Pat Benatar

Heartbreaker (1996)

This doesn’t salvage all of her hits from their respective crummy albums, and the ones it does salvage sound a bit dated, even silly, today.  Still, you can’t deny the pleasure (mild as it may be) that arises from the performance of some of her outside-songwriter material.  Call it a guilty, Abba-esque pleasure and listen at your own risk.
(“Love Is A Battlefield”)

Grade: B-

2010: (After a decade or so, you can listen to the songs again and ENJOY them) Grade: B

4/13/16: Hi there.  I’m going through my posts to make them look better, when they need it.  I was trying too hard when I wrote these music reviews; it’s somewhat comforting to see my edits being better written than my posts.  Generally.

Ben Folds Five

Whatever And Ever Amen (1997)

A mild-mannered, faintly wistful, perpetually cynical singer/songwriter is responsible for this rather boring display.  No fault of his own, I’m sure he meant no harm, and it isn’t altogether horrid.  But it’s the kind of thing that sounds dated a year after its release.

Grade: D+

Beck

Odelay (1996)

I enjoy and admire this man’s studio mastery.  I liked the one-shot “Loser” well enough, but never would have believed that he’d actually get to MAKE a second album, let alone have it be GOOD…the first track here is the strongest, and although it’s not “Loser”, it’s pretty d@mn hooky.  My only question/problem with the whole thing is, how many times can he get away with absolutely meaningless bullsh1t lyrics and make them tolerable with intriguing music?  “Loser” was pretty much as meaningless as you can get, but this album matches it song for song.  I mean, how can I like an entire album of Bono-in-October-esque lyrics?  Because he’s not trying for anything more, maybe?

Or because he’s too hooky and inventive musically for me to mock him?  At least, until the hooks run dry.  Then he’s meat.
(“Devil’s Haircut”, “Jack-Ass”)

Grade: B-

Belly

Star (1993)

I’ve heard these songs described as fairy tales, set to music.  That sounds beautiful to me, and for at least some of them it’s quite true.  Tanya Donelly certainly has some sort of gift for writing, and the songs she writes (all by herself, except for one) are pretty, enchanting, and hooky.  There isn’t a single great song here.  There isn’t a single bad one, either.
(“Dusted”, “Slow Dog”, “Feed The Tree”)

Grade: A-

2010: (Dreams that don’t fade with time…and “Feed The Tree” IS great) Grade: A

King (1995)

I used to hate this album, as much for itself as for the fact that it wasn’t Star-Part Two.  But I’ve outgrown that.  What we have here is a decent follow-up.  Tanya Donelly’s voice remains, but her songwriting skills are a bit fleeting here.  The best song on the album is co-written with another band member, and several others are as well.  Democracy in action?  The band gelling together?  Maybe.  Or maybe she just ran out of tunes after Star.
(“Super-Connected”)

Grade: B

The Beatles

Rubber Soul (1965)

Filled with pleasantness, harmony, and earnest singing, this mediocre album only rises above the level of generic pop nonsense on about half the tracks.  And most of those are overrated and not particularly close to the brilliance that this group (supposedly) possesses.  Exception to the rule – “Norwegian Wood”, which combines beautiful music with rather interesting lyrics.
(“Norwegian Wood”)

Grade: B-

Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967)

Think of it as an inferior prequel to Abbey Road…which isn’t an insult since Abbey Road is a great album.
(“A Day In The Life”)

Grade: B+

Magical Mystery Tour (1967)

They keep getting better and better.  The second side is brilliant.

Grade: A-

The Beatles(The White Album) (1968)

Having somewhat conquered my fears of looking like a complete idiot by trying to grade The Beatles, when I sat down and listened to this double album for a while I wasn’t afraid to think that it sounded horribly mediocre, especially for the group that spawned it.  The best song on here was written by George Harrison.  Normally, enough said.  But that’s not fair to George.  He did perform quite nicely on Abbey Road, and he comes up with a good tune now and again.  At least on this album, he’s no weaker than the Lennon/McCartney team.  A lot of soft, pleasant cr@p with psychedelia and some soft, pleasant music.  Horrible by their standards, mediocre by mine.  
(“While My Guitar Gently Weeps”)

Grade: C+

2010: (What was I thinking?  Very good stuff…experimental, but that’s what made them great…strange, yet still catchy)  Grade: B+

Abbey Road (1969)

