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Queen Greatest Hits (UK Version) Review

General Information:

Artist: Queen
Album: Greatest Hits (UK Version)
Genre(s): Rock
Subgenre(s): Art Rock, Progressive Rock
Released: 1981
Length: 58 minutes
Language(s): English
Label(s): EMI, Parlophone Records, Hollywood Records

Track List:

01. Bohemian Rhapsody
02. Another One Bites the Dust
03. Killer Queen
04. Fat Bottomed Girls
05. Bicycle Race
06. You’re My Best Friend
07. Don’t Stop Me Now
08. Save Me
09. Crazy Little Thing Called Love
10. Somebody to Love
11. Now I’m Here
12. Good Old-Fashioned Lover Boy
13. Play the Game
14. Flash
15. Seven Seas of Rhye
16. We Will Rock You
17. We Are the Champions

Queen Greatest Hits UK Version Cover

Queen Greatest Hits UK Version Cover

Queen Greatest Hits (UK Version) Review

Greatest Hits is the first compilation and ‘best of’ album from iconic British rock band Queen. Released in different regions with slightly altered track listings, there isn’t a strictly definitive version of the compilation. The UK version features at least one song from every album from Queen II (1974) through to the Flash Gordon film soundtrack (1980).

Bohemian Rhapsody is the opening track and was Queen’s first and only number one UK single (1975) when Greatest Hits was released. One would not expect lyrics about committing a murder (Mama, just killed a man/Put a gun against his head/Pulled my trigger, now he’s dead) being executed via the electric chair (Thunderbolt and lightning/Very, very frightening me) and then sent to hell (Beelzebub has a devil put aside for me) to be part of the package.

Coming from a progressive rock background where song-writing sensibilities demand musical boundaries to be pushed, they are effortlessly married to pop accessibility and rounded off with a flamboyant exuberance rarely found elsewhere. Most notably this is found in the operatic segment of Bohemian Rhapsody, where the nonsense lyrics are spliced between the narrative just for the sake of doing so it seems. The song also lacks a chorus which makes it even more of an oddity in pop music and, yet, this unlikely single became one of the most easily recognised songs in British pop culture.

Considering that there are songs from 8 different releases on Greatest Hits, and noting Queen’s lack of inhibition when it came to crafting their sound, it should be of no surprise that the songs do not always flow from one to the next effortlessly. What is more remarkable is that everything featured here was released in a short period of 6 years.

After Bohemian Rhapsody the listener suddenly finds themselves a world apart in the mind numbingly repetitive bass hook from funk rock hit Another One Bites the Dust. More twists and turns ensue with the jovial piano-driven Killer Queen about a call girl and the sentimental You’re My Best Friend was written by bassist John Deacon for his wife. The centre piece of Greatest Hits is the infectious rock ‘n’ roll of Crazy Little Thing Called Love featuring hand claps, an acoustic guitar and Freddie Mercury’s Elvis-inspired performance but the bass is the underlying source of the momentum here. Jumping from that to the gospel arrangement on Somebody to Love or the jaunty nature of Good Old-Fashioned Lover Boy lacks even the pretence of consistency.

Greatest Hits is concluded with the two iconic anthems from News of the World; We Will Rock You and We Are the Champions. Often cited as a rock anthem, We Will Rock You is actually devoid of rock music entirely until Brian May’s guitar solo at the end. The rest of the song is made up of the instantly recognisable stomp/stomp/clap body percussion arrangement.

Immediately beyond the realm of a Spartan approach to music, Queen offers an absolute gourmet of songs that are loosely ordered into two halves as the best way to present the eclectic collection. The first is mostly material from Night at the Opera and Jazz whereas the second is divided evenly between Day at the Races, News of the World, Queen II and the ‘Flash’ theme song. Both halves have one song from Sheer Heart Attack and two from The Game, which produced four charting singles from 1979 and 1980, along with ‘Flash’ from the aforementioned film soundtrack.

Releasing this compilation at such a prosperous time for Queen must have played a big part in not only to the success of Greatest Hits as a business and marketing opportunity, but also in immortalising their contributions to music. Going on to sell over 25 million copies globally, it is one of the best-selling albums of all time and the best-selling album in their home country with 6.3 million copies sold to date.

