Posted in Album Reviews

The Beatles – Revolver Special Edition (Deluxe 2CD) (2022)

Following up on Rubber Soul, The Beatles made another leap forward in 1966 with their seventh album, Revolver. This has now received the remixed treatment courtesy of Giles Martin.  Revolver contains many of the elements that would later show up on Sgt Pepper – a signature Ringo Starr track (“Yellow Submarine”), George Harrison Eastern influences (“Love You To”), and a genre bending closing track (“Tomorrow Never Knows”).  Only one single appears on the album, Paul McCartney’s haunting ballad “Eleanor Rigby”. 

Harrison gets the premier slot with his bass driven “Taxman” who’s sound would later be appropriated by The Jam. John Lennon shines on the heavy eyelid pop of “I’m Only Sleeping” and the Peter Fonda quoting “She Said She Said”.  McCartney turns in the lovely ballad “Here There and Everywhere” as well as the Motown horns of “Got to Get You Into My Life”.  While Sgt Pepper’s remains more popular in the mainstream, in the last several years, Revolver has grown in stature over the years to become an aficionado favourite.

Fans of The Beatles will already own Revolver in many forms over the years, so it is the disc of outtakes that will drive the interest in this release.  The second disc starts with the revved up single “Paperback Writer” and it’s classic B-side “Rain”, both in 2022 stereo mixes.  Highlights of disc two include Take 1 of “Tomorrow Never Knows” that dials down the psychedelia for a more straightforward track with Lennon’s voice sounding like it is coming through a radio. “Doctor Robert” has a drier sound that pushes Lennon’s vocals to the forefront.

McCartney’s “For No One” appears as an instrumental backing track and later, “Here, There and Everywhere (Take 6)” has a much rawer vocal than the released version.  The cartoonish effects of “Yellow Submarine” do not appear on Take 4 which makes it sound like a more mature folk sea shanty. Overall, the outtakes disc does a winning job of turning songs heard hundreds of time before into a must listen that brings out different shades and sounds to well worn tracks.

Revolver – 10/10

Outtakes – 10/10

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Yeah Yeah Yeahs – Cool It Down (2022)

Yeah Yeah Yeahs finally return, nine years on from the mixed reception of the Mosquito album. Once again working with producer Dave Sitek on several tracks, at just 8 songs at 32-minute run time, Cool It Down could be looked at as a glorified EP.  “Spitting Off the Edge of the World” features Perfume Genius, it’s dissonant synth and spare drumbeat made it a highlight single of the year.

Several tracks have sparse instrumentation with Karen O’s soulful voice coming through.  Second single “Burning” has a housy piano, synth stings in the chorus as she sings “whatcha gonna do when you get to the water?”. “Blacktop” is slower, with a distinctive drumbeat that could go on hours.  “Different Today” is another highlight with a transistor radio vocal effect whereas “Wolf” amps up the synths in a climatic chorus.  With guitarist Nick Zinner and drummer Brian Chase, this not the rough and ready guitar band of the early noughties. Instead, Cool It Down sees YYY push their sound into a further dark electronica world.

7/10

Posted in Album Reviews

Taylor Swift – Midnights (2022)

The headlines that Taylor Swift has generated for her latest album, Midnights and her next tour have been staggering.  1.5 million units sold in its first week on sale, broken Spotify records for streams, and 10 songs in the top 10 singles chart.  When tickets for her 2023 concerts went on sale, it not only broke the hearts of fans left out of getting their hands on one but also broke Ticketmaster.

Music wise, first single “Anti-Hero” is a deep look at Swift’s own insecurities where she claims, “I’ll stare directly at the sun but never in the mirror” over a mid-tempo pop beat. Once again working with Jack Antonoff in the producer chair, Swift sings with Lana Del Rey on “Snow on the Beach”. Their voices intertwine beautifully on the chorus on a track about lovers falling in love at the same time. Shimmering synths flow through “Bejeweled” before the sumptuous atmosphere of “Labryinth” that sees the protagonist fall in love after a hard break up, “I thought the plane was goin’ down/How’d you turn it right around?”

