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Showing posts from April, 2009

218. The Monkees: The Birds. the Bees, and the Monkees (1968)

Though The Birds, the Bees, & the Monkees, the band's 5th album, was released only a year after the landmark Headquarters, it was light years away in circumstance. The band unity had dissapated; they were a band only in name. Everyone was doing his own thing. In fact, only one song recorded specifically for the album features contributions from more than one Monkee.

Not only that but, the distribution of songs was far from equal. Basically, the album is the Mike and Davy show. While Mickey shows up very sporadically, Peter is completely M.I.A. The problem with Davy and Mike dominating is that their styles clashed terribly. Davy was intent to pretend that the '60s never happened, singing heavily orchestrated teen idol tunes that would have been more suited the the preceding decade. Mike, on the other hand, was a little bit too into the overindulgent psychedelic spirit of the '60s.

Like every Monkees album, this one has some gems, but as a whole listening experience The Bi…

12 by Death Cab for Cutie

Here's the drill: 12 songs to summarize an artist's career, in chronological order (of course).

I retired this feature last August, but decided to dust it off after a recently seeing Death Cab for Cutie in concert and coming away with a newfound appreciation for the quality of their catalog.

To be fair, Title & Registration, A Lack of Color, Summer Skin, Someday You Will Be Loved, Your Heart Is an Empty Room, and I Will Possess Your Heart probably all deserved spots as well.

1. President of What? (from Something About Airplanes, 1999)
The music is organ-driven, and a little-bit emoish (especially on the line "nothing hurts like nothing at all"). Gibbard's voice is not as strong as it would become (he sounds kind of like Peter Tork, but maybe that's in my head from listening to too many Monkees albums), but he makes some atypical melodic choices, providing a sketchy version of what the band would become.

2. The Employment Pages (from We Have the Facts and We ar…

215 - 217. Prince: Lotusflow3r (2009)

In 1996 Prince famously divorced from Warner Bros. records, the company that had been his home since his 1978 debut album. His main issue was the publishing rights of his songs, but he cast the fight in the more general light of artistic freedom.

Unfortunately, artistic freedom for Prince hasn't exactly equaled artistic achievement. In fact, of the 9 or so official albums he's released since 1996, none could objectively be considered essential. These albums have contained plenty of good songs, but none have connected on the level of his earlier classics. This brings up a larger question of what connects us to an artist's work, and at what point the general public stops wanting new material from them, but in the interest of space, time, and clarity I won't get into that.

Even casual Prince fans know the man is all about control, so it's ironic that many of his latter day failures are a direct result of a lack of self-control; the absence of someone to help him reign i…

Rock Bottom: Prince

The one constant in every established artist's oeuvre is the bad album, the one that's reviled by both fans and critics. Those unlovable albums are the ones this feature, Rock Bottom, is concerned with.

Here's how it works: I've consulted two main sources, the AllMusic Guide (for the critical point-of-view) and Amazon.com (for the fan perspective*). The album with the lowest combined rating from both sources is the one I'll consider the worst. I may not always agree with the choice, and my reviews will reflect that. I'll also offer a considered alternative.Finally, there are some limits. The following types of albums don't count: 1) b-sides or remix compilations, 2) live albums, 3) albums recorded when the band was missing a vital member, and 4) forays into a different genres (i.e. classical).

*A note about Amazon.com. I consider this the fan perspective, because most people who choose to review albums on this site are adoring fans of the artist in question.

*…