The Friday Five: January 6, 2012

Friday Five

Friday Five : ‘frī-(,)dā,-dē ‘fīv : On the sixth day of every week, I hit the shuffle button on my iTunes, then share the first five tracks and thought for each track. Sometimes there is a playlist involved, occasionally we’ll have a guest, but most of the time it’s just me. The rest is up to you, our friends and readers! Fire up your media player of choice and share the first five random track of your shuffle in the comments.

The Five:

Dreams” by Van Halen (from 5150, 1986)

This tune brings to mind two thoughts. First, how fucking thrilled is everyone to hear the new Van Halen tune? By the time you are all reading this, I’m certain that the internet will be flush with eye-witness reports from Thursday night’s gig at Cafe Wha?, which will only serve to fan the excitement. Second, how excited I was to listen to the new Chickenfoot record after reading the feature about it in this month’s Guitar Player. Satch and Michael Anthony talk a good game, but that record still bored me to (AOR)tears.

Sara Smile” by The Bird and the Bee (from Interpreting the Masters Volume 1: A Tribute to Daryl Hall and John Oates, 2010)

Oh, Inara George, how I love your unaffected gaze. How I long to curl up in your voice and sleep for awhile. Singing the songs that I grew up loving, with only the slightest trace of irony; just let me … oh, sorry everyone. I digress.

With or Without You” by U2 (from The Joshua Tree, 1987)

This takes me squarely back to my early, angst ridden, teenaged years. Was there ever a song more wrought with the type of heartbroken melisma that Bono delivers at the close of the song; ripe for use as the theme song for the adolescent heart?

Wasted Years” by Iron Maiden (from Somewhere Back in Time – The Best of: 1980 – 1989, 2008)

I’d submit that this was the exact moment that Maiden lost millions of hardcore metalhead fans, and gained that many, and many more, hard rock fans. Listen to that chorus! That is straight out of the AOR handbook. Someone must have slipped Steve Harris a copy before he sat down to write ’86s Somewhere in Time.

Top of the World” by Van Halen (from The Best of Both Worlds, 2004)

Bookend Van Halen tunes? I’d venture that my trusty iPod is trying to send a message. Okay, show of hands: how many of you know where the riff that kicks “Top of the World” quotes? Okay, now those of you that didn’t Google it just now, keep your hands up. Do you have your hands down? Good, use them to start up Van Halen’s “Jump.” Listen to the majesty of those keyboards! Revel in the jubilant chorus! When you get to the end, pay specific attention to the guitar and you’ll find your answer.

Oh, the rest of you can put your hands down now.

What’s on your shuffle today?

Autumn Delights

There is something magical about this time of year. It’s hard to put my finger on it but the changing colors, the crispness in the air, and the mood of the people all combine wonderfully for me in a near perfect, romantic and quite comforting melange. Essential to all of this, of course, is great music.

Many of my favorite bands have released new music this fall (reviews coming soon!) but it’s going to be a while before I decide if any of their albums are Classic Fall Records. What makes a Classic Fall record? Well, it’s not an exact science for me but it starts with an album that came out in the fall (obviously) or sometime a little before that and I just didn’t get around to fully absorbing it until the autumn. Sometimes it’s an album that I have heard a million times, didn’t come out in the fall and simply took hold with me sometime in October.

This is the case with The Yes Album, which, in my opinion, is the best in their catalog. I played this album constantly on my then newly purchased Sony Walkman in October of 1982 when I was training for cross country. Even though it came out in February of 1971 and I had heard my dad play it a million times, I think of this record as Classic Fall. The music just goes along with the spirit of the season. The same is true for bassist Chris Squire’s Fish Out Of Water album, an often overlooked classic. Here are tracks from each:

Mostly a Classic Fall Record stirs memories that are profoundly overwhelming. Such is the case with The Lexicon Of Love by ABC, an album also heavily played in the fall of 1982. I first heard it courtesy of the brother of our esteemed host, Pete. He, too, was on the cross country team and he loaned me the tape to play on a long bus trip to a race at St. John’s Military Academy. I had never heard anything like it and was completely blown away. Here is my favorite track from the album, “Many Happy Returns.”

