Alien Ant Farm - "Death Day" (ANThology, 2001)
I’m pretty sure I acquired this album under dubious circumstances, and more than likely it was for the frantic, spastic cover of Michael Jackson’s "Smooth Criminal," because I can’t imagine a situation under which I would actually buy something like this. Surprisingly, I like quite a bit of the album. The musicianship is good, and most of the songs have a great groove. Unfortunately this is neither good, nor does it have a groove. Granted, I like the laid-back verse sections, but the chorus and the stupid lyrics absolutely kill it for me. Oh, and pun-ny or not, you don’t name an album Anthology unless it’s a greatest hits compilation. Sorry, but those are the rules.
Eureka Machines - "Wichita Lineman (Acoustic)" (Live Acoustic Sessions, 2013)
Not the greatest vocal performance for frontman Chris Catalyst but a great cover nonetheless of “the best song in the world” (as the liner notes put it) written by Jimmy Webb and first recorded and popularized by Glen Campbell. “I need you more than want you” is indeed a brilliant lyric. The Live Acoustic Session album has mysteriously disappeared from iTunes, but I have linked a video of Catalyst hamming it up at a solo, non-acoustic show before breaking into this song. And if you are not yet familiar with Eureka Machines (despite my singing their praises and begging and pleading you to give ‘em a listen), here’s a free download at their Bandcamp site. No excuses.
KISS - "Mr. Blackwell" (Music from “The Elder”, 1981)
Typical “guess the rhyme” tripe from Mr. Simmons and the much-maligned Elder project. The only thing salvageable here is this guitar solo, even though it doesn’t sound like it was played by Ace.
Spock’s Beard - "Freak Boy" (Snow, 2002)
Sort of a transition/linking song that helps flesh out the storyline on this double-disc concept album and Neal Morse’s last with the Beard. It’s a great album if you have the patience for it.
Toad the Wet Sprocket - "In My Ear" (Load and Clear)
“I never meant half the things I said to you. So you know there’s a half that might be true.” Just kidding. I mean everything I say here. Or do I?!
The Four Tops - "The Fool on the Hill" (La Musique de Paris Dernière, Volume 2, 2002)
I’m assuming this is the same version as the one that originally appeared in 1969 on The Four Tops Now!. A definite “Motown-y” take on a soon-to-be Beatles classic (it was only a couple years old at the time), but it almost has too much of a Motown Christmas feel to it for my liking.
The Cult - "Outlaw" (Electric, 1987)
Great example what has become classic Cult: a slinky guitar riff underneath a punchy start-top rhythm whilst Astbury inscrutably ad-libs over the top of the whole thing.
Transatlantic - "A Salty Dog" (The Whirlwind, 2009)
I love this “supergroup,” but I really had a hard time getting into this album. Despite that, this is a very good, almost note-for-note cover of the Procol Harum song from the limited edition bonus disc that also features covers of Genesis and Santana, as well as a Beatles/America mashup.
De La Soul - “I Can Do Anything (Delacratic)” (3 Feet High and Rising, 1989)
Ugh. Does this have to count?! I grabbed this album a couple of months ago when De La Soul offered up its Warner Bros back catalog for 24 hours. I remember liking this album back in the day way more than I do now. Memory is a funny thing.
Queensrÿche - "Neue Regel" (Live at L’Amour East, Queens, New York City, 2/13/1987)
Very rough (and often off-key) live vocal performance of a track from one of my favorite Queensrÿche albums.
Jimi Hendrix Experience - "Hey Joe" (Are You Experienced?, 1967)
I much prefer it when Hendrix actually focuses on the song rather than using it as a vehicle to indulge in his guitar wankery. And I like this cover tune more than most of his original material. I know, sacrilege.
Metallica - "Of Wolf and Man" (Metallica, 1991)
I like the main riff and the galloping rhythm of this “Black Album” tune.
Led Zeppelin - "Down by the Seaside" (Physical Graffiti, 1975)
I don’t usually listen to this one all the way through for some reason, but today I’m glad I did. I like the “so far away, so far away” transition the song makes in the middle. Now I’m wishing I were down by the seaside instead of stuck here indoors in a corporate cubicle. A nice finish to a rather odd Five.
I love the original (and I love Placebo’s take on it almost as much), and while I can’t say I’m crazy about Jenn Wasner’s voice (or her neck movements, or the faces she pulls as she sings, or the fact that their version really doesn’t go anywhere interesting), I do dig her distorted bass in the middle.
Ginger Wildheart - "The Beat Goes On" (Albion, 2014)
We start off today’s Five with a slab of pure power-pop from Ginger’s latest PledgeMusic-backed album. Of course, with Ginger, he just can’t resist the urge to change the key or time signature a couple of times or to insert a little weirdness into the mix. This track is light on the weirdness, but there are other tracks on the album that seem to go in several different directions all at once. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.
Rage Against the Machine - "Renegades of Funk" (Renegades, 2000)
I can usually only take RATM in small doses. While others might consider this Afrika Bambaataa cover track Rage Lite, I could listen to more of their stuff if everything was like this.
