Monday, October 30, 2006

The Who Endless Wire released

Endless Wire

The Who


Released: October 30, 2006


Peak: 7 US, 9 UK, 10 CN, 63 AU


Sales (in millions): 0.08 US, 0.06 UK, 0.65 world (includes US and UK)


Genre: classic rock veteran


Tracks:

Song Title [time] (date of single release, chart peaks) Click for codes to singles charts.

  1. Fragments [3:58]
  2. A Man in a Purple Dress [4:14]
  3. Mike Post Theme [4:28]
  4. In the Ether [3:35]
  5. Black Widow’s Eyes [3:07]
  6. Two Thousand Years [2:50]
  7. God Speaks of Marty Robbins [3:26]
  8. It’s Not Enough [4:02] (10/7/06, 26 AA, 37 AR)
  9. You Stand by Me [1:36]

    Wire & Glass: A Mini-Opera (7/17/06, --) *

  10. Sound Round [1:21]
  11. Pick Up the Peace [1:28]
  12. Unholy Trinity [2:07]
  13. Trilby’s Piano [2:04]
  14. Endless Wire [1:51]
  15. Fragments of Fragments [2:23]
  16. We Got a Hit [1:18]
  17. They Made My Dream Come True [1:13]
  18. Mirror Door [4:14] (6/06, --)
  19. Tea & Theatre [3:24]

* The Wire & Glass EP consisted of “Sound Round,” “Pick Up the Peace,” “Endless Wire,” “We Got a Hit,” “They Made My Dream Come True,” and “Mirror Door.”


Total Running Time: 52:35


The Players:

  • Roger Daltrey (vocals)
  • Pete Townshend (guitar, vocals, bass, drum, keyboards, etc.)
  • Zak Starkey (drums on “Black Widow’s Eyes”)
  • Pino Palladino (bass)
  • John “Rabbit” Bundrick (keyboards, backing vocals)
  • Simon Townshend (backing vocals)

Rating:

3.452 out of 5.00 (average of 24 ratings)


Quotable: Endless Wire is not perfect…but it is an endearingly human, impassioned work that more than justifies Townshend's and Daltrey's decision to continue working as the Who” – Stephen Thomas Erlewine, All Music Guide


Awards: (Click on award to learn more).

About the Album:

“Neither time, nor the deaths of founding members, nor claims that they'll never play together again seem to stop the legendary Who.” CD They “retired following their 1982 farewell tour but…seven years later, … [surviving band members] Pete Townshend, Roger Daltrey and John Entwistle…embarked on a reunion tour.” AMG More reunion tours followed over the next couple decades, but the band largely avoided the studio, failing to release any new albums for the rest of the ‘80s and the whole of the ‘90s.

In 2002, yet another Who reunion tour was nearly derailed when Entwistle died the night before the tour began. The next year, Townshend faced child pornography charges which were later dropped. Townshend and Daltrey seemed to find a new bond through the hardships and “began seriously talking about recording a new Who studio album.” AMG “More than two decades removed from the Who's last studio offering, [the resulting 2006 album Endless Wire] evinces both a growth and a sense of tradition.” BN

“Townshend needed to have Daltrey interpret his songs, which do confront many tough emotions and questions regarding faith, mortality and persecution, albeit often in oblique ways. For a writer as obsessed with concepts and fictionalized autobiography as Townshend, [the approach] often turns out to be more revealing than blunt confessionals.” AMG

Daltrey’s singing “leans heavily on his blunt force, but also reveals a new subtlety that serves him very well.” AMG “Instead of powering through the songs as he could tend to do in the past, Daltrey is truly interpreting Townshend's songs here, giving them nuanced, textured readings that cut close to the emotional quick of the tunes.” AMG “Daltrey's voice is deeper and darker now, even in total roar – you can hear the extent to which he has punished it in long service to Townshend's songs.” RS Still, even if his voice “may have lost some of its range and power over the years…Daltrey has developed into a better singer, and he helps ground Endless Wire.” AMG

“Like much of the best of the Who's work, the best of Endless Wire …connect[s] at a gut level, even if it's in a considerably different way than it was in the past: instead of being visceral and immediate, this…music carries a slow burn.” AMG

