Music Archive

Just when you thought it was safe to resume your empty pathetic lives, here I come, the website on a new smokin'-fast server, with another slice of sheer awesome from the '90s.

I hope you didn't really think any "grand tour" of amazingly good music would really be complete without including a sample of Pink Floyd. Because then I'd have to do some more butt-kicking, and to be honest, I can't keep up with it all.

Now, their best-known work obviously came in earlier decades... but their later oeuvre* is, in my not so humble opinion, of equal or greater quality.

Plus, they put on an absolutely phenomenal live show.

I actually got to see them at the Rose Bowl on their Division Bell tour in 1995 or '96. It was easily the one of the best concerts I have ever been to.


* It's French, meaning "body of work," and I'll thank you not to snicker at my use of "French" and "work" in the same sentence.


Moving right along....

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Having previously sampled the musical greatness of the 1960s, '70s and '80s, you might think that I should move on to the 1990s.

Well, if you insist. There is a surprising amount of excellence from which to choose.

Now, some might question my judgement in such matters. Not to my face, of course. Cowards.

True story: in order to be slotted into my former career as a military linguist, I had to have excellent hearing. In fact, my hearing was much better than normal*, and I was trained to listen very carefully. Even now, 20+ years later, after losing some of my hearing, I figure that when I actively and deliberately listen to things I can hear the details better than most people can.

So when I say this next song is full of Goodness and Rightness, it's because I have listened to it in detail.

When it comes right down to it, the entire album from which this is drawn, Cracked Rear View, is full of musical WIN.

Don't even think of gainsaying me. The result would be... unpleasant.


* I could hear dog whistles. Really.

As if that wasn't enough....

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Try as I might, I just can't run out of sheer musical awesomeness from the 1980s.

I feel pretty sorry, really, for my nephew and nieces who, having been born in the '90s, have been forced by circumstance to listen to all the crap that is mistakenly referred to as "music" these days. Through no fault of their own, they missed out on all the aforementioned '80s awesomeness.

Case in point:

I dare you to try to count the ways in which that kicked butt. Go ahead. Try.

I'll wait.

There was so much great music in the '80s, one song isn't a representative sample, despite the sheer indisputable awesomeness of that previous example.

Shut up. I'll mess you up, surely I will.

So here's a taste of the late '80s, heard in every GI bar in Korea during my 1988-90 tour. If you were born after 1960, crank up the volume and enjoy Armageddon It.

Verily, it doth rock.

There's a beat-down awaiting those who disagree with me.

Just because I'm crippled doesn't mean I can't deliver said beat-down — Rick Allen lost an arm and is still out there drumming. The least I can do is take down anyone who doesn't think Def Leppard ruled.

Listen up.

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I'm sure you agreed with me about the previously mentioned songs, the first from 1966, the second and third from 1974 and 1978 respectively. All three are made of pure awesome. If you don't think so, get your butt over here so I can kick it.

Now, it might be good planning on my part, or perhaps just pure happenstance,* but today's song is another featuring the "vocal stylings" of Justin Hayward, this time as front man for the Moody Blues. This is from their 1981 album Long Distance Voyager, which very successfully brought them from the '60s/70s world of "prog rock" and into the 1980s - a transition many bands could not make.

This song also made me a Moody Blues fan for life, so you're on notice now: you'd better like it, or you're in for a world of hurt.

Just saying.

I don't care if the audio/video quality stinks, watch and listen anyway. Skip ahead to 0:58 if you want to miss the announcer getting the name of the album wrong.

That right there is musical genius. Greatest. Band. Ever. I mean it.

Don't make me thrash you, because I will.

Oh, yes, I most certainly will.


* It was good planning.

Don't Laugh

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I know what you're thinking. I do. "A musical version of War of the Worlds? Are you insane?" Well, that's the 70s for you. 1978, to be specific.

I have to admit, it does sound crazy... until you listen to it.

After you've had a look at and a listen to the Moody Blues' own Justin Hayward singing the achingly lovely song "Forever Autumn" in this excerpt from a 2006 live performance of Jeff Wayne's War of the Worlds, you will be convinced that this was how H.G. Wells would have wanted his story to be told.

If you dare try to tell me I'm wrong about it, you'll need an appointment with your dentist to fix the consequences.

This is art, dammit.

You think I'm kidding?

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You want some more music? Since yesterday's selection was from the '60s, check out this Emerson,* Lake and Palmer concert video from 1974 — and after admiring, yes, admiring the virtuosity, you can thank me.

If you don't agree with me that this is one of the finest ballads ever written, I'll be inclined to beat you with my cane.

