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Slip On Some Bangles And Shake To The '80s!
Bangles: Greatest Hits - Bangles
Member Name: Nar2
Bangles: Greatest Hits - Bangles
Advantages: 14 songs on a hit album by a band not quite forgotten; some good ones here: cheap prices.
Disadvantages: Availabilty, some poor choices.
Amidst dramas of reunions and minor disagreements the music of The Bangles has often stood the test of time and I'm often taken back to my school days in the 1980's when it comes to playing their music. Mostly remembered for their glossy voices, harmonies and to some extent the sexual thinking behind four beautiful women in a soft rock band, The Bangles were one of the first of many all women bands who weren't afraid to cruise along softly between mild post-punk/Garage sounds to soft rock. In terms of musical output, the Bangles hardly wrote a large discography too, only producing five albums before slipping off their own bangles once and for all. Much talk has always been around of a reunion although it remains to be seen what The Bangles would produce now in terms of a highly commercial album sitting against the grains of a much younger profile. Aside from Prince writing two of the more famous songs on this album there are other songs written by a writer who would also write in later years for single artists such as Cyndi Lauper (Steinberg.)
The usefulness of this album however isn't just the fact that it is really one of the most available albums by The Bangles (there is another album called "greatest hits," but its rather pricey and import only) but also serves its purpose well fitting into an "easy listening" category rather than soft rock, which 1980's band "Heart" are more famed for. The Bangles consist of: Michael Steele, Susanna Hoffs, Vicki Peterson and Debbi Peterson. All four ladies sing and play guitar, with Debbi Peterson being the drummer too - what a talented quartet! This is a long review.
** Track listings: **
1) Hero Takes A Fall
The first song on this album paves the way for a mix of styles; fast basic rock beat which is a good start to this album, echoing faders in on the female backing vocals and a rising bass line. However as much as this is a song, which is supposed to be kicking, it doesn't gel enough for me and appears as if instrumentals have just been pushed together. At times with the guitars there are similarities with the rushed rock of "The Go-Go's," but as soon as this song starts up, it is easily forgotten despite lyrics that fill out the verses. It seems ironic to think about the latter band as three members out of four from The Bangles would go onto work with "The Go-Go's" later on.
2) Going Down to Liverpool
I rather like this song not just because in some way it paves a tribute to The Beatles, but because of the general feeling of this song with good lyrics blending in and out, an easy to remember chorus and a basic change to the verse with "Hey, where are you going with your UB40 in your hand?" and it is not sung by the squeaky clean Ms Hoffs either which is a nice change from the first song and suits a lower female voice as such.
If anything the content of the song is all about going to Liverpool, living and life about nothing and as such although the song has a pleasant way about it, it moves quickly through the verses thanks to the easy to listen instrumentals. I rather like it for its basic fluidity and its quick beat, suitable for driving along to.
3) Manic Monday
This is a classic song amongst fans of this band. If you have never heard it, then where have you been? This song has always been destined to live in a timeless world thanks to constant radio air play not just because of its lyrical content to face working/life on a Monday morning, if not just for the day after a free weekend, but also the fact that "Manic Monday" does very little wrong having been written by Prince, the artist.
Infact musically it has that typical feel of a Prince song from the 1980's even if it has glissando swaying lines between guitars and synthesizers. A bonus fact though is that this song contains elements of another fast rocker song, "1999" by Prince in the verses of this song by The Bangles. No wonder its included on many 1980's compilations.
4) If She Knew What She Wants
There is a slight tinge of T'Pau in the way this song starts even though it is dissolved immediately by a similar accompaniment by "Manic Monday," standards. What is more of yet another throwback to The Beatles is a strong backing vocal chorus behind Susanna's clear voice, and as the song starts you get to hear the chorus right at the start which always paves the way for the though of whether the song gets stronger or falls down by the wayside. But the mix of backing vocals and main voice gets stronger even though the chorus comes all too sudden after a lifting middle bridge. A short guitar solo, intricate at times adds interest but generally there is a strong defiance behind Susanna's voice despite the backing vocals adding more to the story of the lyrics. The only question the listener will be faced with is "what will he give her?"
5) Walk Like An Egyptian
One of my favourite songs, not just because of its hard edged and fast rocking beat; you can't fail to hear Egyptian/Middle Eastern sounding clichés of music in the way this song develops, even though it contains plenty of tambourines which Stevie Nicks would be jealous of. Engineered to be fast moving not just by the rock and roll style bass line, the lyrics are worth checking out just to listen to the shortness of the words and how fast they actually go through the verses. At times the vocals in general are somewhat haunting but the guitars and the moving chords dissolve them too quickly.
Even though it contains a very fast bass line rock and roll style, and an unauthenticated human whistle (it's actually a keyboard) this is a song which gets your feet moving even if you pretend to an Egyptian dance and sing "Oh-Way-Oh!" in the privacy of your home, these girls will guarantee that somewhere and someway you'll end up moving or walking like an "Egyptian".
6) Walking Down Your Street
An unusual song, it uses similar architecture to the latter song, "Walk Like An Egyptian," with a moving bass line. It could well be a song that Debbie Harry threw out in lieu of better songs for her solo career, but it sits very closely to a similar commercial sound, even though some lyrics are lost. This song also has elements of "Love Shack," by the B52's, but echoes and faders on the vocals and the warmth of the female voices soon lift it even though at times they sing together in unison (all one line) as opposed to harmonies.
