Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Rarities #25: Foo Fighters There Is Nothing Left To Lose (1999)

I've been searching for this version of the album for a very long time, and I was finally rewarded during my Melbourne trip earlier this year. Not surprising, considering this is the Australian version of the album, sold only in Australia.

There Is Nothing Left To Lose is Foo Fighters' third studio album, and the first album with their soon-to-be-permanent lineup of Dave Grohl, Nate Mendel and newcomers Taylor Hawkins and Chris Shiflett.

I often compare the Foos' first 3 albums with Nirvana's first 3 albums. Like Bleach, Foo Fighters is a low-budget, self-financed, primitive garage recording. By the time they hit it big, their second albums became much more polished and were critically-acclaimed (Nevermind and The Colour And The Shape).

They became disgusted with the highly-polished sound and opted for a more raw, return-to-the-roots approach for their third album (In Utero and There Is Nothing Left To Lose). So I've always felt there were many parallels between the careers of Nirvana and Foo Fighters.

I remember Life! gave this album 5 stars in their review, which interested me a lot, since I wasn't big on FF at that time even though I was madly into Nirvana. So I approached this album cautiously.

Not surprisingly, I immediately drew comparisons between Grohl's and Hawkin's drumming, and pronounced Grohl the better drummer. Grohl would even to this day admit that Hawkins is the better drummer.

However, I beg to differ. I think Grohl is a damn good drummer. Nirvana's songs were simple and he didn't overplay the drums. His playing was subservient to the songs, and he never had to resort to fancy tricks or beats to make himself stand out.

But when it came to other bands' material, he didn't need to be restrained and could go all out. Just listen to his drumming on Queens Of The Stone Age's Songs For The Deaf. It's a masterclass in drumming. Hawkins is a good drummer, not I would still consider Grohl more versatile and controlled.

But anyway, I digress. The first single off this album is Learn To Fly. It's almost a pop song, and it is perhaps most memorable for its music video, where Grohl cross dresses and acts funny and all. It's quite hilarious really. It won the Best Short Form Music Video in the Grammy Awards, and the album also picked up Best Rock Album.

Second single was Breakout, and I remember it being featured in the soundtrack of Jim Carrey's Me, Myself & Irene. A fan favourite at concerts, I feel it is only a mediocre song. Next Year was another single that I felt wasn't that great.

Generator and Stacked Actors were released in Australia only, with the former getting a limited edition 20,000 print in Europe as well. Seems like the Foos got a lot of love in Australia for this album.

Stacked Actors is a great song and a great opener to the album. It's raw and aggressive and tender at the same time. I particularly like the bossnova rhythm for the verses. However, my favourite songs off this record are the "ballads".

Aurora is a great, great song with a great arrangement. The ending of the song is superb, with the instrumental part bringing the song to a great climax.

Ain't It The Life is another melodious and sweet song that should have been released as a single. I was glad that they revisited the song in their acoustic tour, and it appeared on their Skin And Bones release. It never gets performed in their usual concerts as it will be out of place.

This version also contains an Australia bonus track, Fraternity. And to add to my comment that Australia got a lot of love from the Foos, this version comes with a bonus VCD of 4 music videos as well, including the aforementioned Learn To Fly, Generator, Breakout and Next Year.

The artwork for this version is special as well as it features Australian swimmer Michael Klim, because he is a big Foos fan and has an FF tattoo across his right upperarm. Supercool.


Thursday, September 13, 2007

Rarities #24: Janet Jackson Design Of A Decade 1986/1996 (1995)

There are 2 special packagings for this release - the Strictly Limited Edition Steel Casing, and the double CD version with 7 rare remixes.

The Strictly Limited Edition Steel Casing Version:

The limited edition 2-CD version:

One of the most creatively and best-titled best-of compilations, Design Of A Decade 1986/1996 is a collection of Janet's hits from the first ten years of her career. It's a smart title because it very cleverly avoids the "you-mean-I'll-not-have-any-more-hits-after-this?" problem, paving the way for yet a few more of such compilations further down the road.

This album was an A&M records release, released as part of Janet's contractual obligations. By this time, Janet had already signed a whopping deal with Virgin and released her hugely successful janet. album. That's why only 2 tracks from janet. are featured here - Whoops Now and That's The Way Love Goes, while the megahits If and Again were not included.

Nevertheless, this album is still a very very good collection of Janet's hits. And they were massive hits too. There are really no duds on this collection. This is a great testament to Janet's succes in her first decade in the business, led by the unbeatable team of Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis.

2 new songs were also recorded for this album - Runaway and Twenty Foreplay. The video for Runaway was inspired by brother Michael's Black Or White video, where Janet was seen jumping off the roofs of famous landmarks in the world, reflecting her words that she's "seen the world, been to many places." Great fun.

