The Life of Chris Gaines

Artist: Chris Gaines (Garth Brooks)
Listenability Scale: 80%
Released by: Capitol Records
A Review by:
The Dude on the Right

CD reviews are weird enough for me to write sometimes because usually it’s simply I like the CD or I don’t. I hate getting all “this latest CD could be the defining CD of this band’s career,” or other crap like that. A concert experience has a story to tell, a movie has a plot to write about, but a CD, for me, is simply do I like listening to it, or in the worst case, do I think the fans of the band will like listening to it. Because of this I sometimes put off reviewing CD’s that come to the Entertainment Ave! mailbox, although I am trying to drop this habit. So, to start the breaking of this habit, what CD do I decide to resurrect my CD reviewing skills? Well, probably the weirdest CD I’ve ever had to review, or maybe even listen to, and that CD is, well, you know what, I’m already confused what to call it because here are the choices I have:

  • The CD booklet and press “biography” of Chris Gaines call the CD: “Garth Brooks in… The Life of Chris Gaines”
  • The CD booklet also has on the reverse side: “Chris Gaines – Greatest Hits”
  • The CD will sit in its jewel case on my rack showing “Chris Gaines – Greatest Hits”
  • The NBC press release as well as the Billboard tear sheet call it “Garth Brooks… In The Life of Chris Gaines”
  • And finally, the Capitol Records press release simply calls it “In the Life of Chris Gaines.”

So, you know what? Screw it. I’m going to try to put aside the fact that this CD is put out by Garth Brooks and really try to base this review if I had just gotten a CD by some dude called Chris Gaines who now has a greatest hits CD out even though I haven’t heard any of his songs on my radio station. What the hell, if Garth can take on the role of Chris Gaines than I can take the role of a dude who has never heard of him. I guess I’m nutty like this sometimes. So, here’s my mostly fake history of finding out about Chris Gaines with a real review the CD.

The Dude on the Right’s review of Chris Gaines – “Greatest Hits.”
The other day I’m checking the mail here at Entertainment Ave!, opening up the assorted CD’s of bands that most of you have never heard of, when I see a greatest hits CD. It was from this dude called Chris Gaines and I say to myself “Self, who is Chris Gaines and what songs did he have that he could put together a greatest hits CD?” I mean, I remember some greatest hits CD’s from bands who had at least a couple of hits, like that last Fine Young Cannibals CD, but they usually didn’t warrant the greatest hits title at all. What about this dude who I have never heard of? How did I miss the 11 supposed greatest hits of the 13 on this CD?

So, I did some checking and supposedly Chris Gaines has had a string of hits on his own, as well as with his previous band, Crush, beginning back around 1985. He’s had his share of tragedy, and quite honestly from his press release he’s about ready for a VH1 “Behind the Music” special with the only thing missing being a drug or alcohol addiction. He’s had a string of # 1’s, and maybe you’ve heard some of them, but like I said before, none of the songs rang a bell. In any case I thought “What the hell, let’s give it a listen.”

I’ve got to be honest that the first time I listened to this CD, well, I didn’t really care for it. It was alright, I thought, the songs being mostly pop with some funkier songs thrown in for good measure, but it wasn’t that bad so I gave it a few more listens and it grew on me. Catchy choruses, some love songs, and I could sort of see some of these songs hitting the charts. Songs like “That’s the Way I Remember It” and “Unsigned Letter” had me singing along by the third listen, and I could almost hear the Backstreet Boys doing a song like “Driftin’ Away” with the harmonizing going on. A lot of the songs had me thinking of other bands, ranging from The Beatles to The Alan Parsons Project to Bread. Yea, that’s right, I said Bread. And with that comment I’ve got to say some of the songs were just of the generic ballad variety, the new song “Lost in You” coming to mind. I’m not saying it’s bad, so you Chris Gaines fans don’t get in all a tizzy, but to me it seemed generic, although I do have to admit I did find myself singing along.

