Vertical Smiles: Blackfoot

Rating: 50%

VerticalsmilesalbumSo, the 1980’s had no mercy for Southern Rock as the keyboards and pop music swooped in, taking over every music genre. Well, Blackfoot was no exception. Just as Molly Hatchet, Ted Nugent, and ZZ Top were trying to find there way, Blackfoot followed right behind.

Musically, the album begins with two covers that are very pop and alternative influenced. Lot’s of synthesizers. Where’s the Hard Rock you might ask? Well, it’s there, buried deep within the song structure. But, I can’t seem to hear it from the New Wave styles. “Git It On” is one of the better songs on the record, but it too is somewhat weak even though it has solos, riffs, and vocals. It fall victim to the 1980’s sound. I am really missing “Train, Train.”

The musicianship is lacking. Ricky Medlocke vocals are very mild. His guitar is very weak. Think of Kevin Bacon in the movie Footloose. Even the main riffs and solos are just not explosive. The rest of the band is following in Ricky’s steps. Disappointed.  

Track listing:

Side one
“Morning Dew” (Bonnie Dobson cover) – 5:27
“Living in the Limelight” (Peter Cetera cover) – 4:02
“Ride with You” – 3:33
“Get It On” – 4:29
Side two
“Young Girl” – 4:24
“Summer Days” – 3:19
“A Legend Never Dies” (RPM cover) – 3:03
“Heartbeat and Heels” – 3:15
“In for the Kill” – 3:50

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The Fame Monster: Lady Gaga

Rating: 95%

The_Fame_Monster2009 saw Lady Gaga release this ep called “The Fame Monster.” Now, it’s been known that I have liked Lady Gaga’s music for some time. I think she is a brilliant artist and entertainer.  The reason I got into her, was the fact that talk radio was always putting her down and degrading to women. So, I did the next best thing. I wanted to hear for myself as to why she was always being attack. I found the opposite when I listened to her. Her music actually speaks many truths.

This ep contains several good songs. The difference between this album and her debut “The Fame” is the fact that she seems to be more comfortable as her vocals are much stronger. She is proving that she is the next sensation rather than a fad. This album has somewhat of a cleaner sound to it. It has lots of great “Club Beats” or Techno style beats to dance to if you’re into that sort of thing. Great melodies and music. I do like her darker and more sexual themed lyrics.

High points, on this ep included “Bad Romance”, “Monster”, and “Teeth.” I do like “Alejandro”, but it does kind of drag out. “Telephone” would be a great song only if you dropped the duet vocals of Beyoncé. I am not a Beyoncé fan at all.

Track listing:

1. “Bad Romance” 4:54
2. “Alejandro” 4:34
3. “Monster” 4:10
4. “Speechless” 4:31
5. “Dance in the Dark” 4:49
6. “Telephone” (featuring Beyoncé) 3:41
7. “So Happy I Could Die” 3:55
8. “Teeth” 3:41

The Ventures Play Telstar and the Lonely Bull: The Ventures

Rating: 80%

Ventures-Play-TelstarIn 1963, the Ventures released “Telstar and the Lonely Bull.” This album features all covers of 1950’s music that is covered by guitarists Don Wilson and Nokie Edwards, bassist Bob Bogle and drummer Mel Taylor. I have always enjoyed the Ventures music as I was influenced by them when I first started playing the guitar. “Pipeline” to me was fantastic.

This album has lots of melody and lots of various tempos and musical influences. Lots of great guitar work on this album. The leads and fill ins are brilliant. “Apache” as performed by the band sounds great. “Never on Sunday” has some very weird fills in the main structure of the song that I wish players today would use. The rhythm on “Percolator” funky, with lot’s of offbeats and groovy. Most of the lead fill ins are palmed which is a technique used in heavy metal today for fast rhythm sections of the verses. “Tequila” and “Green Onions” are performed at the band’s best that will surely have your toes tapping along or playing air guitar.  To show off the talents of the drummer, the band covered “Let There Be Drums.” One of the best songs on this record. The guitar is most or less the back drop to the music with the drummer moved to center stage. This album is truly a work of art.

