Saturday, June 28, 2008

Back of your head

A quick note, because I know nothing about the album other than it exists, comes after Hard Nose, and is from the seventies.

But what makes me smile a little every time is the fact that I subconsciously know every song on Van Morisson's Veedon Fleece without ever having put the album on. It's one of the albums that I've just heard my entire life, played from my parent's various stereos since I was born.

But really, I don't know the song titles very well, I couldn't hum it to you if you asked, but if it comes on shuffle or what have you, I'll know it instantly. It's a great thing. Another one of those little "ahh, music" moments.

In terms of familiarity, though, there's one exception to the album, and that's the fact that one of my favorite songs of all time is on it.

Linden Arlen Stole the Highlights is one of my favorite all time songs. I am tempted to put the lyrics up here, but that'd ruin the surprise (but honestly, they "get" me every time, still). Needless to say, I'm putting emphasis on the words because of all the genre of "story songs," I think this is the best. And that's not even talking about the delivery!

Van the Man. Oh, my boy.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

David Bowie, Part II.

Yes, I've put up a top 5 of Bowie already,
but it was just a first top five, I mean, my Best of Bowie mix is 60 songs long! There are around 560 songs in my actual Bowie playlist, so imagine how difficult it was to cut out the other 500.

Well, in some cases, it wasn't hard. His cover of God Only Knows certainly isn't going on there, neither would most of Never Let Me Down (but I'm not too opposed to it), and I had a rule of no Tin Machine (but i would have put You Belong In Rock N Roll on there in a heartbeat). But still, he's got, what, 25 albums? Yes, i've said it before, but every time i listen to Bowie, I wish he had finished the inevitable trilogy of the early 00's.

Anyways, here are the next top 5 Bowie songs, to constitute a top 10, I imagine.

1. Red Sails (from Lodger)

The "Berlin" Trilogy (only Heroes was made in Berlin, natch) is noted for it's ground breaking, genre bending oddities. But what is truly the most fun about a lot of the trilogy is just how darn Goofy it can be! Lodger hold the most ridiculousness, and while some of it can be grating (Yassassin, I'm looking at youuuu), Red Sails proves that he can stretch his pleated pants over odd and catchy, and still retain a bit of the ground breakingness that permeated Low and Heroes. Granted, Lodger wasn't as Neumusik night and day, but Lodger has a different motive, that being a certain travel. The idea of travel suits Bowie well, being such a "chameleon" and all, and a lot of the songs have a gait to them. Move On sounds like it's on a train, Look Back In Anger sounds like a hard run, and Yassassin sounds like a jazz-handed sprint. Red Sails is a montage of sleek jets throughout time, and speed of sounds to the hinterland on a hoverboat dressed like Pierrot.

2. Memory of A Free Festival Parts One and Two, a single from Space Oddity.

There was a time when I was obsessed with finding as many songs as I could that had an ending like Hey Jude, with that kind of chord changes, and the whole rave-up quality. There are quite a few of those kind of songs, and they're often at the end of an album. Memory of A Free Festival is probably my favorite of these songs, maybe because of it's unabashed happiness. Young Bowie is painting a picture of a wonderful day, with all his friends, with free love, and at the end, they all gather around and apparently have the best trip ever, because, after all, "the sun machine is coming down, and we're gonna have a party."

Woah-ho-ho, indeed.

3. Space Oddity (1979 New Version)

Bowie did the first look back in his career when Scary Monsters came around. Not only did he resurrect the supposed first song he ever wrote (Tired of my life turned into It's No Game, more or less), he continued the story of his second most famous character, Major Tom (Ashes to Ashes). I can't say what prompted him to more or less cover his own song, but this new version of Space Oddity beats the original to a bloody pulp. This version is sparse and rife with between the lines anguish. Bowie's reading of the song seems like he's forcing himself to stand up at the mic and deliver the song, but the music behind it tells the real story. At the "lift-off" part of the song, usually full of weird noises goofily mimicking real space travel, the new version is completely silent. And not for a short amount of time, it's at least 15 seconds of pure silence, and it seems like it stretches on for hours. When the song kicks back in, the amount of relief you feel is the most masterful manipulation music can give you. At the end of the song, the outro stretches on and on, and it isn't that hard to imagine it going on forever, just like Major Tom, floating endlessly in space.

4. I Have Not Been To Oxford Town, from 1.Outside.

1.Outside is often insulted and placed in the lump of 90's Bowie, which for most people is almost as hard to listen to as 80's Bowie. The problem people give is that Bowie is "trying to hard," which I disagree with, as he'd learned his lesson not to do that with Never Let Me Down. Instead, he's pushing himself, trying new things to keep it interesting, have fun maybe. I feel like all of Bowie's 90's work can be summed up with the Outside song A Small Plot of Land, a free jazzy improv epic, which surely would have felt like a release for the parts of Bowie who don't want to embrace the single format.

Yet while people say that 1.Outside never embraced the pop single format, they're wrong, because right in the middle of the non-linear gothic drama hyper-cycle is I Have Not Been To Oxford Town, a wonderful song with a great hook and no over the top accompaniment. It's simple, and very pretty.

5. This List Is Impossible To Make, I Love David Bowie Too Much, But I Guess If I Really Have To I Will Pick "Lady Grinning Soul," Because I Love This One A Lot, but like others a lot, too.

I have no idea why Bowie has never performed this live. That's pretty much all I have to say about this song, because it's breathtaking beauty stands alone.

Here's what Bowie said about it: "A song will put you tantalisingly close to the past, so close that you can almost reach out and touch it. The sound of ghosts again."


BONUS CUT: Without You, from Let's Dance. The lost fourth-single. It's not lost, it just got ignored after the big punches of Let's Dance, China Girl, and Modern Love. But Without You is the real Bowie song, with David singing sweetly, yet powerfully, of love's near defeat (it ends happily).

Oh, and don't forget this.