Wednesday, 29 February 2012

One Hit Wonders

Speaking of singles, what would the world be without one hit wonders?

I mean, my iPod is mostly full of every-tune-ever-recorded by my favourite artists, but there sure were a lot of other people who came along, made me smile (still do, most of 'em), then disappeared.

And there were a lot: Tommy Tutone, Tony Joe White, The Equals, Dobie Gray, Baha Men, Edwin Star, The Left Bank, Blues Image, The Rembrants, Camper van Beethoven, Baltimora (ya, actually), The Records (well, blinked and you missed them, but I noticed), Dead or Alive, Free, Dream Academy, Bubble Puppy (sure you do), Rhinoceros, The Monks, The Standells, Kim Carnes, The Sweet ... on it goes.

Then there were the ones who maybe had more than one hit, but I didn't notice because only one of their songs crossed over into my reality: Salt N Peppa, Marrs, Lou Bega, Los del Rios.

Or the kind that were one hit wonders but they weren't really, like Status Quo, whose Pictures of Matchstick Men was big on this side of the Atlantic, but they had a million other hits in Britain.

Yes, and the ones that I wish had been one hit wonders: Frankie Goes To Hollywood, Thomas Dolby, America, April Wine.

Sorry, Mom, there I go again not being nice.

Anyway, here's to the one hit wonders. They make a nice diversion from the predictability we impose on ourselves.

Monday, 27 February 2012

Status: Single

Thank goodness for iTunes and other music download sites (not so much the ones where piracy prevails). Otherwise it would be hard to get a single.

Back in the dark ages, when vinyl was king, singles ruled. If you liked a song, you bought the single. You only bought an album if you were really a big fan or if you had confidence that most of the songs on the album would be just as good as the single.

I got burned more than a few times. Everyone did.

By the late 70's, when tape was king, singles had virtually disappeared. CD's put an end to the idea once and for all.

Don't know about you, but I started buying less. A whole CD for one song? No way. So if I liked a song, I waited for the next album/CD - and the next one and the next one and the next one after that. Assuming I remembered who was who and the band stayed together long enough to put out a greatest hits - and I still cared - eventually I would buy a CD knowing I was getting value for money.

That is, unless the record company ripped you off by inserting a live version of one of the songs to try and force you to by two CD’s.


So thank goodness you can now buy singles. You can always by the whole CD when you know - you know - you really like everything by the artist, but it's nice to get away from that "yuck-why-did-I-buy-this?" feeling.

Here's to singles!

Friday, 24 February 2012

This Note's For You

Q:  What does Steve Vai have in common with Neil Young?

A:  They play the same.

WTF?  Lightening fast, tone king, astonishing guitar god Vai plays like Neil Young?   Slow, meandering, slightly out of tune, always distorted, likes to solo over top of dirges, did-the-note-really-fit-there? Neil?

Sure.  Just like Neil plays like Jeff Beck and Eddie Van Halen and every shredder.

The only difference is speed.  They all meander.  They all choose weird notes.

Thing is chicks will get up and dance to Neil Young (or sing along).  And it's not just because he writes great songs and has a compelling (some might say fabulous, others would not) voice.  It's because his solos fit the song.  They move it a long.

I never listen to a Neil Young song without feeling both mesmerized and baffled.  I'm always thinkng:  Why am I so enthralled by this crappy solo?  How does he get away with it?  I know it's no good, so why am I listening so hard?

Because he's giving you just what the song needs.  Unlike the others mentioned above, he doesn't stand up and say, "Hey! look at this!"  I never listen to those guys without thinking:  Impressive, maybe, so what?  It's just not musical.

So diddle away, Neil.  I might not want to play your solos, but I know I can sing 'em = and they fit your great songs.

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

10 Greatest Dead Rock Stars

I gotta stop reading Rolling Stone.  This Top 10 Greatest Dead Rock Stars list is kinda morbid.

It's also utterly predictable.  Like, you would have come up with the same list - and the same sequence.  It would have been, dare I say it, dead easy.


