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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Wait for it (you know you will)
Fortunately Mr Ritter is prolific enough that he doesn't make us wait around for long before coming back with a fresh bunch of lovingly created tunes. The last album ('The Animal Years') is a pretty tough act to follow, and if that record was a reflective piece, 'Conquests' is definitely a manifesto. Ritter talks of Gigantic Orchestras (big enough to sink the Titanic),...
Published on 3 Jan 2008 by Cat Mac

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2 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Oh no!
A disappointing change in direction for Josh - i guess when an artist moves on he takes some with him and leaves some behind. Me - I am reaching for the back catalogue - real shame as I had high hopes .....
Published on 11 Jan 2008 by S. Jones


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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Wait for it (you know you will), 3 Jan 2008
By 
Cat Mac "tagatha" (UK) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
This review is from: The Historical Conquests Of Josh Ritter (Audio CD)
Fortunately Mr Ritter is prolific enough that he doesn't make us wait around for long before coming back with a fresh bunch of lovingly created tunes. The last album ('The Animal Years') is a pretty tough act to follow, and if that record was a reflective piece, 'Conquests' is definitely a manifesto. Ritter talks of Gigantic Orchestras (big enough to sink the Titanic), making 'Right moves' and getting that someone in your 'Mind's Eye' and making it feel like you have them in the sights of a high powered cupid's bow!

This record sounds very much like Josh is staking out his corner of the over-crowded male songwriter homestead. He's starting playing piano here in a very heavy, rhythmic way which has created a great driving beat under a few of the tunes (like the wonderfully catchy 'Right Moves' as seen on Jools Holland). It sounds like he's been listening to a little less Bob Dylan and a little more White Stripes or Jim White.

The draw back of this is that the production hasn't compensated enough for this and often his voice is lost in the mix. This is a shame because his superb lyrics are swamped by the arrangement and also because his voice is just getting better with age. There are one or two odd choices of effect on his vocals at times ('Open Door', 'Wait for love') which detract further from the clarity.

'Mind's Eye' is worth a mention as a stand out track, but also because the opening riff fools you into thinking you're listening to The Clash's 'London Calling'. A good example then of Ritter's genius - while there are no discernable hooks on first listen, there is something so organic and so ingrained about the melodies and the rhyming lyrical couplets he uses that you find them stuck in your brain for literally days afterward.

A good record, and one that you get the sense he needed to make, but a little nicer production next time would show off his massive talents a little more fairly. If you're looking to buy your first Josh Ritter record, try 'The Animal Years' or 'Hello Starling' first to see the progression. This here remains thinking people's music!
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A matter of taste, 25 Sep 2007
By 
Androo (UK) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
I'm in two minds about this one.

I couldn't get into it at first, listening to it on my iPod, so I put the CD on my hi-fi and listened to it properly, and loud. It has to be loud.

There's a lot of stuff in here. A lot of words (listen carefully), a lot of ideas, and references, and cleverness. Some of it sounds really new, and yet some of it sounds really familiar, though it's hard to say why. `Mind's Eye' and `Right Moves' sound like songs you already know. It's not that they're derivative, I don't think, they just sound familiar in some way.

Then there are tracks like `Open Door', which I really like, that sounds new and interesting, with its emphasis on rhythm and repetitive melody creating a great effect. A lot of these songs major on effect.

And a lot rely on a driving rhythm section. And a cracking chorus. You just know these songs are going to go down so well with the student crowd at gigs where they like to sing along at the tops of their voices. It's almost like an album designed for that crowd. It'll be great live.

So many catchy choruses and lyrics too! You'll be singing half the songs to yourself within a couple of days. In so many ways it's really great.

