Short and sweet this week since I have meetings stacked up all day today.
Jill Phillips - “By a Thread” (Nobody’s Got It All Together, 2006)
There aren’t many Christians—much less CCM artists—who will admit that we don’t have it all together, we don’t have all the answers, and we don’t have the corner on the market of God’s grace. Jill Phillips is one of those brutally honest artists who is not afraid to admit that there are indeed times when “I can’t get it down to my heart from my head” and that “I’m hanging by a thread.”
Soundgarden - "My Wave" (Superunknown, 1994)
Don’t come over here and piss on my gate. Do what you want. Just don’t involve me.
Rush - "Out of the Cradle" (Vapor Trails, 2002)
OK, so I’m one of those oddball Rush fans that liked Vapor Trails and didn’t think the production/mastering was obnoxiously loud and distorted. But then again, I haven’t heard the recently released Vapor Trails Remixed.
Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers - "Don’t Do Me Like That" (Greatest Hits, 1993)
Baby, don’t do him like that. I’ve always liked this tune.
The Knack - "Good Girls Don’t" (Get the Knack, 1979)
…but I do. Doug Fieger and Berton Averre sure could write some pretty pop songs with dirty lyrics couldn’t they?!
Rush - "Lakeside Park" (Caress of Steel, 1975)
I don’t listen to Caress of Steel often enough.
Dio - "One Night in the City" (The Last in Line, 1984)
Huh. I obviously don’t know The Last in Line as well as I thought I did, because I totally don’t recall this song. On listening this time, I can understand why I would dismiss it. There’s nary a dragon or sorceress in sight, nor is there any mention of fire, magic, or witchcraft, although the staccato interplay between Vivian Campbell’s guitar and Claude Schnell’s keyboard is nice.
At the Drive-In - "Fahrenheit" (This Station Is Non-Operational, 1997)
Speaking of lyrics, have you ever tried to understand anything Cedric Bixler-Zavala has ever written?! If you’re up for a good laugh, head over to SongMeanings.com and read the non-ironical interpretations of some the nonsensical stuff Cedric comes up with. Back to the music, this is 2-and-a-half minutes of everything I loved about At the Drive-In. For more fun, check out this 1999 performance of “Fahrenheit.”
Led Zeppelin - “Stairway to Heaven” (Led Zeppelin IV, 1971)
I knew this moment would come at some point in my Friday Five listening. Classic rock radio has so overplayed “Stairway to Heaven” that often I can just barely stand to listen to it, despite its having what I consider one of the greatest guitar solos ever.
The Wildhearts - "Pissjoy" (Endless, Nameless, 1997) Endless, Nameless was The Wildheart’s experimentation with a heavier sound. Rather than capitalize on the band’s moderately successful formula of catchy, poppy tunes, in a classic, self-destructive move, they washed the entire album with layers of noisy distortion, making it almost unlistenable and ultimately polarizing many Wildhearts fans’ opinions of the album. But if you can get past the noise, there’s much to enjoy here. I especially like the gang vocal chorus of kids singing “Piss! Joy! Ah-na-na-na-na!” after Ginger delivers the line “All the children sing.” Nice.
Queensrÿche - "Desert Dance" (Tribe, 2003)
Unfortunately the Queensrÿche machine had pretty much ridden off the rails at this point, and even the tentative return of guitarist Chris DeGarmo could do little to breathe new life into the band. Despite reaching #56 on the US Billboard 200 and earning a 4-star AllMusic rating, the seeming return-to-form of the mighty ‘Rÿche just wasn’t meant to be, with old personal differences rearing their heads in the studio and their label screwing the pooch by exaggerating DeGarmo’s involvement in the “reunion.” “Desert Dance” is a decent enough tune, and I really like the song’s groove—and I have to say I honestly like most of the album for what it is—but it largely lies dormant and remains forgotten in my library.
Mutation - "Rats" (The Frankenstein Effect, 2012)
Recorded in 2011, Mutation was an on-again, off-again side-project of The Wildhearts’ Ginger that he had finally decided to shelve for good. That is until his wildly successful PledgeMusic campaign for the solo triple-album release 555% convinced him he might be able to revive the project by crowdsourcing it. Somewhere along the way, Ginger decided to launch the side-project Hey! Hello! with Victoria Liedke and release an album of material along with the two Mutation releases. I have to admit I jumped onto the campaign for the excellent, poppy Hey! Hello! album rather than the noisy, chaotic, and sometimes downright scary Mutation ones. I don’t know if Ginger was simply exorcising some demons with the Mutation albums, but I have found it really difficult to listen to them for any length of time, the stellar “Rats” being one of the few exceptions.
