Mini Album Reviews is a collection of random thoughts on albums that I’ve listened to in the past week. It started out as a Facebook thing, but I decided to move it here and keep it updated besides the full-fledged posts.
Queen – The Game
People call this the beginning of the end within Queen’s discography just because it sounds a little bit more funky (disco! oh no! the horror!). Whatever. All I hear is yet another eclectic set of well-written and well-performed tunes. The album cover has a deceptively New-Wave look, but in reality the band still cannot find it in them to settle upon one single genre; and this is exactly what we love about them in the first place. From balladry, to funk, to 50s rock ‘n’ roll, to music hall and to hard rock, it’s all here. Consistency is once again abandoned in favor of diversity and fun. And it’s so nice to hear John Deacon get a little more spotlight with his bass lines, easily the most underrated Queen member. An essential listen for any Queen fan.
Lou Reed – Street Hassle
Lou Reed’s post-Velvet Underground 70s output seems to be equally diverse and chaotic. The bad albums from that decade are the ones where his interest and passion are lacking (Sally Can’t Dance, Rock and Roll Heart, Lou Reed), while the good ones find him pushing strongly into a direction, whether it’s glam rock (Transformer), rock opera (Berlin), guitar wailing (Rock n Roll Animal) or accessible pop (Coney Island Baby). And Street Hassle definitely belongs in the second category. The arrival of punk gave him an edge and as a result the album is much angrier and spiteful than any of his previous stuff. Rarely is it clear to whom exactly are those feelings directed at, but what matters is that he sounded relevant again with highlights such as the unapologetic Dirt, Real Good Time Together with its wall-of-noise, or the street-poetry epic that is the title track.
Raekwon – Only Built 4 Cuban Linx
There is one moment on this album that always blows my mind – right as Rainy Dayz starts, the picture is set with the protagonist’s woman nearly mourning the fact that he’s changed, the fact that he’s gone insane. Then, enhanced by the dramatic strings, Ghostface comes in: “On rainy days I sit back and count ways on how to get rich, son”. One could read this on paper and easily dismiss it as superficial materialism, but hearing it together with everything else that’s going on in the song creates a whole new dimension. It becomes a do-or-die situation, more scary than arrogant. Throughout the album, Rae and Ghost seem to be living each line as they rap it and the final effect is nothing less than powerful. I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t understand a big percent of the slang, and their world is miles away from mine. But their conviction shines through, enough to make anybody resonate.
Black Sabbath – Master of Reality
Much has been written about this record’s influence on subsequent metal sub-genres, but what is truly impressive is just how well it holds up after all this time. Master of Reality still sounds heavy and dangerous, holding nothing back. The combination of down-tuned guitar riffs on one hand and Christian/hippie themes as to move away from the Satanic image on the other makes for a totally unique juxtaposition. It also makes it my favorite Sabbath album, no mean feat considering that the first 6 could all qualify for the title. And how crazy it is to realize that they put out 5 consistently great albums within the course of 4 years, while today we have to wait the same amount for a single album from certain artists (*cough* Adele *cough*).
Categories: Mini Album Reviews