Friday, June 29, 2012

Song #22

Title: "Light My Fire"
Artist: The Doors
Album: The Doors, 1967
Written By: The Doors

Most Doors-haters focus their disdain on Jim Morrison's childish antics and bad high school poetry lyrics. But they really miss what is great about the band. It is the other three guys. Ray Manzarek, Robby Krieger and John Densmore were able to create a unique and fascinating musical backdrop behind Morrison. Jim Morrison is really beside the point for me. I'd like to be cool and pick a more obscure Doors tune ("Peace Frog," "Roadhouse Blues"), but it was their biggest hit that first grabbed me and still does. Again, the greatness of the tune comes after Morrison steps aside and Manzarek and Krieger play their extended solos to a mesmerizing groove. What great solos that build on eachother.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Song #23

Title: The In Crowd (live)
Artist: The Ramsey Lewis Trio
Album: The In Crowd (live) (1965)
Writer: Billy Page

The only jazz tune to reach my Top 24. Proves that jazz does not have to be complex. Ramsey Lewis takes this R&B tune and makes it all about the groove. My Dad introduced me to this amazing jazz record many years ago, and it remains one of the most engaging live recordings I've ever come across. Normally too much audience noise on live recordings detracts, but here it is just the opposite. The hand claps and hollering builds right with the energy of the band, feeding off eachother for an intoxicating jazz club recording. Crank it up and it puts you right in that D.C. club.

Fine. Congratulations.

Ok, you can scratch off "not having the heart of a champion" or "not being clutch" off the list of my reasons for disliking Lebron. There is no denying his epic performance during the playoffs this season. One of the best of all time. But my other reasons still stand. The statute of limitations has not run. But perhaps hate has faded to mere dislike.

Song #24

Title: "Still Be Around"
Artist: Uncle Tupelo
Album: Still Feel Gone, 1991
Written by: Jay Farrar, Jeff Tweedy, Mike Heidorn

Not only a favorite to listen to, but a favorite to perform. My musical partner in crime Dave and I pull this downer out whenever we play, and it is so much fun to sing. Fortunately, I took the vocals when we first figured out our arrangement, but Dave has been trying to steal the lead vocal from me ever since on it. Don't blame him, it flows so naturally. I remember we played this at some gathering where ANCIANT was present, and he complimented me on the lyrics. I almost said "thanks," but I finally had to fess up that it was a cover. I guess I was honored that ANCIANT would think that I could write a song this great.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

The New List: 24 Songs

After I finished my recent 5 Star Albums list, ANCIANT suggested that the next list should be Dez's Favorite Songs.  I've thought about doing a song list for awhile, but songs come in and out of favor so frequently.  Albums are easier to rank since there is more there to consider, more to analyze.  A favorite album (or film, also) is generally going to keep its spot on my list over the years (although not always).  Songs seem so dependent on time, circumstance, mood.  But there is a core set of songs that are always there to return to.  So I decided that would the criteria here.  Whereas I try and be as objective as possible on my lists, objectivity goes out the window on this one.  These are Dez's favorite tunes, plain and simple.

I made a rather lengthy list of songs that would at least be considered.  I figured the list should be about 25 songs.  Any more than that and you'd get into the territory of what do I love lately vs. all time favorites.  I went through the list and highlighted the no brainers, the ones that I had no hesitancy in putting in my Top 25.  The ones that just jumped out at me, that are ingrained in my DNA.  When I was done I had 24 songs.  Cool, I just need one more.  But then I ran into the problem I mentioned above.  I had about 20 or 30 songs that would contend for the final spot, depending on my mood or when you asked me. 

So, I had 24 songs that passed the "no hesitancy" test.  Fine, 24 it is.  These are songs that I have loved for a long time (most of them).  I may not listen to them for long periods, but I always return to them over time.  When I hear them, I still get that rush of excitement.  That is also part of the test.  I may have loved them for 10 or 20 years, but when I hear them do I still get excited and crank up the volume, stop what I'm doing just to listen and take it in. 

As I list them, I will also specify the particular version.  For some of them, a live version is why it is there.  I'll give you the info for the song, try and post it if possible, and give you a sentence or two for trivia or why I dig it so much.  Alright, first one coming soon (probably tomorrow).

Sunday, June 17, 2012

It's Coming

A new list is on the way...

