Songs You May Have Missed #139


The Redwalls: “Thank You” (2005)

Another song which possesses a degree of that power ballad magic, the Redwalls’ soulful “Thank You”. You can hear the muscles they aren’t flexing here.

I really like this band’s look, and was surprised to see they were from Chicago. Their Stones-inflected licks and snarled, Lennonesque vocals had me assuming they were British.

To Paris Hilton: Don’t Quit Your Day Job (…What IS Your Day Job?)

(Source: Spinner)

Everyone’s favorite socialite screw-up, Paris Hilton, has conquered reality television, acting and homemade porn — now she’s trying her hand at DJing. And boy, is it going so well! (I kid! I kid!)

In the words of Mixmag, the auditory “car crash” took place at the Pop Music Festival in Sao Paulo, Brazil where Hilton blasted an unsuspecting audience with juiced-up top ten’ers.

Let’s be honest here: Several mistakes were made. To start, during Gotye’s “Somebody I Used to Know,” the DJ-in-training accidentally shifts the pitch of the song, giving the mix a warble like a warped vinyl record.

Secondly, you’ll notice that the show’s smoke machine and pyrotechnics seem louder than the, erm, performer’s set. Despite her onstage “help,” it looks like Hilton could’ve turned up the volume.

But the best part of the evening is Paris’ failed attempt at playing her new single “Last Night.” Instead of blasting Brazil with her Afrojack cut, the “DJ” mistakenly cues Rihanna’s “We Found Love.” To make matters worse, she tries to sing her track over the top.


Songs You May Have Missed #138


Aerosmith: “You See Me Crying” (1975)

The phrase “power ballad” means something different to everyone who hears or uses it. For me the term is inescapably accurate for describing a type of music that holds an undeniable fascinating and appeal for me. The next several songs I’ll share have the traits I consider this type of song to possess.

They would include something I can only describe as a latent-sounding power, a feeling of something held in reserve. Perhaps a lead vocal sung in a voice that’s clearly built for screaming rather than cooing to an audience. Or a mix that’s a little heavier on the drums or bass than the producer of a ballad-singing artist would have thought appropriate. And an overall rough-edged sound that gives you the feeling you’re hearing a band in a tender moment, but that it’s clearly a band who doesn’t often have tender moments–giving the song, of course, more “power”. “You See Me Crying”, from Aerosmith’s 1975 Toys in the Attic LP fits my definition at least of the term “power ballad” perfectly.

I must digress for a moment to say that Toys… is far and away Aerosmith’s greatest moment as a band. Not only does the album contain classics “Walk This Way” and “Sweet Emotion” but it’s loaded with great album cuts like “Adam’s Apple”, “No More No More”, title track “Toys in the Attic” and their cover of boogie-woogie blues chestnut “Big Ten Inch Record”, which surely would have been covered by David Lee Roth, with or without Van Halen, had Aerosmith not beat him to it.

“You See Me Crying” is the perfect closer to this classic album, and a nice contrast to everything that precedes it. Joining the melancholy piano figure opening the track are a pair of woodwinds–an oboe, of all things!–and Steven Tyler’s ragged voice is nicely offset by a gradually swelling orchestral arrangement.

Alice Cooper’s “Only Women Bleed”, which was released as a single in the same month of April ’75 and was the shock rocker’s first foray into power ballad territory, uses an almost identical formula. If you haven’t heard it recently, listen again to its breathtaking arrangement, which beautifully incorporates horns and strings alongside traditional rock guitar/bass/drums for maximum emotional impact. It’s a true rock masterpiece–perhaps the greatest “power ballad” of them all.

See also:

Songs You May Have Missed #137


Frank Zappa: “Sexual Harrassment in the Workplace” (1988)

Zappa’s freaky side is well known even to the non-fan. But his versatility as a guitarist is an often overlooked facet of his artistry. Here he plays it straight on an instrumental blues solo. If you didn’t know who it was and had to guess, how many rockers would you have named before Zappa?

Songs You May Have Missed #136


Sagittarius: “My World Fell Down” (1967)

This song, whose harmonies and complex arrangement split the difference between the Mamas & the Papas, the Beach Boys and perhaps the Cowsills, certainly sounds like a top ten hit from 1967. And probably only the trippy sound collage and organ/vocal break (from 1:50 and 2:50) held it back. Strangely, only the single version of the song (see below video) contains this 60-second bit of psychedelia, while the more straightforward, sub-3:00 LP version included here probably would have been a top ten hit as the single.

Still, you can’t fault ambition, even at the cost of a gold record, right? As it was, the song still charted, but only rose to #70 nationally. I’m guessing it did somewhat better in San Francisco than Peoria.

Sagittarius was a trio comprised of Beach Boy Bruce Johnston, Beach Boy collaborator (and co-writer of “In My Room”) Gary Usher, and, believe it or not, Glen Campbell (that’s him on lead vocals). The influence of producer and studio genius Curt Boettcher, whose work with the Association helped define the sixties’ sunshine pop sound, is also evident in the vocal mix.

Johnston, incidentally, was Glen Campbell’s replacement in the Beach Boys. He also wrote what became Barry Manilow’s signature tune, “I Write the Songs”, which he is said to have written about Brian Wilson.

