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.


Twin gym times two

So after two days of taking my daughter to the gym and one day of bringing my son, I knew there’d be days when both wanted to go with me. However, with my gym membership, I can only take one guest at a time, so what to do? The solution that keeps them exercising and is best for my health–two gym visits! So far, it’s only happened once (today), but it led to almost six miles of elliptical work for me! It also led to a real sense of pride in my kids–exercising for the sake of exercise is not something I did enough in my teen years, and if I had, I might not have the fitness hill to climb. (Although my devotion to eating extremely large portions of bad food wasn’t the smartest decision either!)

Friday, June 29, 2012

2.5 miles on the elliptical machine at the gym

  • Champagne Supernova–matt pond PA
  • Champagne Supernova–Oasis
  • Chances–Air Supply
  • The Change–Evanescence
  • Change–Taylor Swift
  • Change–Tears for Fears
  • A Change is Gonna Come–Neville Brothers
  • A Change is Gonna Come–Sam Cooke
  • Change It–Stevie Ray Vaughn
  • Change My Needs–Scars on 45
  • Change Of Heart–Cyndi Lauper

Often it’s great to start with a cover of a signature song followed by the original, so you get the “this is how it’s really done” vibe, but matt pond PA does “Champagne Supernova” and Oasis credit. In fact, he does so well that I hope it helps his self confidence enough that he starts using capital letters on the first letters of his name in the band. Listening to the two versions clocked in at almost 15 minutes, taking more than a third of my gym time, and setting the tone for this entire list–soft rock. Almost all of the songs on this list cold easily be played on one of those “lite fm” radio stations. The next song, from Air Supply,  is one of those obvious exceptions (I kid! I kid!) Shameful confession time–in the early 80’s, when I was a young teenager, I really loved Air Supply (I still enjoy their music, but I was a big fan back then–by the way, why do I insist on these embarrassing revelations on this blog? This is a permanent record after all!). My uncle took me to Hershey Park in PA and I was so mad because Air Supply was performing at the park the following week–I was a teenaged boy upset that he was missing an Air Supply concert by a week. What was wrong with me?

Now if I was a teenager now, perhaps Evanescence or Taylor Swift could have played that Air Supply role. Frankly, with the attractive female singers both acts present, that would have been a better choice overall. But these are acts for my youngest daughter, not me. Tears for Fears is my act, and “Change” is a song I don’t think of when I consider their greatest hits, and that’s a shame, as it is an excellent song and it deserves more attention from me–and from you, readers! My opening remark about hearing the cover first and then proceeding to the superior original really hits the mark with the next two songs, and I don’t mean that as a slight to the Neville Brothers; I just don’t think anyone will ever come close to Sam Cooke’s “A Change is Gonna Come”. There’s a reason it’s such an appropriate close to my Sam Cooke compilation. The song had so much meaning when it first came out, and it continues to be timely.

The last three songs from my afternoon workout started with the blues of Stevie Ray Vaughn, followed by Scars on 45, a group who’s debut album I’m enjoying on a regular basis and who almost assuredly will make an appearance on my best of the year mix CDs I make for relatives at the end of the year. Things close with the pop queen of the 1980’s (non-Madonna and Whitney edition), Cyndi Lauper.

3.2 miles on the elliptical machine at the gym

  • Change of Heart–Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers
  • Change of Season–Hall & Oates
  • A Change Would Do You Good–Sheryl Crow
  • Change Your Mind–The All-American Rejects
  • Change Your Mind–Camper Van Beethoven
  • Change Your Mind–The Killers
  • The Changeling–The Doors
  • Changes–David Bowie
  • Changes–Stars
  • Changes–Yes
  • Changes in Lattitude, Changes in Attitude–Jimmy Buffett
  • Changing of the Guards–Gaslight Anthem
  • Channel Z–The B-52’s

After the milder tunes of the first gym visit, it was nice to kick the evening session off with a rocking tune from Tom Petty, particularly when it’s one of my favorite songs of theirs (not my absolute favorite–we won’t be getting to that for another 12-18 months, as it starts with ‘W’–feel free to guess its identity. Hall & Oates was another favorite of mine in the 80’s. I remember starting my new high school and seeing a girl in a Hall & Oates H2O concert shirt and being so jealous that I didn’t get to see them live. I did correct that when a saw them play an acoustic show on Valentine’s Day my senior year in college (dateless, sadly–although at the time, I’m not sure taking a girl to see Hall & Oates on a first date would have led to a second date). It’s amazing the number of hits Sheryl Crow has strung together over the years, and I am a fan of almost all of them, including “A Change Will Do You Good”.

