Where would you rather be?
Anywhere. Anywhere but here.
Amen (not here as in the Friday Five, but here as in work). And one of the stranger tracks on this (at the time) uncharacteristically different Rush album.
Ramones - "Too Tough to Die" (Too Tough to Die, 1984)
Can’t say I’m a big fan of this Dee Dee track.
U2 - "Lemon" (Zooropa, 1993)
I honestly thought the U2 guys had lost their minds when they released this album. I hated their new musical direction, I hated this song, and I hated the album, and therefore, I dismissed everything they did until All That You Can’t Leave Behind brought them back onto my radar. I’ve come to appreciate both Zooropa and Pop, and I think “Lemon,” with its electronic feel and Bono’s “Fat Lady” falsetto vocals, has actually stood the test of time better than some of their older “classic” material.
Toad the Wet Sprocket - "Walk on the Ocean" (Radio 104.5 Studio Session, 2008)
We end as we started, with one of my favorite bands, songwriters, and vocalists. I love this live performance with its lap steel slide guitar solo, but I’m not sure what I think about the song in general. One one hand, I’m grateful that FM radio and MTV played the absolute living hell out of it, because it (and a couple other Fear tracks) brought Toad the Wet Sprocket to my attention. On the other hand, I hate it, because FM radio and MTV played the absolute living hell out of it.
The Beatles - “For No One (Take 14, Recorded May 19, 1966)” (The Alternate Revolver, 1966) The Alternate Revolver is an interesting peek into the studio during the making of one of my favorite Beatles albums. It features alternate versions and mixes, sketches and demos, and alternate takes (complete with mess-ups) of songs that I am so familiar with that I’m usually taken aback for a minute when when one pops up on shuffle.
John Davis - "Chant Down Babylon" (Arigato!, 2007) Arigato! is the excellent second solo release from the Superdrag singer/songwriter/guitarist and founding member John Davis, and opening track “Chant Down Babylon” helps to prove there’s no sophomore slump here. And no, despite the song’s title, this isn’t a Rastafarian reggae number. Instead, it’s very stylistically similar to Davis’ former (and current) band, so if you like Superdrag, you’ll probably like this, too. Be forewarned though, this disc is loaded with Davis’ commentary on Christendom and spiritual themes, but not in the same manner as cheesy CCM radio fodder. You might find that you actually like the honesty found here.
Placebo - "Running Up That Hill" (Meds, 2007)
I love Placebo’s downbeat version of Kate Bush’s most successful song. A deal with God?! I think my iTunes has a sense of humor sometimes.
Ozzy Osbourne - "Tonight" (Diary of a Madman, 1981)
I had somehow forgotten about this very un-Ozzy-like song. After listening again, apart from Randy’s playing, I can see why.
I originally planned to shuffle up a playlist that included the words “work” or “labor,” but I just wasn’t in the mood to listen to five different versions of Rush’s “Working Man.” So this is what I get as we head into to the long weekend…
Coldplay - "Sparks" (Parachutes, 2000)
Here’s a nice little tender jam to start things off. I can remember not thinking much of Coldplay when I first heard them by way of “Yellow,” but then I really started to listen to this album and began to really appreciate it for what it was. Nice subtle textures throughout.
KISS - "Rock and Roll Hell" (Creatures of the Night, 1982)
…And Gene kills the mood. As usual. Nothing subtle about him or this track from KISS’ last album on Casablanca, last album from their first makeup era, and last album to feature Ace Frehley (at least on the cover anyway). Creatures is a solid album, heavier than anything released by KIIS up to that point, and arguably one of their better albums of the previous five years despite Paul’s and Gene’s dependence on outside writers. Surprisingly enough, this particular tune was a product of the Bryan Adams/Jim Vallance song machine.
Ramones - "Bonzo Goes to Bitburg" (Ramones Mania, 1988)
Probably one of the most upbeat protest songs ever. It’s difficult to feel Joey’s disgust of Reagan’s visit to a West Germany military cemetery over the backing chorus of “Ahhhh, la la la.”
U2 - "Pride (In the Name of Love)" (Rattle and Hum, 1988)
I’ve always had a sort of love/hate thing with U2. This seems a fitting song to pop up just a couple of days after the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech, but I find I have mixed feelings about this song that is supposed to be about MLK but lyrically really isn’t. Good performance from Rattle and Hum, though.
Toad the Wet Sprocket - "Liars Everywhere" (Pale, 1990)
Ending this Five like we started it, with a nice slow jam, this time from one of my favorites bands. Hard to believe these guys were between the ages of 18-22 when it was recorded.
Dio - "Shoot Shoot" (Sacred Heart, 1985)
Not my favorite tune from Sacred Heart. That honor would have to go to album opener “King of Rock and Roll” or the title track. One of the weakest tracks on the album, “Shoot Shoot” was probably not the best choice for an album closer, and while his playing was always phenomenal in Dio, Sacred Heart was probably not the best way for Vivian Campbell to have departed the band.
Eagles of Death Metal - "Don’t Speak (I Came to Make a Bang)" (Death by Sexy, 2006)
This has all the hallmarks of a Josh Homme project. I was just never able to get into it enough to really care despite the rave reviews from music sites and friends. My favorite part on this track is probably the drums. Silly me, I figured it was Joey Castillo behind the kit, but it turns out it’s Homme on this one. Go figure. He’s one super-talented dude.
