Friday, October 30, 2009

Death - Scream Bloody Gore

9/10

This album is as historically important as it is strong. Scream Bloody Gore is still rough-sounding, but it's listenable (unlike the demos). The songs go every which way; although none of them are very long, they all go through several sections (they just do it really quickly). Scream Bloody Gore also features the aggressive, violent riffing and wild soloing that helped define the genre of death metal. It's not just an especially brutal thrash metal album like its predecessors.
This album was just recorded by Chuck and drummer Chris Reifert (who would later found Autopsy,) but it doesn't feel stitched-together at all. It's also surprisingly bassy; some other death metal bands would record albums with barely any low end at all. There are a few more melodic sections, like the intro to "Evil Dead," but for the most part, this is just balls-to-the-wall brutality straight through.
The album title and cover are just silly as hell, though; "Scream Bloody Gore" sounds like three words associated with horror movies, and why are those skeletons on the cover drinking from goblets? Whatever they're drinking would just fall through their ribs! However, as I've stated before, I love silliness in metal so it's all good with me. This is an essential release for any death metal fan.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Death - Reign of Terror

7/10

The first demo recorded under the Death name is just as enlightening as Death by Metal, and a little easier to listen to, as well. It's still insanely rough (there's a consistent high-pitched whine that'll drive your dog nuts), but you can make out a lot more. Chuck is on vocals now, and he sounds like the 17-year-old he was at the time, and there are some incredibly cheesy echo effects on his voice, but the riffing and solos are pretty damn good for someone so young. None of these songs made it onto any actual albums (at least, in their original forms); the songwriting isn't as strong as what would come later, but it's not horrible or anything. This isn't just an important historical document, it's actually a pretty good release.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Death - Death by Metal

6/10

Death's demos have acquired a legendary reputation, but I really don't see what most of the fuss is about. It's definitely more recent-sounding than you'd expect from the 1984 recording date, but it completely sounds like the amateur cassette recording it is. The first thing one notices is that Chuck wasn't the frontman yet; instead, Kam Lee (later of Massacre) handled the vocal duties on all of these songs except "Power of Darkness", and he uses the death growl more associated with the genre instead of Schuldiner's raspy style. Some of the songs would later turn up on Scream Bloody Gore, but others never made it onto an actual album. The band was actually still known as "Mantas" when this was recorded, but the demo was later rereleased under the name Death.
Still, I can't get past the awful production; I understand that death metal is supposed to sound raw as hell, but it's frequently difficult to make much of anything out (the vocals on "Power of Darkness" are almost completely inaudible at times). It's clear to any death metal fan that there's good stuff going on here, but only the most die-hard fans of rough production will want to listen to Death by Metal over and over again.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Death - Intro

Death were one of the very first death metal bands to exist (obviously- I mean, how early did you have to get into the death metal scene to secure the name "Death"?). Led by vocalist/guitarist and sole constant member Chuck Schuldiner, they were massively influential, first by creating some of the most seminal albums in the genre, and later by expanding their sound into a more progressive direction (this was controversial- just check out anus.com to see some people hilariously up in arms about the later period. No, it's not a porn site.)

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Bruce Springsteen report

Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band put on a hell of a show. First of all, his voice obviously isn't what is used to be, but it's amazing how good crowd-singing can make up for that fact. He performed "Born to Run" in its entirety, and it was definitely the best part of the show. It's my second favorite album of his (Darkness on the Edge of Town narrowly beats it out). Unfortunately, some of the other stuff he played wasn't quite as good (the happier stuff from the River, an album I find to be inconsistent, some stuff from later albums that I don't listen to very often, and a few that were released on the 4-disc rarities comp "Tracks").
The sound could have been better- the guitars sounded terrible for the first few songs. This is the first arena-sized show I've ever been to, though, so stuff like that might be par for the course. The crowd was really into it and they really added a lot to the experience. I left a little early because I wanted to catch the end of the Phillies game (which they won in amazing fashion)
The next concert I'm planning to see is GWAR when they come here in December. I'm expecting that the audience there will be somewhat different.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Bruce Springsteen concert

I will be attending the Bruce Springsteen concert tonight at the Spectrum. He will be performing "Born to Run" in its entirety. He performed all of the songs from "Darkness on the Edge of Town" in his last show here, but the tickets to that one were all sold out when I obtained them (and he hadn't announced that he'd be playing albums in their entirety until fairly recently, anyway). I will be posting a concert report on Wednesday for my next update.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Malinda Jackson Parker - Tubman Goodtype Songs of Liberia