The first version I have here is strictly limited steel casing edition, as can be seen imprinted on the sticker. And I actually have 2 copies of it! The packaging is way cool, but unfortunately, there aren't any other special extras to this package.

The regular edition has that picture of Janet with the peekaboo blouse as its cover, and I remember reading news reports that a giant billboard of that album cover by the roadside caused accidents. Guess Amercians have always been fascinated by Janet's breast(s), but when they actually do see it, they make a big fuss and say it's indecent blah blah blah.

I also have the 2-CD version with the regular album artwork, and it contains a bonus CD of remixes of Janet's early tracks with A&M Records. Before exploding onto the scene with Control in 1986, Janet had recorded 2 earlier albums with the label, but they were minor successes. Thus, 6 tracks on this bonus CD contain those hits, but in a remixed form, while the 7th track, a remix of When I Think Of You, is a hit culled from Control.

Well, all the brouhaha shouldn't obscure the fact that Janet was, and is, a great hitmaker. Her 20Y.O. album last year marked her second decade in music. Will we see Design Of Another Decade soon? Hope so, and many more decades to come.

In the meantime, here's my tracklist for Design For Another Decade:

1. If
2. This Time
3. Throb
4. What'll I Do
5. Again
6. Any Time, Any Place
7. Got 'Til It's Gone
8. Together Again
9. I Get Lonely
10. Go Deep
11. You
12. All For You
13. Someone To Call My Lover
14. Doesn't Really Matter
15. Trust A Try
16. All Nite (Don't Stop)
17. I Want You
18. R&B Junkie
19. Call On Me
20. Enjoy

It's a bit long, but then hey, Janet has had too many hits! Let's see if Virgin will release this collection, now that Janet has moved to Island Records.


Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Rarities #23: Janet Jackson janet. (1995)

This is the special Australia Tour edition of the album, containing a bonus CD with 5 tracks. I have previously featured another edition of this album under Rarities #8, but these 2 versions are not the same.

The reason why I'm feeling a sudden wave of pro-Janet is because I just caught Britney's opening performance for this year's MTV VMAs. And true to what everyone has described, her performance was sluggish, she looked out of sorts, she was lip-syncing. In short, she didn't give it her all and it was a far cry from her truly impressive performance just 5 years ago.

And looking at it just brought me (and a lot of other Janet fans) into thinking that Janet can do it so much better. Here's a clip of Janet in 1993 showing exactly how it should be done:

This was certainly one of Janet's best live performances and it really tore the house down. Brit, you still got a lot to learn girl!

Since I'm in the mood for youtube, here's elder brother Michael in 1995 showing us the proper way to open an MTV VMA show:

That's how you do it, the Jackson way. Gosh, I miss those days.

Labels: ,

Collectibles #18: Linkin Park Minutes To Midnight (2007)

Released this year, Minutes To Midnight is Linkin Park's third studio album and so far, its 625,000 copies sold in its first week is the best debut week sales for any album released this year.

Clearly, LP is still a juggernaut when it comes to music, despite its frontman Mike Shinoda having ventured into a side project with Fort Minor and scoring huge success with them as well. However, this album marks a sonic shift in LP's music.

There is less of Chester Bennington and also less of the heavy nu-metal sound that characterised their first two albums. There is more emphasis on melody and arrangements, brought about by the arrival of Rick Rubin on the soundboards. Rick Rubin is of course, one of the premier rock producers, having worked with heavyweights like Red Hot Chili Peppers, Green Day and U2.

The album has spawned two hit singles so far - What I've Done and Bleed It Out. The former spent a massive 15 weeks at the top of the Billboard Modern Rock Charts. Clearly, LP are still on a roll, and they are rolling their tour to Singapore as well.

What: Linkin Park Asia Tour
When: 13 November 2007, 8pm
Where: Singapore Indoor Stadium
How Much: $68, $88, $128, $148 (excluding $2 SISTIC fee)

This will be LP's second visit to Singapore. The last time they were here, they performed at the Padang, in front of 15,000 fans. I was one of them.

I remember waiting for more than an hour before the band showed up. And having bought their Live In Texas CD/DVD release and watching it before the show, I found their performance to be largely similar to the DVD version.

And they stuck very closely to their album version of the songs, leaving little room for improvisation or little imperfections. I mean, perfection is good, but when it's too perfect, it seems artificial and not really live. If you get what I mean.

So having caught them live before, I'm not that keen on catching them this time round. But if you haven't watched them live before, and have some spare cash on hand, maybe you can try the $68 tickets. But no doubt, it will be another sell-out show, as LP still have the muscle. So buy early if you don't want to be disappointed.

