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You Are What You Listen To?

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Democratic presidential candidates name the albums they most like to have in their CD players:

Wesley Clark: “Journey-Greatest Hits”

Howard Dean: Music by Wyclef Jean

Sen. John Edwards: “The Essential Bruce Springsteen”

Sen. John Kerry: “Abbey Road” by the Beatles

Rep. Dennis Kucinich: Music by Willie Nelson

Sen. Joe Lieberman: “Sueno” by Andrea Bocelli

Al Sharpton: Music by Yolanda Adams [AP].

Most of the answers here seem reasonable and within character, although I am curious as to how big a Willie Nelson fan Kucinich was before he got Willie’s endorsement. Gospel for Sharpton, romantic operatic for Lieberman, the Beatles for Kerry, Bruce for Edwards.

By the way we listened to discs one and two of the three-CD Essential last night and I have come to the conclusion that I like Bruce better than Bob Dylan and even slightly more than Neil Young among American rock-and-roots singer-songwriters. I am eager to hear disc three, which is rarities.

Disc two wavers after the Born in the USA material (thankfully, the collection is in chronological order), although there are strengths throughout and The Rising songs definitely feel like a rebirth of sorts, although, inevitably, the heat is more diffuse now.

But disc one, which covers his career through Nebraska (and distressingly leaves off the sublime “Kitty’s Back” “I Wanna Marry You,” and “Cadillac Ranch”) is so good and powerful that it made my head hurt and woke me up more than once last night with weird dreams and lyrics coursing through my turbulent brain. Most of the time I was listening I was walking around with Alex (now a robust 6-weeks old) – you know, doing the don’t-cry-and-hopefully-fall-asleep baby bounce – and more than once I felt my eyes start to fill for the hopes and fears and years gone by, for the depth of feeling Springsteen was able to comprehend and express, for the wordy exuberance of the young poet-rocker, and for his courage. Near-breakdown moments included “Spirits In the Night,” “Rosalita,” “Thunder Road,” “The Promised Land” and “The River.”

So Edwards gets points for taste and for currency, being that Essential only came out in November. But what of Clark and Dean? of all the albums in the world – to paraphrase Bogart – and Clark picks fucking Journey? Journey? I mean there are some good songs on there, and Journey rocked when they chose to and Steve Perry had a noteworthy voice (until you got sick of it), but they had NOTHING to say – talk about all medium and no message, talk about shallow musical masturbation, talk about LCD. And I am not really trying to put Journey down – they did what they did perfectly well and good for them – but for this to be someone’s favorite, most listened-to album, now in 2003, shows someone who gave up on the culture a long time ago, and who was never really in touch with it in the first place. What a dip.

And I don’t who the hell Dean is trying to impress with Wyclef Jean, who is fine, but what in God’s name would inspire Dean to pick him ahead of all recorded music? Is he trying to be cool? I’d sure be curious to hear what else Dean listens to so I could place this curious selection in context.

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About Eric Olsen

  • http://www.bjkresearch.com/bugblog/ Bruce Kratofil

    “although I am curious as to how big a Willie Nelson fan Kucinich was before he got Willie’s endorsement.”

    Chances are, he doesn’t own a CD player, and his aides told him that picking Frankie Yankovich would not appear cool.

  • Eric Olsen

    Nice Bruce, you are a Dennis fan I am certain as a Clevelander.

  • http://www.bjkresearch.com/bugblog/ Bruce Kratofil

    I assume your tongue is planted firmly in cheek.

    (at least, I hope so)

  • http://www.kalyr.com/weblog Tim Hall

    Why does everybody hate Journey? It’s not as if they were Phil Collins.

  • Eric Olsen

    Tim, I tried VERY hard to say that I DON’T hate Journey, or even dislike them within the context of what they were, but to pick their Greatest Hits as what you would “most like to have in your CD player” deserves some ridicule, in my opinion.

