Album Review – Cats: Highlights from the Motion Picture Soundtrack

It may be a flop in cinemas, however ‘Cats: Highlights from the Motion Picture Soundtrack’, is a pretty good album indeed!

My wife and I don’t have many family traditions, but one tradition we do practice each year is to watch a movie in cinema during that period in between Christmas/New Year’s, before going back to work for another year. And this year, with our one movie quota we watched CATS! (Although we’re dog people)…….

The Motion Picture

From all accounts, the motion picture adaptation of the popular stage production ‘Cats’ has been a real flop – as unimpressive as a once nice and fluffy cat, but now wet and all shrunken after a bath. However all the bad reviews still didn’t stop us from handing over hard-earned cash to watch it, and at George Street cinemas, there was actually a reasonably sized audience joining us – made up mostly of retirees and teenagers (you-know, the types of kids you’d expect to be performing at a high school’s production of ‘Cats’).

The film itself? I have to admit I totally fell asleep between minute 8 and minute 20 of the film (largely due to already having been made to sit through 30 minutes of back-to-back pre-screening adverts *Yawn*). While my wife found the middle portion of the film quite slow and hard to endure.

The film itself and the sound quality in our opinion, is best appreciated in a cinema, compared to watching it later on the small screen (ooh, it would be utterly horrible on DVD). And we have to agree with the critics and stack up criticisms on this fact – the CGI was distracting, which took away from the viewing experience, and the scaling of the set was baffling at times. However if you’d previously had the pleasure of watching the live stage production of Cats, you’d probably agree that the motion picture follows the musical numbers and storyline very closely. The only differences between the stage and motion picture productions was the larger role of Victoria (young white cat), her new song ‘Beautiful Ghosts’, a more star-studded cast (in no particular order except from oldest to youngest…… Judi Dench, Ian Mckellen, Rebel Wilson, Jennifer Hudson, Jason Derulo, and Taylor Swift), and of course the main difference between the stage and motion picture versions was the distracting CGI used to transform man and woman into cats (in our opinion, echoing the thoughts of other critics, Lycra bodysuits and face paint would have been enough for 2019).

But for those who criticised the film for its storyline, or the lack thereof, if they entered the cinema remotely educated from reading up on the theatre production of Cats – they would’ve already known that Cats in all renditions lacks a storyline. In a nutshell, the storyline sees the new young white cat drop in on the night of the annual Jellicle Ball, where one cat is granted a new life after a competition (like having 9 lives isn’t already enough). The majority of the film is spent showcasing different cats (through song and dance), putting forward their individual arguments of why they should be the chosen one. And after a failed attempt by the villain to undermine the fair selection process, a cat is chosen. And somewhere along the way is the singing of the most iconic song number from Cats (‘Memories’). And after a pro-cat (anti-dog) direct appeal to camera, the film fades to black.

On the whole I walked away satisfied enough, as I’ve always enjoyed musicals, and my expectations when walking in were so low, it was quite easy for the film to meet and then exceed them.

The Soundtrack

As expected, the soundtrack of an onscreen musical was unable to capture all 100+ minutes of music from the film. Thus the soundtrack is titled ‘Cats: Highlights from the Motion Picture’, time limited to 59 mins. But we can only hold our breath and hope, that like Les Mis, in time they’ll release a deluxe 2-disc version that will include all 20+ songs featured in the film!

But if you’re still tossing up whether or not to watch the film, why not first give the soundtrack a go? The soundtrack contains the major tracks like:

Jellicle Songs for Jellicle Cats; The Rum Tum Tugger; Old Deuteronomy; Macavity; Mr. Mistoffelees; Memory; and Beautiful Ghosts – both Victoria’s and Taylor Swift’s versions.

We’ve been playing the soundtrack on our Google Home almost daily since we watched the film, and at times I’ve caught myself whistling to tracks from the album as they’re super ‘stuck in your brain’ earworms! If after you’ve listened to the album from Spotify, and you’re still left wanting, wondering ‘what am I missing out on?’, ‘which songs didn’t make it into the highlights?’ Then you’ll just have to watch it in cinema! The missing songs from the soundtrack include:

The Naming of Cats; Grizabella: The Glamour Cat; Growltiger’s Last Stand; The Jellicle Ball; The Moments of Happiness; and The Journey to the Heaviside.

So don’t just stand there! Go! Go! If Cats is doing as poorly as people claim it to be at the box-office, then it won’t be in cinemas for much longer- so go! Go! Don’t walk but run and catch it before it’s too late!

Album reviews- Taiwan Top 50

Ok, it’s been a while since I’ve come across a really good music album, but I’ve been listening to some pretty good Spotify playlists though! The most recent playlist which I’ve got on a constant rotation on the Google Home has been ‘Taiwan Top 50’ by SpotifyChart.

I’m not sure if this playlist actually reflects the current Top 50 chart in Taiwan, but either way it’s a great cross-representation of the popular Mandarin and popular English songs currently playing on the airwaves!

