Caedmon’s Call - "Climb On (A Back That’s String)" (40 Acres, 1999)
It seems the new version of iTunes has a special affinity for Caedmon’s Call. This time the selection is from the band’s second major-label album, which saw them moving toward a more polished sound, even on the Derek Webb-penned songs which tend to retain the group’s folkier acoustic leanings. This particular track is a cover of a Shawn Colvin number which has a stronger country singer-songwriter vibe than Caedmon’s glossy pop rendition. That being said, I usually like any Caedmon’s Call tune that features Danielle Young’s beautiful voice as the lead vocal.
Extreme - "When I’m President" (Pornografffitti, 1990)
I have always loved Extreme’s use of vocal harmonies and the incorporation of funky grooves into their brand of rock. And while I like Gary Cherone’s voice and Nuno’s guitar playing (when he’s not just wanking away), some of their material just has not aged well. The “rap” intro and opening verse on this one are absolutely cringeworthy. I guess it’s a good thing the remainder of the song (somewhat) redeems it.
Cheap Trick - "Takin’ Me Back" (Heaven Tonight, 1978)
Hey, it’s Cheap Trick. There’s not much more to say or to complain about, is there?
Cheap Trick - "How Are You" (Budokan II, 1994)
Back-to-back Cheap Trick. No complaints here.
Saosin - "Bury Your Head (Acoustic)" (Saosin EP, 2005)
Not necessarily the way I would have wanted to end this Five. Saosin has recorded at least three different versions of “Bury Your Head,” this acoustic one and two alt-rock emo/screamo versions, one being the opening track on this EP and a different version that appears on a self-titled full studio album a year later. The lead singer’s voice is more well-suited for the rockier versions as he seems to strain quite a bit on this acoustic interpretation.
Devin Townsend Project - "Synchronicity Freaks" (Ki (Bonus Tracks), 2009)
Devin is definitely a unique character. This bonus track track is an amalgamation of what I like about him—poppy hook with atmospheric background and balls-out screaming section.
Owl City - "The Saltwater Room" (Ocean Eyes, 2009)
For a short time my teenaged son (then a pre-teen) was infatuated with Adam Young’s one-man-band electronica project, and I promptly secured this album for him with some eMusic credits. Having since moved on to other styles of music, this no longer interests him in the least, yet it remains in my library for some reason despite the fact that I really don’t care much for it. That being said, it’s not terrible.
Caedmon’s Call - “Forget What You Know” (Just Don’t Want Coffee, 1995)
Here’s a track from an EP sandwiched between the Houston-based folk-ish CCM band’s self-produced indie debut and major-label eponymous release. As such, about half of the tracks appear on the latter in an updated form, while this one is a bit more polished than the rawer version on the former. Confused yet? Whatever the case, I like this version and often wondered why this never appeared on one of their major label efforts.
Tsar - "Something Bad Happened to Me" (The Dark Stuff EP, 2012)
Last year saw Tsar extend their album-every-5-years schedule by a couple of years. While it’s not a full album, The Dark Stuff was definitely worth the almost $5 I plonked down for it. Although not quite as polished or majestic as their 2000 self-titled debut and not as punky as their follow-up Band-Girls-Money, this EP comes in somewhere in-between with plenty of power pop goodness and stamped with founder Jeff Whalen’s quirky personality. There are a couple of really good songs, and a couple of better-than-just-OK-but-not-quite-great songs, with this album closer landing somewhere in the middle.
MAE - "Reflection" (Singularity, 2007)
Another album closer, this one being from MAE’s third album—their major label debut and last full album as a band. For the life of me I will never understand why some of my favorite bands never really made it big, especially MAE. They were poppy enough for radio airplay, emo/alternative enough to attract that crowd, serious enough to appeal to “real musician” fans, and accessible enough for just about anyone to like something they put out. Singularity was probably their biggest commercial “hit,” but it must not have been enough since they parted ways with Capital just two years later, embarking once again on the indie trail with a song-a-month experiment that resulted in a 3-EP set prior to the band calling it a day with a 2011 farewell show in their hometown Norfolk, VA.
