Saturday, 29 September 2018

John Lennon





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The albums covered are:-

The Plastic Ono Band (1970)
Imagine (1971)
Some Time In New York City (1972)
Mind Games (1973)
Walls And Bridges (1974)
Rock 'n' Roll (1975)
Double Fantasy (1980)
and Double Fantasy Stripped Down

Scroll down to read the reviews chronologically.

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THE PLASTIC ONO BAND (1970)

1. Mother
2. Hold On
3. I Found Out
4. Working Class Hero
5. Isolation
6. Remember
7. Love
8. Well Well Well
9. Look At Me
10. God
11. My Mummy's Dead         

This is a raw, edgy and angst-ridden solo album from John Lennon, his first "proper" solo piece of work. Lennon explores all sorts of mother and parental issues, anxiety about relationships and some cynical, political protest thrown in.

It is musically basic - guitar, bass and drums for the most part with occasional piano and keyboards. Its sparse sound adds to its appeal for me, I always found parts of Imagine to be somewhat over-orchestrated. Old mate Ringo Starr is on drums throughout, giving it considerable gravitas.

Mother is a yearning, heartfelt opener with anguished vocals and a great backing sound to it. Hold On has an absolutely sumptuous bass on it from the talented Klaus VoormanI Found Out is bluesy and confrontational and has Lennon shocking the world when he sings of "some of you sitting there with your cock in your hand...". This was pretty racy stuff for 1970. This was Lennon at his most scathing and world-weary. Working Class Hero continues the mood brilliantly, as Lennon channels his inner Dylan and produces are superbly cynical protest song. There is no doubt by now the Lennon's world is not a particularly happy one, despite his apparent bedroom bliss with Yoko Ono. The bleak ballad, Isolation, only serves to reinforce that feeling. The album's cover shows a pastoral, peaceful scene, much like WingsWild Life. This was anything but a relaxed album.

  

Remember is musically upbeat, with a pounding drum sound, augmented by a clunky piano. Again, though, it is a questioning song, one of disillusion. It actually has hints of McCartney about it, for me.  As indeed does the tender Love, the first chilled-out love song on the album. The buzzy guitar-driven Well Well Well has echoes of The White Album in some ways. Maybe it is Ringo's muscular but rhythmic drumming. It is supposed to be a song about Lennon's daily life with Yoko. It ends with him screaming. Read into that what you will about his state of mind. He was always an impossible person to read.



Look At Me is acoustically beautiful, Beatles-esque, but is deeply self-analytical once more. Having questioned his entire existence and his life, there can be only one more thing to question - God. The track bearing the deity's name is a marvellous slice of Lennon cynicism sung over a stark piano, bass and drum backing. "God is a concept by which we measure our pain...". Heavy stuff Lennon then proceeds to list everything he doesn't believe in, incredibly convincingly and aggressively, eschewing, amongst other things, all the guru stuff, then Elvis and Dylan, until finally saying "I don't believe in Beatles...". This was possibly Lennon's most powerful, post-Beatles song of all. "I was the walrus, but now I'm John...". What a great line. What a moving song.

Personally, I find the short, painful My Mummy's Dead to be unlistenable, so I do not include it when playing the album digitally, replacing it with the two chanting protest songs, Power To The People and Give Peace A Chance. So, for me, God is followed by the fist-pumping unity of Power To The People. I find that quite apt. I do understand, though, Mummy's vital position on the original album, ending it on a starkly disturbing, anguishing note.



Photo by David Nutter © Yoko Ono.
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IMAGINE (1971)

1. Imagine
2. Crippled Inside
3. Jealous Guy
4. It's So Hard
5. Don't Want To Be A Soldier Mama
6. Gimme Some Truth
7. Oh My Love
8. How Do You Sleep?
9. How
10. Oh Yoko!    

I have to say, initially, that I much prefer the 2002 remaster to the 2010 one, which I found far too weak and trebly for my taste. I like a full, warm, bassy sound and the 2002 remaster certainly delivers that. Klaus Voorman played bass on this album and I want to hear him. Thankfully on this version, I can, loud and clear.
                                                       
Imagine is what is is - iconic. It needs no further comment. Crippled Inside is an enjoyable slice of lively, country-ish rock. It has received a fair few criticisms over the years, but I have always quite liked it. It is catchy and lightweight but still carries enough of Lennon’s cynicism to fit in with the album’s overall mood. Jealous Guy is another one known to everyone, Lennon’s original version being far more stark than Roxy Music’s big, full-sounding eighties cover of it.

It's So Hard is a pulsating, bluesy-based number. Personally, I feel it would work better without the lush string orchestration at the end. It is a good one, though, full of energy and enthusiasm. Cynically convincing too, is the bassy grind of the anti-war I Don't Want To Be a Soldier Mama.  I love the bass, saxophone and guitar improvisation parts near the end. Gimme Some Truth continues the political comment with some killer guitar and a thumping rhythm.

  

Oh My Love sees a switch to a plaintive, tenderly romantic song dedicated to the fulfilment Lennon was experiencing with Yoko Ono in his life. Just when he was getting a bit loved-up, however, the old spiky Lennon returns with the embittered How Do You Sleep?  - his notoriously venomous attack on Paul McCartney. He obviously had a lot of pent-up anger, but this all seemed a bit over-the-top to me. Naming some of McCartney’s songs as examples of his faults was just a cheap shot. Musically, the song has a deep, muscular sound, some great guitar interjections and again, some string orchestration I feel it could have survived without. Regarding how he slept, I am sure McCartney slept the sleep of the somewhat bemused.

