Mission Entirely Possible (part 2 of 10)

What better way to spend the weekend (or the weekend time between going for exercise walks and getting your car stuck in mud) than to follow up the last post with the second group of songs from my 100 favorites of all time playlist? So on to the second batch of songs!

What? You actually care about how I got my car stuck in the mud? It is a treacherous tale that involves high-speed chases, attempts on my life, homemade explosives, stolen government defense plans, illicit love affairs, and a wisecracking robot sidekick. Unfortunately, if I shared the details with you dear reader, I would be putting your life in danger–they will stop at nothing to silence anyone that knows the truth. So instead, I will share the cover story. I was heading to our local branch library to return a book (Stephen King’s The Dark Half), CDs by the Gin Blossoms and Pistol Annies, and the movie Furious 7. Unfortunately, the library had some sort of fair going on in the parking lot, so parking was limited. However, a number of cars were parked in the grass in front of the library, so I parked there and ran in with my returns. (My wife was with me, but she stayed in the car. She had also suggested that I pull up to the front, drop her off with the returns, and circle around, eliminating the need to park. I nixed this solution as I wanted to go in and make the dead drop see if I wanted to check anything else out.) When I returned and tried to leave, the wheels started spinning–we were stuck. My wife got behind the wheel while I pushed. In a terrific visual bit of luck , the wheel threw some mud up and over my legs, which were now caked with wet dirt (and not the blood of the countless ninjas and assassins trying to steal the plans). I was able to move the car a bit, but luckily some young men helped us push and get the car back on firm asphalt. I know this story makes me look like an idiot, but if that is the price I have to pay for our nation’s security, so be it.

  • For What It’s Worth–Buffalo Springfield
  • Smoke–Ben Folds Five
  • Against All Odds–Phil Collins
  • Secret Garden–Tom Cochrane and Damhnait Doyle
  • Gypsy–Suzanne Vega
  • Shadow of the Day–Linkin Park
  • Dirty Work–Steely Dan
  • How Deep Is Your Love?–The Bee Gees
  • Africa–Toto
  • Out of Touch–Hall & Oates

Is there a Vietnam movie out there that doesn’t feature “For What It’s Worth” on its soundtrack? Until today, I always assumed this song was a protest number about the war. However, according to the never-wrong folks at Wikipedia. the song is about the Sunset Strip Riots (also known as the “Hippie Riots” Read Wikipedia if you don’t believe me!). Really saps a lot of power from the song, right? I did not know this information when I put it on my top 100, but I don’t think it’s enough to bump it off, unless Beyonce writes an amazing tune about Jay-Z actually cheating on her with Rachel Ray.

Before the advent of iTunes/steaming music services, it was fun to occasionally make a “roll the dice” album purchase. You know, you hear one song from an artist you don’t know and decide to buy the whole album because of it. I think the first time I did that was after hearing “Money for Nothing” by Dire Straits and deciding to grab Brothers in Arms. That clearly worked out great, and it got me to work backward on their musical catalog. In fact, an old song from the band will be appearing later on this list. One of the other great leaps for me was buying Whatever and Ever Amen by Ben Folds Five based on the strength of “Brick” (now there’s a song to listen to anytime you want to feel good!). Again, I loved the album and “Smoke” is my favorite track from it.

Like “Don’t Answer Me” from the last list, “Against All Odds” might be another ashamed to admit favorite. It was also one of two Phil Collins soundtrack hits from the 80’s I am ashamed to admit liking. The other “Separate Lives” (a duet with Marilyn Martin) is not even part of my music collection these days–I had the 45 but have not added the song in the digital era. If I was going to add a Phil Collins duet to my collection, it would be “Easy Lover” with Phillip Bailey from Earth, Wind, and Fire, a song that would probably make my Top 200. The interesting thing about these two soundtrack hits is that while I love the songs, I have not seen either movie (Against All Odds and White Knights). Ironically, I haven’t seen three other movies that Collins contributed soundtrack songs to either–Tarzan, Brother Bear, or Buster. The first two are odd misses as my kids were right in that Disney animation sweet spot when they were first released, while the last miss makes complete sense.

I assume that almost anyone who creates this list will have a few songs that most people would say “who or what is that” when they see it listed. The “Secret Garden” song is probably that. It is a cover of the Bruce Springsteen song featured in Jerry Maguire. Now I love the Boss, but I am telling you this duet version from Light of Day, a double album of Bruce Springsteen covers, is an incredible improvement over the original. The male/female duet makes the lyrics seem more poignant and sadder. Another one people might not know is “Gypsy” by Suzanne Vega, the first of two songs by her on my list. This one is on her Solitude Standing album, which also has her most famous hit, “Luka.” That is her only top 80 hit in the United States, which I find crazy. She has a rich selection of songs, but none are as beautiful as “Gypsy,” with the chorus

Oh, hold me like a baby
That will not fall asleep
Curl me up inside you
And let me hear you through the heat

(I know I haven’t quoted lyrics until now, but I’d like to make a secondary mission of this particular blog entry to get people to sample more Suzanne Vega.)

