Shock Denial Anger Acceptance
Rick Springfield returns with a brand new studio recording that sees him in new territory, both as a performer and an artist. The ten year break between Rock Of Life and Karma has been halved, but this time Rick is on his own, facing the challenges of releasing an album independently and having to deal with everything that entails.|
On Shock Denial Anger Acceptance - as he has done on previous outings - Rick again invites the listener to ride along with him through an emotional roller coaster ride, on this occasion more often than not touching on the Anger portion of the album's title.
As the title suggests, the album deals with four different emotions and it remains up to the listener what exactly they take from this 48 minute journey.
And it's a wild ride. I think the album has been put together in an interesting fashion. There are no gaps at all between many of the songs instead relying on short segway's into the following tracks. It makes for an interesting listen and like I said - a wild ride.
There's no other way to put it this album rocks hard and packs an emotional punch.
But that should be no surprise to fans. Rick is no stranger to emotional, confrontational and introspective lyric writing. Rick's key appeal is his ability to involve the listener in his own angst, with his music at times written and recorded for himself as much as those that buy the records.
Even in his most early days during the 70's, his lyrics defied the expected boundaries placed upon pop artists. There were some lighter moments that would find their way onto albums, but there has always been a dark streak to his music.
That dark streak and the emotional impact of his songs has gained him a lot of respect and half the enjoyment of albums like Living In Oz, Tao, Rock Of Life and Karma has been the analyzing of lyrics.
That's something that is slightly missing on SDAA. The directness of the lyrics and the forthright nature of their delivery haven't left anything to the imagination.
Previously Rick has woven his angst in and around his music, this time he throws it right in the listeners face and it can be a little off-putting at times. The emotional impact is still there but the searching and lasting depth is not.
Still, few artists are capable of what has been placed on record here. Few artists can nail such charged emotions and channel it into their music and no one comes close to the lyrical depth penned by Springfield.
This is a great album but it's not quite a classic.
A few points to make I don't think the album flows as well as it could have, given a different running order of the songs. I also don't think it's a totally cohesive body of work, with variances in sound and production quality throughout.
Karma's only downside (besides some saying it didn't rock enough), was the changing styles within, being that the tracks were written/sourced over that massive 10 year gap between records.
s/d/a/a is much the same but shouldn't have been. The sonic changes between tracks doesn't not assist the flow of the overall album.
There are a few tracks here that I would rate as some of Rick's very best ever some truly amazing songs. But there are also a few tracks I could live without and ones that might have better been saved for the Limited Edition version. The album itself seems to be in two parts simple and hard rocking to open, a mid album break that some could possibly live without, and the second half that's clearly more experimental and rewards long time fans with some very intelligent songwriting.
Read through the track by track comments for further detail on these issues.
The other issue I have with the album is the length of the songs. A good song is not necessarily one of length, but all too often while listening to the new tracks I feel that they are over before they had run their course. It is almost as if there was still more that could be said. The album takes listeners through 15 tracks (+2 short fillers), yet it is over in just 48 minutes.
A couple of tracks run just two and a half minutes, which is a clear rebellion - but against what I am not sure. Rick has never been famous for long songs, but at 2.5 minutes, there's at least 1 minute and a good chorus or two missing from several tracks.
Track By Track:
Perfect is the right word for this opening track, it sets the tone of the album with a simple guitar riff and a pounding beat. The vocals are unmistakably Rick and the angst is expressed through some frustrated lyrics. The music is somewhat loose and very raw compared to the Rick of past, but the song still contains a couple of neat production effects and tricks.
I'll Make You Happy is a cover of Aussie 60's icons The Easybeats. They remain one of the most important bands of this countries musical heritage and a huge influence over Rick's early career. Sadly I am not a big fan of this song, although it's really given a thorough workout here. Rick modernizes it with some fuzz-tone guitars, a sonic wall of energy and some screaming vocals. But with so many tracks on offer on s/d/a/a, why a cover tune as the second track? I would have left this for the very end of the album or even relegate it to the Limited Edition version. I don't think the song fits the flow or style of the album.
