ALBUM REVIEW: Foo Fighters – Sonic Highways

Sonic Highways is the first new album from the Foo Fighters since Wasting Light was released 3 years ago in 2011. I thought Wasting Light was a great return to form after a disappointing album in Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace. That album didn’t really seem to have an identity and the usual sound you’d expect from the Foo Fighters. Wasting Light did, and it was great! Naturally I’ve been unbelievably excited to hear their new album since it was announced a couple of months ago. It’s shorter than any of their previous albums at 8 songs but with the Foo Fighters, that shouldn’t matter one bit. Usually.

Something From Nothing is the opening track and right from the off you know what band is playing. That’s the great thing about the Foo Fighters, they’ve always has such a recognisable sound (minus Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace) and this track is the highlight of the album. It was the debut single after all. It has everything you’d expect from the Foo Fighters, a great song. It’s very hard to explain why. But the vocals, the melody, the hooks, the guitar. It could only be the Foo Fighters. It’s followed by The Feast And The Famine which is contains the same things as the previous song in terms of sound and feel and Grohl is really on fire behind the mic.

Congregation comes next and this is when things start to sound different. The feel is different, that Foo Fighters sound is not as prominent. It’s a good song but a far cry from their 90’s prime. What Did I Do?/God As My Witness is exactly the same. There’s even some piano on this song. What? Not what I’d normally expect from a Foo Fighters song. It just doesn’t fit and never sounds right. But the song picks up when the full band comes in and things get back to normal. Ish.

  1. Something From Nothing
  2. The Feast And The Famine
  3. Congregation
  4. What Did I Do?/God As My Witness
  5. Outside
  6. In The Clear
  7. Subterranean
  8. I Am A River

Outside and In The Clear have the same kind of problems. They same to be lacking something even though they do rock and rock hard. But there’s something missing… But the two most disappointing tracks come at the end. Subterranean and I Am The River. Maybe it’s because I’ve only listened to the album a few times so far but I haven’t taken to these two tracks at all. It’s just not the Foo Fighters. What I mean by that is it could be any band playing. The only way I know it’s the Foo Fighters playing is because these songs are on the album. But that sound every Foo Fighters fan loves is nowhere to be found. That signature sound and feel I explained earlier on in this review is non-existent in these tracks.

Overall I feel it’s a pretty disappointing album from a band I consider to be one of my favourites. I was expecting a lot more than this. The songs don’t seem to go anywhere at all and every second you’re expecting the band to really engage and kick off but it never happens. And I get that different songs were recorded at different legendary studios in the US but at no-time would I have known that when listening to the album. What was the point? I don’t get it.

I hate that I don’t like this album. I want to love it so much but I just can’t.

5/10

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ALBUM REVIEW: Nina Persson – Animal Heart

From the moment I first heard that Nina Persson was releasing her debut solo album, I was extremely excited. Best known for being the lead singer with The Cardigans, she has also released two other albums under the name of A Camp. The two albums (A Camp in 2001 and Colonia in 2009) can be considered solo albums of hers but this is her first release using her own name. I’ve been a huge fan of her work since the mid 90’s when I first heard My Favourite Game by The Cardigans on the PlayStation game Gran Turismo. Since then, The Cardigans became one of my favourite bands.

From start to finish, Animal Heart is nothing but spectacular. The album is extremely fresh sounding and beautifully produced. Her husband, Nathan Larson, co-produced the album. The songs are extremely infectious and leave you wanting more and more the minute you hit that play button. The opening title track (and single) is a fantastic up-tempo number even with the slightly cheesy “come be my man” chorus lyrics. But those aside, it’s a wonderful opener. And from then the album just gets better and better. Burning Bridges For Fuel has a wonderful moody feel to it which is helped by a descending chord progression which sounds absolutely fantastic. The mood builds and builds throughout the song and ends with an amazing instrumental outro to die for.

