Thursday, June 25, 2009

Five songs I listen to a lot, or that mean a lot to me:

I'm in a bit of a mood to recycle, so here's an old list, that's basically "a mishmash of songs that either hold tremendous meaning and/or are receiving a lot of current play in the cd or mp3 players." Funny thing is, as i was looking over that list from four years ago, there wasn't a thing I'd change. The following are in no particular order:

1. "Ja" by Art Ensemble of Chicago. I first heard this tune on an ECM sampler album (Music for 58 Musicians). The tune was basically my first exposure to free jazz. The piece starts out almost structureless, with these layers of sound created by sax, trumpet, bass, percussion, and a bunch of so-called "little instruments' (things like whistles, bells, and other found objects). Somewhere in the middle of the tune, the musicians go into an almost reggae mode with vocals before returning to the original theme. It might have been a bit much for my then fifteen-year-old ears (I was about a year away from discovering college radio), but the tune left an indelible mark and to this day I'm still an AEC fan.

2. "Take a Walk on the Wild Side" by Lou Reed. I first heard that tune while riding with some friends on our way to God knows where in the wastelands of suburban Sacramento. Must have been about 16 at the time. I recall getting the idea that rock lyrics could easily be considered poetry and recall wishing that I could write poetry like that cat. Although this is my fave Lou Reed tune, there's so much that he has penned and performed with The Velvet Underground and in his subsequent solo career that I really dig. If you ever wondered where some of my poetic influences came from, that tune piping through cheap speakers in a beat-up 1960s Chevy is definitely one.

3. "Your Last Affront" by Black Flag. This was a tune off the instrumental e.p. The Process of Weeding Out. I'm an unabashed Henry Rollins fan (another cat who can write poetry), but when the instrumentalists like Greg Ginn and Kira were unleashed in the studio, they could really kick out the jams. Think of punk meets metal meets jazz improv in some dive bar near closing time.

4. "Bubblz" by Antipop Consortium from their 2002 album Arrhythmia. That whole album rocks the house, but that track in particular is a personal fave and one that I look for excuses to play whenever possible. The musical backing is spare - the dj sticks to a basic funk synthesizer & drum line with a conga player added for texture, while the emcees drop raps that flow like some of the best beat-era poetry. There's a lot of great underground rap that I dig, but this tune and this album are the ones that get the nod.

5. "Becalmed" by Brian Eno on the 1975 album Another Green World, was actually the first solo Eno tune that I ever heard (I was familiar with his collaborations with David Bowie, Talking Heads, and U2), and it comes close to the ambient music that Eno of course is quite famous for creating. The tune starts with what sounds like a gentle synthetic breeze over which Eno gradually layers a Rhodes piano and synthesizers creating a soothing and almost otherworldly effect. I can imagine myself on a nearly isolated beach, with the sun slowly setting in the west whenever I hear that tune. The day after I heard that on the radio (I was listening to Michael Benner's late night talk show on some SoCal AOR station - a show a friend turned me onto) I had to find my way to the nearest Tower Records store to find that tune. I've been an Eno fan ever since.

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