Here's the list:
 1. John Lennon
 2. Jimi Hendrix
 3. Kurt Cobain
 4. Jim Morrison
 5. Elvis
 6. Freddie Mercury
 7. Janis Joplin
 8. George Harrsion
 9. John Bonham
10. Keith Moon

It would be interesting to see who numbers 11, 12 and 13 were.  25 years ago Buddy Holly would have made the list, as would Duanne Allman (not sure who else).  It's not surprising that Kurt Cobain, Freddie and George pushed them off the list.  But it does beg the question:  who on this list could be pushed off?  At this point, some of them are almost more famous for being dead than for being rock stars.

Better stop.  This is definitely morbid.

Monday, 20 February 2012

Top Guitar Riffs of All Time

Now here's a list that's not from Rolling Stone.  Gibson's Top 50 Guitar Riffs of All Time

It's a good list, a can't-dispute-it list.  Here's the Top 10:

 1. Satisfaction.  Easily the most recognizable riff in rock.
 2. Smoke On The Water.  The second most recognized riff.
 3. Whole Lotta Love.  See?  This is a pretty good list!
 4. Iron Man.  OK, well it is very recognizable - if just a tad lame.
 5. Back In Black.  You bet.
 6. Smells Like Teen Spirit.  Relentless and powerful.
 7. You Really Got Me.  Way ahead of its time.
 8. Day Tripper.  Trippy.  Bluesy.  Perfect rock 'n' roll.
 9. Walk This Way.  Not a huge Aerosmith fan, but it's kinda funky, eh?
10. Sunshine Of Your Love.  One of those I-don't-care-I-still-think-it's-cool songs.

I like this list!

Friday, 17 February 2012

Who's The Old Man?

Q:  Is this a running joke from A Hard Day's Night or a sick joke from the 2012 Grammy Awards?

Sadly, both.

Apparently the dominant Twitter chatter while Paul McCartney was on was, "who's that old guy?' and "who is Paul McCartney?"

So, it has come to this.  In a culture of 8 billion units, with individual playlists and nothing shared, people don't know one of the most influential musicians of all time.  And that, friends, is no culture, since culture is defined as customs and civilization of a particular time or people.  Not 8 billion persons.

Ironic that in a world dominated by social media and sharing, we have lost our shared culture.  I mean, I knew who Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby, Benny Goodman, Louis Armstrong, Rudy Vally and John Phillip Sousa were.  Sousa died when my grandfather was a child, but I still knew about him.  Paul is still alive and revered by your parents and grandparents Twitter people!

A sad reflection of our times, especially for one who has given - and continues to give - so much joy.

And he's very clean.

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Rolling Stone 500 Greatest Albums

Another of Rolling Stones lists: 500 Greatest Albums of All TimeThis one is more like it.

Here's the Top 25:

 1. Beatles, Sgt Pepper's.  Of course.
 2. Beach Boys, Pet Sounds.  Sheesh!  Maybe I spoke to soon.  What is all the fuss about?
 3. Beatles, Revolver.  That's more like it.
 4. Dylan, Highway 61 Revisited.  Nice.
 5. Beatles, Rubber Soul.  OK, 3 out of 5.  Maybe the universe is in harmony after all.
 6. Marvin Gaye, What's Going On.   Damn!  I keep speaking too soon.
 7. Stones, Exile On Main Street.  Well, one of them should have been Top 10.
 8. The Clash, London Calling.  Good call.
 9. Dylan, Blonde On Blonde.  No one else deserves a second Top 10.
10. Beatles, White.  40%.  Not bad.
11. Elvis, The Sun Session.  Hmmm.  Couldn't we swap with Marvin, please?
12. Miles David, Kind of Blue.  OK, sure.
13. The Velvet Underground, and Nico.  Whatever.
14. Beatles, Abbey Road.  Fine.  Look: I'm not greedy or anything.
15. Hendrix, Are You Experienced?  About right.
16. Dylan, Blood On The Tracks.  Yep.  Maybe swap with Blonde On Blonde?
17. Nirvanna, Nevermind.  No problem.
18. Springsteen, Born To Run.  Can't see how to place it any higher, but it should be.
19. Van Morrison, Astral Weeks.  Cool.
20. Michael Jackson, Thriller.  Fine, fine.
21. Chuck Berry, The Great 28.  Damn right.
22. John Lennon, Plastic Ono Band.  A pleasant surprise.
23. Stevie Wonder, Innervisions.  OK.
24. James Brown, Live At The Apollo.  Coulda been worse.
25. Feetwood Mac, Rumours.  Ya, it was kinda big wasn't it?

