MAE - “Home” (Singularity, 2007)
I’ve been on a Dave Elkins/MAE kick lately since he dropped the first album from his new project Schematic. “Home” comes from MAE’s major-label debut, a solid effort which hit the charts at #40 on the Billboard 200 upon its release. Not bad for a band most folks have never heard of. If you haven’t heard Singularity (or MAE), you need to check it out. It’s a great album, and there’s not a bad song in the bunch.
Def Leppard - “Wasted” (Live BBC Studio Sessions, 1979)
My favorite NWOBHM-era Def Leppard track from a bootleg that my iTunes really seems to like dipping into lately. I won’t argue with today’s selection.
Gin Blossoms - “Mrs. Rita” (New Miserable Experience, 1992)
I can’t say I was a big Gin Blossoms fan back in the day, but I definitely had an affinity for their brand of tortured, jangly alterno-pop at one point.
KISS - “Makin’ Love” (Alive II, 1977)
I was a HUGE KISS fan from my adolescence on into my high school years. I honestly tried to like their output once the makeup came off, but by that point, my favorite member was gone (although, unbeknownst to me, he was largely absent way earlier than then), and I felt they had jumped the shark. Much of their work after Love Gun, including this “live” album complete with dubbed crowd noise (and excluding Ace’s excellent “solo” album and a few high points here and there), now seems cheesy to me at best, with most of it being absolutely cringeworthy.
PFR - “Forest” (Pray for Rain, 1992)
Another jangly alterno-pop band, this one from the CCM community, but with more Beatles influences than should be legally allowed. This song from their debut album is one of the better tracks and is a good representation of the album as a whole as well as the band’s sound throughout their career. I really used to love these guys, but at some point I just kind of moved on. I’m sensing a trend.
Rush - “Second Nature” (Hold Your Fire, 1987)
Since I largely like Hold Your Fire, I was surprised to find when I was fact-checking that it was a commercial disappointment for Rush, the first album since Caress of Steel not to reach platinum eventually. Sure, it’s no Moving Pictures, and at times it can seem a tedious listening exercise what with all the synth layers, but if you can accept it for what it is, it has some great songs, and Lifeson supplies some really tasty guitar parts. Unfortunately “Second Nature” is not one of the good songs and one that usually gets the fast-forward treatment from me.
The Devin Townsend Band - “Deadhead” (Accelerated Evolution, 2004)
Opening with a riff that sounds an awful lot like mid-90s Joe Satriani, “Deadhead” is a slow groove that eventually delivers Devin’s patented wall-of-sound production with equal parts heaviness and sweetness. This is the only track from the album I have, but if the rest of it is like this, I should really pick up the entire thing.
Def Leppard - “Glad I’m Alive” (Live BBC Studio Sessions, 1979)
This is a song I had never heard prior to grabbing this live bootleg by a hungry and determined Def Leppard. Overall it’s a good performance, and it’s a period of Def Leppard’s history I really enjoyed revisiting.
Spock’s Beard - “Thoughts (Part II)” (V, 2000)
This song features everything I loved about Neal Morse-era Spock’s Beard. The only problem is that at 4:39, it’s about 4 minutes too short.
Sugar - “A Good Idea” (Copper Blue, 1992)
Not sure what I can offer that hasn’t already been said about an album that every music critic known to man has gushed over since its release other than I love just about everything about it.
Have a great weekend Fivers. The copy of Sound City: Real to Reel that I recently won through a well-known nationally-syndicated radio interview show featuring a host with a very pirate-inspired-sounding name arrived yesterday, so I suspect the remainder of my day will be spent immersed in Grohlville.
Rush - “Limbo” (Test for Echo, 1996)
Looks like I’m going to open this month-closing Five with … yes, you guessed it … more Rush. Can’t say that’s a bad thing, though. This time it’s the great instrumental from Test for Echo. As much as I love actual Rush songs, I really wish they did more instrumentals.
Spock’s Beard - “Beware of Darkness” (Beware of Darkness, 1996)
Rush had been out of its progressive rock period for more than a decade when Spock’s Beard came onto the 90’s music scene to become the official prog-rock flag-bearers. I had heard their name bandied about in music snob circles for some time before I finally checked them out, and am I ever glad I did. I was blown away by the excellent musicianship, stellar vocal harmonies, and most importantly, strong songwriting, even amidst the prog-rock wankery and excess. Ultimately, strong songs always win me over whatever the genre, and while this particular cut is not a favorite, it’s still great.
Toad the Wet Sprocket - “Brother” (All You Want, 2011)
This is turning out to be a great Five so far. Up next is a re-recording of a Toad classic for their first reunion album, a best of collection released on their own Abe’s Records label meant to recapture publishing and licensing rights to some of their biggest Columbia hits. Sounds as fresh as it ever did.
King’s X - “Shoes” (Dogman, 1994)
When King’s X teamed up with Pearl Jam and STP knob-twiddler Brendan O’Brien to produce their redefining, transitional album Dogman, they were accused by just about everyone of chasing the mainstream success grunge had afforded other bands in the early 90s. What they didn’t realize is that O’Brien had sought out the trio to work with them (rather than the other way around) and that most of the grunge forefathers had actually acknowledged King’s X’s late 80s drop-D riffage as a huge influence on their sound. A new set of ears in the control room, a change in gear for guitarist Ty Tabor, and darker lyrics from bassist Doug Pinnick (who was growing more frustrated with organized religion and would eventually walk away from it completely), combined to create an album that is widely regarded as one of their best works despite its being quite different from anything else in their catalog. If you don’t own this album, you should.
C’mon Five, one more song. Don’t fail me now.