This CD/DVD combo version of the album is the US edition. The regular Asian edition is black in colour.

Monday, September 10, 2007

2007 MTV VMA Scorecard

So the party has come and gone. It's time to look at how I've fared in predicting this year's winners.

Best Group
My choice: Maroon 5
Winner: Fall Out Boy

Best New Artiste
My choice: Carrie Underwood
Winner: Gym Class Heroes

Best Female Artist
My choice: Rihanna
Winner: Fergie

Best Male Artist
My choice: Justin Timberlake
Winner: Justin Timberlake

Monster Single of the Year
My choice: Umbrella
Winner: Umbrella

Most Earth-Shattering Collaboration
My choice: Beautiful Liar
Winner: Beautiful Liar

Quadruple Threat of the Year
My choice: Justin
Winner: Justin

Video of the Year
My choice: Umbrella
Winner: Umbrella

Best Choreography
My choice: My Love
Winner: My Love

Best Director
My choice: LP/JT
Winner: JT

Best Editing
My choice: What I've Done
Winner: Smiley Faces

So that's 6-and-a-half out of 11 correct. Hmm..Could have done better.

Anyway, don't miss the telecast of the VMA on MTV SEA channel, StarHub Channel 20, on 22 September, 1:30pm!!!

Rarities #22: Nirvana Hormoaning (1992)

Released in Japan and Australia during the band's tour there, Hormoaning is an EP containing 6 tracks. The artwork for the Japan and Australia versions are entirely different, but the tracklist is the same.

Of the 6 tracks, 2 of them are originals - Aneurysm and Even In His Youth. Both of these tracks are included in the Smells Like Teen Spirit single as well. This version of Aneurysm is however, different from the one released in Incesticide, their B-sides album.

The Australia version of Hormoaning is rarer, with only 15,000 copies released. This Japanese version is more widely available, but it's still pretty rare now. It comes with the Obi strip, and the liner notes are in Japanese as well.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

2007 MTV Video Music Awards

It's the time of the year again when MTV throws its annual party - the Video Music Awards (VMA). The VMAs of the past few years haven't been as memorable, largely due to the fall in quality of performing acts. And there aren't as many showstopping performances or moments.

Or maybe it's because my favourite artistes haven't made appearances for some time now. But Foo Fighters are one of the headliners this year, so hopefully there will be at least one good performance.

For this year's VMAs, MTV has decided to change the format and have it in the city of glitz, Las Vegas. It's going to be glamorous, with dinner tables around the stage rather than the usual throngs of fans and most pit.

And they have hired Timbaland as the night's Maestro, and he's responsible for putting together the music and overall show. He's also throwing some Fantasy Quite Party with Justin Timberlake, whatever that means.

However, all these shouldn't detract the fact that the VMAs is an awards show, and there are prizes to be given out. So who's going to take home the most moonmen this year?

Justin and Beyonce lead the field with 7 nominations each. But as you might have known, MTV have introduced a few new awards this year, which in my opinion, are rather lame award categories.

We have the Monster Single of the Year, Most Earth-Shattering Collaboration and Quadruple Threat of the Year. Sound like a desperate bid to stay relevant and hip.

Their introduction has also led to the removal of a few categories, namely the individual genre awards such as Best Rock Video and Best Dance Video. This causes the award show to be tilted heavily in Pop music's favour.

Only 8 awards will be given out during the telecast. It remains to be seen whether this total reinvention will work well. Right now, I'm still an old-school fan and I think I prefer the old format. But let's see what MTV have got up their sleeve, and whether Timbaland can pull off another hit.

In the meantime, here are my predictions for the winners.

Best Group
  • Fall Out Boy
  • Gym Class Heroes
  • Linkin Park
  • Maroon 5
  • The White Stripes
Winner: Maroon 5
Why: They're on this month's issue of Rolling Stone, and lead singer Adam Levine is every girl's dream date. But frankly, I can't see what's so hot about him. His nasal voice irritates the hell out of me sometimes.

The White Stripes are too left field, Linkin Park is not as good as they were and Gym Class Heroes are too new. MTV loves FOB, so they might be the ones to cause an upset.

Best New Artiste
  • Lily Allen
  • Gym Class Heroes
  • Peter Bjorn & John
  • Carrie Underwood
  • Amy Winehouse
Winner: Carrie Underwood
Why: She's had an amazing year and found mainstream success after winning Idol. Might be a little country for some people, but then again, Idol was such a huge phenomenon and millions of people voted. And this category is based on viewers' votes.

Amy Winehouse could be the darkhorse, but with her recent health issues, she has lost a lot of favour. Cancelling her US tour doesn't help either.

