Van Halen – 1984 (1984)

Keyboards and Van Halen? Sounds a little odd when put to work. But Van Halen was onto a winner here. It seemed like a perfect fit for the time and was the last album in Van Halen’s original David Lee Roth era.

It’s a great album from start to finish, second only to the self-titled debut album by Van Halen. Let’s check out this album, track by track.

We begin with the introductory 1984. No guitars, just some very 1980’s keyboard sounds. It’s a great way to kick off this album. Soothes the soul well indeed.

Next up is the most popular Van Halen song ever Jump. It features some great keyboard playing by Eddie Van Halen, some subdued guitar playing as well and David Lee Roth’s holler, which is very good. It sounds great. Armin Van Buuren remixed this song recently, which is just as good as the original. A pop classic.

Panama follows and features Eddie Van Halen’s Kramer 5150 guitar, which he built himself in the Kramer factory. It’s a great rock song with some great lyrics: “Model citizen, zero discipline.” It has some great singing from Diamond Dave. An awesome song.

Top Jimmy has some great harmonic based guitar parts, before launching into an interesting song about a rock star. “They love it when he rolls his eyes” indeed. It has some truly great guitar work by Eddie Van Halen here. A good piece to listen to.

Sex aplenty in California arrives with Drop Dead Legs. It’s a strange fetish, but one which is covered well here. This is likely the dirtiest sounding album from Van Halen and certainly shows it off here too. Drop Dead Legs is laugh out loud funny. Keep the feminists away from this one, for sure.

The next song is the classic Hot For Teacher. Yes, you read correctly. It’s a great story without any morals whatsoever. Just listen to it and laugh out loud to the story here. But musically, it’s great too. It is one of the fastest Van Halen songs too but done so well.

I’ll Wait is a keyboard lead song about a creepy pervert. The Van Halen crew obviously lacked morals here, but without that in mind, it sounds like a weird love song. Either way, it’s effective here as well.

Girl Gone Bad continues our tales of lust without love. It’s a good song about a girl who does something along the lines of stripteasing for a profession. It’s an interesting topic, and very macho sounding indeed. The outro is fantastic.

Lastly, House Of Pain talks about S&M more out there than The Velvet Underground ever did. It’s a great song about the topic and ends the album nicely. A great listen.

This album is a classic from start to finish. It truly sounds great in every way, and cemented Van Halen as rock legends. After this, David Lee Roth left and Sammy Hagar joined the group, making a different direction for Van Halen. But despite all that, this is a great album and not a bad song is here.

9/10

Paul Van Dyk – Volume – The Best Of Paul Van Dyk (2009)

Trance music has never been predictable. Indeed, it is a crescendo of highs and lows in the electronic music world. Well known German DJ Paul Van Dyk put together this mix for us, a greatest hits mix showing off his music so far.

It’s a good minimalistic Trance Music sort of listening, and actually for this genre, is more quality than quantity. It’s a great way to hear some fresh tunes, so let’s jump in.

We begin with For An Angel (PvD Remix ’09) which sounds minimal and melodic for a piece of trance music. It’s a nice introduction with rapid-fire melodies and pounding beats. It’s very simple but well done.

The next piece is Home feat. Johnny McDaid (PvD Club Mix) which is a nice trippy sort of piece. It’s all similar-sounding, but mixed and done so well that it is forgivable. A nice vocal piece is here, worth hearing.

Let Go feat. Rea Garvey (VANDIT Club Mix by PvD) is more techno-based and has some unusual sounds in it. This mix flows so well, that one will be impressed by it. It’s a memorable and catchy piece. In fact, all these tunes are. The change in this tune is awesome.

White Lies feat. Jessica Sutta (Album Mix) is an acid-based experience with intertwined melodies and some great singing from our guest. It’s a nice tune to hear with a few twists and interesting sounds to boot in it.

The minimalist Nothing But You feat. Hemstock & Jennings (Original) is a truly great piece. It is a club classic, with soul searching chanting in it. You must hear this one, it’s an awesome piece with wonderful sounds in it. This album is very, very good so far, and does not fail to impress.

