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.