“This is partially because they are no longer driven by Moon and Entwistle, but quite frankly, this most manic of rhythm sections never really anchored the Who; Townshend always did with his furious windmills and propulsive rhythms, and there was never any question that this, along with his songs, formed the complex, contradictory heart of the Who, while Daltrey gave the songs both muscle and a commonality, undercutting Townshend's pretensions — or giving him a voice behind which to hide, a voice to act out his best and worst impulses.” AMG

Instead, the band is rounded out by “top-notch professional support from drummer Zak Starkey and bassist Pino Palladino” AMG along with keyboadist John Bundrick. They “coalesce to create a remarkably consistent whole” CD who “lend enough muscle to the musical attack…to recall the Who's glory days,” CD although “with their boundless energy replaced by a bittersweet melancholy undercurrent. It's a sound that fits Townshend's new songs, alternately sweetly sad, bitterly reflective and, despite it all, cautiously optimistic.” AMG

“Fragments”
“Opening with a synth riff [on Fragments] that strongly recalls, if not directly quotes, the famed loop underpinning ‘Baba O'Reilly,’ Endless Wire often hearkens back to previous Who albums in its themes, structure, and sound.” AMG In this “quest for spiritual enlightment,” BN “Daltrey asks ‘Are we breathing out or breathing in?’ and Townshend answers with a thrashing, crashing Gibson. When the volume is turned up, there are echoes of three decades ago.” AZ

“Mike Post Theme”
“The pummeling triplets of ‘The Punk Meets the Godfather’ resurface in” AMG “the powerful yet understated” AMGMike Post Theme.” AMG “With its quiet verse and thunderous chorus, [it] recalls ‘Goin’ Mobile’ and longs for Moon to whack it into shape.” AZ

“It’s Not Enough”
That song and It's Not Enough “conjure images of Entwistle and Keith Moon.” AZ The latter is a “surging rocker” AMG whose “guitars are thick and crackling…while the harmonies behind Daltrey's controlled bellow are tight and gleaming, as if he's suddenly landed in the middle of Townshend's best solo album, Empty Glass.” RS The song’s “lyrics are [also] riddled with the self-doubt” AMG of that album.

“A Man in a Purple Dress”
This is “a searing, bitter, anti-religion folk tune” AMG in which Townshend is “questioning faith” AZ with a “stark ’63-Dylan bite.” RS “Townshend says he wrote [the song] after seeing Mel Gibson's film The Passion of the Christ,” RS but it also serves as commentary on “the public rush to judgment after Townshend's 2003 arrest for viewing child pornography online. (The charge was dropped.) ‘You are all the same, gilded and absurd,’ Daltrey sings with the same growling rage with which he defended his bandmate at the time.” RS

“Black Widow’s Eyes”
This “is literally about a love that kills, inspired by the fatal terrorist siege of a Russian school in 2005. ‘I fell right in love with you/As the blood came blowing through,’ Daltrey confesses, in Townshend's words, as the guitarist hits snarling power chords against Zak Starkey's neo-Moon-ish drumrolls and shrapnel-like cymbal spray.” RS In this song and ‘Mike Post Theme,’ “Townshend's treble stabs over a focused bed of strum… [are] like the home demos on Townshend's Scoop collections but with a live-band punch.” RS

“God Speaks of Marty Robbins”
“The closest thing to a good laugh on the album is God Speaks of Marty Robbins, in which Townshend, alone on vocals and guitar, dares to play Him on the eve of creation, looking forward to finishing the job so He can listen to his favorite country singer.” RS

“In the Ether”
The “bizarre In the EtherAMG features both “Broadway inflections [and] ….a rare Townshend lead vocal turn” BN in which “Townshend affects Tom Waits’ patented growl.” AMG Even though the song “goes off the tracks…it feels as if it was written from the heart.” AMG

“Wire & Glass”
The Who by Numbers-styled first half,” AMG marked by that album’s “stark acoustic introspection” AMG “feels curiously disjointed” AMG from the album’s second half. This “ten-song suite,” AMG called Wire & Glass, “is Townshend's score of sorts to his unpublished novella The Boy Who Heard Music.” RS The story “follows the meandering path of a rock band…that, to some degree, parallels that of the Who.” BN The band is “led by a character known as Ray High,” BN the protganist onTownshend's 1993 solo album Psychoderelict. He “functions as a semi-autobiographical distancing device for Townshend, particularly…where the narrative ebbs and flows and sometimes disappears completely.” AMG

The mini-opera “also returns to themes that have consumed Townshend as a composer.” RS The theme of “technology as a revolutionary force” RS was central to “Lifehouse Chronicles, [Townshend’s] often-muddled yet often-intriguing futuristic rock opera that seemed to suggest portions of a technologically saturated internet age.” AMG There’s also the idea of “music as an instrument of spiritual transformation,” RS a central message in The Who’s most celebrated Tommy and Quadrophenia rock operas.