How shows Lennon at his most vulnerable again, questioning himself and his feelings. Despite his apparent romantic bliss, he always seemed to be battling with various issues. Snap yourself out of it, John. He did just that with the jaunty Oh Yoko!. This is another one that has attracted opprobrium. Again, I have always quite liked it its melodic piano coda and touchingly sweet feel.

Overall, the album is a perplexing one. It has several mood swings within its songs. Like Lennon himself. Enigmatic.

THE 2018 REMIXED ALBUM

I was interested to hear the new remix of this album. Personally, I have always preferred the 2002 remasters to the 2010 ones, finding the latter far too trebly for my taste. I find the 2002s more punchy and bassy, which is what I like. I realise that I am in a minority here but anyway, I was curious as to whether there is any discernible change to this new remix. Obviously it is strange hearing familiar music remixed with slight sonic alterations, but I enjoyed it on the "Sgt. Pepper" remix and on Tony Visconti's work on some of David Bowie's albums.

Imagine is beautifully warm. When the bass kicks in it is subtle yet solid - full and bassy and no tinniness. Crippled Inside has a nice, resonant thump to it and that country guitar is razor sharp and crystal clear. So far this sounds far closer to my preferred 2002 Yoko Ono remaster than the admittedly more popular 2010 one. Because this remix seems to be strong and bassy it will probably annoy “audiophiles”, but for me, as someone who likes powerful bass, it is perfect.




Jealous Guy has a wonderfully melodic bass line. Again it is subtle and velvety smooth here. This is a track that often suffered from a harsh, tinny sound. Not anymore. The lush string orchestration now sounds soothing and cultured. Lovely. This is the best I have ever heard the song. The fact is it is not, in effect, the original, may bother some people. Not me. I prefer it this way. It is just better. The bluesy It's So Hard is pulsating and those sweeping strings are once again balanced perfectly, as is the saxophone. I Don't Want To Be A Soldier just throbs with muscular bassy beauty. Love it. That saxophone too. Mmmm.

Gimme Some Truth has sometimes been a bit grating when Lennon raises his voice and the music rises with him and this is far more easy on the ear here. The guitar intro to Oh My Love followed by the piano is sublime, as indeed it is when the understated bass arrives. The bitter How Do You Sleep?again has sumptuous bass, strings and that searing guitar solo sounds excellent. The big bass thump in How? and that vibrant orchestration has no distortion, for me. Just warmth. The lively Oh Yoko! is breathtaking in its clarity, even the harmonica bit. Just listen to that speaker-shaking punch on Power To The People. Great stuff.

Personally, this is the best I have ever heard this iconic album. I know there are probably thousands out there who will say "I prefer the original" (which, of course is still available in various remasterings), “it’s too bassy”, “it’s a sonic mess” or their usual favourite - “it hurts my ears”. Let them all talk. My opinion is just that, a single opinion, and mine is that I love it.

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SOME TIME IN NEW YORK CITY (1972)

1. Woman Is The Nigger Of The World
2. Sisters, O Sisters
3. Attica State
4. Born In A Prison
5. New York City
6. Sunday Bloody Sunday
7. The Luck Of The Irish
8. John Sinclair
9. Angela
10. We're All Water
11. Cold Turkey
12. Don't Worry Kyoko
13. Well (Baby Please Don't Go)
14. Jamrag
15. Scumbag
16. Au        

A much-derided album, but one with incredible passion and depth of feeling, this was John Lennon and Yoko Ono in full-on protest mode. They take on a myriad of causes - sexism, feminism, the prison system, unfair incarceration, legal and governmental corruption, Northern Ireland, drugs laws and civil rights. Phil Spector produced the album - badly in my opinion, for such a genius ten years earlier. The sound is muddy and indistinct throughout.
                                            
The opener Woman...  is incredibly hard-hitting, particularly in 1972, but it is bang on the money. The sound is muffled and dull, like that produced by Phil Spector for both George Harrison and later for Leonard Cohen. It has that blaring saxophone sound and damp uncrisp-sounding drums.

The feminist anthem, Sisters, Oh Sisters, has its moments. Some catchy saxophone and a rocking feel to it, though Yoko’s input is a bit grating. The singalong Attica State, about the New York prison, reworks the refrain from Yellow Submarine - “we all live in an Attica State”. Yoko’s similarly-themed Born In A Prison is one I have always liked. Some great saxophone on it too.

  

New York City is a marvellous, vibrant number, almost ruined by the awful production, but its good enough to still ride over that. It has some great cynical Lennon lyrics, killer guitar and saxophone too. It pulsates, from beginning to end. Quite why Lennon lived in New York is a mystery. He loved it, but the authorities were hounding him on a daily basis at this time. He should have come home.

Sunday Bloody Sunday needed to be sung, as indeed did Luck Of The Irish. However passionate and totally justified, they both sound more than a little naive in Lennon and Yoko’s hands, particularly the latter. The former was hard-hitting, as it should have been, and works the better of the two.

