The Police - “Landlord” (Message in a Box: The Complete Recordings, 1993)
Fast, furious, and angry, this “Message in a Bottle” B-side defintely sounds more like Stewart Copeland than Sting.
Queens of the Stone Age - “Gonna Leave You” (Songs for the Deaf, 2002) Songs for the Deaf was my introduction to Queens of the Stone Age, and as much as I like it, the best thing about the album definitely has to be Dave Grohl, who handled the drumming duties on all but one song on the album.
PFR - “Great Lengths” (The Bookhouse Recordings, 2004) The Bookhouse Recordings was a Family Christian Stores exclusive album that the at-the-time-somewhat-newly-reformed CCM act PFR recorded during a one-week period. It features reimaginings of some of their more popular songs, but frankly, with a couple of exceptions, I think they should have left well enough alone. This version drops the excellent string arrangement opening of its Great Lengths album counterpart, opting instead for a tinny, weak intro with drum machines and cheap synthesizer strings that segues into an even worse electronic-based reworking of the verses. PFR was a band that drew lots of Beatles comparisons (even appearing on a Beatles tribute album), but for some reason, on this song, they felt compelled to omit those influences. I have linked the better version for inquiring minds.
Gin Blossoms - “Just South of Nowhere” (Up and Crumbling, 1991)
Speaking of The Beatles, the opening to this not especially interesting Gin Blossoms song bears a striking resemblence to “Doctor Robert.” That’s about all I have good to say about this one.
R.E.M. - “Orange Crush” (Green, 1998)
Great song from major label-, MTV-era R.E.M. I never knew until today that Green was recorded at Ardent Studios here in Memphis, coincidentally the same studio used by many CCM artists during the 90s, including PFR.
R.E.M. - “What If We Give It Away?” (Lifes Rich Pageant, 1986)
This is the R.E.M. that I prefer—catchy songs, jangly guitars, and Michael Stipe’s voice at times just on the verge of cracking. Love it.
Foo Fighters - “Have It All” (One By One, 2002)
I guess if Stipe and the boys give it all away, Dave Grohl and company can have it all. I love Foo Fighters, and they can do very little wrong in my eyes. This album was heavier and more aggressive in places than previous ones and is full of the stadium anthem rock that the Foos have come to be known for. If There Is Nothing Left to Lose had not already sucked me in, this album would definitely have done it.
Black ’N Blue - “Action” (Black ‘N Blue, 1984)
Terrible cover of Sweet’s (or The Sweet, depending on where you’re from) “Action.” Worst song on the album, and I’m really at a loss for why they included it given the strength of the rest of the album. Unfortunately they never repeated the magic of their debut.
The Police - “How Stupid Mr. Bates” (Message in a Box: The Complete Recordings, 1993)
How stupid, Police. This sounds like it could have been some of Copeland’s soundtrack fodder. Unlike his excellent work for the 80s TV series The Equalizer, this is just meh.
Portnoy, Gildenlow, Gilbert, LaRue - “In the Light” (Hammer of the Gods: Two Nights in North America, 2006)
Dream Theater founder and former drummer Mike Portnoy is no stranger to side projects and supergroups. This time he teamed up with Daniel Gildenlöw (Pain of Salvation), Paul Gilbert (Mr. Big), and Dave LaRue (Dixie Dregs) for a one-off Led Zeppelin tribute band (similar to his Beatles tribute band Yellow Matter Custard, also with Paul Gilbert) to play and film a couple of shows that ended up on a DVD. Here I guess they do a respectable job of “In the Light” (never one of my faves, by the way), but if memory serves (I haven’t listened to the entire album in quite awhile), this combo makes for a great Led Zeppelin cover band. Search the YouTube to see for yourself.
You don’t need to be a fortune teller with a crystal ball to know it’s time for the Friday Five with IckMusic!
KISS - “Hooked on Rock and Roll” (1972 KISS/Lips Demos)
Demo that is, ironically, from back before KISS became a real rock ‘n’ roll band. Bop-shoo-bop, shoo-bop-bop-shoo-bop?! Seriously, best as I can tell, the collection of demos from which this comes was actually from Peter’s pre-Wicked Lester (and by extension, pre-KISS) band Lips.
Pink Floyd - “Goodbye Blue Sky” (The Wall, 1979)
“Look mummy, there’s an aeroplane up in the sky.”
KISS - “Black Diamond” (Alive!, 1975)
Considering today is Paul Stanley’s 60th birthday, it’s fitting that iTunes picked another KISS tune (maybe I should have made it an all-KISS playlist?). It’s hard to believe I was only 5 when this album came out, and I wish I had a nickel for every time I played guitar on a tennis racket pretending to be either Ace or Gene. Alive! is very nearly a perfect live album (overdubbing accusations aside) and contains the now definitive versions of their early hits (at least for the songs from the self-titled debut). Peter’s vocals on “Black Diamond” really make the song for me. I wish I could have frozen time for KISS at this moment right here.
Sugar - “Fortune Teller” (Copper Blue, 1992)
Though I was aware of Hüsker Dü in the 80s through a couple of mail-order SST compilation cassettes, I somehow missed out on Bob Mould’s excellent 90s output with Sugar. I guess I was too wrapped up with college, Anthrax, the burgeoning grunge scene, and MTV. I’m grateful that a co-worker introduced me to Sugar around 1999, a point in time where I was probably more prepared to appreciate it.
The Police - “Can’t Stand Losing You” (Message in a Box: The Complete Recordings, 1993)
A repeat from my January 6 Friday Five. Looks like my iTunes has a bit of a Police crush lately. At least it picked a good song.
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?
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.
The Police - “Don’t Stand So Close to Me ‘86” (Message in a Box: The Complete Recordings, 1993)
Ugh. An absolutely horrible remake of the original. ‘Nuff said. Next.
U2 - “Promenade” (The Unforgettable Fire, 1984)
For some reason I seldom reach for The Unforgettable Fire when I want to satisfy an itch to listen to U2, and I’m not really sure why. It may be that I’m not as familiar with this disc as I am their others. Or it may be the lack of big “hits” on it, although these days I would count that as an advantage over having to wade through track after track that corporate radio has played into the ground. Weighing in at only 2:34, “Promenade” is a segue track of sorts, of which there are several on this very short album. As such, I don’t really have much of an opinion on it one way or the other, although Bono’s soaring vocals mix well with the ethereal instrumentation.
Arcade Fire - “Modern Man” (The Suburbs, 2010)
I acquired this album from a friend, and after having only listened to it once—and only half-heartedly then, I must admit—I promptly forgot that it was in my collection. That’s unfortunate since if the rest of the album is like “Modern Man,” I really need to dig it out and give it a good honest listen. Simple and catchy, this song is exactly how I like my pop tunes.
The Cure - “Untitled” (Disintegration, 1989)
“Untitled” suffers from a different fate than that of “Promenade.” At one point I had very nearly worn Disintegration out, but coming in at 72 minutes long, by the time I made my way to this final track on the album, I hardly ever made it all the way through its repetitive droning. And although it feels happy and hopeful in light of the somberness of the majority of the tracks, I never really felt that it measured up to rest of the album.
King’s X - “Move” (Live Love in London, 2010)
Excellent live version of one of my favorite tracks off the 2008 XV album. I only regret that I didn’t get to see these guys on tour for the two opportunities that I’ve had in the last decade. Here’s hoping I get another chance soon.