Archive for September, 2006

Chart Attack! 1: 9/29/84

Friday, September 29th, 2006

Welcome to the very first edition of CHART ATTACK!  Every Friday, we’ll be reviewing the Billboard Top 10 from a glorious past year, corresponding with the week we’re in.  It’ll be educational!  It’ll be snarky!  It’ll give you free downloads!

This week, we’re going back to September 29, 1984: A very good week for Prince, and for two bands that never reached the top 10 again.

10.  Cover Me – Bruce Springsteen iTunes Amazon
9.  Cruel Summer – Bananarama Amazon
8.  The Glamorous Life – Sheila E. iTunes Amazon
7.  The Warrior – Scandal iTunes Amazon
6.  What’s Love Got To Do With It – Tina Turner iTunes Amazon
5.  I Just Called To Say I Love You – Stevie Wonder iTunes Amazon
4.  She Bop – Cyndi Lauper iTunes Amazon
3.  Drive – The Cars iTunes Amazon
2.  Missing You – John Waite iTunes Amazon
1.  Let’s Go Crazy – Prince iTunes Amazon

10.  Cover Me – Bruce Springsteen  Ahhh, 1984.  The year Bruce Springsteen unwittingly became a pop icon.  "Cover Me" was the follow-up single to "Dancing In The Dark," and eventually hit #7 in the top 10.  Not bad for a song originally written by Springsteen for Donna Summer. 

This will seem like blasphemy for most, but in truth, I’m way more familiar with this song in a different incarnation.  A cover of this song opens each episode of my favorite podcast of all time: Coverville.  The version on there is performed by the podcast’s creator and host, Brian Ibbott.  I honestly don’t care much for the cover, but I’ve heard it so many times that I’ve lost any ability to be objective about it.  If you don’t listen to Coverville, do yourself a favor and download a few podcasts.  It’s fantastic.

9.  Cruel Summer – Bananarama
For all its popularity, this song only spent two weeks in the top 10, and this was its best week.  Personally, I can’t hear it without thinking of that scene on the beach in The Karate Kid.

8.  The Glamorous Life – Sheila E.
  Reason #1 why it was a very good week to be Prince.  In addition to his own hugely successful career, Prince was pulling in the hits in 1984 with songs like this one and Chaka Khan’s cover of "I Feel For You."  Long story short: if Prince offers to give you a song of his, you take it.  Doesn’t matter if he winds up locking you in the bathroom or closet for a few hours/days/weeks.  You take the song.  And "The Glamorous Life" is an awesome, quintessential ’80s song.  And so, so true: without love, it ain’t much.

7.  The Warrior – Scandal (download) Here’s what this song reminds me of.  It sounds a bit like mid-80s-era Heart, with some Pat Benetar, and Joan Jett thrown in.  As a matter of fact, for many years, I thought this was Pat Benetar.  Same with Scandal’s previous single, "Goodbye To You."  While this was it for Scandal, lead vocalist Patty Smyth had a hit 8 years later with "Sometimes Love Just Ain’t Enough," a duet with Don Henley.  Did you know that after David Lee Roth left Van Halen, the lead slot was offered to Patty?  I mean, it’s highly possible that Eddie was drunk and just asked anybody he knew (Patty was a friend of Valerie Bertinelli), but still…can you imagine?

Now I’m picturing Bonnie Franklin fronting Van Halen.

6.  What’s Love Got To Do With It – Tina Turner
  This was the last week for this single in the top 10.  What a respectable run, though: it first entered the top 10 a full 8 weeks prior.  I’ll probably say this again at some point, but man, had anybody else had more of a deserved comeback?  And this song!  So synthesized!  Listen to that drum machine.  No, fuck the drum machine – listen to the Korgmonica.  Yes, the Korgmonica – that awful synthesized harmonica sound that you just KNOW didn’t come from a harmonica.  I don’t get it.  I don’t care what year it was, Tina.  Why not just use a real harmonica?  Why?  WHY?

5.  I Just Called To Say I Love You – Stevie Wonder  Mike and I have had a few arguments of late surrounding this song.  Mike likes this song.  I can’t stand it.  And I know what you’re thinking.  You’re thinking the same thing that Mike was thinking: I just don’t like it because nothing can possibly match Stevie’s works in 1970.  Not true.  I like mostly everything off of Hotter Than July, I like "Ribbon In The Sky" (1982), "Part Time Lover" (1984) and "Overjoyed" (1985).  I even like "Sweetest Somebody I Know" and "Positivity" (2005).  The truth is that I don’t like this song because it fucking sucks.  End of story.  The only redeeming quality of this song is the cha-cha-cha ending.  I’m a big fan of any song ending with a cha-cha-cha.

4.  She Bop – Cyndi Lauper  I played the hell out of my She’s So Unusual cassette.  I was seven years old.  Never knew what the hell she was talking about.  Turns out it was all about masturbation.  You hear that, mom?  Oh, no, I couldn’t have Appetite For Destruction, but this filthy song, with its lyrics like "I wanna go south and get me some more" and "they say I’d better stop or I’ll go blind" was juuuust fine!  I hope you’re happy.  You’re the reason I’m perverted.