For all the inconsistencies one could imagine finding on a compilation album, due to the nature of the format more than anything else, it isn’t necessarily the easiest thing to listen to all the way through. It will give newcomers a good oversight into the first half of Queen’s career and from there, a course can be plotted to specific albums based on any preference they find.

Ultimately, the flamboyant personality embodied by Queen combined with their immense creativity exemplifies what has made them endure as strongly as they have while attracting listeners, both new and old, to this day.

Performers:

Freddie Mercury: Lead vocals, piano, finger snaps, bicycle bells, handclaps, acoustic guitar, organ, synthesizer, foot stomps, co-lead vocals on “Fat Bottomed Girls” (chorus)
Brian May: Acoustic and electric guitars, backing vocals, bicycle bells, handclaps, piano, synthesizer, foot stomps, co-lead vocals on “Keep Yourself Alive” (bridge)
Roger Taylor: Acoustic guitar, percussion, backing vocals, timpani, gong, triangle, chimes, bicycle bells, handclaps, woodblocks, tambourine, foot stomps, cowbell, co-lead vocals on “Keep Yourself Alive” (bridge)
John Deacon: Acoustic, bass and electric guitar, piano, bicycle bells, handclaps, foot stomps

Additional Performers:

Mike Stone: Co-lead vocals on “Good Old-Fashioned Lover Boy”
Roy Thomas Baker: Stylophone on “Seven Seas of Rhye”

External Links:

Queen Homepage
Queen on Wikipedia
Greatest Hits on Wikipedia

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Turisas Battle Metal Review

General Information:

Artist: Turisas
Album: Battle Metal
Genre(s): Folk Metal, Symphonic Metal
Subgenre(s): N/A
Released: 2004
Length: 57 minutes
Language(s): English, Finnish, Swedish
Label(s): Century Media Records

Track List:

01. Victoriae & Triumphi Dominus
02. As Torches Rise
03. Battle Metal
04. The Land of Hope and Glory
05. The Messenger
06. One More
07. Midnight Sunrise
08. Among Ancestors
09. Sahti-Waari
10. Prologue for R.R.R
11. Rex Regi Rebellis
12. Katuman Kaiku

Turisas Battle Metal Cover

Turisas Battle Metal Cover

Turisas Battle Metal Review

Battle Metal is the debut album of Finnish metal band Turisas. Stepping beyond the reach of the main subgenres of heavy metal, Turisas incorporate a choir, violin, recorders, an accordion, acoustic guitar and keyboard instruments into their sound; a unique blend of both the folk metal and symphonic metal fusion genres.

Turisas set a high bar when they introduce themselves to the world with the intro piece Victoriae & Triumphi Dominus. It is a proud procession composed of keyboards used to emulate trumpets, marching percussion and a dramatic choir arrangement. The former instrument is somewhat unexpected given the number of multi-instrumentalists and session musicians enlisted to bring this album to life but they are effective in their goal nonetheless.

While the lyrics for the intro piece have never been published in the album booklet or on the internet, they sound like some variation of the song title. The lyrics elsewhere focus on medieval battles, adventuring and the riches found afar, drinking and pagan themes. Between all of this and the image projected by the band in the booklet and elsewhere the question is with such an ambitious and all-encompassing vision on a debut album, do Turisas reach their lofty aspirations?

Living up to the Battle Metal title, both As Torches Rise and the title track throw the listener straight into the middle of the medieval fantasy realm. Lyrically this is done through the first person narrative in As Torches Rises. It details a failing battle with both moral and human losses (“I think of my family, I think of my home/Interrupted by a fearful tone:/”We’re practically dead, they’ll slaughter us all!”/Through a cloud of dust I see our right wing fall”). The last verse goes on to describe a bloody scene while contrasting it with descriptions of nature and the surroundings, a common theme found often in the band’s lyrics.

The narrative changes to third person for the title track (“They’ll crush your skull with a blow/And pile them in a row” and “As the battle rages the dearest to you, you hold in your hand – and stick in their lungs!”). This back and forth in perspectives can be found on other songs while, musically speaking, the listener is thrown into it the world of Turisas through the frequently bombastic arrangements, folky interludes and often gruff vocals that are sometimes accompanied by gang shouts. Guitars are almost always present and work in tandem with the instruments traditionally not found in heavy metal. They aren’t given the particular spotlight common to heavy metal so the bridges and interludes of the songs tend to be led by the non-metal side.