“Townshend doesn't pull any punches in painting the protagonist, who starts off in the soaring” BN and “rampaging Sound Round,” AMG "as a tortured visionary whose troubles and/or visions land him, in the darker, more introspective Pick Up the Peace, in an institution.” BN

“The album's title track is about an Internet-like invention vital to the rock & roll revolt of the opera's teenage troublemakers. But the country-rock warmth is that of Rough Mix, Townshend's wonderful 1977 album with ex-Small Face Ronnie Lane.” RS

The “song cycle” BN “manages to touch on every one of the band's strengths.” AMG It “encompasses both triumph -- best revealed on the one-two punch of the eminently infectious We Got a Hit and They Made My Dream Come True…and the sort of tragedy evinced in Mirror Door.” BN The latter song’s “‘See Me, Feel Me’-like climax…sums up Townshend's lifetime pursuit of the nirvana in rock, particularly that of the Who, better than any concept album. ‘You will find me in this song,’ Daltrey sings for him – Townshend's simple admission that there is nothing better in life than to be music.” RS

The album “ends with teatime instead of a bang” RS on the “haunting” AMG and “reflective finale, Tea & Theatre.” RS The approach cements the fact that “the mini-opera…is an uneven success, a lot like Tommy. For all of the latter's historic worth, the original double LP was basically one album of pivotal, great Townshend songs and one of the connective pieces that advanced the story. "Wire & Glass" has the same fragmentary quality.” RS

Speaking of fragments, the song ‘We Got a Hit’ “is too paltry at 1:18…A song about a hit single should at least be hit-single length.” RS

‘Wire and Glass’ “stands as the greatest Who music since Who Are You, so it's a bit hard not to wish that the entire album had its thematic cohesion, muscular melody, and sense of purpose,” AMG but “even the best Who albums had a tendency to not quite follow through on their concepts — the mock pirate-radio broadcast of The Who Sell Out is abandoned on the second side, Who's Next was pulled together from the flailing Lifehouse.” AMG These were both “nevertheless triumphs given the sheer power of the band, or Townshend's writing.” AMG

Like those records, “Endless Wire is not a slave to its concept; the songs fuel the album instead of the other way around.” AMG If sticking to the theme throughout “meant losing the quite wonderful highlights of the first half, it may not have been worth it because they're not only strong songs, they give this record its ragged heart.” AMG

Endless Wire “does not rank with the band’s best work” AZ but “the novelty of new recordings from Daltrey and Townshend is probably enough…to coax classic rock diehards into peeking behind the Wire.” BN “Its parts don't quite fit together, and not all of the parts work on their own,” AMG but the “intrigue that lurks within is sure to keep folks ensnared for the long run.” BN The album “is an endearingly human, impassioned work that more than justifies Townshend's and Daltrey's decision to continue working as the Who. Hopefully, it will lead to another record or two but if it doesn't, Endless Wire is certainly a better final Who album than It's Hard, which is quite an accomplishment after a quarter-century hiatus.” AMG


Notes: A special edition of the CD adds extended versions of “We Got a Hit” and the title cut as well as a seven-track bonus CD of The Who Live at Lyon. As if that’s still not enough, a five-track DVD from that same performance is also included.

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First posted 3/23/2008; last updated 8/12/2021.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Thunder Bay Press: Top 100 Songs

Thunder Day Press:

Top 100 Songs

This book from Thunder Bay Press features multiple authors offering commentary on more than 800 songs from 1954 to 2006. The songs are presented chronologically, but the top 100 have been ranked here based on their overall status in Dave’s Music Database.

Click here to see other lists from publications and/or organizations.