Keaggy, King, Denté - "Angel Treads" (Invention, 1997) Invention is a Dove award-winning, mostly-instrumental collaboration between CCM guitar wizard Phil Keaggy and fellow CCM artists Wes King and Scott Denté of the husband-and-wife duo Out of the Grey. Keaggy is a criminally underrated and overlooked guitarist (if you don’t believe that, just spend a little time on YouTube watching live performance videos of Keaggy playing along with himself by means of a looper) who has been on the music scene since the mid-60s. Apparently urban legends abound of Hendrix crediting Keaggy as the best guitarist in the world. Lest you think this is simply a vehicle to showcase Keaggy’s six string prowess, King and Denté are both amazing guitarists in their own right, and each of them brings a different approach to the instrument. It was interesting to me at the time to hear how King and Denté responded to the opportunity to show off and shine on the guitar in a way that was different from what I had heard previously as part of their “day jobs.”
Faith No More - "The Morning After" (The Real Thing, 1989)
I love this song—I think Billy Gould’s thumping, driving bass is what does it for me—and I love this album. I had a hard time getting into FNM’s subsequent releases, but The Real Thing was the perfect mix of weirdness, heaviness, and pop sensibilities, and it was way more approachable and accessible than some of their other work. I wonder if things might have gone better for them had “Epic” not completely blown up the MTV airwaves.
Tony Bennett - "Indian Summer" (Perfectly Frank, 2006)
Tony sings Frank. This was a purchase for my wife, whose musical tastes run completely different from mine. She’s not a huge fan of vocal standards like this, but she often likes to chill out to laid-back older tunes like this one. And it just might surprise you to learn that I’m not completely put off by this.
Les Claypool’s Frog Brigade - "Pigs on the Wing, Pt. 1" (Live Frogs: Set 2, 2001)
Opening track of Les Claypool’s excellent live cover of Pink Floyd’s Animals. Short and sweet, just like my comments today.
Smashing Pumpkins - "Bury Me" (Gish, 1991)
Yes, Michael, Billy Corgan can be totally insufferable at times. Good thing this isn’t one of them. Not going to skip forward on this one.
Ace Frehley - "Fractured Mirror" (Ace Frehley, 1978)
After all these years, Ace’s solo album is still one of my favorite KISS albums. Read an interesting pieces recently that compared his album to other KISS releases and argued that he was more the soul of KISS that he gets credit for. It would have been interesting to see where KISS could have gone had Ace managed not to completely destroy himself with drink and drugs.
Kindled Imagination - “Cowboy & Indian Scene” (Cracks in the Sidewalk, 1980)
Whaddya know? I always thought this was an SST compilation, but it turns out it was actually the first release on D. Boone’s and Mike Watt’s New Alliance Records label. It looks like my copy comes from a 1988 CD re-release (at least that’s what the MP3 says). Typical of similar SST EP releases, this is a 6-track affair of nonsense “songs,” the longest of which clocks in at a mere 2:06 and the best (and honestly the only real song in the bunch) being a track from some version of Black Flag.
Toad the Wet Sprocket - "P.S. (New Version)" (P.S. (A Toad Retrospective), 1999)
I’m sorry, it’s Toad, so there’s no way I can be objective other than to say it’s not one of their best songs, but it’s definitely not bad by a long shot.
Megadeth - "How the Story Ends" (Endgame, 2009)
I guess I had higher hopes for this—as well as the reunited team of Mustaine and Ellefson on TH1RT3EN—but Megadeth’s modern-day output has left me a bit cold. Not that there’s necessarily anything wrong with it. The songs are good, with good riffs and even some moments of groove-iness, they are executed well, and Dave’s vocals sound great (methinks there is some studio trickery going on however), but for the most part, I can take it or leave it. It just doesn’t have that special something that early Megadeth had, especially albums like Rust in Peace. “How the Story Ends” is one of the better tunes from this album, and I think it would have been a better album closer than “The Right to Go Insane” (I mean, c’mon, how can you not end an album called Endgame with “How the Story Ends?!”) but I can’t help feeling a little “meh” over the whole affair.
The Beatles - “Mr. Moonlight” (Beatles for Sale, 1964)
Although a bit “crooner-ish” for my tastes, it’s the Beatles. What else can I say?
Ty Tabor - "Freakin’" (Trip Magnet - The EP, 2010)
Weird little 2-minute closing track of an experimental EP from one of my all-time favorite guitarists. This entire album is a bit of a left turn from what you would expect from Ty, but I’m somewhat of a completist when it comes to King’s X.
Scorpions - "The Zoo" (Animal Magnetism, 1980)
Classic plodding riff and excellent wah-wah-drenched lead from the Scorpions. This album gets a big of a black eye in the band’s catalog, but I love it.
