Category Archives: Music

Buff Review Show- Total Eclipse, Not By Half

Thought a Bonnie Tyler reference seemed apt there… Anyway, here’s Journey!

Journey- “Eclipse” Review 

Journey- 'Eclipse' I was quite honestly born in the wrong decade totruly enjoy Journey.As previously stated, the peak of music in my youth was Blue (Dabba Dee Dabba Di) by Eiffel 65, so it is up to those around me to often educate me in the music I missed from “back in the day”. I’ve gone back and listened to the catalogues of some bands that I like from more modern times (Elbow most recently), but Journey would never have crossed my mind to go back at research of my own accord.

So with an impending concert date in Manchester with Journey (and Foreigner, and Styx;by the way what a gig!) I went back and listened to a selection of the vast library of albums, and got a good few listens of new record, ‘Eclipse’, before venturing up North to the MEN Arena.

Okay, I’ll give as brief as history as possible on the current line-up of the band, because going into the history of some Eastern European countries would take less time than this lot. Journey is an American rock band formed in the early 70s, from former members of Santana. To say the band has gone through a few changes in its lifetime is an understatement. There have been some seventeen different members of the band over the years, some coming and going, coming again, going again and so forth. Many have played through all different instruments and vocal levels for the band.

The strongest commercial period was probably from the late 70s through to 1987, when they temporarily disbanded. They later regrouped with a five-a-side football squad of lead singers over the course of the past decade or so, finally settling upon Arnel Pineda in 2008 after discovering the Philippines-born singer on Youtube singing various rock ballads from the greats, including themselves, Foreigner and Survivor.

The album ‘Revelations’ swiftly followed Arnel’s arrival in 2008, a 2-disc album, 10 new tracks (plus a couple of covers) and a Greatest Hits disc with all tracks re-recorded with Arnel at the helm. ‘Revelations’ was widely known, and advertised, as being typically Journey. With a new line-up and new energy, the group had to establish Arnel and his sound first with Journey’s previous, and long-standing, fans, as well as newcomers to the band. Revelations was well received by most, and brought the band back into the fray.

When it came time for their latest album, ‘Eclipse’, to be released, Journey had already had a publicity boost- with ‘Don’t Stop Believin’’ being used in Glee and, prior to that, The Sopranos, on top of Family Guy and anybody with a working larynx, the band had the stage set before them to really do what they wanted with the new record, and just create a full-on rock album, something Neal Schon has been threatening/promising to do for about five or six albums now (or at least since “Raised for Radio” was released, way back in 1986). This, however, hasn’t always been so with the end product, returning to the previously occupied Former Republic of Balladland.

Finally, though, it seems they have been able to deliver exactly what they’ve been promising for fifteen years now. Mostly.

‘City of Hope’ is the big rock opener the album needed, full of beautiful melodies and a chorus that sticks in your head, and finishes with a huge guitar solo from Schon, which then leads on to ‘Edge of the Moment’. Two songs into a Journey album and not a sign of cheesy 80’s-ness, a pleasant surprise for fans aplenty. In fact many fans have had, in a positive light, that this is the most un-Journey-esque album the group have released. Not to mention the highly surprising ‘Chain of Love’, a personal favourite of mine from both the album and the concert, a smooth blend of Arnel’s tones (more reminiscent of former lead singer Steve Perry than in any other song I’ve heard), some soft piano tinkling before hitting into some massive riffs on the album. This song went down an absolute storm at the concert and is another early favourite alongside the opener.

A few songs further down the line, and more familiar traits of Journey begin to appear on the record. ‘Tantra’ is a ballad of years past, or it sounds like it should be, but was another song that went down incredibly well live last week at the gig. And with epic ballads comes softer, simpler rock songs, along the likes of ‘Someone’, and ‘Resonate’, which treads a fine line between the heavier and softer sides of Journey’s rock coin, with yet another huge performance from Arnel. Some of the notes this guy can hit are ridiculous, something myself and about twenty thousand other people agreed upon at the live concert. Arnel certainly seems to have had an effect on the lyrics, the content is still that age-old theme of love when it comes to the lyrics for most of ‘Eclipse’, but there are different viewpoints and a uniqueness to parts of the album unfamiliar from post-break-up Journey records.