My list is skewed to older songs, but I do have a few post-2000 entries, including “Shadow of the Day” by Linkin Park. But my list jumps back four decades after it with a pair of 70’s efforts that feature in films too. Obviously “Dirty Work” was originally just an album cut from Steely Dan’s debut album Can’t Buy a Thrill. But after seeing it in the opening credits of American Hustle, I added it to my digital music collection and listened to it enough to add it to my top 100. The other 70’s song, “How Deep Is Your Love?” probably gets a little lost in the anti-disco fever that erupted at the end of the decade. Actually, I am not sure where we stand these days–is disco awful, cool, retro, kitsch–where do we stand? Regardless of that answer, “How Deep Is Your Love?” is a generational ballad that transcends the genre anyway.

It will almost always come back to the 80’s for me, and the last two songs on this list are square in that wheelhouse. I started listening to top 40 music regularly in 1983, so I missed the peak of the album Toto IV by a year. (Side question–who’s four was better? Toto IV with “Rosanna” and “Africa” or Foreigner 4 with “Urgent”, “Waiting for a Girl Like You”, and “Juke Box Hero? Do you give bonus points to Toto for its fancy use of Roman numerals? Or do you vote for Chicago IV? That last on is a trick–Chicago’s fourth album, between Chicago III and Chicago V, is titled Chicago at Carnegie Hall. So they are out of the running!) Anyway, I didn’t need to hear it on the radio daily to appreciate the joy of the song “Africa” and it has been a list candidate for decades. My last song is the only top 100 entry from one of my favorite bands, Hall & Oates. They were, along with Men at Work, my first favorite artists. I think if I made a top 500 list, they’d have a dozen songs, but “Out of Touch” has always been my favorite from the group.

Advertisements

The Narcotic Powers of Cocaine, Coffee, and Disney

Always a good weekend when you get two workouts in! A nice bonus was my wife made a few extra bucks making some deliveries for a business run by a friend and she used the found cash to treat me to a matinee of The Dark Knight Rises. Despite my Marvel leanings, the Nolan Batman trilogy is, without a doubt, the finest set of superhero movies in terms of consistency and enjoyment. (I feel both Spiderman and X-Men went off the rails in their third installments.) I did find Bane’s voice difficult to understand at times, but I thought Anne Hathaway was incredible at Catwoman. I’d like to see it a second time to better formulate my thought, but while I enjoyed the film, I preferred the second film more and enjoyed the Avengers more as well.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

3.10 miles on the elliptical machine at the gym

  • Cocaine–Eric Clapton
  • Cocaine–Jackson Browne
  • Codes and Keys–Death Cab for Cutie
  • Coffee Eyes–The Wonder Years
  • (Coffee’s For Closers)–Fall Out Boy
  • Cold–Crossfade
  • Cold As Ice–Foreigner
  • Cold As You–Taylor Swift
  • Cold Brains–Beck
  • Cold Cold Heart–Colin Raye
  • Cold Dark World–Weezer

It’s an illicit and illegal start to things with both Eric Clapton and Jackson Browne singing songs named “Cocaine”. As an FYI, one is not a cover; they’re two different songs sharing a same title (to be completely accurate the Clapton song is a cover, but it’s a cover of a JJ Cale song). The Clapton song is the far more famous of the two, but I think I prefer the melancholy of the Browne number.  The title track from Death Cab For Cutie’s 2011 album followed, and then it was time for two songs about another drug–this time a legal one. The Wonder Years number comes from my son’s collection, and Fall Out Boy is the band of choice for his twin sister. The latter makes me happy because the title refers to Alec Baldwin’s awesome rant from Glengarry Glen Ross. Before that film, I found myself tending to find Alec Baldwin the weakest link in films I otherwise loved (for example Beetlejuice, Married to the Mob, and The Hunt for Red October). To be fair to Alec, if I’d seen Miami Blues (which came out a year before Glengarry Glen Ross) first, my opinion of the man’s work would have already started to change.

Things get a little “Cold…” for the second half of the playlist, with Crossfade making their first (and I think only) appearance in our library with their hit “Cold”. I am more familiar with Foreigner song that followed and my daughters prefer the third “Cold…” song, one sung by “T Swizzle” as my oldest girl likes to call her. (Apparently that’s a legit nickname for Ms. Swift–learn something new every day!) Beck’s “Cold Brains” is an entertaining number, even if the title makes me think of a zombie heading home with a doggie bag for the next day’s snack. The Colin Raye song is one of two covers we own of the Hank Williams classic, but they’re separated because one title uses a comma between the two “cold”s and the other does not, again pointing to the need for a song title style and conventions guide. So instead of hearing another artist cover the song, Saturday’s list closed with a Weezer track from their Red album.