John Sinclair was about a man unfairly jailed for a (comparatively) minor marijuana offence, while Angela was about black human rights campaigner Angela Davis. The effervescent We're All Water explores the Dylanesque concept of everyone being the same, naked, even the President. It is a madcap romp, with Yoko wailing for all she’s worth, but I can’t help but like it.

The live set that formed the second disc of the original double album is an appealingly raw affair. Cold Turkey burns with a pure, visceral energy. The rambling Led Zeppelin-esque Don't Worry Kyoko has a few good points - namely the heavy riff and the overall groove, but Ono’s incessant screaming makes it pretty unlistenable for most of it. Thankfully, some blues is on the menu next with Well (Baby Please Don't Go). It features some searing guitar but Ono still manages to get some screaming in there somehow.



The remains three tracks were recorded at Fillmore East in New York City with Frank Zappa & The Mothers Of InventionJamrag (aka King Kong) is an interesting instrumental, funky in places, but once more blighted by Ono’s vocals. Scumbag is a lively, organ-driven rhythmic with some inventive lyrics (not). The title is repeated incessantly. It segues straight into  which is basically Yoko wailing again and Lennon and Zappa sending their guitars into feedback mode. It is pretty much unlistenable.

Overall, this is undoubtedly Lennon’s worst album but, despite that, worthy of an occasional listen, and it certainly has its chronological and cultural importance.

Photo of John and Yoko by Bob Gruen.

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MIND GAMES (1973)

1. Mind Games
2. Tight A$
3. Aisumasen (I'm Sorry)
4. One Day (At A Time)
5. Bring On The Lucie (Freda People)
6. Nutopian International Anthem
7. Intuition
8. Out The Blue
9. Only People
10. I Know (I Know)
11. You Are Here
12. Meat City                 

Released in 1973, this is a quite underrated John Lennon album. Firstly, I have to say that I vastly prefer these 2002 remasters (with the extra bonus tracks). To be perfectly honest, I find the 2010 remasters far to tinny and pretty much unlistenable. Not surprising, as I like my remasters full and bassy. Many people, however, prefer the 2010s so I am probably in the minority.
                        
To the album, Mind Games, the is often not discussed as one of Lennon’s greats, but I love it, something catchy in its strange keyboard sweeps. Tight A$ is an appealing, upbeat rocker and, despite its somewhat sickly sentiments, Aisumasen (I'm Sorry) is still a good song, as is One Day At A Time which has a great chorus.

  

My own personal favourite is the protest vibe of Bring On The LucieOut The Blue is one of those songs that just says “John Lennon” when you hear it. So typical. As also is the beautiful Intuition. In fact, they are all good. There isn’t a duff track on this album, in my opinion. Meat City is a raucous, pounding rocker to end the album with. Big booming bass on it. Listen to the 2002 version then the 2010 to hear the superiority of the former. No comparison.



A lot of people have said that this album contains maybe just a few decent songs. I have to disagree with that. In a year that saw so many excellent albums released, this one is more than worthy of standing up there with them.

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WALLS AND BRIDGES (1974)

1. Going Down On Love
2. Whatever Gets You Through The Night
3. Old Dirt Road
4. What You Got
5. Bless You
6. Scared
7. #9 Dream
8. Surprise Surprise (Sweet Bird Of Paradox)
9. Steel And Glass
10. Beef Jerky
11. Nobody Loves You When You're Down And Out  

It has been a thing, since this album’s release, to criticise it, like its predecessor, the underrated Mind Games by saying “it only has a few good tracks on it”. I disagree, there is some good material on here.

Going Down On Love is lyrically sparse, I guess, but it has a quirky appeal, with Lennon showing what a naughty lad he was by referencing a sex act and hoping no-one would notice, and a good bongo percussion bit. The rousing saxophone-dominated Whatever Gets You Through The Night was a fine choice for a single (a number one in the USA). Old Dirt Road is a typical slow, thoughtful Lennon song, that would have fitted on the previous album. What You Got is a heady, funked-up number with Lennon in trademark throat-straining voice. Bless You is a beautiful, slower number as indeed is Scared. Lennon has been criticised on this album for lacking direction and conviction. These two tracks would seem to disprove that theory, full of sensitive, personal lyrics and musically mature, too.

  

#9 Dream is a stimulating, ethereal piece of classic 70s Lennon, with a great vocal, Beatles-style string-heavy orchestration and bizarre, non-sensical unknown language chorus - “ah bawakawa pousse, pousse”. It works, though. Surprise Surprise is a rock and saxophone romp with the sort of sound George Harrison used on his All Things Must Pass album. Steel And Glass sees Lennon railing at someone (hopefully not McCartney again! Apparently it was a rant at an ex-manager) Indeed, it sounds like it would not be out of place on the Imagine album, sounding a bit like How Do You Sleep? in places.

Beef Jerky is an instrumental jam, but an invigorating one at that. Nobody Loves You When You're Down And Out is somewhat self-pitying and indulgent, as Lennon was certainly not down and out, he just lost a weekend. No big deal, get over it.

I have always had a bit of a problem with the sound on this album - too tinny in my opinion. 

However, the 2000 remaster is much bassier and full than the thin, jarring 2010 remaster.



