"When did I realize I was God? Well, I was praying and I suddenly realized I was talking to myself." - Peter O'Toole
Billy Pilgrim/BloomIf you ever had the urge to buy an album just for a single song, do it for this one. The song is "Closed Down" and, of course, it's the LAST song on the album. I believe it was THE best song of '95, but, since it was on the back side of a mediocre album, nobody really knows. So, I'm telling you now. I don't care how crappy the rest of the album is (it's not really that bad, it's just not really all that good, either) I don't care what you have to wade through to get to that song. Do it! You won't regret it. I can't stress this enough, people. You won't find it as a single, so, you'll have to spring for the whole thing. And, who knows, maybe you'll like the rest of the album, too. (Kinda doubt it). C'mon! You can afford $15.99 for the best song you've never heard! Can't ya?
Jackson Browne/The PretenderI've found over the past few months on the 'net, that EVERYBODY has an opinion about Jackson Browne. Either people abhor him or they love him. Both views are discussed with a lot of passion, and there is no middle ground. Also, the love/hate split seems to be balanced on one year alone. I call it B'77. If someone first heard a JB song AFTER 1977, they tend towards hate. (with good reason). If, however, they heard their first JB tune BEFORE '77, they tend to love him, and overlook what came after as 'just a phase'. My theory hinges on this album. The Pretender came out in '76. After that, JB went through 17 years worth of shitty records. He came back in '93 with I'm Alive, but, by then most people had written him off as a no-talent, tree-hugger (as one of my friends called him). This album alone is worth all of his post '77 records put together. Want my vote for the best album of all time? Here it is. OK, OK, I can't really be impartial here, since this album saved my life. But, it IS really good. It's Jackson Browne's best album, and it's the one most fans like the most. He writes best on this one, and the emotions here are pretty damn raw. This album is clearly about loss, and if you can't take a good cry or 2 then this is not the record for you. The love that shines through "Linda Paloma" though, or the hope that burns through "Daddy's Tune" is worth it. If you've always wondered what anybody ever saw in Jackson Browne, listen to this, and know what kind of music the man is capable of making.
Steve Earle/The Essential Steve EarleYes, I know, this is a Country album. If you've been playing along at home, you know that I hate Country. Did I say that? Well then, let me make a few exceptions to that rule. Anything by Steve Earle is alright by me. It's been that way ever since I found Copperhead Road in the Folk bin, brought it home and played it and said "This ain't Folk!" It wasn't. It wasn't Country either, though, so I kept it. I don't know just what in the hell it was, but it sure wasn't Country. It sounded like Springsteen goes to Nashville. I don't think Nashville liked it too much, either. Steve Earle has been confusing the hell out of almost everybody for almost 15 years now. Nashville likes their stars to stay in their place. (Indigo Girls wrote a song called "Nashville": that illustrates this very point) If it isn't Country, they hate it. Steve kept pissing them off by actually playing what he wanted to play, whether it be Country or Folk or Rock. So, they made sure that nobody played his albums. The very fact that this album is put out by MCA should tell you something. It is a retrospective, and as such, it leaves out a lot of good stuff. What's here though, is pretty essential. "Guitar Town" of course, and "Someday", "Copperhead Road" and "Goodbye's All We Got Left To Say". They gave me my favorites, too. "The Rain Came Down" and "Good 'Ol Boy" and "I Ain't Ever Satisfied". Overall, some great stuff that I'll be playing for a very long time. Buy this, then go out and get the new one: I Feel Alright, and his acoustic set: "Train A-Comin'. Steve's come a long way, but he's never stopped doing what he wants to do. Ya gotta love him for that!
Elton John/CaribouOK, I just went out and bought this again because they remastered it. I thought they couldn't hurt it, they could only make it better. Did I say better? Try fabulous! As soon as I put it on, I noticed a difference. "The Bitch Is Back", a song I was never really very fond of, shouted out at me and made me start dancing'! While my fave, "Don't Let The Sun Go Down On Me" turned radiant! I couldn't believe the difference! Just to make sure, I slipped my old cassette back in and played that. Ugh! Compared to the remastered CD, the tape was dark, murky and just plain ugly! Then, I noticed some songs I had never heard of on the sleeve. "Sick City", "Cold Highway"? What were these? Extras. They gave me extra songs on the new CD. How kind of them. They most certainly did it to try to make you buy an album that you already owned, but I didn't care. Although, let me tell you, there's a reason these extra songs were not put on the original album....there not very good. But, if you want your old Eltons to sound brand new, get the new remastered CD's. You won't believe the sound quality.