Track listing:

Side one
“Telstar” (2:37) – Joe Meek
“The Lonely Bull” (2:11) – Sol Lake
“Mexico” (2:26) – Boudleaux Bryant
“Calcutta” (2:20) – Heino Gaze
“Apache” (3:08) – Jerry Lordan
“Never on Sunday” (2:14) – Manos Hadjidakis
Side two
“Tequila” (2:44) – Daniel Flores
“Green Onions” (2:05) – Steve Cropper, Booker T. Jones, Al Jackson, Jr., Lewis Steinberg
“Percolator” (2:14) – Ernie Freeman, Louis Bideau
“Red River Rock” (2:15) – Fred Mendelshon, Ira Mack, Tom King
“Let There Be Drums” (2:20) – Sandy Nelson, Richard Podolor
“Last Night” (2:29) – Charles Axton, Floyd Newman, Gilbert C. Caple, Jerry Lee Smith, & Chips Moman

Love.Angel.Music.Bay.: Gwen Stefani

Rating: 85%

GWEN_S~1Gwen Stefani released this album in 2004 as part of her solo efforts away from her more mainstream punk band No Doubt. This album is a heavy blend of 1980’s music from several genres including electro pop, dance, hip hop and R&B that heavily relies on synthesizer and other 1980’s electro styles.

The music for what it is sounds good. Lots of tempo, melody and harmony. Production wise, this is a very good album that has a great balance of songs that are not over bearing in modern pop music. The album flows nicely from track to track. Gwen’s voice sounds good and does a great job at song writing, which brings me to the next item. “Halloback Girl” was written in response to Courtney Love’s statement about Stefani as a cheerleader. I love the tongue in cheek humor.

Gwen has proven that not only can she play punk and rock music, but she can branch out and write and perform music in popular culture of today’s music.

Track listing:

  1. “What You Waiting For?” 3:41
  2. “Rich Girl” (featuring Eve) 3:56
  3. “Hollaback Girl” 3:19
  4. “Cool” 3:09
  5. “Bubble Pop Electric” (featuring Johnny Vulture) 3:42
  6. “Luxurious”  4:24
  7. “Harajuku Girls” 4:51
  8. “Crash” 4:06
  9. “The Real Thing” 4:12
  10. “Serious” 4:48
  11. “Danger Zone”3:37
  12. “Long Way to Go” (performed by Stefani and André 3000) 4:34

Landing on Water: Neil Young

Rating: 30%

NeilyounglandingonwatercoverSo in 1986, after an out of court settlement with Geffen Records, Neil Young released his fifteenth record, “Landing on Water.” During the early 1980’s Neil Young was dropped from label and picked up by Geffen Records. After a series of what Geffen Records classified as “non-Neil Young” records, he was sued by the record company. After an out of court settlement, Neil Young went to work on this record. Well, to me this was another non-Neil Young record.

“Landing on Water” is a heavily based Pop record where Neil Young heavily uses synthesizers. The guitar rhythm is very light throughout the record. The drums are mixed to the far front of the album almost drowning out the guitar work and is overwhelming when trying to hear Neil’s vocals. The drum machine was something I thought that I would never hear on a Neil Young record and is used on a few tracks. The bass is also heavily mixed to the front of the Neil’s new sound. Between the synth, drums, and bass, it seems as if the three are battling for first place. There are some strong choir work on the chorus lines on certain songs. It is almost as if Neil Young is taking all of the sounds of the early 1980’s and is mashing it together to make a new much busier sound. The entire album is way too busy sounding…too much going on at once.

Now, with all of the cons, there are a few highlights on this record. The guitar work matches his classic style of playing. There is a lot of great Neil Young guitar leads throughout the entire record. There are some good songs on the album that do have a nice melody and there is some harmony. The production could have been a bit better bringing the guitars more to the front for a balance. You can tell that Neil is trying to keep to his true self with the lyrics. “Hippie Dream” and “People on the Street” are two of the songs that come to mind as he raises awareness.

Bottom line, you have another experimental record where Neil Young is trying to find his new sound and his new style to fit into the 1980’s. If you can imagine what Micheal Jackson would sound like with Neil Young playing the guitar mixed with a little Cindy Lauper and Neil still on vocals, then you pretty much have what “Landing on Water” sounds like.

