13 May 2007

A Musical Interlude

The normal course of meatiocrity will resume in July. Until that time, I've decided to introduce a new and entirely non-satirical feature: 10-song playlists. The virtue of limiting the playlist to 10 songs is a subject for another time. The virtue of not intending this to include the ten best songs of all time is that I can come up with any number of different playlists, all with their own peculiarities.

Below are my current picks, with brief explanations as to why each is included and iTunes links when possible. I intend that this and each future playlist be listened to from beginning to end, and hope some of the songs will take on new meaning from their new context, either by surprising continuity or stark juxtaposition.

1) Better Git Hit In Your Soul — Mingus at Antibes, by Charles Mingus: I love Charles Mingus on the whole because he reinterpreted not only jazz music, but the way bassists play their instrument. This is what a gospel choir and a sweating preacher and a congregation of Amens sounds like as a jazz tune. On the live Antibes take, listen for Mingus' Hallelujahs and other shouts. Incidentally, John Coltrane recorded a concert at Antibes. You may remember it as "A Love Supreme."

2) Over the Hills and Far Away — Houses of the Holy, by Led Zeppelin: It's so great to hear the sound of an acoustic guitar driving a song by the band for whom the term "heavy metal" was coined. The overall structure of the tune is what gets me. I'm especially taken by the point in the bridge where the various lines click in together, as well as the subtle outro.

3) Dear Prudence — The White Album, by the Beatles: Paul McCartney was my first inspiration as a bass player, and I think Dear Prudence proves his ability. Against the repetitive rhythm guitar, McCartney provides a beautiful movement that is perfectly melodic while simultaneously maintaining a significant counter-rhythm.

4) Please — Pop, by U2: Pop, on the whole, got panned by lots of listeners as highly overproduced, even though it actually lacked many of the loops and effects present on Achtung Baby. Nevertheless, Bono's lyrics here are superb, Clayton's bass is probably at its best, everything is in its right place. The entire song speaks to the angst in the lyrics.

5) Cradle Rock — A New Day Yesterday, by Joe Bonamassa: Listen to the guitar. I mean, the rest of the band's good, but the guitar is why this tune's on the list. I especially like approximatley 2:30 in, just before the main riff returns, when Bonamassa repeats a line with a noticeable and delicious change of articulation.

6) Wading in the Velvet Sea — The Story of the Ghost, by Phish: In a different way, the reason here is the same as "Cradle Rock." listen in at the 2:30 minute mark for the guitar entrance. That tone! Plus, I like the lyrics, even though I'm not entirley sure what they mean.

7) Meadowlake Street — Cold Roses, by Ryan Adams & The Cardinals: My interest in Ryan Adams has waned of late, and this is far from my favorite of his tunes. However, the lengthy build that occurs is spectacular and lifts what would otherwise be a mundane idea to a whole new place. Also, there's a great fake-out where you expect the build, but the tension holds out incredibly longer.

8) Morning Bell — Kid A, by Radiohead: Just as "Meadowlake Street" is great for the movement of the song, "Morning Bell" is great for its relative stagnation. Everything speaks to the lived-with tension of a relationship failing violently (the subject of the lyrics), and the breaks, when Thom sings "release me," take on a heart-achingly ironic meaning.

9) On the Turning Away — A Momentary Lapse of Reason, by Pink Floyd: Nearly every 80's musical cliché seems to appear here: socially-minded lyrics, the synth pad, electric guitar on the bridge, reverb on the snare, a backing choir. Yet "On the Turning Away" hardly seems cliché. On one hand, it may critique the supposed social activism of other artists of the time and the previous decade in a subtle and cynical way. On the other hand, the closing minutes of the song, entirely instrumental, express musically what I can only describe as a seeming seriousness of self-reflection.

10) Naima — Giant Steps, John Coltrane:The song feels sparse and open despite the harmonic tension that builds opposite the ostinato bass. Scientists describe concise statements about science as elegant. Hemingway wrote a story consisting of six words.* Similarly, Coltrane has written the most elegant love song, probably ever. There is no superfluous note, interval, or rhythm, and every moment seems to speak the entirety of the song.



*"For sale: baby shoes, never worn."

1 comment:

SJ Austin said...

Nice call on "Velvet Sea." That solo entrance is one of the peaks of the entire album, and I agree completely about the lyrics. "Naima" is beauteous brilliance.

I'll have to give the Mingus song a listen...