Classic Rock Review

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Oasis The Masterplan (1998)


Review Everybody’s wondering why songs like “Underneath The Sky” and (especially) “Acquiesce” weren’t on an actual Oasis album. Everybody’s thinking it’s a coincidence of some sort that so many great songs can be disregarded and doomed to merely be: b-sides. Stop and think about the title of this collection though… it’s called ‘The Masterplan’, which could mean a predetermined ‘plan’ that is meant to be ‘masterful’. Is it not conceivable to think that Noel and the gang had this deviant scheme to hide away a bunch of choice tracks on singles (nobody buys singles in the USA) in order to later release the greatest b-side collection ever? Even now, over six years since The Masterplan came out, it still has to be one of, if not thee most talked-about b-side compilation on the planet. So, yeah, I think The Masterplan was a set-up. But that’s enough of that; take what you will from my speculations and opinions. What’s really important here is the music.

Yes, “Acquiesce” is an astonishing song–my personal favorite Oasis track, as I’m sure it is many other’s. The other track here I was equally taken aback by was “Headshrinker”, which boasts smidgens of a punk-rock feeling and an almost irritated sound in Noel’s voice that can’t be ignored when he’s shouting ‘I hope you don’t regret today/for the rest of your lives’. But the sleeper track here has to be “Half The World Away”, which is as relaxed as I recall Oasis ever being in a song. It’s beautiful, it’s smart (‘my body feels young but my mind is very old’) and possesses the single greatest handclapping performance in the history of music. I clap along every time I hear it; and I get the chills every time I hear it. “Underneath The Sky” seems to be another favorite. That makes sense considering it’s short, sweet and has that infamous part about the suitcase. That makes me chuckle every time. “Rockin’ Chair” takes a lot of the same ideas and tones as “Half The World Away”, which is why it’s not as impressive (though still great).

It’s said in the booklet that The Beatles never performed “Walrus” live; so it makes perfect sense that Oasis would cover it–and they do a superb job. Goo goo g’joob, indeed. “Talk Tonight” draws more comparisons to “Half The World Away”. It’s very, very good but again falls just short of the top slow track. “Stay Young” and “Listen Up” sound most like they came from actual albums, and the fact they didn’t make the cut seems unapparent. “(It’s Good) To Be Free”, sadly, is one I tend to skip. We all know it’s good to be free, anyway. I’m never a huge fan of instrumental tracks unless they blow me away. And “The Swamp Song” didn’t blow me anywhere. “Going Nowhere” is genius, pure genius. The way Noel rolls the word ‘Jaguar’ off his tongue is most notable. “Fade Away” is my least favorite track on The Masterplan. It comes off as a second-rate “Headshrinker” with comparable lyrics but poor sound quality. Finally, “The Masterplan”… seems to be in a league of its own. Either you love it or you don’t. It’s dazzling–the perfect closer for such an album. Oh, I mean… for such a ‘compilation’. Whatever. If this were an album, it would easily be Oasis’ best album. But I guess we instead have to call it, simply, their best CD.

Review Finally, we’re saved. After the over-the-top drug-fuelled mess that was Be Here Now, comes this heroic CD of redemption from that Manchester band, faith in whom we all seem to have lost. Here we have B-sides. No, don’t ignore it on the strength of that – Oasis are well known for putting care into B-sides. I guarantee, if you heard Acquiese or the title track, you’d never in a million years guess they played second fiddle to their respective singles.

Acquiese is fantastic. In about 4 minutes of soaring, harmonious rock, we’ve forgotten that Be Here Now ever happened. Suddenly we’re listening to Definitely Maybe again… they’re proving that they can and will really do it. And we believe them.

Underneath the Sky is a little odd, but I like it. Then Talk Tonight, which isn’t bad, but I would have prefered to have Sad Song or D’Yer Wanna Be A Spaceman take it’s place. Going Nowhere is the second classic here after Acquiese – sophisticated and Bacharac-like, with Noel singing worried words from before the band were signed. It’s fantastic stuff.

Fade Away is amazing. Ditched in favour of Slide Away on Definitely Maybe, it would have proved the spark of life for a lesser album… there again, boasting Columbia, Supersonic and Cigarettes & Alcohol, DM needed anything but more livening. So here it is, finally achieving album status. “While we’re living, the dreams we have as children fade away.” A harsh truth, belted out with such energy we don’t care.
Then the Swamp Song. The strange little instrumental that probably mystified folks in it’s respective slots on …Morning Glory, it’s a riotous party-starter. Guitars and harmonica’s link to perfection. For those few minutes, you feel like you’re in the front row listening to Oasis wow-ing the crowd. This is them at their most raw and un-diluted.

