Monday, February 11, 2013

Ryan Reviews: Introduction and Stranger in this Town

Greetings, readers! I know this blog has not been very active for a long time, but I hope that we can change that in the coming days.

I am introducing new segment called 'Ryan Reviews.' It will be a forum where I talk about whatever I feel like: I'll review music, movies, tv shows, books, beers, board games, and perhaps I will even review some reviews? Who knows, things might get freaky. It will be fun to see Anna's reviews of things as well!

As I am currently, professionally dedicated to other sorts of writing, when these appear you will know that I have reached some sort of block, and am hoping that this sort of writing clears that block.

Anyways: onward and upward!


A Theory of Music Reviews.

When we review music, what is the object of the review (and what should the object of our review be?) Indeed, I go back and forth on this. Should the unit 'song' be what the artist strives for? Or should it be 'album,' such that each song is a part of a whole, and the goal is to rise above the sum of the parts?

I don't know the answer to that question, and there really isn't one in the first place. There's no accounting for  taste, really.

But, to account for taste, my music reviews will take the following format:

Each song will get 1-3 points in each of the following categories:
Lyric Quality:
1 stands for "I would be embarrassed to sing this in public, for other than the usual reasons."
2 for "Not great, but not the source of too many eyerolls."
3 for "I actually would listen to this song for its lyrics."

Music Quality and Performance Quality go along the same lines. I don't entirely know what criteria I'll use to judge these other than my gut, but perhaps a pattern will emerge in the process of the reviews.

In addition, there are two bonus points:
One for rising above the sum of its parts as a song, either by having its parts be so bad it sounds good, or by the components reinforcing each of the other ones.
One for its context in the album: is this song enhanced by its surrounding songs? Pinball Wizard, for instance, is a different song depending on whether you listen to it on Tommy or if you listen to it on a greatest hits album/iTunes shuffle.

So, the rating system for songs goes to 11.

For albums, I will simply take the scores of the top nine songs on the album. The other songs will influence the score indirectly, by subtracting or adding to the songs that do count. The high score is 99, so no album can be a perfect 100.

As you can tell, I like albums that have good songs more than I care about an album being put together well. That's what happens when you are raised with iTunes.

Also, this rating system only works given the Rock Album format. Beethoven's 9th and Chocolate Starfish and the Hotdog Flavored Water need different rating scales.

DISCLAIMER: I have a terrible taste in music. My favorite band is Bon Jovi, and I have a very high tolerance for cheesiness (but I repeat myself). You have been warned.


Richie Sambora 1991: Stranger in this Town

A YouTube Playlist of the Album, in case you want to listen along.

For those not in the know, Richie Sambora is the guitarist for Bon Jovi. He's released three solo albums so far: Stranger in this Town, Undiscovered Soul (1998), and Aftermath of the Lowdown (2012), in descending order of quality, I think.

In Brief: This is the album that got me thinking about the album/song question. I love this album, but none of the songs make it into my 'most listened' list. The album starts with sixsongs that are meant to be listened to together: "Rest in Peace," of little value on its own, sets the mood for the subsequent songs to play off of. Sambora's guitar, and the music, sounds more Blues/Blues-Rock, in contrast to Bon Jovi's Pop-Rock-Metal sound, which fits, because he's complementing his own voice instead of Jon Bon Jovi's. "Mr. Bluesman" is the musical highlight of the album, featuring a solo by Eric Clapton, while "Stranger in this Town" is the best song overall, followed by "Father Time." After the sixth song, the album stops sounding like a unified whole, which is mostly because "Rosie" was originally written as a Bon Jovi song. and "River of Love" sounds like a silly Jovi B-Side. While enjoyable, it doesn't quite fit in with the rest. The album as a whole would have worked better if 7-9 were excised ("Father Time" perhaps remaining as a postscript). Richie's voice is pedestrian, but it pairs well with his guitar style here, when sticking to his own style.

1. "Rest in Peace"  3:47
Lyrics: 2       Music: 2      Performance: 2      Bonus: Album(1)  Total: 7

2. "Church of Desire"   6:08
L: 2   M: 2  P: 2  A:1         T: 7

3. "Stranger in This Town"   6:15
L: 3  M: 2  P: 2  A:1 Bonus: 1      T: 9
The best song on the album, I think.

4. "Ballad of Youth"     3:52
L: 2  M: 2  P: 2  A:1      T: 7

5. "One Light Burning" 5:48
L: 2  M: 2  P: 2  A:1      T: 7

6. "Mr. Bluesman" (Solo by Eric Clapton) 5:14
L: 2  M: 2  P: 3  A:1      T: 8

7. "Rosie"   Sambora, Jon Bon Jovi, Desmond Child, Diane Warren 4:49
L: 2  M: 2  P: 2      T:6

8. "River of Love"  4:06
L: 1  M: 2  P: 1     T:4
"Let me be your preacher
And you can be my whore"

9. "Father Time"  6:05
L: 3  M: 2  P: 3 Bonus: 1     T:9
Taken on it's own, my favorite song here. Doesn't contribute to the album as well as "Stranger," though.

10. "The Answer"   5:07

L: 2  M: 2  P: 1    T:5
A bit boring. It would have made a good closer to the album after "Mr. Bluesman," but it's kind of stranded out here.

Overall: 65

We'll see if my rating system gives enough of a standard deviation to be useful.
The song ratings seem to be:
5 or less - blah to bad.
6-7 - listenable
8-9 - enjoyable
10-11 - favorite.

We'll see on the album ratings.


  1. I am looking forward to more Ryan Reviews (and also Anna Reviews), particularly reviews of movies, TV shows, books, board games and (dare I say it?) other reviews. And, of course, it seems particularly fitting that you started with a Bon Jovi-related review.

    1. I'm trying to think of other music I can review than Bon Jovi, but I'm not sure I listen to anything else. Maybe some of this "Lady Ga-Ga" that you kids listen to.