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ROCK 'N' ROLL (1975)

1. Be Bop A Lula
2. Stand By Me
3. Rip It Up/Ready Teddy
4. You Can't Catch Me
5. Ain't That A Shame
6. Do You Want To Dance
7. Sweet Little Sixteen
8. Slippin' And Slidin'
9. Peggy Sue
10. Bring It On Home To Me/Send Some Lovin'
11. Bony Moronie
12. Ya Ya
13. Just Because         

Recorded as part of a legal agreement resulting from the "here come old flat top" line in The BeatlesCome TogetherJohn Lennon revisits his old rock 'n' roll favourites. Produced by Phil Spector, it does not have the muffled, muddy production that Some Time In New York City or George Harrison's All Things Must Pass, although the 2012 remaster is far more trebly and tinny than its 2002 predecessor, which is far warmer and bassier, which suits my taste.
                                 
I have always found it a totally enjoyable album to listen to. Whatever the circumstances of its conception or the stresses of the recording process, (apparently they were chaotic and, at times, fractious) Lennon sounds as if he was having a good time. That can only be a good thing. He could sing rock 'n' roll with his eyes shut, but, to me, he sounds rapturous on some of these recordings. You certainly can't tell if he was in a bad mood. This upbeat feel has always made me wonder why the album was so badly received at the time. In retrospect, in later years, it has received some better assessments.


The highlights are plenty. I like all of it, basically, and it is well played by Lennon's faithful band, but Be-Bop-A-LulaStand By Me, the Chuck Berry song You Can't Catch Me that contained the "flat top" line, the fun Slippin' And Slidin' and the bluesy, slow grind of Bony Moronie are favourites of mine. The "medley" songs - Rip It Up/Ready Teddy and Bring It On Home To Me/Send Me Some Lovin' are excellent, effervescent and rocking too. The mega slowed-down Do You Wanna Dance doesn't quite work, for me, although Sweet Little Sixteen comes off as a slow saxophone-driven groove. Buddy Holly's Peggy Sue is played pretty straight.

Lennon undoubtedly sounds more upbeat on here than he had on any of his previous solo albums, particularly the earlier ones. I never fail to enjoy this album.

  

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DOUBLE FANTASY (1980)

1. (Just Like) Starting Over
2. Kiss Kiss Kiss
3. Clean Up Time
4. Give Me Something
5. I'm Losing You
6. I'm Moving On
7. Beautiful Boy (Darling Boy)
8. Watching The Wheels
9. Yes, I'm Your Angel
10. Woman
11. Beautiful Boys
12. Dear Yoko
13. Every Man Has A Woman Who Loves Him
14. Hard Times Are Over 
         
Upon this album's release a couple of weeks before John Lennon's murder, it was not well-received critically. After his death, of course, it sold by the bucketload. Retrospectively some have praised it, although many have criticised it as indulgence on both their parts - telling the world how loved-up they are and how at peace. They did, it has to be said, have an irritating quality of seeming to think the world cared about how happy they were, when, actually, before Lennon's unfortunate demise, the world had grown a little apathetic to them.

Personally, I have always quite liked it. It has an excellent sound quality, particularly on the warmer, bassier 2002 remaster. I would say, though, that the first half of the album is better than the last.

  
                          
The album follows a Lennon song/Yoko song pattern. Many just programme their systems to play the Lennon material. Admittedly, the Lennon stuff is excellent, and the superior of the two, but I quite like the Yoko tracks. They are appealing in a punky, Lene Lovich sort of way, as opposed to the unlistenable screaming that is on much of her seventies material.

Lennon's late fifties pastiche (Just Like) Starting Over is well known as a catchy hit single. Yoko's Kiss Kiss Kiss has a staccato, quirky appeal, but could do without the lovemaking noises! Lennon's Clean Up Time is a punchy, brass-driven upbeat number with a big, thumping bass line. The punky,  Grace Jones-influenced Give Me Something is most underrated. I'm Losing You is a soulful Lennon mid-paced, muscular rocker and one of his best on the album. Yoko's I'm Moving On is one of her best too, featuring a killer guitar riff and a convincing sound overall. No need for the monkey impersonation at the end, though, Yoko.

While Beautiful Boy (Darling Boy) is a tender song from Lennon to his son, it is a bit syrupy, to be honest. Eric Clapton and Rod Stewart subsequently recorded songs like this to their young children. Not very rock 'n' roll. The Lennon/Yoko pattern is halted with Lennon's excellent Watching The Wheels with its typically catchy hook line. Yoko's quality unfortunately deteriorates with the throwaway, jazzy Yes I'm Your Angel with its awful "tra-la-la-la" part.

Woman was a huge posthumous hit, deservedly so. It probably would have been a success anyway. It has a great refrain and guitar riff. One of Lennon's best, despite its blissful romantic nature. Beautiful Boys has Yoko utilising some traditional Japanese music to back a song to her son. Her vocal is a bit discordant, however. Do we need another song to their son? Probably not. It was quite clever in the way it switches to address her for year-old "boy" though. Dear Yoko is an update on Oh Yoko!, with a guitar relaxing a piano on the same catchy musical refrain. Yes, I know these songs to Yoko are somewhat irritating, but I actually like both of them, enjoying their jaunty melodies. Every Man Has A Woman Who Loves Him is another Grace Jones-ish haunting number from Yoko. I really like this one.

A poignant end to the album drives in Hard Times Are Over. Unfortunately, as we know, they were not, tragically.

