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Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Cactus: Cactus V


1) Doin' Time; 2) Muscle & Soul; 3) Cactus Music; 4) The Groover; 5) High In The City; 6) Day For Night; 7) Living For Today; 8) Shine; 9) Electric Blue; 10) Your Brother's Keeper; 11) Blues For Mr. Day; 12) Part Of The Game; 13) Gone Train Gone; 14) Jazzed.

Look who's back. Seeing as how the 2000s are so totally open to everything, and how there were plenty of youngster bands around playing heavy Seventies-style music, Bogert, Appice, and Jim McCarty came back together — not just for some nostalgic touring, but to record new music as well, with the same old swagger as if the thirty years in between never happened. Of course, the original vocalist was murdered in the interim (Rusty Day was shot to death in 1982 by some drug dealers), but they hire a new one, Jimmy Hunes, who sounds almost exactly like Rusty — and the band plays on precisely the same way that it used to.

Of course, it also sucks precisely the same way that it used to: the fourteen songs recorded here all share the same classic aesthetics — loud, bulgy, brawny, perfect for a dinner party that also involves some mudwrestling and some TV-tossing. The old boys in the rhythm section have not lost a bit of that old power, the guitarist tosses out the same old derivative leaden blues-rock riffs and screechy blueswailin' solos, and the vocalist... well, I do believe he got the contract only under the condition that he'd exclusively do the things that Rusty used to do. Oh, and they also have an additional member on harmonica — Randy Pratt, usually playing with the New-York based Lizards, another one of «those» bands that I mentioned in the last paragraph.

Amusingly, I do not feel nearly as bored by this record as I was by all the other Cactus records (except maybe for the first one). There's a humorous side to some of the tunes, including a rather tongue-in-cheek fast boogie anthem to themselves (ʻCactus Musicʼ); a couple of the songs, like ʻYour Brother's Keeperʼ, are pleasantly funky, mildly reminiscent of classic Aerosmith  (who themselves owed a certain debt to Cactus originally); the last track almost borders on artistic-ex­perimental (the instrumental ʻJazzedʼ, which does not have much to do with jazz, but is an inven­tive synthesis of metal and funk, with a whole bunch of riffs from both genres spliced together, sometimes to cool effect); and a few of the vocal melodies are even catchy in a way — ʻMuscle And Soulʼ makes me want to sing along, as does ʻDoin' Timeʼ.

The biggest flaw of the record is its length — sure it's been a long time, but no time is long enough to make anybody want to sit through a whole sixty minutes of «Cactus music», especially when it includes one too many superslow blues tunes (ʻDay For Nightʼ — why don't you leave this kind of stuff to Buddy Guy?) or power-chord based anthemic screechers (ʻShineʼ). The tiny acoustic tribute to the late Rusty Day is a nice gesture, but unless you are well acquainted with the situation, it's just an extra minute and a half of generic blues plucking. And did they really have to bring back the ʻHow Many More Yearsʼ groove for yet another faceless try (ʻThe Groo­verʼ)? All these numbers are completely expendable.

Okay, so the entire album is expendable, but at least if you really loved the old Cactus, there is no reason for you to stay away from the new (old) Cactus — in terms of consistency and stubborn­ness, the record gets an A++, easy. I do thank them, however, for staying away from the studio ever since, even if as a touring outfit they seemed to be active at least as late as 2012. 

Monday, February 8, 2016

Buddy Guy: Skin Deep


1) Best Damn Fool; 2) Too Many Tears; 3) Lyin' Like A Dog; 4) Show Me The Money; 5) Every Time I Sing The Blues; 6) Out In The Woods; 7) Hammer And A Nail; 8) That's My Home; 9) Skin Deep; 10) Who's Gonna Fill Those Shoes; 11) Smell The Funk; 12) I Found Happiness.

Okay, this time, believe it or not, the guests make a good difference. There's Clapton on one of the tracks, singing and playing a little, but much more important is the presence of the Derek Trucks / Susan Tedeschi pair — not just because of the extra playing and singing, but because of a virtual «quality boost» that Derek's presence in the studio usually gives to his peers and even his elders. With a guy like that, you either have to give it your all, or step back — and since Derek's work aesthetics rejects «flash» and «showmanship» completely, your response has to be adequate. No monkeying around — just get to the point.

