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Recent album review #1
I don't think of Lou Reed as a singer/songwriter - he's no James Taylor, Jackson Browne, Jimmy Buffet, or even Elton John. He's Lou Reed, who talks about heroin, prostitutes, people mailing themselves, love, and rock and roll. Or at least he did, given he mellowed out with Loaded.

Reed's debut solo album Lou Reed isn't so much a failure as it is the wrong setting. One problem is that the production treats Reed like a singer/songwriter, surrounding him with session guys who - despite their talent (they include Caleb Quaye, Steve Howe, and Rick Wakeman) - fail to contribute much beyond filling out the sound, a prime example being Clem Cattini's repetitive drum fills.

What's more, Reed's attitude is generally relaxed, like he's strolling down the street with a chick on each arm (yes, there are female backing vocals), sometimes riled up, sometimes not. He'd built up a sizable catalog of songs that the VU never released, despite recording, so he had a cache to draw from. But unlike his earlier work, these songs are not particularly provocative.

The other problem is that most of the VU versions of these songs have now been released, rendering these versions lame and unnecessary ("I Can't Stand It", "Lisa Says" are nowhere as good as those on VU, for example).

So yes, Reed sounds kind of lame here, just surrounded by his backing musicians, and lacking any sort of instrumental spark or interesting lead instruments. This is the wrong place for him, and even if the songs are fine (and they are), he was hanging out with a crowd of Elton John session players and Yes members.

Lou Reed may've been an attempt to convert Reed into a mainstream artist that might've worked, given an actual band.

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by Reviewer: Obscurity

Posted: Thursday 23rd Feb 2017 11:44 AM

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Recent album review #2
Queen - The Works (1984)

The Works might be more the 'sell-out' album for Queen, rather than the preceding Hot Space. For although the band once and for all abandoned the 'disco' vibe of the previous album, the production values are almost identical, the synthesizers are prominent, and the songwriting is pretty simplistic. So yeah, The Works is definitely an 80's album.

Fortunately though, it's not bad! Really, it's just a 'good' Queen record - while it's kinda sad to see the band making this kind of music, at least they're still going.

And simplistic they may be, but the songs are quite good. No two sound the same, so I wouldn't accuse the band of stagnating. "Radio Ga Ga" might seem like the one Queen song most worthy of a critical bashing, what with its dance beats, synthesizer abounds, and stupid lyrics. Taylor said he wrote them when he saw his kid looking at the radio, pointing and muttering something like 'radio ga ga goo goo' or something. But bashing such lyrics is as pointless as bashing I want to ride my bicycle, I want to ride my bike, I want to ride my bicycle, I want to ride it where I like. Besides, the song itself is just lovely, and might be my favourite on the album - if not my favourite Queen song from the 1980's.

As for the other songs, there's nothing disgusting like "Body Language", but very few great spots. They're as simplistic as pop music could ever be, though Deacon takes advantage of that and delivers "I Want to Break Free", the eternal 'gay anthem' that gave Queen such a dubious reputation. But the song is a pop masterpiece, and its 'gay' elements always sounded like mockery to me.

So I guess it's easier to name least the favourite tracks here rather than actual favourites. Mercury's "Keep Passing the Open Windows" was a song I once really disliked, but I learned to like it - slightly overlong, but quite fun.

May provides another "Put Out the Fire" style rocker, except a more inspired one, with stupid power-chord riffs, stupid vocal lines, stupid chorus ... but it's slightly entertaining. And his other composition, "Hammer To Fall", is easily one of the band's most straightforward rockers ever - it smells of Bad Company! Still, I really like it for some reason - I dig that stupid riff and those stupid vocal lines, dammit dammit dammit, I wanna despise the song as a derivative piece of crap, but I can't!

I'm much more partial to the Taylor/May collaboration "Machines". I'm wary about labelling Queen songs as 'experimental', but this one is pretty close. I like the industrial noises, along with the guitar riffage and Mercury's vocals. It's a bit of a worry though, when my favourite Queen songs are ones (co)credited to Roger Taylor.

Mercury's "It's A Hard Life" is one of those things that must be heard to be believed - a great ballad, more powerful even than "Life Is Real". And the following "Man On the Prowl" is a hilarious, irresistible Elvis imitation!

On the other hand there's the cheesy "Is This the World We Created?", an acoustic sentimental ballad thing, a closer that contributes to the the album being one huge hit-and-miss affair. Still, The Works is good overall.

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by Reviewer: Fernando Canto

Posted: Thursday 23rd Feb 2017 8:35 PM

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