Saturday, 28 January 2012

Madonna - Bedtime Story

Madonna's Bedtime Story is probably my favourite single from her, only rivalled by Justify My Love. The song was written by Bjork, and you can definitely feel her influence on the track and its easy to imagine her singing this song. The song is the penultimate track on Madonna's sorely overlooked album Bedtime Stories, and does have a very different sound to the other tracks. The album is a soft R+B kind of sound, but bizzarely this experimental electronic track seems to fit in! It foreshadows the work that Madonna would do on her next album, Ray of Light I think. Its a hybrid of ambient/house beats that sound totally different to anything Madonna has done before or since. The song has been cited by critics as one with a lot of unfulfiled potential and I would have to agree! The song has hardly ever been performed live, only serving as an interlude in the Reinvention Tour. It also seems to be slightly more forgotten about in comparision to her classic singles like Vogue etc, which is absolutely criminally as this is Madonna at her experimental best.

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Erasure - Abba-esque (EP)

Despite being a massive fan of Pet Shop Boys (and I do mean massive), I've always felt that Erasure, consisting of Andy Bell and Vince Clarke (Formely of Depeche Mode and Yazoo) have always been overlooked in favour of bands such as Pet Shop Boys and Depeche Mode. For me, this is little EP is one of my most favourite things they've done. As you can tell, it consists of four Abba covers. Erasure are big fans of Abba, preforming various songs live during the course of their career and  a cover of Abba's Gimme Gimme was used as a B-side to Oh Lamour, their third ever single. The EP was originally going to be a full album, and I wish it was in ways, because Erasure do brilliant covers of Abba! For me Erasure's sound seems to bring out the best in these tracks, to the point were I have to be honest and say I prefer these tracks to the originals! The EP was also the groups first number one on the UK single's chart, after peaking at #2 with Sometimes and the Cracker's International EP (this was when EP's were still eligible to chart in UK). The EP has been credited as being a major factoring in instigating a revival in Abba's work in the 90s. For me, my top two tracks on the EP would have to be SOS and Take A Chance On Me, but all four of the songs are brilliant tracks. My only slight critcism (and it is small) is that they should have put Gimme Gimme on the album, because that is another brilliant Abba cover they've done, but that was released on the remastered version of Wonderland anyhow. A brilliant covers EP!

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Michael Jackson - The Lady In My Life

The final track on Thriller (and one of only two tracks on the album not to be released as a single) this is a strong contender for my favourite Michael Jackson song ever. It seems to be largely forgotten about, and generally regarded as one of the albums weakest songs. I can't understand why, I adore the song and how romantic it sounds without ever sounding corny. It was actually a hard song to record, as Quincy Jones wanted to create a song similar to She's Out Of My Life from Michael's previous album Off The Wall in the sense that it would feature a particularly impassioned vocal from Michael. He wanted Michael to beg on the track to achieve this, and I think he does particularly on the ad-libs towards the end of the song. Michael (a shy and quiet person by nature in contrast to his stage persona) was embarrassed about this to the point were he didn't even want to be seen during the recording of his vocal track, so he asked the curtains to be pulled over him in the studio so he would be able to convey his emotion during the recording process better. As a consequence I think this is probably his most impassioned vocal performance, and for me it shows off his voice beautifully. The way it changes halfway through the track, when Michael sings "Stay with me...." is absolutely glorious and just makes the song! Criminally overlooked!

Monday, 23 January 2012

Soft Cell - Tainted Love

This is a classic song for me. It is one of the first songs of the 80s I ever liked. I had this song on an old compilation when I was about 13, and I played it to absolute death. Its definitely become the song Soft Cell are remembered most for, which I do feel is a bit of a shame because they've got some other brilliant songs that surpass it. This was Soft Cells second single release, and it was made very clear to the duo that if this song didn't sell, it would be their last release, as previous single Memorabilia failed to chart. The group decided to produce a cover of an obscure Northern Soul track by Gloria Jones called Tainted Love. You've got to admire a risk like that, as the obscurity of the song probably meant the chances of it being a hit were small. Amazingly though, the song quickly became #1 in the UK and in another 17 territories worldwide. It also became the best selling single of 1981. In the US it peaked at #8 (taking 19 weeks to do so) but then held the Guinness World Record (at the time) for most consecutive weeks in the Billboard Hot 100 chart (43 weeks). I think those are extremely impressive stats for a supposed one hit wonder group (Personally I would say they're not, they did have other hit singles) It was released on 12" as an extended dance medley with another cover, this time of The Supremes Where Did Our Love Go. Marc Almond's only musical contribution to the song itself was deciding it should start with a "bink bink" noise that would feature periodically throughout the track. I love how they've made the song sound just like an original Soft Cell song (It was a few years until I found out it was a cover and I was shocked). A great song that's become an 80s classic, just remember to check out their other material!

The Killers - Hot Fuss (Album)

You know how everyone has those albums that just seem to bring them right back to childhood? For me, The Killers debut album is one of those albums. I had just turned 10 years old two months prior to the release of this album, which was released on June 7th 2004 here in the UK, and June 15th in the USA. At the time, it seemed everyone was in love with Mr Brightside. I was more into Somebody Told Me if I'm honest, and truth be told what I really adored was The Killers lead singer, Brandon Flowers. But enough of the sentimental nostalgia value, is it actually any good? Well in my opinion, its a blinder.

Given how much their sound has developed in subsequent albums (especially Brandons lyrics) it could be said that you'd easily forget the fact that The Killers were very 80s sounding when they first started out. Yes, they do still have 80s influences in their sound since that, but for me this is the where the influences are most felt. Highly influenced by 80s bands such as The Cure, New Order Duran Duran, The Smiths... you get the idea, the album itself was actually pretty integral to my own musical development. I guess this was the album that showed me that 80s music was actually pretty damn good, as up until this point I was under the illusion 80s music was cheap and tacky frothy nonsense. This album made me love the 80s, as you can definitely hear the influences on it. Just look at the synth intro to On Top for instance. On that note, I think Brandon's voice here sounds a bit like Morrissey in his earlier days, but again that changes in their later albums.

One of the things that I've read about this album countless times over the years though, is the first half vs second half. Many feel the second half of the record looses steam in comparison to the first. I'm going to be dead awkward here and say I disagree. I mean, Mr Brightside, Somebody Told Me have become somewhat indie classics of the last decade. I mean, over here at least the four singles (All These Things That I've Done, Smile Like You Mean It, Mr Brightside, Somebody Told Me) were played loads, and they were also very popular. I feel it would be hard for the second half of the album to live up to that. I think in a way I actually prefer the second half however, On Top and Midnight Show are brilliant songs, and Believe Me Natalie whilst being rather bizarre is also a great song. The album closer Everything Will Be Alright is generally seen as the worst track but I really like it, its refreshing after the very anthemic tracks that preceed it.

In terms of lyrics, the album did get quite a bit of ridicule, particularly Somebody Told Me and Glamourous Indie Rock and Roll. Whilst there is no lyrical masterpieces here, Brandon does develop leaps and bounds in subsequent albums. Also, despite the album appearing to be, on the surface at least, very glamorous indie pop with some synths here and there for good measure, the album has a murder theme on two of the songs. Midnight Show, and Jenny Was A Friend of Mine are actually parts two and three respectively of a murder trilogy, with the first part, Leave The Bourbon on The Shelf found on B-sides album Sawdust.

The album may not be everyone's cup of tea, but I personally love it, and not just for nostalgic reasons! Its anthemic, synthy in places, and just generally good fun to listen too. Whilst it may not be the most experimental thing they've ever done, its still an exceptionally strong debut!