Sunday, August 12, 2012

Ten Songs - The Post-London 2012 Edition

I figured after the London Olympic Closing Ceremony, we might need some music to talk us off the ledge, now that we live in a world where the Spice Girls have reunited: Here's a new installment of "Ten Songs". I'm putting iTunes in shuffle mode to see what comes up. No skipping, just running commentary.

The 88 - Not Enough: This is actually from the Season 2 soundtrack of Weeds, one of those shows that starts off so incredibly strong and then wanders off the tracks. Unfortunately, the show was strong enough at the outset to make you think, "Hey, it could get better, I should keep watching". Well, we're into Season 8 and it hasn't gotten back to the level of quality seen in the first couple of seasons, but just like as in music, in television I'm a completist. I'll ride this show out to the bitter end. As for the song, well, if the Gallagher brothers were still together, their lawyers could call up the folks in The 88 and ask for royalties.

Rasputina - You Don't Own Me: I first heard of Rasputina, when they opened for Siouxsie. There never existed a more fitting, perfect opening act for Siousxie. This is a fairly straightforward cover of Lesley Gore's You Don't Own Me, with the notable exception of the addition of some heavy strings, which better fits the gravitas of the lyrics. It's worth noting that I can't think of Rasputina without hearing this:



(I'm sorry)

Paul McCartney - Maybe I'm Amazed: I had a roommate in college who loved this song. I must have had to put it on repeat a zillion times senior year. I know the shine has dimmed from Paul's star over the years. It's easy to throw stones at him, since he's the only Beatle songwriter still alive, but I will always give him a free pass for the great songs he wrote as a Beatle, the great songs he wrote with Wings and his solo stuff. You may not like what he's doing these days, but the man's a musical living treasure. I adore how this song fades out at the end. Somewhere there's a tape of the post-fade jam of this song, and I'd love to hear it.

Vicki Lawrence - The Night The Lights Went Out in Georgia: You see?!?!?! Proof that I just hit shuffle and let 'er rip. If I had a grain of self-censorship, I would deny owning a song by a cast member from The Carol Burnett Show. I think I was in my 20s before I realized that this Vicki Lawrence and the the Vicki Lawrence from The Carol Burnett Show were the same person. You have to admit, it's not a logical leap to put the two together. And how ballsy did the record executive who signed Vicki to a record contract have to be!?!?! "Oh yeah, the girl who plays Momma? A song about betrayal, murder and a hanging? Sure, can't miss!":



I'm convinced you could get away with just about anything in the 70s.

Mark Ronson and The Business Int'l - Somebody to Love Me: I'll never understand why Mark Ronson isn't a bigger name here in the US. Both of his albums are fantastic and he's a great producer. I'm also surprised that this song wasn't a bigger hit, especially considering it was a bit of a comeback for Boy George (he provides some of the vocals on this). If you haven't heard this track, give it a listen. It's worth downloading. And watching the video, it's almost like Boy George's version of Johnny Cash's Hurt:


The Cowboy Junkies - I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry: This album might be the poster child for "lightning doesn't strike twice". In 1988, The Cowboy Junkies came on the scene with a beautiful, simple album, The Trinity Sessions, so named because they recorded it in the Holy Trinity Church in Toronto in the most minimal conditions...one microphone in one day, no overdubs.. I can't recommend this album enough. It's haunting, sparse and just brilliant. Flash forward 20 years, and someone in or around the band said, "Hey, let's do it again! Same songs, same place, same approach...and we'll throw in some guest singers too." Yeah, like I said, "lightning doesn't strike twice." It's amazing how badly they got this version wrong...some songs are too fast, some are too slow, and there is absolutely no need for any voice other than Margo Timmins' to be heard. Stick with the original.

Katy Perry - I Kissed A Girl: Wow, I don't think iTunes could have gone with a farther off the spectrum shuffle here! You already know my stance on Katy Perry: she's talented and she knows her audience. One thing that surprises me: When looking up this song on the iTunes Music Store, Kissed a Girl is only the 12th most popular song of hers based on iTunes downloads. See for yourself:


David Bowie - Zeroes: Timely. Last week I was reading a great article at AV Club about how it's always good to revisit an artist's worst albums. I think it's safe to say that Never Let Me Down is one of David's clunkers, but there are some good songs on here. It's a good album, it's just not a good David Bowie album. David's presence at the Olympics was sorely missed. I kept waiting for him to pop out at either the opening or closing ceremony...or anywhere in between. I'll take a bad Bowie track over no Bowie any day.

Yes - Changes: Here we have an example of an album that was huge in its day, but has not aged well...from the cover (famously designed on an Apple IIe computer. As an owner of an Apple IIc at the time, this was a really big deal to me back then) to the production. Yes gets a bad rap for being the popular torchbearer of 70s prog rock, but 90125 was their attempt at updating to an 80s sound. To their credit, they did...and they did a good job of it. Unfortunately the 80s sound faded out just like the 70s prog rock sound did. Yes didn't do themselves any favors with the revolving door of band members. You needed a program to keep track of all the band changes. In terms of Yes, while I like 90215, I used to always say that I preferred their other 80s album, Big Generator. Used to, is the operative phrase here. I had to do a little fact checking...I haven't listened to Big Generator in, oh, probably about 20 years. There's a reason for that...it sounds more dated that 90215. If you have a hankering for 80s-era Yes, go with 90215.

General Public - Burning Bright: Speaking of bands that haven't aged well, I present our second and final piece of evidence for the evening, General Public. Now, I'm a big fan of Dave Wakeling... The Beat, General Public, you name it, but I will say this, in 2012 General Public can only be taken in small doses. I wore this album out when it came out in 1985. There are some wonderful tracks on this album, and this is one of them. I'm just saying that we're not dealing with fine wine here. Proceed with caution and Walkman-era headphones.

One final word about General Public before signing off...last month they issued a "Best of General Public". I just checked out the tracklisting. Again, proceed with caution...I don't think it's their 'best of'. You're better off going to iTunes Music Store and handpicking the General Public Songs you like. If I were to pick a 10-best of General Public, these would be my 12:

Tenderness
Victoria Gardens (with Madness)
Never You Done That
Too Much or Nothing
Come Again
Never All There
Where's the Line
Forward As One
Are You Leading Me On?
As A Matter of Fact
Burning Bright
I'll Take You There

Yeah, I know it's the trendy thing to list out one's favorite General Public songs on their blog... everyone's doing it, and I apologize for hopping on the bandwagon, but I felt that my opinion was useful here.

It was either that or telling you want I want, what I really, really want.








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