Posted in Album Reviews

Prince – 1999 (2CD Deluxe Edition) (2019)

Prince’s fifth album, 1999, was released in 1982 and was the first to have the band The Revolution play on it.  For many mainstream rock fans, this would be the first time they came across Prince and his brand of rock/funk/pop/soul.  A one-night stand is detailed on his first top ten hit, “Little Red Corvette”.  The sleek rocker has a great female vocal from Lisa Coleman whose brief vocal adds texture to the “ride it to the ground” lyric. While the original release of single “1999” stalled high in the charts, the ubiquitous new year’s eve track is one of Prince’s, and pop music’s, most popular songs. The infectious party anthem sees a shared vocal between Prince and other members of The Revolution who sing of bombs and destruction over the punchy drum track.

Upbeat third single “Delirious” has a squiggly keyboard line before the darker and harder beat of “Let’s Pretend We’re Married” appears.  The original album was a double vinyl release which allowed Prince to stretch out on funk tracks such as “D.M.S.R.”, the crisp beat of “Automatic”, and rock guitar of “Lady Cab Driver”.  For fans of pop music, the album 1999 is front loaded with the hits coming fast and furious.  However, for those wanting to explore further, the funk workouts at the end of the disc all ride a fabulous groove that rarely outstay their welcome.

The second disc on this release features various promo mixes and  B-sides.  Your love of it will depend on how much you want to listen to several versions of the album tracks with only minor differences from the originals.  It is a bonus to have the 7” versions of “1999” and “Little Red Corvette” that immediately jump into the track vs. the album versions.  Of the three B-sides, the soulful “How Come U Don’t Love Me Anymore” from the “1999” single is the pick.    

1999 – 10/10

Second disc – 8/10

Posted in Paper Chase

Q1 + Q2 Read It 2022

Reading this book in early 2022 while the trucker’s “Freedom Convoy” worked its way across Canada to then occupy downtown Ottawa was a stark contrast in realities. Colson Whitehead’s book, The Underground Railroad, from 2016 was hugely popular – it won a Pulitzer Prize before eventually being turned into a TV show.  The book follows Cora as she escapes the plantation she is enslaved on in order to find a better life. In the book, the underground railroad is an actual railroad that takes ex slaves around America through secret tunnels. Even as Cora runs further and further away from the plantation, her past is never far behind. It’s a powerful book that should be widely read.  

9/10

The first book in a series that will follow the songs of the Bee Gees decade by decade. Starting off in the 60s, this volume is split between the group’s Australian beginnings and it’s first brush of international fame with their first UK albums. The book written by several authors including Winnipegger (and friend) Grant Walters is expertly written with many in-depth anecdotes about the Gibbs’ brothers writing and recording history. It is a book that will keep both the hardcore and casual fans entertained throughout.

8/10

On top of work, working towards a Business Analyst certificate occupied a lot of my time in early 2022. This book taken for the Business Re-Engineering course was a companion for a few months.  Workflow Modeling is a way of looking at the design of work/process mapping to gain more insights into where process improvements can be made. Certainly, dense with a lot of information, the second edition by Alec Sharp and Patrick McDermott has several interesting business stories and is swimming with swim lane diagrams.

7/10

Prairiefire Magazine – Summer 2021, Volume 42 No. 2

Posted in Album Reviews

David Bowie – Aladdin Sane (1973)

The sixth studio album from David Bowie, Aladdin Sane, was released in the spring of 1973. The iconic lightning bolt album cover has been recreated countless times by fans and other artists, it also possibly more famous than a lot of the music contained within.  Having to follow-up two classic albums, Bowie wrote much of this album, a pun of “a lad insane”, in the US and has been referenced as “Ziggy (Stardust) goes to America”. A bit more rushed with a  glam rock stomp, the music of Aladdin Sane has a nostalgic yet futuristic feel, especially on second single and #3 UK single “Drive-In Saturday Night”.

The album can certainly rock – “Watch That Man” has horns and piano aplenty as Bowie recalls a night on the tiles in a stream of consciousness like lyrics.  Mick Woodsmansey’s drums add jungle beat behind Mick Ronson’s opening guitar lick on “Panic In Detroit”.  “Cracked Actor” is a violent, dangerous song of an actor meeting up with a  prostitute as Bowie sings, “crack, baby, crack/show me you’re real”.  Mike Garson’s piano adds a barroom feel to the cover of The Rolling Stone’s “Let’s Spend the Night Together” before the most famous song here, “The Jean Genie”, adds another flash of glam rock with a blinder of a chorus.

The harder hits can steal some of the thunder but it’s the slower tracks that really settle in.  The title track asks, “who will love Aladdin Sane?” on a song about bright young things being sent out to war. While the “The Jean Genie” is a belter, the closing track “Lady Grinning Soul” is a stunner. The atmospheric track may sound a bit like blur to 90s listeners.  It’s an incredible song once again built around Mike Garson’s piano that sounds classy and mysterious at the same time. Aladdin Sane would continue to see Bowie’s star rise with a set of songs that make it essential listening for fans of 70s rock and roll.

9/10

Posted in Album Reviews

Belle and Sebastian – A Bit of Previous (2022)

As with many attempted recordings in the last few years, the pandemic tripped up the artist’s original intentions. Belle and Sebastian had originally planned to record in Los Angeles but instead recorded in their hometown of Glasgow for the first time in 20 years. “Young and Stupid” compactly captures some of the classic B and S sound with a nostalgic sounding tune while “Come On Home” is jaunty with an added organ. Several tracks such as “Prophets on Hold” add synths with more of a dance beat and here, band leader Stuart Murdoch sings “…and I close my eyes, to see you again”.

Stevie Jackson takes over the vocals for the country ballad “Deathbed of my Dreams” and charmer Sarah Martin sings the synth driven “Reclaim the Night”. A number of tracks on A Bit of Previous get wrapped up in religion like “Working Boy in New York City” where “everybody gets an even shot at making heaven”. Where it lacks is the clever Belle and Sebastian turn of phrase and memorable characters of past classic songs.  While A Bit of Previous won’t reach essential status, Stuart Murdoch and mates are “heir(s) apparent to the scene” who can still knock out a fine record 25+ years on.

7.5/10