1. Bing Crosby “White Christmas” (1942)
2. The Beatles “Hey Jude” (1968)
3. The Rolling Stones “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” (1965)
4. Bill Haley & His Comets “We’re Gonna Rock Around the Clock” (1954)
5. Whitney Houston “I Will Always Love You” (1992)
6. The Police “Every Breath You Take” (1983)
7. Michael Jackson “Billie Jean” (1982)
8. Queen “Bohemian Rhapsody” (1975)
9. Nirvana “Smells Like Teen Spirit” (1991)
10. John Lennon “Imagine” (1971)

11. Aretha Franklin “Respect” (1967)
12. The Beatles “I Want to Hold Your Hand” (1963)
13. Simon & Garfunkel “Bridge Over Troubled Water” (1970)
14. Marvin Gaye “I Heard It Through the Grapevine” (1968)
15. The Beach Boys “Good Vibrations” (1966)
16. Eagles “Hotel California” (1977)
17. Bryan Adams “(Everything I Do) I Do It for You” (1991)
18. Bob Dylan “Like a Rolling Stone” (1965)
19. Bee Gees “Stayin’ Alive” (1977)
20. Otis Redding “(Sittin’ on) The Dock of the Bay” (1968)

21. Elton John “Candle in the Wind 1997 (Goodbye England’s Rose)” (1997)
22. Bobby Darin “Mack the Knife” (1959)
23. The Beatles “Yesterday” (1965)
24. Elvis Presley “Heartbreak Hotel” (1956)
25. Sinéad O’Connor “Nothing Compares 2 U” (1990)
26. Celine Dion “My Heart Will Go On” (1997)
27. Don McLean “American Pie” (1971)
28. Elvis Presley “Hound Dog” (1956)
29. Ben E. King “Stand by Me” (1961)
30. OutKast “Hey Ya!” (2003)

31. The Animals “The House of the Rising Sun” (1964)
32. Derek and the Dominos “Layla” (1970)
33. The Righteous Brothers “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’” (1964)
34. Guns N' Roses “Sweet Child O’ Mine” (1988)
35. Roy Orbison “(Oh) Pretty Woman” (1964)
36. Elvis Presley “Jailhouse Rock” (1957)
37. Abba “Dancing Queen” (1976)
38. Joan Jett & the Blackhearts “I Love Rock and Roll” (1981)
39. Chubby Checker “The Twist” (1960)
40. Chuck Berry “Johnny B. Goode” (1958)

41. Bruce Springsteen “Born to Run” (1975)
42. Stevie Wonder “Superstition” (1972)
43. R.E.M. “Losing My Religion” (1991)
44. Procol Harum “A Whiter Shade of Pale” (1967)
45. Gloria Gaynor “I Will Survive” (1978)
46. The Doors “Light My Fire” (1967)
47. Marvin Gaye “What’s Going On” (1971)
48. The Kingsmen “Louie Louie” (1963)
49. Elton John “Your Song” (1970)
50. Pink Floyd “Another Brick in the Wall Part II” (1979)

51. U.S.A. for Africa “We Are the World” (1985)
52. Rod Stewart “Maggie May” (1971)
53. Usher with Lil’ Jon & Ludacris “Yeah!” (2004)
54. Van Morrison “Brown-Eyed Girl” (1967)
55. Lionel Richie & Diana Ross “Endless Love” (1981)
56. Gnarls Barkley “Crazy” (2006)
57. Ray Charles “What’d I Say” (1959)
58. The Ronettes “Be My Baby” (1963)
59. Los Del Rio “Macarena (Bayside Boys Mix)” (1995)
60. Elvis Presley “Suspicious Minds” (1969)

61. The Monkees “I’m a Believer” (1966)
62. The Who “My Generation” (1966)
63. All I have to do is dream 64. The Kinks “You Really Got Me” (1964)
65. The Jimi Hendrix Experience “All Along the Watchtower
66. Beyoncé with Jay-Z “Crazy in Love” (2003)
67. The Beatles “She Loves You” (1963)
68. U2 “With or Without You” (1987)
69. Percy Sledge “When a Man Loves a Woman” (1966)
70. Santana & Rob Thomas “Smooth” (1999)

71. The Human League “Don’t You Want Me?” (1981)
72. Mariah Carey “We Belong Together” (2005)
73. Martha & the Vandellas “Dancing in the Street” (1964)
74. Britney Spears “Baby One More Time” (1998)
75. Louis Armstrong “What a Wonderful World” (1967)
76. Chic “Le Freak” (1978)
77. Buddy Holly and The Crickets “That’ll Be the Day” (1957)
78. Simon and Garfunkel “The Sounds of Silence” (1965)
79. Eye of the tiger 80. Al Green “Let’s Stay Together” (1971)