Maybe this is why the album opener, ʻBest Damn Foolʼ, despite not even featuring Derek, and despite being essentially based upon the age-old ʻBorn Under A Bad Signʼ groove, once again sounds sharper and livelier than anything on Buddy's last two records — not quite up to the level of Sweet Tea, because everything except Buddy's guitar is fairly routine, but up to Buddy's own personal highest standards, as he delivers barrages of shrill, simple, glass-cutting licks that have a whiff of «garage» attitude to them (and, in some ways, remind me of John Fogerty's classic soloing style — the way he could get the best out of the blues idiom with minimal means on stuff like ʻPenthouse Paperʼ or ʻNinety-Nine And A Halfʼ). Basically, the song just kicks ass.

Most of the material here is «original» (as usual, in Buddy's case this normally means setting old blues tunes to new lyrics), sometimes co-written with Tedeschi's producer Tom Hambridge (and occasionally just written by Hambridge on his own), but the topics remain the same — either bitchin' about the ten billionth woman in his imaginary life, or reminiscing about his real, but long gone life in the swamps of Louisiana (ʻOut In The Woodsʼ, ʻThat's My Homeʼ). At least once he hits upon a sensitive theme — ʻWho's Gonna Fill Those Shoesʼ namechecks a boatload of deceased bluesmen and leaves the question unanswered. Of course, it is hardly a coincidence that the song was contributed by Susan Tedeschi's associate, and that the young and promising Mr. Trucks was hovering somewhere in the neighborhood, but still there are no direct hints here that Mr. Trucks is in any way worthy of filling the shoes of Son House and Muddy Waters, so we might as well suppose that Buddy answers this to himself in the negative (Buddy himself, be­longing to the same old breed, does not count, of course — and he was a whoppin' 72 years old when this platter was recorded, for that matter; but then again, for a 72-year old he really swings that axe on the track, acknowledging his guitar as an equal partner in the righteous indignation over the fact that the shoes are not gonna be filled by just anyone).

Stuff like ʻToo Many Tearsʼ, on which the old man duets with Tedeschi, is the kind of unexciting contemporary smooth-blues-rock fodder that usually goes in one ear and out the other — and, honestly, Susan Tedeschi is a very nice lady and a respectable promoter of the blues, but she is very, very ordinary and unexciting (sort of like a sandpapered Bonnie Raitt). Her husband, how­ever, is a different matter, and his trademark slide wailings make a great counterpoint for Buddy's style — too bad that they don't really get to properly «spar» on any of these songs; in fact, every time Derek is in, Buddy slyly (coyly?) steps back as a player and concentrates on the singing.

It doesn't nearly manage to save the title track, though, which is just too preachy and weepy: yes, most of us know that "underneath we're all the same", and okay, some of us should probably be reminded of that from time to time, but just a little more complexity couldn't hurt, and besides, Buddy Guy is not a friggin' soul singer — he does not quite have the voice or the phrasing right for this. But fortunately, ʻSkin Deepʼ is just one such track here, probably designed to boost sales a little bit as middle-class sentimentalists battle racism by shedding tears over how we should "treat everybody just the way you want them to treat you" (Confucius™). The other songs do not exactly supercede ʻSkin Deepʼ in terms of non-banality, but they tend to kick ass, and you usually tend to forget about how banal something is when it kicks your ass on a relentless basis.

Anyway, more highlights: ʻOut In The Woodsʼ has a great swampy solo, with Buddy impersona­ting a hungry alligator from his childhood nightmares; ʻLyin' Like A Dogʼ is seven and a half minutes of slow angry ʻFive Long Yearsʼ-style blues, perfectly played and produced (not sure what else to say); ʻShow Me The Moneyʼ and ʻHammer And Nailʼ display Buddy's sense of humour, and ʻSmell The Funkʼ displays his, um, well... pretty strong vibe there for a 72-year old, maybe even a little too strong. Sure puts some of these youngsters to shame — ah, who's gonna fill those shoes?

