Ginger - "Mother City" (Valor del Corazón, 2006)
Ginger’s (he had not yet assumed the Wildheart surname) melodic ode to his adopted home city NYC from his first proper solo album (the Singles Club project that eventually led to the A Break in the Weather compilation doesn’t really count, does it!?). Stylistically, this double-album is all over the place (heck, there are like 6 genre shifts in “Drinking in the Daytime” alone), but in a good way as it saturated with pop-y, accessible melodies. If you are a fan of any of Ginger’s work, you’ll definitely find something to like in this.
King’s X - "Prisoner" (1992)
Live bootleg performance of one of my favorite King’s X tunes (from their often maligned, self-titled fourth album) featuring Dane Sonnier from Galactic Cowboys on acoustic guitar. Given drummer Jerry Gaskill’s second heart attack scare a couple of weeks ago, my having never seen King’s X live may go down as one of my great regrets in life.
Spock’s Beard - "Lay It Down" (Day for Night, 1999) Huge fan of this entire album. Neal Morse has a certain way of tugging at my heartstrings with his writing. This way-too-short “ballad” is part four (or IV) of a seven-part suite that closes out the album. Hey, what to you expect from one of the bands that sparked a mid-90s resurgence in prog rock?!
KISS - "Take Me" (Rock and Roll Over, 1976)
Great tune from one of my favorite early KISS albums that for some reason doesn’t really seem like a KISS album to me. I almost wish Eddie Kramer had produced the entire KISS catalog, as he seems to have had a hand in most of my favorite work from them.
The Mob - “I Will Follow” (The Mob, 2005)
Decent track from a Doug Pinnick (King’s X) one-off “supergroup” side-project with Reb Beach (Winger, Dokken, Whitesnake), Kelly Keagy (Night Ranger), Timothy Drury (keyboard-for-hire most known for stints with Whitesnake and the Eagles), and Kip Winger (duh!). The focus here was more about fun, 80s-influenced hair metal (and way too much guitar wankery from Beach) than anything serious, and unfortunately much of the album suffers because of it. This song is one of the exceptions, but it’s still pretty forgettable despite having one of my all-time favorite singers on it.
R.E.M. - "Pilgrimage" (Murmur, 1983)
Jangly alterna-pop from one of my favorite 80s “alternative” bands. Yeah, yeah, I know, but I try to forget about everything after 1991’s Out of Time, not being a big fan of the band’s direction from Automatic for the People onward.
Alice in Chains - "Angry Chair" (Dirt, 1992)
I can’t say I ever understood this song much (and likely neither did Layne Staley, who was high as a kite during the recording of it if the mostly-reliable Wikipedia is to be believed), but I don’t think that was ever the point. I’ve never been a fan of Staley’s vocals on the spooky-sounding verse sections, but I absolutely adore the “chorus” section with Jerry Cantrell’s harmony vocals and the “I don’t mind/Lost my mind/Can’t find it anywhere” lyrics.
Collective Soul - "Reach" (Hints Allegations & Things Left Unsaid, 1994)
Jangly alterna-pop from one of my favorite 90s “alternative” bands.
Transatlantic - "Spinning" (The Whirlwind, 2009)
We end today’s Five the same way we started—with a supergroup of sorts, although I’m sure most people would be hard pressed to name a single member other than Mike Portnoy or be able to identify the bands from which the members hail. The difference here is that Transatlantic was never intended as a one-off project, and these guys were always pretty serious about bringing prog to the people. As a matter of fact, they very nearly lost me when they cranked the prog knob up to 11 for 2009’s The Whirlwind, a one-track progfest with 12 parts. “Spinning” is special-edition bonus track with a country swing despite the classic prog keys opening and is unlike most of the album proper. Still, it’s a good song that features Roine Stolt on vocals (and the prog kicks in at about the 5-minute mark just in case you’re interested).
Better late than never, I guess. I had car troubles this morning, and I found out it’s going to take about $3K to fix it (anyone need some web development work done?!), so iTunes better not screw with me today. Please don’t suck, please don’t suck, please don’t suck.
Neal Morse - "Oh Angie" (It’s Not Too Late, 2001)
Now that’s more like it, although a pop tune about a failed, destructive relationship has no right to sound so happy and upbeat.
Iron Maiden - "Iron Maiden" (Iron Maiden, 1980)
Great classic Maiden here. Unfortunately I can’t listen to the original these days without thinking about the Trivium cover from the extended version of Shogun. Yeah, that’s right, the one with the Cookie Monster vocals and the over-enunciation of “i-ron.”
Glen Phillips - “It Takes Time” (Live at Joe’s Pub, New York City, NY, 8/18/2002)
Excellent live acoustic version, but I think I like the original Abulum cut better. There’s just so much texture there that you can’t replicate live, even if the crazy-talented Nickel Creek kids are backing you up.
