Thursday, March 09, 2006

Random 10: A Lot Like Me

I'm posting this Random 10 a few hours before Friday officially arrives, since I have to head out of town at dark-oh-30 tomorrow morning and will be gone all day. So just because, let's make it a Random 11 instead of only 10.

"Harry Truman"/Chicago/Group Portrait. In the wake of the Watergate affair (and on your radio 31 years ago this week), Chicago tapped into a national mood by singing "America needs you, Harry Truman." More than a generation later, a lot of us still feel that way.

"Yeh Yeh"/Georgie Fame/Live in Montreaux 1990. Fame was Van Morrison's musical director and keyboard player for many years, and usually got to sing this, his 1965 solo hit, to open Morrison's shows. This version is from a live Morrison bootleg posted for download last week at Jefitoblog, which is the richest treasure-trove of MP3 blog goodies I've yet found--and to which I bow down in homage.

"Keep Your Motor Running"/Dave Hole/Alligator Records 25th Anniversary Collection. No problem keeping the motor running when you've got it cranked like this.

"Runaway Train"/Rosanne Cash/King's Record Shop. Not what you'd expect for a song that uses the love-affair-as-runaway-train metaphor. It's more like the tense moment when we can see that the train's brakes are going to fail, but they haven't failed yet.

"The Scaffold"/Elton John/Empty Sky.
Empty Sky was Elton's first album, unreleased in America until the peak moment of his superstardom in 1975. It's the sound of a guy trying to find his musical personality--although Bernie Taupin had already mastered the art of lyrical opacity, with lines like "In Orient where wise I was to please the way I live/Come give the beggar chance at hand/His life is on his lip." Ohhh-kay.

"My Bucket's Got a Hole in It"/Van Morrison/Pay the Devil. From Van's newly released (and newly downloaded by me) album of country covers. This album won't be for everybody--but Van's commitment to the material is impressive, and the band sounds great. They twang mightily in serious old-school style, with lots of shiveringly beautiful steel guitar and fiddle, plus the kind of lush backing vocals that were a hallmark of the first countrypolitan movement of the 1960s. ("My Bucket's Got a Hole in It" also contains a piano line that defines the phrase "honky tonk.")

"Brown Sugar"/Rolling Stones/Rewind: 1971-1984. The definition of "essential."

"One of Us"/Abba/Gold. The definition of "the opposite of essential."

"A Lot Like Me"/Mary Chapin Carpenter/Hometown Girl. From her 1987 debut album, when she still sounded like a Nashville mainstream wannabe, this hints at her greater sophistication to come.

"I'll Get Over You"/Crystal Gayle/Greatest Hits.
Speaking of greater sophistication, sometime I'll have to put together a post on country music in the mid 1970s. For the second time in its history (the countrypolitan movement I mentioned earlier was the first), the music made a bid for mainstream respectability by softening its rural edges, going uptown instead of down home, and producing some of its most memorable hits--like this from 1976.

"Sierra"/Boz Scaggs/Some Change. This gorgeous Boz ballad resurfaced in a slightly different version on the new American release of Fade Into Light late last year. By the way: I'm finally going to get to see Boz live--he'll be sitting in for a "musical conversation" with old bandmate Ben Sidran here in Madison tomorrow night. Full report on the weekend.

One other thing: I hope you'll note the links for and iTunes on the right side of this page, as well as the banner ad for CDs available at If you're moved to buy music you read about on this page--or music you want for any other reason--use those links to do it, and I'll get a commission. So c'mon, help a brother out.


Post a Comment

<< Home