Sunday, January 31, 2016

This and That

Just a few things I wanted to write today to clarify my last post.

Re/the Candice Night CD, I don't want to come off as too negative against it. Her singing is lovely, as always. If I was a new young mother, or a person with young children looking for an album to listen to with them, I'd be all over this. It's just that I wasn't really expecting an album of lullabies, and that's not really my thing. Her last solo CD, although it was really different from a Blackmore's Night CD, wasn't a specialty niche CD, and I enjoyed it a lot. But I can see this is where Candice's head is at right now, and that's fine.

I also wanted to expand on what I wrote about the dimensions of music. I was being a little simplistic when I said that the two dimensions of music are power and beauty. For me, these are the two main dimensions, but their are also some lesser ones that impact on whether I like a band or a song. The other ones I can think of offhand are cleverness and stylishness.

A good example of stylishness is Deborah Harry and Blondie. Harry's voice is attractive, but I don't consider it beautiful in the same way that Candice Night's is, or as beautiful as the voices of local singers like Tara Eberle of Iridesense or Ramona Spooney of Spoonwalk. Neither is it especially powerful. But Harry has a style that works for her, an attitude and a uniqueness. Consequently, I can't really picture Blondie fronted by any other singer. And because Blondie is also a band with excellent songwriting skills, it makes for a powerful combination.

When I talk about cleverness, I'm mostly talking about lyrics, and a sense of humor. Stephin Merritt and Morrissey are two songwriters who come to mind whom I consider to be very clever. Think about a song like Merritt's "Death Opened a Boutique." With lyrics like "The decor was delectable/The service impeccable" and "There was no reason to exist/If you weren't on the mailing list," the song is one of my favorites on The Future Bible Heroes' Memories of Love album. As for Morrissey, he has a talent for the unexpected, like the image of Joan of Arc's Walkman melting as she's being burnt at the stake in "Bigmouth Strikes Again." Even in a moving and serious song such as "There Is a Light That Never Goes Out," there's a sad-but-noble humor to the lines "If a double-decker bus/Crashes into us/To die by your side/Is such a heavenly way to die."

Song structures can also be clever. As I'm writing this right now, Denise and I are watching a TV clip of The Killers on Jools Holland's Later ... show, and it made me think of their song "Space Man" which is clever in both its lyrics and its song structure. Just give it a listen and see what you think.

I'm sure there a few other dimensions that make for good music. But these are the main ones that present themselves to me: power and beauty, spiced up by cleverness and stylishness.

The last thing I want to write about in today's post is a brief R.I.P. for three rock icons who have passed in the last few weeks. Since the start of 2016, we've had the bad fortune to lose David Bowie, Glenn Frey and Paul Kantner.

I've always respected Bowie, but in our house, my wife Denise is the big Bowie fan. She's always said that Bowie is the one artist she most regrets never having seen live. (Mine is Pink Floyd.) We actually almost used a relatively obscure Bowie song, "Wild Is the Wind," as our wedding song. Then I made a few too many fart jokes and inadvertently ruined it for her. But while I'm not as big a fan as she is, I'd consider a number of Bowie songs as must-haves for any rock music collection, including "Space Oddity," "Ziggy Stardust," and especially "Heroes" ( a song that has inspired some great covers, most notably the one by Blondie).

And no Christmas would be complete without the Bing Crosby/David Bowie video of "The Little Drummer Boy." (When my brother and I were young, we always fantasized that when Bowie veered into that whole "Peace on Earth/Why can't there be" section, Bing slapped him in the face, forcing Bowie to come back to a muttered and very resentful "Pa rum pum pum pum.")

I get my news from the Internet and TV these days, so I was surprised to hear from a friend that since Glenn Frey's death, there have been several articles slamming The Eagles, most notably one in the New York Daily News. Everyone has their own taste, but to the writers of these articles I present a huge middle finger. I suggest that The Eagles' Their Greatest Hits 1971-1975 album is one of a number of spot-on perfect albums released in the '70s. There is taste and there is objectivity. By any objective standard, The Eagles were a hugely successful band, and deservedly so.

Lastly, Paul Kantner passed away on January 28. Recently, I've been watching all of the big '60s rock festivals on DVD, and Jefferson Airplane was involved in most them. (Who can forget him getting into it with the Hell's Angels at Altamont in Gimme Shelter?) After The Airplane landed for good, he stayed with the band as they morphed into Jefferson Starship (who I finally caught live at Westbury Music Fair a few years back when they toured with Steppenwolf and Procol Harum). I think my favorite album that Kantner ever made, though, is a relatively obscure one he did with Grace Slick called Sunfighter, which has some great songs about cannibalism, Greek goddesses and being raised by wolf packs. It's still available for a really cheap price on, so if you get a chance, check it out.

Anyway, once again, farewell David Bowie, Glenn Frey and Paul Kantner. You each made the world a better place. Rest in Peace.

Next time, I'll get back to those Best Songs of the Decade lists that I posted in my previous post.