What did kind of surprise me was that none of the songs really hit the rock and roll side. Some were close, mixing more funk than rock on something like “Snow in July” and “White Flag,” and maybe there are some songs on his earlier CD’s that really rock, but this CD is stuck on ballad and pop. Not necessarily a bad thing, but I guess I just expected a little more, although thinking about it these types of songs are usually the hit variety.

In any case I can honestly say that I’m liking this CD a little more with every listen, especially “Main Street,” reminding me of a cross between Dylan and Springsteen, and the song “Maybe” which I, well, just, well, liked.

In all honesty I’m not sure how all of these songs were hits, but for someone who has never heard of Chris Gaines before, well, this greatest hits CD sounds like a good start. I’ll have to keep my eyes open for some of those earlier CD’s as well as for his upcoming CD, “The Lamb,” which ties in with his movie coming out.

In the end I give Chris Gaines’ “Greatest Hits” CD an 80% on the Entertainment Ave! listenability scale. It’s pretty solid with a couple of songs I’m not sure how they made it as hits, but others help make up for it.

That’s it for this one!! I’m The Dude on the Right!!! L8R!!

The Ultimate Hits

Artist: Garth Brooks
Listenability Scale: 99%
A Review by:
The Dude on the Right

As I’m starting to get excited about seeing Garth Brooks in concert on November 14th (my review of that concert will probably posted over the weekend of the 17th), I thought I would get a head start by getting Garth’s latest CD, “The Ultimate Hits,” so that I would be familiar with the new songs, and I find myself, again, in a weird spot of reviewing a greatest hits type collection (my last one was of Matchbox Twenty’s “Exile on Mainstream”). For the Matchbox Twenty collection I was duly impressed by their ratio of “new songs” to “greatest hit songs” was at a whopping 35-39% depending on the version you bought, and although Garth’s “The Ultimate Hits” is at a ratio of about 12% (I’m ignoring the two, blank tracks), but with the fact that if you shop fast you can get 34 songs and a DVD filled with over two hours of videos for under $15 bucks. Even then, just for the four songs and DVD of videos, the $15 bucks is well worth the cost of getting redundant copies of songs you already own, and you know what, when you rip them to your iPod, now you’ve got a higher rate of getting some great Garth Brook’s songs blasting through your shuffle play.

In any case, “The Ultimate Hits” spans all of Garth Brook’s career, with the songs that were hits (duh?), and as I took a listen I was amazed as I remembered every lyric, even filling in parts from “live shows” like “God bless Chris LeDoux!”, and remembered how a lot of Garth’s songs brought back tons of memories through a lot of years. And those were just the old songs! I could go through the entire track listing, but why? Pretty much if the song was any kind of radio hit for Garth, well, it’s on the two audio CD’s included with this collection. I was a little more interested in the four new songs, or I suppose I should say three new songs and a bonus track (I still never really understood the bonus track thing, especially with the two “blank” tracks before, and in this case the bonus song is “Leave A Light On”), and I have to say that the DVD is really what sold me on the new songs.

The reason I say that the DVD sold me on the new songs is that, like most CD’s, I listen to them in the background, and as the new songs came around I was sort of like “I guess that’s okay?” and then the next hit song would play, and I would sing along while I was doing things.  Then, as much as I was indifferent to the DVD, I popped it in my player, and I quickly realized that I’ll now have to do a review of it separately (God, that video of “Much Too Young…” brought back some wacky memories), but as I scanned through the videos I eventually got to the video for “More Than a Memory,” and suddenly, like most Garth songs, the song finally hit home. I will say I’m not a huge fan of the duet with Huey Lewis covering “Workin’ For A Livin’, although that might go back to some tortured days in college when one of my nicknames was “Huey Lewis Lips,” but “Midnight Sun” got me right back to knowing Garth can be fun, and how fun would it actually be to see Garth and the boys doing a concert in a bar? But the new, or rather bonus song, that hit me first was “Leave A Light On,” sans video, (and there isn’t one on the DVD), because it seems to touch on how Garth is always able to convey emotions, how a song can build to a crescendo, keeping you with it until the end.

