LENINE – O Dia Em Que Faremos Contato (1997)

Review by: Charly Saenz
Album assigned by: Victor Guimarães

This is a layman’s review on a prominent Brazilian music album (Caetano himself recommended it, so go figure!). God bless you for reading. My lawyer is at the moment in Copacabana, so please don’t sue me if I make too many mistakes or wrong assumptions.

The record starts off with “A Ponte”, a phone modem dialing into the internet (hey, children, you probably don’t know about this) and a boy talking about street music. “A Bridge” in english, in fact it indicates the intention of the album, to marry Brazilian popular music with Rock music elements, though, spoiler, it never attempts to betray its roots. Percussion is of course, the center of the music here, but there’s a strong electronic beat to back it up.
“Hoje Eu Quero Sair Só” (“Today I Want To Go Out Alone”) has a lovely intro with a laid back rock tone, Wah-Wah guitar effects in the distance. Great song, though a little over long. “Candeeiro Encantado” has a great bass line, and “Distantes Demais” is an inoffensive ballad that… has a total Tango feel (!) so it feels like home to me. “Que baque e esse” introduces itself as a piece of Hip hop music with a swirling guitar and vocal effects, and it mutates into an interesting mix with prominent horns included, slightly free-jazz in parts. “O Marco Marciano” instead begins with a raucous vocal part and doesn’t go anywhere from there.

The title track is a really an intoxicating song, with noises in the background, quite tribal and effective for the mistery of an extraterrestrial invasion. “Dois Olhos Negros” has a strong and well defined melody and nice work both for the rhythm guitar and the electric bits (with some hard rock riff at the end), it’s probably my favourite of the lot. 

I’ll say that it’s an interesting album though I feel it’s a little repetitive in parts, and though it tries for some fusion, it mostly uses rock instruments to give a different color to a good album of Brazilian popular music.

THE ABYSSINIANS – Satta: The Best of The Abyssinians (2015)

ASSIGNED BY THE HOST: Great Overlooked Artists
Review by: Roland Bruynesteyn

Reggae is not my thing. The thing closest to reggae that I own, and actually quite like, is a set by Toots and the Maytals on Dub side of the mule, a live album by Gov’t Mule. I always plan to buy a Bob Marley greatest hits compilation, so that the genre is represented in my music collection. That guy wrote or performed a few famous reggae tunes in the seventies such as No woman, no cry, Get up stand up, One Love and Could you be loved. What I like about him is that he was also sort of a symbol for Jamaican reggae culture: Rastafari, ganja and dreads, but reggae fanatics probably consider him a crossover artist who sold out.

What do I like about reggae? Well, hmmm.., the music is usually happy and quite rhythmic.
What do I not like about reggae? I hardly ever focus on the lyrics, but I would not be surprised if the lyrics are on the whole a lot sadder than the music would suggest. Vocals tend to sound whiny. I think that as a genre it’s way too constrained by the rules. That does not bother me with, say, bossa nova or blues, but with some styles, reggae and tango being prime examples, the ’structural and formal homogeneity’ bores me to death from the second track.
Especially the (rhythm) guitar, and sometimes a keyboard, on the off beat (alternating with the bass) annoys me. As far as Caribbean / South American music goes (or basically anything south of Cajun/Zydeco), this is by far my least favorite music style.
So, so far this review is more a confession about my taste, but I wanted to inform you, dear reader, about where I come from.
This album has not convinced me of the intrinsic value of reggae music. It’s probably well played; I liked the fact that sometimes they sing together and that horns play a prominent role in some songs. The dub medley (versions) suggest that some versions have been updated or remixed, sometimes quite interesting to hear (once), for instance some ‘echoey’ effects.
But, still my ears fail me, I just cannot get into reggae. It’s actually easy on the ears (compared to lots of jazz such as Eric Dolphy, or prog like Magma and the like), but in the end it’s too meandering. As it was assigned to me by someone who likes reggae and/or considers this a reggae masterpiece, I suggest that reggae lovers check it out for themselves. It may indeed be a lost milestone in the history of reggae.
Because of my ‘relationship at arm’s length’ with reggae, I feel not even qualified to determine if this is good reggae. In fact, although I did like the first song (Satta amassa gana) when I heard it for the first time, as of this moment I’ll postpone my decision to get a compilation by Bob Marley indefinitely.

Strait to the Point: THE WHO – The Who by Numbers (1975)

Review by: Michael Strait

Rated: 2.5/5

This might be the first time I’ve been able to call an album by these dudes “humble”. It ain’t bad, I guess, but it’s not a patch on their best.

On first listen, I hated this. I listen to these things three times, though, and the subsequent two did admittedly reveal a small reservoir of quality I’d not noticed at first. After a string of increasingly grandiose albums culminating in the leaning tower of hubris that was Quadrophenia, it’s nice to hear Townshend finally slowing down, taking a breather and allowing his vulnerabilities to show through a little bit. No characters here, and no social commentary either – just a bunch of fairly mellow acoustic rockers, ballads and musings on the flawed self. Sounds great, right?