81. George Harrison “My Sweet Lord” (1970)
82. Madonna “Like a Prayer” (1989)
83. U2 “One” (1992)
84. The Rolling Stones “Honky Tonk Women” (1969)
85. Coolio with L.V. “Gangsta’s Paradise” (1995)
86. Four Tops “Reach Out (I’ll Be There)” (1966)
87. Blondie “Heart of Glass” (1978)
88. Gnarls Barkley “Crazy” (2006)
89. Oasis “Wonderwall” (1995)
90. The Beatles “Strawberry Fields Forever” (1967)

91. Joy Division “Love Will Tear Us Apart” (1980)
92. Kanye West with Jamie Foxx “Gold Digger” (2005)
93. Del Shannon “Runaway” (1961)
94. Simon & Garfunkel “Mrs. Robinson” (1968)
95. The Flamingos “I Only Have Eyes for You” (1959)
96. Spice Girls “Wannabe” (1996)
97. Steppenwolf “Born to Be Wild” (1968)
98. Carl Perkins “Blue Suede Shoes” (1956)
99. 50 Cent “In Da Club” (2002)
100. Mariah Carey with Boyz II Men “One Sweet Day” (1995)


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First posted 4/11/2021.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Sting collaborated on Songs from the Labyrinth with Edin Karamazov

Songs from the Labyrinth

Sting and Edin Karamazov


Released: October 10, 2006


Peak: 25 US, 24 UK


Sales (in millions): 1.03 world (includes US and UK)


Genre: classical


Tracks:

Song Title (Writers) [time] Click for codes to singles charts.

  1. “Walsingham” (instrumental) [0:38]
  2. “Can She Excuse My Wrongs" (lyrics attributed to Robert Devereux, 2nd Earl of Essex) {2:35]
  3. “Ryght Honorable...” [0:40] *
  4. “Flow My Tears (Lachrimae)” [4:42]
  5. “Have You Seen the Bright Lily Grow” (lyrics: Ben Jonson, music: Robert Johnson) [2:35]
  6. “...Then in Time Passing On...” [0:32] *
  7. “The Battle Galliard” [3:01]
  8. “The Lowest Trees Have Tops” (lyrics by Sir Edward Dyer) {2:16]
  9. “... And Accordinge as I Desired Ther Cam a Letter...” [0:55] *
  10. “Fine Knacks for Ladies” [1:50]
  11. “...From Thence I Went to Landgrave of Hessen...” [0:24] *
  12. “Fantasy” [2:42]
  13. “Come, Heavy Sleep” [3:46]
  14. “Forlorn Hope Fancy” [3:08]
  15. “...And from Thence I Had Great Desire to See Italy...” [0:28] *
  16. “Come Again” [2:56]
  17. “Wilt Thou Unkind Thus Reave Me” [2:40]
  18. “...After My Departures I Caled to Mynde...” [0:30] *
  19. “Weep You No More, Sad Fountains” [2:38]
  20. “My Lord Willoughby’s Welcome Home” [1:34]
  21. “Clear or Cloudy” [2:47]
  22. “...Men Say That the Kinge of Spain...” [1:01] *
  23. “In Darkness Let Me Dwell” [4:12]

Music by 16th century British composer John Dowland unless noted otherwise. Lyrics to most of the songs are anonymous. Tracks marked with an asterisk (*) are readings from a letter by Dowland to Robert Cecil, 1st Earl of Salisbury.


Total Running Time: 48:27

Rating:

3.377 out of 5.00 (average of 19 ratings)

About the Album:

“More than two decades into his solo career,” BN and with “over 20 million CDs in the US,” AD “Sting's musical explorations have already taken him farther afield than” BN “fans of the Police's bouncy, ska-inflected new wave” CD “could have predicted. Even so, his latest venture comes as a surprise, and ultimately quite a pleasant one.” BN “Sting reaches back across the centuries to interpret songs by John Dowland (1563-1626), one of the greatest composers of Elizabethan England,” BN who was known as “the ‘melancholy madrigalist.’” AZ “The exercise may not be to everyone’s taste, it is further testament to the stylistic range and ambition of this 20th-century pop icon.” CD