Monday, June 11, 2012

Why The NBA Finals Matter (For Basketball)

I had hoped to be writing this about the Spurs vs. Heat, but it is just as relevant in a Thunder vs. Heat series. There is a lot at stake this NBA Finals. It will have some long term consequences for the sport, I think, at least at the professional level. It should be an exciting series regardless, with plenty of star power (Lebron, Durant, Wade, Westbrook, Bosh). But what really makes it interesting is that it will be a clash of philosophies. Can you build championships around a few egotistical superstars and scrubs (The Heat), or do you still need a true team mentality to go all the way (The Thunder). I say this works with the Thunder as well as The Spurs because The Thunder have been modeled after San Antonio's organization. Several of its top brass worked their way up through Popovich's system, and they are trying to recreate it in OKC. From an unselfish superstar (Durant) to having a minimum of drama and smartly keeping that "we're a small market" chip on their shoulder, OKC is SA Jr. Will Miami be the model, or will it be OKC? The Mavericks went a long way last season in proving that it takes a team, and a second trouncing of The Heat this season will take the point even further.

Of course I can't stand The Heat. From Lebron's classless prime time exit from Cleveland (and for being tone deaf to the criticisms for months afterwards) to the garrish pep rally The Heatles threw for themselves, guaranteeing multiple championships, as Stan Van Gundy commented, "before they even practiced together." There is so much to hate, they made it easy. It was a Yankees or Cowboys level of arrogance and entitlement, but without the history to fall back on. OKC, on the other hand, prides itself on team play. Durant and Westbrook know they can't do it alone, and so they rely on their excellent role players like Serge Ibaka. And any team with the 6th Man of the Year is indicative of a team that understands the importance of depth (again, Harden can be paralleled with 6th man Spur star Ginobili in many ways, both are good enough to be starters, but instead relish their roles as deadly leaders of the second unit).

So I will be rooting for the Thunder because I really like them. But also, because I love basketball. Because I appreciate the game as a team sport, not as an individual endeavor. And I appreciate humility.

Prediction: Thunder in 6.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Dez Reviews Neil Young & Crazy Horse's 'Americana', 2012

Don't know what it is about Canadians, but a handful of great Canadian expatriate musicians capture the essence of America better than most American groups. Think The Band. And Neil Young. Maybe it is something like de Tocqueville. It takes an outsider to really see who and what we are.

Neil Young follows one of Dez's cardinal rules of music on his new effort with his stalwart garage band, Crazy Horse. That is when you are going to cover a song, do something different with it. Don't simply try and recreate what was already done. It takes a certain boldness to take someone else's work and then twist it for your own purposes. I get so tired of artists who have so much reverence for the past that when they cover a classic blues or folk tune, they dare not stray far from scripture (yes, that means you, Mr. Clapton). Thank God for Neil Young. Neil has no such restraints.

These songs from our American canon need to live and breathe and evolve. This is a concept album of sorts, with Neil and Crazy Horse running American folk classics through the Horse grinder. They are loud, loose and vital versions. On several of the tracks Neil has written completely original music, while on others he tries to stay at least in the neighborhood of the original arrangements, albeit drenched in distortion. Some work better than others, but taken as a whole this is a record that should be treasured in a way. Now this being Crazy Horse, there is a certain sameness throughout, but it is a ragged, lumbering, beautiful sameness.

The record flows together as a piece, but highlights include the rolling opener "Oh Susannah," the extended workout on "Tom Dula," "Jesus' Chariot" (aka 'She'll be comin' around the mountain') is a real hoot, and Neil's arrangement for "High Flyin' Bird" is the most gripping of the record. I would recommend buying the CD or album as opposed to downloading it, because Neil's liner notes are fantastic and informative regarding the history of each of the tunes.

This is the third excellent Neil Young record in a row. I think we can say that he is back on track once again after a 15 year dip.

**** out of *****

ABOVE: Here's the video for "Jesus' Chariot"

ABOVE: I know I posted this video for "Oh Susannah" recently, but it is worth repeating

Friday, June 1, 2012

More Sting vs. Stew

Don't know why I enjoy fights between Sting and Stewart Copeland so much, but here's another infamous clip. The very 80's vibe of the whole clip is great, but go to about 3:30 in the clip and Sting and Stewart get into a wrestling match over a newspaper. Notice Andy, as usual, standing on the sidelines somewhere between bemused and bored. They are clearly playing around and having fun, but it gets pretty physical actually, and Sting got a cracked rib out of it.