Do not get me wrong: Skin Deep is fairly generic and conventional, there's not a single thread of exploration here as there seemed to be on Sweet Tea. But it is a good kind of generic, brought on by people who just want to make a little difference by throwing in a little bit of sheer spirit. This, at least according to my cherished gut feeling, is not just a record made out of the need to make another record — and for that, given that the key player is Buddy and the supporting force is Derek, it automatically deserves a thumbs up. Just sort of ignore the title track. There are much more efficient ways in which you can fight racism, believe me.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Cabaret Voltaire: 2x45


1) Breathe Deep; 2) Yashar; 3) Protection; 4) War Of Nerves (T.E.S.); 5) Wait And Shuffle; 6) Get Out Of My Face.

Actually, this, rather than Red Mecca, may be the band's most interesting contribution to the musical scene of the early Eighties. On this splice of two recording sessions, which was also the last CB album to feature Chris Watson as a member, the band shifts the balance over from the industrial / experimental shadings to the dance beats — this is a very club-oriented recording — without, however, toning down the overall gray weirdness of it all. The result is a return to their «shamanistic ritual» schtick, but in a more accessible and grappling way than ever before: six lengthy «art-dance» grooves which throw everything into the melting pot (funk, jazz, drone, Eastern influences, post-punk, industrial, you name it), and sort of get away with it.

Like Red Mecca, this here is the sound of a self-assured band that has, by and large, already found what it was looking for — and is now trying to prove to us that the search has not been in artistic vain. ʻBreathe Deepʼ has the skeleton of a modern electrofunk groove, but the shrill, dis­sonant wail of electronically treated guitars and wind instruments (not just saxes, but even a cla­rinet part!) is inherited from the band's avantgarde past and does a good job of creating an atmo­sphere of insane hustle-bustle: think Panic At The Factory or something like that. Totally dan­ceable, but sonically ugly and depressing, even if the band's traditional weaknesses still show through (namely, any of these tracks would have had much more impact if they tried building up these atmospheres rather than spilling everything out at once).

There is a substantial element of diversity, too: after ʻBreathe Deepʼ, ʻYasharʼ crosses the Cabaret Voltaire aesthetics with Near Eastern rhythmic and melodic elements, then ʻProtectionʼ goes into a happier sort of dance music where funk-pop guitar riffs are being offset by mad sax wailings, then ʻWar Of Nervesʼ slows things down to allow for some fairly poisonous avantgarde-guitar pyrotechnics, and eventually it all culminates in the 13-minute long ʻGet Out Of My Faceʼ, the loudest and most brash part of the ritual, sort of this band's equivalent of the Velvets' ʻSister Rayʼ, only with a larger pool of equipment and a little more compassion for people's ears. All of these tracks are united by a single aesthetic style, but they have different sub-atmospheres, and this helps make the record cooler, though, honestly, it is still hard to get truly wowed by the expe­rience. But at least with all these blaring saxes and guitar/synth interplay, you can't really argue that they are doing something that has since been rendered obsolete — 2x45 is a fairly unique mash-up of electronics, drone, and (not-so)-avantgarde jazz that is not afraid to cross genre bor­ders without properly belonging to any of them.

Honestly, I believe it's difficult not to be at least somewhat impressed by the results achieved here. As dance music, 2x45 can only be of interest nowadays for retro-futuristic, steampunkish parties; but I think it still has a bit of «mind-opening» potential, particularly in the way it mixes live in­struments with tape manipulation. And this is the first time, I believe, where I would actually grant a thumbs up rating to a Cabaret Voltaire album — not because I was emotionally and in­tellectually rewarded for making an effort, but rather because I didn't have to make too much of an effort to not be emotionally and intellectually rewarded, if you get my meaning here.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Budgie: Nightflight


1) I Turned To Stone; 2) Keeping A Rendezvous; 3) Reapers Of The Glory; 4) She Used Me Up; 5) Don't Lay Down And Die; 6) Apparatus; 7) Superstar; 8) Change Your Ways; 9) Untitled Lullaby.

I cannot really make up my mind whether I should feel more empathy towards Power Supply-era Budgie or Nightflight-era Budgie. What's the difference, you might ask? Well, there is some — basically, their second album with Thomas is a step back from the «hardcore» new-wave-metal­lism of the 1980 offering, as they try to sweeten and mollify Power Supply's dry brutality with some poppy and even «retro-progressive» (is that even a word?) elements. Probably, this means that Nightflight will have a little more appeal for fans of classic Budgie — yet on the other hand, it is also clear that the classic days will never come back, and it does not make a whole lot of sense trying to force them back.

