones classics after “Beggars Banquet” and “Let It Bleed“, “Sticky Fingers” is the perfect 60’s to 70’s record with one foot firmly in their blues and rock past but also with the first sounds of what could be called groovy tracks. Very important role played by the American sax player Bobby Keyes, described by Keith Richards in his autobiography as his soul mate. Not a record collection should exist without this LP (10/10). Key tracks : “Brown Sugar“, “Wild Horses” & “Sister Morphine“.

 Exile on Main St. (1972) : probably the most atypical Stones LP…and maybe the greatest? Keith Richards had been living in France at that time mainly for tax reasons and had found the house of his dreams in Bellecôte on the French Riviera. By “dreams”, I mean a place to play music and get high 24 hours a day while enjoying the sun and making sure to take care of this son Marlon. All the other Stones members were living in France as well but quite far, so sessions were held directly in the house, cables being installed between the kitchen and the basement with the help of a portable studio located in the gardens. The Stones had so much material that they finally kept 18 tracks, making “Exile” their first and only double-LP. Still strong presence of Bobby Keyes on saxophone but also of the late Gram Parsons (ex-Byrds and “creator” of the country rock formula). And probably the record on which Mick Taylor guitar playing was the most accomplished. If you like laid-back relaxed and soulful music, this record is for you. Same comment as for “Sticky Fingers” : owning it is compulsory (10/10). Key tracks : “Tumbling Dice”, “Loving Cup” & “Shine a Light”…+ the other 15 tracks! 2010 Reissue is highly recommended with 10 great new tracks plus its DVD companion documentary “Exiled” about the genesis of the album.

 Goats Head Soup (1973) : or how a band at their peak starts showing signs of weakness. It is very rare to get over a cycle of four/five years when one reaches the nirvana and “Goats Head Soup” is typically the moment when the Stones stopped being super musical creatures and started making “normal” records. It does not mean that this album does not have its moments and this is indeed a rather good and solid record that I will listen to anytime at breakfast… but one can live without it (7.5/10). Key tracks : “Coming Down Again”, Doo Doo Doo Doo Doo (Heartbreaker)” & “Angie“.

 It’s Only Rock’n Roll (1974) : how one can measure a “bad” Rolling Stones’ record? Tough question as we are stuck between two choices : either compare with the records done by the band at their peak (cf. “…Fingers” or “Exile…” above) or enjoy a relatively quite nice rock record which may be better than other albums done by majority of bands. This LP really falls in this category but worse there are really no great tracks to hum or remember. On a sidenote, this is the last album on which Mick Taylor played as a full Rolling Stones as he left on his own despite Richards’ comments that “you don’t leave the Rolling Stones ; either you’re fired or you’re dead.” (6.5/10). Key tracks : “It’s Only Rock’n Roll (But I Like It)”, “Time Waits For No One” & “Dance Little Sister”.

 Black and Blue (1976) : not the most famous Stones LP, nor the most critically lauded one but a really good and fun record to listen to as far as I am concerned. Enter Ron Wood, from the Faces fame and old acquaintance of the band for a very long time, and his sense of fun and obedience to Keith Richards. An LP full of soulful or reggae-sounding tracks but never close to pastiche to my mind. A great party record to play loud and ideal to enjoy the summer. (8/10). Key tracks : “Hot Stuff”, “Melody” & “Fool to Cry”.

 Some Girls (1978) : and back to absolute greatness. I (re)discovered this album recently with the excellent 2011 2-CD reissue  and I must admit I had forgotten what a masterpiece that was. Recorded in the Paris suburbs (Boulogne-Billancourt) but mainly written by Mick about his life in New York, this album is clearly led by Jagger who was then driving the band due to Richards’ junkie situation. The single “Miss You” was obviously influenced by disco and Jagger’s nightlife in NY (Club 54 amongst others) but all styles can be found in this amazing groovy LP from pure rock to country-sounding ballads (9.5/10). Key tracks : “Miss You”, “Some Girls” & “Beast of Burden“. For more, please read the dedicated book on “Some Girls” in the great 33 1/3 series.

Stay tuned for the three other parts (60’s, 80’s and 90’s to now) which will be published throughout this year 2012 when the band gets his 50th anniversary!