All in all, not much to argue with; just a couple of my usual mysteries that would have shocked had they been absent.

But ...
* The Stones Let It Bleed at #32 and Beggar's Banquet at #57 is not right.
* The Band's Music From Big Pink deserves to be higher than #33.
* AC/DC's Back In Black is way better than #73.
* John Lennon's Imagine is way too low at #76
* Ditto CSNY's Deja Vu at #148
* Double ditto Bonnie Raitt's Nick Of Time at #229

But ...
* At least Billy Joel's The Stranger came no higher than #67
* Abba's Greatest Hits didn't slap my face until #180

Curious Queen's A Night At The Opera only made #230.  Maybe the list makers are all tired of hearing Bohemain Rhapsody on the radio too?

Sunday, 12 February 2012

Rolling Stone 100 Greatest Artists

The Rolling Stone 100 Greatest Artists list is a little closer to good enough.  A little.

Here's the Top 25:
 1. The Beatles.  Correct.
 2. Bob Dylan.  Good.
 3. Elvis.  Sure.
 4. Rolling Stones.  Lookin' pretty good so far ...
 5. Chuck Berry.  Man, they're gettin' this about right!
 6. Jimi Hendrix.  Can't argue there!
 7. James Brown.  Sigh.  Just too good to last, I suppose.
 8. Little Richard.  Curious, but nice.
 9. Aretha Franklin.  Surprisingly low, no?
10. Ray Charles.  Sure.
11. Bob Marley.  Ya mon!
12. Beach Boys.  Inevitable, I guess.
13. Buddy Holly.  Good.
14. Led Zeppelin.  Yep.
15. Stevie Wonder.  OK, fine.
16. Sam Cooke.  Higher, I think.
17. Muddy Waters.  OK, these people do know what they're doin'.
18. Marvin Gaye.  Ya, maybe, 'cause I feared higher here.
19. Velvet Underground.  Oh for cripesakes, why this enduring lie?
20. Bo Diddley.  Alright, the list-makers have redeemed themselves.
21. Otis Redding.  OK, OK.
22. U2.  Yes.
23. Bruce Springsteen.  No.  Top 10.
24. Jerry Lee Lewis.  Ya, I get it.
25. Fats Domino.  Not sure I do.

So this is artists here.  We're not talking just playing, singing, writing or performing, right?  But all the above.  And influence and impact and all that, right?

Therefore Howlin' Wolf is not #51.  And Clapton at #53 is crazy.  And how can James Taylor be only #84?  How can Booker T be all the way down at #93, when he backed up, inspired or otherwise impacted half the list above him?  And Tom Petty is absent from the list?

Thanks for keeping Aerosmith in the bottom half, though (#57).

Now, can someone explain to me where they sold that koolaid that made you think the Velvet Underground were so freakin' cool?  'cause I never drank that stuff, brother, never a sip.

Friday, 10 February 2012

Rolling Stone Top 100 Singers

Rolling Stone has all these lists, including The 100 Greatest Singers of All Time.

Like most of these things, the list feels way too U.S. centric.  That said, it's mostly OK, I guess.

