Saturday, September 19, 2009

Review #3: The Beatles - A Hard Day's Night

Five months later and another Beatles album. Either no other bands existed at this time, or these guys were popular and talented enough to create compelling material, though after the last album...

Album #3 is actually a soundtrack to a film of the same name, likely to capitalize on Beatlemania and make a quick buck - why else would you cast 4 guys with no acting experience in a movie? Surprisingly, the film was nominated for two Oscars, one of which is for writing. Also of note, it was "the first Beatles album to feature entirely original compositions," according the the always correct Wikipedia (the main source for my Beatles info). The title was the brainchild of Ringo in a Yogi Berra moment (without the wit or intention), later to be continued with the song 8 Days A Week, and I assume the coining the phrase "giving 110%."

Again, a short album without a single song breaking the 3 minute mark. I guess that's what happens when you only have a few days rest between albums. This album was also the first 4 track recording for the Beatles, so feel free to cop the stereo version if you don't have a soul and want to wipe your muddy feet on the art that the Beatles created.

  1. A Hard Day's Night - Things kick off nicely here with one of their more recognizable songs, that appears to be about coming home to your flat and shagging your gal. Is that a cowbell I hear? More cowbell, I need more cowbell!

  2. I Should Have Known Better - I could take it or leave it. On a side note, Wikipedia says John had a little hissy fit about his harmonica during the recording of this song.

  3. If I Fell - A warm and fuzzy love song with a nice melody. Unlike the cover songs on the first two albums, this feels like they are feelin' it. All in all, it's okay. For those of you who care, "this was also Kurt Cobain's favourite Beatles song" or so says the wiki-man (with an extra "u" too be snooty).

  4. I'm Happy Just to Dance with You - Mood and lyrics fit - a happy, bouncy tune that picks up the momentum, though the lyrics are quite basic.

  5. And I Love Her - One of my favorite Beatles songs, of course the guitar solo in the middle kind of sounds like someone is learning to play, in my opinion.

  6. Tell Me Why - The momentum picks back up, with John interograting his crying girlfriend (or wife) as to why she lied (or he lied if you assume he's talking to himself to confess about his cheating). There's a weird Peanuts cartoon-sounding section about half way in that doesn't really fit.

  7. Can't Buy Me Love - Another classic Beatles song spawning numerous covers, a movie (not theirs), and a collectible lunch box. As noted by Wikipedia, this song has the opposite meaning of their last money song, Money (That's What I Want). But after 1 year, 3 albums, tours, and a movie I would assume that they have money now and realize its limitations. Or to further the analysis, the song Money (That's What I Want) was a cover so not their true feelings, but this song they wrote which may reflect their actual views. No?

  8. Any Time at All - Keeps the energy going even with Lennon's unsual pronunciation of "at all" as "uh TAll." Must be a British thing.

  9. I'll Cry Instead - ehh.

  10. Things We Said Today - This song caught my attention and may be my 4th favorite on the album behind the 3 that made the greatest hits. This song seems to have more depth to it - I enjoyed the instrumental shifts and changes in tempo.

  11. When I Get Home - According to my iTunes player, this song was just on.

  12. You Can't Do That - John's big threat to his girl talking to another guy: "I'll let you down." Ooo, I'm scared. Unless in British English it means something else. Beyond this, it reveals a controlling Lennon "I told you before, you can't do that." No, no ladies, control yourself, he's all mine. (I think there might be cowbell in here, too.)

  13. I'll Be Back - After the previous song, I'm a little creeped out when Lennon says, "I'm the one who wants you." I think he might try to stalk someone at this point. Sequnced differently, I might like this one.

This album feels more like an album versus a collection of songs as the first half seems to follow a love theme (well I guess the whole album does), though the interwebs suggest that the "concept" album wasn't yet invented by the Beatles, so I credit the cohesiveness of the soundtrack to attempting to follow the theme of the movie (which I haven't seen). However, it was nominated for an Oscar for its writing so I have to assume that there's a story to follow in there somewhere.

While the good songs outweigh the bad, this album is still just average in my opinion. Of the three albums reviewed thus far, with is on par with their debut. If you are inclined to pick this one up you should know the stereo version of this album doesn't have the left/right feel to it, so either mono or stereo works well, maybe more so on the stereo side since it sounds cleaner (which should help if you have dirty feet).

Friday, September 18, 2009

The Beatles - with the beatles

So this is the UK version, the U.S. version was titled meet the beatles and released a couple months later with an altered track listing. According to Wikipedia: "released on 22 November 1963, the same day President John F. Kennedy was assassinated." I imagine it didn't do so well that first week, but then again, Jay-Z's The Blueprint was released on 9/11/01 and sold half a million copies the first week. Okay, so it was released in the UK in 1963 so they sold about 500k. The U.S. release came a few months later as Meet The Beatles.

So after their first album, they decided to take a whole four months off before recording this album. I imagine the 7.5 pounds they earned wasn't enough for them to go on holiday any longer. Again, a short album, with the longest song only 3 seconds longer than their previous record (no pun). Initially, this sounded like the album picked up in the middle of a song...suddenly, John is yelling at me that it won't be long (I know, your previous album was released just a few months ago, geez). I'd hate to see these guys the day before Christmas. Man, don't they have any patience?

