Friday, March 13, 2009

"Shuffle Up and Deal!" My Continued Adventures with the iPod

Yeah, I had fun doing this last week. It was a nice exercise, so here's another round for the kids.

1. FICTION PLANE - "Running The Country" from Left Side of the Brain
~ Not exactly my favorite song on the album, it does have a great bass line. I'm not sure if I've seen these guys too many times or what, but this song doesn't really have the same effect on me as it used to. That said, it is a great, bouncy track to start one's day.

2. SERGEI RACHMANINOFF - "Symphonic Dances: 2. Adante con moto (Tempo di valse)" from Isle of the Dead / Symphonic Dances
~ I've always had a thing for classical music that sounded like film scores (or I suppose I should give credit where credit is due, since film score music is derived from its classical parentage). Anyway, I would never have heard of this particular track had I not been perusing the classical section when working at Barnes & Noble several years back. I innocently stumbled upon a disc called Isle of the Dead, and blindly purchased it based solely on the disc's title. It is rare that I make such purposes, because buying something before listening is always a crapshoot, but it is that much more enjoyable when it pays off.

3. LEAVES' EYES - "Twilight Sun" from Vinland Saga
~ Liv Kristine's voice is simply angelic. Of the female fronted metal pantheon, I'd put anything she's involved with in another league. The music isn't contrived (too often these kinds of bands base their lackluster music around the novelty of the female vocals), and, well, she's a friggin' Viking! You also can't go wrong when your backing band is Atrocity.

4. OBITUARY - "Slowly We Rot" from Slowly We Rot
~ Ah, the days of juvenile bliss. Not a groundbreaking release by any stretch of the imagination, this track of metallic sludgery was released way back in 1989. The thing I always find funny about this song is that although the music is primal death metal and the vocals are sick, if you listen closely, the lyrics actually discuss the ins and outs of volleyball -- proving once again why death metal lyrics really don't matter. Good times!

5. BOLT THROWER - "War Master" from War Master
~ Wow, what is this, a high school reunion? Two old school death metal tracks back-to-back. This is another one of those albums that helped me through my "I hate school and my parents" phase. The song has one of the sickest groove breaks about midway through it, and it always gets my blood rushing whenever it hits. Regretfully, Bolt Thrower is among those few iconic metal bands I've never been able to see live. However, they are supposed to headline this year's Maryland Death Fest, so maybe I will be able to check them off the list.

6. BRICKLIN - "Walk Away" from Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure soundtrack
~ Yes, it really is high school all over again. First we have some death metal, and now we're revisiting Bill & Ted. This is the track that was playing during the duo's oral report at the end of the film. Normally, I don't like compilation soundtracks, but this one was so innocent and chock-full of unknown bands, my heart kinda went out to it. Interestingly, this soundtrack featured a demo track by the band Extreme before they had actually released their first album. Now I want to watch the DVD. Party on, dudes!

7. MICHAEL KAMEN - "Sanchez is in the Bahamas / Shark Fishing" from License To Kill soundtrack
~ Now I know I shouldn't say negative things about the dead, but Michael Kamen was always one of those overblown film composers that had a habit of trying to make movies bigger than they actually were. Also, he was given the unenviable task of following up John Barry's last (and arguably best) James Bond score. Add to that the fact that it was another Timothy Dalton Bond outing and you've got a recipe for disaster. Kamen actually sounded like he phoned this one in, more emulating Barry than doing his own thing. Oh yeah, R.I.P., Michael.

8. THE ELIMINATORS - "Punta Baja" from Cowabunga! The Surf Box
~ Is it summer yet? Big fan of surf rock, this stuff can brighten even the dreariest of days. And I think another charm of this music is that the songs are usually pretty short, so the band's have to get in, make a poignant statement, and get the hell out of Dodge. This track is off of a 4-disc box set commemorating the rich history of surf rock, and it sounds like something that could have very easily been on the From Dusk Til Dawn soundtrack...or any Tarantino flick for that matter.

9. SIR MIX-A-LOT - "Swap Meet Louie" from Mack Daddy
~ Yes, this is a track off the infamous album that gave us "Baby Got Back". Why is it even on my iPod? Because for some reason, I dig Mix's style -- his enunciation, humorous lyrics, and complete irreverence towards trends. "Swap Meet Louie" is one of those deep album tracks that makes me laugh.

10. CANDLEMASS - "Under the Oak" from Live
~ And our lesson for the week draws to a close with one of the most massive tracks from the greatest doom metal band ever. Messiah Marcolin's vocals just give me chills on this. It is one of those rare live albums that is comparable to a studio album, due to its recording quality, tightness of the band, and classic set list. There was a time when I thought this band could do no wrong...then the singer left...and came back...and left again. They're still a decent band, but they are a different beast than the mythic monster they once were.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Doing the Friday Shuffle...