(The bonus track, Walking On Thin Ice from Yoko is one of her best. It was also covered impressively by Elvis Costello on his Out Of Our Idiot compilation in the late eighties. Lennon's stark, piano-based ballad Help Me To Help Myself isn't so good, however).

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DOUBLE FANTASY STRIPPED DOWN

1. (Just Like) Starting Over
2. Kiss Kiss Kiss
3. Clean Up Time
4. Give Me Something
5. I'm Losing You
6. I'm Moving On
7. Beautiful Boy (Darling Boy)
8. Watching The Wheels
9. Yes, I'm Your Angel
10. Woman
11. Beautiful Boys
12. Dear Yoko
13. Every Man Has A Woman Who Loves Him
14. Hard Times Are Over    

For me, this is a bit of a superfluous release. It is not an album like Let It Be, where much of Phil Spector's production did not appear on original demo versions, so Let It Be (Naked) could be released and appreciated. On Double Fantasy, the original was a pretty well-realised album, sonically. Therefore I am not sure what "stripping it down" wanted to achieve.

It seems that quite a bit of the backing vocals have been taken away, such as the doo-wop parts on (Just Like) Starting Over. This is a shame, because rather than making the song sound more rootsy, it takes away its nostalgic, late fifties feel. Tracks like Kiss Kiss Kiss and Clean Up Time do sound more rocky, bassy and with a bit more of a rawness to them, but, as I said, I am not sure it was  necessary in the first place. A few studio "chat" bits have been added in, as if to give the recordings a feel of being "live" in the studio. Yes, the songs sound a bit more earthy, with the final slick coat of production removed, but in many ways, they sound like very high quality demo versions in need of one final tweaking.
                                                                      



Yoko Ono's tracks have more of a Grace Jones, punky, bassy and raw feel to them, though. Give Me Something highlights the searing guitar and Lennon's excellent I'm Losing You has a huge, pulsating bass line that I love. This track really comes to life on this version. Not that it was ever bad, it just has a muscular new appeal here. The same applies to Yoko's powerful I'm Moving OnWatching The Wheels is deeper and bassier, concentrating the bass, piano and drums. It sounds great, to be honest. This is one that is better than the original.

No amount of remixing can make Yoko's Yes, I'm Your Angel any more listenable for me, unfortunately. Woman has a nice feel to it, without the eventual orchestration. Dear Yoko has an energetic thump to it.

Overall, it is still a good listen, however. The sound quality is excellent and, as pointed out, there is an essential, down-to-earth attraction to the songs in the format. There are some who prefer this version of the album, and I can see where they are coming from, even though the changes are not incredibly obvious, nor were they particularly necessary.

The 2010 remaster of the eventual album is the best of the 2010 remasters, nowhere near as trebly or tinny as I find some of the other 2010 remasters. Personally, I prefer the full bassiness of the 2002 Yoko Ono-supervised remasters.

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                                JOHN LENNON

                                    1940-1980

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Wednesday, 26 September 2018

Oasis






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The albums covered here are:-

Definitely Maybe (1994)
(What's The Story) Morning Glory (1995)
Be Here Now (1997)
The Masterplan (1998)
and Standing On The Shoulders Of Giants (2000)

Scroll down to read the reviews.

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DEFINITELY MAYBE (1994)


1. Rock 'n' Roll Star
2. Shakermaker
3. Live Forever
4. Up In the Sky
5. Colombia
6. Supersonic
7. Bring It On Down
8. Cigarettes And Alcohol
9. Digsy's Dinner
10. Slide Away
11. Married With Children     

By the time Oasis came on the scene, in 1994, with this hard- hitting breath of fresh air, they were already a band “for the younger generation” for an old veteran of the seventies and the punk era like me. I felt I was too old for them. My time was Mott The Hoople, Roxy Music, The Clash and The Jam. As for these parka-wearing, posturing Manchester oiks, well, I’d seen it all before. I am, unfortunately, (or maybe fortunately) a man of my time. I know nothing about Blur, Pulp, Supergrass or any of that lot. Seriously, nothing at all. However, I do like Oasis. Something about their “in your face” attitude and seismically thumping derivative rock struck a chord in my old punk soul.

This album really blew some cobwebs away after the musical desert that was the synthesiser and drum machine-dominated late eighties. It was real rock - played with electric guitars up loud, big, thumping bass, a proper drum kit and sneering vocals from Liam Gallagher, who owed Johnny Rotten just a little. By 1994, music was crying out for this type of band again.

  
            
Rock 'n' Roll Star was a storming opener, featuring all the characteristics described above and Shakermaker a rumbling, raucous but rhythmic delight. Live Forever has an addictive drum and bass guitar intro, some great lead guitar, straight out of the seventies and some lyrics for twenty -somethings to get all nostalgic about when they were only starting out. “You and I we’re gonna live forever..”. Too fucking right, man. Great song. Seriously great song. These oiks could play. I’ll have some of this.

Up In the Sky is a lesser-known rocker with an excellent guitar intro and some late sixties-influenced lyrics and a Lennon-esque vocal delivery. Oasis took snatches of the sixties and seventies and they put their own unique stamp on it. They certainly had their own identity, despite their obvious influences. The sound on this album, as on all the band’s albums, is loud and raucous. It shakes you floors played through a good system and is an exhilarating experience. Just listen to the bass, guitar and percussion almost menacing intro to Columbia, another rarely-mentioned song which is refreshing to check out again. It is monstrously powerful if you’re in the mood. Not really late night, dim lights stuff though.