And as we get closer to the album’s slightly underwhelming climax, the guitar riffs get bigger, the pop-rock fluency from Journey’s past becomes more apparent, and, despite the slightly elongated ending to ‘Human Feel’ which goes from uber-strong drumming to catchy choruses with the flick of a pick, it is almost as if the album just decides it is tired and just wants to curl up in a ball for the final gasps. It isn’t weak, it’s just not living up to the rest of the much-promised ‘Eclipse’ that had come before it. Instrumental finale ‘Venus’ continues on from the end of ‘To Whom it may Concern’ and it’s a shame that these two parts weren’t left as one long nine minute number to end the album on, preceded by ‘Someone’, the most typically Journey song of the whole piece.

This is the first Journey album I have listened to all the way through, and then on repeat, on my iPod. I might not go back and listen to the entire catalogue, but Revelations has been coming onto my playlist a few times, and I am tempted to give ‘Frontiers’ a proper listen to at some point, but what was displayed at the gig and what has been produced on this record can only spell good things for Journey’s futre. They’ve got a lot of touring to do, and maybe we’ll see what other artistic influence Arnel can have on his third album with the band.

Buff Review Show: (Barely) LIVE on the Radio Today!

Sleep deprivation aside, I’m rather wonderful, thanks for asking.

Thursday’s mean one thing: Buff Review Show is LIVE today from 2pm till 4pm on Felixstowe Radio 107.5fm and via the web http://felixstoweradio.co.uk. Just follow the link and click the “Listen Live” button on the website.

Today’s live show will be featuring my reviews for:

Lady Gaga- “Born This Way” Review:

http://wp.me/p1zp2p-Z

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides

http://wp.me/p1zp2p-H

As well as my yet-unpublished review of Robin Hobb’s fantasy novel “The Dragon Keeper”, which I shall publish after the show.

And the assorted features of my radio show include my Trailer of the Week; the Mailbag, in which I answer listener and reader’s questions; the Buff Entertainment News, featuring X Factor, Sony and Cannes Film Festival; The Buff Releases for the week, featuring everything coming out in the cinema, on DVD and for your games console or MP3 player, and finally the Last Gasp, my 30-second mini review that caps off the two hours of awesomeness that is Buff Review Show.

Hope you can all tune in, listen out for your opportunity to text in to the show, if not tweet and Facebook me while I am on the air. And if you haven’t noticed, there are some rather helpful little tabs along the top menu to link you right through to my Facebook page and Twitter feed.

See you all at 2pm!

Buff Review Show: Born This Way (So please stop pointing and staring)

Having positively engorged myself with the 100 minutes of Gaga that iTunes deposited into my library this morning, I now feel utterly headachey and shattered.

Well, this isn’t due to the album itself, but the weird weather and my lack of macbook charger for a few hours left me feeling a little odd. So I put my iPod in my alarm clock and played it through again, writing my thoughts and, in the end, most of the review, on a pad of paper, using a biro (like some sort of stinking animal, I hear you all cry).

And here it is, I’m off to 1990s Germany for a bit of Bratwurst in a Berlin Nightclub, or maybe that hotdog I had for lunch is doing funny things to my brain…

Lady Gaga- ‘Born This Way’ Deluxe Edition

Thought I’d sneak in that little ‘Deluxe’ word there, because that really is the only way of describing 23 songs and over an hour and three quarters of Gaga. Heck I’ve seen films recently that are shorter than this album, and the final 6 bonus songs (or remixes, as we like to call them, however there are a couple of songs on this version you don’t get on the standard one) still rank high enough to be included, and are a nice change of pace to the rest of the album, and far better in quality than some of the songs used on the Gaga Remix album out last summer.

Anyway, we’re here now. This is what all the countdown’s and single releases and Google Chrome ads and bizarre performances have all been building to. The Monsters have been putting their paws up for some time now, and short of Deep Vein Thrombosis in a few cases and a couple of dead arms here and there, most of us have gotten here intact and ready to be transported to a sleazy club in East Berlin circa 1994– hang on just a minute (or “Einen Minuten Bittern” if we’re going to go THAT way)!

Before I leap right in a start regurgitating everything Wikipedia has taught me in the past 24 hours about the history of German music from 1990 to 1999, let me start right at the beginning (there’s a Sound of Music reference in there waiting to happen). The choice of opening song for ‘Born This Way’ is utterly crucial is helping listeners understand the direction Lady Gaga has taken for her 2nd (or 3rd, however you want to count to three, I really don’t mind) studio album. A lot of people were surprised that first single, namesake of the album itself and most definitely the catchy, well written pop we’ve known to come from Madon– Lady Gaga, (sorry, had to squeeze that in there, to appease conspiricists who believe that the same series of chords can’t be used more than once in twenty five years, how silly we’ve all been), would have been the opener, and with it having sold 1 million copies in less than a week and since then having sold some preposterously large figure of records (as well as combined figures of the other three singles released prior to the launch of the album itself).