  • http://www.makeyougohmm.com/ TDavid

    It is definitely possible to dislike post Steve Perry era Journey. I thought Steve Augeri wasn’t that bad, but I know some purist Journey fans who will never accept anybody but Perry behind the microphone. Kind of sad to see what happened to those guys. Perry should get back together with them for one final tour.

    Of course none of their greatest hits have been from this era …

  • http://hurl jon

    I hate these kind of questions. The only question they answer is “Does the candidate or his staff answer these stupid questions?” Hint: Clark answered truthfully. I think that if you looked in any candidates’ record collections you’d find a Color Me Bad, Spin Doctors, Milli Vanilli, or Titanic soundtrack or two.

    Looking for cool, hip things from politicians is like looking for ice machine repairmen among the Inuit.

  • duane

    I think people that don’t like Journey think that way because they seem to see a big waste of talent. Most of the guys in the band didn’t really like the musical directions that Perry took them in, but no doubt they were conflicted, given the size of the paychecks that started coming in once they scored with their ballad approach.

  • http://www.morethings.com/log Al Barger

    Springsteen over DYLAN??? Not to put too fine a point on it, but have you lost your frickin’ mind? I might about take just Freewheelin’ equal to the entire Springsteen catalogue. And actually that’s a pretty fair career achievement on Springsteen’s part.

  • http://www.youbitch.org Rube

    I agree with your Springsteen vs. Dylan outcome; in response to Al: I’d definitely put Nebraska equal to the entire Dylan catalog. The Boss’s stuff has held up better over time, IMHO. Dylan hits my ears rather flatly these days.

    As to the candidates, however, I do think that Clarke is the only one who answered honestly. He should’ve lied.

  • Eric Olsen

    Actually what I have done is put the Dylan catalog against the Springsteen catalog, and Dylan may win as a universal songwriter – his songs are much more easily and widely adapted – but he doesn’t really come very close to Springsteen as a recording artist and is not in the same universe as a performer.

  • http://www.filteringcraig.com Craig Lyndall

    I will never be a Journey fan because #1, their biggest hits were a little bit before me, and #2, I am still bitter that Faithfully was my prom theme in 1997. There is no good reason why Faithfully should be a prom theme in 1997. The song and the band didn’t mean a damn thing to me. Anyway, I am admittedly, just angry. Probably doesn’t have much to do with the band.

    Also, Journey Psych-outs were hilarious in Base-ketball.

  • Eric Olsen

    Journey had many assets, primarily in the musicianship department but also some pretty good songs, but they were never in any way important other than to their families. There is nothing to distinguish them from any number of similar groups, no personality, no indelible point of view, no transcendent song – they were just a melodic hard rock group with some nice ballads. There is no there there.

  • http://www.kalyr.com/weblog Tim Hall

    And what about George Bush?

    I bet he’s not listening to the Dixie Chicks….

  • Eric Olsen

    I would like to hear his answer.

  • http://www.foliage.com/~marks Mark Saleski

    i’ll bet my whole danged music collection it ain’t “Wyclef Jean”.

  • Eric Olsen

    I share your confidence

  • http://www.shortstrangetrip.org Joe

    I thought I read somewhere he was a big fan of Throbbing Gristle.

  • http://www.rodneywelch.blogspot.com/ Rodney Welch

    Eric, Al, Rube, etc. —

    You know, I hate arguments like this, for the obvious reason that it forces people to take extreme positions that are simply foolish. I, too, prefer strong and unequivocating opinions, but sometimes we have to let calm, common sense rule.

    Personally, I have such enormous respect for both Dylan and Springsteen that it makes it difficult to praise one far in excess of the other. Difficult, but not impossible: I almost think it goes without saying that no one really matches Dylan in terms of career achievement. He is to rock and roll what Shakespeare is to literature, and he has influenced so much of the music that comparisons seem almost beside the point. I don’t say this to denigrate Springsteen — whom, frankly, I don’t think can really be denigrated, or at least not in a way that I find persuasive. No, he isn’t Dylan, but any career that includes five of his first six albums and his extraordinary live shows has to be dealt with.