If you are a huge Garth Brook’s fan you probably own 30 of the songs on “The Ultimate Hits,” and you probably have copies, or bootlegs, of some of the videos on the included DVD, but as Garth has always been about his fans, for the price, this two audio disc with some new stuff and a bonus DVD is way worth the price. I now have three new Garth songs I really like in my music library, and fine, I’ll add the Huey Lewis cover (even if I still have Huey’s lips), so I’ll be giving Garth Brook’s “The Ultimate Hits” a 99% on the Entertainment Ave! Listenability Scale. He loses 1% because my ultimate Garth hit is “The Red Strokes.” Sometimes I’m petty like that for a CD review. Hey, at least he also includes the “Dr. Pepper Commercial” song! Ah, screw it, 100%. I realized I still love Garth songs, again, even if my “Ultimate” hits aren’t really on this CD.

That’s it for this one! I’m The Dude on the Right!! L8R!!!


Artist: Biohazard
Listenability Scale: 55%
Released by: Sanctuary Records
A Review by:
The Dude on the Right

I’ve gotten a lot of CD’s over the years that I looked at and knew I wouldn’t be a fan, but when I started this “Quick reviews of my CD’s” project, I told myself I had to at least give a listen to all of them. “Uncivilization” from Biohazard was one of those CD’s I dismissed early on, and, well, won’t end up in my mp3 jukebox. Not that they’re bad, they just aren’t my cup of tea.

Pretty much I put Biohazard into the “Yelling Metal” category. Others might call it rap metal, thrash metal, and the like, but for me, it’s a lot of yelling. But you know what, they’ve got a message to say, and although I’m not going to sit and listen and try to dissect their lyrics, their website does a pretty good job of explaining what Biohazard is about, but before you totally dismiss them as and anti-government, angry, hateful, just trying to stir things up type of band, like I did, there are parts of their lyrics that changed my thinking of the band. For example, the song “H.F.F.K.”, for which I only heard “Hate. Fuck. Fight. Kill.” What I missed was the line “We teach our children how to act in this world by living what they see on TV. Murder, rape war, disease, the rules of society.”

Look, if you are a fan of this style of music you’ll probably like “Uncivilization.” There’s a lot of anger in the lyrics, but after reading said lyrics the anger is directed at both those who are messing up lives, as well as maybe it’s time to take responsibility and make a difference in this world. I’m not a fan of this style of music, but their message isn’t bad like I thought it was. For me it’s 20% on the listenability scale, but for fans of this style of music, it’s probably around the 90% range. I’ll average them out for 55%.

That’s it for this quick review. I’m The Dude on the Right!! L8R!!!

The Girl Next Door

Artist: Crystal Bernard
Listenability Scale: 54%
Released by: Entertainment One
A Review by:
The Dude on the Right

Crystal Bernard. Most of you know her most from her role as Helen on the TV show "Wings," but I’ll bet most of you might not know she can sing, and I’m told she directs videos as well. For this little article I guess we’ll leave her acting and directing careers alone and concentrate on her singing/songwriting, and the fact that she has a country CD out called "The Girl Next Door."

As I listened to this CD over and over again, I couldn’t really figure out what I didn’t like about it. The songs weren’t bad, granted the prevailing theme of most of "The Girl Next Door" has to do with getting your heart broken, and I did find myself humming along as the songs became more familiar. Then, one day I was driving in my car after a really rotten day and listening to the CD and it hits me – it’s not the songs, it’s not the fact that most of them conjure up some memories of old girlfriends, but it’s the fact that after "Could Have Been Mine" you get socked with four sad love songs in a row. Let me tell you, if you’ve had a bad day or just got out of a rotten relationship that little stretch of music just makes you want to head to your nearest bar and drown your sorrows in a bottle of whiskey. So, what did I do? I put the CD player on shuffle play and found that the CD isn’t half bad.