Following is a song that may surprise you. It doesn't have any rock beats, no fast shakes of the tambourine, but some pre-recorded vocals waving in and out against the main lyrics of this sorrowful song. Tie in an acoustic electric guitar that hasn't been ironed out to hide the frets and twinges at the end of the chords, but in a bluesy way, the song takes on a good challenge of combining rising and sustained the girl's singing backing vocals against the sadness of this song.
8) Hazy Shade of Winter
And it's not long before The Bangles are back to their hippy chick rock band style. Although the song took on a minor film promotion in the 1980's film "Less Than Zero," the song is better known for the fact that it is actually written by Simon & Garfunkel. You can't fail to notice its hard rock edged beat surrounded by the revengeful Susanna Hoffs singing this song, even though there is some funky Harpsichord throughout the song against the jarring electrical guitars, electric Hammond organ and unfortunately an electric sounding chorus of brass. Infact if you banged your head to this song, you could be forgiven!
9) In Your Room
What makes this song tick is the inclusion of timpani drums, which come in and out of music in off beats. Whilst the guitar plays out the verse, it is another fast rocker but not as fast as "Hazy Shade of Winter." The song also uses the same music architecture as most Bangles hits, even though this song feels a lot more planted without going out the window. Listen out for the middle bridge where Ms Hoffs begins to get bluesier with the music. Even though in the last sections of the song, the feeling of this song still imparts itself well even though it becomes bombarded with pre recorded overdubs at the end and an Asian sounding string section which makes no sense whatsoever. Fab!
10) Eternal Flame
Thanks to "Atomic Kitten," this is one song that you will either love or loathe. In its original basis however this is a song that I have never been shy to admit I like and I couldn't stand the wishy washy quality of Atomic Kitten's version. Whilst it has a twee sounding see saw of keyboards and an Indian bell sounding off in between the song, it could well have a slow Calypso sound if it wasn't for the synth string orchestra and electric guitar playing in between, the lyrics are extremely realistic even though it reveals some weakness in Susanna's voice as she rises upwards.
Get your lighters out then the next time you hear this song, it certainly is one of the highlights of the early 1980's in respect to slow ballads of love and sorrow. Some people I know in my generation snogged to this on the dance floor! It is one of those songs that if you allow it too, will raise a few hairs on the back of your neck but you won't be cut down for shedding a tear either.
11) Be With You
Now this is one song which sits very close to Debbie Harry, even the singer in this song could so easily have sampled Debbie's voice using a rock march beat typical of the 1980's period, glistening electric piano keyboards in and out against a deep synth group of keyboards which aren't ashamed of making their presence known.
However as easy as the lyrics are, sometimes the verses get lost and the middle bridge sounds very unsupported as the song tries to change its movement. It's an okay song but I can't believe it's a hit - it is certainly one song that passes you by for all that it has been electronically engineered against a hard rock beat.
12) I'll Set You Free
A slow ballad of sorts this time, almost an 8 beat with a good start by Susanna. However what I like about this song is that it has a decent set of lyrics in the verses, and at times they rhyme very well. Another aspect to look out for is the fact that the chorus is really easy to get along with and the acoustics of the studio when this song was initially recorded are easy to hear. I love the sound of the electric guitar, which has similar styles to the guitar played on "Highway Runner," by Donna Summer, around the 1981 period.
13) Everything I Wanted
This is a previously unreleased song on the album and was possibly included onto the greatest hits package as a way of a sweetener. Another rock and roll number, it is easy to confuse yourself with the last song's words when Susanna sings "Everything I wanted," before this song starts up again. As the song nears to the end, it's easy to hear that this is one of those songs that could really come alive if played in a live setting.
14) Where Were You When I Needed You?
Well if there was proof that The Bangles could do a slow country number then this is it, even if there are shades of Velvet Underground in this song. Whilst it adds interest to the fact that it is at the end of the album, it's a good song to include here even though its not one that I have ever heard of before until I bought this very album and suddenly that's the last song!
The inlay booklet is a delight but for the period something special with footnotes and some wonderful pictures. It is a shame though that at times there are some songs which appear dated, and sound similar to other bands - certainly the songs which made great airwaves here in the UK; "Manic Monday," "Walk Like An Egyptian," "Eternal Flame," and to some degree, "Hazy Shade of Winter," this is about the only album where you can find all the great songs of The Bangles come together as one.
When I bought my CD in Woolworths in 2006 it cost me £3-99. Now three years on the album can still be purchased from Amazon from the same price, making this glittering album a bit of a bargain. Whilst it is not abrasive, it is easy to see and hear how this album could be forgotten - but for 1980's diehards, it's an album that is very much honoured. Thanks for reading. ©Nar2 2009.
"Bangles Greatest Hits"
Released 1990 Sony Music
Cat No: 466769 2
(This is a great website where the lyrics of the songs can be seen & videos but unfortunately there are no free downloads of the actual whole album.)
http://www.amazon.com/Greatest-Hits-Bangles/dp/B0 0000273M (Real Player)
Summary: The Best of The Bangles will give you a glimpse of the 1980's.