PFR - "Blind Man, Deaf Boy" (Great Lengths, 1994)
Early 90s CCM-pop at its finest. PFR is one of the few Christian radio acts I followed whose music has managed to stand the test of time with me.
Rush - "Chemistry" (Signals, 1982)
I know I sit squarely in the minority on this, but Signals is one of my favorite Rush albums of all time, cheesy synths and all. “Chemistry” is one of the reasons why.
Queensrÿche - "Child of Fire" (The Warning, 1984)
Queensrÿche sandwich! This time it’s a cut off their excellent full-length debut The Warning. What’s not to like about progressive metal inspired equally by Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four and Iron Maiden and with orchestration by Michael Kamen?
Merlin Mann - "Just Dan" (Sometimes There’s a Man, 2011)
I’m not sure if this one should count, but I’m going to let it through anyway because of what it is and who it’s from. As part of a sponsorship campaign for the wildly popular 5by5 podcast network's Back to Work show, Mailchimp commissioned former productivity guru turned podcaster extraordinaire Merlin Mann to write a 5-part rock opera in tribute to the show’s co-host and 5by5 founder Dan Benjamin. This is part 5 of this fun little project.
Les Claypool’s Frog Brigade - "Sheep" (Live Frogs: Set 2, 2001)
Yes, that Les Claypool. As the name indicates Live Frogs: Set 2 is the second release of live music from the Primus bassist’s side project Colonel Les Claypool’s Fearless Flying Frog Brigade. Taken from the same handful of shows from fall 2000, Set 2 features Pink Floyd’s Animals album in its entirety. Sometimes I think I like this better than the original.
Five O’Clock People - “Sorry” (Fall EP, 1998)
Now I think iTunes is just screwing with me. Here’s another tune from this folk CCM group, this time from the independent EP that secured their Pamplin label deal and spawned their debut full-length.
Andrew Osenga - "Canada" (Letters to the Editor, Vol. 2, 2008)
Andrew Osenga’s first Letters to the Editor project started as an experiment in writing songs from ideas, words, lyrics, pictures, or stories submitted by the fans of this founder and former singer/songwriter/guitarist of CCM band The Normals and former Caedmon’s Call member and songwriter. The project had only three rules: 1. only one guitar, an acoustic, but with no limit to the number of tracks it could be used on in a song, 2. the only other instrument that could be used was Andrew’s voice, again with no track limit, and 3. no guitar picks. The result was a 6-song EP—Andrew comes clean in the liner notes that he “cheated” in only 3 instances—that was highly praised by Andrew’s fanbase and which he offered for free on his blog (which you can can still find if you look hard enough, but I would strongly encourage you to purchase it if you are at all interested). Volume 2 followed the same structure, and the same rules applied with the only tweaks being that he could use only one electric guitar and one amp on each tune (and once used, he couldn’t use them on another song), and he could use only one pedal, the Memory Man. To me the songs on Volume 2 aren’t as strong as Volume 1, but they are still good and stand as a testament that sometimes limitations are a good thing.
"Canada" is the only non-serious tune on the EP, the others being much more poignant and introspective. But with lyrics like these (and that namedrop Alanis Morissette and Dave Coulier), how could you not like this fun little ditty?!
I should speak French, the language of love
Still use English to get things done
We should play hockey, eh?
Let’s get poutine for two
You could be my Geddy Lee
I’m not a hoser, will you dance with me?
Rush - "Beneath, Between and Behind" (Exit… Stage Left, 1981)
Speaking of Geddy Lee, here’s a great live version (from a great live album) of a Rush rocker from the early period of the band that I don’t revisit often enough.
The Police - "Bombs Away" (Message in a Box: The Complete Recordings, 1993) Message in a Box introduced me to a wealth of Police tunes lesser known to me since my exposure to them had largely been through FM radio, MTV, and the one Police album I actually owned growing up, Synchronicity. “Bombs Away” is one of those songs.
Nada Surf - "No Quick Fix" (Nada Surf: 1994-2008 vinyl box set bonus download, 2008)
In 2008 Barsuk Records released a limited-edition, numbered vinyl box set documenting Nada Surf’s career up to that point. The set was limited to 1000 copies and consisted of the band’s first five albums, a repressing of a long out-of-print 7”, and 16 b-sides and rarities available via single-use download codes, one of which was “No Quick Fix.” This is pure Nada Surf—sweet, catchy, jangly—and I’m not quite sure how it was relegated to b-side status.