I’m at a bit of a loss to grade The Beatles.  I feel a bit of awestruck fear, as a fighter coming face-to-face with the best there is and knowing he doesn’t have a shot.  But, fighting through the panic, I manage to look at the songlist, rate every song, and compile it here for your reading pleasure and use.  Let me just say that I love the song suite that comprises most of side two.  It flows together seamlessly and beautifully.  The individual songs on side one are pretty much a 50/50 split…the kind of thing that usually gets a B+.  And that’s the WEAK side.  Granted, the song suite is rather short and the individual songs don’t linger on for very long before another one breaks through.  But this is definitely a pop music classic.  I’ve always preferred the Stones, but this album could hold its own with the Stones’ best.
(“Something”, “I Want You(She’s So Heavy)”, “Sun King”)

Grade: A

2010: (Brilliant, really…nothing’s perfect, right?) Grade: A+

The Beastie Boys

Licensed To Ill (1986)

Normally I find rap a bit tedious, overblown, and/or boring.  And when I say rap, I mean pop-rap…you know, the non-controversial stuff (e.g. “It Takes Two”, “Bust A Move”, etc.).  But this is a different story.  Irreverent good rhymes, good lines, good riffs…nice.  Since I STILL don’t like rap in general, I’m content but not blown away, “historical” as it may be in this case.
(“No Sleep ‘Til Brooklyn”)

Grade: B-

2010: (A landmark album should get SOME respect…I guess.) Grade: B

Check Your Head (1992)

“So Whatcha Want”?  How about an album with more than one good song, Boys?
(“So Whatcha Want”)

Grade: D

Ill Communication (1994)

Three songs out of twenty.  Well, it beats ‘Check Your Head’.  But not by all that much.  “Sabotage” is the Boys at their most rocking, and it’s easily the best track on the album.  Then again, how can you NOT like a song with a singing dog in it? Ruff!
(“Sabotage”)

Grade: C-

Hello Nasty (1998)

GREAT-EST HITS…GREAT-EST HITS…
(“Remote Control”)

Grade: C

Bad Company

10 From 6 (1985)

A greatest hits package that has every right and responsibility to exist.  Every right, because it collects their hits.  Every responsibility, because none of their albums are worth owning on their own right.  This is a perfect greatest-hits band.  Good enough for a couple of songs per album, which after three or four albums starts to add up.  Their defining, shining moment of glory (really it is, even if that’s rather sad) is “Feel Like Makin’ Love”.  That’s here, along with such lesser-but-still-enjoyable songs as “Can’t Get Enough” and “Rock And Roll Fantasy”.  Their decline from decent to bad was pretty fast, so don’t count on a full-length album’s worth of enjoyment, but this is worth owning, and is in fact their only album worth owning.  I like it when they make it this easy to pad their wallets.
(“Feel Like Makin’ Love”, “Shooting Star”)

Grade: B+

2010: (Remember…this is their BEST…) Grade: A-

Fiona Apple

Tidal (1996)

Fine voice, no tunes.  She wrote it all herself, which I happen to admire.  But she’s not a very good songwriter, at least for my tastes.  I was momentarily smitten with “Sleep To Dream”, but that eventually wore off.  Then came the utterly mediocre “Shadowboxer”, which hit me right in the gut in repeated radio-dispensed doses (that’s a bad thing).  I found that the only way to relieve the pain was to turn the d@mn thing off.

Grade: D

Tori Amos

Crucify (1992)

Some decent writing, good (well, not bad) covers, and a nice vocal performance all add up to one halfway-decent effort.  The cover of Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” is mournful and beautiful, with the same power (if not power chords) of the original.
(“Smells Like Teen Spirit”, “Crucify”)

Grade: B

Under The Pink (1994)

No covers to save her this time out, she attempts to write them all herself.  Clearly, this woman is a flake.  But that’s not really the point.  Her mission is not to please the public, but to express her thoughts and emotions in her own way.  Both may be exceptional, but unfortunately that doesn’t automatically equal good art.  She hits the target a few times and meanders quietly and contentedly through the rest, taking it at her own pace.  Me, I wish she’d ditch the meaning, pour on the hooks, and try for pop superstardom.
(“God”)

Grade: C+

Alice In Chains

Facelift (1990)

