Music Picks

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Music Reviews:

Music Picks for April 2005:

Album Cover Army Of Lovers Massive Luxury Overdose
The killer track is "Crucified". The album is no great shakes (although overblown and bombastic do seem to be good descriptions) but I did enjoy the single with all its excesses.
Album Cover Neil Finn Try Whistling This
Neil Finn's "Sinner" persuaded me to buy the host album. The album itself is ok, but not special. I love the track though. For those who care, this is the same guy who basically ran Crowded House and Split Enz.
Album Cover Jean Michel Jarre Chronologie
Jean Michel Jarre is a love him/hate him artist most of the time. "Chronologie Part 4" just came on, and it's definitely one of his better ones. Uptempo rhythm, typically beepy, not too introspective. Actually, I like the entire album a lot.
Album Cover M People Best Of
I really quite enjoyed M People's Best Of album. The latter tracks on it become indistinguishable, but the first half is a great listen.
Album Cover Roland Orzabal Tomcats Screaming Outside
Roland Orzabal (formerly of Tears For Fears) has a so-so solo album, with some fun tracks. One of those is "Dandelion" which is a feedback rocker.
Album Cover Siouxsie And The Banshees Twice Upon A Time
Siouxsie and the Banshees started off as a punk band and matured. "The Killing Jar" is a superb song, and I recommend their take on "Dear Prudence" too. They also covered a song by Danny Elfman ("Face To Face") which isn't half bad either. It's a good retrospective of their career.
Album Cover Splitz Enz Millennium Collection
Split Enz was another excellent band. The link is to a best of compilation. I recommend, well, everything on there. This particular copy is one of the rather good entries in the Universal "20th Century Masters" collection but appears to be a rebadged version of the earlier "History Never Repeats" retrospective.

Music Picks for March 2005:

Album Cover Balligomingo Beneath The Surface
RCA Victor2002
Best described as the type of music that got me interested in Delerium. It's mostly airy female vocalists, lots of synths, and has a well produced feel. Very enjoyable.
Album Cover Collective Soul Youth
El Music Group2004
This is the most recent of the Collective Soul albums. Nothing terribly new, but since I liked their old stuff, this suits me just fine. "Better Now" has a more electronic feel than usual which works quite well.
Album Cover Damned Phantasmagoria
They were a British punk band in the 70's, but by the early 80's had changed into a somewhat poppy Goth band. "Trojans" off the album is a really good instrumental but I like the whole lot. This is the re-release which includes two bonus tracks, both of which are worthwhile remixes: "Grimly Fiendish (Bad Trip Mix)" and "The Shadow Of Love (Ten Inches Of Hell Mix)".
Album Cover Frankie Goes To Hollywood Bang!
I wasn't much of a fan growing up, but having listened to their tracks again recently, there's a lot more skill and talent than I'd ever thought. It's not on "Bang", but "Happy Hi!" which is on "Welcome To The Pleasuredome" as well as one of the vinyl B-sides is a lovely bit of 80's pop.
Gerry Rafferty's 'Another World' Gerry Rafferty Another World
Icon Music2000
I don't think I've heard so much as one track of this released as a single, but some very good rock/pop of this. I noticed that the track list differs from AllMusicGuide which means there are several (two at least!) variations of it floating around. For those wondering who he is, think "Baker Street" or "Stuck in the Middle with You".
REM's 'In Time' REM In Time
Other than that it's missing the sublime (some say ridiculous) "Shiny Happy People", this best of condenses REM into the (more or less just) good stuff. Recommended.

Music Picks for November 2003:

Jean Michel Jarre's 'Sessions 2000' Jean Michel Jarre Sessions 2000
If this disc were to be played without any introduction, it would probably be pegged as an outing from one of the more jazzier ambient groups. It doesn't sound like Jarre at all. Normally this sort of statement would be the precursor to a negative review. Not at all. I've always enjoyed the earlier Jarre albums, although my more commercial leanings have tended towards "best of" entries such as the "Houston/Lyon Live" album rather than the full abstract originals. This album, by contrast, is very laid back. It's relatively slow, extremely mellow and not blatantly electronic. Perhaps exposing my lack of knowledge about this area of music, the closest in general feel would be Theodore Shapiro's soundtrack for "State and Main". Leaving the standard synthesisers in the background, the album showcases a range of regular instruments, including a pleasantly unobtrusive saxophone and (startling enough) a slide guitar. The result is really quite listenable and just begs to be played in a dark room with a great speaker system. For me, the standout piece is "March 23", a quite upbeat track with a contrasting mournful string section and crying sax. The only duff note is alas the longest entry on the CD, "September 14". Based around an abstract jazz riff centred on a plucked bass supported by bit of brush cymbal, Hammond organ and piano, it goes on and on and on; after the heights of the earlier tracks it's really quite disappointing. Overall, highly recommended.

Music Picks for September 2003:

Propaganda's '1234' Propaganda 1234
"1234" is a great slice of early 90's electronic pop. My preferred Propaganda album, this is a far smoother and even effort than their other efforts. Perhaps this is due to the presence of two Simple Minds alumni and the absence of most of the original Propaganda line-up. Whatever the reason, the songs flow well and are extremely appealing. The album closer, "La Carne, La Morte E Il Diavolo" is an outstanding, atmospheric instrumental, and "Ministry of Fear" isn't far behind in quality.