Beastie Boys - "Funky Boss" (Check Your Head, 1992)
Um, see, there’s this boss. And he’s funky. And apparently he’s on someone’s back. The thing I really appreciate about Check Your Head is that the Boys proved they weren’t one-trick ponies by changing up their style and playing their own instruments. Now that’s funky.
Neal Morse - "Jayda" (Testimony 2, 2011)
Neal Morse’s solo albums Testimony and Testimony 2 document the events that led to his conversion to Christianity and, ultimately, to his leaving the prog-rock band Spock’s Beard he formed with his brother Alan in 1992. “Jayda” relates the miraculous healing of his infant daughter’s heart defect, a hole in her heart. I have a soft spot for Morse’s ballads, and being the father of a not-so-little girl these days, it has a tendency to bring a tear to my eye.
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.
Sparta - "Tensioning" (Porcelain, 2004)
I came late to the At the Drive-In party, about the time they released their swan song Relationship of Command, so I was understandably bummed when I found out the band had called it quits before I even had the chance to take a deeper dive into their back catalog. So I loved Jim Ward’s post-ATDI Sparta from the beginning (well, except for the final album Threes; I’ve never been able to get into that one for some reason). I absolutely love “Tensioning” as well as the entirety of Porcelain, which contains one of my favorite Sparta tunes, “Breaking the Broken.” The whole album is a nearly perfect amalgamation of pop, swagger, noisy guitars, emo/screamo, navel-gazing, and aggression, and it became my gateway drug into other modern noisy pop bands like Mae and Anberlin.
Smashing Pumpkins - “Blue” ("Unplugged" 100% Pure Acoustic Performances, 1993)
One of my previous Fives featured a song from this collection of bootleg acoustic Pumpkins tunes, which is uneven and spotty at best. This is not one of the better songs or performances.
Rush - "Losing It" (Signals, 1982)
For some reason it has become popular to dismiss this album from Rush’s synthesizer period, but honestly, it’s one of my favorites from the band. Songs like “Losing It” have a lot going on behind Geddy’s vocals and the synths that seem to float to the top. If you don’t take the time to really listen, you miss out on some very tasty guitar work from Alex and the funky high-hat-based groove Neil lays down on this song in particular.
King’s X - “Don’t Believe It” (Gretchen Blows Through Chicago 9/14/1989)
Performance of one of my favorite Gretchen Goes to Nebraska tunes from a very muddy King’s X bootleg. Man I wish I could have seen these guys live during that period.
Ginger - "Can’t Drink You Pretty" (Yoni, 2007)
This song popped up in my September 21, 2012 Five. One thing I failed to mention that time was that the album title Yoni comes from a Sanskrit word for… well… a woman’s “down there” area, and nearly every song is about women, relationships, and yes, sex. It also features much of the same cast of characters that Ginger worked with on the albums he released (or is in the process of finishing) this past year.
Michael Parr over at Popdose threw me for a bit of a loop today. I had my Five all percolated and ready to pour when he posted his Five and announced a theme of 2012 releases. So I groaned a bit, thinking my 2012 version wouldn’t be too interesting. Then I scrambled to get mine in before heading to a meeting, and whaddyaknow, it didn’t turn out too bad. But then I thought it would be a waste not to post my original Five, so in typical contrarian fashion, I posted both!
Torpedohead - "Heartbreak Key" (Greetings from Heartbreak Key, 2012)
I got turned onto this album just recently by Michael Butler over at the Rock and Roll Geek Show podcast when he did a track-by-track review of the album with founder, vocalist, and guitarist Sven Spacebrain. Hailing from Frankfurt, Germany, Torpedohead is fun, high-energy, straight-ahead melodic rock ‘n’ roll chock full of hooks, harmonies, and sing-along choruses. If you’re into that kind of thing, they are definitely worth checking out.
P.O.D. - "Beautiful" (Murdered Love, 2012)
I purchased this for my tweenaged son based on the hype that this release would be more similar to Satellite than their recent releases. It’s a good album, but apart from a couple of songs, I don’t think it delivers on the promise. This is the obligatory “ballad” to try to grab at least a little CCM FM radio airplay, although with subject matter that includes suicide, cutting, drugs, and depression, I doubt they’ll get played on anything but the edgiest of stations.
