Too long, no excuses, time too quickly passes. I won't say any more than that. No hesitation, after being asked and cajoled in the best possible way by true believers (for whom I am ever grateful), here is The List of the Moment, Volume No. 21.
Note: You can also listen to the list (or most of it).
"Hello, Goodbye" by Erin Alden & Brian Robbins – I never thought I would like covers of any artist, let alone The Beatles, but it was actually a bootleg that I found of a four-volume Beatles set that convinced me that all these years perhaps I had been too closed-minded about such matters. This cover sung by Erin Alden sounds a lot like the version that is currently being used by Target for their advertising. I may be wrong about this, but you can judge for yourself.
The song has been altered for the advertisement, but is actually a fabulous rendition of a classic, and although I do not generally pick two songs by the same artist on The List, I will make an exception here for I was equally impressed by the next song…
"Julia" by Alison Krauss – From the same collection of Beatles covers. Here is a splendid version of “Julia” with just incredible instrumentals. Krauss has her roots far back and is not exactly new to the scene and is no amateur at work here (in fact, nobody on this set was an amateur – I’ll tell more later on.) The guitar here — the handpicking is precise and beautiful along with the other instrumentation which you will not want to miss. If you are a Beatles fan or not, these covers may turn you on to music that you did not like in its original incarnation, but might perhaps like in this iteration.
On this volume, the other artists of note and versions that are most impressive include a cover of “Sexy Sadie” by the fabulous Paul Weller, originally of The Jam fame and subseuquently The Style Council before he broke out on his own, doing a fabulous job as a solo artist. Yes, an acquired taste for some, but an amazing talent. There are also covers by Phish, Joe Cocker, Jackson Browne, Neilson Hubbard (an amazing version of “Julia”), Michelle Shocked, and so many others that this is well worth looking for.
"Time of Your Life" by Green Day – This I picked perhaps because it is close to the Now and one tires of living in the past or looking too far to the future. This song reminds us to enjoy what we have in the present. I admit the false start with the chords and picking and the quick “fuck” when he misses adds something to the mix because it is unexpected. Life is, as he says, unpredictable, if nothing else. Perhaps that’s the good stuff.
Yes, we take the photographs and we hang them up and we keep our souvenirs and although he is telling us that he hopes we have the time of our life, I take that so much in the present that this song would be terrific back to back with The Cranberries' “Dreams” which strikes me as a similar theme with new beginnings, awakenings, and overall, an uplifting, almost transcendent, sense and sound – of life being lived to the fullest in the moment that you’re in.
At the end of the day, isn’t that all we have anyway? Sure, memories are more than nice and give us something to think about on those blue days — or provide fodder for books like On Being Blue by William H. Gass, a terrific book if you don’t know it. Gass is, of course, one of the best classic writers of our time and was no doubt an editor’s dream to discover. I imagine the editor feeling much the same way Maxwell Perkins felt when he, after much haggling with Scribners, finally signed Thomas Wolfe or F. Scott Fitzgerald, Hemingway, or any number of great authors Perkins signed in his day. (There is a great story about Perkins and Hemingway’s use of four letter words. Perkins had to run these certain words that Hemingway used often and were still new to literature at the time – in the U.S. at least – past Scribner. So, on his list of things to do, Perkins wrote, and I quote: "shit, piss, and fuck." When he took the list to old man Scribner, Scribner said to him – and I paraphrase a bit here – “Max, if you need to remind yourself of these things, you’re in worse shape than I thought.”)
Of course, one could point to many songs about the Now. Perhaps the best that comes to mind immediately is Oasis’s "Don’t Look Back in Anger", maybe because it is right there in the title – don’t look back. We don’t look back because it is futile unless we are to learn from it – which any of the wise among us would endorse. But to simply sit and stew serves no purpose. Just walk on by… and don’t look back in anger. It’s simply not worth it. I wonder why such spark and spit sometimes flies over the smallest of things. Perhaps there is simply nothing better to do. Or perhaps it is some imagined evening of a score that is simply not being kept.
Whatever the case, it’s simply not worth it. Oasis had it right. They also told us not to place our faith in a rock and roll band, but a little advice? This much we can take. This isn’t faith, this is common sense.
