I was on the road for last week’s DLC announcement, so I backtrack for those of you who missed me squeeing about it on Twitter. I actually kind of hope you didn’t wait for me; it was a good week.
Week of 16 November
Bee Gees – “Jive Talkin’”
Bee Gees – “Night Fever”
Bee Gees – “Stayin’ Alive” +
Bee Gees – “Nights on Broadway”
Bee Gees – “Tragedy”
Bee Gees – “You Should Be Dancing”
B.B. King – “The Thrill Is Gone” +
Procol Harum – “A Whiter Shade of Pale”
But what about this week? As previously announced, Harmonix will be bringing us the full-album of John Lennon’s Imagine. (Sans, of course, the title track which is on-disc for Rock Band 3.)
+ = pro-guitar/bass chart available
Alright, now let’s get to some unsolicited opinions, beginning with last week.
The Bee Gees are a definite purchase in this household. More than once Mike’s uttered the phrase “We need some Bee Gees in Rock Band”, and that was well before we had keys and harmonies support. Karmically enough, just one day before this announcement, he was again lamenting this need. And lo, HMX hath given unto us the Gibbs.
You really can’t go wrong with the entire Bee Gees pack. Disco gets a lot of flack, but when you get right down to it, it’s music to make you feel good, to be fun and make you want to move. In other words, it’s the perfect genre for a music game. I’d be willing to bet that with most of these, even if you don’t think you know it? You know it.
“Nights on Broadway” is probably their most obscure of the songs in this pack, in retrospect being something of a bridge between the two major points in their career (from pop to disco). It’s pretty complex though, and I think the harmonies may be some of the more complicated out of the entire pack. Don’t discount this one just because you may not have heard of it before.
I’m particularly looking forward to “Tragedy” so I can finally learn what the hell the lyrics are. “TRAGEDY! Dubba dun dun dun dabba dah dun dun dah TRAGEDY!” Again, another that you probably know, even if you don’t think you know it. Plus how much fun to hear your vocalist trying to hold those notes? Yeah, EXACTLY.
The rest are likely the most familiar; “Jive Talkin'”, “Night Fever”, “You Should Be Dancing” and, of course, “Stayin’ Alive” are all featured on the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack. These are just stone solid tracks on all instruments. Obviously vocals with the super-tight harmonies steals the show, but you can’t overlook that disco beat, funky bass, and wakka-chu-wakka guitar. Seriously, who among us is not going to at least pick up “Stayin’ Alive”? I don’t even want to know someone who’s going to turn away from that song.
In summation: Bee Gees pack = GET.
Next we have “The Thrill is Gone”, a single from blues guitar legend BB King. What’s probably most exciting about this one to me is that it has the pro-guitar chart available. I’m not the hugest blues fan ever, but this sounds to me like it’s right in that perfect range for playing on my please-let-me-order-you-soon Squier. Challenging, but rewarding as shit. And of course, in keeping with the genre, the guitar in this has soul. For me, for right now, it’s a pass, but I’m going to give this a very hard and serious second look when I have my midi-capable guitar in-hand.
Finally for last week, we cap the week of awesome with yet more awesome: “Whiter Shade of Pale” by Procol Harum. Just an absolute no-brainer for anybody enjoying the keys in Rock Band 3. In fact, a no-brainer for everyone. This song is gorgeous, and everyone should add it to their Rock Band library. Now. You should already have done it. (Fun fact: This song makes me cry almost every time I hear it. I have no idea why, but there it is.)
And this week we have the full album of Imagine by John Lennon. Definitely a workout for the keyboard lovers.
Now my admission before I start: I haven’t listened to this album before. Much as I love The Beatles (because hi, I don’t think the let you join the human race if you don’t love The Beatles), I never paid much attention to their respective solo careers. The only song I know from this album was the one on the disc that, again, we all know because we’re human beings. So I’m listening first time and all opinions are coming from gut impressions.
