Tuesday, September 29, 2009

(#10) The Song(s) Remain the Same

Five of my favorite songs, in no particular order. In interest of fairness, I'm only using one song per artist.

1. "Ain't No More Cane" by The Band
I don't think I can even pick a favorite Band song, but this is as good a place as any to start. It captures the spirit of the band perfectly, with its weird timelessness and the feeling of a ragged communion between all the members. The verses are divided between everyone but Garth, but the shared choruses are all-for-one. Besides the stellar vocals (Rick's "ooohs" are particularly great, with his soaring, quavery voice), my favorite part of the song has to be Richard's drumming. I don't know if all piano players have some kind of innate sense of funk or what, but I love songs where Richard drums ("Rag Mama Rag," "Jemima Surrender," "Don't Ya Tell Henry," "Evangeline," etc.). You can't separate The Band into individual parts, though. When one is missing, it's just not The Band. When they're all working together, it's pure magic.

2. "My Generation" by The Who
The Who, to me, means a lot of exclamation points. Explosive! Loud! Brilliant! Raw! The Who! Townshend's written a million great songs, and I don't even know if this one's my favorite Who song, but it's definitely up there. It sums the band up rather well to me. There's Moon beating the hell out of the drums, Roger singing his heart out, Pete doing his thing, and John's amazing bass solo (those are always a high point of Who songs for me). I feel like this mixture of defiance and talent is what's made the band so loved over three generations. If you haven't seen their performance on The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour, shown in The Kids Are Alright, you should do so as soon as possible.

3. "Kashmir" by Led Zeppelin
I dig a lot of Zeppelin, but this one stands out to me particularly. You've got the strings and horns, not to mention the four members at the center of it. Middle Eastern music always fascinates me, and "Kashmir"'s got this exotic vibe to it. Robert Plant is not always my favorite vocalist, but he nails it here (as he does on pretty much everything; just because he's not my fave doesn't mean boy can't sing).
"Like Shangri-La beneath the summer moon, I will return again." Sigh.

4. "He Can Only Hold Her" by Amy Winehouse
I love me some Amy. If you've heard Back to Black in its entirety, you can never again judge her solely on her (undeniably unwise) life choices. Her jazzy blues-soaked vocals are such a welcome relief from today's auto-tuned "singers" who are more parts plastic than actual flesh. All of the songs on this album convey genuine emotion, and her voice on this song in particular, about a girl unable to get over her former lover even though she's with another man (yes, it sounds soap opera-y written out like that, but trust me on this) is so beautiful to me.

5. "Blackbird" by The Beatles
The quiet simplicity of this is just so beautiful. Paul had the civil rights movement in mind when he wrote it, which makes it all the more meaningful. The intricacy of the guitar part and the birdsong at the end, and Paul's fabulous singing...ah. It's just perfect.

Obviously, I am no music writer. But I kind of like doing this and probably will include more posts along this line, as there is in no way this is a good representation of all the fantastic music out there, and really isn't even a good representation of my top hundred.


  1. The Band, The Who, Led Zeppelin, The Beatles -- The essence of my being!

    Your use of words was great (keep writing!) and this is an awesome selection, xo.