My first Five after having (finally) updated to iTunes 11, and it seems my library is in a weird mood. Besides offering me a Caedmon’s Call sandwich, I get a couple of tracks I haven’t heard in quite awhile.
Caedmon’s Call - "Lead of Love" (Caedmon’s Call, 1997)
The opening track from their major-label self-titled debut, “Lead of Love” (if I’m not mistaken) is the song that broke Caedmon’s Call to a national CCM market. Prior to that they were a Houston-area indie-folk band that played bible studies, worship services, and coffee houses.
Led Zeppelin - “Heartbreaker” (Led Zeppelin II, 1969)
It’s strange not hearing this song immediately followed by “Living Loving Maid.”
Whitesnake - "All Or Nothing" (Slide It In, 1984)
Jon Lord delivers an excellent Hammond solo amidst the drama that surrounded the recording and release of this album as Coverdale groomed the ‘snake for its big U.S. breakthrough. As big as the 1987 self-titled album was, I think this is the better album. My only problem is that I never know if I’m listening to the original version with Micky Moody on guitar or the re-recorded, remixed version with John Sykes since I acquired the album through dubious means at best after my cassette had long given up the ghost.
Ty Tabor - "I Know What I’m Missing" (Rock Garden, 2006)
This track from the King’s X guitarist’s fourth solo album (if you count his independently-released Naomi’s Solar Pumpkin, which I always do) actually sounds like two different songs fused in the middle by a weird instrumental break with backwards-looped vocals, neither half much resembling the other. Each part is quite good and could have both been fleshed out to create stand-alone tracks.
Caedmon’s Call - “This World” (My Calm // Your Storm, 1994) My Calm // Your Storm was originally released as a cassette-only demo in 1994 that has been re-issued twice since then. I got my CD copy at a show they played here in Memphis not long after they released their second major-label album. I actually prefer the more stripped-down version that appears here than the polished arrangement that made its way onto the self-title debut.
The Flaming Lips - "The Spiderbite Song" (The Soft Bulletin, 1999)
I’m still not sure exactly what I think of The Flaming Lips. I have seen some absolutely fabulous live performances from them, and then there’s stuff like this. Let’s just leave it at that.
Devo - "What We Do" (Something for Everybody, 2010)
One thing is for certain, Devo has always been unapologetic for doing what they do. And they do what they do well, whether you’re a fan or not. I still haven’t listened to this whole album enough for it to sink in, but I (mostly) like what I’ve heard. Weird, catchy, poppy, and excellent production.
Counting Crows - "Black and Blue" (Hard Candy, 2002) Hard Candy is probably the first Counting Crows album that I was able to really digest and enjoy without the interference of radio, video, or any other kind of media telling me what I should think of it, mostly because I had totally tuned out traditional media outlets by that point. There are times when I can take or leave Adam Duritz’ weighty pretentiousness, but I can’t deny that the band is made up of phenomenal musicians. This particular songs is a slower, ballad-y affair with a lot of space that allows you to hear just how good they are. Top it off with Duritz’ impassioned vocals, and you have a great Counting Crows song.
Caedmon’s Call - "Not the Land" (The Guild Collection, Vol. 1, 1997)
From one emotive singer to another. Derek Webb’s earnest delivery of complicated, sometimes elusive lyrics, has always been a excellent foil to the CCM pop tunes written by rest of the band. This particular fan club exclusive release version of “Not the Land” appears to be either a live performance or a demo that retains its initial laid-back, folky personality rather that building to the crescendo of the studio version from their self-titled major label debut.
