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?

The Friday Five: January 21, 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:

“Breakdown” by Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers (from The Live Anthology, 2009)

Recorded in June of ‘81 at The Forum, in Los Angeles; this take simply smolders its way through six solid minutes of groove. It’s definitely a testament to the power of a solid shuffle. The “Hit the Road Jack” tag towards the end of the jam is a bonus. Despite having this in my collection for over year, I still haven’t listened to the entire collection.

“I’ve Seen All Good People” by Yes (from Highlights: The Very Best of Yes, 1993)

This is shaping up to be one of the longest shuffles in recent memory, clocking in at just shy of seven minutes, the prog-rock pledge of allegiance demands attention. Rise up! Grab your 12-string laúd and recorder and salute Roger Dean.

Let’s hope for a shorter song to follow …

“Infinite Arms” by Band of Horses (from Infinite Arms, 2010)

Make that the Grammy Nominated album, Infinite Arms. Dreamy and serene, this is probably the closest tie on the record to their impeccable debut, Everything All the Time. Naturally, it is a favorite of mine. The crickets at the close remind me of being a kid sitting out on the back lawn

“Delicate” by Damien Rice (from B-Sides, 2004)

Another live performance, this time from perennial Irish sad bastard, Damien Rice. That’s not to say that Ireland isn’t teeming with sad bastards, that is; rather, to say Mr. Rice is famously especially sorrowful in his bastard ways. Add to the fact that this version of “Delicate” is played just a hair slower than the original, amping up the dirge quality.

“Candy” by The Silver Seas (from Château Revenge!, 2010)

Ahh … a perfect power pop song close to what was becoming a very heavy Friday Five. I’m sure I’ve shared the story of how I came to know and love The Silver Seas, so I’ll spare you all the gory details, but I will share that the band has just released a brand-spanking new “3 AM” version of Château Revenge! for your listening pleasure. You can hop on over to and pick up the “Blue” as well as the original “Red” versions of the record. It came in at number two on my Top 12 of 2010, and is a must-listen.

What’s on your shuffle today?