Van Morrison - Back On Top
Weeks on Chart: 1 Peak: # 44 (Aug. 1999) buy it!
The title track from Van's very good new Back on Top cd says that after a down period, Van is back to top form and it's hard to argue with that. Back On Top and the cd's first single Precious Time both are classic Van Morrison that compare favorably to his 70's hits. Owners of Morrison's greatest hits record should know that he's making music thak would seemlessly fit on that record. On Back On Top, Van is very cool and self assured. The arrangement is classic, creating an easy feeling simply with horns, keyboards and an acoustic guitar.
Vanessa Carlton - A Thousand Miles
Weeks on Chart: 22 Peak: # 18 (May 2002) buy it!
A Thousand Miles is a slightly unwieldy but charming combination of breezy pop and more arty pretentions. 21 year old Vanessa Carlton has a likably modest, youthful voice that's similar to Michelle Branch's. Like Branch's hits, A Thousand Miles, from the Be Not Nobody CD, has a pleasant melody and sunny, optimistic sound that appeals to teenage girls too cool or too old for Britney. But A Thousand Miles also gives its pop ambitious accompaniment. There's a little too much going on but the big, slightly over the top music is appropriate for an expression of big, innocent emotions. Carlton plays smooth, flowery runs that show that Alicia Keys isn't the only young singer with keyboard skills. A Thousand Miles also has an orchestral arrangement with strings busily playing a riff that oddly resembles an old western tv show theme. It also has a bridge where Carlton and a guitar simulate a piece of Natalie Imbruglia's Torn. Carlton sings about missing a departed object of affection and wondering if he misses her.
Vanessa Carlton - Ordinary Day
Weeks on Chart: 12 Peak: # 33 (Oct. 2002) buy it!
Ordinary Day is the second single from Vanessa Carlton's Be Not Nobody CD. It's nice that young girls have at least three people making music for them that's not totally awful. They can choose between hip, popular Avril Lavigne, sincere, slightly arty Michelle Branch and Vanessa Carlton, the smart, confident nerd who never misses a piano lesson. I guess I credit the many kids who have picked Carlton's mildly ambitious music but her popularity is also a little strange to me. At the risk of using a critical cliche, Ordinary Day is quite ordinary. There's not much to it except a sense of artistic pretention. Carlton's interesting piano playing plays a less prominent role than on A Thousand Miles. Producer Ron Fair overdoes the strings as if he's orchestrating a third rate production of Oklahoma. I guess the kids feel like that liking a song like Ordinary Day means they're listening to something more serious and important. The most appealing thing about Ordinary Day is Carlton's vocal and persona. She has Tori Amos' honesty without Amos' affectations and with an appealing youthful openness. The lyrics are a sweet story of a boy "looking to the sky" who "asked if I would come along".
Vast - Free
Weeks on Chart: 12 Peak: # 13 (Oct. 2000) buy it!
Free, from the Music For People CD, is overblown hard rock. Over heavy metal guitar chords, Jon Crosby yells, "it's time to be what I need to be." Still, while Crosby are way over the top and the whole effect is very bombastic, Free has adrenaline and sweeping ambition like Faith No More's Epic, especially on its chorus as Crosby sings "you can't tell what to do anymore."
Velvet Revolver - Set Me Free
Weeks on Chart: 3 Peak: # 28 (July 2003) buy it!
Velvet Revolver is a new band featuring Scott Weiland and Slash, Duff McKagan and Matt Sorum from Guns N Roses. Weiland says he's going to keep working with Stone Temple Pilots but will also make a full length CD later this year with Velvet Revolver. Set Me Free is on The Hulk soundtrack, which otherwise consists of pieces of Danny Elfman's score for the movie. Set Me Free is a decent rocker that's somewhat reminiscent of Guns n Roses' catchy but hard rocking music. Set Me Free's lyric has Weiland's typical spacy vibe. Weiland sings about a woman who operates and motivates "on synthetic fuel" and asks her to "set me free 'cause I think you need my soul."
