Extreme - “Smoke Signals” (Extreme, 1989)
Super-tight funky groove? Check. Great guitar tone and showy solo from Nuno? Yup. Vocal harmonies? Got ‘em. What did we leave out? Oh, what about lyrics? Let’s see …
“Where there’s smoke, there’s fire. Don’t be playing ball in the street. What you sow is what you will reap.”
Horrible. Just horrible. I get the joke. It’s just not funny.
Dream Theater - “Far From Heaven” (A Dramatic Turn of Events, 2011)
I really haven’t given this disc the listen it deserves. I think I just got tired of the drama surrounding the departure of founder and former drummer Mike Portnoy and the ensuing he said, he said media storm. The only LaBrie-penned tune on the latest from Dream Theater, “Far From Heaven” is a soft, sweet ballad, and clocking in at only 3:56, it has to be the shortest Dream Theater song of all time.
Counting Crows - “Colorblind” (This Desert Life, 1999)
Another ballad, this time from Adam Duritz and company. And yes, it has the expected pretentiousness and self-deprecation, but for some reason it just works for these guys.
KISS - “I Want You” (Alive II, 1977)
I never got into Alive II the way I did with Alive!, even though it has some of my favorite KISS tunes on it. I didn’t notice it at the time—cut me a little slack, I was a bit too young and starstruck—but the overdubs and the fake crowd noise gets a little unbearable after awhile. And then Paul completely destroys the song with his antics at the end. Nice.
Accept - “Head Over Heels” (Balls to the Wall, 1984)
I love it when iTunes surprises me with a song I haven’t heard in awhile. I literally wore out this album and the its followup Metal Heart when I was in high school. Like the Scorions, Accept didn’t have a good grasp on the English language, and it really showed in most of their lyrics. But at this point in their career, they, like their fellow countrymen, had mastered the ability to craft a heavy song with good melody and a wide range of dynamics. And Udo Dirkshneider’s squeely, growly voice was just enough to remind you that this wasn’t “poser” metal.