Saturday, July 29, 2006

Top 5: All the Roadrunning

We're back from vacation. After a couple of days in Philadelphia, we divided the next two between sightseeing and driving, and drove the last five-plus hours today. It was 1945 highway miles in all--or, to put it another way, something like 34 1/2 CDs. Here are five of them, in no particular order:

Live in Louisville 1974/Chicago. Chicago is just wrapping up a tour with Huey Lewis and the News (and if we'd timed it right, we could have seen them in the Pittsburgh area when we passed through last weekend). Starting next week, they're launching a tour celebrating the release of their 30th album. They plan to perform lots of classic-era songs, although caveat emptor: most of those hits were sung by Peter Cetera and Terry Kath, and they ain't in the band anymore. (Chicago's Madison venue is noting Cetera's absence on its web posting for the show.) When I heard the 1996 edition of Chicago, they were note-perfect. The Louisville bootleg is anything but--it's loose, ragged, and you can almost forget it's Chicago. Almost. Key tracks: "Dialogue," "Ballet for a Girl in Buchannon."

The Folk Years: Blowin' in the Wind/Various Artists. Time-Life's The Folk Years casts a wide net--Blowin' in the Wind includes tracks by Sonny and Cher, Otis Redding, and Chad and Jeremy. It confirms what you already know--that the folkies of the 1960s produced some glorious music, such as "Both Sides Now" (Judy Collins), "Get Together" (Youngbloods), and "Turn Turn Turn" (Byrds). It also confirms what anthologies of this type often hide--that the folk era also produced some of the most painfully jive nonsense of the past 50 years, such as "Baby the Rain Must Fall" (Glenn Yarbrough)--which is docked points for the deadly earnestness of its lyric ("I do not love for silver/I do not love for gold/My heart is mine to give away/It never will be sold") and the manly earnestness with which Yarbrough declaims it; "Don't Let the Rain Come Down" (Serendipity Singers), which sounds like the kind of thing a bunch of single schoolteachers would have sung to sublimate their terminally unmet need to get laid; and "The Marvelous Toy" (Chad Mitchell Trio), which gives the lie to the idea that folk music in the early 60s was somehow "relevant" in a way that rock and roll was not.

Legendary Hall and Oates
/Daryl Hall and John Oates.
This is a three-disc Australian import covering almost all of H&O's career, from the mid 70s to the mid 90s. It proves that Hall and Oates had almost unlimited access to the Fountain of Hooks, but also that they tended to repeat themselves. All the hits are here, except, for some damn reason, "She's Gone." Some lesser-known favorites of mine include "Back Together Again" (1977), "How Does it Feel to Be Back" (1980) and two superb singles from 1990's Change of Season, "Don't Hold Back Your Love" and "Starting All Over Again."

All the Roadrunning/Mark Knopfler and Emmylou Harris. Many reviewers and listeners--including The Mrs.--have said the same thing: "I wouldn't think of these two together, but it works." Indeed it does. Dire Straits fans may find that it twangs a bit too much, but the chemistry between Knopfler and Harris more than makes up for it. It's great to hear love songs that sound like they're from the hearts of real adults instead of horny teenagers. Key tracks: "This Is Us," "Red Staggerwing," "Love and Happiness for You."

Party Doll and Other Favorites/Mary Chapin Carpenter. This 1999 best-of collection includes hits, live versions of several familiar tunes (including a version of "Down at the Twist and Shout" performed in New Orleans before the Packers' 1997 Super Bowl victory over New England), scattered tunes contributed to other projects, and some previously unreleased studio tracks. Two of the latter, "Wherever You Are" and "Almost Home," are on my short list of MCC essentials.

Any car trip I'm on, from a hop to the convenience store to a journey halfway across the country, is powered by music. This trip also included several volumes of Time-Life's Sounds of the Eighties and Rhino's Super Hits of the 70s, about half of Bruce Springsteen's Tracks anthology, plus albums by Rosanne Cash, Donald Fagen, Elton John, the Beatles, Stevie Wonder, Michael Franks (a CD we picked up on the trip), the Swingle Singers (The Mrs. is an acapella singer), and Iowa City's Big Wooden Radio. To name a few. We're glad to be back.


At 9:18 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

When you mentioned Hall & Oates, it brings to mind a couple of lesser-known songs that you'll probably never hear again on the radio: "Some Things Are Better Left Unsaid" (from 1984) and "Everything Your Heart Desires" which came out in 1988 and was their first release after parting ways with long-time record label RCA. So, tell me, "How Does It Feel To Be Back?" ---Shark


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