Last week's posts got me to thinking about the type of music I enjoy listening to. Not the genres, but the type. I know that sounds incompatible but it really isn't if you think about it.
For instance, there is a good segment of the population who likes rap music. And out of that segment, I'm sure there is a percentage of people who enjoy a type called Grime and another who don't care for grime but enjoy say, the hardcore ghetto style that was popular back in the late 80's/early 90's.
Anywho, I enjoy different types of music. What type you might ask? Well, in my younger years, you could say I was rather enamored of electric guitars and drumming. However, as I've gotten exposed to different types and different genres, what enamored me then has been modified to something completely different.
While I'm still impressed with instrumental prowess, the prowess that impresses me now isn't the electric guitar or drumming. Instead, they're the instruments that are found in the various types of country music.
The banjo, the mandolin, the violin, the dobro, the steel guitar and the acoustic guitar.
Also, vocal talent has been added to the mix. I'm more impressed with vocals that are part of a stripped down song or done a cappella, than I am with the basic vocal to a rock song or even the indecipherable vocal to an ungodly amount of rap music (I'm still on the fence with vocals as they relate to pop music).
I would like to add that I'm also impressed with vocals done for good soul, true r&b, and gospel.
So without any particular order of importance, here are a few of my favorite songs that have impressed me in some particular way over the past twenty-five years or so.
1} Feeling Higher by McGuinn, Hillman & Clark. I first discovered this one on their self titled debut album that came out in '79. Not only did the song blow me away with its seamless harmonies and spare musical accompaniment, but so did the album as well. A great effort from one of the early supergroups.
2} Pine Box by The Rossington-Collins Band. A woefully underrated band that rose from the ashes of Lynyrd Skynyrd, this little gem was found on their album This Is The Way. This stripped down sub-three minute song featured the powerful vocal talent of Dale Krantz and no instrumental work of any kind. The true test of any band is how well their lead singer can perform solo and in this song, Ms. Krantz does not disappoint. Thirty plus years later and this song can still pack a powerful punch.
3} Whispering Pines by Johnny Horton. I grew up on classic country music and Johnny Horton was (and still is) one of my favorite performers from that time period. I found this on a reissue called The Spectacular Johnny Horton (and as I type this, I remembered that I have it as a reissue on a 45 as well), and while the orchestration behind it was a shade over the top, it still packed a decent punch. A simple yet haunting melody combined with an unvarnished delivery makes this tune stand out some fifty-five years later.
4} Bridge Over Troubled Water by Johnny Cash. I've heard only two exceptional renditions of this song. One was performed at a memorial service for my dad back in 2004, with just the singer and a simple piano accompaniment that to this day still resonates in my memory. This version by Johnny Cash, in my opinion, has set the bar for cover songs. I measure every cover song by this one. Again, this one has a stripped down piano accompaniment performed by Fiona Apple (who also provided just the right touch for backing vocals) that accentuates the poignant sadness that Johnny brought to this song. This cover is one of the few songs from the late sixties/early seventies that can move me to tears.
5} When The Stars Begin To Fall by The Seekers. Another one of my favorite 60's folk groups, this song still resonates and moves me to tears whenever I hear it. Powerful vocals that are backed by a simple acoustic and upright bass, the timeless spirituality is what makes this song such a listening favorite.
6} The Boys Of Summer by The Hooters. This is another cover that blows the original out of the water and into smithereenies (as Yosemite Sam would say). Again, a classic example of stripped down accompaniment (mandolin) and excellent vocals that brings the pain of lost love close to home.
7} Everyday by Buddy Holly. One of my favorite Buddy Holly songs, this song was a pure vocal with only a triangle and a metronome style back beat. The best ode to innocent love that the fifties (or any decade for that matter) ever produced.
As you can see from this tiny sample, this forty-five year old doesn't necessarily stay tied to the shredding guitars, bad drumming and mediocre vocals that pepper the landscape of today's pablum puking (many thanks to this gentleman for the preceeding two words) rock scene. Instead, he honestly tries to expand his musical horizons to include other genres that help fulfill the need not only to be entertained, but also to be transported back to a time and place where talent in performing music the hard way was valued over performing music the easy way.
Except for drumming, where the old way sucked and the new way ushered in by Keith Moon et al, is a thousand times better.