Velvet Revolver - Slither
Weeks on Chart: 11 Peak: # 2 (June 2004) buy it!
Velvet Revolver was put together by former Guns N' Roses guitar player Slash, bass player Duff McKagan and drummer Matt Sorum. They tried different singers then got together with Stone Temple Pilots' Scott Weiland for Set Me Free, for the Hulk soundtrack. The guys got along and after STP broke up, probably because of Weiland's drug use, Weiland was available for a full time gig. Weiland was invited, even if that meant interrupting recording for Weiland's court dates and rehab stay. Slither indicates that Velvet Revolver's members are working pretty well together. Slither, from the band's Contraband CD, is no nonsense hard rock with a classic feel. Slash is Slither's star, making all sorts of exciting sounds. Slash plays a memorable, tough central riff that, along with Sorum's dependable pounding and Dave Kushner's chunky, driving rhythm line, keeps Slither racing forward. Slash's fun, showy solo is reminiscent of ones he did on songs like Sweet Child O' Mine. While he can be a jerk and a screwup, Weiland is a good rock singer. Weiland stays focused and shows his ability to do be tough and slithery. He doesn't have Axl Rose's flamboyance. After Slash's solo, you half expect Rose's piercing shriek and it's a bit of a disappointment when, instead, you get Weiland sounding a bit like The Cult's Ian Astbury in a bad mood. Slither might not reach the same transcendence as Guns N' Roses' best songs but it is tight, vibrant hard rock. On Slither, Weiland sings about someone who destroys him, keeps him under her finger and cuts the rope and brings him to his knees. Weiland still sees "pleasure in my mind" and a chance to "wash away the sins of you and I."
Vendetta Red - Shatterday
Weeks on Chart: 2 Peak: # 47 (Aug. 2003) buy it!
Shatterday is from Between the Never and Now, the major label debut from Seattle's Vendetta Red. The intense sound of emo or screamo has already lost some of its freshness and largely become predictable. Still, the new popularity of bands making catchy, passionate music can't be a bad thing. Shatterday is an OK example of screamo. The way Shatterday is both vibrant and overwrought is reminiscent of some of The Used's music. Scatterday's chief attraction is singer Zach Harrison, who makes his personal investment in the song clear as alternates between tortured singing, yelling and shrieking. Scatterday's music is less interesting. It swings back and forth from quiet verses with a meaningful strum and a slightly bombastic chorus and bridge with guitars and drums crashing in. Even so, the music is more fun than a lot of the showy, assembly line hard rock around these days. Shatterday's lyric is, not surprisingly, both smart and overdone. The lyric tries too hard for significance with lines like "days are numbered 666" and "when you bit the bullet, I held the smoking gun" but I like some parts including the reference to Shatterday as a "loose lipped lullaby."
Vertical Horizon - Everything You Want
Weeks on Chart: 37 Peak: # 2 (April 2000) buy it!
The title track and second chart song from Vertical Horizon's CD has striking guitar effects but is otherwise pretty generic sensitive rock. Matt Scannell is ever so serious singing about a woman who's never satisfied with a man. His tone is so bitter that it's not much of a twist at the end when he reveals himself to be the he who is everything she wants.
Vertical Horizon - We Are
Weeks on Chart: 2 Peak: # 27 (Aug. 1999) buy it!
From the record Everything You Want, We Are is well polished hard rock with no particular personality. The lyrics are supposed to be a heavy search for meaning, trying to figure out who we are, why we are, etc.
Vertical Horizon - You're A God
Weeks on Chart: 21 Peak: # 5 (Sept. 2000) buy it!
Like Tonic and other similar bands shooting for the airwaves, Vertical Horizon basically make generic pop rock with vaguely troubled lyrics. They don't even have the personality of the kings of the genre, Matchbox 20. While not as distinctive as Everything You Want, the hit title track from their CD, You're a God is perkier and catchy in a repetitive way. However, the lyrics, about being covered with lies leave a nasty aftertaste as Matt Scannell tells the woman he's dumping that he's not worthy of her.