“Originally inspired by the gift of a lute,” AZ Sting’s interpretations of Dowland’s work do “not mix pop or genre elements with Dowland's compositions,” CD but are “faithful to the originals in spirit and sound, and historically accurate in execution and instrumentation. Sting sings, plays guitar” CD and is “joined only by the exquisite lute playing of Edin Karamazov” BN “on a set of Dowland's haunting, minor-key madrigals with their equally haunting lyrics.” CD Karamazov “also solos on some of Dowland's meditative lute pieces” BN and there are also “a few short recitations from an autobiographical letter Dowland wrote in 1595.” AD

“Casual pronouncements are made every so often that the lute songs (the lute is a plucked stringed instrument, an early cousin to the guitar) and madrigals of Elizabethan and Jacobean England were the popular music of their day. And Sting, who alludes to the likes of Vladimir Nabokov in his lyrics, is hardly uneducated in the legacy of fine arts, and he has a certain cerebral, inward sadness that matches the dominant mood of English music around 1600 well enough. Thus some might easily have thought it would be a short leap from Sting's own music to the lute songs of John Dowland.” AMG

“But the leap is anything but short, and Sting gets credit for having thought out fully the problems in making it.” AMG For one, “listeners [may be more] accustomed to hearing material of this period interpreted by rigorously trained early music stylists… [instead of] Sting's sometimes tight-jawed, chest-heavy vocals,” AZ or his ‘unschool tenor,’” AMG as “pianist Katia Labèque, one of the classical musicians who introduced Sting to Dowland's music” AMG called it. “In four-part harmonies, the singer, tightly overdubbed, comes across like a combination of the Swingle Singers and Queen (meaning Freddy Mercury and crew, NOT the first Elizabeth).” AZ

Another hurdle “is the great divide between rock (and other traditions ultimately rooted in Africa) and the European tradition: speaking in generalities, the former prizes "noise" — sound extraneous to the pitch and to the intended timbre of an instrument or voice — as a structural element, whereas in the latter it is strenuously eliminated. Sting's voice has plenty of ‘noise.’ The listener oriented toward classical music will object to its being there; the rock listener, noting that Sting is singing very quietly, may wonder why there isn't more of it.” AMG

“Why, then, does this album work well on the whole?” AMG First, consider that although his voice “may seem amateurish,” AZ Sting is “displaying heartfelt admiration for the composer and a considerable degree of earnest charm.” AZ “It is a courageous effort.” AZ

Also, “Dowland's songs are not really difficult.” AMG “Music of this period was routinely heard as a casual diversion in private homes, even more often than at Court. It was considered a crucial social skill to be able to join in with an adequate degree of skill, but not everyone was able to negotiate the perilous melodic twists and turns typical of the era's music.” AZ “With this in mind, the overall effect is of a candle-lit, postprandial entertainment in the home of an English gentleman.” AZ

It’s also important to note that “Sting took 20 years to think about how to interpret the refined melancholy of Dowland songs like Come, Heavy Sleep. His booklet notes tell the long story of how he happened to make this album, and it's quite an interesting one, involving a ‘labyrinth’ of encounters with Labèque, with the Bosnian lutenist Edin Karamazov, who performs on this album, with a friend who gave Sting a lute inlaid with a labyrinth design based on a pattern in the floor of Chartres Cathedral in France (Sting later reproduced the maze in his garden at home), and finally with a Swiss voice teacher who schooled him in pitch precision and the occasional octave run. Sting constructs two crossover points between this temporally remote music and his popular audience. First, he intersperses the songs with selections from Dowland's letters. This has surely been done before, at Elizabethan dinners and the like, and for modern listeners it has the beneficial effect of situating Dowland's music at the center of the social and political life of its time. Sting's second crossover point is more radical: he replaces the melody line in a few of Dowland's verses with multitracked harmonies, apparently consisting entirely of his own voice. These sections appear rather randomly, but they do break up the texture in a way that suggests an additional dimension of modern perspective.” AMG

“Sting passes a key test for vocal music of any kind: he understands and means what he is singing.” AMG “The deep emotions and dark beauty of songs like Flow, My Tears or Come, Heavy Sleep communicate themselves very clearly to a contemporary audience, and there's no cause to wonder at Sting's attraction to them.” BN