    Al, I love Freewheelin’, but there’s no way in hell you can tell me that all of Springsteen shrinks next to it — indeed, Born to Run, Darkness on the Edge of the Town and The River are each equal to it on an individual basis — although I can’t say they are as good as Highway 61 Revisited or Blonde on Blonde or Bringing It All Back Home — then again, nothing is.

    On the other extreme, Rube, it’s completely foolish to say “Nebraska [is] equal to the entire Dylan catalog” — that kind of statement could only come from someone who has never heard the Dylan catalog, or at least Dylan’s first six or seven albums — without which, as I think even the Boss would admit, there would have been no Nebraska.

    I’m rather surprised at Eric saying that Dylan “doesn’t really come very close to Springsteen as a recording artist and is not in the same universe as a performer.” The latter point I’ll concede, but not the first, for reasons cited. Springsteen has made great records, yes, but it’s a different kind of greatness; I’m not sure he has the kind of unique, somewhat abstract edge that could turn out something like Blonde on Blonde. Can you imagine him writing “Visions of Johanna” or “Sad-Eyed Lady of the Lowlands”? No. Springsteen, I think, knows his limits and does not really stretch them, whereas Dylan is someone who can almost always be counted on to push the envelope — you could almost say that’s why his shows aren’t as good as Springsteen’s, because Dylan is always and forever about reinterpreting his material. Springsteen is a great artist and a great showman; Dylan is a great artist who has no real instinct (or interest) for what pleases people — he just does his own thing. That is what makes his music and career endlessly interesting and invigorating and, I think, more enduring than most of the people — like Springsteen, the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, and God knows how many since — who have drawn from him.

  • JR

    Young > Dylan > Springsteen

    Neil Young is the most interesting musically and Dylan has the most interesting lyrics.

    I love Journey, but that was the wrong answer for the reasons Eric stated. Wesley Clark is clearly a political novice. Now if he’d named Look Into the Future, that would have at least been interesting.

  • http://www.bjkresearch.com/bugblog/ Bruce Kratofil

    Do you think we will ever see a presidential candidate that will be brave enough to anwer with a Grateful Dead album?

  • http://www.rodneywelch.blogspot.com/ Rodney Welch

    We’ve already had one — Al Gore was a huge Grateful Dead fan, and said so often.

  • http://www.makeyougohmm.com/ TDavid

    Randy Jackson played bass for Journey. Enough said.

  • Eric Olsen

    Rodney, I can’t argue with your answer in terms of music history, I was expressing my own likes and when I said “recording artist” perhaps I meant something more like “performer on record.” I totally agree with you about the abstractness of Dylan, but prefer the personalization of Springsteen – although he abstracts that as well. His work is only partly autobiographical, and that is transformed as by any great storyteller. This was really just meant as personal opinion on my part, I have no doubt about Dylan’s central role, nor anything but respect for him. Your comment about Springsteen wanting to please and Dylan not giving a shit is apt and perceptive – maybe that’s part of it for me.

    JR, good one with Look Into the Future: pre-Perry and the big hits would have been interesting.

  • http://www.punk-rock.com/ Britton Wingnut

    Bush is an Ozzie fan, or at least I assume so since he invited Ozzie to the white house.

    Gore was a big Grateful Dead fan. Tipper was, anyway.

  • Eric Olsen

    I don’t hear GW headbanging to the Ozz – I believe that was a standard PR invite.

  • http://www.filteringcraig.com Craig Lyndall

    Tipper “Parental Advisory” Gore is not allowed to be a music fan.

  • Eric Olsen

    Clinton is a Dead fan as well – there are several in high places, so to speak.

  • http://www.rodneywelch.blogspot.com/ Rodney Welch

    Oddly enough, Tipper “Parental Advisory” Gore hinted in her book, Raising PG Kids in an X-Rated Society, that she is something of a Stones fan, particularly “Sympathy for the Devil.” Funny thing about Tipper — she probably increased the flood of dirty lyrics, since as you no doubt know a warning label has become a marketing tool; for a lot of kids, a CD doesn’t have street cred without one.