3.  Drive – The Cars (download) I ripped on Tina Turner for her song being completely synthesized.  However, it actually was possible for some bands to produce synthesized songs that were simply beautiful.  "Drive" is one of those songs.  Practically the entire song is synths and ethereal backing vocals.  Written by Ric Ocasek but sung by the late Benjamin Orr, they don’t get more layered and beautiful.

I’m currently in a band with Mike and three other talented musicians, and we’ve been working on "You Might Think."  Our bassist/vocalist noted how many songs by The Cars sound deceptively simple; the devil is in the endless layers of instruments and vocals.  I wouldn’t even want to attempt to cover this one.  I could listen to this song all day.

2.  Missing You – John Waite  Everybody now!  Sing those backing vocals!

Little side note here: so I’m thinking about what to say about John Waite, and as I’m listening back to the song, I think, "I’m pretty sure Jefito has covered John Waite before."  A quick search later, and yup, Jeff has not one, but two dedicated posts to Waite.  As usual, nobody writes ’em like Jefito (and certainly not me), so check out his posts "Poor John Waite" and "Cutouts Gone Wild: John Waite, ‘Rover’s Return’".  If nothing else, you’ll want to see how Jeff explains his comparison of Waite to Brian Wilson.  And for the record, I like "Missing You."  (missing you!)

1.  Let’s Go Crazy – Prince  Forget "1999."  If there’s one song that should be played at every single New Year’s Eve party from now until the end of time (other than "What A Fool Believes"), it should be "Let’s Go Crazy."  It is the rare party song that doesn’t grate on you after repeated listenings.  (See "Love Shack," "Macarena," "Mambo #5," etc, etc, etc)  That wobbly keyboard-gospel-eulogy opening, the ridiculous guitar solo at the end – there’s just nothing like it.  This is reason #2 why it was a very good week for Prince; he was on fire, and remained this hot for the rest of 1984.  But that’s a story for another post.

And that’s it for this week.  Where are we off to next?  I have a feelling like we’ll be heading for the late ’80s or early ’90s, but you’ll have to come back next Friday for another CHART ATTACK! to find out!

BNL Conundrum (Pretty Much) Solved

Thursday, September 28th, 2006

If you read my post the other day about Barenaked Ladies and how they’re essentially trying to get as much money out of their fans as possible, you’ll recall I wrote that the objective was to get 29 tracks, plus the live tracks.  The other goal was to not spend too much money, and to hopefully get the tracks in good sonic quality – which is why I hesitated on the USB stick.  Plus, reading the boards at barenaked.net, plenty of people were complaining about not receiving their orders from Nettwerk in Canada.

So I have a solution now.  It’s not absolutely perfect, but it’s close.  You can get 27 tracks, plus all the live stuff, in 192k variable bit rate quality, for ten bucks.

Here’s how you do it.

Sign up for eMusic.com.  Use the link provided here; it’s a referral link from our good friend Jefito, a loyal eMusic subscriber, and he’ll get a few free tracks in return.  This is a no-brainer; think of all the music Jefito has given to you.

Signing up for eMusic.com gets you 25 free tracks.  eMusic offers the Deluxe Edition of Barenaked Ladies Are Me.  It’s not 29 tracks.  It’s 27.  That’s the trade-off here.  Stay with me.

So you can get almost all of your 27 tracks with that free trial.  After that, you’ll be asked to choose a monthly subscription plan.  You can choose the $9.99/month plan, which offers you 40 downloads per month.  That’ll help you get the remaining two tracks.  You’ll also be able to get the just-released All New Revue – Live at the Glenn Gould Studio – which, as far as I know, contains all the live tracks I was bitching about previously.

Once you’ve done all of that, you can either keep your eMusic subscription – if you like what you see on their site, that is – or you can cancel.  No obligation.  You can cancel anytime, according to their FAQ.

So that’s the story.  27 tracks, plus the live stuff, 192k VBR, $9.99.  It’s not uncompressed, but it’s close.  It’s not everything, but it’s close.  And you can’t beat the price.  Plus, eMusic seems like a really cool company.  (Mike and I actually signed up with them years ago during the dot-com boom and wound up with free headphones, two unbelievable Logitech music speakers and a subwoofer.)

And I’ll make you another deal.  If I somehow wind up with those two bonus tracks ("What A Let-Down"/"Why Say Anything Nice")…since they’re not available for purchase, I’ll offer them for download.

Get thee to eMusic.com!

Adventures Through The Mines Of Mellow Gold, Pt. 1

Tuesday, September 26th, 2006

mellowgoldlogo.jpg

Like just about everybody else on the Internet, I’m a huge fan of the Yacht Rock series. But dear readers, I don’t want you to think that I just jumped on the ol’ Yacht Rock bandwagon like those other people. No siree. I was a fan of this type of music way before JD and company made it hip.