Prologue for R.R.R. is an inversion of everything else on Battle Metal. It is a third person monologue that uses textural keyboard effects to evoke a timeless space between present day and the past. Over the course of three minutes the speaker asks the listener to “remember those memories; grand and tearful which still, after hundreds of years, remain now radiant with the brightness of sunlight” in reference to their ancestors. This leads right into Rex Regi Rebellis and is performed in a mix of English, Finnish and Swedish. This is a bit pointless since the monologue before was performed entirely in English and breaks away from the strong narrative that Turisas was building if you don’t understand the three languages.

On the other hand Sahti-Waari is an effortlessly joyous drinking song in the folk metal vein. It is sung exclusively in Finnish and references the pagan narrative also found elsewhere in Battle Metal when they sing “No Christian sword will break us” in the second verse. It is one of the finest moments on Battle Metal and warrants multiple listens on its own.

Battle Metal ends with a second instrumental piece, Katuman Kaiku, with the first half being folk-orientated and the electric guitar coming in for the second half, if only to remind you that this is still a metal album, but it is a far cry from where Battle Metal began musically and thematically.

Midnight Sunrise and Among Ancestors are effectively one song linked together by an overly long recording of wind sounds that should really be on a separate track between these two songs. Along with The Land of Hope and Glory, that features an organ interlude that isn’t bad in its own right but is out of place, Turisas show some minor progressive rock leanings but they never becomes a significant component of the song-writing.

Turisas have wide-ranging scope for Battle Metal and what they want to present to the world. Some parts could have been fine-tuned but it is fair to say that their aspirations have been achieved here and that the band landed on both feet with their debut.

Performers:

Mathias Nygard: Vocals, recorders (alto, soprano and sopranino), programming, additional percussions
Jussi Wickstrom: Acoustic, bass and electric guitars, double bass
Tude Lehtonen: Drums, bongos, congas, djembe, udu and electric percussion
Antti Ventola: Hammond organ, Piano, synthesizers, vibraphone
Georg Laakso: Acoustic and electric guitars

Additional Performers:

Riku Ylitalo: Accordion
Olli Vanska: Violin
Emmanuelle Zoldan: Vocals

External Links:

Turisas Homepage
Turisas on Wikipedia
Battle Metal on Wikipedia

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Lana Del Rey Ultraviolence Review

Lana Del Rey Ultraviolence Review

General Information:

Artist: Lana Del Rey
Album: Ultraviolence
Genre(s): Dream Pop, Indie Pop
Subgenre(s): N/A
Released: 2014
Length: 51 minutes
Language(s): English, Spanish
Label(s): Interscope, Polydor

Track List:

01. Cruel World
02. Ultraviolence
03. Shades of Grey
04. Brooklyn Baby
05. West Coast
06. Sad Girl
07. Pretty When You Cry
08. Money Power Glory
09. Fucked My Way Up to the Top
10. Old Money
11. The Other Woman

Lana Del Rey Ultraviolence Cover

Lana Del Rey Ultraviolence Cover

Lana Del Rey Ultraviolence Review

Ultraviolence is the third album from American singer-songwriter Lana Del Rey. The title proves to be ironic in terms of the music with Cruel World instantly showcasing her embracement of the soft melancholic spirit. This sets the tone of the entire album and, unlike her previous album – the nihilistically named Born to Die, there isn’t much energy behind these grey-black textural pity-revelling slow burners. It keeps coming, one song after another, with her voice being the major focal point and the most compelling aspect of the album.

Lyrically, the album touches on the light-hearted topics one has come to expect on a pop album. Domestic abuse on the title track, cooking cocaine (“White palms, baking powder on the stove/Cooking up a dream, turning diamonds into snow”) on Florida Kilos, the love of drugs on Pretty When You Cry (All those special times I spent with you, my love/They don’t mean shit compared to all your drugs) and Lana Del Ray apparently whoring herself out for success on the bluntly titled “Fucked My Way Up to the Top”.

In case you think the last of those is coated in artistic license, it probably isn’t. From an interview with “Complex” she responds to the question “Is it about people not wanting to give you credit for your success? Or is it about fucking people to get to the top?” with “…You know, I have slept with a lot of guys in the industry, but none of them helped me get my record deals. Which is annoying.”*

On one hand, songs from Ultraviolence can be listened to individually and thoroughly enjoyed. On the other, the framing of them on a single album creates a scene limited by its narrow musical vision. The glamorization of decadence is to the point of drabness, if nothing else, and feels forced.