So I feel it's a bit unfair to criticise it when it's just a matter of taste. All I'm going to say is that, obviously brilliant as it is in so many ways, and as much as I like Josh Ritter's other albums, I just don't see me listening to this much. The reason is simple: I like Josh's melodic slow and mid-tempo songs the most. Usually they're the best songs on his albums. But on this one, the uptempo stuff is the best stuff by far (the slow songs are even a bit weak I think). It's just not totally my taste.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb - and better with every listen!, 21 Sep 2007
An absolute belter of an album, I can't praise it enough. I am sure some fans of Josh might struggle with the change in style somewhat but the whole album just has such a fun feel to it. Lyrically it is so creative and the opening 3 tracks are the strongest on any album I've heard for a long while, which sets up the remainder beautifully. There's a fair amount of diversity in the songs and I think this album should be more commercially accessible, thus giving Josh the success he deserves. I already can't wait to see where he goes next, because he just keeps getting better and adding more strings to his bow. Genius.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A new album, a new sound, 19 Nov 2007
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Each Josh Ritter album brings a bigger sound than its predecessor and many of the tracks on this CD have a big band, full orchestral backing. It takes a little while to get used to but there are some fabulous arrangements on this album and the band members have never sounded more exciting and inventive. Josh deserves a much bigger audience now and these songs sound absolutely great live. As you would expect there are quieter reflective moments on the album as well and all in all this is a thoroughly entertaining, well rounded package.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Best Josh Ritter so far, 11 Sep 2007
Very good, it will probably end in everybody's best of the year lists. Kicks off with 'To the dogs or whoever' arguably the best song in the set,
if not his best ever: a splendid lyric loaded with imagery and great music.
The next three songs keep the level very high, providing one of the the best lyrcs with the apocalyptic ballad 'The temptation of Adam'

Then things change a little in the middle of the record. There is one intranscendent instrumental, a couple of so-so songs, including a
first version of 'Wait for love', that should have been left off,

But things raise up again for a magnificent end with 'Empty heart' and the right version of 'Wait for love'

I would not say that this is a major departure from his previous style, the songs have a more lively feel and there are more uptempo numbers,
and yes there is more electric guitar. Not enuogh to call this Josh Ritter's experimental record or whatever, only a welcomed step forward.

If he had selected the ten best tracks and left out the rest this would almost be perfect... Loses one star for unwanted quantity, but it is my
favourite Ritter record so far.

Also ... the extra CD is quite a let down with nothing remarkable. Better buy the regular CD if you are not a completist.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Josh Ritter rocks out & gets a little darker around the edges, 29 Jan 2013
This review is from: The Historical Conquests Of Josh Ritter (Audio CD)
An even more serious affair than The Animal Years. More electric guitar and groove to the tunes.

One reviewer mentions that Josh is derivative, but this as far from the truth as you get. He certainly is influenced by Cohen, Van Zandt and Dylan, but he is his own man.

The lyrics get more spiritual in some songs, whilst there is a black humour in others. Angels are again referenced and I hear an undercurrent of the darkness that manifests itself fully in the next album, "So Runs Away the World".

To those who gave this album a negative review, you have an opinion, fair enough, but opinions are like @££holes. everyone has one. Yours are not big enough to matter!?!

By the way, Still Beating is featured in the very first episode of the series "True Blood". Go figure?

A great album, give it a listen and enjoy. The wordsmith just keeps improving.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Another Cracker, 3 April 2008
By 
This review is from: The Historical Conquests Of Josh Ritter (Audio CD)
The comment above about Ritter leaning towards becoming the new Elvis Costello is on the money. He's amazing live and I suggest you catch him in a small venue before he (deservedly) becomes huge.

The new album in particular lends itself to his barnstorming live performances, all pounding piano,rhythmic guitars and pithy, touching lyrics. Add to that quiet moments where he can hold an audience spellbound with just an acoustic guitar and you have something special on your hands.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic album - and I'm not 'Josh'ing... (sorry!), 6 Mar 2008
By 
Andy Sweeney "music was my first love" (Brighton, East Sussex) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 100 REVIEWER)   
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: The Historical Conquests Of Josh Ritter (Audio CD)
Josh, a university educated, American-born singer-songwriter who can be compared alongside such great American artists such as Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen without fear of hyperbole, hasn't quite enjoyed the recognition his timeless music seems to command. Considering some of the often breathtakingly beautiful songs contained within 2006's The Animal Years and 2003's Hello Starling, it is difficult to comprehend why not that many people have heard of him and yet someone like James Blunt is a major star. If there was any justice in the world...