No. There is a real intent with the opening track, ‘Marry the Night’, to set the record straight (pardon the pun), by preceding ‘Born This Way’ on the track listing. It kicks things of with about thirty seconds of suspiciously Bad Romance-esque pacing and some organ synthing, before the dance beat interrupts and commands the presence of the listener.

The album, is, by all rights, a dance album, with familiar pop flecks hidden amongst the German, western Europe techno sounds (so I’m told- not my forte, I must say), although by the time ‘Sheisse’ kicks in (I couldn’t find an Eszett at short notice, accept my double ‘s’ and lump it), the themes and varying flavours of the album begin to blur rapidly.

Taking a few moments to perform a keyword search on Born This Way proved fruitless in filling an entire screen in an almost Scrabble-fashion. Just picking out a few; religion;fantasy;political commentary; gay friendly; unicorns; love; birth; blasphemy; sacrificial imagery and so on and so forth, triple word score, 214 points. I don’t necessarily believe all of these really encapsulate the meaning behind this behemoth of an album. To call this piece of likely musical history a ‘mixing pot’ is skirting dangerously away from the hyperbole at break-neck speed.

But let’s talk the songs, before I drag this out into a thesis. As mentioned, ‘Marry the Night’ and ‘Born This Way’ introduce is to the two-headed beast that is equal(ish) parts dance and pop, working in equilibrium and fused together like the GagaMobile that growls from the front cover of the album. Judas is another fusion piece and introduces the first running theme of the religious references that fill ‘Born This Way’ (see also ‘Bloody Mary’ and ‘Black Jesus’), both of which are great tracks that explore more the Euro-pop side of the beast, ‘Bloody Mary’ being as close as we get to a “proper” piano piece for the most part of the first half of the album, at least in the opening melody.

‘Americano’ has hints of ‘Alejandro’ to it, but I think this is more coincidental as the subject matter of both songs is different, but the formation and beat (banjo-nonwithstanding) had me humming the former ‘Fame Monster’ hit on and off, when I wasn’t imagining I was celebrating Cinqo de Mayo techno-style with ‘Americano’ castanetting (real word, so shush…) in the background. And suddenly we’re leapt upon by ‘Hair’, the closest the opening act of the album gets to a big ‘Just Dance’ number.

The German disco sounds and both 70’s and 80’s throwback sounds in other parts of the album give the impression that this album has been crafted over the course of about thirty years, taking snippets of the essence of each decade and music scene here and there, and yeah there are still a few filler tracks in the middle third of the album, but The Fame wouldn’t be the same without some of the tracks such as ‘Starstruck’ and ‘Money Honey’.

The album ends strongly, ‘Highway Unicorn (Road to Love)’ appearing as another surprise favourite alongside ‘Scheisse’ as the synth winds down (and up, and down), but bringing us neatly on to “You and I” (and yet another track with some infuriating German punctuation to cause me a headache), which is as close as we get to a ‘Speechless’ or ‘Brown Eyes’, and although seems to be a love song written to some distant long-lost-lesbian-or-otherwise-inclined-love, but doesn’t pull the heart-strings and fails to fill the void I’m not sure this album actually has or not, but it is a personal void for not only myself but a selection of the fans.

Edge of Glory caps off the album brilliantly and shows the heart and true soul to the beast that frolics and plays with us as we follow the journey this album takes, and the journey Gaga herself and every Monster out there has taken, to get to where we are now. Each of us fighting but knowing that one person is continuously fighting the same battle, albeit in eight-inch heels and a studded bra, but nonetheless powerful and foreboding as an opponent to such difficulties could be.

I’ve been asked (already, some of you wasted little time) if this is truly Lady Gaga’s ‘raison d’Etre’, and my answer can only be a glitter-covered, spandex concealed no. Of course not. This girl can churn out some 40 songs across 2.5 albums and sell a hundred million records (or as close to) in three years. There is very little in the world who will be able to stop this woman, other than her own undoing. I could have talked for much longer about the hype and marketing behind this album and it’s release, but you know what, all I wanna do is go back and listen to it again. Once I find my German dictionary that is of course. Tun ihrer Pratzen rauf Scheusale. Or something. I dunno.

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