Sting also “brings something of his own sense of humor to the lighter ones; a certain smirk in his reading of Come Again suggests that he is aware an audience of Dowland's time would have heard the line ‘To see, to hear, to touch, to kiss, to die with thee again’ as a sexual allusion.” AMG

“He sounds like himself, even while purging rock's blues-based treatment of pitch from his singing; he also takes a few turns on the large archlute. And Karamazov proves an ideal collaborator, creating a sharp, edgy tone that stands up to Sting's rough voice.” AMG

“The only moments that feel really indebted to pop are Sting’s multi-tracked vocal harmonies on Fine Knacks for Ladies and a few other songs that momentarily bring the Beach Boys to mind.” BN

“Sting doesn't pretend to be a classical singer, but the eloquent melodies are intact, despite a gravelly grain and an occasional strain in his voice – something that actually turns out to be ideally expressive when he sings a line like ‘Oh let me living die, till death do come,’ in the devastating closing song, In Darkness Let Me Dwell.” BN

“As the album progresses, you appreciate more and more how much Sting's pop talents and his very personal approach allow him to penetrate and animate the inner emotions and meanings of Dowland's timeless music.” BN “In making Dowland's songs his own, Sting has accomplished something that really has never been done before, and perhaps he’ll show some of his own fans that Renaissance music is more than an accompaniment for silly jousting competitions – it is a labyrinth that leads us toward the roots of our own culture.” AMG


Notes: The Dowland Anniversary Edition added live performances at St. Luke Old Street of “Flow my Tears,” “The Lowest Trees Have Tops,” “Fantasy,” “Come Again,” Have You Seen the Bright Lily Grow,” and “In Darkness Let Me Dwell.” The 2013 re-release also added live versions of Robert Johnson’s “Hellhound on My Trail” and Sting’s “Fields of Gold” and “Message in a Bottle.”

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First posted 3/29/2008; last updated 11/17/2021.

Friday, October 6, 2006

Amy Winehouse’s Back to Black released

Back to Black

Amy Winehouse


Released: October 6, 2006


Peak: 2 US, 16 UK, 4 CN, 4 AU


Sales (in millions): 2.3 US, 3.26 UK, 16.0 world (includes US and UK)


Genre: British blue-eyed soul


Tracks:

Song Title (date of single release, chart peaks) Click for codes to singles charts.

  1. Rehab (10/28/06, 9 US, 32 MR, 7 UK, 27, AU, sales: 1.7 million)
  2. You Know I’m No Good (1/13/07, 77 US, 87 RB, 18 UK, 89 AU, sales: 0.7 million)
  3. Me & Mr. Jones
  4. Just Friends
  5. Back to Black (5/5/07, 8 UK, 56 AU, platinum single)
  6. Love Is a Losing Game (12/8/07, 33 UK)
  7. Tears Dry on Their Own (8/11/07, 16 UK)
  8. Wake Up Alone
  9. Some Unholy War
  10. He Can Only Hold Her
  11. Addicted


Total Running Time: 34:56

Rating:

4.001 out of 5.00 (average of 29 ratings)


Quotable: “One of the finest soul albums, British or otherwise, to come out for years.” – Ted Kord, Amazon.com


Awards: (Click on award to learn more).

About the Album:

“The story of Back to Black is one in which celebrity and the potential of commercial success threaten to ruin Amy Winehouse.” AMG “It’s hard to recall, before the tabloid barking drowned out all else, how fresh this sounded – how funny, hip, instantly classic.” RS’11 “For one short moment, she pushed back the demons to make something this full of life.” GQ This “is one of the finest soul albums, British or otherwise, to come out for years.” AZ

Newsweek magazine hailed the “tatted 23-year-old with a beehive crown” RS’11 “as a cross between Billie Holiday and Lauryn Hill.” AZ The New York Daily News said the album “would do Etta James proud” AZ and New Yorker called her “a fierce English performer whose voice combines the smoky depths of a jazz chanteuse with the heated passion of a soul singer.” AZ Finally, Spin magazine said, “there’s never been a British star quite like her.” AZ

Frank, her first album, was a sparse and stripped-down affair; Back to Black, meanwhile, is neither of these things.” AZ “As before, Winehouse writes all of the songs from her experiences, most of which involve the occasionally riotous and often bittersweet vagaries of love.” AMG She is “incandescently alive – funny, pissed off, in love – on her finest album.” GU “Also in similar fashion to Frank, her eye for details and her way of relating them are delightful.” AMG