Songs You May Have Missed #135


Band of Horses: “No One’s Gonna Love You” (2007)

A beautifully melodic track from the band’s 2007 breakthrough Cease to Begin album. This song was covered by Cee Lo Green on his 2010 Lady Killer LP, and Band of Horses returned the favor by covering Cee Lo’s “Georgia”.

See also:

Bob Welch’s Missing Music: The Fleetwood Mac Years

(reprinted from Rolling Stone)

Bob Welch

by David Fricke

After ex-Fleetwood Mac singer-guitarist Bob Welch died  on June 7th, by his own hand at his home in Nashville, his boss in the early  Seventies, drummer and Mac co-founder Mick Fleetwood, paid tribute to Welch and  his time in the group. “He was a huge part of our history which sometimes gets  forgotten,” Fleetwood said  in a statement. “If you look into our musical history, you’ll see a huge  period that was completely ensconced in Bob’s work.”

Ironically, in the digital-music era, it isn’t easy to hear that  work. The five studio albums Welch made with Fleetwood Mac – Future  Games (1971), Bare Trees (1972), Penguin and Mystery  to Me (both 1973) and Heroes Are Hard to Find (1974) – are still  in print on CD but not available on Spotify or iTunes. Welch had a Top Ten solo  hit in 1977 with a remake of Bare Trees‘ “Sentimental Lady,” and he  returned to his Mac book in the last decade, cutting new versions of his songs  from that period on records such as 2006’s Greatest Hits and More. But  the “history,” as Fleetwood put it, is elusive without reason.

Out of Blues, Into Pop

Born in Los Angeles, the son of a film producer and screenwriter, Welch was  playing with a band in Paris when he was recommended by a mutual friend to what  was left of Fleetwood Mac in 1971 – Fleetwood, guitarist Danny Kirwan, bassist  John McVie and his wife, singer-pianist Christine McVie. Welch joined a group  shedding its electric-blues origins after the departures of original guitarists  Peter Green and Jeremy Spencer. Future Games and Bare Trees  were dominated by Kirwan’s haunted ballads and instrumental facility, with  Christine sweetening the suspense with the R&B-flavored romanticism of her  straightforward love songs. Welch, in turn, brought an L.A. polish and smart-pop  delicacy that bloomed in his quietly epic title song for Future Games and his misty-treble  guitar interplay with Kirwan, especially on that album’s opener “Woman of a Thousand Years.”

I prefer the original “Sentimental Lady” on Bare Trees – it is warmer and  more intimate, in its arrangement and Welch’s high fragile vocal, than his later  AOR interpretation. He didn’t write anything as strong for Penguin, a  transitional mess of pop, electric R&B and further personnel changes. Kirwan – suffering from alcoholism, becoming distant and combative – was fired and  replaced with two new Britons, lead guitarist Bob Weston and ex-Savoy Brown  vocalist Dave Walker. Slimmed back to five after Walker got canned, Fleetwood  Mac quickly made Mystery to Me, well-produced but bland, with an astonishingly bad cover (a garish painting of a crying  gorilla eating a cake) and a striking exception to the general mood in Welch’s  “Hypnotized.”

The best song Welch ever gave the Mac, “Hypnotized” was urgent noir propelled  by a shuffling mix of guitars and McVie’s electric-piano understatement, with  Welch singing in a sleepwalking cadence like a Raymond Chandler detective musing  to himself in a late-night rain. There was one other diamond on Mystery, at the very end: Christine’s aching ballad “Why,” with its oddly affecting blend of bottleneck guitar  and cocktail-piano reverie. It was a hint of the pop-with-twists that would soon  tranform Fleetwood Mac, and its fortunes, with the arrival of Stevie Nicks and  Lindsay Buckingham.

A Heroic Legacy

Back down to a quartet after Weston’s departure, Fleetwood Mac was, briefly,  Welch’s vehicle on Heroes Are Hard to Find – he wrote all but three  songs on the record, the band’s first Top 40 album and a durable, appealing  bridge to the next era. “She’s Changing Me” was sparkling, upbeat folk-rock,  while Welch paid tribute to Peter Green’s progressive-blues vision in the  first-period Mac with the final track “Safe Harbor.” Ironically, Welch’s exit  after Heroes opened the way for Buckingham and Nicks and the long  eclipse of his own contributions to the band and its survival in its most dire  years. (There was more fallout later; Welch sued Fleetwood and the McVies in  1994 over royalties from these five albums. The suit was settled in 1996.)

But Welch, who was not included in Fleetwood Mac’s 1998 induction into the  Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, was a vital member of the band when that was one of  the toughest gigs in rock. His music and history with the Mac are an imperfect  legacy. But it is one that should be available everywhere – and heard.

Heroes Are Hard to Find   Bare Trees Mystery to Me  Penguin

Songs You May Have Missed #134


Colin Hay: “Beautiful World” (2001)

He had me at “…or a woman if you are one”.

Songs You May Have Missed #133


Van Morrison: “Precious Time” (1999)

Van channels his 70’s self to make a really depressing subject sound really cheerful.


funny graphs

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