Gary Steel is slowly compiling all his album reviews in one place. This is a work in progress, or what we call a “live document”. Today is the letter ‘D’.
The Damned are the real thing. This band is responsible for punk rock’s bad reputation. They initiated the disgustingly unhygienic spitting craze and openly encouraged violence. And their music was among the least “musical” of them all. Compared to this lot, the Sex Pistols were angels.
After releasing a couple of disappointing and inept albums, the Damned disintegrated, then reformed with several membership changes as The Doomed, and last year metamorphosed back into The Damned.
Whatever you may think of the group, there is no hedging the fact that Machine Gun Etiquette is a damned impressive album. The sound is big, the performance frenetic/energetic: a rage from start to finish.
Within the very noisy confines they set themselves, the diversity is quite astonishing. For instance, the opening ‘Love Song’, if it weren’t for the huge, beefy, pulverising performance, would make an acceptable pop single, while ‘Just Can’t Be Happy Today’ shows them at their menacing best, with an unexpected songwriting ability to match.
This may well be a oncer for the Damned, but the fact is that this is a very powerful and underrated album, which uses the basic stance of punk (aggression, outrage) in a much more fulfilling musical context than previously.
Yes folks, punk rock has come of age, even if it still has a little growing up to do. 8/10
DeSario covers much ground in this mainstream disco LP, but it’s such horrendously tasteless territory to map out as your own.
The title track sounds like a Shirley Bassey Bond theme gone wrong, while ‘Heart Of Stone suits Gloria Gaynor to a ‘T’. On ‘With Your Love’ she tries to do a Donna Summer, urging her guy to “gratify, satisfy” her with his “love” – but Donna did it so much better.
A ballad comes next (Jeez, these guys really know how to program records). Called ‘Hold On, Hold On’, it’s surprisingly not someone’s self-wish regarding a lone, already occupied toilet, but a dirge in which she raves the words of Albert Hammond, who on this example sounds like some Haight-Ashbury acid casualty: “Ooh and all we need/is hoping and miracles/And to be/just like the birds up in the sky.”
To cap off the side, she mauls the classic ‘Dancing In The Streets’, rendering it in one fell swoop totally devoid of charm. Just horrible.
Side 2 starts off on a comparatively good note with the funk/disco of ‘Sell My Soul To You’. The same goes for ‘You Got What It Takes’, while ‘Goin’ thru The Motions’ is a slow disco number of reasonable quality. But it’s all downhill from here-on-in, ‘Fallin’’ being an appalling ballad tailor-made for Oklahoma (composition courtesy of Carole Bayer Sager), and ‘Yes, I’m Ready’… well, we know about that already.
If DeSario had one thing remotely striking about her thin voice, or if there was one exceptional facet to this thin album, it may be reason enough for critical analyses. As it is, DeSario’s effort is just too easy to write off. Whatever a woman needs to make her a lasting vocalist, DeSario just ain’t got it. 3/10
Diamond remakes his pop gem ‘I’m A Believer’ on September Morn. And how he’s fallen. The remainder is soundalike, self-indulgent non-tunes fitted out in grandiose orchestral arrangements. Camouflage they don’t the nadir of inspiration/creation. Most tracks are either co-written with other singer-songwriters or complete non-originals, but no difference does it make – he still sounds stuck in the Serenade shallows.
September Morn is strictly for Neil Diamond fans afraid to admit they prefer Barry Manilow. Now you can concentrate on your real career, Neil: films. (The Jazz Singer, indeed. Ha-ha.) 3/10
Barbara Dickson – The Barbara Dickson Album (CBS)
Barbara Dickson, despite her singer-songwriter status, seems unlikely to champion the feminist cause. The Barbara Dickson album tacks her sweet voice to the mediocrity of her own and producer Alan Tarney’s songs. Banal ballads and overworked pop pulp by turn, with this kind of material Dickson is a safe bet for a return season as guest singer in The Two Ronnies. 5/5
Dragon – Power Play (CBS)
Dragon become leaden without Mark Hunter on Power Play. 5/10
Even before the revitalisation that new wave offered the music world, Dr Feelgood were practising their brand of high energy pub-rock rhythm and blues. Unfortunately, they’ve never achieved their full potential on vinyl, more often than not coming across as a pale imitation of the real thing.
Let It Roll, recorded soon after their New Zealand tour, does nothing to right that situation. In fact, it is possibly their worst album to date and proof of the pudding that something is definitely amiss.
The biggest problem is their self-written material, which lacks inspiration or even remotely arresting themes or tunes. This is particularly evident on the opening track, ‘Java Blue’. And when the tunes are less hackneyed, as in ‘Feels Good’, more often than not, unnecessary and cluttered horn arrangements ruin the potential.
At best, the Feelgoods manage to transfer a little of their charm to songs like ‘Put Him Out Of Your Mind’, or the weird debauched ‘Bend Your Ear’. But on Side 2, the worst fears are confirmed, where it sounds as though they are desperately trying to fill up the rest of the album. 5/5
Glory be and hallelujah! Bob Zimmerman, alias acknowledged 1960s folk legend Bob Dylan, has found the Lord.
His latest waxing, Slow Train Coming, finds this former counter-culture saviour preaching simple sermons at great length about Christ’s return (‘When He Returns’), droning that whatever our profession or disposition, we ‘Gotta Serve Somebody’ (God), urging us to forget materialism, to turn our backs on all life’s worries in pursuit of the Lord (‘When You Gonna Wake Up’).
Want more? Surely not. Bob Dylan now exists in a netherworld of Christian complacency. Slow Train Coming is the Bible regurgitated. Dylan no longer feels compelled to think – just rehash Christian cliches.
To his credit, Dylan has surrounded himself with top musicians. Barry Becket (organ) and Dire Straits’ Mark Knopfler (guitar) add greatly to the musical texture, but there are no good melodies on which to demonstrate this fine musicianship. 3/10