The I Am The Walrus cover is the only one I don’t think much of, purely because it sounds a little out of place – probably because it’s not an Oasis song anyway. Still, it’s entertaining enough, and sufficient padding until Listen Up, which begins with a Supersonic-sounding intro, but developing into it’s own song. Then Rockin’ Chair, “I’m older than I wish to be, this town holds no more for me.” Odd how most of Noel’s more reflective lyrics ended up in B-Sides… and a pity, too.

Half The World Away is the next classic after Going Nowhere. Cruelly never released, it got it’s fame by becoming the Royle Family theme. Still, I’d rather have seen this calm little acoustic achieve single status. Next, depressing (It’s Good) To Be Free… written in turbulent times for the band, performed well. Still, can’t hold a candle to Stay Young. There’s one the band hate, yet the fans love. It’s upbeat, if somewhat irrelevant (well they’re not young are they). Headshrinker is raw live material, and the show stops with the Masterplan. Easily one of the finest Oasis songs, it is sophisticated in Whatever style. Truly beautiful, perfect sounding… and the mind boggles as to why it’s a B-Side. I’d easily prefer it to Wonderwall.

All in all, Oasis are redeemed. This is what they’re all about, how they started and why they’re here, all in 14 tracks. These songs have as much right to be here as any, despite their status. The album stands second only to Definitely Maybe. It’s not a careless mistake, like Be Here Now. And it’s not good but not quite perfect, like …Morning Glory. Frankly anyone who doesn’t consider it an official album probably hasn’t listened properly enough. If it weren’t for this one, I doubt anyone would care about Oasis anymore. 5 Stars? Damned right.

Review Oasis were untouchable in the mid 1990’s. At a time when Britpop was at its creative peak, bands like Oasis, Blur, Pulp, Suede, Radiohead and the Verve dominated the UK charts while achieving some moderate success in the USA. Yet Oasis stood head and shoulders above the rest at the time because of their ability to craft gorgeous pop melodies that recalled the Beatles and ferocious rockers that were just as thrilling as the Sex Pistols and T.Rex. No doubt Oasis’ legacy is cemented with Definitely Maybe and (What’s The Story) Morning Glory?. With those two albums, the band merged the best of British rock into two stellar, comprehensive packages, wielding out brutal rockers (“Rock N Roll Star”, “Cigarettes and Alcohol”, “Some Might Say”, “Morning Glory”), lovely ballads (“Slide Away”, “Wonderwall”, “Cast No Shadow”), life-affirming anthems (“Live Forever”, “Supersonic”, “Don’t Look Back at Anger”) and masterful epics with virtuoso guitar solos (“Columbia”, “Champagne Supernova”).

Yet many fans fail to notice that they had an even greater selection of brilliant songs that went unheard of, most which were relegated to B-sides to a single. Like their idols the Smiths and the Stone Roses, Oasis released songs on B-sides that wound up surpassing the material from their two albums. Fewer songs rocked as viciously “Fade Away”, “Headshrinker”, “(It’s Good) to be Free” and the Noel/Liam duet “Acquiesce”; fewer songs were as melodic as “Stay Young” and “Rockin’ Chair”; and fewer ballads were as gentle, sweet and beautiful as “Talk Tonight” and “Half the World Away” (both sang by Noel).

All these songs can be found in THE MASTERPLAN, which collects most of the B-sides that were released during the band’s early years, plus a whopping live cover version of The Beatles’ “I Am the Walrus”. All these songs are so intoxicating to listen to that it is frustrating that Noel did not consider releasing them on the actual studio albums. With the exception of “Swamp Song”, which is a muddle instrumental, there is not a weak track on the album and any of them could have been used for an upcoming third album.

Unfortunately, Oasis opted to release a single-disc compilation of the B-sides, thus negating some of their more essential tracks off the list. Many of these songs including “I Will Believe”, “Cloudburst”, “Do You Wanna Be a Spaceman?”, “Take Me Away”, “It’s Better People”, “Step Out”, “Round Are Way”, “(I’ve) Got a Fever”, “My Sister Lover”, “Flashbax” and the cover of Slade’s “Cum On Feel the Noize” and the Stones’ “Street Fighting Man” are greatly missed. Indeed, a two-disc compilation would have truly some these problems.

Still, for all its flaws, The masterplan is a great purchase and a must-have, not only for Oasis fans but for music fans who crave for the best that 90’s rock had to offer. Indeed, 90’s hard rock does not get any better or more thrilling than this.

April 30, 2013 - Posted by | Oasis The Masterplan |

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