After that, we have Another Way (PvD Club Mix) which has banging beats and acid sounds, once again. It seems that our main man, Paul Van Dyk, uses very similar sounds. But they never disappoint, and this track is proof of it.

Forbidden Fruit (Original) is an interesting trip. Although this album does not promote drug use, it is an almost drug-like experience. A nice chilled, trippy listen.

Together We Will Conquer (Short Version) has some really interesting cut-up drum beats and some nice vocals from a guest. It’s neither overly long nor boring this album, it is purely impressive. A great listen. It sounds totally reassuring.

The next cut, New York City featuring Starkillers & Austin Leeds feat. Ashley Tomberlin (Album Mix) has a guest singer here lyrically evoking about New York City on a clubbing night. It’s a nice touch, with some imaginative thinking about it. It’s a long piece for this recording.

The bass piano-like sound that drives A Magical Moment (Original) leads into an eerie and melodic piece. Not a single track on this album mixed sounds bad or out of place. Now, that’s great modern music! It is a short 4-minute piece but sounds like great clubbing music to chill to.

Words (For Love) sounds very much like a mixture of acid noises, techno, and trance. It is so futuristic that it sounds years ahead of the R & B on the radio today. It really is great. Some great drum rolls are here too.

Tell me Why (The Riddle) feat St. Etienne (PvD Club Mix) is a nice sounding piece featuring St. Etienne with some cut-up vocal phrases from our guest. It’s a good driven piece with a multitude of well-mixed sounds.

Next up is The Other Side feat. Wayne Jackson (Original) sounds musically intense. It’s a neo-Underworld style piece that sounds really good, and tasty. It’s a pacy piece as well. Good listening, with a processed acoustic guitar in it as well. It’s 8 minutes long but doesn’t feel like it is as such.

Following up is the blistering We Are Alive feat. Jennifer Brown (Original) which has a great repeating vocal melody and bombastic drums to boot. It breaks down into a melodic and computerised tune that is very danceable.

Time Of Our Lives feat. Vega 4 (US Radio Edit) is a nice little number reflective on said time of our lives. Melody and rhythm intertwine in such a wonderfully musical way. It’s a great listen for said reflection.

Wir Send Wir & Heppner (Radio Version) is a nice way to finish the album here. It’s a German song but done so well that it could have been English in its emotion. We finish the album off very well.

If you ever need a good listen to one of the greatest introductions to trance music, or just a great mix full of great tunes, start here. You will not be disappointed. The future is here.

9/10

Primal Scream – Screamadelica (1991)

Primal Scream became a success with this album. Prior to this, they were very desperate to make some sort of success and had released some rather ordinary rock material. It’s not dissimilar a journey that fellow contemporaries Underworld had experienced. Once the single Loaded arrived, it was played heavily in clubs and underground raves everywhere.

This album came next. It is a genuine classic in its own right. It has a fusion of psychedelic and electronic sounds done so well that their earlier mediocre rock efforts are forgivable. Let’s listen through this, track by track.

Movin’ On Up is just that. It’s a gospel house like piece and introduced the group into their new format. The stoned sounding singing from Bobby Gillespie suits this piece very well. It’s a quick and catchy piece with a variety of instrumentation to boot. The screaming guitars are fantastic here. A nice start to the album.

Slip Inside This House was originally done by the 13th Floor Elevators on their own Easter Everywhere album. It features the ‘amen break’ and some great textures and a superb bassline. Still, the Primal Scream boys here match the 13th Floor Elevators effort with this cover. It’s catchy and brilliant. Welcome to the 1990s, ladies, and gentlemen.

The next piece Don’t Fight It, Feel It is another great piece featuring female vocals which suit this piece perfectly. “I’m going to live the life I love, I’m going to love the life I live.” is chanted here. It sounds very danceable and good quality, and unlike most dance music, this is not a throwaway piece. Some tripped out sounds are here too to keep you listening on.

After that, we go downtempo and heavily psychedelic with Higher Than The Sun. It talks directly about hallucinogenic drugs and enhancing one’s experience with such experiences from that. The stoned vocals are here again from Bobby Gillespie, the lead singer. It’s a brilliant and openly druggy piece. You can easily hear how inspired these guys were making this piece.

Inner Flight comes next. Some great vocal melodies kick off a minor key track, with a psychedelic keyboard patch that sounds a lot like Coldplay’s Clocks. No second-guessing where Coldplay stole that one from. But hey, it’s chilled and relaxing. Let the music guide you on this journey, as it is tasty listening. The outro has a wonderful vocal melody to boot.

Come Together is an extended piece, going over 10 minutes long. It’s a neo-hippie call to arms. It’s an ode to music and a very good one. There are numerous sounds, well-chosen and a great sample is here about the true nature of music. If you wish to hear a song that will destroy barriers for music listeners, this should be it. It never seems boring at all through the 10 minutes at all. Smile and enjoy the numerous textures and singing here.

The original Andy Weatherall Loaded arrives with a sample from a cult film at the start, before going into Cuban style beats, piano, real bass guitar, and a melancholy slide guitar melody. Horns and fiddles join the mix too. It’s a truly great piece of music, and is very moving and enjoyable, all the way through. It proves that even using computers, human beings can create a great and emotional piece of music. The world of music never was the same after this song, in that respect.

After that, Damaged arrives. It’s a downtempo piece and sounds very gentle in approach. It sounds melancholic and loving towards a partner but has some great vocal harmonies in it as well. It’s a reflection on a past love but works well here. Some nice Fender Stratocaster sounding playing is here to top it all off amongst everything else. Good job.

I’m Comin’ Down is a very low-tempo and subdued piece. It, of course, refers to a post MDMA/Ecstasy come down, or a comedown of a drug of a similar sort. It has some truly interesting and wonderful saxophone and other electronic-based sounds here. It’s a gentle and kind piece to listen to. This album is really very awesome in many ways, and this proves the musicality of Primal Scream right here. A must-listen for relaxation.

Higher Than The Sun – A Dub Symphony In Two Parts has the legendary bassist Jah Wobble from early era Public Image Limited featured on this track. It’s very much a reprise of Higher Than The Sun and acts as an almost concept album like idea for a track. Although not officially a concept album, Screamadelica could be considered one. Some space like tripped out sounds makes up this piece. Good to hear that these guys had many ideas for our own listening enjoyment. The bassline and breakbeats are classy too.

The last cut, Shine Like Stars, sounds Syd Barrett-esque with the twinkling melody-based sound. It’s simply a nice song to finish off this album. It’s gentle and reassuring, sounding almost like King Crimson. Mint.

This album saved Primal Scream, both financially and musically. It sounds so well done, even today, blowing a lot of your mainstream R & B away. If you like to hear the most psychedelic electronic sounds out there, you should listen to this album. You will not be disappointed.

9/10

Pink Floyd – Atom Heart Mother (1970)

This is the first really good album of Pink Floyd’s after Syd Barrett’s departure. Understandably, this was new territory for Pink Floyd and the group was still coming to terms with the loss of Syd. Still, it’s a very good listen, despite the fact it is no Dark Side Of The Moon. It’s essential listening if you like Pink Floyd. It was also their first UK #1 album as well.

It’s likely inspired by recent acts of the time, such as King Crimson. Pink Floyd were art school students, and they treated their work as such. This is a perfect snapshot of the era.

We begin with the 23-minute long title track Atom Heart Mother. It begins with some dark electronic sounds and some trumpets, before emerging into a glorious-sounding piece. It sounds classy, and English. The band then enters the scene, with some nice drum work by Nick Mason. A motorbike speeds off as well. Layered keyboard pieces then arrive, which sound sweet. More instrumentation enters the scene, with beautiful slide guitar to paint the picture. Classical type instrumentation arrives next, and this is just the first five minutes. An era evoking trippy organ and gospel vocals match the piece after that. The gospels vocals are emotional here, proto Dark Side Of The Moon style. The drums then re-emerge into the picture, sounding suitably appropriate. The melody suddenly changes, allowing Roger Waters’s bass and David Gilmour’s guitar playing to really shine here. The latter will touch your soul here, it sounds so beautiful and wonderful. That fades out, leaving us with some chanting and well-mixed melodies. It is a rewarding listen here. We then revisit the trumpets and drum led part, before sliding into a discordant section. It sounds rather creepy. A crash like sound makes the instrumentation fall apart. Much of the previous sections of this song are then revisited, like a retrospective LSD trip. The main section is reintroduced. Violins match the main part, and the slide guitar returns. The crescendo emerges, and we finish with the climax of backing vocals. A great trip indeed.

Following is the song named If. It’s a short and melancholy based piece. It’s a devotion to emotion, and there is some gentle singing along with acoustic guitar and electric slide guitar to boot. It’s a nice little change from what has been before, but all the same, just as emotional, artistic and effective.

Summer ’68 is the last Syd Barrett Pink Floyd song. They simply added some instrumentation to this vocal cut and sounds very emotional. “How do you feel?” asks Syd. Pink Floyd obviously missed Syd’s presence, and it is a nice traditional swan song for his vocals. There is piano and acoustic guitar to match here, a nice song regardless. It nearly stops in the middle of the song but starts again. A good twist.

Fat Old Sun follows with wedding bells, to begin with, and end with, and then emerges into a smooth vocal and acoustic guitar with Roger Waters singing. It’s a rather throwaway piece, but all the same fits the album nicely.

The 13 minute long Alan’s Psychedelic Breakfast is a bit of sound effect based trip for a guy who makes breakfast. There is a nice musical interlude in between the delay heavy samples here. Piano and organ enter the scene, and Richard Wright excels here with his playing. Guitar parts also occur. It’s nothing special this, but still a good listen of a guy who is making his own breakfast. The musical interlude comes and goes again. Sounds very laidback. Towards the end, the sounds repeat, like a reoccurring LSD trip. It’s a pleasant listen and ends the album nicely. We end the album feeling satisfied, as Alan leaves the scene and goes on to do other things for the rest of the day.

This is a real art based album. There are many different elements and structure in this recording. If you dig psychedelic/progressive rock and want something unusual to listen to, in a good way, Atom Heart Mother is a good place to start.

8/10

Frank Sinatra – In The Wee Small Hours (1955)

The world was a totally different place back in 1955. Colour TV didn’t exist, every person on the street wore Victorian era like clothes and there were no social media outlets either, let alone computers.

In addition, Frank Sinatra was alive and well. After signing to Capitol Records, he delivered this – the first great LP ever made. LPs were a new thing at the time, and fortunately, the music here stands the test of time.

The album is a sort of Burt Bacharach take on love. Lots of heartbreak and misery written in the subjects of the lyrics. Ladies and gentlemen, let’s observe this fine album from Frank Sinatra.

We begin with In The Wee Small Hours Of The Morning which sets the scene for Frank Sinatra. It’s about reflecting on love lost. This is about the loneliness and pain associated with it. A sad but great song. Excellent stuff. The lyrics here are awesome, despite the fact that Frank Sinatra never wrote his songs.

Following that, we have Mood Indigo. It uses the colour to reflect the mood and is an unhappy piece with reference to reflections on love. Many people can connect with this album, as no relationship is perfect. A nice piece though.

Glad To Be Unhappy follows. Frank Sinatra sings about the difference between idealistic love versus the reality of love. It’s a really good piece and can be mood provoking in sadness. A nice listen for the lyrics especially, as well as the melody.

I Get Along Without You Very Well is a great piece about moving on from a disappointing relationship. It sounds like Frank is singing about a lover who he is somewhat still infatuated with. It’s a good retrospective and reflective piece.

The next piece Deep In A Dream follows and it is about a dream of romantic illusion. It’s very descriptive and sounds very loving. It’s a sad reflection of the lack of love for a girl long gone. Nice work here by all parties who made the song. Mint.

The following song I See Your Face Before Me is a great reflection on the obsessiveness of a lover who our main man used to have. The whole album is also a concept album, perhaps unofficially so. Still, it’s a great listen all the way through. “I can’t erase your beautiful face, before me.” Wonderful lyrics indeed.

Can’t We Be Friends? is a lament for a sad outcome in a relationship. It’s about finding someone who at first, seems open to a relationship, but then uses that quote to turn down yourself. It’s another sad tale, but a rewarding listen.

When Your Lover Has Gone is about the split of lovers in affairs and other areas of romantic and sexual matters. The loneliness in Frank Sinatra’s voice here is outstanding. Given that this was the 1950s, the performances sound dead-on perfect with relation to lack of editing by digital means, as that did not exist at the time. A brilliant mood swinger here.

A question in What Is This Thing Called Love? It’s a sort of song for people who don’t know how to cope with love lost. It makes perfect sense to anybody who has had serious love in his or her life. Brilliant stuff.

The follow up Last Night When We Were Young talks about a past experience of love, long gone. The orchestral background in this album is really fantastic. Melancholy abounds everywhere here. It’s a very sad song indeed. Frank sounds very deeply emotional at the end of this song.

I’ll Be Around talks about hovering around for a lover who has already been taken. A very deep and meaningful piece about said scenario. Brilliant. Absolutely worth listening to.

Ill Wind begins with a clarinet melody before talking about a nasty scenario with the weather at hand. It loosely talks about love and disappointment with love. A good effort, and a nice performance by all.

The next piece It Never Entered My Mind talks about difficulties of coping with errors in relationships. It is a sad reflection on things, and being solitary in life without a love to be with.

The following song Dancing On The Ceiling is about using imagination to reflect on love lost. In a very unhappy state, our story unfolds to reveal how Frank Sinatra copes with it. An unusual song, but essential listening all the same.

I’ll Never Be The Same reveals how someone is destroyed by a failure in a romantic relationship. Frank Sinatra is underrated with his singing voice – and pulls every single song and note-off magnificently. A great job.

This Love Of Mine is the last song here. It concludes a truly great listen, and album. This song focuses on the loneliness of hurt from love. Brilliant job here by all involved.

Frank Sinatra broke with this album and began an upward trajectory with his music. He has recorded a huge amount of material throughout his life until he passed away in 1998 – some good, some not-so-good. This is likely one of his best recordings, if not his very best. This is hugely underrated today and is an absolutely essential listen.

If you like crooner style vocal jazz and want a starting point, begin here.

9/10

Ariana Grande – thank u, next (2019)

Ariana Grande fever hit a peak around the release of this album. Her previous album Sweetener had gotten attention for those who enjoy contemporary music. Ariana Grande quickly added fuel to her fire for her fans and released this album in early 2019.

It is perhaps not as consistent as Sweetener, but thank u, next is not a bad recording to hear. Let’s have an analysis of this recording.

We begin with imagine, which actually has nothing to do with John Lennon’s own song called Imagine. It’s just a way of Ariana Grande saying what she wants to do with a lover. It’s a great start to this recording. It sounds very full-on. The vocal melodies at the end are great.

Next is needy with a sort of Chrono Trigger (SNES game) electronic sound in the background. This one is not mixed that well, and the mix should have pushed Ariana’s voice further up through the mix. Still, it’s okay to hear. It seems a weaker effort overall, sadly, due to the mix. There are some interesting orchestral sounds at the end though.

NASA continues the overall concept of the album, which is talking about space travel in relation to Ariana Grande’s life. It’s an okay tune nonetheless. It’s an interesting topic to cover though.

bloodline has a strange conversation at the start, before going into a rather routing R & B song. It’s about keeping a lover at a distance. Since Ariana Grande has had many high profile lovers, this is the aftermath of all that had been going on. It’s not that good, could have been done better.

The intro at the beginning of fake smile sounds like something recorded in the 1930s or 1940s but quickly goes into a better (for this album) sounding piece than before. It’s about keeping up one’s guard in the realm of fame. It’s a good listen to. Ariana’s voice sounds really good here.

Next up is bad idea. This is a good piece, but not outstanding. Most of this album, at this point, is very ordinary. It could have been better done, in retrospect. Although the lyrics are merely reflecting Ariana Grande’s life, there is nothing that really sounds truly great at this point.

make up has more discordant sounds, to begin with, before launching into a forgive-and-forget type scenario lyrically. It’s okay to hear, but despite her popularity, this album seems a little pointless. It should not have been rushed in retrospect, and it sounds as though that is the case.

ghostin begins with some freakish atmospheric sounds before launching into a very personal experience with Ariana Grande herself. Admittedly, this piece is a big improvement on the others in the album. This shows that Ariana Grande can deliver very well, be it the correct song. And in this case, she does well here.