Well, not quite. It’s alright, sure, but it’s a fairly unassuming, unremarkable sorta alright. Most of the tracks just kinda breeze by, doing just enough to avoid being outright boring without doing enough to be riveting. Listening to this album is a mildly diverting, marginally enjoyable experience, but it won’t win any awards and it probably won’t change yer life. I can’t say there’s any tracks I hate, either – there are a couple of failures, sure, but they’re the mediocre, boring kind of failure rather than the sort of disastrous collapse you can find in The Who’s worst moments. So, in sum, what we have here is The Who’s first average album – and that’s an epochal moment, that is.

I’m in a positive mood, so let’s start with the good stuff. “In a Hand or a Face”, the closing track, is a great song! The vocal melody is properly awesome the whole way through, especially in the chorus. That rising repetition – “I am going round and round…” is like a callback to that sense of earnest silliness that used to define The Who, sung like it’s being confided mischievously in your ear while the instrumentation steadily builds around it. That instrumentation is pretty great, too – everyone performs pretty well on this song, which is a very nice surprise when ye consider how bloody bland they are on most of this album. Oh, goshdarnit – I’ve hit the negatives already! I mean, what can I do? There’s an elephant in the room, hangin’ from the ceiling like an oversized, critically endangered chandelier: Moon’s drumming on this album has, appallingly, actually gotten worse than it was on Quadrophenia. There, he at least still sounded as if he were connected to the band; here, half the tracks sound like his beat was recorded in another room with no point of reference, ‘cos he can’t stop doing these ridiculous fills, flourishes and attempted solos that sound kinda like what the drummer in a third-rate Who tribute band might come up with. What’s worse is the horrible, lethargic cymbal stuff he does when he’s actually trying to keep time – that stuff actually saps the music of energy, and that’s just heartbreaking to have to hear. I’ve no idea what the timeline was leading up to Moon’s death in 1978, but I have a hunch he was a hefty way down the path by the time they recorded this album. What else explains this precipitous drop? Shiet, maybe he’d secretly quit and this was just Townshend drumming in disguise.

Entwistle’s also barely a presence on most of these tracks. He gets one of his own, though, and it’s the best he’s written in years – “Success Story”, it’s called, and not even a tragic nadir of a performance from Moon can prevent it from being a highlight. Entwistle’s got a badass bass tone on it, for one, and it’s also got that trademark Entwistle sense of humour I’ve always found so endearing. Got a nice set of riffs, too. No real complaints here, though it ain’t one of the band’s greatest achievements. I’ve mostly the same opinion of the opening track, “Slip Kid”; that thing is built around this super swaggy, catchy piano groove, and I can’t say I’ve got any problems with it, but it’s not exactly a work of genius, now, is it? It’d be one of the better tracks on Odds & Sods, but it’s hard for me to work up any enthusiasm about it. I mean, this is the band that made Baba O’Riley – and this was the best they could do?

Really, it’s remarkable just how easy it is to forget this album when it’s done. I can’t say that of any of their others up to this point – I didn’t like Tommy or Quadrophenia, but I’ll be damned if they weren’t at least memorable failures. This thing is a reluctant kind of success, I guess, but it’s the most forgettable success I’ve ever heard, and is that really better? “Dreaming From The Waist” is a perfectly competent acoustic rocker and a pleasant enough listening experience, and so is “How Many Friends”, but man, they really don’t aspire to be anything more. That’s kind of nice after all the pretensions of the previous album, I guess, but it also means I feel absolutely no need to retain them in my memory and I’ll be damned if they do anything to try and win me over. “However Much I Booze” is basically the same, except worse, seeing as Townshend tries to fit too many words into his melody and ends up ruining it; “Imagine A Man” is a decently pretty and, honestly, entirely ordinary acoustic ballad that I can’t really remember anything about; “Squeeze Box” is kind of a countryish tune with a good banjo solo, a decent melody and no particularly great ideas… you get the picture, y’know? The score range for tracks on this album, excepting maybe the finale, is about 4-6/10. It’s so thoroughly mediocre that I’m beginning to feel self-doubt at my inability to find anything to say about it – I have to keep reminding myself that it’s not me, it’s the album that’s a hack writer with delusions of grandeur and no futur- ahem, excuse me…

