CD Reviews: Foreigner,Berry,Styx, Buckingham/McVie

 

The frequent followers of this page know that I sometimes miss the days when music was Pre-Internet. Not that the Internet doesn’t have its uses, especially when I want to watch some old wrestling footage or look up research, and it influenced music and artists for good , but there are plenty of bad. Music fans today don’t understand how an act could get a record deal and have to tour for years to get noticed, or how songs took a year to hit the top of the charts, which was based on sales and radio play, not downloads. Also, people today can’t fathom that there were record stores at malls and shopping plazas. Just looking at today’s stores where people can get music, there’s Wal Mart (where the music is 90 % Country), Target (which is very limited) and Best Buy (which at our local stores, half of the time the CD section is empty shelves). All of these stores also do not have many CDs that are over a year old, more less something that has been out for over 5 years.

The tales I can tell about how as a kid growing up I could spent hours at a mall, just browsing through bookstores and music shops like National Record Mart, Camelot Records, or Oasis Records (a local store in a plaza in Boardman, Ohio that ended up turning into a National Record Mart-we could also get tickets to concerts and wrestling there).

I have spent little time in the past few years listening to music. There are a few acts I like (Taylor Swift, Rob Zombie, Kacey Musgraves, Michael Buble), but most music I listen to are acts that have been established for years-in fact my favorite CD of last year hands down was “Good Times” by The Monkees.  I know some people just say that there are still great albums out there, you just have to look harder than before, but even those acts that are suggested to me have only 1 or 3 good songs and the rest are fillers. This past few months I have been listening to more CDs than I have in years, out of curiosity and due to press reviews and I thought I’d review a few CDs I have recently listened to and give a take on these 2017 releases.

  1. “Lindsey Buckingham/Christine McVie”- Lindsey Buckingham and Christine McVie

I have always respected Lindsey Buckingham and love watching him play guitar-he has such a unique way of playing. When I was playing in a local cover band in the 1990s, one of my favorite songs to play was Fleetwood Mac’s “Blue Letter.”  When I saw this duo recently on CBS “Saturday Morning” Show, I wanted to check out the CD.

I am not a huge Fleetwood Mac fan; I like some of the hit songs they recorded, nor am I familiar with all the workings of the band, or its inner history. I don’t know if it’s a legal issue, but this album is basically Fleetwood Mac without Stevie Nicks, because Mick Fleetwood, and John McVie both are the musicians on the album. Anyway, my overview of this album is very good- there are 6 out of the 10 songs I really enjoyed, including the songs “Too Far Gone,” which has a 70s funk/dance feel to it,  “Feel About You” which has a 1960s female pop sound to it, and the nice guitar work that is on “Red Sun.”  The ballad “Game of Pretend” shows the best of Christine’s vocals, which reminds me of The Eagles 1994 song “Love Will Keep Us Alive.”

The bad part about the CD is that the few songs that I didn’t care for are really bad or below average and cringe worthy. I think there are a few filler songs on here, even though there are only 10 songs, such as “Lay Down For Free,” the ending “Carnival Begin,” and the cheesy lyrics of “Sleeping Around The Corner.” There is also a lack of guitar solos on the album, which I expected more due to Buckingham’s talent. However, since the CD is about 40 minutes run time, the few bad songs aren’t as painful for long. I think die hard Fleetwood Mac fans would love the CD, and for the casual fan, the CD is a good listen that you may want to check out, if you can handle some filler songs. This does not have every track a winner.

  1. “The Mission” –Styx. Similar to the above choice, I have limited knowledge of the band Styx, besides the hits (I still love 1983’s “Don’t Let It End”) and the fact that singer Dennis DeYoung left the band in 1999, after saying the stage lights would affect the health problems he was experiencing at the time (He had an 1984 solo hit “Desert Moon”). I saw the band in 2010 with Foreigner and Kansas on a triple bill, but that did little to impress me of the band.

With that said, this CD was a huge surprise to me. I enjoyed this concept album about a mission to Mars, and the liner notes give the overall story of the tale, along with an in -depth intro before the lyrics of each song about what the song was telling. The story was written by guitarist and vocalist Tommy Shaw and Will Evankovich. This album could have turned into a bad Rush album, but the whole run time is just about 40 minutes, which I love, because there is not much of extra fill to the story and songs-no 10 minute solos here. Since the CD is a concept album, it’s hard to review just a few songs, so I’ll jump to the overall grade.

The musicianship is very good; with Tommy Shaw proving he is an underrated vocalist, and Todd Sucherman’s drumming proves why he is constantly praised in the drum magazines.  The album as a whole is what the listener needs to experience, not judging by a single song via music sites. To truly enjoy the album, the listener needs to hear the whole thing to get the story. However, that is also the downside to the album- concept albums in 2017 is hard to sell to the listeners who want their downloaded songs instantly, not to sit and listen to 40 minutes of an album, like in the 1970s.  Veteran bands like Styx are at a point in their careers where they are not trying to gain new fans, so their long time fans will love this CD, but I advise anyone to take a chance on this album, because I was impressed and surprised. The reviews for this CD have been positive, and I can see why.