This album had 8 original songs and six covers - let's see how they did...
  1. It Won't Be Long - John does a decent job with this, but overall it's just average as they try to kick off the album with some energy.

  2. All I've Got To Do - At this point I still can't tell John and Paul apart, but this song is better than the previous one, maybe because it sounds a bit more like Paul singing in my opinion.

  3. All My Loving - Paul goes solo with probably the best song on the album.

  4. Don't Bother Me - George takes the lead here with an average song that does nothing for me, in fact it kind of bothered me a bit. The music doesn't really fit the mood of the lyrics. The instrumental is just a bit too happy while George tries to sound...depressed?

  5. Little Child - Apparently, John wants to dance with some little child - not sure what the point of this song is. In fact, he kind of sounds like that strange uncle who is a bit too friendly until he scares them away with his harmonica. Pass.

  6. Till There Was You - First of 3 covers in a row - continuing the tradition of the previous album with a lack of passion (though, again, having never heard the original, maybe this is how it's supposed to sound).

  7. Please Mister Postman - The Beatles cover the first number 1 hit single for Motown - always a crowd pleaser. Nice job with this, but I prefer the original, mainly because of the background vocals.

  8. Roll Over Beethoven - Sticking with their cover band roots, they jack Chuck Berry this time. Not bad but they sing this like they're borrowing it and don't want to break it. Chuck Berry sings it like he owns it, which he does. It does a nice job keeping the energy high in the middle of the album though.

  9. Hold Me Tight - This was a reject from Please Please Me and should have been a reject here too. Paul sounds like he's fighting his way through this one. I wonder if this would sound better with a little AutoTune featuring T-Pain?

  10. You Really Got A Hold On Me - After the previous song, this sounds a bit better than it actually is. Pass.

  11. I Wanna Be Your Man - Ringo was hoping to redeem himself in case people misunderstood his previous ode to boys. I think he goes a bit overboard. Quite repetative too, as I think he repeats the title 98 times. Were verses not invented yet?

  12. Devil In Her Heart - Another cover that seems to drag on and it's only 2:30. It's like he's on a first date or an interview on his best behavior before allowing his personality to come out.

  13. Not A Second Time - This seems a bit ironic to me as this album feels like a second version of their first, but minus the good songs.

  14. Money (That's What I Want) - A cover song trying hard to be this album's version of Twist and Shout. Also this may be just them explaining that they were just trying to capitalize on the success of the first album and put this out to make a quick buck - seriously you only put 4 months work into this effort, it kind of shows.
I think they may have had a little sophmore slump going on, but then again, they only had 4 months so was do you expect. Speaking of which, over the course of about 8 years, they released 13 albums. In today's market, I doubt anyone would expect solid material on all those albums. In fact I'd bet the reviews would be horrendous if today's most popular artists dropped an album every 6 months. So 13 albums in 8 years, I'd expect them to be a bit watered down. Though since everyone raves about The Beatles, maybe they are the one group that can pull this off, but so far it is looking doubtful unless they continue to fill their albums with covers, but let's be honest, how far can that really take you?

Unless you love cover bands, but hate going to bars, I'd say pass on this one. In the end, you can find the highlights on a "Best of" disc that you'll probably need to buy anyway if you want to get all of the hit singles that never made the albums.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Happy 6 Months!!!

Nathan is 6 months old today! And as a special treat, he got his next round of shots, poor baby. It's always so sad to see him go silent, face turn red, just waiting for him to catch his breath before screaming. Amazingly, it only lasts about a minute or so before he's over it.
As you saw below he is crawling, and in case you missed it, he also has two lower teeth and is working on two on the top to match. He must be going for the set.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

The Beatles - Please Please Me

The Beatles catalog has been remastered and reissued and I figured this would be a good time to give their albums an actual run through. Especially since everyone seems to rank them up towards the top on the best rock bands of all-time. Now, I've heard most of their hits, so I'm not a complete novice, but this genre is also not my favorite so I may have a more distorted view than your average reviewer. I think I can get a pass on not having heard all of these yet as the group dis-banded before I was even born, so for the most part, I didn't really know what all of the fuss was about.

Might as well go in order of release date, so up first is their first U.S. release Please Please Me released in 1963. I decided to go with the mono release for this album (vs. the stereo release) - stereo was just emerging back then, so all of the audiophiles are adamant that the mono version is the way the guys intended the album to be heard. But you can check out wikipedia for more info since if you are still reading this I'm sure you're eager to rave or argue about my listening experience.

So apparently this album was recorded in one day at three straight jam sessions, which could be impressive or could be concerning, I guess, depending on your point of view. Also, apparently it seemed to be a big deal that the band actually wrote their own songs when this was released instead of just covering hits, which I guess anyone can do so at least some success. I mean have you ever been to karaoke? Anyhoo, I guess I should get back to some sort of review.