Female Artist of the Year
  • Beyonce
  • Fergie
  • Nelly Furtado
  • Rihanna
  • Amy Winehouse
Winner: Rihanna
Why: She's the new darling of pop and Umbrella was inescapable, even though it wasn't raining or sunny. Her star has been up and rising ever since she released Pon De Replay, and she's only still 19 years old.

Nelly Furtado could nick it because she had an amazing year as well, with 4 major hit singles the past year. And Timbaland is producing the show. Beyonce is way too over-exposed and I will really puke if she wins again. Fergie hasn't been a slob too and her solo career managed to outshine her BEP career. But then, Rihanna's fresher, which will be more in line with this year's VMA concept.

Male Artist of the Year
  • Akon
  • Robin Thicke
  • T.I.
  • Justine Timberlake
  • Kanye West
Winner: Justin Timberlake
Why: MTV loves Justin as well, ever since his *NSYNC days. Plus it's Timbaland's party. Plus the fact that Justin opened the show last year. His only competitor is Kanye West, whose album drops September 11, just 2 days after the show, and the momentum might be with him.

Monster Single of the Year
  • Home - Daughtry
  • Thnks Fr Th Mmrs - Fall Out Boy
  • Girlfriend - Avril Lavigne
  • Lip Gloss - 'Lil Mama
  • This Is Why I'm Hot - MIMS
  • Hey There Delilah - Plain White T's
  • Umbrella - Rihanna ft Jay-Z
  • Party Like A Rock Star - Shop Boyz
  • Buy U A Drank (Shawty Snappin') - T-Pain ft Yung Joc
  • The Way I Are - Timbaland ft Keri Hilson, D.O.E. and Sebastian
Winner: Umbrella
Why: Do we even need to know why?

Most Earth-Shattering Collaboration
  • Smack That - Akon ft Eminem
  • Beautiful Liar - Beyonce ft Shakira
  • The Sweet Escape - Gwen Stefani ft Akon
  • SexyBack - Justin Timberlake ft Timbaland
  • The Saints Are Coming - U2 ft Green Day
Winner: Beautiful Liar
Why: Sympathy prize for Beyonce. I absolutely hate this song, and it's one lame attempt to pair them up together.

Justin and Timbo should win this one, but they won't. Too bad.

Quadruple Threat of the Year
  • Beyonce
  • Bono
  • Jay-Z
  • Justin Timberlake
  • Kanye West
Winner: Justin Timberlake
Why: Beyonce comes a close second, escpecially after her turn in Dreamgirls, but Justin will nick this. He's the most well-rounded performer among them. Certainly harks back the days when MJ ruled the pop kingdom.

This is the category that I have the most problem with. Think it's too contrived. And it's quite meaningless and not prestigious at all. Sound like a side award that is given to honour a person's lifetime body of work rather than a competing category.

Video of the Year
  • Irreplaceable - Beyonce
  • D.A.N.C.E. - Justice
  • Umbrella - Rihanna ft Jay-Z
  • What Goes Around...Comes Around - Justin Timberlake
  • Stronger - Kanye West
  • Rehab - Amy Winehouse
Winner: Umbrella
Why: Rihanna in body paint, need we say more?

Best Choreography
  • Beautiful Liar - Beyonce ft Shakira
  • Wall To Wall - Chris Brown
  • Like A Boy - Ciara
  • Tambourine - Eve
  • My Love - Justin Timberlake
Winner: My Love
Why: I'm surprised My Love isn't named as a nominee for Video of the Year, as it was certainly my pick for the top prize. There is no way Justin will lose this. If he does, then the "media professionals" who voted clearly have no skill. Beyonce and Shakira shaking their hips is not choreography.

Best Director
  • Candyman - Christina Aguilera
  • Beautiful Liar - Beyonce ft Shakira
  • Stronger - Kanye West
  • What I've Done - Linkin Park
  • Umbrella - Rihanna ft Jay-Z
  • What Goes Around...Comes Around - Justin Timberlake
Winner: Tie: It's either LP or JT
Why: LP's video was well shot and it featured sitrring images that fitted the song's message perfectly, while JT's video is more of an epic. It's one or the other.

Best Editing

  • Beautiful Liar - Beyonce ft Shakira
  • Smiley Faces - Gnarls Barkley
  • What I've Done - Linkin Park
  • What Goes Around...Comes Around - Justin Timberlake
  • Stronger - Kanye West
Winner: What I've Done
Why: It brought out the message very clearly and in an impactful manner.

Let's see if the final results tally with my predictions. Bottomline is: I want a smashing show that's memorable for the right reasons. Let's see...