Archive for October, 2009

Winter (U2)

Here’s another example of a great, obscure song from a well known band. In my opinion, U2’s “No Line on the Horizon” is their strongest and most adventurous album since “Achtung Baby,” and I drone on about that in my long-winded review. “Winter” was initially slated to be included on “No Line,” I assume in place of “I’ll Go Crazy If I Don’t Go Crazy Tonight,” but was replaced late in the game. But in the Limited Box Set, it appears on the bonus DVD’s Anton Corbijn film, “Linear” (where “I’ll Go Crazy” is excluded, hence my theory).

Rumors are that it’ll be released on their next album, “Songs of Ascent,” but we’ve heard similar rumors about the even more obscure (and also terrific) “Mercy,” from the “How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb” outtakes, and that never saw the light of day; at least not yet.

So, what makes this song magic? It takes me back to some of the most atmospheric music that U2 ever produced, 20 to 25 years ago. It proves once again that U2 can still come up with something imaginative, and avoid the commercialism some of their most recent material can sometimes feel like. If “Songs of Ascent” lives up to the promise of “Winter,” it would have the potential of being a huge older fan hit, if not a commercial success. And if they quickly release this (say, in 2010), it could hold up as well as their last “in-between” release, “Zooropa“.

You can listen to it streamed here.

Here’s the video from the Anton Corbijn film, “Linear”:

If you’re a fan of the 1979 movie, “The Warriors“, then you’ll likely know this song. Joe Walsh was a key member for the Eagles back in the late 1970s, and was a major influence on their hugely successful “Hotel California” release in late 1976 (another album with a magical obscure song I’ll discuss in the future). But it was “In the City”, which he wrote and performed specifically for the movie, which I consider a classic, yet relatively obscure song.

The Eagles then re-released the song under their name, in a more polished version, for the “The Long Run” album. But I’ll always consider this the real version. It fit the closing credits of this comic-book style, cult classic movie perfectly.

In 1994, Heather Nova’s album “Oyster” helped me get through one my most difficult times. It was our first year in suburbia, and the culture shock was much more than we expected. Oyster is a very dark and emotional album, but “Truth and Bone” was one of the most upbeat songs on the album, at least musically.

At one time, Heather’s music was really edgy, and the way I feel about it, her earlier material is her strongest because of it. She’s still making albums today, and some of it is great stuff, and overall more mellow, but it doesn’t push the envelope as much anymore. Still, her early stuff is absolutely wonderful (she did have a couple of minor hits from her “Siren” album), although it can take repeated listening to really appreciate. “Truth and Bone” is one of her most accessible tracks, but it is gorgeous, and a great introduction to her talent.

The entire “Oyster” album is such a significant and unappreciated gem, that I just have to write about it one day.

A beautiful live performance:

The official video from the more mainstream (but still great) single version:

Outside (Tribe)

In 1991, the most famous band in the world since the 1980s released what many believe is their best album to date — U2’s Achtung Baby. And although my favorite all-time band is U2, there was one album I liked even more in 1991. And almost nobody knows about this Boston band. And that’s a damn shame.

The name of the band is Tribe, and the album I’m referring to is “Abort”.

As I said, nobody knew who they “were”, but many people from a generation later do know who they now are. Well, at least half the band, and perhaps not AS the band. They were the founders of the Guitar Hero video game. And my favorite song from this awesome album, “Outside”, is a very popular song in the Rock Band video game. The inclusion is obviously a nod to its great guitar work. Although Tribe never really got their due, the inclusion of “Outside” in the game sort of makes up for it, to a point. But I wonder how many people realize that the band who recorded “Outside” are the founders of Guitar Hero?

And I wonder if the breakup of the band turned out to be a good thing. After all, they became a lot more successful because they had to do something else. Well, at least half of the band did. At the same time, if they had ever gotten the chance to release a third album, they could have been huge. They were that good. But we’ll never know, will we?

Original version from the “Here at the Home” album, and featured in Rock Band:

More polished version from the “Abort” album (and the one I fell in love with):

The Cars were a pioneer of the “new wave” movement of the late 1970’s, with edgy, synthesize-based melodic rock, and has always been a huge, huge favorite of mine. They were one of the many great bands originating from Boston (makes sense, being such a great college town). But there’s a relatively unheralded track from their famous debut album which I think never really got its due.

“All Mixed Up” is what I consider the definitive Benjamin Orr emotive track, which foreshadowed some of this late singer’s great vocals from later, more popular Cars tracks, such as “Drive”, and “It’s All I Can Do”. It’s truly a magical moment in their catalog. But it got obscured by “Moving In Stereo”, which fades straight into it, and became ultra popular due to “Fast Times at Ridgemont High” (great movie, by the way; they don’t make teen movies like that anymore).

Fury in the Slaughterhouse is a German band, led by two brothers, more popular in the UK than in the US. They’ve been mentioned as the “U2 of Germany”, but it seems that many bands have been called the “U2 of this, or of that, or they were inspired by U2”, etc. Hey, U2 is my favorite band, but it’s not a fair yardstick for most other bands.

They had one truly commercially successful album back in 1994 — “Mono”, which is an excellent album overall. But easily the standout track of this album, and of their entire career, was this one — “Every Generation Got Its Own Disease”. It may not appear “magical,” especially in light of its dark lyrics, but the music is infectious, and it has stood the test of time for me.

I’ve constantly gone back for “another listen” over the past 15 years, and love playing the guitar to this rhythmic, driving song. This is one of songs which reach its peak in a powerful fadeout, and makes you hope it never ends. You won’t experience this as well in the single version, featured in the video, so I strongly recommend the full album version.

I only went to a NYC college (Baruch) for one semester, before transferring. Well, I did go back a couple of part time semesters to Pace, years later. But that first semester had a major impact on my life and my love for NYC.

I immediately took to the Felicity TV series (created by the now famous J.J Abrams), mainly because of its NYC college setting and atmosphere. There are several songs which, for me, have a NYC college air to it. “Puddle of Grace” by the former Pink Power Ranger and co-star of the first few seasons of Felicity, Amy Jo Johnson, is one of them.

I believe it was season three, shortly before she initially left the series, where she got to play her own song in an episode in a pub performance. I’ve always loved the music featured in Felicity, but this one was really special.

If you want to find the original studio recording of the song, it’s available on the first Felicity soundtrack album:

For just an MP3 of a live performance, from her “Imperfect” live album:

For a listen to the original studio recording: