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

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

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

Radiohead – OK Computer (1997)

Radiohead was just getting started here. After the release of The Bends in 1995, people gave attention to the band seriously for the first time. This continued after OK Computer’s release.

Yes, here we go! This album is known to be one of the greatest albums of all time. There are many great tunes on this album. Let’s take a listen.

Airbag begins this album, sounding very eerie and creepy. Thom Yorke’s falsetto reigns high here. It’s an effective song about an airbag that stops people from dying in a car crash. Odd and eerie indeed. “In an interstellar burst, I am here to save the universe.”

Paranoid Android is a really great song. Although rather depressing, it is an interesting listen. The James Bond-like riff in the breakdowns is fantastic. There are some rather cynical lines throughout this piece, adding to this great song. Nirvana style quiet/loud dynamics are ever-present here as well. A well-structured exercise in intelligent and artistic listening.

The semi-psychedelic and otherworldly Subterranean Homesick Alien is here next, showing a depth of surreal sounds. It’s a little easier to listen to compared to the first two songs on the album. But still, about a disturbing subject, however.

The ode to Romeo and Juliet is here next is Exit Music (For A Film). It starts off with a clanging acoustic guitar. Thom Yorke’s voice then sets the scene, then it has a variety of instrumentation that builds up to a crescendo. A very close to the bone subject.

Let Down is next, and yes, it is very depressing. It shows the fragility of the human race and some people’s actions. Thom Yorke and the group pull this off perfectly.

Karma Police is a great piece driven by piano. There are some rather bizarre lyrics through this piece. It sounds as though we are talking about someone psychotic here. The ending is a great one, Very nice.

The robotic Apple computer voice-driven Fitter Happier has a strange set of poetry and scary sort of lifetime. It sounds mega depressing. But it is really good to hear this relatively short cut on the album.

The political, and honestly so, Electioneering arrives next. It talks about political direction. It’s a much more optimistic piece. Some phrases such as, “I trust I can rely on your vote.” Very intellectually inspiring. The main chorus makes sense 100%.

Climbing Up The Walls is likely inspired by a science fiction and horror sort of environment. It’s got some distorted drums, sound effects, and climactic chorus present. The lyrics are freaky as well. A good horror like a piece for everyone here. Enjoyable. The twist at the end is super freaky on a psychological basis.

No Surprises sounds like a song about suicide. It is a poetic and simple piece with acoustic guitar and glockenspiel, which sounds great together. It’s a good radio-style jingle. It sounds great, even today.

The next piece, Lucky is a bit lighter. It was recorded in 1995 but added to this album as an afterthought. It fits perfectly though. It is a slow, almost ballad-like piece. Very good though. The only thing is that there are lacking some really good riffs. Still, a very good listen.

The last one, The Tourist, is a slow and moving piece for the end of the album. It is very suited to the album itself. It is a good song, even if it is not a great one.

This album has received critical and commercial from all areas of the music world. In fact, it is a great listen, so ensure that you give this a whirl.

Unforgettable and not regrettable for a listen. In 2017, a remastered anniversary edition called OK NOT OK Computer with loads of unreleased songs were added to another CD. This will be reviewed at a later point, but this is one truly impressive album.

9/10

Joy Division – Unknown Pleasures (1979)

The real dark side of rock and roll begins here. This group of young men with singer Ian Curtis made dark and scary look awesome. They were a favoured cult sort of band until Ian Curtis’s suicide. Their influence is still broad and wide today in the rock world.

The music here is brilliant. It paints a sort of apocalyptic environment and sounds mega dark. Let’s give this a look, track by track.

Disorder begins our dark journey. And it’s very heavy, both musically and lyrically. A great start to one of the greatest recordings of all time. It specifically talks about relationship issues. A good listen. Some nice synth sounds are here as well.

Day Of The Lords arrives. It’s the closest these guys got to heavy metal. It rocks and sounds awesome all the way through. There is a large Black Sabbath style of phrasing in the guitar work. An excellent listen here. Everything fits here perfectly. Ian Curtis’s baritone voice expresses urgency at the end, an interesting twist to the song itself.

The following song called Candidate is a more typical piece from Joy Division. It has some pseudo-Industrial music sounds and some dark, introspective lyrics. The bassline here is quite prominent, but there is plenty of room for the rest of the song to breathe. Not a bad effort.

After that Insight arrives. It starts off with the sound of the elevator in the recording studio being activated by Ian Curtis, then launching into a rather lyrically disturbing song. Indeed, Ian Curtis had an undiagnosed mental health disorder of some sort, and this is reflected in the music here. The sound effects are interesting here.