The Verve Pipe - Hero
Weeks on Chart: 4 Peak: # 25 (Sept. 1999) buy it!
It's unlikely that Hero will have the success of the Verve Pipe's melodramatic but undeniably gripping hit Freshman. However, Hero shows hope that the Verve Pipe can have a long career beyond being a one hit wonder. It's a likeable loose limbed rocker about wanting to be a hero instead of a jerk.
The Vines - Get Free
Weeks on Chart: 13 Peak: # 33 (Sept. 2002) buy it!
Get Free is from the Highly Evolved CD by the young band from Sydney, Australia. With a screaming lead singer and a basic, hard rocking sound, The Vines have a surface resemblance to another hot band from overseas: The Hives. While The Hives' Howlin' Pelle Almqvist goofs around and has fun, Vines frontman Craig Nicholls is very serious about his music. He openly emulates hero Kurt Cobain, especially in the band's older songs. The Highly Evolved CD also has songs similar to those of dreamier British bands like Coldplay and Doves but Get Free's Nirvana influence is clear. It reminds me of Breed, Stay Away and Scentless Apprentice as well as Big Bang Baby by fellow Nirvana fans Stone Temple Pilots. Get Free gets simple, exciting energy from Nicholls' unhinged yell, a slicing guitar line and a good, driving beat. On Get Free, Nicholls rages and drops fragments of desperation: "I'm gonna get free, right into the sun", "she never loved me, why should anyone?", "you know you're really alone" and "save me from here."
The Vines - Ride
Weeks on Chart: 4 Peak: # 42 (April 2004) buy it!
The Vines debut CD, Highly Evolved, arrived with a lot of advance buzz, much of it created by an adoring British music press. The CD was pretty good but except for Get Free, its exciting single, Highly Evolved was a bit disappointing. The band's rep was further dented by reports of intraband squabbling and silly, self important rock star behavior by Vines leader Craig Nicholls. Ride, the first single from The Australian band's Winning Days CD, is a good effort to get back on course. Ride has an excitement similar to Get Free's. It's also nicely focused. Nicholls came up with a killer guitar riff for Ride. Along with drummer Hamish Rosser, who joined the band on the Highly Evolved tour, Nicholls creates a driving sound that always keeps the song moving forward. Nicholls builds intensity in ways including shifting from his lone voice to harmonies doing the same vocal line in a bigger way. Ride is tight, with no waste, but it still has time to mix things up with a good stomping bridge and a decent guitar solo. Nicholls' raw vocal hints at his wild stage persona, giving the sense that he's uninhibited and always pushing himself. On Ride, as usual, Nicholls' love of Cobain shows(Ride's momentum and ever uncoiling energy reminds me of About A Girl). But Ride also has a personal feeling. The Winning Days CD has gotten mixed reviews but its single is pretty clearly terrific. Ride's minimal lyric has some psychedelic trippiness about "colors through your loaded mind." But the message is basically that Nicholls doesn't want to "hate alone" so he wants her to "ride with me."
Vitamin C - Graduation(Friends Forever)
Weeks on Chart: 6 Peak: # 37 (June 2000) buy it!
If there was any doubt that pop radio is almost exclusively targeted these days towards teenage and preteen girls, the success of this trifle from Vitamin C's debut CD is a clear indication. We're probably stuck with this song until the end of June, especially now that local stations have begun to play versions with local kids talking about their graduation. Graduation has a good clean beat but everything else, from the cheesy mock grandeur of synths trying to sound like strings to the treacly harmonies on the chorus, is silly. Singer Colleen Fitzpatrick is having more success as Vitamin C than she did as a modern rocker in the band Eve's Plum but her singing, including some bad rap, is pretty awful.The lyrics, about remembering the times we had together and promising to be friends forever, no matter how our lives change, are as deep as a note written in a yearbook.