Clip Your Wings is one of my favourite songs from the album and one I’ve found very hard not to play over and over again. The vocal melody in particular is sublime with Nina sounding fantastic. Forgot to Tell You is another one of those songs and I personally think it would have fit beautifully on The Cardigans’ Long Gone Before Daylight album.

  1. Animal Heart
  2. Burning Bridges For Fuel
  3. Dreaming Of Houses
  4. Clip Your Wings
  5. Jungle
  6. Digestif
  7. Food For The Beast
  8. Forgot To Tell You
  9. Catch Me Crying
  10. The Grand Destruction Game
  11. Silver Like The Moon
  12. This Is Heavy Metal
  13. Sometimes

The second to last song, This Is Heavy Metal, is unbelievably beautiful. Accompanied by just a piano, Nina sounds as good as she ever has. At some points in the song you expect a full band to come in but that doesn’t happen and the piano remains the only instrument. It’s wonderful. It’s one of the highlights of the album for sure and that’s an understatement because there are a lot of highlights! In fact the album is one big highlight. The songs themselves are helped along even more by the wonderful instrumentation. 

The more and more I listen to the album the more I think how faultless it is. There really are no bad moments whatsoever. It’s perfect. For me personally, this is one of the best albums of the year and it’s only February! I for one would really love a new album from The Cardigans at some point but if that never materialises then I’d be very happy with more solo albums from Nina Persson.

Overall I give this album a solid 10/10. It’s a definite must listen not only for fans of Nina and The Cardigans but music listeners in general. It’s perfect.

REVIEW: Bobby Whitlock – Where There’s a Will, There’s a Way: The ABC-Dunhill Recordings

I’ve been after Bobby Whitlock’s first two solo albums for quite some time now so to have them remastered in one set is an absolute joy. This is the first time that both albums have been released on CD format and I believe the last time they were released at all since 1972! I’ve had the pleasure to interview Bobby in the past where we discussed the blues in great depth. I am also in love with Derek and the Dominos, a band he co-founded in 1970 with Eric Clapton, Carl Radle and Jim Gordon and I knew that all the other Dominos featured in some way or another on these two albums. As you could imagine, I was excited to finally hear these songs!

The first track Where There’s A Will is 100% Dominos in terms of style and sound. It’s unmistakable and would have easily fit on Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs. Most of these song were actually recorded during the Dominos aborted second album sessions so it was only natural that they sounded the way they did. What’s exciting is that these tracks also include performances from a vast array of musicians including George Harrison, Bobby Keys, Klaus Voorman and Jim Price.

Song For Paula and A Game Called Life are two acoustic driven songs full of beautiful melodies you expect from Bobby. They’re beautiful songs and the instrumentation is fantastic. Next up, Country Life, is a song Bobby performed live the Derek and the Dominos in a number of early shows in UK when they were still rehearsing and writing together. It was sadly never recorded by the band even though it’s a great song so I’m glad it ended up on Bobby’s first solo album. This version has more of a country feel to it than the Dominos live version, but the flavour and atmosphere remain the same. A definite highlight of this two album collection for sure. A Day Without Jesus is a fantastic gospel style ballad which features both Delaney and Bonnie on backing vocals. Bobby has many feathers in his cap musically and it’s great to hear so many music styles.

The Scenery Has Slowly Changed features one of Bobby’s most powerful vocal performances on the album. He sounds fantastic and this is another song which would have fit beautifully on a Dominos album. It’s very reminiscent of Thorn Tree In The Garden in a way. Cracking song. It’s important to note that Bobby plays a lot of guitar on these recordings, showing everyone how much of an accomplished guitarist he is. The Dreams Of A Hobo shows this in the bucket load with some very intricate and delicate acoustic guitar playing. He also plays electric guitar with Back Home In England being a good example of this. The song also features The L.A. Symphony Orchestra and Jim Gordon on drums and is a beautiful ending to his first solo album.