I'm serious, really really serious.


* No relation. Not that it would matter if he was. He is (and they are) nevertheless awesome, and if you disagree with me on this, you will not enjoy the consequences, I guarantee you.

† For even more virtuosity, check out the studio version of this song; Keith Emerson's keyboard solo at the end was entirely improvised, done in one take, and recorded without his knowledge.

Tell me no lies.

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Tell me this isn't one of the three or four most beautiful songs ever written.

I swear, if you try telling me to my face that it isn't, I will get up out of this chair and punch you in your filthy lying mouth, even if it means I fall flat on my face and break a variety of my own bones because in my haste to deal out justice I neglected to grab my cane.

Go ahead. I dare you.

Yeesh. And some people say I have no aesthetic sense.

Spin around, Ninjas!

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What can possibly explain the music videos of the '80s?

Drugs. Had to have been lots of drugs.


Wait, no... that was the "literal version" of Bonnie Tyler's Total Eclipse of the Heart — I've been LOLing over it since I saw it last week.

It's a good song, maybe even a great song, but forever mockable for its hyper-clichéd video. Which also, coincidentally, can be explained by drugs.


And for my brother, here's the literal version of Tears For Fears' Head Over Heels. Awesome.

Friday Virtuosity

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I wish the audio/video quality was a bit better, but that's the hazard of a live performance.

The greatest guitar player alive, and possibly ever, Eric Johnson, performing Cliffs of Dover.

I work on a keyboard for a living, and I can't imagine making my fingers move the way his do on that guitar.

Meaningless trivia

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The #1 song on the Billboard charts on the day I was born: Soldier Boy. Interesting. I was in the Army, as a matter of fact, though hardly a boy at the time.

The week my brother was born: It's My Party. Heh.

When my sister was born: Wild Thing. No comment.

Not that there's anything at all meaningful in any of those, of course.... But let's see who else comes to mind.

Sarah Palin: I Want To Hold Your Hand.

Indeed.

Barack Obama: Tossin' and Turnin'.

I bet he is.

No. . . Never. . .

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Here's a bit of a weekend palate cleanser, from a recent favorite of mine, Matthew Ebel: video of a live performance of Tennessee Never Cried, off the excellent album Beer & Coffee.

Yeah, Me Too

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It's easy in recent years to poke a bit of fun at U2's lead singer Bono as being a bit full of himself. Heck, I've done it myself.

But then today I watched Rattle and Hum which I'd DVRed over the weekend. Say what you want, but those guys were probably the best band of the mid to late 80's. They could blow the roof off any venue, and I'd forgotten just how good they really were.

If you don't believe me, try the live version of Sunday Bloody Sunday on for size. Powerful.

A Very Good Listen

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My musical tastes are pretty eclectic, but I like to think that I have a pretty high standard for what counts as worthwhile. The unintended side effect of that is that there are not a lot of musicians I'm willing to listen to over the long term, and even fewer to whom I'll pay good money to get a CD.

I've recently found (thanks, in a roundabout way, to Laurence) another CD to add to my collection:

Matthew Ebel, Beer & Coffee.

Yes, that's a link to a place you can buy it. No, it's not Amazon. No, I don't get a referral fee. This post is a purely unsolicited and uncompensated endorsement.

Try a representative sample or two from his website:

"Drive Away" and "Tennessee Never Cried (Live)" — good stuff.

No, great stuff.

Personally, I think Ebel sounds like Billy Joel might have, had he grown up somewhere other than New York... and had more soul.

Give him a listen, then buy the CD.

Quote of the Day

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Bono, during the last year's UK Music Hall of Fame induction of Brian Wilson:

I know that Brian believes in angels. I do, too.

But you only have to listen to the string arrangement on "God Only Knows" for fact and proof of angels.

Sometimes human talent reflects something... higher.

Theme Song

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In honor of the final event of Saddam's life, I'd like to offer this song.



[Lyrics here.]

I should have worn a necktie to work today. Dang it.

11pm update: good riddance to bad rubbish.

Other commentary:
Outside the Beltway
Confederate Yankee
Captain's Quarters
Hot Air

My Faith In Science, Shattered Again

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At Hot Air, Allahpundit notes that science has identified the saddest song ever.

Pfffffffffffft.

That was my respect for science deflating just a bit. Not as much as it's done over this whole "man-made global warming" foofaraw, but a measurable bit, yes.

While a bunch of neurotic wussy europeans may inspire feelings in me, sadness doesn't come close to the top of the list — except when I think of the greatness that once was Western Culture. No, when I hear The Verve* what I feel is more akin to nausea.