The first thing I noticed about this album is how short it is. Only one song checks in at more than 3 minutes, and just barely at 3:01. So the verses are quite short if they even exist (yes I'm talking about you Please Please Me and Do You Want To Know A Secret). The next thing I notice is how formulaic it seems. Granted at the time the Beatles were nobodies and trying to get paid a lil' somethin' (all 7.5 pounds - no idea how much that is in real money) so I guess the record label was dictating a just add water approach. (Having heard some of the other songs in their catalog, when they have more artistic freedom it gets more interesting). Of the songs that they wrote, they appear more passionate (Please Please Me, Love Me Do, I Saw Her Standing There) vs. the cover songs (tracks 3-5, 10, 12, 14).
  1. I Saw Her Standing There - First song of the jam session and they seem to have plenty of energy. Nice upbeat way to begin an album. Paul even has some fun screaming in the middle, maybe a throwback to their pub playing nights, which apparently (yes another apparently) they were originally supposed to record this album live in a pub during one of their performances, so there.

  2. Misery - From upbeat to misery, thanks for sucking the fun out, guys. Actually, they seem a bit to happy to be losing their girlfriends. Maybe they are being sarcastic...I can relate to that.

  3. Anna (Go To Him) - Now Anna, John seems upset about. Here's where the album begins to lose a little momentum, in my opinion.

  4. Chains - Sounds like they gave this cover song to George to shut him up, but he doesn't seem too happy about it.

  5. Boys - I guess Ringo was complaining that everyone else got to sing on the album he needed to get his shine too. Unfortunately, Ringo singing about "talking about boys" doesn't do much to help him out.

  6. Ask Me Why - John takes the reigns back here. Maybe he just needed a break. Word on the interwebs is that he had a throat thing going on during the recording session, partly as a result the Twist and Shout cover is at the end for fear of screwing up his voice for the day. This song didn't do too much for me, don't ask me why.

  7. Please Please Me - Things pick up here with a little call and response. Maybe this was recorded after lunch. A little fish and chips will go along way. It keeps me pumped for a whole 2 minutes and 6 seconds.

  8. Love Me Do - A nice smooth transition into Paul who has been silent since about track 2. I like this song, but I think it could use an actual verse instead of running through the chorus a few times. Nice beat though.

  9. P.S. I Love You - Another Paul song and I think it works well with some nice vocal inflections. Paul even gets a little improv on so I guess they have preformed this one a few times.

  10. Baby It's You - Sloooowwing down, sha-la-la-la, la-la. A little uninspired at the beginning, like they lost a cricket match with the label and were forced to add this to the album.

  11. Do You Want To Know A Secret - Oh, another love song. This time George seems a bit happier, though I don't know how you keep a secret when you record it for the world to hear. I imagine this being thrown George's way due to John's throat issue, Ringo's horrible performance, and Paul's insistence on only singing his own songs.

  12. A Taste Of Honey - No, wait, Paul picks up a cover. And quite nicely I might add. A nice change in the beat keeps your attention. The beat is more interesting than the rest of the album, maybe because it was originally written as an instrumental before adding lyrics later so it needed to be more entertaining to begin with.

  13. There's A Place - Apparently this song just played.

  14. Twist And Shout - Everybody's heard this one - A nice way to end a debut album.
Overall, the remastered version is nice, but having not listened and memorized every last note and lyric for the last few decades, I can't appreciate all of the improvements that this has to offer, but as a first listen it is quite enjoyable. I will say that the remastered stereo version of Revolution is better than the 1993 cd version - The lyrics are clear and only the guitar is distorted (the mono version has the lyrics distorted as well).

A side note - The mono remastered versions are only available (currently) in a sold out box set, so you might be stuck with the stereo versions, but as long as you don't listen to this album (and the first few) on headphones, it shouldn't matter. The only issue is that on the original 2-track stereo they routed vocals to the right and music to the left so it gets a bit weird with headphones.

Jurassic Teenies

Here's a little video of our teeny tiny guy practicing crawling.

Now that he is mobile he is keeping us on our toes. He keeps escaping our mini play area and removing our temporary speed bumps that are supposed to contain him. I think we have a little explorer on our hands.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

And He's Off...

Look out world, Nathan is on the loose. At 5 months, 3 weeks, he has now learned how to crawl. Of course he is still a bit shaky so he will need some more practice (which he seems to enjoy doing in the middle of the night - seriously, he will wake up at 1am and start rocking on his hands and knees, eyes closed, crying; even though we're tired, it's still kind of cute), but once he has it mastered there's no stopping him. I guess it's time we finally baby proofed the house.

Just this morning he decided to chase the vacuum cleaner around the house. And he's getting faster...

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Tap The Bottle

Daddy Day Care - Week 2

I was able to spend more time with the little guy this week now that Laura has started back up at ASU. I am working from home Monday afternoons and shifted hours on Tuesday to get home an hour earlier. I am so excited about this extra time with Nathan and I love that my company is so accomidating. And the fact that I live so close to work. Anyway, here's a video of the little teenies holding his bottle and feeding himself.