I am talking about ʻI Turned To Stoneʼ, of course, the six-minute «folk-metal» anthem that opens the record on a very different note from ʻForearm Smashʼ. We get those melancholic minor chord acoustic melodies, powerful build-ups and slide-downs, and the metal-soulfulness which these guys could master well earlier on (ʻParentsʼ, etc.). Ultimately, however, the guitar tones are too much «early hair metal», the main riff of the chorus sounds like «under-chugged» Sabbath-lite, and although John Thomas unleashes some nice furious soloing in the sped-up gallop coda, it is hardly enough to redeem the song on the whole. Nice try, though.

Curiously, the tone of the record gets much lighter after that, and some of the tunes could, in fact, qualify as «lightly metallized» power-pop — ʻKeeping A Rendezvousʼ, ʻShe Used Me Upʼ, ʻChange Your Waysʼ are toe-tappy sing-along pop-rockers with a fairly light mood. However, they wobble on the edge of MOR blandness, and sometimes go right over that edge: ʻApparatusʼ is a faceless power ballad that could be Foreigner, Foghat, Styx, or whatever you wanted it to be in the late Seventies.

Arguably the most memorable — in a rather stupid way — tune here is ʻSuperstarʼ, a song that must have very clearly been influenced by AC/DC's ʻGirl's Got Rhythmʼ, which would have been perfectly fine if Shelley were able to demonstrate a better sense of humor; instead, for some rea­son, he intends to transform this funny, harmless little pop chugger into a serious social statement on superstar hypocrisy, for which he has neither the charisma nor the power of conviction. The variation on the ʻGirl's Got Rhythmʼ riff is a nifty one, though, I'll admit that much.

Overall, I guess it's just different from Power Supply — not for better or worse. At this time, «better» and «worse» aren't even valid options for Budgie: Shelley seems lost in space, unable to bring back the aesthetics of old and not quite getting the new realities, either. Not that this was a good time for power trios: heavy metal was all about creative guitar duos, of the Judas Priest type or the Iron Maiden type, or, if you only had one guitarist, you had to make sure it was a Van Halen type. John Thomas is a nice guy, but he doesn't experiment much, and he hasn't quite got the flashy technique of even one of the Iron Maiden guitarists, not to mention a Van Halen. So they try to get by, and I've heard much worse albums than this, but I do not think there'll come a time in anybody's life when ʻI Turned To Stoneʼ is exactly the kind of soul-crushing epic one is in dire need of at any particular moment. Unless you're so much a child of the Eighties that your ears only perk up at the sound of those thick, overproduced heavy guitar tones.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

The Byrds: Ballad Of Easy Rider


1) Ballad Of Easy Rider; 2) Fido; 3) Oil In My Lamp; 4) Tulsa County; 5) Jack Tarr The Sailor; 6) Jesus Is Just Alright; 7) It's All Over Now, Baby Blue; 8) There Must Be Someone; 9) Gunga Din; 10) Deportee (Plane Wreck At Los Gatos); 11) Armstrong, Aldrin And Collins.

Almost everybody will tell you that Ballad Of Easy Rider was a huge advance over Dr. Byrds, even if, paradoxically, it is far less ambitious and creative. For starters, the heavy-rocking com­ponent has pretty much been chucked out the window — a few distorted guitar solos crop up every now and then, but nothing even remotely approaching the thunder of ʻWheel's On Fireʼ; here, the Byrds settle for a far calmer, softer roots-rock sound, somewhat of an amalgamation of the early folk-based sound and the Sweetheart country-soaked approach.

Second and more important, there is only one song here written by Roger McGuinn; everything else is either contributed by other members of the band or comes completely from outside. This is not meant to sound as an insult to his general songwriting skills, but the material written for Dr. Byrds, although experimental, was clearly weak, and getting rid of that whole «space cowboy» baggage was probably necessary to avoid further embarrassment. Actually, there is one track here that is more space-cowboyish than ever — ʻArmstrong, Aldrin And Collinsʼ merges NASA voiceovers with a little acoustic ditty about the latest American heroes, written by country guy Zeke Manners; but it is just a short amusing epilogue that does not aspire or amount to much.

