Thursday, February 02, 2017

The Minimalism Project - The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan



A couple of years ago I started attempting (on this very blog) to review all the albums that I owned. I got about four or five in and lost momentum. Now I am proposing a different approach. This year I intend to listen to every CD I own - and if I don't love it I will get rid of it. (read more about my minimalism project here) I am going to do mini reviews of the albums as I go.

The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan (1963)

I am a Bob Dylan fan - but I don't love his work universally. I am not enamoured of his early more folky stuff (even though I do like folk music), nor am a a massive fan of his later work. If I had to pin down my favourite Bob Dylan years they probably range from 1970 to the mid nineteen eighties. Freewheelin... is very early Bob Dylan indeed, but still there are echoes of things to come - especially in tracks like Masters of War - a song aimed at the industry of war (and based on a folk song), which put me in mind (a little) of Hurricane from the album Desire. Hurricane is much more sophisticated in terms of arrangement and production but Dylan sings it in a similar way. What I found interesting was that some of the tracks on the album I know better as cover versions. In the 80s I had an album called It Ain't Me Babe, a compilation of Dylan covers by famous musicians, which included excellent versions of A Hard Rain's Gonna Fall and Girl of the North Country by Bryan Ferry and Rod Stewart respectively. These covers are so good that I find they have spoilt the original stripped down versions for me. I find them interesting but I don't love them in quite the same way. Maybe it's the nostalgia coloured glasses through which I view those covers - the early 80s were my formative years after all. Or maybe it's simply familiarity. Whatever I don't love this album in quite the same way. Maybe I just love Dylan's more fully developed work. There are moments I really enjoyed here - Don't Think Twice, It's Aright and Corrina, Corrina for instance. I am not convinced that this album is a keeper for me though - I am going to put it to one side and listen to it again before I decide.

Minimalism Project - The Very Best of Elvis Costello



A couple of years ago I started attempting (on this very blog) to review all the albums that I owned. I got about four or five in and lost momentum. Now I am proposing a different approach. This year I intend to listen to every CD I own - and if I don't love it I will get rid of it. (read more about my minimalism project here) I am going to do mini reviews of the albums as I go.

The Very Best of Elvis Costello  (2004)

It has to be said I don't love greatest hits compilations. You can have much of a good thing and listening to hit after hit can be tiring. That said I do own some greatest hits compilations and this is one of them. I wasn't a huge Elvis Costello fan when I was younger and the records of his I did own were singles so I didn't really know where to begin with is albums. I remember when I bought this double album - it was about 12 years ago. We had been to a garden party out in the wilds of Norfolk and at some point Elvis Costello was played and I found (to my surprise) that I was really enjoying it. Later that week I duly went out and bought The Very Best of... But I have to confess it's not something I play very often. I listened to CD 1 today and did enjoy it to begin with - but there is just too much of it. Each CD (there are two) has twenty plus tracks. If you listened to the whole thing it would be like listening to four albums back to back - only the most die hard fans would want to do that. I can do it with Bowie (heck I can listen to ten Bowie albums back to back) - but each Bowie album is pretty unique and, I have to say, Elvis Costello becomes a little samey after a while. There are some very good tracks on here though, and CD 1 has quite a few of the early new wave hits - Accidents Will Happen (which I still have on vinyl), Radio, Radio, Pump it Up etc. But it also has a smattering of his more corny sentimental tracks that I was never particularly keen on - For the Roses and She for example. At some point I will give CD 2 a listen - but not today.

There are enough good tracks on here to make it a keeper I think.


Wednesday, February 01, 2017

Minimalism Project - Black Tie, White Noise by David Bowie



A couple of years ago I started attempting (on this very blog) to review all the albums that I owned. I got about four or five in and lost momentum. Now I am proposing a different approach. This year I intend to listen to every CD I own - and if I don't love it I will get rid of it. (read more about my minimalism project here) I am going to do mini reviews of the albums as I go.

Black Tie, White Noise - David Bowie (1993)

Anyone who knows me well will know that I am a massive Bowie fan. Black Tie, White Noise is probably one of my least played Bowie albums, despite the fact that it contains some tracks that are on my Bowie playlist on my i-pod - Jump They Say for example. Listening to it this evening I have realised that I have been doing it a grave disservice - it really does deserve to be played much, much more. After a slightly discordant, almost entirely instrumental opening track Black Tie, White Noise gets right down to business. The album has a more emotional feel to it than most of his previous work (perhaps not surprising given that some of the tracks were written for his wedding to Iman). The influence of producer Nile Rodgers is very evident on some of the tracks such as Miracle Goodnight - whose stripped back sound is a little reminiscent of Chic, and Looking For Lester - a disoey number with piano not unlike that of Lady Grinning SoulMy personal favourite track is Jump They Say - which alludes to Bowie's stepbrother Terry who committed suicide. Apparently the cover of Cream's I Feel Free is also in honour of Terry - although I have to say that this track was the low point of the album for me - I much prefer Bowie's own work to his attempts at covers (with the exception of Jaques Brel's My Death and In the Port of Amsterdam). There is also a bonus CD of remixed tracks, however I will not be reviewing that here - I am not a massive fan of re-mixes.

Definitely a CD to add to the keep pile.