Performers:

Lana Del Rey: Vocals
Dan Auerbach: Claps, electric guitar, acoustic guitar, shaker, synthesizer
Collin Pupuis: Drum programming, synthesizer
Leon Michaels: Claps, synthesizer, piano, Mellotron, tambourine, percussion, tenor saxophone
Nick Movshon: Claps, bass guitar, upright bass, drums
Russ Pahl: Pedal steel guitar, electric guitar, acoustic guitar

Full list of performers: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ultraviolence_(album)#Personnel

External Links:

Lana Del Rey Homepage
Lana Del Rey on Wikipedia
Ultraviolence on Wikipedia

* https://www.complex.com/covers/lana-del-rey-interview-against-the-grain-2014-cover-story/

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Chad Mossholder Non-Site Specific Review

Chad Mossholder Non-Site Specific Review

General Information:

Artist: Chad Mossholder
Album: Non-Site Specific
Genre(s): Ambient Industrial
Subgenres(s): N/A
Released: 2014
Length: 57 minutes
Language(s): N/A
Label(s): Artificial Music Machine

Track List:

01. Fennel
02. Slope
03. Framework
04. Nephilim
05. Azoth
06. Cobweb
07. Oracle
08. Ataxia
09. Nascent
10. Chymia
11. Illuminated
12. Illuminated (Richard Devine’s Cylindrical Modular Mix)

Chad Mossholder Non-Site Specific Cover

Chad Mossholder Non-Site Specific Cover

Chad Mossholder Non-Site Specific Review

Non-Site Specific site is the debut solo album by American ambient industrial musician Chad Mossholder. It is an unconventional combination of ambient sound-crafting, unidentified noises and electronic manipulation expertly woven together into a series of atmospheric tracks.

They immediately conjure images in the listener’s head of abandoned factories, mechanical insects scuttling around in the wilderness, desolate cityscapes and seclusion. Nephilim comes to life with sounds that are reminiscent of small rodents squeaking around inside something, somewhere not readily identifiable. By contrast Cobweb has an almost percussive quality interwoven with spontaneous noises that ebb and flow from parts unknown. Each soundscape is crafted with remarkable attention to detail that will paint the listener’s mind with vivid imagery. The layers of textures and effects that come in and out of being over the course of Non-Site Specific can be just as rewarding on the first listen as any subsequent revisits.

However, it should be noted that none of these recordings can be considered songs in any conventional sense and, in spite of the variety on display, they can easily blur into one another because of their formless nature. Non-Site Specific is a cerebral expedition for those that dare tread out into the realm of the unconventional. Another example of this is Oracle. Full of echoes and signal-like sounds coming from a machine repeatedly trying to connect to another one, only to become enveloped and ultimately replaced with static noise in the process.

Nascent, on the other hand, teems with small life underneath a distorted backdrop of more signals, pointing to a bigger mechanical presence in a derelict environment. It is a bizarre blend of seemingly biological on-goings and mechanical processes that has been derived entirely from the technology used to create everything present in the recording.

Non-Site Specific is an honest title, with appropriate cover artwork, for the soundscapes contained within. When listening, it is best to do so in a quiet, darkened room without any distractions and a good pair of headphones to experience the meticulous craftwork involved bringing everything to fruition. In some ways it is the audio equivalent to a time-lapse video that depicts the development of a garden over several months. It is a gradual, unfolding process that operates in a similar fashion and is rewarding to the patient listener.

A casual listener will struggle to get beyond the first couple of tracks before throwing in the towel. This is their folly and those that press on, along with existing fans of both soundscapes and unorthodox compositions, will be rewarded for their efforts and hear these recordings as something akin to auditory vignettes.

It is not often that a highly untraditional album, in terms of content and techniques used in the creation of said content, can elicit such imaginative scenes in the mind of the listener. Yet Non-Site Specific, created with computer programs and lacking any formal structure, defies convention and does exactly this in an undeniably paradoxical fashion.

Performers:

Chad Mossholder: Programming

External Links:

Chad Mossholder Homepage

Non-Site Specific on Bandcamp