London Calling (Classic Album Dissection) & Opinions on David Byrne

Jim and Greg conduct a Classic Album Dissection of the landmark release London Calling by the Clash. Plus, a review of David Byrne.

London Calling
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When People Magazine calls an artist the "World’s Biggest Pop Star," who are we to argue? The person in question is 16-year-old Justin Bieber, and he recently became the youngest artist to debut at #1 on the charts since Stevie Wonder. Bieber has appeared on American Idol and at The White House and has been causing tween hysteria across the country. What Jim and Greg find interesting about the singer is how his fame seems to be the result of a purely 21st century digital music model. He can thank YouTube for his success. Also, Jim marvels at the relative innocence of Bieber's lyrics. Greg predicts that Bieber's transition to the adult contemporary market could be pretty seamless, even if his adolescence isn't.

London Calling

London Calling

Next up is a patented Sound Opinions  Classic Album Dissection-this time of one of the greatest double albums of rock history: London Calling by The Clash. London Calling recently celebrated its 30th anniversary, and it was a huge leap forward for the English band. All four members seemed to be at their peak during writing and recording: Joe Strummer on rhythm guitar and vocals, Mick Jones on lead guitar and vocals, Paul Simonon on bass and Nicky "Topper" Headon on drums. They were paired with the unconventional Guy Stevens and engineer  Bill Price and were able to draw from a ton of new influences-reggae, ska, rockabilly, jazz and rock. Also, the songwriting team of Strummer and Jones was at a high point. Jim and Greg are both moved by Strummer's lyrics, which demonstrate a sophisticated worldview, and play two standout tracks: "Spanish Bombs" and "The Clampdown."

Here Lies Love David Byrne & Fatboy Slim

Here Lies Love

Renaissance man David Byrne has tackled rock and roll, theater, dance, and now, perhaps his most surprising project to date: Here Lies Love, a song cycle with Fatboy Slim about the life and times of Imelda Marcos. This concept prompts a chuckle to be sure, but Jim and Greg explain that Byrne spent five years on this album. Jim is predisposed to like anything Byrne does, but knows he's not infallible. Byrne dug deep into Marcos' life, but Jim didn't find it a very interesting story. Worse, the talented guest vocalists were reduced to showtune-style singing. He gives Here Lies Love a Trash It. Greg agrees that the vocal style is a big drawback. But, he thinks Fatboy Slim's disco contributions really work. The Marcos story, however, is not that compelling, so Greg can only give the record a Try It.

I Learned the Hard Way Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings

I Learned the Hard Way (Bonus Version)

The next album up for review is I Learned the Hard Way by Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings. 53-year-old Jones is the voice of the Daptone label, whose house band the Dap-Kings is perhaps best known as Amy Winehouse's backing band. Greg explains that this title is well-earned for Jones, and her life experiences inform her nuanced vocal style. He loves the dialogue between the singer and the horns section and highly recommends people check the group out live. Greg gives this record a Buy It. Jim has found her previous releases more like souvenirs of the live show. But I Learned the Hard Way is a complete work. There's a retro element, but it's not about looking backward–it's about where Jones is in her life right now. I Learned the Hard Way gets a double Buy It.

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