Lecrae (feat. Andy Mineo and Papa San) - "The Fever (feat. Andy Mineo and Papa San)" (Church Clothes, Vol. 2, 2013)
Um, yeah. So this is in my library because I bought it for my teenaged son who is infatuated with Christian rap. Can’t say I’ve ever heard this before, or that I like it much, or that I will ever listen to it again on purpose. I’ve tried to turn him onto “real” rap/hip-hop like the Beastie Boys, but he just won’t have it.
At the Drive-In - "Proxima Centauri" (Vaya, 1999) Vaya is my second favorite ATDI release, and this song is one seven reasons why. It has the polish of their follow-up Relationship of Command combined with all the raw punk energy of their earlier releases. But heaven help me if I can make any sense out of any of Cedric Bixlar-Zavala’s lyrics:
I can’t believe
The feeble recipe
Civilization tastes so good
Nero has conquered the stars
No one ever saw the spacesuit togas
Wreaths around the head like Saturn’s rings
The Beatles - “Money (That’s What I Want)” (With the Beatles, 1963)
A Barry Gordy song covered by many artists, including the Beatles. Apparently this version was a big deal back in the day while today it seems fairly tame.
Devo - "Fresh" (Something for Everybody [Deluxe Edition], 2010)
Lead-off track of the first studio album in two decades (with a funny tongue-in-cheek video to boot), “Fresh” gave Devo super-fans—as well as casual fans—something to get excited about. While it didn’t garner the same attention as “Whip It,” it contains many of the same elements that made its predecessor a mega-hit back in the day. Funny how that works.
These are nights I’ll never remember with friends I’ll never forget
Genius. This is from a 6-track recording of a live acoustic session (betcha figured that out already, huh?!) the band sold as a limited edition CD during a 2008 acoustic tour with Ginger Wildheart and later released on iTunes.
Tsar - "Punctual Alcoholic" (The Dark Stuff - EP, 2012)
Tsar is another band whose lyrics can sometimes lean toward the obtuse, although this little nugget appears straightforward enough:
I wanna waste my time and waste my money
And do stupid things that get me in trouble
Slammed at work today, so this will be a short on commentary…
Joe Satriani - "Secret Prayer" (Crystal Planet, 1998)
I started losing interest in Joe somewhere around this time. Not sure why now that I listen back to this. The man has such great phrasing and taste in his selection of notes.
Queensrÿche - "Spreading the Disease" (Operation: Mindcrime, 1988)
OK, joke’s over. Can I have this version of Queensrÿche back now, please?!
Ginger Wildheart - “Unlucky in Love” (Potatoes and You, 2011)
Live acoustic cover of a song that came out of Ginger’s Clam Abuse project with Alex Cane of Life, Sex & Death. More from Ginger’s Bandcamp store where you can purchase the “album”:
Recorded at TJ’s in Newport, Wales during an acoustic tour in 2005, this album was released as a tour only CD, and was sold on subsequent acoustic tours, but never in shops or iTunes. Now deleted, we want to make the recording available to everyone.
Tommy Stinson - "Something’s Wrong" (Village Gorilla Head, 2004)
Tommy runs hot and cold with me. I think I remember not liking this whole album much despite quite a few good songs and a couple of excellent ones.
From the Remain in Hope PledgeMusic campaign site:
During our Pledge campaign, superfan Lee pledged for us to do a cover of one of his (and our) favourite songs, ‘Heroes’, by David Bowie (thanks Lee). We’ve souped it up a bit and overlayed it with a video retrospective of the year with our pals at AshTV. Here it is.
Trivium - "Like Callisto to a Star in Heaven" (Shogun, 2008)
Hang on, boys and girls, we’re off to a thrashy, growly start. This might get interesting. For some reason Shogun is the only Trivium album I’ve been able to really get into, and I love nearly every song on it. “Like Callisto” has an almost epic feel, and despite the Cookie Monster vocals, it has a lot going for it—harmony vocals, harmony leads, and yes, even a groove.
Hüsker Dü - "I’m Not Interested" (Live at Mabuhay Gardens, San Francisco, 1981)
Are you awake yet?! Maybe a small shot of noisy live Hüsker Dü will help help.
Apocalyptica - "Welcome Home (Sanitarium)" (Apocalyptica Plays Metallica by Four Cellos, 1996)
I think I like the mood iTunes is in this morning. One of my favorite Metallica songs performed on cello. I can’t help but think Cliff Burton would have approved.
The Wildhearts - "Nita Nitro" (P.H.U.Q., 1995)
I only recently discovered P.H.U.Q. despite its containing one of my favorite Wildhearts songs, “Caprice.” “Nita Nitro” is another winner on this disc, and I just love how Ginger is able to combine crunchy guitars and catchy (almost poppy) melody hooks with utterly bizarre lyrics. That sweet Nita Nitro is locos tambien.
Gin Blossoms - "As Long As It Matters" (Congratulations I’m Sorry, 1996)
I hate to say a Gin Blossoms song is a let down, but after the previous tunes in this Five, this one is a bit of a downer. Any other day I would have welcomed this one.