  • David

    I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone who was into Journey, although I remember this guy in the luxuriousTaipei Hostel who had a live cassette that he enjoyed rather defensively. I heard that he go tuberculosis, incidentally, which may be some sort of poetic justice, or maybe not. In any case, I vaguely remember a general perception that they epitomised the enemy somehow, although actually I’m not sure what they sound like. I do know that the drummer went on to play with Steps Ahead, and he supposedly had some sort of neo-Tony Williams Lifetime type of band, which might be some sort of exculpation, or maybe not.

    Bob: like. Bruce: don’t. If I try to analze these feelings I start to feel dirty.

  • http://www.makeyougohmm.com/ TDavid

    Video games made about/inspired by artists:

    Wyclef Jean: no
    Bruce Springsteen: no (?)
    The Beatles: no (?)
    Willie Nelson: no (?)
    Journey: yes

    Journey was part of a marketing machine in the 80’s and I wonder if that is what has drawn some Journey bashing in this thread. To say that their music weren’t significant and important for that era is simply wrong.

  • Eric Olsen

    Hmm, interesting that a video game would be viewed as evidence of cultural relevance – and I’m not saying it isn’t.

  • http://www.filteringcraig.com Craig Lyndall

    What would you say Journey’s career span was? I mean I know they are still going today, but what was their peak?

    I am guessing they were from 1980 until about 1984. Is that about right?

    Faithfully was my prom theme and I would have been 5-6 years old when they basically went away. So, I guess Journey is relevant to my little age range, but it would be interesting to see what the perception of high school kids is today. Do they get Journey? Have they heard it? Is it just a select few students who had it handed down from parents/older siblings?

    I guess my point is that Journey has been relevant up to this point, but that isn’t a perpetual state. It can change at any time by the next wave of kids growing up.

  • http://www.foliage.com/~marks Mark Saleski

    my guess is that most high school kids have never even heard of Journey. heck, they consider music from only 10 years ago to be ‘old’.

    the changes in Journey throughout their career are kind of amazing…i saw them once before they were totally pop. they were sandwiched in as the second warmup band between Nantucket and Ted Nugent…and they fit right in (and lordy, did Neil Schon have huge hair!)

  • JR

    Journey was founded by Santana alumni Neal Schon and Gregg Rolie (he’s the singer on “Black Magic Woman”). I think the original drummer was Prairie Prince, who ended up with the Tubes. By the time they recorded their first album, released in 1975, they had Aynsley Dunbar on drums. He had been in the Mothers (circa Fillmore East June 1971) and before that the Jeff Beck Group (he played on Truth).

    Early Journey was more progressive, melodic hard rock with long solo sections that sound almost like Mahavishnu Orchestra. Look Into The Future is probably the best of their first three albums.

    By 1978, management had persuaded them to hire a lead singer, Steve Perry, and head in a more commercial direction. There followed three very successful albums starting with Infinity, which contained the hits “Wheel In the Sky” and “Lights”. In 1979 Dunbar was replaced by Steve Smith, he of fusion band Vital Information.

    After 1981’s Captured live album, Gregg Rolie was replaced by former Babys keyboardist Jonathan Cain. Three more albums beginning with the all-conquering Escape cemented Journey’s reputation as schlocky power ballad kings before the band packed it in after 1986’s mediocre Raised On Radio.

    They reunited in 1996, but have never regained the notoriety they had in the 1980’s. At some point Steve Perry left for health reasons and was replaced by Steve Augeri. I haven’t heard any of the post-reunion stuff, so I don’t know which if any of the recent albums are good.

  • Eric Olsen

    Thanks for the summary JR, I liked Look Into the Future also of the pre-Steves, and Infinity, when the almost operatic vocals were still fresh and the Wall of Arena Rock production still novel – all downhill from there.

  • http://fearsomepirate.blogspot.com Josh S

    Man, if you like goofy ballads…so what? At least he didn’t say Faster Pussycat.