The playlist is almost a perfect 50/50 split of Mandarin to English songs- I’ve actually analysed the 50 songs and it’s a 26 Mando V 24 Eng split – so a pretty even representation hey? So best of both worlds! And what best encapsulates this perfect bilingual marriage is the Artist OSN- a Mandarin rap artist who seamlessly blends mandarin rap and hooks with English lyrics! It’s so seamless that sometimes you can’t even tell if he’s spitting/singing in a language that you can or cannot understand. Haaha. Currently OSN has 4 tracks doing the rounds on Youtube e.g. ‘Without you’, ‘Why you gonna lie’, ‘the last time’, and ‘Be alright’.

And the notable English tracks which have made it into the  Taiwanese Top 50 are – Memories by Maroon 5, Dance Monkey by  TONES AND I, Circles by  Post Malone, 10,000 Hours feat. Justin Bieber and much much more….. Well, 20 more songs at least.

So if you want to treat your ears to a pretty cool and eclectic playlist, click HERE to check it out! 

Album Review- Joshua Band

A couple of weeks ago my wife and I attended a friend’s wedding and during their reception they had a non-stop playlist going on – made up of Christian songs we were familiar with (Hillsong stuff), but all of which was sung in Mandarin! Crazy! And the surprising thing was this, the recordings, vocals, and bands performances  were just as professional/high quality as Hillsong’s! So throughout the banquet, we were bopping along to music we were familiar with, but less familiar with the lyrics being sung (neither of us can speak Mandarin).

At the end of the night when we were saying our congratulations & goodbyes, we asked the newlyweds, what was the playlist they were spinning all night long? Was it Hillsong branching into the largest growth market? But the answer was no, the group is called ‘Joshua Band’, a Taiwanese Christian group who performs covers of popular English Christian songs, but all of which are re-written in Mandarin (we were told that they have permission from the English artists to do so).

So the last few weeks I’ve had Joshua Band on in the background all the time!  The Spotify playlist is utterly huge! I’ve had it on during breakfast, when I’m cooking, even when I’m working from home! It makes for an awesome background playlist when you’re doing other things. It’s like Mandopop meets Hillsong!

If you’re interested to check out brilliantly recorded, melodic, and I’m sure lyrically meaningful tracks.……..Check out Joshua Band! Just ask your smart speaker to “Play Joshua Band on Spotify!” Enjoy!

Perhaps even recommend the playlist to your Mando speaking friends? As I’m sure the songs will be more meaningful if you can actually understand the lyrics? Haaha.

Album Review- #6 Collaborations Project, Ed Sheeran

I think Ed Sheeran has to be in conversations when discussing ‘Who is the hottest Musician at the moment’, as anything and everything Ed is involved in, is a winner! And his 6th album, Collaborations Project, is his latest Grand slam HOME RUN!

There were a couple of weeks in May and June where it felt like every week Ed was releasing a new single. And the reason why there was a flood of his music streaming onto our radio waves, all made sense when his Collaborations Project album was announced.

The first track released from the album was ‘I Don’t Care’ feat Justin Bieber (and we do care); followed by ‘Cross Me’ feat Chance the Rapper (with one of the most repetitive and annoying hook lines ever!); to be followed by ‘Beautiful People’ feat Khalid (don’t sell yourself short Ed).

And as crazy as it seems, then Ed released songs 4-5 from the album on the same day! Dropping ‘Best Part of Me’ feat Yebba (is probably your bank account Ed!); and ‘Blow’ feat Chris Stapleton and Bruno Mars (very Lenny Kravitz-esque); and as I write this post, the 6th single to be released from the album has been ‘Anti-social’ feat Travis Scott (ok, ok, you don’t like to shake hands).

And since the album’s release, the other tracks which have found their way onto the popular airwaves have been ‘South of the Border’ feat Camila Cabello (and I don’t think they’re referring to Trump’s border wall? *shrugs*); and ‘Take Me Back to London’ feat Stormzy (spending too much time in the States? Hey?).

And tracks which haven’t made it to the radio yet (and I say yet) are ‘Remember the Name’ feat Eminem and 50 Cent (more like 73 Cents, according to today’s US to Aus dollar conversion…..”Yeah! Way to go 73 Cents!” Doesn’t have the same ring to it????), ‘Feels’ feat Young Thug and J Hus (aka Not-so-young-thug); ‘Put It All On Me’ feat Ella Mai (we can always count on you ED!); ‘Nothing On You’ feat Paulo Londra (ok…. Requires translation please); ‘I Don’t Want Your Money’ feat H.E.R (but you want my time?); ‘1000 Nights’ feat Meek Mill and A Boogie Wit Da Hoodie (aka A Boogie Wit Da thongs, t-shirt and shorts……..What? There’s a heat wave in the Northern hemisphere!); and the final non-airing track is ‘Way to Break My Heart’ feat Skrillex (that’s a little melodramatic Ed?).