What I quite liked about Oasis, unlike some of my punk heroes, who claimed to despise music had gone before, like The Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin or The Beatles, while secretly liking them, Oasis freely acknowledged their respect for artists like The Beatles, The Jam and even Noel Gallagher’s childhood favourites, Slade. I remember he did an interview early on when he extolled the virtues of Slade’s relatively obscure How Does It Feel. I respected Gallagher from that moment on.

Supersonic is well known, and in many ways, it is Oasis. Whiny vocals, acerbic lyrics. Everything you have come to expect from them, as indeed is the vibrant Cigarettes And Alcohol, with its slight Get It On riff “borrow”. Bring It On Down is a fast-paced number with some excellent drums. Another little-mentioned but quality track. Digsy's Dinner is a slightly punky thrash with a vaguely Beatles-ish tuneful bit in the middle. Slide Away is a lengthy chugger of the kind that appeared on Paul Weller’s Wild Wood, but as alluded to earlier, Gallagher’s vocals render all their songs unique. They also had a real ear for a hook of a chorus. The guitar in this is almost Led Zeppelin-esque in the middle solo.

Married With Children is a semi-acoustic, slightly low-key end to such a bombastic album. It would be the next album What’s The Story... that really did it for Oasis, and deservedly so, but there is a “first album” raw appeal to this one. It was certainly a stunning debut.

As an afternote, the bonus material on the latest 2014 "deluxe" remaster is interesting and high quality. Strangely, the sonic bombast used so blatantly on the eventual album is not used nearly so much on the "alternative" and "demo" versions. They are much subtler, more nuanced and quieter. Acoustic guitar is used a lot more. Listening to them it is almost like listening to a different band. The loudness is toned way down, Liam's voice is much less mannered, nowhere near the same amount of Johnny Rotten-isms. It all sounds very like Paul Weller's Wild Wood material. There are some excellent live cuts too.



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(WHAT'S THE STORY) MORNING GLORY (1995)

1. Hello
2. Roll With It
3. Wonderwall
4. Don't Look Back In Anger
5. Hey Now
6. The Swamp Song
7. Some Might Say
8. Cast No Shadow
9. She's Electric
10. Morning Glory                 

Oasis's second album was as hard-hitting and anthem-packed as their sonically-explosive debut Definitely Maybe had been. There were several enhancements, however - increased use of strings and other varied instrumentation as well as that trademark guitar bombast.

This more than welcome 2014 remaster gives the album a far more subtle sonic makeover, bringing out far more nuances that were detectable on the crashing original. This improvement is not quite clear on the opener, the Gary Glitter-influenced Hello, which just sounds a little quieter, less clashing than the original. Roll With It, however, sees a vast improvement, you hear all sorts of things in that were previously buried away - a clearer guitar sound, less deafening drums and a melodic bass. The iconic Wonderwall is even better. It sounds bloody marvellous. Sumptuous bass on it and those acoustic guitars are crystal clear. Look Back In Anger has percussion that now sounds much clearer and this is one of those tracks where the string backing really came into its own. These four tracks - HelloRoll With ItWonderwall and Look Back In Anger - one of the finest openings to a album? Up there, surely? Hey Now, the next track, was no slouch, either. It initially suffered from the murky, crashing production, however, and even now that cannot be completely cured. It will always sound a bit like that, but that is part of Oasis's sound. Despite Oasis's (often unconvincing) eschewing of traditional rock (something I was never convinced by), it is packed full of traditional rock guitar, as many of their songs were.

  

Oasis came on the scene a generation after my halcyon days so I was always someone who listened to them from a boring, washed-out old punk's position so I cannot assess their effect on my life (they had none) or even culturally, in a general sense, particularly well. I just know they had something in their chutzpah and raucous, "don't give a stuff" attitude and muscular guitar attack that appealed to me. I loved the cover too - "Selectadisc" record shop on London's Berwick Street clearly visible, a shop and I street I visited many, many times. Pretty much every day during a period when I was walking around London as a publishing company rep.

  

Some Might Say is another classic Oasis anthem, and another one drenched in seventies-style guitar riffs. Liam Gallagher's distinctive, sneering vocal is so redolent of the mid nineties. Again, the remaster tones down a tiny bit of the bombast and that guitar bit around two minutes in comes to a new life. Cast No Shadow is a lesser-mentioned, underrated number and it sounds great here - superb, full and melodic bass and crystal clear acoustic guitars. The rhyme scheme in the jaunty She's Electric is a little simplistic (as were several of their lyrics) but I can't help but like it. It just makes me smile, particularly the "I quite fancy your mother line...." with its laddish cheekiness.

(What's The Story) Morning Glory? is, for me, the weakest on the album. The seems a little to formulaic and lazy to me. This is remedied by the anthemic Champagne Supernova, of course. There has always been something very Rolling Stones in it, in the way it uses acoustic and electric guitars. The vocals are clearly different, but just something about it. On this remaster the bass is once again sublime and the drum sound too. Listen just after the "why, why, why..." bit. Great stuff. A great remastering effort.