If you want a sad song, try Rhett Miller's Come Around.

I'm thinking of adding it to my life's soundtrack album, probably between Green Day's Boulevard of Broken Dreams and the Justin Hayward's Forever Autumn.


* Definitely not to be mistaken for The Verve Pipe, a band I actually like.

† Sorry, Mom, there's a bad word in there.

I Can Dig It

Via Blackfive, a music video from Australian country singer Beccy Cole.

The song, Poster Girl (Wrong Side of The World), is her answer to those fair-weather fans who didn't like the fact that she supports the Diggers.

Outstanding.

Can we adopt her or something? And send the Dixie Twits to, I dunno, France?

Quick CD Review

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Pearl Jam - "Ten"

I suspect this band's continued success is due solely to hordes of stoned second-generation Deadheads looking for something new, something "deep."

Deep, allright. Deeply unimpressive.

Heh

At home after the usual Friday night at the office, I've turned the TV to VH1 Classic, just for a change of pace. Lots of good classic stuff. Then came a band and a song to which I am not particularly favorably disposed — Blue Oyster Cult's "(Don't Fear) The Reaper."

As the opening notes sounded, the first thing I thought was "more cowbell!"

And then it occurred to me: I'll never have to hear that song the "old" way again.

Television: is there anything it can't do?

Conservative Rock

John Miller of National Review recently put together a list of the 50 greatest conservative rock songs, as recommended by NR readers. My submission, "Blood from a Stone" by The Hooters, didn't make the cut.

My choice did, however, make the "encore list" of 50 additional songs Miller has put together. Check 'em out.

"All You Zombies," also by The Hooters, might have been a good choice, too.

No Choice

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Having come to the conclusion that, in order to be The Compleat Renaissance Man, I need to learn to play a musical instrument, I set out yesterday to talk to some people I thought might help: music teachers.

I visited three music stores, and as I sort-of expected, there were music teachers present at each one, and I was able to get their opinions, and I've considered them.

The guitar would be difficult, and any other stringed instrument would be impossible without cosmetic surgery on my fingertips to make them smaller and pointier. Given that the size of my fingers is not likely to change quite so drastically, the piano is looking like the way to go. I'm cool with that.

Now I just have to figure out where to get started. Looks like I'll be making another trip across town to the music stores.

Choices

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I've lately been thinking I need to finally act on my love of music, and take up an instrument. Not with an eye to performing, mind you, but merely for my own enjoyment. As if I need yet another hobby.

I don't know that I have any talent whatsoever, but when listening to good music, I always find myself wishing I were playing rather than just listening.

Piano would be great, as would guitar; both appear to be as simple or as complex as one might want to make them. And perhaps it's uncommon, but I'd love to learn how to play the violin.

I'm not terribly interested in playing brass or woodwind instruments — it's awfully hard to sing when playing those, though I'd not mind learning the bagpipes. Uilleann pipes (The what? Go here and listen to the sample of Track 4 — I think it's magnificent) might be a nice compromise, but I suspect the body of works for them is somewhat limited.

Problem: my hands are approximately the size and shape of bear paws. I think this is going to limit my options, as far as what I might be physically capable of playing.

Percussion would work with my monster mitts, but drums are neither particularly melodic, nor are they something you can pick up, sit back, and relax with. What a pity — I'm always tapping my fingers and toes along with whatever music to which I'm listening.

I need advice... and it's a bit too late for me to go look up the band teacher at my old high school to get said advise. Maybe a trip to the music store to talk to the pros there.

What do you think?

Earworm of the Day

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There's a picture opposite me
of my primitive ancestry
which stood on rocky shores and kept the beaches shipwreck-free.

Though I respect that a lot
I'd be fired if that were my job
after killing Jason off and countless screaming Argonauts.

Yes, I know the song, album and band in question.

No, I'm not telling.

Reviews and Recommendations

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[Updated and revised.]

One thing those of you who have read my occasional TV, DVD, movie or music reviews might have noticed is that I don't do in-depth reviews of anything after viewing or listening just once. Usually, that's because I don't partake in entertainment in order to write a review. I simply try to enjoy it.

Add to that the fact that I rarely actually go to the movies, and I don't buy, willy-nilly, every CD that comes out, nor do I watch the "popular" TV shows. Most of them are utter dreck. (Well, I do watch NCIS and CSI and its variants. Good stuff, but I don't ever expect to write reviews of them.)