At the heart of the record are tracks like the title one or ʻGunga Dinʼ — haste-less, regal, slightly transcendental in their unnerving acoustic bliss, well comparable to the Byrds' classic legacy and, for that matter, completely absent on Dr. Byrds. Dylan, who originally began work on the title track as the theme of Easy Rider, pretty much stopped after writing "the river flows, it flows to the sea" and telling the contractors to pass it on to McGuinn — and sure enough, McGuinn put it to a melody that would probably evoke visions of a river flowing to the sea without a single word. The idea to orchestrate the song belonged to producer Terry Melcher, who seeked to emulate the effect of Nilsson's ʻEverybody's Talkingʼ, and they do emulate that effect, except that ʻBallad Of Easy Riderʼ has no tragic overtones and is essentially a static, beautiful soundscape — perfect as the movie theme (it is, after all, about /the impossibility of/ finding paradise on Earth), perfect as a Byrds song, one of McGuinn's tenderest and sincerest vocal performances.

Interestingly, new drummer Gene Parsons almost has Roger beat, or at least, matched, by contri­buting ʻGunga Dinʼ, a song about personal tribulations and discriminations set to an equally becalming arpeggiated melody — no orchestration this time, and the multi-tracked vocals are not as moving as Roger's solo parts, but chorus harmonies are cute (it's quite endearing how in the final "I know that it's a sin... Gunga Din" the title is delivered almost with a «sigh» of some sorts, in the «life is tough, but we'll get over it» kind of sense). His is clearly the best contribution of all the new band members — John Yorke's ʻFidoʼ is amusing, but first, it is another song about a dog (as if ʻOld Blueʼ was not enough; and they would return yet again with ʻBuglerʼ), which is discriminating towards cat lovers, and second, its melody is pretty much a complete rip-off of Manfred Mann's cover of Dylan's ʻQuinn The Eskimoʼ, differing only by the inclusion of a rather gratuitous drum solo. Probably they should have just gone ahead and covered the song instead. With some certified Inuit drumming for an interlude.

The covers are largely selected from the traditional folk/blues/country pool, although Bob gets his share — finally, they come out with an official release of ʻIt's All Over Now Baby Blueʼ, recor­ded at an ultra-slow tempo with triple repetition of "it's all over now", which may not be such a good idea (does the message really need rubbing in?). There's an alternately funny and disturbing reinvention of ʻJesus Is Just Alrightʼ as a semi-progressive rocker with «alarmed» vocal harmo­nies, sounding as if the band were performing an exorcism or a general ward-off-evil ritual with the song; an empathetic cover of Woody Guthrie's ʻDeporteeʼ, which would have made a good in­clusion on Sweetheart at the expense of, say, ʻChristian Lifeʼ; and some gorgeous vocal harmo­nies on the old anthem ʻOil In My Lampʼ. None of these songs are masterpieces of the human spirit, but they're nice, listenable, and reliable, and the new Byrds do them full justice.

In all, the goodness of Ballad lies precisely in its new-found humility — it's short, quiet, friendly, and almost completely free of ambitions and presumptions. It's as if the Byrds are no longer in­terested at all in the big race, but just want to share with us their love for the weather-worn American spirit, and not even in a «defying» way, as it was with Sweetheart, without locking themselves into one single narrow formula to which some of us furthermore might be alergic. If Dr. Byrds showed the world that the band could no longer be «relevant» even if it tried, Easy Rider shows that they no longer care about being relevant — and, in the process, are rewarded by the good fairy with a record that, almost haf a century later, sounds timeless, rather than time-bound. Naturally, this deserves a thumbs up.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

The Cardigans: Long Gone Before Daylight


1) Communication; 2) You're The Storm; 3) A Good Horse; 4) And Then You Kissed Me; 5) Couldn't Care Less; 6) Please Sister; 7) For What It's Worth; 8) Lead Me Into The Night; 9) Live And Learn; 10) Feathers And Down; 11) 03.45: No Sleep.

Five years between albums may not make such a long time now as they did thirty years ago, but in the case of the Cardigans, they were crucial — Long Gone Before Daylight gives us an en­tire­ly different band, with that dreadfully punched-up word «maturation» flashing blue, red, or green, whichever you prefer. No more jazzy Black Sabbath covers, no more cheerful Beatlesque pop, and not even any more trip-hoppy or disco dance numbers. With Svensson now providing all of the music and Nina all of the lyrics, this is a slow, unexciting, introspective record that comes as close to generic «adult contemporary» as they ever did. It's not as if they are getting more psychological on your ass than before — it's just that your ass gets the gist of it far more sharply when it's sitting in your chair than when it's being distracted by all those chuggy-funky or giggly-pastoral dance rhythms of yesterday.

