Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Various Artists: Ghostbusters Original Sountrack Album

Review # 72
Artist: Various Artists
Title: Ghostbusters Original Soundtrack Album
Format: LP
Label: Arista Records
Year: 1984
Songs: 10

With Halloween fast approaching, I wanted to make sure I did at least one more seasonally themed review. Even if it weren't Halloween time, who doesn't love Ray Parker Jr.'s Ghostbusters theme song? It's catchy and fun. It went to #1 on the Billboard charts. Lawsuits from Huey Lewis aside, it's a great little tune and is a big part of what made the movie memorable.

 I put this record on every year at this time, and it brings back all kinds of childhood memories of playing Ghostbusters for hours, sometimes convincing neighbors to let me into their homes to search for ghosts, and on at least one occasion convincing one of them to play me for catching one.  I must have been a cute kid, I guess, to get away with charging my neighbors to play in their houses. I was borderline obsessed with the Ghostbusters from ages 6 to about 9, watching the cartoon show every Saturday and renting the movie countless times. The song "Ghostbusters" brings it all back, as do a few of the other tracks on this soundtrack.

Selecting this record for review, however, has reminded me why I almost never make it all the way through this LP. It's got some pretty bad patches. It starts strong with Ray Parker Jr.'s famous tune, and that's followed by the (I think) underappreciated BusBoys song "Cleanin' Up the Town." It's no "Ghostbusters," but this is a fun tune in a swingin' jazzy style about our heroes that gets your foot tapping and your fingers snapping. This is followed by Allesi's "Savin' the Day," which is super dramatic but fun synth-pop. It's cheesy, and it calls to mind the scene where the boys roll up to Spook Central to save the day, which, alongside the over-the-top dramatic cheese of the song itself makes this a fun one if you're a fan of the film.

But after that, it just goes downhill.  Side one finishes up with "In the Name of Love" by the Thompson Twins, which I just find annoying and can't really remember from the film, and then a boring song by the always faux-mantic Air Supply.  Side two doesn't improve much.  It starts with "Hot Night," performed by Laura Branigan, who sounds like a low-rent Pat Benatar. This is followed by Mick Smiley's "Magic," which is pretty forgettable. Then we get two songs from the score of the film, "Dana's Theme" and "Main Title Theme [Ghostbusters]," the latter of which is not an orchestral version of Parker's song as you might think, but instead is a piece instrumental music that plays repeatedly throughout the film. You might remember this tune, unless I'm mistaken, as "the music that plays while the Ghostbusters have to go up a lot of stairs." These are both pieces of music that work fine in the context of the film, but I'm not sure how well they stand alone. The record finishes with an instrumental version of Parker's #1 hit.

So, yeah.  I've never really thought about why I usually turn this off part way through the first side, but I guess the bottom line is, I really only want to hear the first three songs on this record, unless I'm hearing them in the context of the film, which I still love and watch every couple of years.

Everyone's heard these songs, especially the title track.  But you may not have seen the music video, which is hilarious and includes orignal content featuring our four ghost bustin' heroes.  You can check that out here: http://youtu.be/KvkKX035484

I don't know if I'll get to another post before Halloween. If I do, I'll try to pick another seasonal choice, but if not, have a great Halloween, and don't be afraid of no ghosts.

Total songs listened: 881

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Review # 71
Artist: Bauhaus
Title: 1979-1983 Volume One
Format: CD
Label: Beggars Banquet
Year: 1986
Songs: 14

Hi everyone, and welcome to the first review from the new and less restricted 30,000 songs. Now that I'm not trying to do everything in alphabetical order anymore, I can make choices like this one, which I selected not only in keeping with rainy blustery weather and the approach of Halloween, but also in honor of Bela Lugosi. Lugosi, best known for playing the role of Dracula in the classic Universal Studios film of the same title, was the subject of Bauhaus's best known song "Bela Lugosi's Dead." Lugosi would be 130 years old today.

I love listening to Bauhaus this time of year. Without retreading too much of the same territory from review #30, I'll just mention here that Bauhaus are considered by many to be the first goth band. This cd spans the first four years of the band's singles, and you can hear the progression here from what was essentially a dark and strange take on the punk sound to something  that has evolved into an independent genre (albeit one with punk roots still clearly evident). Throughout, Bauhaus sounds dark and ominous. Their musical approach to this is an interesting one.  Drummer Kevin Haskin's lays down rhythms that sometimes border on tribal, relying heavily on his toms to keep time rather than ride or high-hat cymbals a typical rock drummer would use.  The song structure of most tracks is held together primarily by bassist David J., who's style is often minimalist and droning in a way that provides an ominous feel to the songs.  Guitarist Daniel Ash, meanwhile, lays down guitar tracks that, in many cases, primarily add an eerie texture created through high-pitched, echoey noises that you might think were improvised, if they didn't sound so perfect.  Only on a few occasions on this disc does he play what one would consider a chord progression. Peter Murphy rounds out the sound with nasal, almost shrieking vocals.  The overall sound is bleak and cold, and fits well with their generally creepy lyrics.

What are the songs about? Much of the time, it's hard to say but I think the short answer is "nothing nice." Death, strange sex, alienation. As I mentioned before, their best known song is "Bela Lugosi's Dead," a tribute to Lugosi that describes his funeral as if he were an actual vampire, an undead being who would probably rise again to continue his lonely existence. That might sound silly, but it's actually a great song in my opinion. My favorite, however, is "The Passion of Lovers." The lyrics of this song paint a surreal picture of tragic woman. The Internet tells me the song was inspired by the true story a couple that killed themselves, although I have no idea if that's actually true. I just know the chorus gets stuck in my head for days.

On that happy note, merry Lugosi Day.  More spooky-type music reviews coming soon!

Here's "The Passion of Lovers" if you want to check that out, and here's "Bela Lugosi's Dead."

Also, in case I depressed you with my review of this record, here's a fun video about Bela Lugosi's birthday.

Total songs listened: 871

Friday, October 19, 2012

A new approach

Hello readers,

It has been a while since I have posted. I've been extremely busy lately with job applications and my dissertation and my own music and have a hard time making time for this project. In the interest of facilitating more reviews being posted more often, I've decided to change my approach a bit.

Part of what has made it hard to keep up with this is the format and alphabet rules I set out at the beginning. It's not that I'm not listening to music, it's just that, when my time so limited, it's often hard to prioritize listening to a record that I may not really feel like listening to at that moment so I can write a post. Instead, I end up listeing to what I feel like, and not writing anything.  To get around this, I've decided to shift my reviewing approach to a more flexible one. Rather than only reviewing records of one specific format in alphabetical order (i.e. LPs by artists with names that start with "C"), I've decided to just review whatever I feel like listening to, regardless of format or alphabetic position.  Along the way, I'll make sure to throw in reviews of unusual and odd things I have in my collection that I might not normally listen to that much, but I'll do that only when I have time to. The rest of the time, you can expect posts about whatever struck my fancy that day, which might be anything in the collection--punk, folk, jazz, rap, whatever. I think this will keep things fresh, prevent there being 7 or 8 reviews in a row by the same artist, and allow me to write a review of whatever I put on while I was cleaning the living room, shaving, or doing the dishes.

So check back soon for a new review, maybe something Halloween flavored. Thanks for bearing with me.