NYCD: The Blog

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

LISTMANIA STRIKES AGAIN!

Everyone loves a list. Ten favorite movies? 5 best burger joints? People more repulsive than Ann Coulter? (OK, that's a really short list.) What is the appeal of letting others know what you like and dislike? Why do we love to use lists to say "This is the essence of who I am, as represented by my favorite Helen Reddy songs in chronological order"? Beats us. Maybe we could make a list to explain it. But we'll leave that for another time.

In the meantime, here's a twist on a classic. We all have our favorite songs by our favorite artists that aren't the songs casual fans will be familiar with. As a matter of fact, buy any 20 track CD anthology by an artist you really like and we guarantee you will find yourself saying, "Oh man, I can't believe they left off so and so." Or, "This compilation would have been perfect if the label included so and so."

Well, here is
a list of our favorite "unlikely choices" for "Best Song" by some of our favorite artists.
Confused? Ok, here's an example: Mention Elvis Costello and many will call out "Alison." Or "Chelsea." Both damn good songs. But, how many people will call out "Hand In Hand," that sweet, melodic gem from side two of "This Year's Model?" Even die-hard Costello dorks will most likely go for something deeper or more obscure. Sal was there at the "Elvis On Broadway" tour of 1986, when he was taking requests, some putz yelled out "Wave A White Flag," which we believe is a pre-"My Aim Is True" song. Costello heard him and shouted back, "No one thinks you're cool. How 'bout something people wanna hear?" So, in that spirit, we're not trying to stump anyone, or impress anyone with our deep knowledge of music. Usually, no one is impressed. We just wanna point out some winners that may have fallen off the radar, and share the joy.

ELTON JOHN - IDOL
Taken from his underrated masterpiece "Blue Moves," released in 1976, this torchy, cocktail lounge ballad is a heartbreaker about a fallen star, delivered with an emotional punch that Elton has not be able to match in years. Gorgeous from start to finish.

FRANK SINATRA - SO LONG, MY LOVE Sinatra put out so much great music in the '50s that some of it was bound to get lost in the shuffle, and that's the case with this Nelson Riddle-arranged classic. A bright, brassy swinger with downright nasty lyrics, but Frank sings it in such a happy-go-lucky manner that if you don't pay attention, you might not notice it's a "I'm dumping you, now scram" song.

TOM WAITS & BETTE MIDLER - I NEVER TALK TO STRANGERS
This track appeared on Waits' 1977 album "Foreign Affairs." No one ever questioned Bette Midler's ability as a singer, yet her flamboyant stage act never helped her gain credibility with music heads. This bittersweet duet, set in a singles bar, finds both artists in a setting that seems as familiar to them as Sinatra at the Sands. Midler never sounded better, and hearing Waits harmonize with ANYONE is worth the price of admission alone.

R.E.M. - DEPARTURE From 1996's "New Adventures In Hi-Fi," the album that started R.E.M. on their long slide into commercial irrelevance. Recorded while on an exhausting world tour, it's a strange album, but an adventurous one that hits the mark more often than it misfires. In case you've forgotten, they used to crank up the amps, and this is one of their strongest rockers. Michael Stipe spits out the lyrics with as much attitude as anything he ever sang.

PRINCE - GOLD
The closing track from the last proper album delivered to Warner Brothers, which Prince loved so much he didn't want anyone to hear it so he promoted it on TV.....or something like that. By 1995, The Purple Peabrain was already over. Even his fans had had enough. Too bad. "The Gold Experience" was as strong as anything in Prince's career, and "Gold" was a lenghty showpiece in the same vein as "Purple Rain." A triumphant chorus, big production, and a blistering guitar solo. Very emotional and truly amazing!

PEARL JAM - MANKIND By the time of the "No Code" album in 1996, grunge had run its course and a lot of Pearl Jam fans were wondering "Do I still care about these guys?" The answer, judging from their post-"Vitalogy" sales, is No. But "No Code" was an underrated album that found the band writing and performing as well as ever. Tucked away towards the end of the disc is this little Stone Gossard-penned-and-sung gem that doesn't sound like anything Pearl Jam had done before. It lacks Eddie Vedder's arena-rock grandiosity and punky passion, but it's catchy as hell, sounding almost like a vintage new wave song. A Pearl Jam song for people who don't like Pearl Jam.

GEORGE HARRISON - DON'T LET ME WAIT TOO LONG
Taken from "Living In The Material World," the strong follow-up to the Quiet Beatle's masterful debut "All Things Must Pass," this perfect piece of pop heaven sounds more like Phil Spector-produces-The Beatles than the Spector-produced "Let It Be." Harrison's falsetto is stunning, and it has one killer hook!

LED ZEPPELIN - WEARING AND TEARING Their 1978 attempt to take on punk rock on its own turf. It doesn't sound anything like the Sex Pistols or the Clash, but the guitars roar, the drums pound, and Robert Plant wails his ass off. This is Zeppelin at its thrashiest, and proof that even towards the end, they were still in great form. Released on the posthumous "Coda" collection.
DAVID BOWIE - 5:15 THE ANGELS HAVE GONE This track is from one of Bowie's half dozen, ridiculously underrated and criminally ignored records, 2002's "Heathen." A haunting melody, with an equally haunting backing track, Bowie's delivers one of his best vocal peformances, using to great effect, both his deep-throated crooner voice and his Anthony Newley meets Ziggy Stardust voice, all held together by Sterling Campbell's brilliant and completely unique drum pattern.

TONY BENNETT - TRAPPED IN THE WEB OF LOVE Tony Bennett is known for a couple dozen or so classics, and this isn't one of them -- but it should be. From a long-forgotten (and out of print) 1965 album, "Trapped" sounds a little like "Fever" and swings even harder, thanks to a rock-solid Torrie Zito arrangement. Bennett's at the top of his game here -- he rarely sounded so hip or sexy.

NEXT TIME: A LIST OF OUR FAVORITE PIZZA TOPPINGS, AND THE ADRIENNE BARBEAU FILMS WE LOVE TO WATCH WHILE EATING THEM

4 Comments:

Blogger soundsourcenyc said...

ok let's try this again
soul songs that fit the list
otis redding - she put the hurt on me
james brown - papa don't take no mess (pts. 1-34)
sam & dave - don't turn your heater on
johnnie taylor - lovebones
al green - driving wheel
wilson pickett - mini skirt minnie
the last three are all gonna be part of the fabulous cool jerks new sets so if you can't find them and you wanna hear the politically incorrect white boy versions come see us at a bar near you

9:46 AM  
Blogger Michael in New York said...

So when are you gonna sell that illegal boot with all these tracks on it? Or will you just do your own version of these songs and post the video on myspace?

9:33 AM  
Blogger Soupercollider said...

The boot of the songs sounds like a great idea. Maybe the CD could include Soundsource's suggestions, and the suggestions of others. It could be a boxed set. There must be one other person who reads this fine blog who'd like to contribute.

5:45 AM  
Blogger Michael in New York said...

Bob Dylan -- Dark Eyes from the neither underrated nor overrated Empire Burlesque. Everybody got this middling release with good songs ruined by busy production just about right, but the acoustic gen "Dark Eyes" at the end is a personal favorite I've rescued from obscurity so completely I'm surprised when it's not included on greatest hits compilations, etc.

8:53 AM  

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