The many high quality extras, such as AcquiesceThe Masterplan, their stonking cover of Slade's Cum On Feel The Noize and the superb live cuts make this a more than worthy re-release to get hold of.



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BE HERE NOW (1997)

1. D'You Know What I Mean
2. My Big Mouth
3. Magic Pie
4. Stand By Me
5. I Hope, I Think, I Know
6. The Girl In The Dirty Shirt
7. Fade In-Out
8. Don't Go Away 
9. Be Here Now
10. All Around The World
11. It's Getting' Better (Man!!)
12. All Around The World (Reprise)       

By 1997, Oasis were, supposedly, the "biggest band on the planet", or as Noel Gallagher sneeringly said "bigger than, dare I say it, fucking God...". They had begun to swallow their own myth completely and become arrogant, emperor's new clothes, fawned-over rock star tossers. The media fed, nurtured and perpetuated this until the group became an embarrassing parody of themselves. Relations pithing the group became almost permanently fractured with Noel leaving and then coming back and an atmosphere of drug-addled laziness hardly conducive to producing quality music. The group seemed to think they were untouchable and could put out anything and it would still sell. Their motivations were purely commercial. Rather like their idol John Lennon, they had become cynically arrogant.

The result was Noel Gallagher's equivalent of Sly Stone's There's A Riot Goin' On with its multi-layered guitar tracks all recorded on top of each other, indulgently, delivering a dense, murky, indistinct sound which forever blights it, despite its having been remastered. You can't polish a genuine turd. The tracks are all also excessively long and rambling, although they do possess an anthemic nature and still have some killer hooks in amongst all the sonic mush. The album clocks in at a way too long seventy-one minutes too.

  

Let's be honest, the sound is bloody awful, which is a shame as there are some good songs on here - somewhere. They still shine through the mist, however, which is testament to the fact that, despite everything, some good material ensued from this period. There was so much hype surrounding the album's release, however, that is almost became farcical. The group themselves treated it as if they were releasing Sgt. Pepper.

D'You Know What I Mean starts in the bloated, extended anthem style that would characterise most of the album. The sound is muffled-ish and dense, as mentioned earlier but, as also with much of the album's material has a great hook in the "all my people, right here right now.." chorus refrain. My Big Mouth begins with a cacophony of clashing guitars. Sonically it is exhausting, but it carries a vibrant cynicism to it and a raw, rock edge that is almost "fuck you" punky. Magic Pie calms things down a bit with a slow-paced clunky number that actually has a bit of hidden appeal to it.

Stand By Me is a perfect example of a great Oasis song that still delivers despite its dreadful sound, full of hooks and typically good lyrics. It borrows a chord progression from Mott The Hoople's All The Young Dudes at several points, something Noel Gallagher freely admits to. I Hope, I Think, I Know is an excellent, vibrant rocker. Look, I could criticise the sound on every single song on this album, it now goes without saying. Every one of them could be improved upon.

  

The Girl In The Dirty Shirt blatantly uses some chords from The BeatlesCry Baby Cry but otherwise it is solid clunker once more. I actually quite like it. Another one that appeals to me is Fade In-Out, that reminds me in slight snatches of The Rolling StonesMonkey Man, and also contains one of the band's heaviest-ever passages. It has a huge punch to it in places. As with a fair few of the tracks, though, it goes on a minute or two too long. Don't Go Away is Lennon-esque in its verses but very Oasis in its singalong chorus. Be Here Now is a typical in-your-face Oasis sneering stomper.

All Around The World is nine minutes long but, even so, it has an appeal. It has that much-mentioned anthem quality again. Once more, I can't help but like it. It's Getting' Better (Man!!) is a copper-bottomed slice of raucous Oasis rock, featuring that ramped-up T. Rex-inspired riffery. The reprise of All Around The World is a brassy, Beatles-esque extended fanfare to finally see out this behemoth of an album.

Some of the tracks that weren't included on the album, like Stay Young and The Fame are actually far more impressive, less indulgent and far more worthy of inclusion than some that did make it on there. They are shorter, less rambling, crisper and basically just superior creations, by far.

The album actually became the UK's fastest-ever selling release, although its reception, once listened to, was distinctly underwhelming and many would argue that Oasis's eventual decline began here. Every subsequent release was received comparatively unenthusiastically. There would be no triumphant "return to form". The had become, by their own hand, the purveyors of formulaic "dad-rock" that they were supposed to eschew. Maybe the final word on the album should be left to Noel Gallagher:-

"....It's the sound of ... a bunch of guys, on coke, in the studio, not giving a fuck. There's no bass to it at all; I don't know what happened to that ... And all the songs are really long and all the lyrics are shit....".



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THE MASTERPLAN (1998)

1. Acquiesce
2. Underneath The Sky
3. Talk Tonight
4. Going Nowhere
5. Fade Away
6. The Swamp Song
7. I Am The Walrus
8. Listen Up
9. Rockin' Chair
10. Half The World Away
11. (It's Good) To Be Free
12. Stay Young
13. Headshrinker
14. The Masterplan            

This album was a compilation of 'b' sides and unreleased material mainly aimed at the US market which contained a quality of songs that many artists would have given their eye teeth to have in their canon. Indeed, it can be likened to as a perfectly credible album and many would argue it is the superior collection of work to its official predecessor 1977's bloated and somewhat indulgent "Be Here Now".

