Tuesday, October 22, 2013

King's X - "Dogman"

King's X - Dogman
1994, Atlantic

1. Dogman
2. Shoes
3. Pretend
4. Flys and Blue Skies
5. Black the Sky
6. Fool You
7. Don't Care
8. Sunshine Rain
9. Complain
10. Human Behavior
11. Cigarettes
12. Go To Hell
13. Pillow
14. Manic Depression

Dogman was the first album King's X recorded without the help of long-time producer Sam Taylor. The differences are immediate. Dogman is heavier, darker, and a lot less progressive. There's also less of an emphasis on three-part harmonies and Ty barely sings lead. That's not to say it's not good, it's awesome. Definitely a classic - if a little depressing at times. Naturally, the C.S. Lewis inspired, Christian slanting lyrics have been dropped in favor of introspective brooding. Again, not bad just different. I was really worried about the band back in the day because I took this as a sign that they were no longer Christians. Apparently I was right. Still, Dogman is a great record and, in retrospect, definitely worthy of the King's X legacy.

Useless Fact: The dog on the cover came in different colors: red, blue, green, and yellow. The one I have now is yellow. The one on my original cassette was red. Also, a box set was released with the first five albums. However, it hasn't been remastered or anything and there aren't any extras. Still, if you've never gotten into King's X before that box set is the place to start!

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Dream Theater - "Dream Theater"

Dream Theater - Dream Theater
2013, Roadrunner

1. False Awakening Suite
2. The Enemy Inside
3. The Looking Glass
4. Enigma Machine
5. The Bigger Picture
6. Behind The Veil
7. Surrender to Reason
8. Along For The Ride
9. Illumination Theory

Now that I'm all caught up on Dream Theater (for the most part) I pre-ordered this album as soon as I could. It's the first album with new drummer, Mike Mangini, contributing to the actual song writing. I really enjoyed A Dramatic Turn of Events and was excited for what the band would do. I mean, heck, they even threw down the gauntlet and self-titled this album. However, it pains me to say that I'm a little disappointed. Aside from the amazing "The Enemy Inside" and a few other tracks, nothing has really stuck with me. I dig the sort of Rush/Coheed-esque riff in "The Looking Glass" and "Enigma Machine" is a cool instrumental. Other than that nothing seems to really stick with me. I keep forgetting that "Surrender to Reason" is even on the album. I'm also going to risk saying that "Illumination Theory" is one of their weakest epics. It seems like three separate songs strung together with only the most tenuous grasp on one another.

Also, let's talk about the mastering, shall we? There's definitely some loudness wars crap going on here. In addition the guitars seem to be muddy. Muddy guitars. In Dream Theater. Couple that with the loud production (which pushes the vocals back into the mix) and it definitely hurts the listening experience. This ain't Sonic Youth! Or Slipknot! Or a Christian metal album on REX records circa 1990! This is Dream Theater! I kind of expect some precision in the sound. While this release is way better than Systematic Chaos, it didn't entrance me. I'm hoping this one will grow on me.

Useless Fact: The deluxe edition of this album only features extra artwork and a 5.1 mix of the album. Perhaps the label knew the mastering was poor? Hmmm...

Thursday, October 10, 2013

DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince - "Homebase"

DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince - Homebase
1991, Jive

1. I'm All That
2. Summertime
3. The Things That U Do
4. This Boy is Smooth
5. Ring My Bell
6. A Dog is a Dog
7. Caught In the Middle (Love and Life)
8. Trapped on the Dance Floor
9. Who Stole the DJ?
10. You Saw My Blinker
11. Dumb Dancin'
12. Summertime (Reprise)
13. Ring My Bell

Wow. Those jackets. They could not be any more early 90's. I think there's more colors in those jackets than is actually allowed by law. Anyway, Homebase is sort of a comeback album.  And In This Corner... didn't do very well so the boys took a little time off, starred in a hit TV show, regrouped and released this. "Summertime" was a massive hit. However, it's the only single from this album. I like this one alright but it's not my favorite. It's a bit more mature - focusing more on instrumentation and smooth jazz stuff. No problems there, but it's not quite as fun. In fact, there's a couple songs that just leave a bad taste in my ears. First there's "A Dog is a Dog" in which the Fresh Prince admits that, yes, he'd like to bed every single women he sees and that should be okay. Then there's the mean-spirited "You Saw My Blinker" in which Fresh Prince raps about breaking some girl's wrist for spurning his advances AND badgering a 90-year-old woman. As a whole it's okay but it'll never dethrone He's the DJ as my favorite album.

Useless Fact: Several guest MC's appear on "Trapped on the Dance Floor," which is a first. I am way too lazy to look up who the actual guests are.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Daniel Amos - "Dig Here, Said The Angel"

Daniel Amos - Dig Here, Said The Angel
2013, Stunt

1. Forward in Reverse
2. Jesus Wept
3. Dig Here, Said the Angel
4. Our New Testament Best
5. Love, Grace, and Mercy
6. Now That I've Died
7. We'll All Know Soon Enough
8. Waking Up Underwater
9. The Uses of Adversity
10. The Ruthless Hum of Dread
11. The Sun Shines On Everyone

I've listened to this album several times and I still don't feel like I've listened enough to review it. I think that's a good thing. A lot of people liken Daniel Amos' new album to Kalhoun or Motorcycle. I don't really see that at all - I think Dig Here is its own animal. I suppose the fact that the album contains eleven self-contained songs which are mostly uptempo rockers is similar, but that's about it.

There are some artists out there whom I've discovered, loved, and then eventually realize that they're one (or maybe two) trick ponies. Daniel Amos is not like that. Each album is fresh. Each album is unique. Dig Here seems to be the band's ruminations on death, suffering, and heartache. Ironically, the morosely titled "Now That I've Died" is probably the most optimistic. It seems like Terry Scott Taylor has been doing a lot of thinking about what may lay beyond and we get to take the journey with him. I like this album. I like it a lot. I feel like this is going to grow on me throughout the years - especially as I get older. Here's hoping the band doesn't take another decade to release another album!

Useless Fact: Dig Here was a Kickstarter funded release. I believe they raised over $30,000 which allowed for vinyl versions of the album to made. Y'know... if you're into that sort of thing.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Threshold - "March of Progress"

Threshold - March of Progress
2012, Nuclear Blast

1. Ashes
2. Return of the Thought Police
3. Staring At the Sun
4. Liberty Complacency Dependency
5. Colophon
6. The Hours
7. That's Why We Came
8. Don't Look Down
9. Coda
10. The Rubicon
Bonus Track:
11. Divinity

At first I wasn't that thrilled about Threshold. I'd listened to their live album Critical Energy and, while it wasn't bad, I wasn't quite enamored with it. Then I heard that former vocalist Damien Wilson (who's performed on both Ayreon and Star One) was returning to fill in for the former vocalist who had passed away. I love Damien Wilson's voice. I wanted to get this album just to listen to his voice. March of Progress is pretty good. It's not as progressive as Dream Theater or anything but that's not bad. The songs are very accessible and catchy. There's are some slammin' metal riffs, which is always a plus with me. However, I do think "That's Why We Came" is kind of a boring ballad and "Don't Look Down" isn't quite interesting enough to justify its eight minute running time. Did I mention I love Damien Wilson's voice yet? Because that pretty much makes this album for me.

Useless Fact: I think the album concept has to do with rebellion against totalitarian governments.