The Historical Conquests Of Josh Ritter is a bit of a departure from his previous albums and, reading all of the reviews from the fans, not everybody has appreciated the approach he has taken with this album - a little more polished, a bit more attention to production and, generally speaking, more dynamics and contrasts than any of his previous work. On first impressions, I certainly noticed the difference between the stripped down, folk-rock of Hello Starling and the slick, pop sensibilties the majority of this album features. Having said that, there is no compromise in integrity or in songwriting. This is, arguably, as strong a set of songs than anything Ritter has produced before - they just sound bigger, louder and have more of an immediate impact.

Speaking of immediate impact, the opening track, To The Dogs Or Whoever, really does start this album with a real statement of intent. With a similar rockabilly feel as Dylan's Subterranean Homesick Blues, it grabs your interest and gets the adrenaline pumping straight away. We're then treated to the moody, menacing Mind's Eye (although the first few bars of the introduction bring The Clash's London Calling into your mind), an epic, stomping piece of brilliance which is over all too soon. The next track, however, is perhaps the highlight of the album. Right Moves is, without doubt, one of the best new songs I heard in 2007. Held together by an inventive, melodic, McCartney-esque bassline and bolstered by strings, brass and some bluesy electric guitars, Right Moves is an almost perfect combination of many wonderful individual elements brought together as one, the most notable of which are Ritter's excellent vocals which boast verbosity and dexterity reminiscent of Elvis Costello or, indeed, Bob Dylan - truly an exceptional song.

Rumours is another brilliantly dark highlight from this excellent collection of songs, with some very descriptive, evocative lyrics. Wait For Love, on the other hand, is a gentle, pretty, understated song and these two songs are a fine example of why this album, as a whole, works so well - the range and vision of this work ticks all of the right boxes, aesthetically, to make this album a truly satisfying piece of popular art. Wait For Love is also reprised at the end of the album, but is given a bigger treatment, becoming more of a folk singalong than the gentle piece of introspection it was earlier on.

If you are a fan of Josh's prowess on the acoustic guitar coupled with his gentle, fragile voice, then there is plenty on this album to satiate your cravings including Temptation Of Adam, Edge Of The World and Still Beating. Those three songs, along with the very enjoyable Empty Hearts could quite easily have been tracks on any of Josh's other wonderful, more folky albums. In essence, I can understand why many of the Josh Ritter fans who particularly love the very folk-influenced songs didn't care as much this release, because it really is quite different from anything he has done before, but his songs really do benefit from taking all of the varied, thoughtful approaches he has with them and the differing directions of many tracks on The Historical Conquests Of Josh Ritter is one of the biggest strengths of this excellent release.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant stuff - and I'm not 'Josh'ing... (sorry!), 6 Mar 2008
By 
Andy Sweeney "music was my first love" (Brighton, East Sussex) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 100 REVIEWER)   
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Josh, a university educated, American-born singer-songwriter who can be compared alongside such great American artists such as Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen without fear of hyperbole, hasn't quite enjoyed the recognition his timeless music seems to command. Considering some of the often breathtakingly beautiful songs contained within 2006's The Animal Years and 2003's Hello Starling, it is difficult to comprehend why not that many people have heard of him and yet someone like James Blunt is a major star. If there was any justice in the world...

The Historical Conquests Of Josh Ritter is a bit of a departure from his previous albums and, reading all of the reviews from the fans, not everybody has appreciated the approach he has taken with this album - a little more polished, a bit more attention to production and, generally speaking, more dynamics and contrasts than any of his previous work. On first impressions, I certainly noticed the difference between the stripped down, folk-rock of Hello Starling and the slick, pop sensibilties the majority of this album features. Having said that, there is no compromise in integrity or in songwriting. This is, arguably, as strong a set of songs than anything Ritter has produced before - they just sound bigger, louder and have more of an immediate impact.

