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They Don't Write Reviews Like This Any More.....

PostPosted: Sun Feb 15, 2015 5:35 pm
by NormanD
....Or do they?

Well, yes. As this one proves. I know nothing about the singer, so I read through to find out what a young guy with a hat, and an expensive-looking Gibson acoustic, might sound like.

"If you want advice on the dreariest dross you should check out in any given year, ask any group of music critics. Individually, we’re cutting-edge oracles of innovation and originality, but poll us for a Brits critics’ choice award or a Sound of 2015 and somehow, collectively, we’ll tip the most predictable and derivative mainstream dullard we can find. Sam Smith, Tom Odell, Emeli Sandé, Years & Years; if pop culture wasn’t so indisputably honest and transparent, you’d almost imagine they simply bin all our votes and give the accolades to the highest major-label bidder.

This year’s fresh lump of unreconstructed fossil fuel being lobbed into the music industry’s spluttering furnace is critics’ choice winner James Bay, the latest in an endless stream of lowest-common-denominator trad singer-songwriter money-spinners, with an inexplicable 8m YouTube views, but this time – crucially – in a hat. The hat, let’s make no bones, is magnificent, a charcoal Panama worthy of the latter years of Razorlight, but its resplendent brim hides a chronic deficiency of personality, presence and ideas. From the redneck dustbowls of Hitchin in Hertfordshire, and via the hard knocks of Brighton’s BIMM school, James Bay’s formulaic shtick is vaguely soulful MOR Americana driven by a firebrand intensity measuring somewhere between the top end of Foreigner and the bottom of Bryan Adams.

To this overpopulated region of Coldplayed country rock he brings absolutely nothing of his own. Craving, Sparks and When We Were on Fire kick up weak and cynical flumes of plastic sawdust, delivered with all the authenticity of a Voice audition. When he tackles epic, soft gospel on Running, its peak is Silbury Hill against the K2 of Leona Lewis doing Run. Even when he lays on some impressive tremulous guitar melodies for Let It Go, the song is hobbled by everyman breakup lyrics seemingly churned out by the Wanted’s Universal Meaningless Anodyne Sentiment Generator and liberally sprinkled with cider and regret.

He’s at his best when his AOR-by-numbers band leaves him solo, pouring enough impassioned howls into the raw, pained Scars to almost silence the crowd chatter. Otherwise, for all the infectious singalong sunniness of his biggest hit, Hold Back the River, the freeway rock cheese of Best Fake Smile and his soporific R&B cover of Alicia Keys’s If I Ain’t Got You are the sound of the UK’s once-trailblazing pop culture grinding to a halt. But don’t take my word; we’ve already proved irrefutably that critics know nothing. Ever get the feeling you’re being cheated?"

Mark Beaumont ... oko-london

Re: They Don't Write Reviews Like This Any More.....

PostPosted: Sun Feb 15, 2015 8:26 pm
by Adam Blake
I had a narrow escape this week. One of my students offered me a ticket to see him. I flushed and claimed a prior engagement.

Re: They Don't Write Reviews Like This Any More.....

PostPosted: Sun Feb 15, 2015 8:34 pm
by AndyM
Lovely review, only flawed by its odd omission of naming Ed Sheeran, whose pole-axingly immense success surely lies behind all the money being thrown at these young faux-authentic dullard boys.

By the way, I finally worked out who Sam Smith sounds uncannily like, and therefore why I hate him: he's Michael Bolton for the slightly-better-haircut generation.

Re: They Don't Write Reviews Like This Any More.....

PostPosted: Mon Feb 16, 2015 5:46 am
by uiwangmike
A different kind of impressive review, in this case impressive not for its viscerality but for its thoroughgoingness, if there are such words. It's a review of of Dylan's latest from Peter Viney's excellent blog. Did you know that Bob attended Frank Sinatra's funeral? (Maybe it's something eny fule no, but I didn't.) ... the-night/

Re: They Don't Write Reviews Like This Any More.....

PostPosted: Mon Feb 16, 2015 11:49 am
by Adam Blake
I was looking for Lester Bangs's review of "Chicago Live at Carnegie Hall Vols I, II, III & IV" - which is possibly the greatest demolition job review I've ever read - but I found this instead (which contains a short para from above). Very entertaining: ... ter_bangs/

By the way, Mike - thanks for posting the Dylan review. I glanced at it and will enjoy reading it properly later, I'm sure.

Re: They Don't Write Reviews Like This Any More.....

