Monday, October 20, 2008

Artist's Choice

Many years ago my girlfriend (Liz) was in Starbucks buying herself a caffinated beverage of some sort. I doubt it was coffee because (a) Starbucks' regular coffee is horrendous, and (b) girls- nay!, people go to Starbucks to get crazy drinks such as nonfat-nondairy-caffè-latte-macchiato-with-foam-and-sprinkles-hold-the-caffine-and-any-resemblance-to-coffee ... venti, please. In any case, sitting there next to the cash register was a pretty looking CD with Tony Bennett's smiling face on it, labeled "Artists Choice." My lady thought what anyone would have thought at that time, and assumed it was a collection of choice songs from said artist ... that is, that the songs were performed by Benedetto, himself. And what person with a good semi-pseudo-Italian upraising doesn't enjoy the smooth sounds of a Tony Bennett ballad? Buying that, and her non-coffee beverage of choice, she retreated to her car and played the CD to find that it hadn't a lick of old (or young) Tony on it, but rather that it was an artist's choice of songs they really liked. Merely a CD of Tony Bennett's favorite or meaningful songs. Luckily, Liz liked listening to the lovely list.

Two summers ago, being influenced by the Artist's Choice concept, she suggested to her friends that we each create an "Artist's Choice" to share with eachother. Everyone seemed to embrace the idea, and within a couple weeks we each had copies of our CD's to pass out to eachother. The deciding factors for which songs would be on our CD's were common to all of us: some songs which had a lot of meaning; songs that moved us; that we enjoyed for the sake of good music; and songs that are just plain fun! Overall, it was a good experience in finding out how we would define ourselfs with a CD full of music, and discovering the music that our friends really like.
After receiving eachothers CD's, (and this is just my gut instinct, not necessarily a fact), I don't think anyone sat down, relaxed, and listened intently to the another persons CD. Well, I did, actually, a number of times. I figure that my friends worked hard on getting a single CD full of music for us, I should indulge them and really listen to what they are saying through the songs they chose, and to enjoy it. After all, that's exactly what I wanted them to do for my Artist's Choice CD.
Regardless of who listened to what, I did listen to the 3 CD's I was given, and I think I learned a lot by them. Things that people might not even know they were revealing. I wonder what I revealed in the songs I chose, that I might not know I revealed.
While I can't know what I don't know, I do know what I have known. And I know why I picked the songs that I did for my Artists Choice. Without further ado, my playlist, and commentary:

Song Title - Artist
South Side of the Sky (Acoustic) - Yes
Locomotive Breath - Jethro Tull
Come Thou Fount - David Crowder Band
I Don't Want to Miss a Thing - Aerosmith
Awaken (1996 live recording) - Yes
Dreamgirl - Dave Mathews Band
My Father's Gun - Elton John
Dogs - Pink Floyd
It's Good to be King - Tom Petty
The More We Live/Let Go - Yes
Sideways - Citizen Cope

