Music Reviews

Popular Music CDs - Part 26 - November, 1999

Graham Vine




"Jump Back - The Best of the Rolling Stones"

Rolling Stones

Virgin; CDV-2726

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Some say the Rolling Stones' best years were already behind them by 1971; the year of the first of the songs included in "Jump Back", the best of the Rolling Stones are from that year to 1993. I cannot agree with that feeling and have little problem with the choice of material on the compilation.

But there are other reasons for adding Jump Back to one's collection - not just to have all these tracks together in one place. The music has been digitally remastered using the latest 20 bit technology, from the original masters. This process makes the songs much cleaner and clearer than has been available before. I was surprised at just how much raw energy these chaps pump out. In fact, it was too revealing, too rough, too raw in many places. The words are crystal-clear and indicate that they were carefully put
together and also show great sensitivity in the ballads.

The selection of songs is a fair representation of the years covered. My own preference would have been to cut down on the 'disco' tracks (9, 10, and 11) but then again, "Miss You" has always been a standard in anyone's book. To squeeze 18 tracks into the over 74 minutes on the album suggests the executive producer's problem was in what to leave out!

So overall it's a good compilation covering ballads through to good ole '60s-style R&B, showing how the Stones eschewed increasing sophistication in favor of variations on the theme of that raw rocking energy. And besides, who doesn't like a bit of rough from time to time . . .?

For reference, complete track listing:

1. Start Me Up
2. Brown Sugar
3. Harlem Shuffle
4. It's Only Rock 'n' Roll
5. Mixed Emotions
6. Angie
7. Tumbling Dice
8. Fool To Cry
9. Rock And A Hard Place
10. Miss You
11. Hot Stuff
12. Emotional Rescue
13. Respectable
14. Beast Of Burden
15. Waiting On A Friend
16. Wild Horses
17. Bitch
18. Undercover Of The Nighty

- GV -


"Sonic Brew"

Black Label Society

Spitfire; SPITCD-004

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This is quite the LOUDEST album I've encountered for years. All the clues are there - the emphasis on *black* in the name and the label itself, the gothic script, the language used in the track listing which would, quite frankly, not be used in polite company.

Yes, this is very heavy rock. There is a deep grinding of fuzz guitar, plenty of activity most of the time and solid guitar riffs, together with some very angry-sounding vocals. It sounds skilful enough to this reviewer and it's almost as if each listening peels back the layers to allow you to hear what's going on deeper down in the tracks.

On many of the tracks there are sensitive acoustic parts, providing a nice contrast with the heavy rock. It also serves to show that the musicianship is of a high order, a point difficult to decide on merely from the loud passages. And that leads me on to my favorite track, an all-acoustic number called "Spoke In The Wheel". This is a track which would fit into any radio-programming, though specifically not as a sampler for the rest of the album.

The vocals are handled by, I suspect, Zakk Wylde; this has to remain as a suspicion as all the sleeve notes are couched in the terms of the liquor-brewing trade. It's rather like a cross between the Crash Test Dummies and The Sisters Of Mercy, so he keeps good company.

This is an album for the fan of heavy rock - I can see no reason for such an enthusiast to resist.

For reference, complete track listing:

1. Bored To Tears
2. The Rose Petalled Garden
3. Hey You (Batch Of Lies)
4. Born To Lose
5. Peddlers Of Death
6. Mother Mary
7. Beneath The Tree
8. Low Down
9. T. A. Z.
10. Better Half
11. Black Pearl
12. World Of Trouble
13. Spoke In The Wheel
14. The Beginning... At Last

- GV -


"Olive's Army"

Various Artists

25 Records; 25-FO-22

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If we are to consider "Olive's Army" a sampler for the many acts presented here, there's an armful of albums just around the corner that I'll be delighted to audition! OK, there are some weak moments on this 23 tracker, but I detect a wealth of talent in all departments.

So let's get the criticisms out of the way first and lead into the strengths and go out on a high. Generally, it is the vocals which left me feeling that some more development was necessary. Spotless, for instance, place their vocalist right in-your-face, when, if she had been set-back a little, the insecurity in the voice could have been blended over and used as a charming vulnerability. Just a suggestion, you understand. Now Blaze, on the other hand, are misguided in trying to put together a 'dirty' song when their vocalist sounds just too nice for the effect to come off.

A couple of the drummers are overstretching themselves, in terms of technique. Grasp have an otherwise good song "Celebrate The Earth", but a fine driving beat is spoiled by a failure to emerge from the excessive number of breaks in a way that maintains the rhythm correctly. Much the same can be said for track 1.

But the rest displays that wealth of talent I mentioned. Interesting lyrics, like the religious metaphors in Choker's "Saviour". And the instrumentals in the Curious Oyster song "Whirl" are so evocative with their swirling synth sounds mixed in along the fuzz of guitars and even a xylophone.

My favorite song, though, has fairly weak vocals that I would normally find quite off-putting. It's by The Cats, and there's a real twist to the story we are told in "I Wanna Wife". Surely we hubbies don't behave this way?!

So there are many good facets to "Olive's Army", but I have to give a low mark for performance because the weak tracks really do spoil it for the rest. Rather than force the listener to skip the bad tracks, the album producers should have been more selective in the choice of material. As a showcase for new acts, though, many of the personnel involved here have a great musical future ahead of them. So despite my low markings, those looking out for next year's rock artists may still wish to purchase the album and stay ahead of the crowd.

For reference, complete track listing:

1. Spotless - Extremist Pacifist
2. The Holsteins - Done And Dusted     
3. Blaze - Surrender Your Love
4. Trophy Wife - Tall Chicks           
5. Dead After Dark - You Don't See Me Anymore
6. Choker - Saviour    
7. Curious Oyster - Whirl
8. Grasp - Celebrate The Earth
9. The Cats - I Wanna Wife
10. Red Ash & The Love Commandos - Short Happy Song 
11. Red Ash & The Love Commandos - Very Short Song
12. Garfield's Birthday - Eye To Eye       
13. Memil - Crash
14. Weekend With Adam - Push Me Too Far  
15. Bluster - Run        
16. Angry Sole - The Mask's Not Me         
17. Arse - Your Mother
18. Magic Music - Life-force, Death-force
19. Doris - Break Me
20. Famous Sons - Emma Louise
21. Deckchair - Lost
22. V Element - We're On Maximum
23. Parkstone Dub Foundation - Shaz 'n' Kells

 - GV -

Copyright 1999 Secrets of Home Theater & High Fidelity
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