PostPosted: Mon Feb 16, 2015 8:07 pm
by john poole
Adam Blake wrote:I was looking for Lester Bangs's review of "Chicago Live at Carnegie Hall Vols I, II, III & IV"
It's here (scroll down) ... %2F%3Apage

Re: They Don't Write Reviews Like This Any More.....

PostPosted: Tue Feb 17, 2015 12:45 am
by Adam Blake
Well found, John. For those with less patience, I have taken the liberty of reprinting it here:

I like this album because it’s on Columbia. I trust them, I believe in their product, because Columbia is the General Motors of the record industry. They consistently come up with the best of everything: best logo, best lettering in artists’ names and album titles, best photography, best cardboard. I know some thankless souls are now talking as if the whole wide universe belonged to the Kinney Corporation and Columbia were just a doddering old has-been, but I believe in sticking by my friends. I mean, which has more prestige to you- a box of Kix or Cheerios?

But being on Columbia isn’t the only thing that makes “Chicago At Carnegie Hall” a classic. If you balk at buying by brand alone, another surefire way of gauging the worth of an album is to take a gander at the grooves themselves. Notice the light and dark patterns. If there are more light patterns than dark ones, it means that the grooves are wider, which means in turn that the record is heavier because there’s more music jammed into each groove. Not only does this album weigh in at 3.23 pounds, but it’s so jampacked with sounds that it’s got grooves wide enough to satisfy even the most picayune of connoisseurs. Anybody that tells me it’s not the heaviest album of the year just doesn’t know his math.

Loving “Chicago At Carngie Hall” as much as I do, though, I still don’t play it very often. In fact, I’ve only played it once since I got it, and never intend to play any of it again. But then, I don’t really have to, it is sufficient unto itself, an existing entity, and playing it too much would only put smudges and scratches on its pristine surfaces. So who cares if it’s Chicago’s worst album? Does it really matter that the songs sound exactly like they do on the studio albums except for being immeasurably more sodden and stuffed with long directionless solos? Or that the brass arrangements sound like Stan Keaton charts played backwards? Or that as technically competent as Chicago may be, there are just too many times when you can hear all the parts better than the whole?

Decidedly not. And for those of you who recognize the essential need for an album such as this, and don’t want to defile your own copies even by breaking the shrinkwrap, I will list the highlights of the eight sides.

- In the “free form” piano intro to “Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?” Robert Lamm is introduced as “Mr. Chops,” deriving from the fact that his roommates jokingly called him “Chopin” in college, and then goes into a solo equal parts Roger Williams, “Slaughter on Tenth Avenue,” and “Cast Your Fate Into The Wind.”

- In “It Better End Soon- Second Movement,” Walter Parazider takes off on a long and wildly eclectic flute solo, starting with “Morning Song” from Greig’s “Peer Gynt” suite, shifting abruptly to “Dixie,” to cheers from the audience, and thence to “Battle Hymn of the Republic,” complete with martial drum-rolls.

- For the “preaching” vocal improvisation in the Fourth Movement of “It Better End Soon”- “We’ve gotta do it right/within this system/gonna take over/but within this system”- the They Got The Guns But We Got The Numbers Award.

- Listening to “I’m A Man” on the radio, feeling fine, knowing you don’t have to buy or play the whole set to know what’s good on it.

- Wondering whether “Anxiety’s Moment” is a ripoff of “Moonlight Sonata” or “Unchained Melody.” Wondering whether it matters.

If there’s one thing Chicago’s got, it’s variety. They also have no trace of originality, but I don’t think that matters very much either. They saw a void, they came and they filled it. With putty and plaster of Paris, but they did fill it. And if you think that’s any small potatoes, just check out the Billboard or Record World or Cash Box charts, where their first album is still riding high after two and a half years. Until very recently none of their albums had ever left the charts. They have conquered this world, and will do it again with this Christmas-timed album, which has exactly the same songs as their others except for the inclusion of a new one about Richard Nixon. It will be the obvious present for people to grab for young kin they don’t know too well, and since it retails for enough that they’re only gonna have to sell about a copy a store to do a million bucks’ worth of biz, it should become a gold record almost on the day it’s released. In fact, at this point there’s only one further pinnacle for Chicago to scale:

When they get to “Chicago VII,” they can release a seven-record set, with one entire album for each member of the group- a whole record of nothing but Peter Cetera’s bass, another of Lee Loughnane on trumpet, etc.- playing a forty-minute version of “Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?” and then we can get seven record players, and have the greatest concert of all time.