Will I? is a melodic rock gem. This will be one of the select tracks in the running for song of the year. It's Rick, but it's updated and it contains some fantastic heartfelt lyrics and one of the best guitar driven chorus hook's to bless my ears in a long time.
After a short interlude another hard edged rocker kicks in. God Gave You To Everyone features a tough, hard rocking riff and another raw and direct lead vocal.
More introspective and in your face lyrics flow into a chorus which isn't one of my favourites it's a little simple. And at 2.5 minutes it feel incomplete.
One of Rick's most straight forward and hardest rock tunes ever is Idontwantanythingfromyou. This is an infectious live, in your face rocker with a guitar riff you'll never forget. More spiteful lyrics flow in fact they are some of the most direct lyrics presented by Rick and the way the song gathers pace in quick time before launching into a keyboard bridge is perfect accompaniment to the direct and over the top chorus. Synth fills beneath the surface add texture to the song, but it's Rick's raw, energetic vocal that rules the song.
Then it's straight into another segway, a curious little ditty that launches into one of the most sonically heavy tracks of the album - Jesus Saves. I have a love hate thing going with this track. I love the intro and I love the intricate verse and the layers of synth/programming that makes the song so lush with instrumentation, but I'm not as sold on the chorus.
I don't know about everyone else, but I don't really need to hear Rick singing about white trash and his obsession with trailer parks runs through several tracks on the album!
I love the lyrics in general and the raw emotional way they are delivered, but the chorus doesn't knock me out and I'm not sure the whole tuned down guitar thing suits Rick's naturally poppy style.
With barely time to catch your breath, Beautiful You kicks in. This is another interesting track. It lightens up the tone of the album a little and is more in keeping with the nature of Karma, but is presented in a more contemporary modern pop setting. Something new for Rick that actually works pretty well, especially with the memorable chorus.
Wasted reverts back to the raw, live in the studio production feel. The guitars come through thick and loud, but the pace is a little more laid back. The lyrics are nothing short of fantastic and highlight Rick at his best storytelling. And the vibe of the track is that of Rick of old, but with that updated hard edged feel of the album in general.
Most importantly, it's one of the most natural Rick vocals on the album. It's only on a few tracks we here the unfiltered, unforced natural voice control the song and that's the very case here.
Shoot Your Guru is where the album loses it's way a little. It marks a significant point in the album, as it marks a half way mark where the songs before it don't necessarily mark those that come after it. The track itself is only a 1 minute acoustic instrumental and would have been better shortened and remained as a segway rather than a separate track.
Alien Virus continues the mid-album break. This is a two and a bit minute blues number that sounds like it was recorded in one take. It's actually very cool in it's own way, Rick's vocal is really raw and was obviously recorded without the aid of overdubs. But the song doesn't really fit on the album and together with the slow acoustic ballad Angels Of The Disappeared really does break the momentum in the album. I love Angels..., but paired with two other short acoustic tracks doesn't appear to be well placed.
Eden marks the start of the second half of the album. In all honestly I think I prefer the second half of the album as it's a more natural Rick in play. Eden is a really cool, high-tech slow to mid-tempo pop song with plenty of synth, programming and drum loops driving it. The guitar plays a supplementary role in this case. Eden could easily have fitting on Rock Of Life or Karma. I'd be interested to learn when it was actually written.
The Invisible Girl kicks things into high gear again, being a feel good pop rocker with plenty of acoustic and electric guitars jangling along. The chorus is pure Rick Springfield, taking in the best attributes of Karma and his general knack for writing catchy pop songs.
My Depression wow where do I start? Basically I had this song pegged as song of the year, as I have had the demo since the release of Karma and have rated it as one of Rick's best ever songs. But I am disappointed with the way it has been presented here and feel as if it has lost some of its charm.
