Welcome to this week's installment of BC Magazine's The Listening Room. Many of our panelists from last week, our inaugural week, are with us again as we also welcome some new contributors. The format is the same: a few words from a few of BC's best about what they have been listening to for the past week. It is going to be interesting to see if trends emerge from week to week as we gather to share the music that's been in our heads, on our iPods, or in our CD players. With a couple of exceptions, this week's Listening Room trends towards the classic rock genre. Is it a coincidence or did some of us all drink the same Kool-Aid?
Part of the reason this series idea occurred to me in the first place is because of what happened to me this past Monday night. I listened to the same song 32 times in a row. Obsess much, do I?
I wrote about my discovery of the magic of The Byrds a few months ago. "If You're Gone" is on the There is a Season box set and while I didn't mention it in my review, I do remember liking it immediately after hearing it. In fact, I liked the entire box set so much I set out to begin collecting many of The Byrds' individual albums, including Turn!. A number of Byrds' fans have bemoaned Gene Clark's relative obscurity when compared to the other, more celebrated members of the band (David Crosby, Gram Parsons, Roger McGuinn). I admit, Clark's voice was not something I immediately responded to. I am still not sure if "If You're Gone" is a new beginning in that regard or if it will be a notable exception.
I feel like I could wring my headphones and bottle the weariness in Clark's lead vocal. The droning harmony vocals, almost buried in the mixed, create a sublime, other-worldly feel that heighten the tension and pain in Clark's words and vocals. The Byrds will always be known best for making Dylan more accessible through their covers, but "If You're Gone" is a stunning example of what they could do with their own material.
I might have never heard "Too Much Information from the self-titled The Rhythm Syndicate had I not been asked to review the CD, but I'm glad I did.
This is a blues band local to Northeast Ohio who give a fresh and contemporary edge to a classic sound, and "Too Much Information" is quintessentially a great little song. Catchy lyrics, strong beat, classic horns, and lead singer Pat Sandy's vocals are layered here to make a song that is just impossible to feel bad while listening to.
A. Hathaway (TheWifeToWhomI'mMarried) “What Child is This?” from Majesty and Wonder: An Instrumental Christmas by Phil Keaggy
This week, Phil Keaggy and the London Session Orchestra have been keeping my ears company. I know that Christmas is 47 days past, but I like the distraction that Majesty and Wonder gives my mind. I favor instrumental versions of most classical Christmas songs as I find the words either distracting or annoying. There are a few exceptions of course: Josh Groban's "O Holy Night" and "Jesus, Joy of Man's Desiring" and Sarah McLachlan's version of "Silent Night" send shivers coursing through me. My favorite tracks on Majesty and Wonder are "What Child is This?," " Good Christian Men Rejoice," and "Silent Night."
I'm in the midst of the February doldrums, the annual psychological/spiritual low point of my calendar year. My music-loving self responds to this by either cranking up the stuff that will help chase it away or giving in to it and listening to something that more closely matches my mood. This CD made it into my car player last week and hasn't come out yet. I listen to it every single morning on the way to work. This song, which I admit is something of a mystery to me in terms of meaning, just matches my wintry mood some mornings and often causes me to hit the "repeat" button. It doesn't depress me, but rather makes me feel more reflective — the cadence, the mournful vocals, the piano — it all just works.
Mat Brewster: "Goofing Off Suite" from Pete Seeger from a live bootleg dated 10/25/56
Fans of the film Raising Arizona will instantly be familiar with this medley that was swiped by Carter Burwell for that film's theme music. Yes, I'm talking about that crazy yodeling song, with a dash of Beethoven's "Ode To Joy" sung via humming. When Mr. Seeger first began to play it I was driving in downtown Bloomington, I nearly crashed right there from laughing so hard. I'm sure I was quite the site, too, me swerving in my little Saturn, mouth agape, tears streaming down my face.
Mark Saleski: "The Wheel" from Live at the Warfield by Phil Lesh & Friends
Phil Lesh had several outstanding guests at this show, my favorites being Greg Osby on sax and John Scofield on guitar. This particular version the Dead's "The Wheel" includes tons of fine and subtle interplay, very dynamic ebb and flow, and Joan Osborne's gorgeous voice… which I happen to be falling in love with all over again.
Among dozens of equally powerful, tight songs under Bob Pollard's belt, it could be the immediacy of that simple guitar hook that starts this song that grabs listeners, but really it's more that there's a rare vulnerability in Pollard's voice in this particularly simple tune.
Pollard confronts "Big Daddy," a local rooster with whom he holds a long-standing grudge, strutting nonchalantly around with a six-pack ring around his neck, but it's really about the band transitioning from local indie act to focus of national attention. GBV becomes, in a sense, Big Daddy in an industry that cares little about anything but the bottom line. Pollard's six-pack ring: get his songs to more people while keeping the GBV identity strong. This is his anthem – "Don't Stop Now," a rallying cry for more. And there was a lot more.
I am late to the Highway Companion party because someone took a number of months to gift this gem to me. But this gift was worth the wait.
Highway Companion as a whole reminds me of older Petty, and that is just fine with me. The instrumentation is so warm and rich, a stark contrast to his last record with The Hearbreakers – which makes this album all the more enjoyable.
"Saving Grace" may be the hook to bring you into this album, but one of the slower songs, "The Golden Rose," really brings back that slow-burning, mellow Petty vibe. It is such a relaxing tune to listen to, and a great way to end the album.
Even if you don't own Playback (wait a minute, you dont?) and are not a die-hard Petty fan, you can still get a lot out of this album. Sadly there are far too few albums released these days you can listen to from beginning to end, but this is one of them.
When you begin this paragraph with the knowledge that 1) My sister is eighteen and still (technically) a teenager; 2) said sister's favorite band is My Chemical Romance, and thus their music is blared throughout the house at all hours of the day; 3) I've given up ignoring it and have actually (gasp!) begun to like their new album… you find yourself arriving at the moment when you can put on your headphones, stare at your sister, and giggle uncontrollably at a song that has as its main chorus the phrase "teenagers scare the living shit out of me!"
It's a wonderfully witty song about the typical fears of how any teenager that chooses to dress differently or act differently or do anything differently, is viewed as something inherently scary. In reality, Gerard and the rest of the guys view these "scary" teenagers as the reason they were put here on the planet. The teenagers (and any other fans of the band) give them a reason to keep playing music and surviving their own life… and the band, likewise, has become a focus point for disenfranchised teenagers who were looking for someone to speak for/to them.
Funny, witty, poignant, and downright full of kick-ass rock'n'roll, "Teenagers" is just a great song.