However, this album “smolders with a bristling fusion of old school doo-wop/soul inflected uprisings,” AZ finding “her deserting jazz and wholly embracing contemporary R&B, all the best parts of her musical character emerge intact, and actually, are all the better for the transformation from jazz vocalist to soul siren.” AZ

This is “a beautiful album that highlighted her unique singing voice, which was at once euphoric and sorrowful,” PM and “the casual honesty she brought to inventorying her own flaws” GQ “The depth and pain in her voice…sounded like something she’d left outside overnight one too many times and then wrung out in the morning.” GQ

“With producer Salaam Remi returning from Frank, plus the welcome addition of Mark Ronson (fresh off successes producing for Christina Aguilera and Robbie Williams), Back to Black has a similar sound to Frank but much more flair and spark to it.” AMG “She’s taken her inspiration from some of the classic 1960’s girl groups like the Supremes and the Shangri-Las, a sound particularly suited to her textured vocal delivery, while adding a contemporary songwriting sensibility” AZ and offering up “her brassy mix of emotive vocals tinged with…sly funk, and anguished jazz.” AZ

“Ronson and Remi are two of the most facile and organic R&B producers active.” AMG “Ronson, with help from a band of devoted soul revivalists,” RS’11 “cherrypicked from the previous century of popular music (doo-wop, soul, hip-hop).” GU He “conjured golden-era sounds with a sample-sculpting hip-hop edge.” RS’11

Tears Dry on Their Own is a sparkling homage to the Motown chestnut ‘Ain't No Mountain High Enough,’ and Ronson summons a host of Brill Building touchstones on his tracks.” AMG The title cut “is a heartbreaking musical tribute to Phil Spector, with it’s echoey bass drum, rhythmic piano, chimes, saxophone and close harmonies.” AZ

“The knockout first single” AMG and instant classic, Rehab, is “a gospel-tinged stomp” AZ which “captures a joyous Motown sound, but the sting of depression always lingers in the background. PM It won the Grammy for song and record of the year. In light of her substance abuse problems since, one may cringe at lines like “they tried to make me go to rehab/ I won’t go, go, go,” but it provides an authenticity and iconic nature most artists will never accomplish with a song.

“Winehouse confronts longing and loneliness head-on in slower, more soulful tracks like Love Is a Losing Game and Wake Up Alone, and they’re the most moving recordings of her career. After listening to this intensely personal record, there’s a sense that we’ve crawled inside the soul of a flawed, troubled woman who wanted nothing more than to be loved and deeply understood by those around her. Each track is a testament to Winehouse's vulnerability as a human, honesty as an artist, and brilliance as a musician.” PM

Back to Black is “unabashedly grown-up in both style and content. Winehouse’s lyrics deal with relationships from a grown-up perspective, and are honest, direct and, often, complicated: on You Know I’m No Good, she’s unapologetic about her unfaithfulness. But she can also be witty, as on Me & Mrs Jones when she berates a boyfriend with ‘You made me miss the Slick Rick gig’. Back to Black is a refreshingly mature soul album, the best of its kind for years.” AZ

Influence:

“Her triumph triggered a resurgence of R&B traditionalism” RS’11 “paving the way for new artists Adele and Duffy as well as inspiring such established acts as Tom Jones and Raphael Saadiq.” EB “But it also kicked open the mainstream door for pop oddballs from Lily Allen to Lady Gaga.” RS’11 “No other artist, however, would release anything as convincingly sassy and dramatically beautiful as Back to Black.” EB


Notes: On the U.S. edition, “Addicted” was replaced with a remix of “You Know I’m No Good.” A 2007 deluxe edition adds a bonus disc to the original UK album. Cuts include “Valerie,” which was a hit with Mark Ronson, as well as covers of Sam Cooke’s “Cupid” and the Phil Spector-penned tune “To Know Him Is to Love Him.” Also here are “Monkey Man,” “Hey Little Rich Girl,” “You’re Wondering Now,” and alternate versions of “Some Unholy War” and “Love Is a Losing Game.” There have been many other variations of the album, but these are the most notable.

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First posted 3/29/2008; last updated 8/9/2021.