Saturday, February 27, 2016

SpinTunes 11 Round 3 Reviews

OK, we're up to Round 3, and down to 11 competitors. The challenge:
Greek Chorus - Write a song with no chorus based on an ancient mythological figure/story. (2 minute minimum length) (they had 8 days)
Before I get on with the reviews and rankings, here's what went through my mind when we selected this challenge. In other words; once again, here are my biases:

The songs
"No chorus" is pretty straightforward. For me, that's no stanza repeated. You can swap out tunes, have a hook, etc... you just can't repeat a group of lyrics. Obviously we can't say the same for the music, or strophic form would be out, leaving us to allow only through-composed tunes. That's not what we're looking for. So personally, I'm fine with it being in a verse-chorus format musically, so long as every verse is lyrically distinct. I'm also fine with short refrains and callbacks no more than a line in length.

As for the content. I'm looking for exactly what we asked for... a song based on an ancient mythological figure or story. We got some questions early on as to how "ancient" is defined, and I was pretty clear that I felt that 500 years or so would do it, particularly if you were going to pull from some lesser-known mythology. Any older than that and you'd start dropping off some mythologies such as those of the New World civilizations or the Norse. For my tastes, the older and more obscure the better.  I don't mind looking something up, and am very happy to learn something new. So I was hoping for some bit of Aztec or Akkadian lore. I also prefer stories to purely emotional or allusory lyrics in this case. And though the song itself doesn't really have to be ancient, I think you'd have to really get my attention if you're going with a modern theme.

So before I listen, that's what I'm looking for: a song with no chorus based on ancient mythology. Let's see what we got...


Ominous Ride - Sisyphus
Oh, yeaaaaaahhh.... you got me with the opening guitar. Then again with the vocals. I'd expect to see this on a vinyl LP as part of a rock opera. Very Pink Floyd. A little more distinction between Sisyphus and Death would be nice.

Governing Dynamics - Wax Wings
I'll have you to know that Procol Harum was one of my favorite bands back in 70s. You caught my attention with the organ, Travis. Prog rock suits you. You've got a good start on a three-act piece here. I know you were worried about the length, but honestly, something like this cries out for a longer piece. Though six minutes is pushing it for a competition, you could easily double it (or more) on an album with no problem.

Glen Raphael - Elisha The Prophet
OK, Glen, I'm diggin' this. Ancient mythological figure: check. Clever, entertaining lyrics and catchy tune: check. The song is so good in my estimation that I'm going to be picky, perhaps unfairly. It sounds ever-so-slightly rushed, and it's heard mostly in the guitar work. I know you were actually rushed to get onto the JoCo cruise, so it's understandable.

James Young - Unbound
I gave my three of my top four spots to retro rock. Sue me. This has a nice slow start that steps up in exactly right spot. You'd have edged out Glen into my number three slot had it not been for the first part of the fourth verse, which I think could probably use a little tightening. Don't ask me how... it's a feeling.

Megalodon - Cassandra
The intro dragged a bit, but I forgot about it when the song started. The challenge does say "based on" ancient mythology, and that's what you went with here. A "modern-day Cassandra". I'm actually surprised that you're the only group that took the allegorical approach. I did say you'd have to really catch my attention with a modern theme, and you did it with that groove.

Edric Haleen - Is That Too Much To Ask? (An Appeal To The American People)
Through-composition is a sure-fire way of meeting the technical challenge. Of course, Edric, for you this means basically, "write a song". This is your briar patch, after all. ;) That said, the final "WAR!" was probably over-the-top. It might actually have a bigger impact coming from Jesus if it were under-stated. Generally I'm finding that I like the subtlety of Elisha a bit better.

Emperor Gum - Pyramus
Topic-wise, this is what I'm looking for! Ancient and story-based. Told in Emperor Gum's trademarked very-private-conversation perspective. Musically, this was a great arrangement. Vocally, I wish you'd gotten a guest singer. But I have to judge the song, and I like this. It sounds very much like it would be intended as a musical drama, and though you've used this structure before, it took me a while to figure out why it doesn't work as well for me in a stand-alone song as it would in a play. To explain, take a look at Edric's theatrical approach: it's to sing to you, the audience. Governing Dynamics tells a two-person story, but you feel as though you're one of those characters because he limits himself to "I"/"me" and "you". It may sound odd, but as I see it, first person implies that you're speaking to the audience directly, as does second-person directed at the audience. Even third person implies that you're talking to the audience about someone. All of these are inclusive in some way. But in this case your characters are so focused on each other that it feels as though the audience is excluded. It's a private moment and my gut reaction is to mind my own business. Incidentally, that is my theory regarding the Beatles' runaway popularity in the early '60s. Prior to them, most songs were sung to a specifically named person. But the Beatles sang "I Wanna Hold YOUR Hand", "She Loves YOU", etc.. They made it personal.

Jailhouse Payback - The Story of Xenu And The Revolt In The Stars
Guys, this song had me screaming at the Moon as it was playing in the listening party from the moment the word "thetan" was first uttered. You get banjo points, you get Ray Stevens pastiche-points, you get entertainment points, and you get all of that deducted for screwing with the "ancient" requirement.  Yes, I know Xenu is supposedly 75 million years old, but you and I both know "the Commodore" dreamed up this story around 1966. If I let you get away with this one, then what's to say someone couldn't just up and invent a brand new story about character like "Smeghead, the Magic Caveman" and claim that even though he was conceived yesterday he's obviously "ancient" because he "lived" in the Neolithic age 10,000 years ago? That's pretty much identical to what's happening here except that it was another guy, not you, who dreamed it up recently. So although you squeak by on a very slim technicality... although I love your song more than any other song on this list... although if the challenge had omitted that one word you'd have come in first place by a Country-and-Western mile... *sigh*

Ross Durand - Sympathy for Hades
Ross, it's a nice homage to the Rolling Stones' "Sympathy for the Devil". Got a little out-done this round, though. Could have benefitted from a little more out-of-the box treatment.

Mark Humble - Waiting For Persephone
I usually like your stuff more, Mark... and I like this one to a point. It actually sounds longer than it is. I was surprised that it's only two and a half minutes long. I think it could benefit (oddly enough, given this criticism) from some more length that you could take advantage of with a softer opening and a brighter, more joyous Spring.

Rob From Amersfoort - Pygmalion & Galatea
It's a good topic. The lyrics are thin, though, and the music is a little more video-game than either storytelling or emotion.


Jeff Brown - Orion (Shadow)
Perhaps could use a little variety, but very nice. Would be a good piece on an album between two more energetic pieces.