Def Leppard - “When the Walls Came Tumbling Down” (Live BBC Studio Sessions, 1979)
And … this Five came tumbling down. Not really—this just isn’t my favorite NWOBHM-era Leppard song. Elliot’s vocals are a bit pitchy (don’t you just love American Idol for bringing that term to the forefront of music critiquing?!), and you can tell the young band were still trying to hone their sound. Still not bad, and quite a bit better than much of the dreck they have produced in the last decade.
Hope everyone has a great no-labor Labor Day Weekend!
Nothing much to tell you, I’ve got Friday Five on my mind.
Coheed and Cambria - “Sentry the Defiant”
Coheed frontman Claudio Sanchez unveiled a new song from the band’s as yet untitled sixth album by way of a guitar cam video posted to YouTube on Valentine’s Day. He claimed the acoustic version was “literally the first time [he] played the song through in its entirety,” and after catching the video, I quickly jumped in line to claim a copy of the audio when it was made available on the band’s website.
Anthrax - “Taking the Music Back” (We’ve Come For You All, 2003)
“Taking the Music Back” is a great example of why WCFYA was my favorite album from John Bush era Anthrax. Lots of energy and tons of attitude, coupled with lots of melody and—dare I say it—some pop sensibility to boot. It also doesn’t hurt that the songwriting on the album is good.
Def Leppard - “Overture” (Live at the BBC, 1979)
Live bootleg version of a song that the Lep had released on an EP that eventually found its home on On Through the Night way back when they were still a New Wave of British Heavy Metal band. Clocking in at nearly eight minutes and containing several thematic shifts, “Overture” was no doubt intended to be a grand, epic statement from the band similar to that of progressive bands of the day. This recording shows a young, hungry, energetic band belting out something that sounds somewhere between Thin Lizzy and Iron Maiden that today remains quite a bit different from anything else they ever recorded.
King’s X - “Talk to You” (Faith Hope Love, 1990)
“Talk to You” is a wild, careening King’s X tune with twists and turns and stop-start rhythms that sounds like it could run off the tracks at any moment. For years I’ve wondered why my favorite band has been overlooked so often, but as I listen back now, I’m keenly aware that King’s X was probably just a bit too much for casual music listeners to take in. Oh well, their loss.
Ginger Wildheart - “In Vino Veritas” (555%, 2012)
Another tune from Ginger’s latest solo project—this time an instrumental—and the third track today to feature more than a few rhythm changes and thematic shifts. The title translates to “in wine [there is] truth,” but for the life of me, I can’t figure out the connection. Maybe it was the inspiration?
Second great Friday Five in a row. I’m starting to get worried.
Def Leppard - “See the Lights” (First Strike, 1979)
An “album” of demos from back when Def Leppard was a bonafide NWOBHM band. The “album” was later unofficially released without the band’s consent. “See the Lights” is not the best song on the collection—that designation would have to go to “Wasted” or “Sorrow Is a Woman,” both of which were released on On Through the Night—but it’s not bad, either.
Black Sabbath - “Never Say Die” (Symptom of the Universe: The Original Black Sabbath 1970-1978, 2002)
Ozzy had already quit and rejoined Sabbath by the time Never Say Die was recorded, and he pulls no punches when expressing his dissatisfaction with Sabbath at that point in his career, calling it “the worst piece of work that I’ve ever had anything to do with. I’m ashamed of that album. I think it’s disgusting.” With the exception of the cheesy ending, “Never Say Die” is a great, fun tune—should any Sabbath song be “fun”?!—although it sounds like it would fit better on Blizzard of Ozz.
Smashing Pumpkins - “Today” (“Unplugged” 100% Pure Acoustic Performances, 1993)
I never really cared much for the original, so a bootleg recording of an acoustic rendition of it is probably not going to rate very high for me. The performance is uninspiring and limp, with no musical embellishments until the very end when Iha adds an arpeggiated section, and Corgan struggles to hit some of the higher notes as he whines his way throughout the song. Sounds like they don’t even like it very much.
Galactic Cowboys - “Through” (At the End of the Day, 1998)
I thought you were in love, what a fool’s mistake
I don’t care about love now
And unfortunately Galactic Cowboys’ career was almost through at this point as well. ATEOTD is one of my favorite GC albums, containing the excellent “The Machine Fish Suite,” but I’m ashamed to admit I usually skip this one. Not that there’s anything much wrong with it. I just don’t usually turn to Galactic Cowboys when I want to hear a ballad.
Rush - “Cinderella Man” (Different Stages, 1998)
Not sure why, but this version always sounds really sloppy to me, and Geddy seems to really be straining to hit some of the notes. Odd for a band that is usually so tight.
Spock’s Beard - “Thoughts” (Beware of Darkness, 1996)
A 7:10 nod to old-school prog by one of the bands responsible for the prog revival of the 90’s and early 00’s.
The Police - “Can’t Stand Losing You” (Message in a Box: The Complete Recordings, 1993)
One of my favorite Police tunes.
Def Leppard - “Too Late for Love” (Pyromania, 1983)
I very nearly wore this cassette out playing air guitar in my room. I was so obsessed with this pastime that I got my dad to help me make a plywood fake guitar that was very similar to Phil Collen’s black Ibanez Destroyer, although I still much prefer Pete Willis era Leppard.
Soundgarden - “Slaves & Bulldozers” (Badmotorfinger, 1991)
Mostly uninspiring sludge-rock track from what is otherwise one of my favorite Soundgarden discs. It doesn’t get good until Cornell lets loose and starts screaming.
Teenage Fanclub - “December” (Bandwagonesque, 1991)
This short and sweet ditty reminds me a bit of Big Star’s “13.” I bet these guys got this alot, huh?