The colour “Maroon” runs through a relationship like “rust that grew between telephones” on the moody electronic track.  “Karma” recalls early noughties indie rock/electronic act CSS before the album closes with the bubbling synths of “Mastermind” where childhood trauma turns the protagonist into a scheming genius.  A few tracks lack some of Swift’s clever wordplay and could have been sung by anyone.  But far more often than not, Taylor Swift delivers a great pop songs on Midnights.

8/10

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Simon & Garfunkel’s Greatest Hits (1972)

Released two years after they disbanded, Simon & Garfunkel’s Greatest Hits went into the top 5 in both the US and UK.  It breaks many fundamental rules of compiling a greatest hits album – it’s not in chronological order, it substitutes live versions of hit songs, and it leaves off several important tracks.  Somehow this collection makes it all work. The aforementioned live versions chosen here are all exceptional.  “The 59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin’ Groovy)” is warmer than its studio version and both “For Emily, Whenever I May Find Her” and #1 single “Bridge Over Troubled Water” are showstoppers featuring Art Garfunkel’s soaring vocals.

 Two other US #1 singles appear, the duo’s first hit “The Sound of Silence” and the “coo coo ca choo” of “Mrs. Robinson” from The Graduate OST. Besides the title track, all the other hits of Bridge Over Troubled Water appear with the upbeat folk rock of “Cecilia” closing out the set.  While the collection is missing key tracks like “The Dangling Conversation”, “A Hazy Shade of Winter”, and “The Only Living Boy in New York” – what is included here is some of the best folk rock of the 60s and early 70s.  While other collections gather more of the duo’s essential tracks, the enduring popularity of this album made it a must for inclusion on Simon & Garfunkel: The Complete Albums Collection.

10/10

Posted in Album Reviews

Simon & Garfunkel – Bridge Over Troubled Water (1970)

The last Simon & Garfunkel studio album came out in 1970, just under six years after their debut. Once again working with producer Roy Halee, the album starts off with the iconic title track.  A dramatic opening sounds almost like a Christmas carol in its hymn like devotion. Art Garfunkel’s performance soars as strings and cymbals crashing come up to meet him. This is pop music at its highest form.

Beyond the title track, the next two songs were also singles.  “El Condo Pasa (If I Could)” has a folky, Spanish feel that hit #1 in several countries. A memorable drumbeat opens “Cecilia”. The infectious track will eventually end up on many party playlists and remains one of the duo’s most popular songs. At the opposite end of the spectrum, “The Boxer” has a softer drumbeat where Paul Simon sings “lie la lie”, that acts as a hook but was originally in the song as filler. The epic track follows the story of a boy who leaves home, “seeking out the poorer quarters, where the ragged people go” before becoming the boxer.

“So Long, Frank Lloyd Wright” came about when Garfunkel asked to have a song written about the famous architect.  A laid-back tune that can double as an allusion to Garfunkel having studied to be an architect in his earlier days.  One of the duo’s most popular album tracks appears on the second half of the album, “The Only Living Boy in New York” is one of the most emotionally charged songs in the catalogue. Simon sings “Tom, get your plane right on time/I know your part’ll go fine”, a direct comment that Garfunkel was off filming a movie in Mexico, leaving Simon behind in NY.  The use of an echo chamber for their voices takes the song to a celestial level. The album winds down with a live cover of “Wake Up Little Susie” before finishing with just Simon and his guitar singing, “Song for the Asking”

The debate rages on as to which the critics think is their masterpiece, this or 1968’s Bookends. The public voted with their wallets. With four of their most well-known songs, Simon and Garfunkel went out with a bang as Bridge Over Troubled Waters would go on to be the duo’s most popular album with approximately 25 million units sold.  A truly great album that deserves a spot in every record collection.

10/10