Sunday, July 21, 2012

3.00 miles on the elliptical machine at the gym

  • Cold Day in July–Dixie Chicks
  • Cold Day in July [live]–Dixie Chicks
  • Cold Desert–Kings of Leon
  • Cold Hearted–Paula Abdul
  • Cold Kisses–Richard Thompson
  • Cold Tea Blues–Cowboy Junkies
  • Cold Turkey–John Lennon
  • Cold, Cold Heart–Lucinda Williams
  • Collapse (Post America)–Rise Against
  • Collection of  Goods–Collective Soul
  • Cologne–Ben Folds
  • The Colonial Wing–10,000 Maniacs
  • Colors and the Kids–Cat Power
  • Colors of the Wind–Vanessa Hudgens
  • Colors of the Wind–Ashanti

I wouldn’t describe my interest in the Dixie Chicks as a “guilty pleasure”–after all, they are an extremely successful musical act. I would instead use the term “unexpected” as there aren’t many country artists in my favorites, but I proudly own five of their albums and eagerly await new material from the trio. The other day I mentioned that my interest in Kings of Leon has waned recently, and “Cold Desert does not turn that tide at all. Now in the “what was I thinking” category, buying a Paula Abdul CD in college fits just fine, but I do enjoy her hits off the release (even if someone else ultimately sang them), including “Cold Hearted”. The next two “Cold…” songs were brought to the collection by my wife, the Richard Thompson and Cowboy Junkies fan. She’s also a John Lennon fan, but I think “Cold Turkey” came from me. The last “Cold…” song was our second Hank Williams cover, and I’d argue the stronger of the two–I think Lucinda Williams is an underrated talent.

Nothing like a good Rise Against song to cheer you up. I’d argue that Rise Against sings about the end result if we don’t heed the musical warnings of Bruce Springsteen. The Boss tells us things are getting bad and then Rise Against sings about where the country ends up. I wasn’t overly familiar with the Collective Soul song–they’re a band I am content to only own their greatest hits (a sold 1.0 on the Simple Minds Scale). The Ben Folds song “Cologne” is one of his great story songs, including  a verse about the killer astronaut from a few years back. After sold 10,000 Maniacs and Cat Power songs, we end with a pair of Disney covers. For your children than can’t drink coffee (and should certainly avoid cocaine, the other drug covered at the beginning of today’s lists), what addictive substance can they enjoy? Disney, right? I remember my children, particular my youngest, wanting to watch various Disney movies again and again, and that glazed look they’d get when they did. I don’t mind the Disney movies–the soundtracks are usually excellent, but I’m not the biggest fan of the covers of the originals (such as the two “Colors of the Wind” versions today), and hearing them puts a glazed look on my face, but for a far different reason.

 

 

Road Trip! or dealing with Bob Dylan’s massive Bob Dylan ego

Did you miss me? A weekend featuring interstate travelling led to me not posting a blog entry over the last two days. On the bright side, travel did not prevent me from getting in a great workout at the gym on Saturday morning before we left. On the downside, I was not able to exercise yesterday, which means I owe 4 miles of walks thanks to the Red Sox taking two games from the Philadelphia Phillies on Saturday evening and Sunday afternoon. That will be done today, if the rain lets up.

Friday, May 18, 2012

2+ mile neighborhood walk to commemorate Red Sox victory #18 of the 2012 season

  • Blue Moon Revisited (A Song for Elvis)–Cowboy Junkies
  • Blue Morning, Blue Day–Foreigner
  • Blue Orchid–The White Stripes
  • Blue Period–The Smithereens
  • Blue Period–The Smithereens
  • Blue Ridge Mountains–The Fleet Foxes
  • Blue Skies–Willie Nelson
  • Blue Sky–The Allman Brothers Band
  • Blue Telescope–John Hiatt
  • Blue Train–John Coltrane
  • Blues Before & After–The Smithereens
  • Blues Before And After–The Smithereens

There are worse ways to spend time than walking outside on a nice day while listening to the Cowboy Junkies, particularly their great opening track to their 200 More Miles live album. My first interest in music in the early 80s was driven by the American Top 40 radio countdown show, and as a result my knowledge and interest in musical acts was driven by facts, numbers, and trivia. As an example, while I wasn’t a Foreigner fan growing up, I was always interested that their song “Waiting for a Girl Like You” was the most successful (as defined by Billboard) song to not hit #1 on the charts–it spent ten weeks at #2, largely due to the success of Olivia Newton-John’s “Physical”. Luckily both songs were able to set aside their animosity and long-standing rivalry and both be covered on Glee. Perhaps the folks in the Middle East could take a clue from these bitter, bitter foes.