  • http://www.makeyougohmm.com/ TDavid

    The Steve Augeri led Journey album Arrival wasn’t good and wasn’t bad. As often happens with new singers replacing well known ones, Augeri didn’t try to carve any new territory and it was almost like we heard all of Schon’s licks.

    Arrival didn’t sell very well despite a huge campaign and tour with DVD, DirecTV free concert forcing them to put out their next album, an EP on an independent label: Red 13

  • http://www.kalyr.com/weblog Tim Hall

    Thinking about Journey a bit more; in Britain Journey never had a hit single, and they didn’t tour the UK; the only time we ever heard them on the radio was when a late night rock show played one of their heavier numbers, like “Edge of the Blade” from “Frontiers”. This meant the only people that knew they existed were rock fans, and we listened to their harder edged songs, and skipped the cheesy ballads.

    To most Americans, Journey were those cheesy ballads.

    While Journey were at their commercial peak, the British charts were filled with bands like Wham! and Duran Duran, who rock fans hated with a passion.

    In some ways, Duran Duran were the British Journey. And both bands ended up playing power ballads.

  • duane

    Tim, you say, “In some ways, Duran Duran were the British Journey.” Could you elaborate? I think the guys in Journey would be much chagrined to find themselves being categorized with Duran Duran.

  • Eric Olsen

    And vice versa. I get the part about becoming known for ballads, but no one ever accused Journey of being “New Romantics” or being funky. I love Duran Duran, however, and am less enthralled with Journey.

  • duane

    OK, that’s fine. We like what we like. I think of Journey as being a group of talented musicians who sold out, and didn’t live up to their potential, although they got ridiculously rich in the process. I look at Duran Duran as being a group of pretty boys who ended up with a few catchy tunes and massive airplay, including MTV, thereby far exceeding anyone’s estimate of their potential, and getting ridiculously rich in the process.

  • Dwaine AKA Scooter AKA D.J.

    I agree Duane, I listen to rap, the president listens to… Well, who gives a fuck what Bush listens to. He’s an asshole. But I agree, I agree.

  • http://www.kalyr.com/weblog Tim Hall

    There are no real musical comparisons between Duran Duran and Journey, it’s just that they both ended up occupying the same ecological niche and sold records to a similar demographic.

    On the other hand, perhaps a closer comparison might be to say that Journey were the American Genesis, in that they were talented musicans who decided to sell out completely.

  • duane

    Yeah, I like the Journey/Genesis comparison better. And the interesting thing, if I can believe the stories, is that most of the members of both bands did not like selling out, but did anyway, with Steve Perry and Phil Collins leading their respective bands into unbridled commercialism. I think with Journey, it was Steve Perry ascending, but with Genesis, it was Tony Banks descending.

  • Eric Olsen

    Collins always had a strong musical, prog, jazzy side, a la Brand X, but I think what happened was he did that first solo album of pop tunes purely on a lark, as basically a good-natured joke, and sonofabitch, it sold like Genesis never had – it was a whole new world! So Collins went back to the boys and said, “if we do this, this and this, I can bring us a whole new audience,” and so they did.

  • duane

    Brand X was great. Collins claimed that he wanted this as a side project to get his musical ya yas out. I thought that was swell. Imagine, feeling musically inhibited in a band like Genesis. But years later I heard that he preferred R&B over prog rock and jazz. Maybe he changed, but it sounded curiously inconsistent with what I had thought about him. I would prefer to think that Tony Banks, the musical leader of the good ole days, was not that happy about the pop flavor that characterizes newer Genesis. Having Banks do that kind of stuff is like having a Maserati to drive in bumper to bumper traffic.

  • JR

    Duane: I think the guys in Journey would be much chagrined to find themselves being categorized with Duran Duran.

    Maybe. Though I once heard Neal Schon doing an interview on the radio and the DJ was talking to him between the songs on their regular playlist. So they play one of Duran Duran’s hits and Schon says, “I like that chick at the end.” The title escapes me right now, but from that comment you’ll no doubt know which one I’m talking about.