Here's the Top 25:
 1. Aretha Franklin.  Hard to argue.
 2. Ray Charles.  OK.
 3. Elvis.  Hmmm  ...   not number 1?
 4. Sam Cooke.  As expected.
 5. John Lennon.  Nope.  #1.
 6. Marvin Gaye.  I guess so.
 7. Dylan.  Interesting he made the Top 10.  Make that shocking.  I'm happy and all, but ...
 8. Otis Redding.  Fine, whatever.
 9. Stevie Wonder.  Sheesh.
10. James Brown.  Sigh.
11. Paul McCartney.  A spot out of the Top 10 is just not right.
12. Little Richard.  Sure.
13. Roy Orbison.  Absolutely.
14. Al Green.  Yes.
15. Robert Plant.  About right.
16. Mick Jagger.  About wrong.  Much higher.
17. Tina Turner.  Not surprised.
18. Freddie Mercury.  Surprised he made it this high, but he should be higher.
19. Bob Marley.  Thank you.
20. Smokey Robinson.  Swap with Marvin or Otis, please.
21. Johnny Cash.  You bet.
22. Etta James.  And give either Marvin's or Otis's position to Etta.
23. David Bowie.  Nice.
24. Van Morrison.  A relief.
25. Michael Jackson. Well, it's Michael Jackson, right?

Some other notables (well, OK, beefs):
31. Howlin' Wolf.  Glad he made the Top 100, but ...
36. Bruce Springsteen.  Should be way higher.
38. Elton John.  I'm grateful - really - that he didn't land higher, but ...
50. Bonnie Raitt.  Always under-rated.  Not fair.
61. Roger Daltrey.  Not bothered either way, but surprised he wasn't higher.
72. John Fogerty.  Not high enough, especially given his impact.
74. James Taylor.  No way.  Definitely Top 10.
81. John Lee Hooker.  Best blues voice ever.  Higher, please.  Much higher.
93. Annie Lennox.  Shockingly low.
96. B.B. King.  Maybe take back what I said about Hooker?

On balance, the classic Soul singers beat out the rockers, and the Americans beat out the Brits.  Not surprised, I guess, but ...

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Rolling Stone Top 100 Guitarists

Rolling Stone has this list of The 100 Greatest Guitarists.  Interesting, even if it's, like, way wrong.

OK, maybe not totally wrong.  Here's the Top 25:
 1. Hendrix.  Hard to argue, but his brilliance was inconsistent.
 2. Duanne Allman.  I've had this lifelong challenge to understand the big fuss.  Sorry.
 3. B.B. King.  Sure.
 4. Eric Clapton.  No problem.  Well, yes, actually.  Number 1.
 5. Robert Johnson.  Yes.
 6. Chuck Berry.  Definitely.
 7. Stevie Ray Vaughan.  OK.  Should be higher, but at least they put him in the top 10.
 8. Ry Cooder.  Pleasant surprise.
 9. Jimmy Page.  I guess so.  I mean, he's important and all that.
10. Keith Richards.  Amen.
11. Kirk Hammett.  Whatever.
12. Kurt Colbain.  Seriously?  Like, is skill not a criterion?
13. Jerry Garcia.  Another of life's great mysteries.
14. Jeff Beck.  To be expected, I guess.
15. Santana.  Could have been worse.  Could have been higher.
16. Johnny Ramone.  Come on!  If you're talking about influence, then where is T-Bone Walker?
17. Jack White.  OK.
18. John Frusciante.  Yes.
19. Richard Thompson.  Whatever.
20. James Burton.  Yes.
21. George Harrison.  I rank him much higher, but am relieved he made the top 25.
22. Mike Bloomfield.  For sure.
23. Warren Haynes.
24. The Edge.  Interesting.  One unique cat, that's for sure.
25. Freddy King.  Yes.  Hugely influential.  But him and T-Bone lower than Ramone?

Overall it could have been worse.  But ...
Mark Knopfler only at #27?  Stephen Stills on the list at all?  For electric?  The write up specifically mentioned electric.  I thought the list was meant to be taken seriously.

Steve Cropper, Bo Diddley, Peter Green and Scotty Moore are all too far down the list.  Ritchie Blackmore is obscenely far down the list.  Ditto Johnny Winter.  And David Gilmour at #82 and Angus Young at #96?  Forget it.  That's just wrong.

Where is Bonnie Raitt?  Where is Mike Campbell?  Where the hell is Albert King?

It could have been worse.  At least Tony Iommi and Van Halen are in the bottom half of the list.  I'll count my blessings.