Nonetheless, there is quality entertainment to be had. One aspect of quality, per se, is the ability to stand the test of time. Perhaps that's why the CDs I occasionally buy were usually released a few years before I buy them.

Sometimes, however, the label "instant classic" really does apply. Something need not be twenty or more years old to have demonstrated qualities that will let it hold its own in the future. By way of example, Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World, which is now just two years old, is one such film. I recommended it here, and received some very good feedback. It is, I think, a film that will be eminently watchable for generations to come.

So if you see an in-depth review of mine, it will probably not be something that aired on TV last night, it probably won't be something you can still go see in the theaters, and it probably will not be something currently on the Billboard top-100 list. Probably not.

Furthermore, I don't intend to review too many things I would not recommend. My time is too valuable to me to waste becoming familiar enough with something I don't like, just to write a full review. If there's something don't like, I'll say so and move along.

Rather, I intend my reviews to be justifications for my recommendations. (Again, refer to M&C.) If I recommend something, you can be sure I either already own it, or it's in my shopping basket — putting my money where my mouth is, you might say.

All that having been said, I expect my next reviews to be of the 1996 movie That Thing You Do! and the CD Welcome Interstate Managers from 2003. Both, as you might expect, will be recommended.

Suckitude

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I'm a slacker today, so I'll just do the meme thing. (Via Laurence.)

Anyway, here’s what you do. You go to the Music Outfitters website and type your high school graduation year into the search tool. Select the “list of the 100 most popular songs” and you will get the Raw Material for the next step in the process, which is to look through the list and decide which songs you hated, which ones you liked, and which one was your favorite.

Post the list on your Online Journal, striking through the songs you hated (or still hate) and boldfacing the ones you liked (or still like). Bold and underline your favorite song. No opinion? Leave it as-is.

There was an awful lot of (and a lot of awful) music in 1980. And now — as if you needed it — you get my opinion on the matter. You get to decide which sucks worse: the music of 1980, or my taste in music.

Musical Find

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I like to think of myself as a fairly well-educated fellow, as far as the arts are concerned. I'm not an expert of any kind, but I appreciate good music when I hear it, particularly classical music, and I think I have at least a passing familiarity with most of the noteworthy composers.

Every now and then, however, I discover the work of a particular artist or composer I'd never heard (or perhaps simply not noticed) before. One such is Vaughan Williams.

While watching the film Master And Commander I was struck by the quality of the soundtrack, but I assumed that all the music therein was of the period depicted in the film (early 1800s) or was composed specifically for the film. I was surprised, then, to learn that the one piece of music in the film that most caught my attention was in fact composed in 1910.

Vaughan Williams' Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis is simply the most stunning "new-found" piece of music I have heard in a very very long time. How it has escaped my attention over the years is a complete mystery to me.

Perhaps adding to the evocative power of the piece is the way in which it was used in the film. At a critical point, the Captain must choose to sacrifice the life of one of his crew in order to save the ship. He acts quickly, but not alone; he enlists the aid of another crewman – the doomed man's best friend. As death approaches for the unfortunate sailor at the hands of his Captain and of his friend, Vaughan's Fantasia swells, and is enough to make the viewer forget to breathe.

Yes, it's that powerful.

Not a believer? Here's a sound clip: Download file (440Kbytes, 56 seconds – sorry, I had to cut the sample rate down to conserve space. The bass doesn't come through too well, I'm afraid.)

As chance would have it, after I clipped the sound file last night and before I finished writing this "review," Esgaroth over at Tributaries posted her take on the matter, complete with some very good links to information on the Fantasia and on Tallis' original work. It's well worth checking out.

In the future, I intend to listen to a good deal more of Williams' work.

When Pigs Fly...

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... Pink Floyd reunites.

I'd never have thought it would happen. The history of the rancorous split of Roger Waters from the band is fairly well known. I'd have sooner expected John and George to rise from the dead to join Paul and Ringo for a Beatles reunion.

And rancor there certainly was. On the album The Division Bell is the song Lost For Words, which includes what is unmistakeably the recounting of a call for reconciliation, and subsequent rejection:

So I open my door to my enemies
And I ask could we wipe the slate clean
But they tell me to please go **** myself
You know you just can't win

One might be forgiven for thinking it would never happen.

But, live on the Live8 stage in London, there they all are. Older, greyer — but there. For a fan of classic rock music such as I, this is a treat of the highest order.

Update: Whoever at MTV/VH1 thought it would be a good idea to interrupt Comfortably Numb with those dopey prepubescent "veejays" needs to be put up against a Wall and shot.

Update 2: Dopey? Yes, dopey — but insipid, too.

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