Nirvana - "Something in the Way" (Nevermind, 1991)
I was trying to come up with something interesting to say about this one, but oh well. Whatever. Nevermind. This downer tune seems like a fitting way to end today’s Five.
Here’s a quickie Five since I’m swamped at work today. I guess I shouldn’t have taken the day off yesterday to go watch our local AAA minor league baseball team get their butts kicked out in the scorching sun. Now my workload has nearly doubled. No good deed goes unpunished. At least the ticket was free.
Sister Hazel - "Hold On" (20 in 10: Digital Collection (Amazon Exclusive), 2010)
I like quite a bit of Sister Hazel’s material. Unfortunately this one does nothing for me until you get to the chorus, and even that isn’t great.
Glen Phillips with Nickel Creek - “Duck and Cover” (Live at the Red Light Cafe, Atlanta, GA, 2003)
I love the combination of Glen and the Nickel Creek kids. Unfortunately this tune is from the first half of the show that didn’t include them. Nonetheless, it’s a great show, and if you like Glen or Nickel Creek, you need to check it out.
Neal Morse - "Leah" (It’s Not Too Late, 2001)
Here’s another semi-tear-jerker from the former Spock’s Beard frontman.
Glen Phillips with Nickel Creek - “All I Want” (Live at Joe’s Pub, 2002) Another great Glen Phillips/Nickel Creek bootleg. iTunes sure is funny in how it picks out stuff, huh? Can’t complain with this choice, though. Nickel Creek provide some great accompaniment to this Toad the Wet Sprocket number, which changes the flavor of it a bit.
Spinal Tap - "Hell Hole" (This is Spinal Tap, 1984)
Kinda describes my work situation right now. That is all.
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.
Chance - "Us, Stonehenge, and Them" (Unhenged: A Coverville Tribute to Spinal Tap, 2009)
Indie artist Chance combined Pink Floyd’s “Us and Them” with the hilarious lyrics of “Stonehenge” for a Spinal Tap tribute album put together by Brian Ibbott over at the always excellent Coverville podcast. I love a well-done mashup, and Chance did a great job on this one. The entire album is worth a download for any fan of Spinal Tap—the “band” or the movie.
Neal Morse - “A Whole Nother Trip: a. Bomb That Can’t Explode” (Neal Morse, 1999)
I’ve been a fan of Neal Morse, his former band Spock’s Beard, and all of his side projects for some time now. Neal is one of the biggest promoters and contributors of the progressive rock revival of the mid- to late-90s. Not only is he a phenomenal multi-instrumentalist, he actually knows how to write a darn good pop song. Being the first of a four-song suite from his first solo album prior to his departure from the Beard a few years later, and weighing in at around 9:00 by itself, this ain’t one of his pop gems (although it does have a lot of pop tendencies). It’s long on prog-ish inclinations, time signature changes, and setting up the musical themes for the rest of the songs. All four songs are great, as is the rest of the album. Check it out if you’re fan of great musicianship and thoughtful songwriting, or if you like Morse’s brand of prog-pop/rock.
Galactic Cowboys - “Where Are You Now?” (Space in Your Face, 1993)
Another band with progressive tendencies, Galactic Cowboys has popped up in my Fives a number of times now. Space in Your Face was the band’s second release and the last to feature original guitarist Dane Sonnier and their particular blend of metal, thrash, Beatles-influenced harmonies, crazy distorted bass guitar, and (at times) odd lyrical content that was sure to feature space and cowboys. The next album saw lots of changes for the band—a new guitarist, a new record label, and a shift toward a more straightforward metal approach (at least musically), although they held onto the vocal harmonies and remained a little too intelligent and quirky for most metal audiences. And that’s exactly what I liked about them. “Where Are You Now?” is a slow groove, heavy on the harmonies, with a faster thrashy middle section, and it chronicles bassist Monty Colvin’s unsuccessful attempts to catch up with former high school classmates, complete with fake phone calls during the song’s closing. What’s not to like?
Queensrÿche - "London" (Live at L’Amours East, 1987)
Man, I miss the real Queensrÿche. Rage for Order is one of my favorite ‘Rÿche albums, and although “London” isn’t a favorite track, frankly there’s not a stinker on the whole disc. Well maybe the creepy, voyeur/stalker cover of Dalbello’s “Gonna Get Close to You,” even though even it has its charms at times. But I digress. This is a live cut of “London” that I have on a bootleg of a 1987 show, although it also pops up on the 2001 live album Live Evolution. I’m not sure what’s up with that, just like I don’t know what’s up with all the Queensÿche drama these days.
Nirvana - "Something in the Way" (Nevermind, 1991)
Closing tune from the larger-than-life album that gave us both Kurt Cobain and Dave Grohl, popularized a new genre of music (that coincidentally helped kill the Galactic Cowboys’ musical career; long story), sold a million flannel shirts, and helped put Seattle on the musical map forever.