The song itself remains one of Rick's best and most personal lyrics ever. In fact, it's one of the best lyrics ever, period. Chronicling the story of his life so far, the song starts as he was growing up and runs through to present day. In between is a monster chorus that questions it all. Wonderful stuff. In its current form the song remains one of the most original of Rick's career, but a little magic from the original demo is gone.
What was a feel good pop rocker with a fair pace is now a mid-tempo track with an overbearing modern rock riff and some of the lyrics buried in unnecessary vocal effects and supported by a guitar rhythm that is more calypso than rock. And why was a killer guitar solo cut short and buried beneath a heavily detuned, overbearing riff? Never mind, it remains a classic, but not song of the year.
From that small disappointment to Your Psychopathic Mother a song I can't speak highly enough of. This is pure songwriting genius and is another highly original moment for Rick. The chorus is sparse, featuring subtle guitars that build up the tempo and a lead vocal that is honest, raw and emotional. Then the chorus this came from nowhere and is seriously one of the best anthems of Rick's career. Filled with a hard rock guitar riff that doesn't dominate and another lead riff that lies beneath, the song has true depth. The vocal hook sends it right over the top. But I am somewhat disappointed again. At 2.5 minutes the song finishes suddenly and blesses us with only 2 choruses. It would have been no extra paid to add another chorus or two and a bridge between them. Minor point it's still a classic.
And proving that the most original and experimental tracks are featured on the second half of the album Every Night I Wake Up Screaming comes along to blow long time fans away. This track starts with a simple piano sound, a drum loop and a light weight guitar riff that is in standing with change of direction over the last few tracks of the album.
Kick to another raw and emotional vocal and a heavier guitar riff while the song builds tension. Then a big riff, a heavy synth vocal and that chorus the angst ridden modern rock monster. This is possibly the most intense and modern rock influenced track of the album that is rich with production effects and reminds me of the programming effects of Tao, expect with a seriously modernized sound.
For metal heads it reminds me of the approach to sound employed by Kee Marcello on his latest album Melon Demon Divine. All in all a wonderful addition to the catalogue of Rick songs and a great way to end the album almost.
Open My Eyes in fact ends the album. This is another reminder of the Tao influence as it runs only just over 1 minute as a soulful and introspective way to close the album. It's almost like Rick is winding down the listener with this simple track giving you something to think about after the roller coaster comes to an end.
But all said and done, it's another great album from Rick that sees him repaying fans waiting to hear him rock again. Personally I felt that Karma is still a better record, being that there's a little more depth to it. s/d/a/a is in your face and is a good alternative if you want to crank things up.
I believe a lot of fans will love this purely because of the hard rocking factor, but some may be disappointed in the updated style or the loose, raw production style employed on several tracks. The album might have been improved further by dropping 2 or 3 tracks and revising the running order.
Minor points, it will still be one of my favourites from 2004.
I think this is a great idea and I applaud the concept and suggest other bands take a look at similar options. However, I have several problems with this particular Limited Edition and a couple of other things that have been done.
The LE version retails at US$90. Being a die-hard fan I paid for this and therefore think as a consumer as well as a critic I am qualified to comment.
The extra's set features 2 bonus discs one audio and one DVD.
The audio bonus CD contains rare and unreleased tracks. It really depends on your outlook as to what value these extra's hold. But personally I think $90 is overpriced. A price tag of around $50 might have been more fitting and more respectful to the fans.
Love Screws Me Up is one of three unreleased tracks from the Karma sessions, which for me is the main value of this package. Unreleased tracks are the true gold that long time fans strike to collect.
And this one is a beauty. It doesn't really fit the persona of the Karma album it's a high-tech, feel-good pop rocker that's more along the lines of Sahara Snow, yet it does feature the same guitar tone as featured on several tracks from Karma.
Revolution Day is another unreleased Karma gem. This is a stripped back, acoustic driven pop rocker you should all know already. Yep, listen carefully - this song is a prototype of what would become Beautiful Prize. This track, with completely different lyrics is equally uplifting and features a great sing-along chorus. This demo is in the same musical style that the original Karma demos were recorded in.