“I Can’t Remember” “borrows” (nudge nudge…wink wink) a riff.  From where, you ask?  From “Man In The Box”, three tracks previous, that’s where.  Shame shame…if you’re going to rip off music, at least have the sense and common decency to rip off an old dead blues musician like everyone else.  “Put You Down”, too?  Sigh…not good, not good.  Normally, two very good songs guarantees at least a C/C+ when all is said and done.  But with filler this bad, it takes a moderately interesting track eleven to push it over the top.
(“Man In The Box”, “Sea Of Sorrow”)

Grade: C+

Sap (1992)

I’m not sure exactly what to say here…”Congratulations on showing your soft side, which isn’t really any better than your hard side”?  “Bravo on making your filler marginally more interesting”?  “Where’s the eject button”?  “I feel very sorry for the one good song here”?
(“Got Me Wrong”)

Grade: C

Dirt (1992)

I’m moderately amazed.  Where are the horrendously weak tracks?  How the hell did they write this?  It’s a little too heavy on the heroin quotient, sure.  But this is a solidly enjoyable album, with several transcendent moments to boot.  It has vocal AND musical hooks, and some fairly decent/mysterious lyrics.  Bravo, and thank you.
(“Them Bones”, “Down In A Hole”, “Would?”)

Grade: A-

2010: (Even better than I thought.  In retrospect, Layne Staley’s cry for help…and therein lies the power.  The riffs don’t hurt, either.  Brilliant display of desperation…RIP Layne) Grade: A

Jar Of Flies (1994)

Amazing.  Just as ‘Dirt’ was the unexpected progression from Facelift, this is the even more unexpected MAJOR progression from ‘Sap’.  Six out of seven songs kick in very nicely, and track seven is obviously just a throw-away, but still manages to generate a bit of interest.  Underrated, out-of-the-blue, one of the best albums of the year.
(“Rotten Apple”, “Don’t Follow”)

Grade: A

2010: (Well…the last track WAS intended simply as a bit of fun, so…) Grade: A+

Alice In Chains (1995)

You’ve just put out one of the best albums of ’94 (and probably the best album you’ll ever make), so what do you do?  Take your time to write a solid follow-up (e.g. Soundgarden post ‘Superunknown’), or rush something out to sell it while you still can, before you inevitably fade away with the rest of the “Seattle Sound”?  Yup, sounds about right.

Grade: C

2010: (I think I was too harsh…unbelievable disappointment, after all, generates unbelievable frustration) Grade: C+

Unplugged (1996)

Live albums, in general, are a good barometer for differentiating between a good band and a good studio band.  Stripped of their power and the aided-by-studio vocals of frontman Layne Staley, this performance is almost embarassing.  Power and/or melodic appeal without mechanical aid are indications of a good natural singer, and Staley displays neither here.  An extreme disappointment to me, and a waste of fine material.  I can’t pretend I even listened to the whole album more than once.  I don’t get paid for this, and my paranoia kept insisting it sucked.

Grade: D+

2010: (Horrible renditions of really good songs can’t destroy them completely) Grade: C+

Aerosmith

Aerosmith (1973)

Witness the first evolutionary steps of a middle-income man’s Led Zeppelin.
(“Dream On”)

Grade: C

Get Your Wings (1974)

Less stupid, more tuneful.
(“Lord Of The Thighs”, “Seasons Of Wither”)

Grade: B-

Toys In The Attic (1975)

I start this review project on this album because I have never actually heard all the songs on their debut, and have only listened to their second album once or twice. In future, albums of different bands may or may not be included in my reviews, depending on how comfortable I am with the material. Otherwise, it could be doing a band a great disservice if they’re better than I thought, or doing the consumer a great disservice if they’re worse. That being said, this is an album that you should buy if you like hard rock. Yes, the obvious songs appear later on compilations(they’ve got a small handful). But I’d rather own the original article, despite my affinity for greatest-hits packages, because it has some truly worthwhile material that might not be up to greatest-hits snuff, but which is very enjoyable to listen to in this context.
(“Sweet Emotion”, “No More No More”, “Round And Round”)

Grade: B+

2010: (I looked over the song list, listened to them again, and lo and behold…even better than I thought. I didn’t give Tyler’s lyrics enough credit the first time around. This rocks.) Grade: A-

4/10/16: Retcon info: Ignore the “start this…” section and the over-wordy parts. That should trim it down to about three lines.
Grade: A-

Rocks (1976)