New Dawn Fades is a very lonely and miserable sounding piece. It flows very well. It launches into the song with lyrics such as, “A loaded gun won’t set you free.” Disturbing all right, but still very good. If you dig dark melancholy, give this a listen.

She’s Lost Control begins with some awesome electronic drum sounds, and then some delayed and unusual vocals and lyrics from Ian Curtis. It’s about perception, either the narrator or the lady involved has lost control. It’s a freaky concept nonetheless.

The next song Shadowplay begins with a bassline, before launching into a rocky number. The band obviously had a lot of musical ideas on their albums, and this is by no means different. It’s a good listen. The ending especially is great.

After that, Wilderness arrives. The bassline drives this number and sounds very rhythmic and catchy. It’s obvious that Joy Division placed careful attention to each of their individual songs during their career. This one is about travel, a nice little number indeed.

Interzone is an uptempo rock sort of number. It is an interesting piece about going around in the city. It’s enjoyable to listen to and has some great guitar playing here. This is a great album for sure.

I Remember Nothing is a long and extended piece. But it’s never dull. In fact, there are some dark and interesting elements to this song. It features a lot of trippy sort of sounds, including glass being broken. It’s a great way to end this dark and excellent listen.

This album was critically well-received, and since has become a cult classic over time. It’s the definitive album that is a hybrid of punk, and the styles of bands that came afterward, such as The Cure. A great listen, one of the greatest albums of all time.

9/10

Cream – Fresh Cream (1966)

Cream was the original rock supergroup. In retrospect, a rock supergroup is not always desirable. But the trio consisting of Jack Bruce (bass and vocals), Eric Clapton (guitar) and Ginger Baker (drums) would show the world what they were made of.

This album is their first, and in some ways, their best. It has a fusion of styles such as blues, jazz, rock and other genres in the recording as well.

The album begins with I Feel Free. Wow – this is good! It shows off Jack Bruce’s great voice and the other parts of the song are just as good. It’s a great song and still a great listen, even today. Cream sound wonderful in their approach musically, and the song sounds soulful.

The next piece, N.S.U. is a glorious 1960’s style comment on living life to the fullest. It’s a great song to hear. Eric Clapton via his Gibson Les Paul has some amazing playing on this one. Mind you, this album is very consistent so far.

Sleepy Time Time follows and sounds like modern poetry set to music. It’s a great piece about taking one’s time in life, not a bad sentiment at all. It’s a good cut here. Plenty of 1960s sentiments are here, making the song the great piece it is. Cool.

Dreaming follows, and it is a good and relaxed sounding piece. It is a nice thought about life in general, and about the concept of dreams. A great topic to address, and a great song as well.

Following up is Sweet Wine. This is merely a continuation of the concept of the songs before it. Eric Clapton’s guitar solo sings and will leave many rock fans in awe upon listening to this piece. It also seems to have quiet-loud dynamics, a great idea for a rock group to take up at the time.

The next song is Spoonful. It’s a great bluesy style piece about desire. One can only imagine the simple pleasures of the time that would have inspired the song. In many ways, the 1960s was a great era for music. Period. It is a rather extended piece, but still very very good. The ending is great too.

Cat’s Squirrel is another extended piece with some likely drug-based influences in the sound at this point. It’s mostly an instrumental, but very effective in its approach. A nice listen.

Four Until Late is an old blues cover originally from Robert Johnson, but it works so well here that it demands repeated listens. It’s a great interpretation of a good original. Mint.

Next up is a call and response sort of piece called Rollin’ and Tumblin’. It’s a concise piece which is almost like an instrumental. It’s very listenable and very enjoyable. The drums, in particular, are very paced here, a great song. It goes on for a while, so listen patiently.

The cover of Skip James’s I’m So Glad is a great cover of an original blues piece. The band sounds so relaxed throughout it all, until towards the end. The price of a supergroup may be distrust, but Cream does a great job here. Good stuff.

Toad is a great drum solo to finish off this recording. The years of Ginger Baker having a background in jazz music pays off here, he just rocks. Unlikely that one can hear any drummer do this sort of thing today.

Fresh Cream got the ball rolling for these three men, in particular, Eric Clapton. It’s a great album, without a doubt. It’s also likely Cream’s best album and one of the definitive albums of the 1960s. It is very listenable. More great music was to follow after this album by Cream as well, only making this album more reputable.

9/10