Galactic Cowboys - "Stress" (Machine Fish, 1996)
In addition to ushering in a new stripped-down sound for Galactic Cowboys, Machine Fish also displays a level of anger and aggression not seen in them previously. Titles like “Feel the Rage,” “The Struggle,” and even “Stress” give a peek at where their heads were at this time and their feelings about Geffen having jerked them around, how that little music scene from Seattle had shifted the whole music industry for bands without a grunge element, and how stressful the business side of music can be. Everything about this song—the tempo, the guitar tone, the edge in Ben Huggins’ voice—adds to the stress level. A little something different from these guys, but I like it.
Sixpence None the Richer - "I’ve Been Waiting" (Divine Discontent, 2002)
Known more for the hit “Kiss Me” and their cover of “There She Goes,” you’ll have to trust me when I say there’s much more to Sixpence than that. This song is—as is much of the album—soft, quiet, lush, introspective, and beautiful. While I miss the loud-indie-rock-guitar moments from This Beautiful Mess, I’m just fine with this version of Sixpence.
Arcade Fire - "The Suburbs" (The Suburbs, 2010)
I’ve already admitted in other Friday Fives to having missed the Suburbs train when it first rolled by, and this album opener might be one of the reasons why. It’s not that it’s a bad song, it’s just that it doesn’t go anywhere until Win Butler’s falsetto parts in the chorus. It’s odd that I don’t like this more as it reminds me quite a bit of The Hold Steady’s “A Slight Discomfort,” which I do like. Weird.
Foo Fighters - "Let It Die" (Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace, 2007)
This one’s a slow builder from the arpeggiated acoustic intro and main theme to the bombastic end section with Grohl screaming “Why’d you have to go and let it die?”
Cake - "Mahna Mahna" (For the Kids, 2002)
Written by an Italian composer for an Italian film about sexual practices in Sweden, made popular by TV in the U.S. shows Sesame Street and The Muppet Show and British comedy The Benny Hill Show, and covered in true Cake style and fashion for a compilation of new renditions of “children’s songs.”
Caedmon’s Call - "Prove Me Wrong" (Long Line of Leavers, 2000)
One of a handful of songs written or co-written by former (and along with Derek Webb, primary) lyricist (though never full band member) Aaron Tate. This was the last Caedmon’s album to feature Tate’s songs, seeing them transition to collaborating with quite a few professional CCM songwriters before Andrew Osenga from The Normals joined the band as one of the primary songwriters. Long Line of Leavers sees Caedmon’s Call move further in a pop-oriented direction started with 40 Acres, and while the album as a whole is fairly strong, actually containing a couple of my all-time favorites from the group, this particular song has never really grabbed me.
Friday the 13th doesn’t have to be scary with the Friday Five over at IckMusic.
Dream Theater - "Ytse Jam" (When Dream And Day Unite, 1989)
Excellent instrumental from Dream Theater version 1. The title is “Majesty” spelled backwards and alludes to the band’s name in its previous incarnation. The album as a whole has not aged well in places, but in others, it remains an excellent showcase of the band’s songwriting and playing prowess.
Alice in Chains - "Nutshell" (Unplugged, 1996)
This album which was recorded as part of MTV’s Unplugged series is probably my favorite from this “grunge” band, with “Nutshell” being one of the best performances from the set. Known more for his chunky guitar riffs than for his acoustic work, Jerry Cantrell shows just how well-rounded he is, providing his usual excellent harmony vocals behind Layne Staley’s unique—though sometimes annoying—voice. I think the songs benefit from the laid-back acoustic arrangements here, and given that AIC had not performed together as a band for nearly three years, they are amazingly tight. Unfortunately this would become one of Staley’s last shows prior to sliding into deep depression and his eventual overdose in 2002, giving many of the songs a weight and somberness in hindsight that they may not have carried at the time.
Caedmon’s Call - "Thousand Miles" (Back Home, 2003)
I’m not sure why iTunes keeps picking Caedmon’s Call, and this album specifically, from my library for Friday Fives, but in the case of this song, I don’t mind one bit.