As far as country music CD’s go, it’s no groundbreaking effort, but I think it might just be a great start for Crystal. Good songs, easy to listen to (if on shuffle play), but for me there just isn’t that one song that I want to hear over and over again. Two things did surprise me about this CD. One was that she co-wrote nearly half the songs on the CD, and two, she has a great voice, and I think that over time she might be able to leave the TV show for a career in country music, just not yet.

Back to that songwriting thing because right now that’s actually striking a chord. As I listened a couple of times, I was curious as to what I thought were the better tracks on the CD and whether she helped in the writing. Another surprise for me – I liked all of the tracks she got some credit for writing a lot more than just about every other song. From my favorite track, the up-beat "State of Mind" to the sappy (that’s a compliment, believe it or not) "If You Have Love," I’m starting to find my disappointment of the CD in the fact that she had to pull in songs from other folks. Not that they’re bad songs, it’s just that I think hers were better. Really, the only song that strikes me that wasn’t co-penned by Crystal is "You’re Gonna Miss A Whole Lotta Love" credited to Dennis Morgan and Stephen Allen Davis.

So, what do you get for your CD spending dollar if you buy "The Girl Next Door." Well, first off, you get a CD filled with a lot of broken-heart songs, with a pretty equal split of up-tempo vs. slower-sappy songs. Just be sure to hit the "shuffle"/"random" button on your CD player or you better be reaching for the bottle because tracks 3 through 6 will have your head spinning wondering why he/she left you. It’s a tough call, and I really recommend hitting the listening station for the CD and jump around the CD before shelling out the bucks. It’s a good CD, especially the songs Crystal helped write, but in all honesty, I didn’t care for most of the other songs. On the Entertainment Ave! listenability scale I give "The Girl Next Door" from Crystal Bernard a 50%. And if you’re wondering how I got 50% on a CD with 13 songs, well, I didn’t count the cute little intro with a four year old Crystal singing. Alright, fine, it was cute so we’ll bump it up to 54%.

That’s it for this one – I’m The Dude on the Right! L8R!

Rock Spectacle

Artist: Barenaked Ladies
Listenability Scale: 80%
Released by: Reprise Records
A Review by:
The Dude on the Right

I can now finally say that I have been at a show that is on a live CD. See, it was my virgin time seeing, or even hearing Barenaked Ladies, and they say “we’re recording this for a live CD.” I’m thinking to myself, “Self, yea right, I’ve heard that so many times and no one ever seems to come out with that ‘live’ CD.” Well, they weren’t lying. I’m checking the Barenaked Ladies newsgroup and see someone post a notice about a new CD, and that it will be a live CD. I’m saying “Cool, I wonder if any of it will be from the show I was at?” Sure enough, some of the songs bring back those memories of my first time – at a BNL show that is.

Excited, I find the CD, head home, and this time I find myself a little bit more familiar with the style of the band, but my disappointment comes as I realize that five (I stand corrected (thanks Cindy!): four are from BoaPS, four are from Gordon, three from Maybe You Should Drive) of the eleven tracks are from their previous CD, “Born on a Pirate Ship,” and although they add a little bit more to the songs, personally I was looking forward to more of their older material. I was also looking forward to little more of that spontaneity that a Barenaked Ladies show seems to portray, the things like the set of Chicago (the group) songs like when they played in Chi-town, or the Prince cover, or, well, I think you get the point.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I like the CD, probably a little more than “Born on a Pirate Ship,” mostly for the fact that it does exude some of that energy from a live show and has some of my favorite songs from BoaPS, but being the new fan, and the cheap fan, that I am, (my BNL CD collection now ranks at two – BoaPS and Rock Spectacle) I was hoping for more than five (alright, four) songs I already knew.