Now, about Jimi versus Eric ...More  

Monday, 6 February 2012

What A Concept

Gibson has another list, this one of the Top 10 Concept Albums.

I guess it's no surprise that Dark Side of the Moon or Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band are on there, maybe just the positions.  They certainly were the biggest selling ones on the list.

Can't say I've ever heard of Southern Rock Opera, though.

And speaking of rock opera's, how does Tommy get on the list?  Isn't there a difference between a concept album and a rock opera?  Maybe that particular pretention (opera) is just going too far.  After all, not many artists had the nerve (probably a good thing).

So, on second thought, Tommy does belong there.  The list is already pretty weak, so blurring the distinction and including rock operas under concept albums is probably a good idea.

Confession:  I'm not disappointed that The Wall was excluded.  It might have some of Pink Floyd's best tracks on it, but it also has some of their most unlistenable rubbish.

Confession #2:  I'm secretly glad to see Thick As A Brick did so well.

Friday, 3 February 2012

Gibson's Top 50 Guitar Solos

Gibson published a list of Top 50 Guitar Solos, and so here we go on another list.

Hard to quarrel with most of the top 10 songs.  You could fuss with the order, but it's mostly right.  Bohemian Rhapsody, While My Guitar Gently Weeps, Comfortably Numb, Hotel California, All Along The Watchtower and Stairway To Heaven all belong up there.

As the review states, though, Johnny B. Goode sets the path for everything else that follows, so it would be my #1.

Should Be Higher
Whole Lotta Love - one of Page's better efforts at fitting in with the song
Crossroads - #30?  Really?
The End - terrific trading between three guys who were the best at everything except being guitar gods, but showed they weren't to shabby at that role either

Should Be Lower
All Slash and Randy Rhoads work.  I mean, they're good, but  ...
Like a Hurricane - Neil Young beats Stevie Ray Vaughan?  Mark Knopfler?  Hendrix?  Clapton?
Layla - great tune, but Clapton has done dozens of solos better than this
Free Bird - don't get it.  Never did.  Never will.
Eruption - Van Halen's solo is technical prowess, not music
Heartbreaker - this nonsensical solo demonstrates why Page is only a minor deity in the pantheon of guitar gods

Thank You
No Santana or Vai.

Interesting list.  I would have had a few more on there from SRV, Knopfler, Clapton, Gilmour and Young.  But I missed the poll.

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Where The Shadows Run From Themselves

Back, as they say, in the day, the great who's-the-best-guitarist debate centred around Clapton, Hendrix, Page and Beck.  Similarly, the who's-the-best-band debate centred around Cream, Hendrix, and Led Zeppelin (no one seriously considered Beck in the band category, now did they?).

The Beatles, by the way, where not part of the discussion.  You either set them above such trivial discussion (as I did), or you discounted them as has-been pop artists - which is hilarious.

By the way #2, many people included Ritchie Blackmore and Deep Purple in the debates, but not enough, sadly.

Anyway, I chose Clapton and Cream.  I've already covered that in my mind Clapton was more versatile and way more musical than his rivals.

With Cream, though, it's a different story.  To be sure, the guitar work was a big part of it, as was the fact that Hendrix's bizarreness sometimes neutralized his flashes of astonishing genius.  And Page's questionable taste sometimes took away from his unparalleled talent for both riffs / hooks and production.  While Clapton was #1 primarily because of his work, he was also the last man standing.

But it was more than the guitars.  Plant was arguably a better singer than Jack Bruce, and Hendrix was probably a better songwriter, but there was something about Cream's sound, it's feel, it's impact that was more appealing to me.

The balanced talent was part of it, the constant jousting, the co-operative competition, yes.

Maybe it was the heavier blues influence.  In these heady days before we were overtaken by labels, all three bands could be trippy in a psychedelic way.  All three could do hard driving rock.  All three contributed to the births of heavy metal and classic rock.  And all did the blues just fine, thank you very much.

But Cream was darker, more soulful, maybe more vulnerable.  They touched a deeper nerve, a raw spot, a menacing feeling that could not be named  ...

Oh, I don't know.  I just liked them better.  Too bad they lasted the shortest length of time.