South Side of the Sky (Acoustic) - Yes
South Side of the Sky, is off of Yes' fourth album titled "Fragile." It was not originally acoustic, of course, being produced in the early 70's by the progressive rock band of this, that, and any other era. The original has always been one of my favorite Yes songs since I received Fragile as a Christmas gift my freshman(?) year of High School. Killer drums, a thumping bass rythm, twangy rock guitar, make this awesome right off the bat. Beautiful synthesizer playing, sweeping wind effects, ethereal lyrics, and a gentle interlude gives this rock song my absolute seal of approval of being a song EVERYONE should listen to. In fact, I remember working on a street corner one day (building a handycap walkway, I believe) when I heard a dirty looking, old man riding a bicycle sing while waiting for the street light to turn green, "... were we ever colder on that day, a million miles away? It seemed from all of eternity ..." and as soon as I recognized the song I had it in my head till the moment I stepped in my house and was able to turn it on and crank the volume.
The reason I've chosen this acoustic version, is because it's still the same great song, but with a much gentler feel. It starts with a bit of a Calypso feeling to it, and ends on a sweeping, lovely piano solo. A wonderful rendition of a song that will never die for me.
You may watch them play it, from their DVD "YesAcoustic" here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6wx6394r3_I
Locomotive Breath - Jethro Tull
As the last song left off on a piano solo, this one begins on one. Jethro Tull's song, Locomotive Breath, seems, as first glance, to be about a train. Or a trainwreck. It seems to me to be more about a man whose life is really just falling apart. And I almost put Aqualung in place of this, except, this song feels much cooler. I like the image of a life being like a train without a breakhandle, running "headlong to ... death." And how on the way all this "stuff" keeps happening, with no way to stop it.
Also, I love the flute solo. Seriously, have you SEEN Jethro Tull? Check out this live performance of the song: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gdz_G1VGJ4c ... the man plays the flute on ONE FOOT (3 minutes, 36 seconds in)! These guys are rock and roll mad men!
Come Thou Fount - David Crowder Band
Now I've somehow slipped a classic hymn into the mix. Come Thou Fount was written by Robert "Bob" Robinson, in the 1700's, and this version is performed by David Crowder Band - a contemporary Christian band who occasionally do a really good song. This is my second favorite hymn, and while it might not be my favorite performance of it, it is still lovely, and beautifully arranged. However, I find that almost no one sings the entire hymn as it was written, and they seem to lop off the final, and my favorite verse. Here is that final verse, that you may enjoy it:
"On that day when freed from sinning,
I shall see Thy lovely face;
Clothed then in blood washed linen
How I’ll sing Thy sovereign grace;
Come, my Lord, no longer tarry,
Take my ransomed soul away;
Send thine angels now to carry
Me to realms of endless day."
For those who wish to read my personal reflections on this hymn, you may find it in my old LJ, here: http://phi-epsilon.livejournal.com/2007/06/03/
I Don't Wanna Miss a Thing - Aerosmith
Come on, who does NOT like this song? I, for one, have loved it since the day the movie "Armageddon" came out. And when I got that soundtack (for Christmas ... once again), I would always hear that song, and pine over whoever I had a crush on. That was, of course, when I was in Middle school, and I pined after many a girl. Anyways, pudescent fantasies aside, I now have achieved the woman I desire. And as cliché as it is, I still love this song, and think only of her when I hear it. It's cheesy, over-used, and yet still totally awesome. Plus, Aerosmith performed is during Superbowl half-time, once. Actually, my favorite half-time show ever! I know, I know ... but seriously ... Mick Jager, Prince, Tom Petty, and Paul McCartney are all mostly dead. Check out that show, even if you hate //\\//*Sync: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oeLnwbJzLO0 (Aerosmith is at 2 minutes).
Awaken - Yes
Now we come to the first "epic" song on this Artist's Choice. Awaken is off of Yes' eighth studio album, Going For the One (1977). The only reason I pick a live version recorded 19 years after the studio album is, because of technology the synths sound so much cooler. Well, that and Yes always has been the most phenominal live performers ... and are still as hot today as they were 40 years after they first came on the scene. Awaken is simply my favorite song ever, hands down. Ranking in at 18 and a half minutes, most people born after 1980 probably haven't ever heard a song nearly that long. I assure you all that it is worth ever single second, because this song does not let down on ANY front. What seals the deal for me is that roughly 8 minutes in Rick Wakeman gets an extended keyboard solo. And man, does he nail it! It is so hauntingly awesome, that I really don't know what more I an possibly say about this song. I could listen to it over and over, and love it more each time.
You actually can't find the complete song on youtube, due to video time limits. Here are the two parts I found recorded on some guys home video recorder, for anyone interested:
Dreamgirl - Dave Mathews Band