  1. “Chuck”- Chuck Berry. This CD may be my favorite of the year so far. I respected Chuck Berry for being one of the early pioneers of Rock N Roll, and this CD proves why he was a legendary musician. “Chuck” was the last album he recorded before his death, and his first since 1979. The opening song “Wonderful Woman” is a great choice to start the CD, with the classic Berry 1950s rhythm. Guest guitar players Gary Clark Jr (who I really like his work) and Charles Berry III help out on the track. The CD is full of gems like “3/4 Time (Enchiladas)”, which shows Berry’s humor (much like he did on his hit “My Ding A Ling”),  the rocking “Big Boys” which has a “Johnny B Goode” feel to it , and “Jamaica Man” has a grooving mood to the song. Speaking of “Johnny B Goode,” Berry’s track “Lady B. Goode” is a sequel to the classic hit, which discusses the girl who was behind the legendary Johnny.

Overall, there is only 3 bad songs on the CD, including the strange lyrically phrasing of “She Still Loves You’ and the straight talking verses of “Dutchman.”  My views on the bad songs still shows a music creativity aspect to it, so it’s not like they are overall badly written, or have a lack of musicianship to it- I just think they are a little flat compared to the other 7 songs.  The run time of the CD is short-at almost 34 minutes-so whatever songs that did not appeal to me, did not hinder the total flow of the CD. This is a must have CD in my opinion.

  1. “40: Forty Hits From Forty Years 2017”- Foreigner. This Double Disc was a difficult one for me to review. Let me first start off by saying I knew of the Foreigner “hits, “ and “Waiting For A Girl Like You” was one of the very earliest songs I can remember hearing on a 45 record, which was an introduction to Rock Music.  Whenever music fans bash the fact that the original singer or members are not in a band, I argue that this lineup of Foreigner is just plan awesome, and former Dokken bass player Jeff Pilson, and singer Kelly Hanson are amazing to watch. I have seen the band twice, as mentioned earlier, on the Styx tour in Burgettstown , PA in 2010, and I saw them in Chester, West Virginia in 2013 (Mick Jones was not at that show due to sickness), and they rocked both times.  I am also a HUGE fan of their 2009 CD “Can’t Slow Down,” which is one of the best CDs in years (I personally loved the AC hits “When It Comes To Love” and “In Pieces, among other songs from that album).

After admitting my love for the current lineup, the band has only released Greatest Hits, Acoustic, or Live CDs with an occasional new song added to these collections since 2009.  I understand the music business idea that certain bands do not want to go into a studio with the financial costs only to put out CDs that barely get noticed or take a profit loss, but I really wish this band would produce another album, because “Can’t Slow Down” was so good.

“40” is a Double Greatest Hits CD (some stores also add a 3rd live bonus disc) to celebrate the band’s 40 year anniversary. The songs are either remastered, a few are redone, or radio edits, and start chronological from the band’s first album to the newest lineup. This Greatest Hits collection has a remade version of the hit “I Don’t Want To Live Without You, “which falls flat compared to the original due to this version’s percussion sampling that sounds like a Casio keyboard from the 1980s. The song is overproduced with these samplings that distract me from Hanson’s underrated singing.

The CD also has a new recording called “Give My Life For Love,” a ballad that has way too much keyboards for my liking, along with the song “The Flame Still Burns,” which was released on an EP from 2016, and is a mid tempo ballad that ends the second disc. I understand that the order of songs deals with the order of the history of the band, but I would prefer perhaps a new rocker to end the collection, but the song is the best of the newer songs.

The overall opinion of this collection is mixed for me. As much as I would like to see another album in the vein of “Can’t Slow Down,” the few newer songs that are on this collection are suspect and too mellow for me. It seems like they are content to be an Adult Contemporary band as of late. The CD is a good collection for someone new to the band that would like to check out some rarer songs that aren’t on the normal Greatest Hits CDs, or that are not played on the radio, such as songs like “HeadKnocker,” “Luanne,” or “Women.” Also, if the listener missed the “Can’t Slow Down” CD, it is represented by the radio hits I mentioned before from the CD.  I was not familiar with “HeadKnocker,” so that was a surprise to me. I understand the logic of die- hard fans liking the song, but I don’t get the song “Starrider” being added to this collection-I was never a fan of the song, and with it being the second song on the first disc kills the flow after the opening rocker “Feels Like The First Time.” My personal opinion is that I don’t see the reason for remastering songs in the digital age (I understand why bands do it); to me it loses the fullness of the songs and feels compressed that it’s hard to rock out to the songs.

The fans that have all of the Foreigner studio albums will wonder why the band released yet another Greatest Hits CD. Much like Kiss releasing multi GH CDs(a band I love), the fans don’t need another GH CD from Foreigner. Since this collection is released by Atlantic Records and Rhino Records (who is known for just releasing GH CDs, besides last year’s CD by The Monkees), maybe there is a contractual aspect that the band released the CD (or they got a good deal with Rhino to help costs for the 40th Anniversary). I just feel that if a fan of the band has the studio albums through “Can’t Slow Down,” they can just get the occasional single via download for the collection and save the money of buying a double or triple disc.

 

These four CDs are not only different genres, but they have different results. I like some of these, and parts of other, and parts I do not care for. Maybe this review would help your decision in choosing what to put your money towards if you feel like you want to check out some music

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