Iron Maiden - "Moonchild" (Flight 666: The Original Soundtrack, 2009)
Another live cut from Flight 666, this time an often forgotten Maiden gem that popped up in my Friday Five for August 26, 2011. “Moonchild” is from a Puerto Rican show on the tour, and the crowd there is as wild as the South American audiences. And frontman Bruce Dickinson hams it up as usual. Maiden is such a tight unit, and you would be hard-pressed to find a better live metal band.
Mae - "Release Me" (Singularity, 2007)
I am pretty open about my love of this band on my blog, which may seem odd to many given my metalhead and snobbish musical tendencies, but I just can’t help it. I love just about everything Dave Elkins and company have ever put out, and this song and the album it comes from are no exception.
Coheed & Cambria - "Delirium Trigger" (The Second Stage Turbine Blade, 2005)
I love most of the music produced by the C & C music factory (no, not that C & C Music Factory), but good grief, I wish I understood the story arc behind these albums.
Iron Maiden - "Iron Maiden" (Flight 666: The Original Soundtrack, 2009)
I’ve gotten so used to Trivium’s version of this song that the original sounds old and slow to me these days. But a great song nonetheless. The Flight 666 rockumentary has some excellent live footage. The Central America and South American crowds are completely insane (see also: Rush in Rio). Looks like a fun time and quite a refreshing difference from the typical spoiled, cooler-than-you American concert goer.
Mötley Crüe - "Starry Eyes" (Too Fast for Love (Leathür Records version), 1981)
The original Leathür records version of one of my favorite songs off the Crüe’s debut album. A couple of friends and I literally wore out the cassette version of the Elektra release of this album. Good times playing air guitar, air cowbell, and trying to sing in Vince Neil’s Mickey Mouse falsetto. Can I get the real Mötley Crüe back?! Whatever happened to these guys?
I just realized that it’s Friday the 13th. In light of that and Tony Iommi’s recent cancer announcement, maybe I should have made this an all Black Sabbath Friday Five. Oh well …
Kansas - "Bringing It Back" (Kansas, 1974)
Boogie-jam cover of a J.J. Cale tune from future AOR prog-rock darlings that relates a tale of bringing something back from Mexico. Wonder what that could have been?!
King’s X - "Lies in the Sand (the ballad of…)" (Ear Candy, 1996)
Yes! This is more like it. Slow, arpeggiated tune from the trio’s underrated and under-appreciated one-and-only attempt at a hit album (or album of hits) after receiving pressure from Atlantic Records. Ear Candy was a bit of a shock to the KX faithful after the grungy Dogman, but it has remained one of my favorite albums by King’s X. For my money, you would be hard-pressed to find a guitarist as emotive and expressive (while remaining relatively unknown in most circles) as Ty Tabor.
Caedmon’s Call - "Valleys Fill First" (Long Line of Leavers, 2000)
Another departure from the norm of sorts, this time from the folky-turned-poppy CCM group Caedmon’s Call. The band experimented with a wide range of styles on this disc, including adding a brass ensemble on the opening (and possibly best) track. Solid pop tune from a very accomplished group of musicians.
Counting Crows - "If I Could Give All My Love (Richard Manuel Is Dead)" (Hard Candy, 2002) Hard Candy is quite possibly my favorite album from Counting Crows. A mixture of poppy, upbeat, and accessible tunes and Duritz’ typical brooding, moody, self-deprecating lyrics makes for one of their most cohesive releases. And there is some excellent guitar work throughout.
Queensrÿche - "My Empty Room" (Operation: Mindcrime, 1988)
Filler segue track from this Seattle prog-metal band’s magnum opus. Queensrÿche has tried over the years to top this wildly successful concept album, but in my opinion has only come close a couple of times, first with Mindcrime's follow-up Empire, the album responsible for making the band a household name due to the success of the single “Silent Lucidity,” and then again with Tribe, the 2003 release that saw the return of founding member and guitarist Chris DeGarmo, who collaborated on a handful of tracks. Fans hoped for a full-fledged reunion of the original lineup, but unfortunately it was not meant to be.