Rhythm of Love is an unreleased track from 1988. Its one track I already had, but for others, it's another cool addition and is a very smooth and sultry pop rocker. It's something a little different for Rick and that's why I think it's a cool addition.
Her Body Makes Vows is a third unreleased track from the Karma sessions. Another gem of course. This is another high-tech Sahara Snow style track with a moody heart and a mellow tone. Not as sonically clear sound wise as the first two Karma off-cuts, which is disappointing, but still cool.
Next up is the track that was promised to be a special feature of the Alive DVD only. Yes, it's a different version, with all new musical accompaniments, but it's no longer the promised exclusive from that DVD is it? And for the record, I believe the DVD version is better.
When You Dream, Rhythm of the Beat and Forever are all tracks from Rick's EFX Alive show. Nice tracks, very cool especially for fans of the show. Not essential for the fans of the harder edge Rick as these are very much Broadway/show style tunes, but cool nevertheless.
However should there be a full CD release of the EFX show at a later date these tracks will be no added bonus.
Next up are some of Rick's original demos. Following the Alive Greatest Hits LE idea of including bonus demos, Rick has included the original home demos of Rock of Life (from 1986), Affair Of The Heart and Souls (from 1982) and Don't Talk to Strangers (from 1981). Again, cool for some, and an always interesting insight into the foundation of what would come. Rock Of Life is of particular interest hearing it helps bridge the gap between Tao and Rock Of Life the album.
Personally, I would have found greater value in more unreleased tracks. There are still plenty hidden away that could have been featured here.
Poison Pen is billed as an unreleased demo from Success Hasn't Spoilt Me Yet. Now we're talking! It's a track with a cool concept too, but wait the track is only 1 minute long!! Major disappointment folks.
Next up is the track American Girls recorded for the unreleased 1974 Springfield album. This version is recorded live from LA's Troubadour club in '74. Ok version that includes a little dialogue from a very Australian sounding Rick, a nice archive track.
Following that is two tracks from that unreleased Springfield album - Fire Brigade and Sweet Teaser. Ok for die hard fans especially as this album is a very good example of mature 70's pop with a noticeable dash of angst.
An alternative mix of the s/d/a/a single Will I? rounds out the disc. This is a more acoustic driven version that is designed to have less impact to appeal to the old folk in radio. I prefer the original.
Overall, this is an interesting collection of songs, and is fairly good value, but given the fact there are more unreleased tracks in the vaults, it could have been even better.
And if other archive or Internet releases follow in the future, the price paid for this set could definitely fall in value.
Still unreleased tracks that I am aware of include Religion Of The Heart (alternative lyrics), Edge Of The World (a classic now covered by two other artists), Haven't I Been Good, Hey Eileen, Monkey (another Sahara Snow outtake) and not to mention that killer original demo of My Depression.
Included as a bonus to the actual s/d/a/a album is another version of the excellent EFX Alive ballad Forever. It's a great track that might have given the regular version of the album a little more balance. Nice to have it included here.
This includes a Making of SDAA Interview, which is interesting in itself always great to hear Rick talk. Also included is a rather pointless High Tide trailer.
The very special surprise is video clips of three tracks from the EFX Alive show. But once again the value of this bonus will be quickly eroded, as news of a full DVD release of the show scrolls across the screen at the end.
The booklet contains all the much wanted lyrics for s/d/a/a. But this is another area of contention, as lyrics were promised to be placed online when the regular version of the album was released. But the rules were changed and now they are only available in full via this method, which I don't view as fair.
The LE must be approached with caution and the cost must quickly be forgotten as more enjoyment will come from the set if that isn't considered.
For the price I would have liked to have seen more offered, with the three unreleased Karma tracks the only songs that will remain on high rotation once the rest of the set has been delved into.
90% for the LE version - one point for every dollar spent.
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