Music Picks for July 2003:

Sarah Brightman's 'Harem' Sarah Brightman Harem
"Harem" walks the fine line between pastiche, bombast and something quite good. It's another of Brightman's theme albums -- middle eastern in style this time around -- with more in common with entries "Fly" or "Dive" than her more classically or show-business orientated albums. She slips between rock and classically style entries without missing a beat, although the Canadian bonus tracks "Tout ce que je sais" and "Gueri de toi" are snorers being simply French language versions of earlier tracks; the change in language, unlike in opera, appears to add nothing. The rendition of "What a wonderful world" is almost unrecognizable; this is probably a good thing given the incomparable Louis Armstrong version. "It's a beautiful day" and the opener "Harem" are gorgeous (once the slightly inane intro is finished in the case of the latter.) This is not a groundbreaking album, but it's worth the money.
WARNING: The Canadian version is copy protected making MP3 listening copies awkward to create. The US version apparently doesn't have this, but check before buying.
Delerium's 'Chimera' Delerium Chimera
Buy "Poem", "Karma" or "Semantic Spaces" before this one if you want to start listening to Delerium. They're all creative, wonderfully constructed albums. This is, in many respects, a retread. That's not to say it's a poor album. Many of the trademark Delerium trademarks are there: haunting female vocalists, lovely acoustic guitar riffs, electronic fuzz and fade. However, the album seems to betray a dichotomy of opinion of style -- periodically the music will slip into a much harsher electronica that seems out of place. One example is the vocal in "After All" which slips into the irritating mellotron-style distortion that has become prevalent over the last few years (with Madonna's lacklustre "Die Another Day" being perhaps the most notorious proponent.) On the upside, "Truly" is an attention grabbing song with its multilayered vocals and fast beat. "Serenity" is a classic Delerium track with the sweeping choruses, intricate background intrumentation, and abrupt stylistic switches into an almost Moroccan melieu; it's lovely. If you need your Delerium fix, and you have the other albums, or someone plays "Serenity" to you, this is worth buying.
WARNING: The Canadian version is copy protected making MP3 listening copies awkward to create. The US version apparently doesn't have this, but check before buying.
Annie Lennox's 'Bare' Annie Lennox Bare
J Records2003
There are shades of Annie Lennox's Eurythmics past on this album in "Pavement Cracks" but it is -- understandably enough -- more a continuation of her earlier "Diva" than anything else. Is it a classic? Not really. It does have the cult tendency to grow on you; the first time I heard it, I merely considered it pleasant; since then each spin has drawn out another fascinating melody or stylistic flourish. "Bare" is more an album for a late night in a dark room with the volume relatively low. It's a moody, introspective piece that requires focus to appreciate.

Music Picks for July 1999:

Art of Noise's The Seduction of Claude Debussy Art of Noise The Seduction of Claude Debussy
This is a suitably odd entry from the Art of Noise. Aiming for a somewhat restrained and almost classically operatic style, they frequently interrupt it with rap and some pretty hard drum beats and hard rock stylising. It's an extremely eclectic mix and worth tracking down. John Hurt does a voice over as a narrator which highlights the "Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra" feel that is frequently aluded to. Naturally enough the reviewers over at hated it...
Moby's Play Moby Play
V2/Rave New World/BMG1999
Moby is one of those techno artists who actually produces something better than a beat to dance to. While not all of the tracks on here are a success, the general level is one worth listening to. A fair number of tracks are based on old looped samples of black jazz musicians to a more trancey composition of Moby's -- the resulting melange is great. "Play" doesn't have the highs of "Everything You Know Is Wrong" but it doesn't have the lows either. Recommended if you like having a real tune with your electronica.

Music Picks for early 1999:

Album Cover John Williams Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace
John William's "Star Wars: The Phantom Menace". How could anyone not love these huge, bombastic (but brilliant) pieces of grand, sweeping orchestral overkill? Great!
Album Cover Vanessa Mae The Violin Player
Vanessa Mae's "The Violin Player". It's a little offbeat but entertaining enough in the popped-up classic genre.
Album Cover Mike Oldfield Songs Of Distant Earth
Mike Oldfield's "Songs of Distant Earth". I've never really been that much of a Mike Oldfield fan; I find his music to be rather uneven at best. That said, "Songs of Distant Earth" is a tour de force. It's a fascinating blend of pop and rock beats, smooth synthesizers, slightly trancey swings and some really really good tune smithing. Highly recommended.

Music Picks for 1998:

Album Cover Mythos Introspection
Mythos's "Introspection" and "Iridescence." Superb newage music in the same vein as Delerium, Enigma and Moodswings.

Music Picks for late 1996:

Album Cover Sarah McLachlan Rarities, B-Sides and other Stuff
Sarah McLachlan's "Rarities, B-Sides and other Stuff" which despite the title is her best album that I've heard to date (beating out Fumbling and Touch).
Album Cover Various Trainspotting
The soundtrack to Trainspotting (also an excellent film.) Great collection of music from a mostly British group of artists. Not perfect, but one of the better soundtracks I've heard for a while.

Music Picks for Mid 1996:

Album Cover David Arkenstone Quest Of The Dream Warrior
David Arkenstone's "Quest of the Dream Warrior" which spent an extended amount of time sitting on autorepeat in the CD player.
Album Cover Tangerine Dream Melrose
Private Music1990
Tangerine Dream's "Melrose" and bizarrely named "Rockoon" are also recommended.
Album Cover Dominic Messinger Red Steel: Savage Baronies
For those with a hankering for the slightly offbeat when it comes to instrumental, take a look at an extremely unlikely source: TSR. Their "Red Steel: Savage Baronies" is actually rather appealing. This was a atmospheric pack-in for one of their expansion modules, but I bought that for the CD, not the adventure setting...

Where are the samples for this lot? Well, due to bandwidth limitations as well as copyright issues, I've opted not to have any here. They should be present on sites like Amazon, AllMusic or other commercial music sites.
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