I guess “Red Blue and Grey” is nice. It’s this endearing little ballad where Townshend just opens up over a ukulele, and there are some pretty horns in the distance that give the whole thing a kind of mournful air. Strictly speaking it’s not any more remarkable than its surroundings, but I find myself fixating on it whenever I listen to the album; I guess it just strikes me as the least pretentious thing Townshend ever wrote, lacking even the conceit of deep emotional resonance (I’ve always believed you need to be at least a little self-important to want to make people cry) and conveying only a feeling of remarkable contentedness. Being as it cohabits with songs about drink addiction, fake friends and sexual frustration, this is remarkable, and maybe that’s why I like it more than the rest. But it’s not like it’s one of Townshend’s best, and it doesn’t save this album from total irrelevance. A friend of mine once pointed out that it’s been 40 years, and there still isn’t anyone willing to try and rehabilitate The Who’s post-Quadrophenia work; “it’s a safe bet”, he said, “that it’s as mediocre as everyone says it is”. I guess he was right. This is, indeed, The Who By Numbers, and that means it’s The Who without any of the things that made them interesting. If the blood still flows, it’s been heftily diluted.

JAMES BROWN – Live at the Apollo (1963)

Review by: Roland Bruynesteyn

In a possible new series of Important Live Albums, this is an important and powerful first entry. Later, James Brown would sound even less constrained, on “Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag”, and downright funky on “Sex Machine”, “The Payback” and the like. But this is where it in many ways started: a half hour album, recorded on October 24, 1962 in NYC and released later in 1963, with some added applause (the version I own is fleshed out with another “generous” 10 minutes, basically single mixes from some of the other material).
Even at over 50 years of age, with old-fashioned background singing, musical accompaniment that’s still carefully sophisticated rather than outrageously funky, this album is a testament to the vision of James Brown. Obviously, in showmanship and musicality he ultimately paved the way for Jimi Hendrix and even Prince, but most importantly, here he created (at least in the perception of the public) his James Brown persona, the hardest working man in showbiz, and modern dance music as a genre.
Compared to other white (Everly Brothers, early Beatles and Beach Boys) and black artists (Ray Charles, Sam Cooke, later Curtis Mayfield and others) of the time, this was anarchy, plain and simple. His delivery and his stage presence (and the call and response singing) created a type of mass hysteria and fainting girls (or so I imagine) that were unprecedented at the time. And yes, parts of this had been heard before, as he had been working (hard) for the five years leading up to this album. But this was the live album that cemented his reputation.
With hindsight it’s easy to point out that it’s way too short and that the applause feels artificial in places. The musicians (drummer, guitar and organ especially) play way too subdued and they don’t do James justice. James shines however: he cries, he screams, he orgasms all the way to the Hall of Fame. Ladies and gentlemen, this is not just a great little dance album, it is an important album. Get it!

BRYAN ADAMS – Reckless (1984)

Review by: Roland Bruynesteyn
Album assigned by: Jimm Derby

Generic power pop, typical 80’s production, energetic singing, poor man’s Bruce Springsteen. That would about sum it up in one sentence if you were brutally honest, bordering on cynical.
The hits were “Run to You”, an energetic rocker where he makes full use of his voice, “Heaven”, a power ballad, “Summer of ’69”, another energetic rocker and “It’s Only Love”, a duet with Tina Turner. Although (or because) they are very familiar, they sound quite good as songs: they’re all nice pop songs on the rocky side and Tina’s voice mixes very nicely with Bryan’s.
And some other songs are nice as well: “She’s Only Happy When She’s Dancin’” could have been a heavy Huey Lewis and the News song, and I can easily visualize it with a ZZ Top style video clip. “Ain’t gonna cry” somehow reminds me of Alice Cooper’s School’s Out (the album, that is).
The 30th anniversary/Deluxe edition adds 7 bonus tracks of which “Reckless” (the title song that apparently never made it on to the original album), “Let Me Down Easy” and “Teacher, Teacher”, stand out somewhat. Also, a disc with 15 live tracks from 1985 is added.
Hooks-wise Brian’s not in Keith Richards territory (although Keith was having a rough decade or two at the time), but Bryan sure makes up for it in energy. I actually like his voice quite a lot, but paradoxically only in small doses, as it’s a bit one-dimensional: he sounds nice, but he really has only one way of singing.
Worst thing about the record as a whole is the terrible production style: booming drums, simple (very basic) bass work, no subtlety AT ALL and a very synthetic compressed sound. This may have been fashion at the time, or perhaps it has something to do with learning to “master” new cd technology with its higher dynamics. Another thing is that it’s rather monotonous: apart from the one ballad, all songs are rockers, mostly at the same speed.
It makes for rather tiring, headache inducing listening 30 years later. But I can easily imagine a remake in a more acoustic setting with sympathetic production that gives the instruments room to breathe. That would do his voice full justice.

