Friday, May 27, 2011

What's New?: 5.27.2011

U2 — Under a Blood Red Sky (1983)

U2's first live album — and a good one too. The song selection is bit on the crowd pleasing side, but with the addition of two non-album songs ('Party Girl' and the especially great '11 O'clock Tick Tock') it really goes past being just for the die hard fans. The versions played here aren't very different from their studio counterparts, mostly just played a bit faster. The way Adam Clayton's bass is mixed in 'New Year's Day' finds him taking on an almost Peter Hook-ish tone, which doesn't necessarily work, but ultimately makes the song stick the most out of everything they play. Absolutely no surprises, but gosh darned good in any case.

Midnight Oil — Place Without a Postcard (1981)

Pretty standard pop/rock sound on this album. Glyn Johns' production is clean and no nonsense. The songs are probably better for it, although it does get a bit samey. No duds in the bunch though. And, as always, the band is political without sounding too preachy (I mean, anybody who gets as political as they do is inherently a little preachy). I really like the more introspective rocker 'Basement Flat' because it captures the lonely feeling of isolation that one often experiences in city living. Overall, it's a good indicator of the whole album. Of all the Midnight Oil albums I've checked out so far, it's by far the least assured as far as subject matter goes. Still, I dig it.

Jon Anderson — Olias of Sunhillow (1976)

It basically sounds like a super mellow Yes album. No guitar noodling from Steve Howe or ridiculously fast keyboard twinklings by Rick Wakeman. There is nothing here musically that you would not see coming if you are a Yes fan. I guess there's a lot to be gotten out of the story that accompanies the album, but I haven't really dug into that aspect of it (and don't really plan to, honestly). I like it mainly because it takes all the little short passages of really pretty bits from Tales from Topographic Oceans as its jumping off point and just gets really mellow and really tuneful. Jon Anderson sings about the same sort of "mystical" nonsense as always, but it's in his great tenor range, so it all sounds good. Like all good things Yes-related, it's best moments are most appreciated when you take the entire thing in. As a fan of 70's Yes, it certainly satisfies my appetite for more of that sound. But, on its own, not amazing or anything.

Midnight Oil — Diesel and Dust (1986)

All produced and super shiny sounding, but gosh ding dang, the songs are fancy, aren't they? 'Beds are Burning' is so popular your grandma probably likes it too. 'The Dead Heart' was the other big single off the album and it's good too, but I think what I was really surprised at was how strong the whole thing is. It actually reminds a lot of U2's the Joshua Tree because both this album and that album were made by bands who had recorded (and had hits, here and there) for years before really hitting it big and both albums had a surprisingly dark tone to them, especially considering how popular they became. But, where the Joshua Tree just gloomed up its entire second half, Diesel and Dust ends with the awesome jangly pep talk of a rocker 'Sometimes.' So yeah, really good mid-80's big budget guitar rock. And hooks. Did I mention there's hooks for days on this thing?

Midnight Oil — Blue Sky Mining (1990)

Probably my favorite of the band's albums I've checked out so far. It takes the "sophisticated arena rocker" guise that Diesel and Dust began and perfects it. Blue Sky Mining feels like it's their best fusing of the political and the introspective. The title track is case in point. The great follow up, the 12-string jangler 'Stars of Warburton', just ups the ante with probably the band's best hook ever and the rest of the album follow suit. Mid-tempo rockers with jangly undertones and layered, thoughtful production. Sure, its keyboard patches and guitar effects date it by now, but the material is so strong, that doesn't matter. To end with the yearning, haunting ballad 'Antarctica' is just excellent. Really good album. Totally scored a sweet clear blue vinyl copy, too.


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