Bobby Whitlock (Tracks 1-10)

Raw Velvet (Tracks 11-21)

  1. Where There’s A Will
  2. Song For Paula
  3. A Game Called Life
  4. Country Life
  5. A Day Without Jesus
  6. Back In My Life Again
  7. The Scenery Has Slowly Changed
  8. I’d Rather Live The Straight Life
  9. The Dreams Of A Hobo
  10. Back Home In England
  11. Tell The Truth
  12. Bustin’ My Ass
  13. Write You A Letter
  14. Ease Your Pain
  15. If You Ever
  16. Hello L.A., Bye Bye Birmingham
  17. You Came Along
  18. Thing About It
  19. Satisfied
  20. Dearest I Wonder
  21. Start All Over

The second album (from track 11), Raw Velvet, starts with a version of the Derek and the Dominos song Tell The Truth which Bobby originally co-wrote with Clapton. The song was always a live highlight with the Dominos and it’s fantastic to hear a different version here. Raw Velvet is split in to two sections, a raw first half and a more laid back second half hence the album title. Bustin’ My Ass and Write You A Letter feature some outstanding guitar work and Bobby is on fire vocally. If You Ever and Hello L.A., Bye Bye Birmingham are two of my favourite tracks from Raw Velvet, both encompassing crunching guitar work.

I’m more of a fan of the ‘raw’ side of this album but the ‘velvet’ side features some great songs, especially Think About It and Dearest I Wonder with the latter almost sounding like a George Harrison song. I’m unsure on which musicians played on this track but it definitely sounds like it could have been Harrison on the slide guitar.

Overall this is a fine collection of songs which definitely needed to be released sooner rather than later. For fans of Derek and the Dominos it’s seriously wonderful to hear these songs both for the talent that is Bobby Whitlock but also to hear what a second album may have sounded like if things hadn’t have gone sour. I love this collection of songs, I really do. It’s about time that more people knew Bobby Whitlock because I think he is criminally underrated and deserves far more recognition. He’s a huge talent.

M. Ward – Hold Time

This is such a beautiful album. For those of you who don’t know M. Ward, he’s an American singer-songwriter and guitarist who’s also half of ‘She & Him’ (the other half being Zooey Deschanel). He’s a massive talent and he should be more recognised than he is. His music combines blues, folk, country and rock and it’s absolutely divine.

  1. For Beginners
  2. Never Had Nobody Like You
  3. Jailbird
  4. Hold Time
  5. Rave On
  6. To Save Me
  7. One Hundred Million Years
  8. Stars Of Leo
  9. Fisher Of Men
  10. Oh Lonesome Me
  11. Epistemology
  12. Blake’s View
  13. Shangri-La
  14. Outro (I’m A Fool To Want You)

You need to listen to the album as a whole, completely uninterrupted to take in it’s full effect. However there are certain tracks that on their own blow you away. The first three tracks are simply fantastic, but for me ‘One Hundred Million Years’ is the pinnacle of the album which is then followed by ‘Stars Of Leo’ which builds and builds in greatness right up until it ends. M. Ward is a great director of his music when he plays live and you can hear that in this track. He knows exactly what he wants, directing the other musicians like a conductor.

The album also features two fantastic vocal guest appearances, the first from Ward’s She & Him bandmate Zooey Deschanel who sings backing vocals on a number of songs, which includes the stunning ‘Never Had Nobody Like You’. The second and probably the guest that stands out the most, is the country and blues guitarist/singer Lucinda Williams who duets with Ward on ‘Oh Lonesome Me’. This is a great track which features a great slide guitar and strings. Brilliant.

M. Ward really needs to be more recognised as a writer and musician because his music is simply stunning. But even in America he limits what he does because he doesn’t like the limelight and the celebrity culture, he’s all about the music. If you listen to this album you can hear that, and it’s fantastic. I really recommend this album, you won’t be disappointed.