Saint Etienne’s Finisterre is another album that oozes autumnal magic. A Dickensian voice asks in the first few seconds of Track 1 (“Action”), “Have you ever been to a harvester before?” and we are instantly transported to a world of crunchy leaves, hot chocolate, home, hearth, and our town. Somehow Sarah and the lads have managed to capture leafy Americana while talking about life in the villages and towns of Britain, proving that the moods and feelings of autumn are indeed universal. Here’s the best track on the album, “Shower Scene,”-a must for any scenesters out there.

One very key element in a Classic Fall Record is the atmosphere. It has to be haunting…echo-y…shimmering…dark, but in a comforting way…and melancholy. Forth by The Verve is a fine example of this theme and style. The atmospheric quality of “Judas” is exactly what I’m talking about here…you just drift when hearing it.

The expression of home and hearth, as we saw above with Saint Etienne’s Finisterre, really do figure heavily into classic fall records. Tired Pony’s The Place We Ran From radiates both of these themes as does Neil Young’s Harvest Moon. “Northwestern Skies” from the former has that autumnal echo and melancholy while the title track from the latter demonstrates unequivocally that autumn is the most romantic time of the year.

While these are all fantastic albums, there is only one record that is the pure, living embodiment of autumn and that’s The Unforgettable Fire by U2. Released on 1 Oct, 1984, this record was the soundtrack to my senior year of high school. Every time I listen to it, I’m right back there and can see, taste and feel exactly what that time was like. Sometimes I literally leave my body and travel back in time!

I also played it quite a bit on the drive between Minneapolis and Racine for the holidays so it really became the soundscape for Interstate 94 in Wisconsin. I bring it with me every time I drive home to see my mom and all the great memories of autumns past wash over me and warm my heart and soul. Here is the title track.

How about you? What are some of your Classic Fall Records?

U2 at TCF Bank Stadium 23 July 2011 (Or How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Survive A Miserable Show)

After a long delay of one year (due to Bono injuring his back), U2 finally got to play their massive 360 Tour show in Minneapolis at the new home to the Minnesota Golden Gophers, TCF Bank Stadium. As you can see by my photo, the set was massive!

My friend Heather and I got there at the tail end of the Interpol set and we scoped out the stadium. I had never been there before and am now looking forward to taking my son to a Gopher football game at some point in the future..hopefully this fall!

Once we took our seats, I knew straight away that we might be in some trouble with the couple sitting next to us. They both seemed ripped to the tits on some sort of intoxicant and the woman proceeded to get overly friendly with me almost immediately. Normally, I don’t necessarily mind this but she was dumber than a sack of hammers. I tried to avoid eye contact with her but she kept doing odd things like putting her head on my shoulder for no reason whatsoever. The guy with her just laughed and, sadly, was even less intelligent than her. He reminded me of one of the characters from Idiocracy if that gives you an idea of what I was dealing with right before the show started.

At about 9pm, the lights went down and the woman with the attraction to my shoulder proceeded to scream at the top of her lungs, “WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO.” And that’s exactly how many “O’s” it was. It seemed to go on forever.

She did this for the entire show. Every fucking song…but hey, that’s show business.

As she was piercing my inner ear drum, I settled in to enjoy the lads from Dublin for the seventh time in my concert going career. The first few songs were from Achtung Baby and they sounded great. As they were doing “I Will Follow,” the rain started to come. At first it was just a drizzle but by “Pride” it was pouring. I had brought a rain coat but it really didn’t help. Within about five minutes, my Chucks were filled with about an inch of water and between that, the screaming idiot next to me, and the fact that my view of the stage was blocked by a spot light tower, I was miserable. To get an idea of how hard it was raining, check out the video below.

I started to wonder if I was pulling a Murtaugh but quickly dismissed that notion as I love being at shows at First Ave with all sorts of craziness and problems. Perhaps it was the ginormousness of the show or the aforementioned problems but I just wasn’t into it. Sure, there were bits and pieces of coolness. “Zooropa” was wonderful and brought back many memories of my life during the early 90s. “Scarlet” was a rare treat as October is one of my two favorite U2 albums (the other being The Unforgettable Fire). During “One” we all got to see a home movie (on the huge screens) of U2 cavorting in a Trabant in East Germany during the Achtung Baby sessions in 1990-91. That really was mega!

