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Music Reviews
Rock and Roll

Mainstream blues-based rock reviewed with a discerning ear.

Billy Idol, Greatest Hits

If you're looking to relive the '80's, you can't do better than to buy this CD. During the late '80's, early '90's, I wore out my cassette copy of Vital Idol, and always wanted a more comprehensive collection of his hits.

Well, this is it. Apart from three songs that I invariably skip ("Catch My Fall," the live "Rebel Yell," and the woefully lacking "(Don't You) Forget About Me"), this is a terrific representation of a career.

The songs are presented mostly chronologically, so as to present a picture of the development of his artistry, and I wouldn't ask for it any other way (although he seems to have reached his peak somewhere around the "Whiplash Smile" album).

I would highly recommend this for the '80's fan or Idol worshipper, or just anyone who likes their pop with an edge.

Pink Floyd, Delicate Sound of Thunder

Not only is Delicate Sound of Thunder Pink Floyd's best live outing to date (including the useless Pulse--a live Dark Side of the Moon? Who asked for it?), but it is also a great introduction to the band, containing a veritable Greatest Hits of Pink Floyd collection. It also contains my favorite version of Comfortably Numb.

They seem to have made a second career of releasing live albums, but with this one they reached their peak. I have this on vinyl and it is one of my treasures. I buy very few Pink Floyd albums (at this writing, this is one of three), but Delicate Sound of Thunder was impressive enough to make it into my collection.

Lisa Marie Presley, To Whom It May Concern

It's hard to get past all the media hullaballoo surrounding Lisa Marie Presley's debut album, To Whom It May Concern. Since she is Elvis's daughter and has made her--shall we say, "interesting?"--choices in men constant fodder for the tabloids, one is hard pressed to come into this album with a fresh ear.

But those that do shall be greatly rewarded. To Whom It May Concern is really good rootsy, blues-based, country rock. The album begins on a high point with the radio-unfriendly "S.O.B." (complete with its backup doo-wop chorus of "f**k, f**k, f**k"). This is wonderful, gutsy music with lyrics to match. Very much, "here I am, deal with it" but in an accessible, danceable format.

"Lights Out," the first single, is not as good as "S.O.B." but, unfortunately, could not be used to promote the album. You can always tell the artist's favorite song. They like to start off with a bang. Lisa Marie Presley has plenty of opportunity to prove herself to the music world and with To Whom It May Concern, she is well on her way.

(For a limited time, you can stream the whole album from the Web through Real Player. In fact, I'm listening to it right now. If that's not available, some songs--including "S.O.B."--are featured from her Web site.)

The White Stripes, White Blood Cells
The White Stripes, Elephant

The White Stripes came from out of nowhere (although White Blood Cells was already their third album) to rise to the top of the Invasion of the Plural Nouns (The Hives, The Strokes, The Vines, etc.). Maybe it was their added adjective, or their simple color scheme, or their seemingly incestuous brother-sister/husband-wife relationship. After all, marketing has played a very important role in their success.

But none of that would matter if not for the music. White Blood Cells is simply a fine album of simple rock and roll. Jack White's guitar and vocals and Meg White's drums lay down a basic attractive foundation on which to massage rock cliches while remaining true to themselves. The White Stripes are one of the most "influenced" bands I've heard recently, and yet that does not detract from the enjoyment of the music.

I originally became interested as a fan of the film Citizen Kane. I heard that Jack had taken lines from the film and turned it into the song "The Union Forever." I had to hear it. In the process, I ended up listening to the whole CD over and over again. Its short length makes for such an easily repetitive experience.

And then along came Elephant. And it was good. In fact, I think that Elephant is better than White Blood Cells in many ways. It rocks harder, Meg drums better, and Jack is constantly developing his persona, which takes full flower here. And who else would be bold enough to recall classic Cream with "It's True That We Love One Another," which reminds me of "Mother's Lament" off Disraeli Gears, complete with the "spontaneous feel."

I look forward to more great things from the duo that calls themselves the White Stripes, whatever their relationship with one another. As long as they keep making music this good, I'll live with whatever marketing scheme they think of next.

  • ...more to come...