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You Say It’s Your Birthday? So Do Robert Cray, Joe Elliott of Def Leppard, and Adam Duritz of Counting Crows

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You say it’s your birthday; it’s their birthday too.  August 1st was a good day to be born if you were a musician.  There was no chance of me choosing just one of these three to feature today, and even less chance of me getting motivated enough to do separate playlists for each of them.  Messrs. Elliott, Cray, and Duritz are all more than deserving, but I’m lazy so they’re just going to have to share.  Just be grateful I’m neither a Public Enemy nor Grateful Dead fan, or you’d be sharing your playlist with Jerry Garcia and Chuck D.  Like I said, August 1st was a good day to be born if you wanted a music career.  Instead we shall have an August 1st Birthday Boy Trifecta of Awesome featuring the music of Counting Crows, Def Leppard, and Robert Cray.

Robert Cray – “Right Next Door”: Age has its privileges so we begin our Trifecta of Awesome with this nugget from Cray’s best-known album, Strong Persuader.  This song gave the album its title, although “Smoking Gun” was the crossover hit single.  “Smoking Gun” is a damn fine song and it was the hit, but listen to “Right Next Door” and tell me it couldn’t have just as easily gone Top 20.  Cray straddles the line between smooth and slick and sometimes winds up on the wrong side.  This one has nice balance.

Def Leppard – “Bringing On The Heartache”: The rock and roll power ballad hadn’t yet become a ridiculous and embarrassing scourge on American music when Def Leppard recorded this, which is why I like it.  It’s not miserably obvious or completely insipid (I’m trying very hard not to look at you Jani Lane and Bret Michaels).

Counting Crows: – “Round Here”: There are so many things I love about this song! I love Duritz’s vocal and the lyrics that sound on their own merit, but listen carefully to the way they work together.  There is such rich detail in the lyrics, and that can’t have happened by accident, yet when you hear Duritz sing them they sound like they’re flowing from him in a stream of consciousness. 

Robert Cray – “Love 2009″: The studio version from This Time is really good but it’s even better on Cray’s new live album Cookin’ in Mobile.  Again, with Cray it’s all about straddling the line between smooth and slick.  Smooth soul-seasoned blues is a beautiful thing, and Cray croons that style so well.

Def Leppard – “Rock Rock (‘Til You Drop)…of Ages”: Okay, what I’m really trying to say here is Pyromania, all of it, seriously.  How do you pick one song from this album?  I know glam-metal/hair metal gets covered in scorn, and some of it deserves much worse, but songs like “Rock Rock (‘Til You Drop)” and “Rock Of Ages” (and all of Pyromania, seriously) deserve better.  This is a great rock record.  Don’t ever let anyone give you any shit for listening to it.

Counting Crows – “Another Horsedreamer’s Blues”: Recovering The Satellites is my favorite Counting Crows record and one of the best albums of the ’90s.  They’ve done great work since and August is a fucking quantum debut record, but I feel like I uncover something new and something special every time I listen to this record, and I’ve been listening to it’s 1996 debut.  This isn’t the song most people are going to point to with this record, but man did I overdose on it in college all those years ago.  The strings and Wurlitzer piano, the wash of guitars, and the words create this collage in my mind.  I may not know exactly what Duritz is saying, but I understand it.

I want to keep going and going but I’m going to stop here.  This is what these three get for having the same birthday.  Share your favorite moments.  Happy birthday, gents, and many happy returns.


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About Josh Hathaway

  • Joanie

    Hmm, interesting list. Why didn’t you compile one for my birthday? Big Joe Turner, baby! (As well as Perry Como, Mark Mothersbaugh, Bill Wallace of the Guess Who, George Strait, Billy Howerdel from A Perfect Circle and yes, I’m a closet fan — pretty diverse list from which you could choose, eh?) I guess there’s your challenge for next year.

  • Donald Gibson

    My 2 favorite Cray tracks: “These Things” and “The Forecast Calls For Pain

  • Josh Hathaway

    “Forecast” is a good one, Donald. I thought about that one when I was going to go with a third round of these. Yeah, good tune.

    Joanie, you’ll have to remind me for next year and I’ll see about getting one of these dedicated to you. :)

  • El Bicho

    “Just be grateful I’m neither a Public Enemy nor Grateful Dead fan, or you’d be sharing your playlist with Jerry Garcia and Chuck D.”

    That wouldn’t be a bad thing in my book

  • Josh Hathaway

    So where’s your playlist, El Bicho? Slacker. 😉 That Grateful Dead comment was there specifically for you and Brother Brewster, should he wander this way.

  • El Bicho

    I was working on a mammoth report yesterday and must have missed my invite. When you have time, I challenge you to go listen to these tracks and see if you’ll reconsider their exclusion

    Jerry Garcia: Grateful Dead’s Friend of the Devil, his cover of Dylan’s Tangled Up In Blue (live), pedal steel on CSNY’s Teach Your Children

    Chuck D: Fight the Power, Bring the Noise w/Anthrax, Kool Thing w/Sonic Youth

  • Josh Hathaway

    I know “Friend Of The Devil” and the Anthrax collaboration. I’ll go check the others you’ve mentioned.

    I didn’t exclude them, by the way, because they are unworthy of mention. Both are significant contributors to 20th century music- I’ve just never been a fan of either. I’ll do the homework assignment though.

  • Mark Saleski

    I’ll do the homework assignment though

    …his fingers are crossed behind his back, i just know it.

  • Josh Hathaway

    :: sigh :: I owe Saleski a listen and my friend Heather a listen as well. In my defense, my recent writing output suggests I’m not so much ignoring these promises as I am doing honest, working research for my work. I know that doesn’t get me totally off the hook but maybe deduct a couple of laps, okay? :)

  • Mat Brewster

    Have you ever listened to any early Dead with Pig Pen, Josh? You’re a big blues fan so I’m curious how you would take that incarnation of the dead. Check out some live stuff from 68 or 69 especially Pig’s numbers like “lovelight” or “good morning little school girl” or “hard to handle.”

  • Josh Hathaway

    I thought I’d heard every version of “Schoolgirl” ever recorded. I stand corrected. Muddy’s version is still my favorite but I’ll get on that, too.

  • Mark Saleski

    my prediction is that josh will not like the Pig/blues stuff. i don’t…it’s the one bit of Grateful Dead that i don’t like. for some reason, it reminds me of why i never liked the british blues very much.

  • El Bicho

    Surely you know CSNY’s Teach Your Children. Didn’t you used to work at a classic rock station? Or are you saying you need a relisten for Jerry’s contribution?

  • Josh Hathaway

    Okay, let me clarify something, fellas: I’ve heard songs by Jerry Garcia and the Grateful Dead. I didn’t say I didn’t know who he was. I said I’m not a fan. To know him is not necessarily to love him.

  • Mat Brewster

    Saleski if you don’t like the Pig stuff then Josh is bound too, you guys rarely agree.

    I’m actually not real big on Pig either but I’m not that big on the blues in general. Josh is so I’m definitely interested in his take.