    Wait, “Hungry Like a Wolf”?

  • http://www.makeyougohmm.com/ TDavid

    While we are on this Journey stuff and Hagar was mentioned in another thread. Did any of you guys like/ever hear HSAS with Sammy (H)agar, Neal (S)chon, (A)aronson and (S)hrieve?

    I liked that one-off effort, but it didn’t produce any offspring.

  • Mark Brandt

    As a HS student only last year I can say that most of the school had heard of Journey.

    Why? It was one of the louder teachers favorite bands. Some kids never really listened to them, some listened to them because the teacher did so they wanted to see what the fuss was about, there were the kids who liked the novelty of an ’80’s era band (those kids liked Rod Stewart too), or there were people like me who found Journey to be cheesy and completely irrelevant musically and lyrically.

  • Eric Olsen

    Though I agree with your lyrical assessment entirely, Journey had some musical merit and some songs that have endured (I’ve heard “Open Arms” on American Idol more than once). They wre best when they rocked hardest, as I have mentioned more than once.

    I always find it fascinating what subsequent generations pick up on from the past.

  • http://www.diablog.us Dave Nalle

    Could someone block this spammer’s IP please?

    Dave

  • Eric Olsen

    it’s never the same IP, all automated horseshit

  • http://www.kalyr.com/weblog Tim Hall

    These slime make use of open proxies, either left open by incompetantly clueless sysdamins, or instructed to do so by equally incompetantly clueless management.

    The Register has an interview with one of these turds (who insisted on anonymity). I wonder if any enterprising bloggers can track this **** down?

  • http://www.wallybangs.blogspot.com wally bangs

    Normally I don’t go all out negative, but man Journey really sucks. It’s just total flatulent, corporate, pandering, and so not rock (thanks Bob A Booey for inspiring the “so not” part).

  • Eric Olsen

    I have mixed feelings about Journey, seeing them as neither nearly as good as their fans not nearly as bad as their many detractors do. But I agree they are the epitome of culturally irrelevant corporate rock, but they were really good at that.

  • http://www.markiscranky.org Mark Saleski

    i got to see Journey when they were still a ‘real’ rock band (whatever the hell that means).

    they opened for Ted Nugent and were really good. neal schon had this freakish head of hair that he whipped back and forth during the guitar solos.

    this was in the era of “Wheel In The Sky”.

  • Eric Olsen

    that’s when I saw them as well – at first the integration of an operatic-quality voice, hard rock and continents-of-sound production technique was startling and innovative, but it soon became just another cliche

  • http://www.kalyr.com/weblog Tim Hall

    Talk about comment spammers resurrecting undead threads… (And I still think Duran Duran sucked far more than Journey)

  • SFC SKI

    Shame when good band go commercial schlock.
    HSAS was best known for an unnecessary cover version of Procol Harum’s “Whiter Shade of pale” A song I loathe, but I later heard a live album by PH, and found out they were actually a rockier, bluesier band in concert, shame to find it out 30 years too late.
    “Captured” is really the onnly Journey album one should own, if one must. It shows the band when they were a band, not Steve Perry’s back-up musicians, it actually has some great songs, and some ripping guitar work, and shows Perry can really sing, but still reins him in a bit (well, a little). After Greg Rolie left there was no soul/blues counterbalance to the crap, and it showed. Don’t get me wrong, Journey was such a hugely popular wussy girl band that no rocker would admit he had ever listened to them, but their first 3 albums were guilty pleasure in morethan a few milk crates, stashed behind the Van Halen and Yes.
    The excellent Randy Jackson is not a member of Michael Jackson’s family, go back to your Linkin PArk albums, kiddie.

  • Eric Olsen

    I liked early Journey at the time, as well

  • Marty Thau

    Steve Earle. Good stuff. How about LONDON CALLING by the Clash? And DARK SIDE OF THE MOON, too.

  • http://www.kolehardfacts.blogspot.com Mike Kole

    Had “London Calling” in the player today. After spending last week in Andalucia, I had to hear “Spanish Bombs” again.