Queens of the Stone Age - "Give the Mule What He Wants" (Queens of the Stone Age, 1998)
Another one from Homme, this time the pre-Oliveri Queens of the Stone Age. I really like the groove on this one. I came late to the QOTSA party, Songs for the Deaf being my introduction, and I doubt Homme will ever top that effort in my opinion.
Counting Crows - "I Wish I Was a Girl" (This Desert Life, 1999)
Counting Crows closes out this strange Five with one of Duritz’s trademark tunes made up of deep, almost depressive lyrics about Elisabeth, Hollywood, and being alright (when he’s really not) with a sleek, glossy, sticky-sweet coating of pure pop that makes you almost overlook the darkness beneath. Almost.
Counting Crows - "Angels of the Silences" (Across a Wire: Live in New York City, 1998)
As irritated as I get at Adam Duritz’s live performances at times, Across a Wire is probably my favorite Counting Crows album, containing my favorite versions of some of their biggest songs, especially the VH1 Storytellers disc. These guys really shine in a live setting.
Ramones - "7-11" (Pleasant Dreams, 1981)
I (ahem) acquired this album from a friend along with Too Tough to Die, and honestly, I can’t remember ever hearing this song. iTunes informs me that I’ve listened to it one other time, but I think iTunes is a liar. But I’m glad I listened to it this time.
Sixpence None the Richer - “The Garden” (This Beautiful Mess, 1999) This Beautiful Mess was my introduction to Sixpence None the Richer, and it’s still the gold standard by which I judge all their output. Sure, this track is late-90s jangly-alterno-pop navel-gazing music, but last time I checked, there wasn’t anything particularly wrong with that.
Jars of Clay - "Whatever She Wants" (The Eleventh Hour, 2002)
I still can’t quite put my finger what it is, but I remember thinking at the time The Eleventh Hour was different from anything Jars of Clay had done, and I still feel that way today. Maybe it’s that the band redefined itself by taking complete artistic control over everything for this album. Or maybe it’s that the songs feel darker, even the happy, upbeat ones. They continued in the more electric direction they had dabbled with on If I Left the Zoo (although there were enough acoustic instruments to satisfy fans of the first two albums), but the songs weren’t as immediately poppy and singalong. Still, it’s probably one of my favorite Jars releases.
Johnny Cash - "Danny Boy" (American IV: The Man Comes Around, 2002)
I was never a huge Johnny Cash fan, but I was definitely intrigued by his reworkings of popular songs in his American series, especially on tunes like “Personal Jesus,” “One,” and “Rusty Cage.” His version of “Danny Boy” has just the right amount of reverence, somberness, and sorrow for it to have been included alongside an excellent rendition of “In My Life” and my personal favorite “Hurt,” a song I like 100 times more than the original and the main reason I have this album in my collection.
Ramones - "We Want the Airwaves" (Pleasant Dreams, 1981)
Alright. Already off to a good start. A slicker, heavier, more polished sound for the Ramones, but good nonetheless.
Mae - "Anything" (The Everglow, 2005)
Wall-of-sound production that is equal parts heavy, sweet, soaring, and shimmery. I can’t talk enough about how much I like this band.
The Wildhearts - "Tim Smith" (¡Chutzpah!, 2009)
Heck yeah! 3 for 3. This song from the most recent Wildhearts release—and probably the last unless something changes in the near future—is a sort of dedication to the Cardiacs frontman who suffered a heart attack and stroke in 2008. Heavy, thrashy verses and harmony-vocal-laden singalong choruses. Hallelujah! Hallelujah!
Glen Phillips - “The Hole” (Live at Messiah College in Grantham, PA, 11/15/2003)
Another great bootleg from this Toad the Wet Sprocket frontman. “The Hole” is one of those rare strange tunes that Glen has come up with during his solo career that has a way of digging into your subconscious and coming out when you least expect. I really need to try to get to one of his solo shows sometime.
Ginger Wildheart - “Westward Ho! (A New Reputation)” (555%, 2012)
Second track from the more experimental second set of songs from Ginger’s triple-album PledgeMusic project. This song in particular plays around with an island feel and electronic elements and prominently features vocalist Victoria Liedtke as it builds into a middle portion that sounds like an African tribal singalong with Victoria doing her best black gospel choir imitation à la Pink Floyd’s “The Great Gig in the Sky.” Lots of twists and turns and very enjoyable if you’re up for the ride. I can’t recommend the entire album enough.
Excellent Friday Five this week! Hope you enjoy yours.
Andrew Peterson - “Mystery of Mercy” (The Far Country, 2005)
Peterson has popped up on previous Friday Fives. This is a song of his that CCM act Caedmon’s Call recorded for their 2003 album Back Home and is one of the strongest tracks on this album.
U2 - "God Part II" (Rattle and Hum, 1988)
Meh track from a meh-ish kind of album. I never really got the point of Rattle and Hum, although I do dig their version of “All Along the Watchtower.”
Ramones - "Bop ‘Til You Drop" (Ramones Mania, 1988)
Just over 2 minutes of Ramones goodness. Nice.
Phil Keaggy - "Passing Thought" (Acoustic Sketches, 1996)
Looks like my iTunes is all over the place today. Acoustic Sketches is (true to its name) an acoustic album from criminally underrated and largely unknown CCM guitarist Phil Keaggy, and as the song title suggests, this is a sort of segue track on the album. Keaggy is an amazing guitarist. He does this thing live with digital delays where he lays down a guitar part and loops it, then starts layering on more and more parts so that he can play along with himself. This album was one of the backing tracks for my web programming years ago.