Speaking of immediate impact, the opening track, To The Dogs Or Whover, really does start this album with a real statement of intent. With a similar rockabilly feel as Dylan's Subterranean Homesick Blues, it grabs your interest and gets the adrenaline pumping straight away. We're then treated to the moody, menacing Mind's Eye (although the first few bars of the introduction bring The Clash's London Calling into your mind), an epic, stomping piece of brilliance which is over all too soon. The next track, however, is perhaps the highlight of the album. Right Moves is, without doubt, one of the best new songs I heard in 2007. Held together by an inventive, melodic, McCartney-esque bassline and bolstered by strings, brass and some bluesy electric guitars, Right Moves is an almost perfect combination of many wonderful individual elements brought together as one, the most notable of which are Ritter's excellent vocals which boast verbosity and dexterity reminiscent of Elvis Costello or, indeed, Bob Dylan - truly an exceptional song.

Rumours is another brilliantly dark highlight from this excellent collection of songs, with some very descriptive, evocative lyrics. Wait For Love, on the other hand, is a gentle, pretty, understated song and these two songs are a fine example of why this album, as a whole, works so well - the range and vision of this work ticks all of the right boxes, aesthetically, to make this album a truly satisfying piece of popular art. Wait For Love is also reprised at the end of the album, but is given a bigger treatment, becoming more of a folk singalong than the gentle piece of introspection it was earlier on.

If you are a fan of Josh's prowess on the acoustic guitar coupled with his gentle, fragile voice, then there is plenty on this album to satiate your cravings including Temptation Of Adam, Edge Of The World and Still Beating. Those three songs, along with the very enjoyable Empty Hearts could quite easily have been tracks on any of Josh's other wonderful, more folky albums. In essence, I can understand why many of the Josh Ritter fans who particularly love the very folk-influenced songs didn't care as much this release, because it really is quite different from anything he has done before, but his songs really do benefit from taking all of the varied, thoughtful approaches he has with them and the differing directions of many tracks on The Historical Conquests Of Josh Ritter is one of the biggest strengths of this excellent release.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fifth album from self-confessed "nerd rocker" hits the spot, 20 Sep 2007
By 
C. O'Brien (Scotland, UK) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (REAL NAME)   
This is the fifth album from Idaho minstrel Josh Ritter. Just as Springsteen was hobbled by hype in his early days - he was called the next Bob Dylan - poor old Josh is similarly stymied by helpful biz types forcing him into a Bruce-shaped vacancy in people's hearts and minds.

None of this is really helpful. Although fans of Bob or Bruce will certainly find him listenable, the similarities are really only skin-deep. Yes, the vocals on Empty Hearts have a cracked Dylanesque yearning, and Open Door sounds like something from Tunnel Of Love, but you can just as easily pick up a hint of Paul McCartney in Still Beating, or Paul Simon in Temptation of Adam.

The album is also being sold as a major departure from his previous outings, particularly last year's critically acclaimed The Animal Years. It's certainly less darkly political in terms of its lyrical content, and the overall feeling is more laidback: imagine a late summer afternoon somewhere in rural America, imagine a man outside a cabin perched on an upturned bucket, smoking roll-ups and strumming a guitar. That's the gorgeous Wait For Love.

But there's more than a little rolling across like fog from the other side of the pond, too: a touch of The Clash in Mind's Eye, a soupcon of The Pogues in To The Dogs Or Whoever. Rumors has all the lyrical flash you could hope for, with rhymes as downright cheeky as Ian Dury's. ("My orchestra is gigantic/This thing could sink the Titanic/And the string section's screaming like horses in a barn burning up.")

Far better, though than the sum of its parts - or its influences - and very addictive, this is surely set to be one of the most playable albums of 2007.

first published at subba-cultcha.com
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