Monday, October 25, 2010

What I Am Is What I Like

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.


  1. I thoroughly enjoyed reading about the kind of music you enjoy. Some I knew and some I didn't. Gives me something to check out when I have time. :)Bea

  2. At some of the recent concerts I've been to, which are the classic rock genre, the artists have really talked up their roots which began with the Chicago blues. It's really nice to hear not only their stories about when they struggled back in the day, but then to hear them play some of those old blues influences. It brings another dimension to their set, and a little music history too.

  3. One instrument that never fails to capture me in music is the cello...and the other is the saxophone.

    Great post, G. You've got me thinking of what CD's to pull today to listen to while I'm working. :)

  4. Never heard of "grime." I'll check it out. I have a hard time believing that the remake blows "Boys of Summer" out of the water. I'll have to give it a listen.

  5. You have terrific taste, G.

    The Cash cover is a favorite.

  6. Bea: I really started expanding my taste in music once I started working in state guv'ment in the mid-90's. I had a co-worker who loved college radio and he turned me on to the eclectic mix of the alternative music scene. Been listening to it ever since.

    Joanne: Most definitely. It's very hard to catch any of that type of music on commericial radio, so when I do catch snippets on college radio, it impresses me quite a bit. Nothing like actually listening to those classic rock artists play what got them to start to begin with.

    Talon: I found it hard to appreciate the cello in its traditional form, only because I got so heavily exposed to it while growing up (playing the clarinet in the school orchestra). But the saxophone is a definitely a great instrument, as well as the flute. Both are extremely versatile in endless amount of genres.

    Charles: It was a toss up between The Hooters cover and Johnny Cash's cover. While Boys of Summer has inspired a good deal of my writing as of late and still resonates with me most of the time, the Cash cover has for the most part struck a permanent chord with me. Whenever I hear it, I do get very misty-eyed and melancholy.

    Grime is something I first heard of over at a blog called "Joey's Pad". He is disc jockey by trade and is quite passionate about not only that type of rap but most music in general.

    David: Thanks.

    Very few covers make the grade in my book and that one certainly goes above and beyond.

    Also like his cover of the Nine Inch Nail song Hurt

  7. That is a great list, G. I love Johnny Cash the most and you are right - that is a wonderful rendition of Bridge.

  8. Lynn: Thanks.

    I have devoloped quite an eclectic range of musical tastes over the years, and that particular Johnny Cash album which contains that song gave me the proper incentive to search out that last part of his musical legacy. I have most of his recordings that he did for American/Lost Highway Records with Rick Rubin producing, and this album by far was his best.

  9. I personally love the Simon & Garfunkel version, but I love them anyway.

  10. R: Too much bombast and electricity.

    Certain songs pack a better punch if the music is sparse or at the very last doesn't overwhelm the lyrical intensity.

    Thus, this cover from Johnny Cash and the cover by The Hooters are a hundred times better than the original.

    IMO, a good S & G song was "Scarborough Fair". A perfect blend of harmony and acoustic guitar, I think it was the best song that showed off their vocal prowess.

  11. I adore anything and everything by Johnny Cash.

  12. I never really got into his stuff until the about the turn of the century (2000) when he started putting out stuff on the American/Lost Highways record label. I almost all of that stuff save for a boxed compilation, but for the most part, except for a gospel oriented one he did, all of them were excellent.

  13. I love your music lists, n this is no exception- makes me wanna hear them all again! A few I never heard the other version of- Pine box never heard- guess I'm missing out!
    (So far I've written 2 songs with no back-up music...)

  14. Snaggle: Thanks.

    I always like sharing my tastes in music, because I believe that showing/reading about what a person's musical tastes are quite often gives a good insight on what a person is really like.


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