Not the masterpiece some people consider it (I count four mediocre-at-best songs out of nine total), this is still a very good album. The reason is that the other five songs are well above mediocre, especially the multi-riff soft-to-hard (nice intro, guys) controlled chaos machine “Nobody’s Fault”. This would have made a great EP, and you can make it one. Just push “stop” (ha ha, inside joke) right after “Nobody’s Fault”.
(“Last Child”, “Nobody’s Fault”)

Grade: B+

4/10/16: Three things: Reading these now I get both a pleasant sense of nostalgia towards something well-meant and a cringe towards over-writing and just plain mediocrity. Three, I hesitate to criticize because some of my writing is still just as bad. Well, at least I’m not really trying anymore. You know, I don’t give a fck. IT’S AUTHENTIC. Grade: B+

Greatest Hits (1980)

Now THIS is a Greatest Hits album.

Not a single weak track, and they had plenty more to back it up with too. In fact I think the selection is a little off, with some songs not included that should be here. In fact part two I think the selection is, at fifth glance, a good deal off. This could have been much better than it is. But, that’s saying something, as it’s still D@MN good. They might have even been able to make a double album out of this. Oh wait…they do, eight years later. Anyways, this is a must-own for any hard rock fan that doesn’t mind some melody with the crunch.
(“Dream On”, “Sweet Emotion”, “Come Together”)

Grade: A

Gems (1988)

Posing on the back cover so confidently, you’d think they actually created something interesting and new(or at least vital) here. What they HAVE done is sat on their rich tushes and sucked every last worthwhile beat and riff from their catalog. I’m sure the Permanent Vacation fans of ’87 will eat this up and then promptly spit it out in horror…God no, a collection of REAL Aerosmith songs, not a song-doctor hack job. What’s next, a live double? The sad decline of a (once) really good band that should’ve fallen on their collective swords years ago.
(“Nobody’s Fault”, “Round and Round”)

Grade: B

2010: (Has aged more like bread than wine) Grade: B-

Pump (1989)

“…For five songs, everything loud and acrid about them just keeps on
coming–not even tune doctors can stave off the juggernaut. Of course, this band’s idea of a rock dream is also the traditional “Young Lust” and “Love in an Elevator”–OK as far as it goes, but I could do with more “Janie’s Got a Gun,” in which an abused teenager offs her dad…”
– Robert Christgau

I love that guy.
(“Janie’s Got A Gun”)

Grade: B

4/10/16: I cannot echo him, I can only hope to badly emulate him. Grade: B

AC/DC

Back In Black (1980)

When they’re REALLY on, the lyrics don’t seem quite so inane…
(“Back In Black”)

Grade: B-

2010: Having gone through my fascination with blatant sexuality and my subsequent disdain for blatant sexuality, I have come to the conclusion that at least they’re honest.  They want sex.  Who doesn’t?  Grade: B

Who Made Who (1986)

It’s not bad, but without “Back In Black” it’s not definitive.
(“You Shook Me All Night Long”)

Grade: B

311

311 (1995)

3-for-14 will give you a marginal backup career in baseball.  Music is more forgiving.

Grade: B-

3/16/14: 3-for-14 with no clear favorite is not “pretty good”.  If it’s above average that’s sad, but at least plausible.  Grade: C+

Transistor (1997)

Reviews have, at times, been completely re-written.  Why?  Cuz they stunk, that’s why.  If you don’t have anything inspirational to say…
(“Beautiful Disaster”)

Grade: D

Soundsystem (1999)

Virtually worthless, unless you cannot live without “Come Original”.  I can.

Grade: D-

Don’t Mistake Lack of Talent For Genius

“To all those who have loved unconditionally only to have their hearts unanaesthetically ripped out:

Base Not your Joy upon the Deeds of Others, for What is Given can be Taken Away.

No Hope = No Fear” = No Life.

R.I.P. Peter Steele

>.<

3/16/14: Boredom, that’s why.  And because – even if noone else does – I care about this site being half-way decent, all the way through.  Biggest obstacle:  Music commentary.

No comment on the quote/”observation”…figure it out for yourself, I guess.  Boy does that face look bare next to the advancement I achieved in 3+ years.

Welcome

I am Puppy.  Hear me…Snuggle/Degrade/Rip Other People’s Slogans

>.<  Grr…

3/16/14: Wow…three and a half YEARS ago…and still so cuuuuuuuuuute.  And of course you get to see the remarkable signature transformation.  Really…interesting.

Ruff!