For the most part, though, it sucked. But that was OK. Sometimes you have to have a miserable show to remind you how great the other ones are. They can’t all be perfect and a craptacular one every so often really sets the perspective. Even with all the bullshit, the show last night was still better than the Pop show in 1997.

And does it really have to be all about me? Heather was a ball to hang out with throughout the whole evening and I saw some other friends over the course of the night who were a blast. They all had fun…which is very important to me. Even the woman next to me made me laugh when, after her 89th “WOOOOOOOOOO” resulted in a few cold Scandinavian stares, she remarked, “Hey, I have lungs people!!!”

My left ear understood that all to well. It’s still ringing.

Here is the set list from last night.

The Friday Five: February 4, 2011

Friday Five

Friday Five : ‘frī-(,)dā,-dē ‘fīv : On the sixth day of every week, I hit the shuffle button on my iTunes, then share the first five tracks and thought for each track. Sometimes there is a playlist involved, occasionally we’ll have a guest, but most of the time it’s just me. The rest is up to you, our friends and readers! Fire up your media player of choice and share the first five random track of your shuffle in the comments.

The Five:

“Naima” by John Coltrane (from Giant Steps, 1959)

I spent the better part of my 20’s as a full on record store junkie—albeit, a paid one. On the occasions where I found myself opening the store on a Sunday morning, I had only one requirement: Coltrane was to be played for the first three hours of the day. It’s a ritual that I carried for years, and to this day, when I’m up early on a Sunday morning I’ll revisit one of his classic sides.

“P Control” by Prince (from The Gold Experience, 1995)

Oh, Prince … you dirty motherfucker, how I miss you.

“Boy” by Ra Ra Riot (from The Orchard, 2010)

I’m still quite smitten with The Orchard.

“Burning Up” by Madonna (from Celebration, 2009)

I think it was my musical “brother from another mother” Mike Heyliger who started the discussion on Madonna’s lesser appreciated singles a few weeks back. I completely forgot about “Burning Up,” opting instead for “Angel.”

“Sometimes You Can’t Make It on Your Own” by U2 (from How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb, 2004)

Speaking of under-appreciated singles, this should have been every bit as big a hit as any of the band’s hits of the aughts.

What’s on your shuffle today?

The Friday Five: December 18, 2009

Friday Five : ˈfrī-(ˌ)dā,-dē ˈfīv : On the sixth day of every week I hit the shuffle button on my iTunes and share my five and drop a little knowledge and insight for each track. Sometimes there is a playlist involved, sometimes there isn’t. Sometimes we have guest, but most of the time it’s just me. The rest is up to you, our friends and readers! Fire up your media player of choice and share the first five random track of your shuffle in the comments.

The Five:

Ani DiFranco – “Hell Yeah” (from Out of Range, 1994)

It’s been a while since an artist has appeared two weeks in a row. I lost touch with Ani somewhere after Revelling/Reckoning, but never lost love for her frank and beautiful songs. Out of Range was a record that came along at a turning point in my life, providing solace within its reflective songs.

Richard Hell & The Voidoids – “Love Comes In Spurts” (mp3) (from Blank Generation, 1977)

My memory of this song is tied entirely to the 1990 film “Pump Up the Volume”. I remember spending weekends at my friend’s house and watching marathons of it over and over.

Ugly Kid Joe – “Cats in the Cradle” (mp3) (from America’s Least Wanted, 1992)

I’ll admit to having this album primarily for the track “Everything About You”. When Tesla took their take on the Five Man Electrical Band track “Signs” all the way to number eight on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, it became customary for the pop metal acts of the day to include a slightly obscure folk song in lieu of a power ballad. Ugly Kid Joe topped Tesla by taking the Harry Chapin classic all the way to number six.