Ginger Wildheart - “Strange New Year” (555%, 2012)
Here’s another excellent track from Ginger’s wildly successful PledgeMusic campaign. This triple-album definitely lived up to the hype, and it’s one of my favorite purchases of the year so far.
Rush - "The Wreckers" (Clockwork Angels, 2012)
I’m still trying to get into the new Rush album. I was sold on it based on “Headlong Flight,” and while the album is good, I struggle to listen to it all the way through in one sitting. “The Wreckers” is easily the poppiest song on the album, hearkening a bit to something off of Hold Your Fire or their other late 80s output.
Nada Surf - "Looking Through" (Dulcitone Files, 2012)
Beautiful tune from a digital-only EP of acoustic performances of five of the tracks from the band’s most recent release The Stars Are Indifferent to Astronomy. As much as I like this band, late though I was to the party, I’m not sure why I haven’t picked up that album.
Led Zeppelin - “Hats Off to (Roy) Harper” (Led Zeppelin III, 1970)
Zeppelin’s nod to the Mississippi Delta blues. I wish I loved it as much as they did. I just can’t get into this song.
Rush - "The Necromancer" (Caress of Steel, 1975)
Part Tolkien, part By-Tor, “The Necromancer” (and Caress of Steel as a whole) marked the point at which Rush dived headlong into the long conceptual pieces that marked the first part of their career. Although Caress was a commercial disappointment and earned the ire of their record company, most of the album is quite good. I especially like the spaciness of Part I of this track. Fortunately Rush didn’t cave under the pressure from their label to abandon the concept songs and produce a hit for the next album, which resulted in what is considered by many as the definitive Rush album.
KISS - "Then She Kissed Me" (Love Gun, 1977)
Not necessarily a bad cover of Phil Spector’s “Then He Kissed Me,” I just never thought it fit with the rest of the album and didn’t see the point, especially when I discovered this album as a pre-teen expecting the blood, the fire, and the spectacle I had at that point associated with KISS.
Collective Soul - "General Attitude" (Youth, 2004)
By the time Youth was released, Collective Soul had left Atlantic, lost its lead guitarist and songwriting collaborator Ross Childress, and had become (in my opinion) largely an Ed Roland solo band. Despite all this, it’s a great overlooked album, if you can get past some of the over-processed guitars. “General Attitude” is a pretty good representation of the rest of the album, a well-written straight-ahead pop song. Nothing wrong with that.
Glen Phillips - "I Want a New Drug" (Mr. Lemons, 2006)
I wasn’t quite sure what to think when I first heard this almost-unrecognizable cover of the Huey Lewis & the News mega-hit. These days I really appreciate Glen’s sparse, stripped-down rearrangement of the song.
Saosin - "Deep Down" (In Search of Solid Ground, 2009)
Decent enough song from this emo/screamo unit, curiously opting to drop the screamo for this particular number. “Deep Down” was apparently the 4th single from the album, not that I would have known that without peeking at (the mostly reliable) Wikipedia. I came late to the Saosin party, discovering them around the time of their mid-2010 hiatus. Too bad since they are capable of some pretty good stuff if you’re into this sort of thing.
Rush - "Working Man" (Different Stages, 1998)
I’m not sure why Rush feels compelled to release so many live albums, especially when there isn’t much difference between many of them. This version of “Working Man” just seems tired to me, and I think Peart’s overplaying here is an indication that he would be utterly bored with reproducing the album version. And as with the original, the most interesting part here is the instrumental section, that in this case segues directly into the more interesting “Fly By Night.”
Coldplay - "We Never Change" (Parachutes, 2000)
“Hi, my name is Phil, and I like Coldplay. No, I do. I really do. Seriously, guys, I do.” I realize no self-respecting metalhead should ever be caught saying he likes Coldplay, so an intervention may be in order here. Not that I understand some of Chris Martin’s lyrics, but boy does he feel them when he sings. Hey, the guy is married to Gwyneth Paltrow, so he gets a pass.
Dream Theater - “Yes Medley (with Steve Howe)” (Uncovered, 1995)
Dream Theater teamed up with prog legend Steve Howe in 1995 at Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club in London to run through a medley of Yes tunes. The result ended up on a bootleg that ended up on my computer. Gotta love the interwebs.
Coldplay - "Amsterdam" (A Rush of Blood to the Head, 2002)
“Yes, I’m sure I still like Coldplay. No, I don’t have the problem, you do. No, I’m not stupid, you’re stupid.”