"If You Leave" by Nada Surf – How can this not hold up? I’ve heard two versions of this song now, the one here by Nada Surf and one by OMD, and both stick as some songs do; the sort of thing you play repeatedly on the turntable, driving the neighbors crazy until you either tire of the song, or you learn to put it in its due place in your play list (where I have placed this one, as a real favorite). Nada Surf has become one of my favorites, I admit and I recommend them to anyone who has yet to hear this band. Nada Surf is an American-formed rock-punk-pop trio – Daniel Lorca on bass, Matthew Caws playing guitar, and Ira Elliot on drums. The band originally consisted of four members back in 1994. Today, vocals are by Matthew Caws and Daniel Lorca (easier than finding a new lead singer). The vocals are excellent; perhaps this was a blessing in disguise then that the original vocalist left? I can’t say – but as to this song and others (“Blonde on Blonde” “Comes a Time”, and others), Nada Surf is a band to pay attention to.
"New York State of Mind" by Billy Joel – It’s rather inevitable that this one be on my mind at the moment, regardless of whether it has made the list before or not (and I can’t recall at this time) but it is on my playlist and for this reason, it makes The List. For all of the songs that have been written about New York City, few capture the feeling of what it is to first enter New York as you drive down the Henry Hudson Parkway and see the river to your right as you head downtown. Having lived in New York City for several years, I miss it. And having family there now and business, I have a great nostalgia, perhaps too great of a nostalgia to write an analysis that is not sentimental. That said, I will state again, that no other song captures the city (La Grosse Pomme!) quite the way Joel did with this mellow hit. As I ride the Accela train down or I drive, this one is always on my MP3 player and as my feet pound and I round the corner of West 11th and 6th, you bet this and a few choice others are on the playlist. So it is, "New York State of Mind" makes The List this month – and I’m off to visit my old haunts again and see old friends and make new.
"Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door" by Bob Dylan – Here I write of the MTV Unplugged version of the song recorded in 1995. Here is Dylan in his black and white polka-dotted shirt, the Dylan with his long black coat halfway to the Dylan we know now and the Dylan that came before as he evolved as he always does and will continue to. There are varying opinions on Dylan’s harmonica – loved or hated. Some actually hate, which I find curious since it seems so integral to his music.
What I love about this particular version is that it is live, and I often think (although this can vary, depending, like anything, on the song,) Dylan is better live in many ways. We must have by now surely all things Dylan here, and as I recently put together a four-disc compilation of the "best of" based on what I thought were the best versions of various songs, I found a lot of what I picked were the live and not the studio versions (save for such songs as “Highway 61 Revisited”).
But it’s not simply the words, which of course have struck everyone for many a cover of this song (and we need not list them here, but I will say that I don’t think anybody does this song as well as Dylan). What is amazing is the amount of pure belt he has in the harmonica solo, which is by no means brief. It’s smooth, it’s clear and clean (not muddy and sloppy as I think we’ve all heard at times) but perfect. I play the harmonica and am still trying to nail down exactly what it is he does here that makes it work and I can almost catch it (not in the way Dylan does – don’t misunderstand – I’m nowhere near that good), but it’s that he slides his slips across the silver rather than play note by note and if you play then you know how difficult this is. No small feat. At this time, not only have I been watching the video, but the song is and has been on the list for a while – for this reason, it makes The List of the Moment.
"Winding Wheel" by Ryan Adams – Ryan Adams can be great or mediocre. I think Heartbreaker is one of the best ‘all the way through’ albums I’ve heard in a long time. It’s rare that an album comes along that you want to just listen to the whole thing without skipping over a few songs. Since I have quite a few from Heartbreaker on the playlist at the moment, I chose “Winding Wheel.” It’s heartfelt, as are so many others on this album, but this one really strikes me. The tempo is upbeat which lends some hope to the moment and although maybe he thinks he should “probably shut his mouth” there is that element of hope that works so well. I suppose at the end of the day, this entire list has been mostly one of hope and the moment – as in Now. One tires of waiting.
What is the line, “I am out of breath in this fond chase…”, which is not to say one gives up – only that we want the other party to give a little. Perhaps that’s what I’ve been getting at all along. Yes, that is what I am wanting – some respite. Some breath. For the other party to give a little, perhaps. Love, I am weary. Some lyrics from “Winding Wheel.”
well nighttime let her through
yeah i'm talking to you
I wanna see her
oh precious little thing
with eyes that dance around
without their clothes
so buy a pretty dress
wear it out tonight
for anyone you think
could outdo me
or better still…
be my winding wheel
'cause i feel just like a map
without a single place to go of interest
and i'm further north and south
if i could shut my mouth
she'd probably like this
so buy a pretty dress
wear it out tonight
for all the boys you think
could outdo me
or better still. . .
be my winding wheel
be my winding wheel
Thanks for listening.Powered by Sidelines