The Police - "Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic" (Message in a Box: The Complete Recordings, 1993)
iTunes shuffle is a strange thing. I have nearly 8400 songs in my music library, and it picks a song from an album covered in last week’s Friday Five. Nonetheless, this is one of my favorite Police tunes, and despite its being played out on classic rock radio, it’s a song that doesn’t have me reaching for the skip button.
Caedmon’s Call - "Center Aisle" (Caedmon’s Call, 1997)
This is not the first time CCM folk outfit Caedmon’s Call has shown up in my Friday Fives. This time it’s a track from their major label debut (they had released a couple of independent albums prior to this) penned by fellow Memphibian (turned Nashvillian by way of Houston) Derek Webb. He wrote the song on the way home from the funeral of a friend who had committed suicide at which he’d been asked to play. It’s a song questioning what troubles in her life were so overwhelming that could not have been worked out in that quiet room surrounded by the people who loved her. Beautiful and pleading, the song consists simply of Derek’s vocals and an acoustic guitar, a combination that always draws me in.
Tesla - "Love Me" (Mechanical Resonance, 1986) Mechanical Resonance is one of those albums that I purchased at a mall record store as a teenager without ever having heard a single note. This is not one of the better songs on the band’s debut, but it’s not bad, and I do love the wah-wah saturated guitar solo.
The Damnwells - "Golden Days" (acoustic version from the Golden Days film trailer)
I have a sort of love/hate relationship with this band-turned-musical-collective. Frontman Alex Dezen’s songwriting can at times be equal parts pure genius and totally frustrating. Fortunately this is one of this better tunes.
Judas Priest - "Freewheel Burning" (Defenders of the Faith, 1984)
“Fast and furious” proclaims the screaming, squealing, and screeching Rob Halford in this song’s opening strains. That it is, as is much of what sadly would become probably the last truly great album by the mighty Priest. Excuse me, I have some headbanging and horns-throwing to do. Later.
Anthrax - “Contact”/”What Doesn’t Die” (We’ve Come for You All, 2003)
Pointless album intro song “Contact” was first up today, so I’m going to cheat and include the second track from the disc “What Doesn’t Die.” Combined they form an excellent opening from one of my favorite Anthrax albums. This album is suited in every way for John Bush’s growling, aggressive vocals, and it is the release that actually got me excited about Anthrax again after the easy-to-overlook albums that followed 2001’s Sound of White Noise. It’s a shame this was Bush’s last proper release with the band before the reunion tour with Belladonna and all the soap opera-ish antics began.
Robert Plant and Tori Amos - “Down By The Seaside” (Encomium: A Tribute to Led Zeppelin)
There are a lot of good covers of Zep tunes on this disc. Too bad this isn’t one of them.
Anthrax - “Strap It On” (We’ve Come for You All, 2003)
Another track from this album?! What’s up with your shuffle randomization algorithm, iTunes? Hey, works for me. And despite what the title implies, this song is about strapping on your guitar and thrashing out old-school style. Get your mind out of the gutter. Guitar solo courtesy of the late, great “Dimebag” Darrell Abbott.
Nirvana - “Breed” (Nevermind, 1991)
OK, I guess I’m one of those weird metalheads that doesn’t blame the Seattle grunge scene for killing metal. Some of those bands really needed to go away anyway. Good riddance. That being said, I’m also not one of those guys that thinks this was a perfect album or that Kurt Cobain’s entrance onto the music scene ranks up there with the Second Coming. As for the song itself, it’s definitely one of the better tracks off the album.
Caedmon’s Call - “There’s a Stirring” (my calm // your storm, 1994)
Speaking of the Second Coming, the last track for today is from my one-time favorite folk-/acoustic-based Contemporary Christian band. Slower live track with excellent harmony vocal arrangement accompanied by all manner of acoustic guitars, double-bass, percussion, and even a fiddle (or violin if you’re a fancy-pants music kind of person). Nice way to end this Friday Five.