Radiohead – “Karma Police” (from OK Computer, 1997)

This record took nearly 10 years to connect with me. When released in 1997, I was far too preoccupied with the Third Wave Ska and Indie Rock bands of the day to be bothered with Radiohead. I came back to the record after hearing the brilliant Kid A and now consider it to be one of my favorite records of all time.

U2 – “Get on Your Boots” (from No Line on the Horizon, 2009)

Every time I hear this track I can’t help but think it’s just a sub-par version of The Escape Club track “Wild, Wild West”. This release was disappointing to me, more for its lack of the caliber of songwriting that I’ve come to expect than anything else.

I showed you mine, what is on your five?

A Nudge in the Right Direction

Get out of the car long hair!

Editor’s Note: It’s been a busy ‘music news’ day, here is what has my attention…

U2 is following this weeks “No Horizon on the Line” with what Bono describes as a “sister release” titled “Songs of Ascent” later this year. Here’s hoping it’s the pretty sister. [stereogum]

Phish kicks off their reunion tour on Friday and is giving away free high quality downloads of the first three shows. []

Wayne Coyme of The Flaming Lips is not a fan of Arcade Fire. [Rolling Stone]

From the ‘no duh’ file, Daft Punk will be providing the soundtrack to Tron 2.0. [The Yellow Stereo]

Looks like Prince is recycling a few old tracks for his upcoming “LotusFlow3r”, peep the full track list at (as it’s already been pulled from Amazon by the Purple Police) []

Finally, our friends at Popdose open the crates and pull out the brilliant remixes of Peter Gabriel‘s “Steam” for White Label Wednesday. [Popdose]

Bonus! I happened to have the underrated “Quiet Steam” version in my collection (which was available on the “Digging in the Dirt” single), now you can add it to your collection…

Quiet Steam” (mp3) by Peter Gabriel
[audio:03 Quiet Steam.mp3]

Ickmusic’s Friday Five: December 12, 2008

Is It Live, Or Is It Shuffle?

Welcome to week two of our “Holiday Edition” of the Friday Five!

As we wind down to the New Year the last four editions of the Friday Five will be shuffled from my vast collection of Holiday music. I encourage everyone to play along and spin up some holiday cheer. With the holiday season being short and the duress of the current economic climate being ever present we could all use a little lift in spirits.

For those who have not joined in the Five, here’s how it works: … I hit the shuffle button on my iTunes and share my five with a bit of insight for each track.

Then it’s your turn! Just share the first five random track of your shuffle in the comments and see what your fellow readers are listening to as well.

Here are this week’s tracks:

1. Paul McCartney – Wonderful Christmastime (from The Best Christmas Album in the World… Ever!)

I can’t really say why I like this tune so very much, but it is among my favorite contemporary holiday songs.

2. U2 – Christmas (Baby Please Come Home) (from A Very Special Christmas)

Does anyone else remember the video for this one?

This is a traditional Irish Christmas song? Um, last I checked Phil Spector was from the Bronx and Darlene Love from California. And seriously, could The Edge look any more annoyed? Regardless this stands as Top 5 list material… I truly love this song.

3. Bobby HelmsJingle Bell Rock (mp3) (from Rockin’ Little Christmas)

Nothing beats the original.

4. Run-D.M.C. – Christmas in Hollis (from A Very Special Christmas)

“It’s Christmastime in Hollis Queens, Moms cooking chicken and collard greens, rice and stuffing, macaroni and cheese, and Santa puts gifts under Christmas trees…”

An ’80s classic! To this day I can rock this a cappella on demand.

5. MecoR2-D2 We Wish You a Merry Christmas (mp3) (from Christmas in the Stars: Star Wars Christmas Album)

I’ve made no attempt to cover my geekdom here; yes this is a Star Wars Christmas record. Yes I’ve owned not one, but multiple copies of this record over the years and it is as much a part of my holiday tradition as trimming the tree. And since I’m sharing, yes I have not one, but two Millennium Falcon ornaments along with an R2-D2. And in the spirit of giving I’m sharing this holiday classic with all of you. And yes, the lead vocal is a young John Bongiovi, Jr. Enjoy!

What’s helping you count down the days until Santa pulls his sleigh?