I grew up with this music, for better or worse. My parents were radio listeners, especially on these 5-hour drives we’d routinely take up to the Adirondacks. While my dad never expressed a preference for this type of music, he always seemed to hone it on the stations that featured it. When I hear songs like “Biggest Part of Me” by Ambrosia and “Baby Come Back” by Player, I’m back in that station wagon, half asleep, pillow propped up against the window…this music entering my brain whether I wanted it to or not.

After one of our many music discussions (specifically, one where I was torturing Jeff with one of the songs mentioned below), Jeff suggested I do some exploring into the “mellow mines” of music. Why? He says it’s a good idea, but personally, I think he just wants you to share in his pain. That’s right, friends: Jefito Hates You.

Still, I think there’s something to his idea. I really do love this music, albeit for reasons I may not be able to explain, but why shouldn’t I share it?

So let’s put on our pink miners’ helmets and, uh, go spelunking, shall we? Today, we’ll examine two quintessential smooth hits.

Firefall – You Are The Woman (download)

Mike: “There’s only one word to describe this song: limp.”

Mike is on the money. This is one of the wussiest, wimpiest songs I’ve ever heard. Mike described this song – hell, the entire genre – in his post about the wussiest songs of all time:

The whole driving force behind yacht rock was the sensitive bearded proto-hipster dude singing to his woman about how much he understood her and how sex was not important to him. There are so many yacht rock songs that have some variation on the theme of “I love you so much that I will never bother you again” or “come on baby, just allow me to be in your beatific presence and I will not even think of putting any kind of sexual move on you. I promise.”

So many songs in music are about gettin’ it on, hot n’ heavy, screwin’ all night. This song is the equivalent of over-the-sweater petting.

But forget lyrics. From a musical standpoint, why is it so wimpy? Could it be that the flute enters the picture less than 2 seconds in, and then pisses all over the track? I swear, when I hear the flute part, I imagine Doug Henning doing a little fairy dance. There’s a few little “whoa-woh”s during the song, and then, around 1:49, we get this bridge, clearly building to a REAL “whoa!” Instead, there’s three quick flute hits, and a “whoa” that fits better in a sentence like, “Whoa! These Grape-Nuts are really good!”

This song is so gentle and sweet. I imagine that the woman dumped him immediately after hearing it and found herself, I don’t know, Ted Nugent. I love this song.

Robbie Dupree – Steal Away (download)

“Steal Away” should more appropriately be titled “Steal Away Michael McDonald’s Fucking Riff.” Dupree directly lifted his piano riff (as well as the piano tone, the backing vocal and even some of the drum beats) from “What A Fool Believes.” Want proof? Please excuse the disparities in audio quality between the two tracks in this little impromptu mashup; I do it only to serve my point.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Right? Right?

Upon hearing “Steal Away,” I naturally thought, “McD’s gotta be involved in this, somehow.” It only takes a quick listen of “This Is It” by Kenny Loggins or “Ride Like The Wind” by Christopher Cross to recognize the hand of The Master. Surely McD gave his permission for “Steal Away,” played the riff and sang backup, yes?

No. He didn’t. Robbie Dupree is a THIEF.

I’m not the first to discuss this – see here and here (especially that last one, even noting that Dupree stole McD’s LOOK!), nor was Dupree the only one to steal the riff – apparently “He’s So Shy” by The Pointer Sisters took it as well – but I don’t think anybody was as blatant as good ol’ Robbie. And need I comment on the actual title of the song?

Well, download it if you like. It’s no “What A Fool Believes” (well, actually, I guess it kind of IS “What A Fool Believes,”) but it’s smooth and mellow nonetheless.

And, as we exit the Mines Of Mellow Gold, please ensure that you still have your pink miner’s hat and all of your body parts. If you’re a guy, your nuts may have inadvertently detached during the trip. If you need more emasculation, well, have no fear, we’ll be exploring more of the Mines before too long!

Jess’s Birthday

Monday, September 25th, 2006

It’s my wife’s birthday so please permit me a second of mush.

Happy birthday, sweetheart.  Great things are happening for you…all just around the corner!

I love you!

Barenaked Ladies Make It Damn Near Impossible

Friday, September 22nd, 2006

Other than Monday, there haven’t been any updates this week on this website.  This week was Who Week in NYC, when one of my favorite bands comes to town to play Madison Square Garden and everything else in my life comes to a halt.  That’s over now, so I can get back to more important things.  Like bitching about Barenaked Ladies.

I love BNL.  Really, I do.  I loved them since I first heard "Life, In A Nutshell" in 1995.  I’ve seen them over a dozen times since ’96.  And I buy everything they release on the day it comes out.

Everything, that is, except for their newest release, Barenaked Ladies Are Me.

As Jeff mentioned at the end of his excellent review, I have a big problem with this release.  It’s not about the content.  It’s not even really about the band.  It’s mostly about the management.  The release of Barenaked Ladies Are Me is confusing enough that a die-hard fan like myself would rather just not listen than try to figure it out.

I don’t expect this anal-retentive fanboy conversation to appeal to everybody.  So more on this after the jump if you’re so inclined.  If not, fear not – more posts and mp3s are coming next week.
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