The positive. Within three years of this record, Neil Young will release “Freedom” which can be attributed to Neil’s Geffen days. This record here seems to guide Neil Young back to discovering his true self and that is when “Rocking in the Free World” is born.

Track listing:

1. “Weight of the World” 3:40
2. “Violent Side” 4:22
3. “Hippie Dream” 4:11
4. “Bad News Beat” 3:18
5. “Touch the Night” 4:30
6. “People on the Street” 4:33
7. “Hard Luck Stories” 4:06
8. “I Got a Problem” 3:16
9. “Pressure” 2:46
10. “Drifter” 5:05

The Guitar Genius: Chet Atkins

Rating: 90%

chetatkins.jpgChet Atkins is one of those guitarists that stands the test of time. He knew how to play that guitar whether it was country to rock n’ roll. He has played with many country musicians including Jerry Reed, whom he discovered. Just like Jerry Reed, Chet Atkins seems to be a forgotten guitar legend these days. But listening to his compilation record “The Guitar Genius”, released in 1963, I can honestly say, what a brilliant guitarist. He makes it sound so easy!!! Where are the country guitarists like him these days?

The album itself includes several songs that are composed wonderfully. “Heartbreak Hotel” which is an instrumental is brilliantly done. The guitar work alone makes the entire album. “Swanee River” is another good tune. Chet uses several scales throughout this song which you normally wouldn’t hear in country music. The entire album showcases his various talents in the music genres. Lot’s of melodies and various tempos. Plenty of riffs and leads make this album great. The songs have lots of harmony between all of the instruments that help to showcase Chet’s style of playing. Vocal wise, I do not like it. Jim Atkins, Chet’s older brother is the vocalist. He is a classic 1950’s western or easy listing vocalist.

If you’re a young guitarist, then you need to listen to some of Chet’s work. It’s jazzy, bluesy, it’s progressive, but yet, it’s country, it’s pop, and it’s rock n’ roll. It’s everything thrown into the pot and it’s good. So check it out and learn some of the scales that Chet is using. You’ll be amazed!

Track listing:

A1 Heartbreak Hotel 2:24
A2 Swanee River 1:36
A3 Blackjack 2:19
A4 I’ll Be With You In Apple Blossom Time 2:06
A5 Darr’s ‘N Wind Wat Waai 2:23
B1 It’s Now Or Never 1:59
B2 Out Of Nowhere 2:56
B3 Hidden Charm 2:26
B4 Even Tho’ 3:12
B5 When Day Is Done 2:26

Born This Way: Lady Gaga

Rating: 100%

Born_This_Way_album_cover.pngLady Gaga, what can you say. Many like her, and many do not. Talk radio with very religious right wing views have demonized her as stating she is the downfall of women. Which is why, I actually went out and purchased her second album “Born this Way” in 2011. I wanted to hear for myself, why this Pop icon was being nailed to the cross as Madonna was back in the 1980’s. Upon hearing this album, I was very surprised, how talented Lady Gaga was. Her voice, her song writing,  and the music is absolutely brilliant. The album features songs that are actually written by Lady Gaga, unlike many Pop artists who write a few songs and then pay other song writers to fill in the gaps.

Production on this album is excellent. Lyrical themes deal with love, religion, drinking and sex. The music is mixed very well with no to very little background noise. The vocal work, is absolutely crystal clear. Sound effects are not overwhelming in the music or on the vocal tracks. Many Pop artists often use techno and electro sounds to entice the listener, but many fall short as they use to much of that musical technique.  Here, there is a perfect balance of the modern Pop sound, mixed with elements of Rock n’ Roll and Heavy Metal.  The synthpop and dance-pop has a huge influence here rather than the techno sounds, as one might have heard on Lady Gaga’s previous records.

There is a lot of structure to the music. This helps to balance the record out with all of the influences that Lady Gaga pulls in. Would I recommend this record? Yes, I would. Why? Because it’s good.

Track listing:

Marry The Night 4:24
Born This Way 4:20
Government Hooker 4:14
Judas 4:09
Americano 4:06
Hair 5:08
Scheiße 3:45
Bloody Mary 4:04
Bad Kids 3:51
Highway Unicorn (Road To Love) 4:15
Heavy Metal Lover 4:12
Electric Chapel 4:12
Yoü And I 5:07
The Edge Of Glory 5:20