5/10

This album is just weird. It's a vanity pressing from a former member of the Liberian Congess, and it's just her terrible off-key voice and incompetent piano playing. For some reason, Ms. Parker feels the need to provide lengthy spoken intros where she introduces herself on every track, and the subject matter of her songs is just weird, with songs about bush cow milk, mosquitoes and palm trees, as well as a cover of "Yes, We Have No Bananas". Tubman Goodtype Songs of Liberia is short, at under half an hour, but some of the songs just go on forever, with the first and last tracks clocking in at over 7:30 each.
This is basically a one-joke album. It's a fairly funny joke, but it wears out its welcome long before the album's over. The Cousin Mosquito tracks are probably the most amusing, but they're at the end of the album, where the listener will just feel exhausted. Also, the second one is one of the long tracks, which takes away from how she shoehorns her lyrics into that one dark piano piece by Rachmaninoff (which she plays as horribly as everything else on the album). If you're really interested in this, get both of the Songs in the Key of Z compilations; they have the Cousin Mosquito songs and lots of other, more interesting outsider stuff. Only the desperately curious should shell out $4.45 to get this off off the Amazon mp3 store like I did.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The Doors - In Concert

7/10

This is a compilation containing the albums "Alive She Cried" and "Absolutely Live" in their entirety, as well as a few other tracks. All in all, it's a pretty good sampling of the Doors' career, with pretty good performances and but it's not without its faults. For example, while I love lengthy conceptual pieces, I'm forced to admit that "Celebration of the Lizard" just sucks and that they did the right thing in only including "Not to Touch the Earth" on Waiting for the Sun. "Lizard" is filled with dumb Native American mysticism and Jim's terrible poetry, and there aren't even any lengthy instrumental passages so he could fight a guy in a rubber lizard suit onstage.
There are some non-studio tracks, but with the exception of a great, wonderfully lively cover of "Little Red Rooster," they're pretty forgettable. "Dead Cats, Dead Rats" is particularly inane to the point where it would've fit in nicely on "An American Prayer". (Speaking of that album, the rendition of "Roadhouse Blues" off of it is included here, so now there's no reason to buy that piece of shit!) Also, there's a cover of Willie Dixon's "Close to You" that could've been good if not for the fact that Jim didn't seem too interested and let Manzarek take the mic, and you know how much I love his voice, ugh.
Still, the more typical Doors songs come off well in a live setting and Jim has some pretty amusing stage banter to offset the pretentious crap, so I can still recommend this.

Monday, October 12, 2009

The Doors - An American Prayer

2/10

This abortion just shouldn't exist. In 1978, the remaining Doors decided to take some of Jim's poetry and awkwardly dubbed new music over it, creating a "new" Doors album that absolutely blows (actually, it's listed as "Jim Morrison, Music by The Doors"). Morrison may have been a pretty good lyricist, but his poetry is godawful- even though he was famous, he had to resort to self-publishing to get a book of his poetry released. The only time it works is when it's in small doses, like at the beginning of "The Soft Parade". Morrison sounds just insanely bored for most of this, even when he talks about rape, menstruation, and his penis. He even uses the C-word! How SHOCKING! What makes it even worse is that it's obvious at times that his words have been cut up, destroying whatever cadence he may have had in order to fit the music.
And the music is mediocre at best and terrible at worst. I heard more than one critic describe it as "disco," and I thought they were joking. While not all of the music falls into the disco genre, much of it does, and most of the rest is just more of the lame Santana pastiche that plagued the post-Morrison albums. The best musical moments are taken directly from earlier, good Doors albums.
Not only is An American Prayer pretentious, it isn't even fun, like, say, The Transformed Man. The sole redeemable track is a live version of "Roadhouse Blues," which brings it up to a low, low 2. I can't believe this Frankenstein monster of an album has any defenders at all.