Ahh, love. I love to love. And I love Liz, because she is my dreamgirl. This song is here for the very simple reason that I like it, and it makes me think of Liz, and it makes me happy. So mellow, I can't listen to it without wanting to go on a summer picnic with my lady, and just relax all day.
Don't ask about Julia Roberts ... I don't get it, either.
My Fathers Gun - Elton John
Now, it's anyones guess why a homosexual Brit is singing a song from a confederate soldier's perspective, but that's the great thing about music, isn't it? You can tell any story you want, and make it sound really good. And Elton John does just that. I love his singing, but mostly I love the song for it's story. Suppliment that with the movie "Elizabethtown" where the song is heavily featured in, and it really becomes something I personally love. There is something about a man who relates himself to his father, and taking on the burdens that his father had, that really resonated with me. On the idealogical side of it, I think it's great for men to have a father they can look up to, and follow in the footsteps of. Personally speaking, though, it makes me think of what kind of man my own father is, and it causes me to relate myself to him. Who I am in him, and who I am apart from him? It's been a subject I spent much time pondering for the first 2 years after high school, when I was really forced to "find myself". The song evokes some very important feelings in me, and it feels very personal.
Here the song is put to clips from the movie "Elizabethtown": http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_9DVPiHMuDY
Part of why I love the song is because I love the movie, which is very much about fatherhood, but also a guy whose driving around, trying to figure it all out ... which I have done quite often, with the window open, and the music blaring.
Dogs - Pink Floyd
This song really ties into the last song for me. But let's not jump the gun. First of all, this song is awesome, musically speaking. It's from the Pink Floyd album, Animals, which features 3 songs: Dogs, Pigs (Three Different Ones), and Sheep. The songs are loosely based on the Animal Farm depiction of each animal as a social archtype. In rediscovering this album a few years back, my father related himself to one of the "pigs." Having the songs fresh in my own memory, and not clouded by pot and booze, I came to a different conclusion, and when I told him he's more of a dog, he listened to the song, and came to the same semi-sobering conclusion.
Which is why I relate this song to the previous song. Because if my father is a "dog" what does that make me? The verse that is the most haunting is semi-prophetic:
"And when you loose control, you'll reap the harvest you have sown
And as the fear grows, the bad blood slows and turns to stone
And it's too late to loose the weight you used to need to throw around
So have a good drown, as you go down, all alone
Dragged down by the stone."
I just hope that I am not that guy. It's kinda scary.
This song is another epic, clocking in at a touch over 17 minutes, so the videos come in two parts. Here's the studio version:
It's Good to be King - Tom Petty
I remember when this song first came out my mom would listen to it over and over again, and I would always see the video on MTV. I liked the song right from the begining. The music video is so bizare, and fantastic, though, so you need to watch it: http://www.mtv.com/overdrive/?artist=1147&vid=47568
It got on my list by being a song that will never grow old for me, and always let me dream of being king ... of something or other. "Yeah I'll be king when dogs get wings. Can I help it if I still dream time to time?"
The More We Live/Let Go - Yes
This song doesn't really have spectacular lyrics. This, for me, is about the music. I remember when I was a kid, whenever my father got drunk, we would crank the music on our full surround sound system. But no song would he blare louder than this one. I can always remember the night he dragged me into the living room at night, turned on the song, turned down the lights, and turned up the volume, and told me to watch. What fascinated him was that if you watched our 4 foot tall speakers, while the song was blasted at full tilt, the subwoofers in each speaker would emit an eery yellow light. From that moment on I could not listen to the song without having it at max volume. Which is tough in an apartment, when you have to mind the other tennants. It's best to go for a drive, and let it rip.
No idea what the video clip is from, but this is the song as I found it on Youtube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2FNPW54xdxU
Sideways - Citizen Cope
At last, after this long musical journey, we come to the end. Such a melancholy song. I'll let it speak for itself, and for me. What does it tell you about me? Here's the full lyrics, followed by video:
"You know it ain't easy
For these thoughts here to leave me
There's no words to describe it
In French or in English
Well, diamonds they fade
And flowers they bloom
And I'm telling you
These feelings won't go away
They've been knockin' me sideways
They've been knockin' me out lately
Whenever you come around me
These feelings won't go away
They've been knockin' me sideways
I keep thinking in a moment that
Time will take them away
But these feelings won't go away"
Future blog posts won't be nearly this long. So thanks for sticking around ... for those of you who have.
Enjoy your day.

1 comment:

Becky said...

Great post.
I enjoyed it!