Kicking off with “Crippled Inside” which was frankly not at all what I was expecting to hear. It’s very honky tonk, which pretty much immediately puts it in the category of Music That’s Not For Me. But I do admit to getting a kick out of the dark lyrics coupled with the really upbeat music. Plus, I can’t deny that the piano sounds crazy fun to play. It’s not something I’d run out to buy and play, but if I start looking for new keys-heavy songs, this one would have to be near the top of the list.
“Jealous Guy” is the not-“Imagine” song that I know from the album by name, and as popular as it is, I’m not a huge fan. It’s beautiful, and again great for the keys, but aside from that I don’t think it’ll be a song I’ll be adding to my Rock Band; being as slow as it is and so light on most instruments, I just don’t see it getting much play.
Ah, very bluesy with “It’s So Hard”; that bass riff is pretty much ripped from any blues song ever. Unfortunately, as previously mentioned with BB King, not that big on blues. (Man I’m sounding very musically insular today.) I’m not picking up on much for me in the game with this one. But if HMX ever bring in a plastic sax, I’ll revisit.
On to “I Don’t Wanna Be a Soldier Mama”. Very unsettling song, and I don’t doubt for a moment that it’s fully intentional. The reverb is up way too high on John’s voice, and the music barely seems connected. I can’t imagine a single take on this song sounded the same as another. Pretty much you’ve got musicians jamming in the most discordant way possible. It’s a very interesting listen, simultaneously engaging you while shoving you the hell away, but again I can’t see me enjoying playing this in my game at any point.
“Gimme Some Truth” is far and away the song I like best on the album thus far. I love the lyrical flow, and I imagine it’s a blast to sing. In my first listen I was pretty fixated on the vocals so I had some trouble singling out any other instrument (I’d guess there must be keys in there, but I couldn’t confirm it) so I’m not sure how it is for the game overall. I’m definitely interested enough to seek out the chart on Tuesday.
If you’ve read this far, it’s perhaps not surprising that I’m also running pretty lukewarm on “Oh My Love” for Rock Band. It’s absolutely a beautiful song, but aside from piano and vocals there’s really not much going on. But that said, for keys it sounds like it’ll be pretty fun and interesting and – perhaps more importantly – fulfilling. I’m still not entirely sold, but I think I’ll mark it a “maybe” and come back and give it a second look when I’m in the mood for songs to increase my keys library.
Oh okay yeah, also know “How Do You Sleep?” It’s actually kinda hard to enjoy it given how blatant a dig it is at Paul McCartney. The guitar is certainly more interesting in this track than it is in most of the others I’ve heard thus far (not a surprise that this is the one with the pro-chart). I dunno though, the song just leaves me with a sour taste in my mouth, although I do think its inclusion gives an interesting dynamic to the album when taken as a whole. Still, thinking I’ll pass.
“How?” follows the “strong on vocals and keys” theme of the album, but there’s something different about this one, something that’s resonating a bit more with me I think. Listening more carefully, I have to say again that I don’t think it’ll be much for the game; it sounds even less complicated on keys than “Imagine”, and I’m going to guess they’ll chart the violins to the guitar, so there won’t be much going on there either. But I really liked the song a great deal. I may not get it for Rock Band, but I think I might for my iPod.
Finally we close with “Oh Yoko!”, a much more upbeat song than the last few have been. In fact, is this the first/only with harmonies? Unsurprisingly there’s a lot going on with piano, and it sounds difficult but a lot of fun. The song overall … it’s okay. If you’re looking for something a bit bouncy and a little fluffy out of this week then this is probably the song for you.
So overall, Imagine isn’t so much the album for me. There’s some songs with potential depending on what instrument I’m looking to boost – which, luckily, will probably be keys and that’s undoubtedly the instrument that shines the brightest this week. Nothing that’s an immediate must-buy, but a few rainy day possibilities, with lots of potential to showcase the latest addition to the plastic instrument family.