Friday, October 9, 2009

The Doors - Full Circle

5/10

Full Circle is a distinct improvement over Other Voices; it doesn't feel like it was a contractual obligation, but it's still not going to win any awards (this is a low, low 5, as opposed to the high 5 of Waiting for the Sun). It's still in the bar-band vein, but there's some not-completely-forced-sounding funkiness that makes it a bit more lively. Unfortunately, Manzarek still gets to sing, and there are some terrible backing vocals which I assume were intended to distract from how horrible his voice is. There's also the horrible Speedy Gonzales Spanish on "The Mosquito," which is just plain embarrassing (why yes, they do rhyme "mosquito" with "burrito"! There is some decent soloing in the second half, though).
The two post-Morrison albums have been completely disowned; they've never been released legitimately on CD, and have been stricken from most official references (the Complete Lyrics book doesn't even mention them). I'm a firm believer that if possible, a band should try to keep all its albums in print no matter how awful they are; one should never prevent people from hearing one's entire catalog. I can't imagine anyone loving these two albums, but who am I to judge? What frustrates me about these albums being deleted from history is the fact that there's a considerably worse album under the Doors name that's still in print today, but we'll get to that in the next update.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

The Doors - Other Voices

3/10

I've never been of the opinion that a band should call it quits if it loses its frontman- if every band did that, we never would've gotten Back in Black. While Jim Morrison was very talented, I don't think he was quite irreplaceable, and I'm sure that the remaining Doors could've found someone decent to take his place if they'd looked far and wide.
Unfortunately, they didn't look far and wide. Instead of finding a new vocalist, Robbie Krieger and Ray Manzarek took turns at the mic. Krieger isn't that horrible a singer, but Manzarek is one of the worst frontmen I have ever heard. His voice is filled with personality, but none of it is good; his delivery is halfway between a hillbilly and a drunken lounge singer and he never sounds remotely sincere. Apparently, the first sessions were begun before Morrison's death while he was on holiday in France, so I guess they wouldn't have had much time to find a new frontman even if they'd wanted to.
However, Other Voices wouldn't have been a very good album even if its songs had been sung by Morrison or someone else with talent; most of the music is dull and uninspired, whether it's retreads of earlier bluesy material, lame Santana rip-offs with unnecessary jamming or boring R&B. Worst, none of the darkness is present; it's mostly upbeat or unconvincingly sentimental. This album isn't available on CD, but don't bother searching for it on vinyl; it's hardly worth the effort.

Monday, October 5, 2009

The Doors - L.A. Woman

10/10

The Doors actually managed to take blues-rock here and combine it with their more typical sound to make their magnum opus. Manzarek's organ tones are wonderfully soulful, and even the session bassists add a lot. My personal favorite song on here is "L'America"- I love the gloomy bassline, the wonderful martial drums, the incongruity between the dark and bluesy parts, and the masterful lyrical fakeout- "Change the weather, change of luck/and then he'll teach you how to... FIND yourself". I'm assuming the song didn't get much radio play due to that bit, because it really deserves to be one of the most famous songs the Doors ever did. The title track is best known for the "Mr. Mojo Risin'" bit at the end, and then there's Riders on the Storm, which is an awesome song but probably sounds more weighty than it really is since it's the last song on Jim Morrison's final album. L.A. Woman is the only Doors album which I feel doesn't have a single lame moment on it, and I give it my highest recommendation.

Friday, October 2, 2009

The Doors - Morrison Hotel

6/10

The Doors caught the blues-rock bug that was going around during the late 60's and early 70's, and the result was kind of generic. The Doors' version of the genre is, as should be obvious, keyboard-heavy. I felt that the strongest of these songs was "Maggie M'Gill", with its ever-so-slightly off-kilter rhythm section, but some of the others are quite forgettable.
Fortunately, it's not the blues all the way through, and some of the best songs here fall outside that genre, such as the awesome wakka-wakka funky guitar of "Peace Frog" and the synthy gloominess of "Waiting for the Sun" (which would've been one of the better songs on its namesake album had it made the cut).
Unfortunately, apart from that track and one or two others, the typical Doors atmosphere is almost completely absent on Morrison Hotel; the musical elements are there, but little of the dark mood is present and the bluesy vibe wears awfully thin by the time the record's over. The inclusion of "Indian Summer," the first song the band ever recorded was a pretty huge mistake; it's soft and boring as hell, and really has no place among any of the band's later work. The inclusion of two songs recorded far earlier than the others is a pretty strong sign that the Doors were strapped for ideas at this point, and it shows, although it's still more intelligent than most of Waiting for the Sun.