Elton John, Captain Fantastic And The Brown Dirt Cowboy: I only ever remembered "Someone Saved My Life Tonight" and part of "Tower Of Babel," pronounced to rhyme with "able." "Someone Saved My Life Tonight" remains pretty magical--up there with ELO's "Telephone Line" when I think of songs that evoke that wide-eyed 1970s rainbow anthem feel. One of his very best, for sure. I was worried that this would be just like Honky Chateau, then--the wonderful smash hit surrounded by a big pile of adequate but forgettable Elton filler. The secondary stuff is a couple notches above that album's chaff, though, perhaps because this is a concept album about Elton and Bernie's youthful misadventures in the years before "Your Song," not that I really give a crap about the concept. At the very least there's a chance I'll remember it a month from now unlike the other album's. In fact, there were a couple of nice rediscoveries here--"Tower Of Babel" *does* have a nice chorus, and "Curtains" is a cool "Hey Jude" repeating thing at the end. "Meal Ticket" isn't too bad a hard rocker and "Writing" is nice for a cheesy piece of Fleetwood Mac 70s palm tree music. The duffers are the overlong title track and the proto-disco "Tell Me When The Whistle Blows," and I think I'd have put "Philadelphia Freedom" and "One Day At A Time" on the album in place of those two. As for his cover of "Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds," all I can say is that it's sort of weird that he could spend all that money on big budget epic mid-1970s glam-pop production and overdub all sorts of crazy keyboards and stuff and still not come up with a song as good as the original...but at least it's better than David Bowie's "Let's Spend The Night Together."
Fugazi, Repeater: ONE TWO THREE RE-PEAT-ER!! The manic ska-punk song "Merchandise" remains this album's biggest highlight. I'll also go to bat for the title track and "Turnover" and on a good day I might be able to remember "Styrofoam," "Shut The Door" and mayyyyybe "Blueprint." The rest is the usual monochrome Fugazi blur that I've complained about with every other album they did except for End Hits and The Argument. You know, I really wish I could have been there, some California skateboard punk in 1990 hanging out with Tony Hawk or whoever (even though I have never skateboarded) with my flopping skater punk kid hair, listening to this album as a teenager when it probably sounded alternative and cool as hell. I can visualize that scene easily. And I've never had any problem with this band's protest lyrics--I never thought they got stupid about them at all. But God what a monochrome blur.
Tom Waits, Mule Variations: I should have seen this one coming. I don't recall even reading the reviews the first time around, what, 15 years ago? (The first Waits album I heard was Rain Dogs and I know that was in 2007.) This time, when I read them, I read a number of the usual fawning reviews Waits gets, but a few of them confirmed the sinking feeling in my gut, which is that this album is the absolutely worst case I know of demonstrating Waits' painful problem with deliberately repeating and rewriting himself over and over and over, and getting away with it in most listeners' eyes. (Ears?) I still like the rhythmic "Big In Japan" opener and the creepy spoken word bit "What's He Building In There?" a lot, but a)so does pretty much everyone else who's reviewed this album, and b)those are, quite tellingly, the only two songs I remembered from when I handed the album a good grade all those years ago. I suppose I got a slight bit of enjoyment out of "Chocolate Jesus," "Black Market Baby," the loud stomper "Filipino Box Spring Hog" at the end, and the closer "Come Up To The House," which is similar in mood to "That Feel," the closer to Bone Machine, but isn't quite a rewrite. This cannot be said of ANY of his other piano ballads, ALL of which sound like ones he'd written before, and there's like five of them, and Bone Machine already had four piano ballads that all sounded the same. Jeezus!! I'm also hearing rewrites of "Sixteen Shells From A Thirty-Ought Six" (already rewritten as "Big Black Mariah") and "Gun Street Girl" (one of the early songs.) And, gag, the damn thing is seventy minutes long? Oooof. I sure am glad that I don't have any other Waits albums left to revisit. Should I finish his catalogue? I don't know any of his 1974-80 albums besides Small Change and I don't like that one much anymore either.
Gentle Giant, Interview: I thought this was supposed to be their most poorly-reviewed album, in part due to band members themselves joking about how the album would be finished after it was released, but I think it's just George Starostin who *really* hated it. It would seem as though the two albums after this are really the most poorly-reviewed. I do detect that the album seems slightly underwritten and doesn't have a real stylistic advance from the 1973-75 stuff, but I really dug the general dissonant squonking melody of the title track and the high wail of "Timing." Two great tracks out of seven, what else, what else? "Give It Back" is a decent stab at reggae and I really liked the eerie chanting on "Design," even though some of the reviews singled that one out as being crap. "Empty City" and "Another Show" don't do anything to really stick out though, and finally "I Lost My Head," usually singled out as the big highlight, has a vocal melody that I thought was very obviously rewritten from their debut album's blues-rock song "Why Not?" I'll be nice and hand this an "okay" rating, though I'll probably only revisit the two big highlights, "Interview" and "Timing." An album combining the four songs I liked with the four or five I liked on The Missing Piece would be optimal, which reminds me that four out of the five artists in this post all were kind of victims of the 1970s business model of "one album per year."