Of course, this still comes on as somewhat of a shock — unlike the classic «young» stage of the band, the songs no longer jump out at you with the same immediacy, and, in fact, the album would most probably sink on a purely instrumental level, because music-wise, it seems to be riding on a fairly straightforward alt-rock and alt-country foundation. Where it eventually catches up with you (me) is on the vocal level. A few listens into the whole sucker, it emerges as an ex­treme­ly intelligent and sentient record on the love-and-hate issue — the real thing, that is. It has all these subtle connections to the past (ʻAnd Then You Kissed Meʼ hearkens back not to one, but to two of The Crys­tals' hits, because there is a reference to ʻHe Hit Meʼ as well; ʻFor What It's Worthʼ does not accidentally coincide with the title of the Buffalo Springfield classic — although it actually includes the song title in the lyrics, un­like its predecessor), but it is an utterly modern record at heart, and the best thing about it, it is modern, clever, emotional, convincing, and it does all of that on a very humble, unassuming, unprovocative level. Which means, of course, that it did not seriously chart anywhere but in Sweden.

It is very easy to write the record as too long, too slow, too boring, and too clichéd, but... do me a favor and don't do this, okay? Instead, give Nina a chance, and she'll eventually turn this into a masterful soulful show for you. ʻCommunicationʼ starts off with the most ABBA-esque song on here, and the verse-chorus build-up is a perfect mix of tender sentimentality with quiet despera­tion (is the Swedish way, after all) — one might quibble that it is not very inventive to follow the call of "I don't know how to connect" with the response of "so I disconnect", but she's got such a... disconnecting way of saying that last word, it's pretty hard to think of a better ending.

The second song, ʻYou're The Stormʼ, amuses me to no end, because stylistically, it is precisely the kind of material that would soon win Taylor Swift her fame and fortune — sort of a neo-country rocker, starts out soft and slow, becomes loud and anthemic in the chorus, and even the lyrics, all based around a somewhat crude geopolitical love metaphor ("and if you want me, I'm your country"), kind of fit the bill. Except that ʻYou're The Stormʼ actually has an enthralling chorus, where modulation matters much more than loudness — the pitch change from "I like the sweet life and the silence" to "but it's the storm that I believe in" is true pop brilliance. It is true that lyrical lines like "come raise your flag upon me" or "come and conquer and drop your bombs" sound a little crude (not to mention that the song's timing, coming out right at the start of the Iraqi War, couldn't have been worse), but it's no hard crime to get a little carried away with a metaphor, and, after all, we don't cherish The Cardigans because of their lyrics (even if, word-wise, they are typically several notches above the ABBA level).

Everything after that comes on a take-it-or-leave-it basis, but the more I listen, the more I'm ready to take. Here's just a few moments: the plaintive vibe of "my heart can't carry much more" (ʻCouldn't Care Lessʼ); the quiet razor-sharpness of the "help me, I'm not feeling... okay" chorus conclusion (ʻPlease Sisterʼ); the way "for what it's worth I love you, and what is worse, I really do" moves up an octave from first chorus to last; the believable stubbornness in the "I live and I learn, yes I live and I learn" mantra; the sarcastic-tragic finale of "come to me, let's drown... come baby, let's drown in feathers and down" — it's all touching, inventive, and meaningful.

Nothing remains, really, except to reiterate the old fact about no musical genre being good or bad on its own, but everything depending upon the personalities behind it. Singer-songwriters come fairly cheap these days, and far more often than necessary, but Persson would probably make an excellent one (in fact, Long Gone Before Daylight is far more of a «singer-songwriter» record, genre-wise, than a «pop» record); and this is precisely the kind of album that manages to avoid both the «cheap thrill» pitfalls of fluffy country-pop à la Taylor Swift and the «musical bore­dom» pitfalls of, say, an Ani DiFranco. Yes, our acquaintance started out on a sour note, but in the end I'm perfectly happy to award it a strong thumbs up — and all you reviewers who panned it when it came out, well, you probably didn't even respect the three-listen rule.