Three distinct artists look to “Change Your Mind”, and what an eclectic trio they are. I think the Killers are the most convincing of the three, but the unique sound of Camper Van Beethoven is an underrated candidate as well. I do think their band name is a classic “trying to hard” example, one that probably sounded like a excellent idea the first time, but got a little less cool each time they heard it (or maybe that’s only how I feel about the name). I enjoy the All-American Rejects “Change Your Mind” the least of the three, but this is an example of three different takes on the same title that I enjoy listening to at any time. Ironically, the same can be said for the three “Changes” songs that followed a little bit later on my list. The Bowie version is the most famous and rightfully so–it belongs on everyone’s iPods in my opinion. The Yes “Changes” is also a fun listen, one of the many hits from their 90125 album (which to this day I far more frequently mistakenly call 90210 for obvious reasons, but hey, I get 4 of the 5 digits right and two in the proper position, so I would get two white pegs and two black pegs if we were playing Mastermind!). The Stars song is undoubtedly the least known of the three, even to me, but I still highly recommend you listen to some of Stars work; you’ll be glad you did.

Between my two sets of three, I got a Doors track and after the second grouping, it was time for Jimmy Buffett. I think I’d enjoy his songs even more if they were performed by Warren Buffett, just to see him with a Hawaiian shirt on. I don’t have anything to add about the Gaslight Anthem song, but I was particularly happy to get another track from the B-52s’ Cosmic Thing album to close my workout.


Gym plus one

I definitely wanted to hit the gym today, but it was such a nice day here in Connecticut that walking outside seemed like a viable option, so why not do both? It will get me further along on the list, and a little extra exercise is something I could always use.

March 18th, 2012

1 mile walking outside

  • Adam’s Song–Blink 182
  • Adam’s Song–Blink 182
  • Add it Up–The Kinks
  • Addicted–Kelly Clarkson
  • Addicted to Love–Robert Plant

Double shot of Blink 182, a favorite band of my son and oldest daughter. When people think of British Invasion bands, it’s the Beatles, Rolling Stones, and Who primarily (and understandably), meaning the Kinks get the short shrift. Give the People What They Want is one of the first albums I remember hearing, as my mother gave my oldest sister a boom box with that tape (and Working Class Dog by Rick Springfield) one year for Christmas. I eventually got my own copy on CD, and it’s been in the musical rotation ever since.

I need to make my multitude of readers (a guy can dream, right?) understand that the Kelly Clarkson CD belongs to my oldest daughter. Please believe me. I think Robert Plant was an environmentalist before his time. I remember purchasing the Riptide CD in the late 80’s and it was the first CD I ever bought that did not have the hard outer plastic casing.

3.25 miles on the elliptical at the gym along with some weight training

  • Adia–Sarah McLachlan
  • Adore–Prince
  • Adrenaline–Crooked X
  • Adrenaline Rush–Obie Trice
  • Adrift–Barenaked Ladies
  • Adult Education–Hall & Oates
  • Adventures of Isabel–Natalie Merchant
  • Advice for the Young at Heart–Tears for Fears
  • Affection–Lisa Stansfield
  • Afraid of Anyone–The National
  • Africa–Toto
  • African Dance–Soul II Soul
  • After Hours–We are Scientists

You know what’s a fun game? Trying to remember the differences between Sarah McLachlan, Shawn Colvin, and Sam Phillips. I have music by all three, but they tend to blend in my mind. Prince is such a talented singer and guitar player that we tend to either forget or forgive the sheer crazy things he’s done. I just wish the standard computer keyboard included the symbol that was his name for some time.

I love the video game Rock Band. We own all three versions as well as the Beatles, Lego, AC/DC, and Green Day versions. A former co-worker used to say I’d get all “sweaty”when discussing the game with others. One of the things I love about it is that is introduces me and my family to new music. Crooked X was a bonus band in the first iteration of the game and my son enjoyed it so much, he got their CD. I always only thought of Obie Trice from the beginning of the Eminem song “Without Me,” but it turns out we own on of his songs from the 8 Mile soundtrack.

I’m a big Barenaked Ladies fan, having seen them in concert twice, but I don’t see how they can exist as a band without Steven Page.  It just doesn’t work.

Who was the music executive that came up with the idea that you put one or two new songs on a greatest hits compilation, forcing the most devoted fans, those that already have all the other albums, to buy the release. “Adult Education” fit this bill on Rock and Soul Part I. I keep trying with Natalie Merchant, but it’s just my wish that 10,000 Maniacs were still together that makes me still buy her releases. “Advice for the Young at Heart” is one of my least favorite songs off the Tears for Fears Greatest Hits album.

I would have guessed Lisa Stansfield would have been a much bigger artist here in the US. She had a great debut album Affection, and her song off Red, Hot, and Blue was one of my favorites. But I guess she’s continued to crank along in the UK, and it’s just here that she’s lost steam. With the National, I didn’t feel that High Violet was nearly as good as Boxer. But I do know that I trust the rains down in Africa.