Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Rarities #10: Dave Matthews Some Devil (2003)

I've been a big fan of the Dave Matthews Band (DMB) ever since I was introduced to their wonderful track, Stay (Wasting Time) from the Before These Crowded Streets album. However, this 2003 release sees their frontman, Dave Matthews, going solo for the first time without his four other band mates.

The reason why DMB is so distinctive is because of its superb rhythm section -- drummer Carter Beauford is a god really, and Stephen Lessard keeps it tight with his bass line. The DMB sound is also characterised by its unique blend of violin and saxophone, togther with Dave's acoustic guitar. Without the backing of his band mates here, Matthews sounds a little plain and ordinary.

However, being the chief songwriter in the band, Matthews is more than capable of penning a good melody and this album contains some pretty good tunes nonetheless. The title track is a stripped-down and intimate song with just him and his electric guitar and he bears his soul with a heart-wrenching delivery.

Other tracks to look out for are Dodo and So Damn Lucky. The lead single, Gravedigger, is also an understated and slow burner with his trademark pessimistic lyrics -- "Gravedigger, when you dig my grave, could you make it shallow so that I can feel the rain?" The song won him a Grammy in 2004 for Best Male Rock Vocal Performance.

This limited edition package contains a bonus disc with 5 live acoustic tracks, performed by Dave Matthews and longtime collaborator Tim Reynolds. Together they perform some DMB favourites: Grey Street, When The World Ends, Jimi Thing, Stay Or Leave and Seek Up. On this disc, you can hear Matthews' intricate guitar work more carefully, as it tends to get covered up in the DMB records. The reworked versions of the DMB songs are also worth listening to as Matthews often improvises with the lyrics and melodies.

This solo album was not a huge seller and this limited edition version is also rathe rare. In Singapore, only Borders carried it for a while before they were all sold out.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Rarities #9: Michael Jackson Dangerous Collector's Edition First Printing (1991)

This is a super super mega rare collector's item! Granted, you can find quite a few sets of this selling on eBay, but there's only one shop in the entire Singapore I know that is selling this...and at a price of $250. Well, I burnt a hole in my pocket for this too, but not $250 for sure. Nevertheless, I've been looking for this for ages and I'm so happy to lay hands on this finally.

This is the First Printing of the album when it was released way back in 1991. It comes in a special box measuring 25.5cm by 25.5cm and 1.8cm thick. The front cover is a simple and elegant design of MJ's mysterious eyes and the words "Collector's Edition . First Printing". The back cover shows the tracklisting.

As you can see, it is the interior of the box that is really beautiful. The artwork of the album is a myriad of symbols and icons, including the mysterious single eye and an assortment of animals (Noah's Ark? MJ's own private zoo in Neverland?) However, the artwork literally comes to life here as it is presented in a pop-up, very beautiful indeed.

Besides, the disc itself is a gold disc. The album sleeve is housed in a compartment under the disc tray, where you have to lift it up to access the album sleeve.

This package is really very beautiful and rare, and if you possess this, I estimate you must be one of less than 5 people in Singapore who have it. If you know of someone who has this, please let me know! Alright I shall stop waxing lyrical about this now.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Singles #3: Michael Jackson - Smooth Criminal (1988)

This is the seventh single released off Michael Jackson's hugely successful Bad album. By this time, the first five singles have hit number one and the sixth single, Another Part Of Me, peaked at number 11. However, Smooth Criminal managed to chart in the Top Ten once again, peaking at number 7 in the Billboard Hot 100.

The song is written and composed by MJ himself once again, and it is one of his best and most distinctive songs. The unique beat and the bassline is simply unforgettable and catchy as hell. His vocal delivery is also special and he uses his "rough and tough" voice here, as compared to his smooth and controlled delivery on the ballads.

However, it is without a doubt, the music video that sold the song. I believe it is even better than his much-acclaimed Thriller video in terms of artistry and choreography, but the Smooth Criminal video is never as greatly recognised. If you look closely, you can see that every single character in the video has some moves to make, even though they may be in the background.

The dancing is top notch of course, and there are several memorable scenes: the billiard ball jumping off the edge and landing in MJ's grasp before he smashes it to powder; his neverending spin on the table top; the famous 45-degree tilt among others.

This is one of my fave MJ songs and rightly so. He has a knack of writing songs with unique basslines and rhythms, making him an all-rounded musician, not just a singer. I also liked Alient Ant Farm's cover of the song as well. Does the song justice. I have that single too...might just feature it here someday.