The album has not been remastered, but, via the wonders of digital technology, if you have the first three albums in their 2014 remastered "deluxe editions", you can cherry pick the tracks to make up a 2014 remastered version of The Masterplan. Most impressive it sounds too. Not as bombastic as the original masterings, with some subtleties in percussion and bass brought to the fore.
                          
Highlights are the solid, rocking blast of Acquiesce; a raw live version of The BeatlesI Am The Walrus; the jaunty psychedelia of Underneath The Sky; the plaintive, acoustic, Paul Weller-influenced Talk Tonight; the surprising Burt Bacharach-inspired Going Nowhere. These are all excellent tracks worthy of positions on regular albums.

  

Fade Away rocks frenetically, but no amount of remastering will cure its raucous sound, however. Therein lies much of its grungy appeal, though. The Swamp Song is an excellent instrumental too. Listen Up has a great bass sound and clear, sharp percussion. Rockin' Chair has echoes of The Jam, for me. Maybe that's just me, but there is something about it. The tuneful, emotive Half The World Away and (It's Good) To Be Free both sound excellent in their remastered formats.

Just check out Stay Young. Maybe the best track on the album. Solid anthemic Oasis rock at its finest. Their rock is never particularly fast, or slow. It is always just solidHeadshrinker has a real seventies-style guitar intro and a punk feel to it. Again, it forcefully chugs along. Noel Gallagher reckons the acoustic, bassy and orchestrated The Masterplan is the best Oasis song he ever wrote. When it breaks out into the full band bit, it is easy to agree with him.

All the material is good on this album, let's be honest. It exists perfectly credibly as a bona fide Oasis album.



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STANDING ON THE SHOULDERS OF GIANTS (2000)

1. Fuckin’ In The Bushes
2. Go Let It Out
3. Who Feels Love?
4. Put Yer Money Where Yer Mouth Is
5. Little James
6. Gas Panic!
7. Where Did It All Go Wrong?
8. Sunday Morning Call
9. I Can See A Liar

10. Roll It Over        

After three seismic albums, one compilation of odds and sods, endless, often embarrassing media hype and many destructive rows, Oasis ‘Mark Two’ began here in some ways. In other ways, however, not much really changed - the music was still full of acoustic as well as electric guitars, rhyming lyrics, sneering vocals and a huge wall of crashing sound. Whereas Be Here Now was indulgent and at times rambling, this offering, three years later, contained songs that were more cohesive and concise, slightly better crafted and, it has to be said, less drug-influenced. Noel Gallagher, in particular, was maturing and both the brothers were fathers. Dad rock indeed. It was seen as Oasis’s psychedelic album. Their Revolver. The music is certainly not all crashing guitars, there is more instrumental variety and experimentation present than on any of the band’s output thus far. Having lost two band members the Gallagher brothers took over much of the working out of the instrumentation, using other guest musicians and drum loops and the like too. As I said, like their beloved Revolver. Noel was rapidly becoming a multi-instrumentalist. For example, Go Let It Out features only the brothers and Alan White on drums.

In the fickle world of media-driven music, though, Oasis were already old hat - yesterday’s (now old) men. However good this album may have been, the eventual decline of Oasis, started with Be Here Now, properly set in here.

Not that that really matters now though, as the album is retrospectively viewed as just an album rather than a statement that everyone needed to pay attention to.

  
                                                  
Fuckin’ In The Bushes (great title) begins with a drum intro straight out of Led Zeppelin’s Rock ‘n’ Roll and continues as a psychedelic -influenced, powerful instrumental with a vaguely funky groove to it in places. The backing vocals sort of remind me of Sly & The Family Stone circa 1971. The sound on the track is a bit mushy and indistinct, however. Go Let It Out is one of those semi-anthemic Oasis numbers with a typical Liam Gallagher vocal and lots of Beatles Walrus-era noises behind its singalong chorus. Some Eastern-style percussion introduces the hippy-ish Who Feels Love? It is very Revolver-era Beatles-ish, almost embarrassingly Lennon-esque in its vocals and Harrison-esque in its instrumentation. That said, it’s good, though, by far the most psychedelic the band had sounded thus far. I have always been a bit perplexed by Oasis's Beatles obsession, they actually didn't need to lean so heavily on those influences.

Put Yer Money Where Yer Mouth Is is powered by a keyboard riff more than a guitar one and although the vocals are familiar in style, it is a looser sounding number with echoes of Paul Weller all over it. Little James has Liam Gallagher going all Lennon in a syrupy song about his stepson, it includes very Beatles-style drums too.



Gas Panic! is an unusual number - a lengthy, blues meets psychedelia concoction full of late sixties vibes. It is totally uncommercial, as indeed is the slow grind of the Weller-ish and possibly prescient Where Did It All Go Wrong? which features the less harsh tones of Noel on lead vocals. Sunday Morning Call is also comparatively laid-back and spacily reflective. None of this material is fist-pumping stadium fare. It is mature, adult rock music, everything Oasis didn’t really set out to be, but then again they always lived in a past of their own making.

I Can See A Liar is the closest thing on the album to the typical riffy material found on the group’s first two albums. That rousing feel doesn’t last long, though, and the slow George Harrison-influenced sound of Roll It Over ends what has been an impressively understated piece of work.

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