Someone over on Facebook started a group called "Friday Shuffle", where members are encouraged to put their iPods on a random shuffle, and jot down the first ten tracks that play. I don't exactly know why this is an attractive exercise, but for some reason, I got sucked into it.

And rather than just list the songs (showing off how extensive one's taste - or lack thereof - can be), I'm going a step further and offering a little commentary on each track. And before you ask, yes, I actually own these CDs.

If you dig it, cool. If not, hey, it's only a blog!

1. JORN - "Christine" from Worldchanger
~ One of the best voices in heavy metal. It is sad that he is widely unknown in America. He's like David Coverdale, Ronnie James Dio, and Ian Gillan all wrapped into one. The glaring difference is that he's not over 50. His work with MASTERPLAN was amazing, but his solo material always comes across as more soulful.

2. THE AMAN FOLK ORCHESTRA - "Main Title" from Subspecies soundtrack
~ We need a little cheese every now and again. That said, the Subspecies soundtrack is one of the creepiest horror soundtracks out there. It's sad that the film series never achieved any mainstream success (did ANY Charles Band flick??), otherwise this album might not be out-of-print today.

3. THE GAME - "One Night" from Doctor's Advocate
~ I think that sometimes rap music grounds me, especially the stuff that is based in reality. A lot of the stories these guys spill are quite humbling, but I can understand if it comes across as too abrasive for some people. Honestly, THE GAME can sound quite depressing at times.

4. GREEN JELLY - "Carnage Rules" from 333
~ Sometimes, in addition to cheese, we need to be downright silly, right? I don't think GREEN JELLY (JELLO) ever released a serious song, or ever could. "Carnage Rules" is one of those little ditties that blends punk and metal and makes you want to bounce around the room like a complete idiot.

5. SCAR SYMMETRY - "Seeds of Rebellion" from Symmetric In Design
~ And speaking of abrasive...I've always had a fondness for Scar Symmetry, because they remind me of what EDGE OF SANITY could have evolved into, had the band continued to exist and if Dan Swanö didn't have a penchant for 70s folk rock. SCAR SYMMETRY is also among the very few bands that can combine death growls and silky clean vocals in the same song and make it sound perfectly natural.

6. JAMES HORNER - "Genesis Countdown" from Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan soundtrack
~ Yes, I'm a bit of a nerd when it comes to movies, and like those fellows in Free Enterprise, I hold Wrath of Khan in very high regards. And it's not just the movie itself that makes the film great. I feel that Horner really peaked with this one, and although he's done some great things since 1982 (Aliens, Willow, Clear and Present Danger, Apocalypto), I will always see this as his crowning achievement. It is actually kinda sad that the very next year (1983), he would plagiarize his own work when he scored the soundtrack to Krull.

7. DURAN DURAN - "Make Me Smile (Come Up And See Me)" from The Reflex single
~Yeah, it's an obscure DD song, and a live recording at that. I don't know, there was always something about DD that intrigued me - their sense of melody, the combination of eccentric synthesizer work with incredibly underrated bass guitar work and smooth vocals. They just always sounded sincere, even if their lyrics never made any sense. I think another part of their charm is that no matter what they do, whenever I listen to them (current album excluded), I feel like a little kid again, plopped in front of the television, watching the equally confusing videos on MTV.

8. PAUL DI'ANNO - "Wrathchild" from The Classics: The Maiden Years
~ it is sad that nearly 30 years later, poor ol' Paul is still shilling his brief work with Iron Maiden. Yeah, he only appeared on 2 albums, but they were pivotal albums in the band's career. And I don't care what anyone says, no one can sing those songs with the fervor that Paul brings to them (sorry, Bruce). I guess when you are involved with a band that big, no one cares what else you do. I don't think Paul has had an album of original material released in America in over 10 years. I could be wrong, so don't quote me on it.

9. PABLO FRANCISCO - "Mentos" from Knee to the Groin
~ This guy is just hilarious. The guy could read the obituaries, and I think I would still chuckle. This is his take on how ridiculously cheerful the people in Mentos commercials are, regardless of the situation they are in. It's only a 43-second track, but it's a riot.

10. BLACKMORE'S NIGHT - "Shadow of the Moon" from Shadow of the Moon
~ And closing our set today is one of the most charming, most inventive songs by Ritchie Blackmore's (guitarist for Deep Purple and Rainbow) current musical incarnation. The combination of folky, medieval sounding music with Candice Night's Stevie Nicks-meets-Loreena McKennitt, ambient vocals make this track simply enchanting. I feel like taking a barefoot walk through a forest right now. If only it weren't 40 degrees outside...