The CD does throw in some of the local flavor of a show in the story of the lady and the Briar Street Theatre from the Chicago show and Uncle Elwin from the Montreal show. I will say that, for a brand new fan, the CD does a great job at spanning the musical variety of Barenaked Ladies. From the bouncy feel of “Hello City” to the great voice of Steven Page during “Break Your Heart” and one of my new favorites “What a Good Boy,” someone new can get a real feel for the band. I guess my problem is I became a fan at the time of the recording and not before or after. But, I do finally get a CD with “If I Had $1,000,000” and the next time I’m at a show I’ll be able to sing with everyone else, although I don’t think I’ll bring any macaroni and cheese.

I guess sometimes there are royalty problems in putting covers on a live CD, and maybe that’s the reason for leaving those off, but I think it does hurt “Rock Spectacle’s” chance at showing someone who has never been to a Barenaked Ladies show the real feel of a concert – which is what I think a live CD should really do. The recording is crisp, the voices are mixed well, and all in all the CD ends up in my higher rotation line-up, but, well, I guess just but.

Oh yea, “Rock Spectacle” is also interactive. Yep, pop the baby in your double-speed CD-ROM player and you get their version of BNL TV and KBNL – “Weird Music for Weird People.” I will say this, it does give the viewer a little inside into the twisted nature of the band, and I’ve been following the “Abs of Lard” segment for way too long. It’s cute, and fans will probably get a kick out of seeing it, but, and this is strictly a personal feeling, I think they should have done one of two things with the interactive part: 1) Scrap it all together and put more music from the shows on the CD. 2) Scrap the BNLTV and KBNL – save it for the next one, but add more live video from the shows. And that is my opinion on that.

All in all, on the listenability scale, the only song I can live without is “These Apples” so in those terms the CD rates a 91%. But, being a live CD, I think it misses a notch in doing it’s job, so we’ll knock some percentage points off and give it an 80% on the Entertainment Ave! listenability scale.

That’s it for this one, I’m The Dude on the Right!! L8R!!

No Substance

Artist: Bad Religion
Listenability Scale: 65%
Released by: Atlantic Records
A Review by:
The Dude on the Right

Punk has always had a way of sending a message in two minutes, and Bad Religion has always been pretty good at it. I don’t know if hard core fans will like “No Substance,” but for me punk has always been about driving guitars and catchy tunes, and “No Substance” gives that. Sure, you’ve got your fill of angst and political messages, hell, with songs like “Shades of Truth,” “The Biggest Killer in American History,” “Raise Your Voice,” and “Victims of the Revolution,” what could you expect, but as much as about a message, what would punk be without the guitar riffs, and Bad Religion does that on “No Substance.”

I’m not a big fan of punk, and actually prefer it when it’s non-political, but this one wasn’t as bad as I feared. I’ll give it a 65% on the Entertainment Ave! listenability scale.

That’s it for this quick review! I’m The Dude on the Right!! L8R!!!

Jim Croce – A Nashville Tribute

Artist: Various Artists
Listenability Scale: 35%
Released by: River North Nashville
A Review by:
The Dude on the Right

I can’t say I’m a huge fan of Jim Croce, but I can enjoy a “Time In a Bottle” with the best of them. But if I’m going to listen to a Jim Croce song, I guess I’m just going to want Jim singing it. In any case, “Jim Croce – A Nashville Tribute” is a nice testament to the variety of songs Jim has in his library, sung by some big names (Charlie Daniels, Sammy Kershaw) and some not so big names (Mark Collie, Larry Stewart). It also has Ronna Reeves who probably would have made it big time if not for Shania Twain coming out at the same time and stealing all of her press. In any case, if you want to hear Jim Croce songs with a country twang to them, it’s not a bad choice, but for me I’d rather hear the songs from the man himself.

It’s a 35% on the Entertainment Ave! listenability scale.

That’s it for this quick review! I’m The Dude on the Right!! L8R!!!