The White Stripes followed with “Blue Orchid”, which is both a great song, and a great flower (I know, I know–pretty controversial opinion that latter one is). Four of the next nine songs come from the Smithereens as “Blue Period” and “Blues Before and After” were hits off their album 11 so they also showed up on the greatest hits collection I own as well. I saw the Smithereens in concert my senior year in college and while it was a great show, I think my ears were ringing for days after. After the driving rock of the Stripes and Smithereens, the folk sounds of Fleet Foxes was an excellent change of pace, and it started a nice run with Willie Nelson and the Allman Brothers.

While owning a telescope seems like something cool, getting to see the planets and stars and all, owning a blue telescope would increase the awesomeness by a factor of 10. It makes you wonder why electronics and gadgets have to be black–why can’t they be bright and vibrant colors instead? John Hiatt is really on to something there. Thank goodness I still had half a mile to go, as “Blue Train” takes a bit of time to hear, but as with all Coltrane, it’s worth finishing off.

May 19,2012

3.32 miles on the elliptical machine plus upper-arm weight work at the gym

  • Blues Happy–Arrested Development
  • Board Meeting–Timbaland & Magoo
  • Boat Drinks–Jimmy Buffett
  • Boat of Car–They Might Be Giants
  • Bob–Drive-by Truckers
  • Bob Dylan’s 115th Dream–Bob Dylan
  • Bob Dylan’s 115th Dream–Taj Mahal & The Phantom Blues Band
  • Bob Dylan’s Blues–Bob Dylan
  • Bob Dylan’s Dream–Bob Dylan
  • Bob Dylan’s Dream–Brian Ferry
  • Bobby Jean–Bruce Springsteen
  • Bobby Jean–Jennifer Glass
  • Bodhisattva–Steely Dan
  • Bodies–Drowning Pool
  • Body–The Presidents of the United States
  • The Body of an American–The Pogues
An interesting trend in more recent albums, particularly hip-hop and rap is the linking of tracks. It’s not an issue if you’re listening to the album in its entirety, but if you’re listening to a variety of music, it can be odd or even confusing. The Arrested Development song that started my gym team had one of those transitions, but it led to the Timbaland song, and although the two acts have very different hip-hop sensibilities, the transition actually worked. Things got a little interesting at the end of the Timbaland track, which also had one of those lead-ins to the next song on the album, but here it led to Jimmy Buffett. While on the surface it seemed like a goofy pairing, Timbaland has shown on his two Shock Value albums a willingness to work with a variety of artists. It just seems unlikely to me that Jimmy Buffett will ever be on that menu. Speaking of goofy, “Boat of Car” is a silly song from They Might Be Giant’s self-titled debut.
I’m trying to decide whether to imagine the “Bob” the Drive-by Truckers are singing about Bob Dylan so I can say that a half dozen of the songs on the list were “Bob Dylan” titled-songs. I guess there’s no point in stretching things where five songs like that is plenty. Plus I love the Truckers’ story of Bob, a confirmed bachelor that takes care of his momma on its own, so it doesn’t need to enter the Bob Dylan mix. That’s not to say I don’t enjoy the Dylan songs and their Chimes of Freedom covers. In fact, I’d challenge anyone to listen to “Bob Dylan’s 115th Dream” and not smile at some point when following the entertainingly convoluted story (and the Taj Mahal version is wonderful). I guess I should feel fortunate that I only heard about Bob’s first and 115th dreams and not songs covering the 113 in-between. No one covered “Bob Dylan’s Blues” on the four-disc compilation album, so I only had to hear that song once before hearing his unnumbered (so I’m assuming original) dream twice, once by him and once by Brian Ferry.
After I was done with Dylan, I got a Bruce Springsteen original and cover combo with “Bobby Jean”. I know I’ve got Mad Men on the brain as the fifth season is both heating up and winding down, but I derived particular pride from telling my wife that this song title is a combination of the first names of Don Draper’s two sons. I guess that makes Bruce a big (and clairvoyant) fan, seeing that it predates the show by 24 years. Or maybe Matthew Weiner is a Springsteen fan. Or maybe it is a coincidence.   While I loved the Steely Dan song that followed, I’m not sure whether I struggle to pronounce the name of the song or spell the name of the song more–thinking about that, VH1 or Fuse or one of the music television channels should have a musical spelling bee game show. If people watch preteens struggle to spell words that no one will ever use, wouldn’t people watch contestants spell things like “Lynyrd Skynyrd” or Bodhisattva” for exciting cash and prizes? I know I would.
I’ll admit to enjoying the Drowning Pool song “Bodies” and having it pump me up with exercising, giving me a rush to push through the Presidents of the United States and yet another chipper Pogues number.