Next along is in my head. It’s a straightforward tune but there is a great vocal melody within it. The other elements of the song are very meh. Still, it’s a decent listen. Ariana’s singing is very good here.

The next piece is 7 rings. It is hardly original in approach. It’s a weak song about selfishness. Not exactly a decent tune, especially lyrically. Rather forgettable, to be fair. Could have been bettered.

thank u, next arrives. It’s immediately a catchy song, fortunately. The title track of the album is about relationship issues that Ariana Grande has had with her ex-boyfriends. It’s delivered well. Good job here.

break up with your girlfriend, i’m bored is a joke sort of title for a serious sort of song. It’s about Ariana Grande finding a new path in her life for herself. It’s a good listen for a laugh. The album concludes here.

The verdict with this album? Rather overrated and trashy. Perhaps more time could have been spent re-recording and editing certain sections. It is good but does not live up to the hype. Better luck next time Ariana.

6/10

The Beatles – Please Please Me (1963)

The Beatles really launched modern music. Before their arrival, the rock scene was considered a quick fad with no real long term potential. This album and The Beatles changed everything.

It’s not even their best album and it has a load of covers on it. But it is so good compared to most rock music that came before it that it launched Beatlemania and the real 1960s begins here.

Let’s give this a whirl, see how it sounds.

We begin with I Saw Her Standing There. It’s an upbeat pop song, and you can hear how good The Beatles were from the word go. A nice listen about romantic adventures on the dancefloor. A good start.

The follow-up Misery is a downtempo number about losing one’s love. It sounds so much nicer than Coldplay did at their best. It’s a nice little number from The Beatles.

Anna (Go To Him) is about putting a good end on a failed relationship. Hard to believe that this album was very much live, recorded on a four-track recording machine. It blows much of the modern music today away. And yes, this is a good song too.

Chains is a song about being trapped in a love-based situation. It sounds so joyful and uplifting that it makes up for the simplistic lyrics. Even the lesser tracks on this album sound great.

The next song Boys has a good melody and plenty of “bop shoo wop” chanting. It’s about what a woman desires, and there is a great guitar solo here by George Harrison. It sounds really listenable, even though it is fairly 1960s in its approach. However, that is not a bad thing at all.

The next cut Ask Me Why is more romantic stuff. “Ask me why, I’ll say I love you, and I am always thinking of you.” A very nice song and sentiment here. More romantic sentiments like these should exist in pop music of today. It’s a snapshot of an important musical era.

Please Please Me is the title track and the group’s first #1 single. It’s not as good as some of the other singles by The Beatles, but a nice and reassuring song that takes you into The Beatles musical journey. A good song, even if it is not their best.

Love Me Do is a better song. Complete with a chant-like chorus and harmonica to boot, there is an undercurrent of sexual energy and expression in this song. Nonetheless, this is one of the best songs from this album, if not the best.

The next song, P.S. I Love You sounds like a nice letter written. It’s pure romance in a song. The singing here is great, loving and happy. This sort of thing is often ignored in today’s music.

The Burt Bacharach cover Baby It’s You comes next. It’s a slow ballad piece about being hurt in a relationship. It’s about believing the hype about a failed relationship and holding onto love, despite how bad it has gone. There’s a xylophone in it, too.

Do You Want To Know A Secret? is about trust in a loving relationship. It’s a great piece of romanticism and shines bright on this album. Very good.

A Taste Of Honey refers directly to the first kiss being done in person to someone who is more or less a stranger. It’s a lovely sentiment of a song. It’s a good statement from this album.

The next cut There’s A Place is a good upbeat piece, although the lyrics are different in this respect. Indeed, it’s about giving people breathing space in a relationship. A well thought out song.

The final song Twist And Shout shows that John Lennon really could sing, although he had a cold during the recording of this album. It’s a good and danceable piece and finishes the album off nicely.

This album is self-explanatory. The Beatles would go on to do bigger and better things musically. But hey, if you are a music historian, this needs to be heard. A good album, although the best was yet to come.

8/10