Fugees/The ScoreThe Score comes complete with one of those Parental Advisory stickers on it. That, and the picture on the cover might lead you to believe that this is a Gansta rap album. Well, in a way, it is. But these guys aren't the Ganstas. What they sing about are conditions in the city. Luckily for us though, The Fugees rise above that. They are refugees, after all, they don't belong in that place. They sing about mics, not gats and they voices are not lost in the mix. The voice that stands out the most belongs to Lauryn Hill. This lady sings like no other I've heard. Her song reaches into and overwhelms "Fu-gee-la". On "Killing Me Softly" she BECOMES Roberta Flack, and, for a while I wondered if Roberta had guested on the album. But no, it was all Lauryn Hill. They do an amazing job on "No Woman, No Cry", giving it a souped up beat that in no way lessons the music or the message. In short, these guys rise up above any labels you could care to give them. So, I'll just say, if you like good music, get The Score.
Helmet/BettyYa like Heavy Metal, you say? You like music to club you on the head and drag you by the hair? Good. This is the album for you then. Although, it isn't exactly Heavy Metal the way Mommy used to make. It's not slow enough, for one thing. Oh, don't get me wrong, you can bang your head to it. In fact, on "I Know" you almost feel compelled to. But this isn't Devil music. What is it about, you ask? Beats the hell outta me, I can't understand a word they say. Fortunately, I don't think they want you to concentrate on the words, necessarily. It's the beat that's important. And, boy, is there a beat. If you have a nice pair 'o' woofers and you lay them on the floor, you'll be jumping up and down in no time. Really, if all you want to do is bang your head, just keep playing this album over and over again. Individual songs don't matter much here, either. They all kinda sound the same. That's good, though, you won't lose your rhythm in the pit. If your looking for anything other than moshing music, however, sad to say you've come to the wrong place. Helmet is really good at what they do, too bad they only do one thing.
Patty Larkin/Stranger's WorldPatty has always struck me as being on the verge of....something. Whether it be stardom or complete failure, I don't know. She writes some very good songs. Witness "Justine", my very favorite of all time. There are some very good songs on this album, too. "Don't" and "Mary Magdalene" come to mind. But very good doesn't mean great, and, I think, Patty Larkin could be great if she tried. Some of these songs seem just tossed off. "Johnny Was A Pyro" and "Italy" for example. Sure, there may be stories behind them, but if we don't know the stories how can we identify with the songs? Let's use "Justine" as an example. There's a story-song. It had a beginning, middle and (kind-of) an end. It's a simple story, but the characters are not simple, nor is the way she sings it. If Patty Larkin could give us one "Justine" on every album, she would be a star of very great magnitude.
Philo So Far - The 20th Anniversary Folk SamplerPhilo is perhaps the label that represents itself most in my cd collection. The have always put out some great music. They have been around long enough to be able to separate the wheat from the chaff, and the have never disappointed me. This album is just what it says it is: a sampler. I don't know what the criteria was for picking out the songs, but they really did a great job. Here you'll find Nanci Griffith's almost Country song "Working Girl" along with a great blues song by Vance Gilbert "If These Teardrops Had Wings". My favorite folk artists are well represented here, too. Cheryl Wheeler does "75 Septembers" off of her great Driving Home album. Patty Larkin is here with my favorite song of hers "Justine". There are some missteps. I never did like Christine Lavin or Four Bitchin' Babes. I don't think Humor and Folk have ever blended well together. But, it is a Sampler, so I guess they've got to include all sides of the spectrum. Bill Staines provides a old-time Folk feel with "Sourdough - The Miner's Song" and Tony Bird goes crazy with "Mango Time", so overall I think the wheat far outweighs the chaff here. If your new to Folk, this would be a good place to start, and if you are an old Folkie, this tunes will set your feet to dancing!
Smoking Popes/Born To QuitBorn of equal parts Smithereens and They Might Be Giants, Smoking Popes are an odd mix, to say the least. The can rock out on occasion, but, write mostly love songs like "Rubella" and "Mrs. You and Me". Although, calling these love songs is stretching it a bit.... These guys do seem to have Love on there mind, which is a nice switch from the usual "I want your body" posturing of Indie music, and they certainly can play and make you want to mosh. Their voices, however, are not what you'd call...um, pretty. They sound a little too much like the Giants for my comfort and they seem a bit too...earnest, in their devotions. However, if you dig They Might Be Giants, but just want to rock a little more, than these guys are for you.
Kate Wolf/Gold In CaliforniaWe will never be able to measure how much the loss of Kate Wolf has affected the Folk world. For more than 10 years, Kate made music that has to be heard to be believed. At times, soaring and quiet, placid and stirring, her voice inspired many and comforted many more. She, indeed, led her life one day at a time, and many of them were filled with music. This 2-CD set is a tribute to that voice and that life. These songs were her final gift to us, and they are priceless. We miss you, Kate, and think of you whenever we hear "The Redtail Hawk".
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