Monthly Archives: December 2009

Meshell Ndegeocello – BITTER – 1999

Meshell Ndegeocello. Eyebrow raising name isn’t it? Well, here’s something else you ought to know; she has had ten Grammy nominations. TEN!! Clearly, this seems like something we should all be listening to. And after my first listen, I declare: It certainly is. It’s smooth and soulful R n’ B for those who prefer to weep quietly than scream their angst to the world, for those who think that emotions are to be dealt with dignity and those who think that music can be enjoyed equally whether its fast or slow.

Anyway, the first track “Adam” is basically a horn and string section with some drums which, rather appropriately, sounds bitter. It’s also highly reminiscent of the Requiem for a Dream soundtrack. Moving on, Meshell’s voice is mainly very breathy, perhaps only in this album to fit its generally dark and introspective tone. It has tons of soul, but it’s not particularly unique. It’s somewhere near the top of the category of voices exemplified by Tracy Chapman: earthy, breathy, quiet and honest. Her singing also makes the lyrics easily discernible, as opposed to the usual melismatic hell that is exemplified by Britney Spears and her ilk.Speaking of the lyrics, as you must have guessed by now from most of the song titles, this album is about love and all the pain it causes. That said, there is a refreshing sincerity (no pun intended), in this limb of the so called ‘woe-is-me factory’.Looks pretty bitter, eh?

The grooves all through the album are great, with no unnecessarily jumpy hooks and with some gentle chord changes. This woman has amazing sense of harmony. The chords are consistently interesting and beautiful and surprising in their soft, enveloping magnificence. Also, large parts of many songs are full of moody instrumentals seemingly lulling you into peaceful sleep on a bed of bass and tickling percussion. They are all wonderful, but I wish that the songs with serious bass grooves had the bass a little louder, like “Satisfy”, “Fool of Me” and “Grace”. The plague that makes your booty move is somewhat lacking, as a result. That’s quite disappointing, knowing the fact that Meshell is a kick-ass bass player capable of an ocean deep pocket, as you will see in the video.

Faults? The whole tone of the album could have been much less somber at times. It’s good music, but it started to get to me b y the 10th track. Will I be coming back to this album? Not as an album I won’t, but I will regularly listen to the fantastic tracks stuffed with great grooves on the first half of the album.

- El Bajista


More R n’ B/ SOUL (only one album at the time of writing this review) HERE.

Niandra LaDes and Usually Just a T-Shirt – JOHN FRUSCIANTE – 1994

I hope I didn’t miss out on too much. You see, my regular headphones decided to pack up and leave town with my good music, so I’m stuck reviewing this album with the IPod’s earphones, officially the WORST listening tool ever inflicted upon mankind. And it doesn’t help that John Frusciante chose a dying cat as his vocal inspiration.

The first part is twisted, but cool

I’ll start with the first part, Niandra LaDes. This is one very stripped down album, just great acoustic guitar occasionally overdubbed. with some electric guitar leads It’s deliberately imperfect in its recording, but gorgeous in all its trebly glory. And yes, the lack of bass is disturbing, as it sometimes sounds a lot like the sounds are coming out of a radio. Even so, the tracks can be heard individually, if not collectively. Gossamer guitar work abound. The very eastern sounding arrangement of “Big Takeover” is probably the best song here, vocals notwithstanding. There is no bassline, but there is an interesting marimba like percussive guitar part that Frusciante picks out under the flighty and aggressive strumming.

Coming to production, there is not much of it here. Just a few guitars on top of each other, and the occasional piano ballad. Mostly unsupported even. Also, the recording is mostly noisy, in the sense that there is a lot of ambient room noise and hum, which is irritating. Yes, you could say that an album with such name can only be twisted in such a way. The twistedness yeilds results at times. “Running away into you” is some seriously trippy shit, with Frusciante putting strange speeding up effects on his voice, which can only make me smile at its stoned-out brilliance. It’s a must listen. Must. Listen.

Well, now I come to the crux of this album. This is definitely not for everyone. No sirree. Even stuff like A Sphere in the Heart of Silence isn’t as ‘out there’ as this. It’s a whirlwind of abrupt rhythm changes, surprising effects and mostly extremely stripped down arrangements. Though sometimes the singing is unbearable (with poetic lyrics like “Your pussy is glued to a building on fire” not helping), the flawed but beautiful guitar work covers it up (sometimes quite literally). Listen to this for avant-garde listening pleasure. In a way that would make sense in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, this sounds right.

-El Bajista

Yes, more JOHN FRUSICANTE? Right THIS way.


Bark at the Moon-OZZY OSBOURNE-1983

A big drop in quality. Might have been considered quite good back in the 80’s but this post-Randy stuff hasn’t aged all that well. The difference is that the first two albums contain songs for the ages while Bark at the Moon is well and good but run of the mill 80’s metal. So not all that essential.

However, its not very bad. It has Bark at the Moon, the only song that can make it to the all time Ozzy songlist from here, with Ozzy delivering one of his best vocal deliveries. Jake E. Lee is competent and that’s all he is. The solo in the title track is a painful reminder of how good Randy was. Not that it is bad, in fact Jake does the job well, but its your usual up down up down lead guitar solo that are found on so many of the hair metal songs of the 80’s. Lacks the classical touch that Randy had. The title track stands out for the memorable riff and “OOOOOO” that Ozzy adds on top. 

Other than that, there are the two ballads “You’re No Different To Me” and “So Tired”, which are ballads, so I’ll just stop there. Take it or leave it stuff. On second thoughts “So Tired” is too damn cheesy. Pooh. Tracks like “Slow Down” see Ozzy adding cheesy synths to the chorus section of the song. Bah. I suggest that you pick up the Best of or The Essential or Greatest Hits or whatever it is called to hear the best tracks post Randy.

-Baba T

Yea, I am talking about this one.

Diary of a Madman-OZZY OSBOURNE-1981

Its Ozzy with Randy Rhoads. Almost the last time that he was legitimately good and the solos were real heavy and classic. After this Randy died in some freak accident and after that it was all downhill starting with Bark at the Moon. Guitarists like Zakk Wylde (Black Label Society), Jake E Lee (don’t know anything about him) kept coming and going.

Typical 80's

The really good, classic songs:- Diary of a Madman, Over the Mountain,Flying High Again, S.A.T.O. The rest of the songs-nondescript. We have Ozzy yelling that “Rock’n’Roll is my only religion and only god” on “You Can’t Kill Rock’n’Roll” the first of many times he would make songs defending Father Rock. There is nothing much to describe here. Refer my review of Blizzard of Ozz.

I suppose the best thing you can do is to get Ozzy’s Best of Box Set. I think there must be one though I am not sure. I have the Best of on Tape. The best of 80’s hair metal, you may be sure. There is no 80’s mainstream catchy metal better than Blizzard of Ozz and Diary of a Madman. Further discussion is useless.

-Baba T


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