And in my honest opinion, I reckon all 15 tracks are radio-single worthy! And the diverse styles? Just shows how versatile Ed is! The only one critique is perhaps the over-use of voice synthesisers? So much so that Ed doesn’t sound like himself in half of the tracks? And in the latter half of the album, the songs sound a bit same-same.

But #6 Collaborations project will go down as a modern classic! Bravo team! Bravo!

To listen to every track on #6 Collaborations Project, just ask Google to Play Ed Sheeran on Spotify!

Album Review- A trip down memory lane

As people, we can be myopic and be only drawn to what is shiny and new, and forget all about the ‘old stuff’ which we used to hold dear to us…….

For a couple of years now, I’ve been on a music streaming fever! First it was Pandora, and now it’s all been Spotify this, Spotify that! Charmed over by the instant gratification of hearing exactly what I wanted, when I wanted it!

Then recently, I was cleaning and I found my old iPod Shuffle – naturally it was out of battery, but I wondered if after a charge it would still turn on? After all these years of disuse and neglect?

Woohoo! It still turns on! And after swiping through the dated user interface and tapping the song which had been paused mid beat all those years ago……It actually started playing where it had been left off, and oddly enough the clock was still on time (although Wi-Fi was turned off).

Another victim to the progress of technology, was our old Yamaha stereo system – the thing which we had dropped like $700 on in 2012 and was now just gathering dust (the Yamaha being a victim to the portability of Bluetooth speakers and the compatibility to apps and streaming services).

But oh yeah! Dropping the iPod into the Yamaha’s docking station, the beats still played through the speakers (I’d forgotten what real stereo sounded like. And the sounds of a real bass got me laughing hysterically! And the ability to crank up the stereo to only a third of its capacity and still have my wife striding over with purpose and turning it down…..You just can’t get that level of sound from these dinky SMART speakers!

So for the few past weeks I haven’t been listening to Spotify, because I’ve been thoroughly entertained by my iPod placed on shuffle! Perhaps it’s been long enough for you as well to dig out your once loved iPod, check if it still works after a charge, and if it does – join me on a trip down memory lane! #Old beats baby!

Album Review- This is Thirsty Merc

Ok, this month’s music album review is a little different, as I’m instead reviewing a Spotify channel/band- Sydney’s very own Thirsty Merc! Woohoo, yeah! Woohoo, yeah!

Thirsty Merc is a pop-rock band, which in my own opinion has not received and/or reached the dizzying heights of popularity which I personally believe that they deserve. When you listen to their Spotify channel, you have to conclude that they simply play really really good stuff! But where as Aussie bands like ‘Five Seconds of Summer’ are global phenomenon’s, and elder statesmen bands like ‘The Living End’ are known as legends of the Australian grunge scene – oddly Thirsty Merc had only achieved the highest peak of No. 4 on the ARIA Album charts (after 15 years of performing and producing studio albums), and presently they’re only performing at suburban pubs and RSL clubs? Like, what the?

The band’s front man/lead singer is amazing! Rai Thistlethwayte not only has a voice which can rival the best rockers Australia has ever produced, but he also looks the part with his fro! The rest of the Thirsty Merc band is made up of a pair of guitars, bass guitar and drums (Rai’s talents contribute to one of those guitars, and he also plays the keys). I’d describe their music as being Groovy, which gets your body movin’; and if there is any knock against their music, is that their music is a bit too commercial for a rock band and most themes of their songs are about love and break-ups- which I guess young dudes aren’t exactly moshing to. And oddly at their peak, female fans weren’t flocking to them either – unlike other boy-bands who also sung of love i.e. the Beatles. In the end the boys who make up the Thirsty Merc band are just country-boyz who are just trying to make it in the big smoke!

Thirsty Merc’s best known hits have been from their first studio album, self-titled  ‘Thirsty Merc’ (2004)- ‘Emancipate Myself’, ‘Someday, Someday’, and ‘In the Summer Time’; their second studio album ‘Slideshow’ (2007) was their most successful with hit single ’20 Good Reasons’ reaching no. 4 on the 2007 ARIA charts, and other notable tracks from that album were ‘Those Eyes’ and ‘The Hard Way’; and their third studio album ‘Mousetrap Heart’ (2010) was best known for the title track ‘Mousetrap Heart’. The latest album release ‘Shifting Gears’ (2015) was slipped into the public sphere with little fanfare, but in my opinion it’s just as good as their three previous albums!          

So if you’re ever lost for something to listen to, just ask your smart speaker to play ‘Thirsty Merc’ on Spotify! And be ready to be entertained for hours on end! I’ve honestly only been playing their channel all week long! And my all-time favourite song of theirs since it was first released is ’20 Good Reasons’! And a moment in life which has stuck with me for years and years, was seeing them perform live as a supporting act at the Opera House forecourt; it was raining and I was getting drenched but I didn’t care as Rai’s performance of ‘Emancipate Myself’ had me mesmerised! Go do it! Treat your ears! Check-out Thirsty Merc! You won’t regret it!