UNIVERS ZERO – Heatwave (1986)

Review by:Tom Hadrian Kovalevsky
Album assigned by: Eric Pember

Save for the topiary, everything shifts and changes at random within my line of vision. Outside, the heat rises from the ground and makes everything seem almost liquid, as though I am dwelling underwater in a glowing palace of glass and gold. The world stretches and distorts and makes itself into new shapes without my influence and I am caught up in the rhythm of the funeral march once more, stretching eternally, seemingly without end. Ah, to say that it were painless would be to lie and pretend that nothing had happened; to smile and pretend that it was over, the chairs packed away, the curtains drawn, but from here, I can see everything as it becomes due to me. The music draws to an unnatural lilting halt, and somewhere a woman laughs and a glass is dropped, for these are indeed dangerous times.

Strait to the Point: THE WHO – Odds & Sods

Review by: Michael Strait

Just fanservice. A nice lil bunch of curiosities for the completionist.

A bonus review for a bonus album – fair, wouldn’t ya say? This was a collection of outtakes, rarities and other such collectors’ items released originally to fill a free year, then re-released in 1998 with more than twice as many tracks for the obsessives and completionists. I don’t really feel like there’s much point in giving it any sort of rating, so instead I’m just gonna give a quick overview of what’s on here.

There’s a rough, though not rigid, chronological order here. We start with “I’m The Face” – a pleasant little R&B tune that was one side of the first single The Who ever released, back when they were called The High Numbers – and we end with “Naked Eye”, a song that can also be found on the bonus track edition of Who’s Next. As far as I can tell, there aren’t any outtakes from the Quadrophenia sessions, although “Water” has enough dull musicianship and rawk gawd posturing to sound like one. Aside from that one, though, the Who’s Next outtakes are pretty much all totally awesome, and a couple of ’em even sound better than some of the album tracks. What did we do to deserve “Gettin’ In Tune” instead of “Put The Money Down”? The latter’s great – it’s all mountainous and monolithic like the best songs on that album, but it’s also got some convincingly macho swagger and a nice sense of humour. “Time Is Passing” ain’t bad either, though the country ‘n’ western parody at the beginning is maybe a leetle too arch for a bunch of middle-class Englishmen. Then again, they don’t shy away from self-parody on this thing either – just listen to “Long Live Rock”! Ridiculous tune, but it pretty much entirely eliminates the need for AC/DC’s “Rock And Roll Ain’t Noise Pollution”, and, come to think of it, does a great job parodying just about every single 80s hair metal band before any of them even existed. It’s no necessity, but as far as joke songs go it ain’t bad at all.

Most of the other stuff is kinda scattered. There are two more joke songs: “Now I’m A Farmer”, notable mostly for some lead vocal silliness from Moon, and “Little Billy”, which sounds like a silly Entwistle song even though Townshend apparently wrote it. There’s also “Cousin Kevin Model Child”, which I guess is a joke song of some kind, but which elicited a verbal, audible reaction of “What the fuck is this shit?” from me when I heard it; skip it, and also skip the studio version of “Young Man Blues” (super corny imitation-American accents ruin it), the rock version of “Mary Anne With The Shaky Hand” (no less boring for all the rocking – in fact, possibly more boring for being longer), “Too Much Of Anything” (too much of nothing, more like), and “My Way” (a fairly generic Eddie Cochran cover). There’s a bunch of other stuff which is only really interesting from a historical perspective, like “Leaving Here” (Daltrey’s first attempt at machismo on the mic), “Faith In Something Bigger” (a perfectly pleasant early pop tune that ultimately lacks identity), and “Under My Thumb” (a cover of the Rolling Stones song that fails because it’s one of those songs only Mick Jagger could sing properly). There are, however, some gems buried here: “Baby Don’t You Do It”, which contains some excellent drunken angst-over-breakup from Daltrey and some more of that destructive guitar feedback Townshend left behind after the debut; “Glow Girl”, which is a nice, psychy little pop tune that ends on a genderswapped version of that “it’s a boooy, Mrs. Walker, it’s a boooy” bit from Tommy (no idea which was written first); “Pure And Easy”, which sounds kind of like one of them endearingly corny Yes pop songs from their earlier albums; and “We Close Tonight”, which confuses me because it’s got elements you tend to find in early Who songs coexisting with the trappings of their later stuff, but which sounds cool anyway. 

The three I haven’t commented on – the studio version of “Summertime Blues”, the rock version of “Love Ain’t For Keeping” and the Entwistle tune “Postcard” – are all unspecial, unremarkable but nonetheless pretty good tracks that wouldn’t stink up your collection if you felt the need to have ’em. I’m not a big Who fan, personally, so I doubt I’ll be returning to this very often, but it’s a nice little gesture to the fans. Also, I can’t deny that it’s kind of interesting to hear The Who’s career trajectory represented here in miniature; in just an hour and 20 minutes you get pretty much the entire story of The Who’s existence up to this point, and it’s a nice reminder that they were, for all their faults, a supremely interesting and unique band that were never content to remain in one place for very long. Vitality flows through the veins of this record, even on the bad songs – let’s just see how long they could keep that up…