Friday, September 17, 2010

Great Fade-Outs !

       Most songs ending abruptly do so in a grand way.  We love that.  Many fade-out casually without fanfare.  No problem there either.  But, there are others that like to tease with a hint of a chord change that hadn't yet appeared in the song or simply decide to finally have a solo, only to barely squeeze it in before the faders shrink it down to silence.  (And in the old days, plenty of hiss to go with that silence.)

       How many great fades have you tried to keep alive by cranking the volume all the way up before you had to quickly bring it down before the next song starts?  I thought I'd be swift and record them cranked-up for mix tapes back in the '80's only to realize I'd ruined the impetus of the track.  So, in the '90's I'd let 'em be except I'd shave off the quiet ends (after a signature lick) for my Mini-Disc collections.  It worked much better.  (I don't manipulate them much in my current music module.)

       Here then are some favorites:

The Police - "Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic".  Everyone knows this classic ending right, "It's a big enough umbrella..."

The Steve Miller Band - "Golden Opportunity".  What a nice, but powerful little pop tune.  For a hardcore R'n'B lover, Steve Miller sure loves himself a great pop tune here and there.  One of my favorite songs even before the nice guitar solo on the fade, ending on a high note... literally !

Van Halen - "House Of Pain".  My favorite Halen song.  Having variety and power, this heavyweight doesn't have a special fade exactly, but the guitar improv and guitar/drum sync-up sends us out nicely.

Hall & Oats - "Some Things Are Better Left Unsaid".  With 2:30 left on this quiet little tune, our dynamic duo of soul decide to blow our sonic minds with the closest thing they've ever delivered to a Beatles tune.  Powerful simplicity!  And vocal improv on the way out.  An all-time favorite.  Thanks, you guys!

John Lennon - "Nobody Told Me".  The beauty of the band's driving simplicity.  So tight, so clean.  One last drum fill with a cymbal crash on the fade. Great words, great vocals, great playing.  How odd to have such a complete sounding work on an album released three years after his shocking death.  I want to thank everyone involved in making the album Milk And Honey.  It may not mean much to world now, but this album allowed me (and probably millions more) to smile through the tears.  Especially after the gut-wrenching sadness of listening to Double Fantasy.  (I happen to be writing this particular section on 12-8-10.  Didn't plan it that way.)

Rush - "The Big Money" The different times the band decides to hit accents.  "Vital Signs" The vocal variations and band accents.  "Manhattan Project" The light touch of various accents.  "Grand Designs" Start & stop accents.  The most exciting of the lot.

Steppenwolf - "Skullduggery".  After getting used to the tambour of the backing vocal, this song just screams for radio play.  Great guitar on the fade, with the tremolo bar making the last wave good-bye.

The Beach Boys - "Good Vibrations".  For a song so overplayed when we were children, it's hard to remember how badly you wanted the ending not to fade so quick.  The power of a stark stringed instrument blazin' away as if a hard guitar were present.


Monday, September 6, 2010

Don't Buy The Hype! "Exile.." is great, but is it great for you?

       A thought that comes up too often with me, is that albums with a sense of adventure are more important to praise than traditional offerings.

       Currently, publications are falling over each other to praise The Rolling Stones Exile On Main St.  A great record for sure.  I love the album, but let's say you want to know how other musical movements affected your favorite artists.  Like, how did disco, punk, or reggae affected The Stones?  Well, if one of these styles of music is your favorite, you then say to yourself, "What songs of theirs is in said style," or "What were they creating during what particular year and why?"  Also, "Was it good?"  And was it good by your standards, not some numb-nut who refuses to grow beyond The Stones of Beggar's Banquet or Let It Bleed.  Did you know the hardest The Stones ever got was on the album Dirty Work?  A record that also has pop tunes on it, so music writers discount ever mentioning this album instead of steering hard rockers to it.

       I've read too many reviews that think they're smart for comparing an artist's new work to their classic work.  (Like the last two Robert Plant albums, Band Of Joy and Raising Sand, getting compared to early Zep.)  Don't trust them unless you agree knowing the references in question and they ring true.  Otherwise, do what they won't.  Get familiar with an artist's entire catalog, then make the call.  That's all you gotta do.  It's fair to the artist and yourself.  Of course, this all matters only if you care.

       So, happy listening.  And listen to it all.  At least once through.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Double Fantasy: Stripped Down Version

Hello people,
         I recently read in Rolling Stone that John & Yoko's Double Fantasy is going to be re-released again, but this time without the '80's production.  '80's production?  Hello!  Aside from maybe the backing vocal on "Clean-Up Time" and the honky, synth harmonica on "Dear Yoko," there's no '80's production the way we as a culture expect to hear when we talk about music of that period.

         Somebody stop the disease that is unplugged, acoustic, raw, organic, etc.  A great idea, for sure, but this is not a record that suffers from the gloss of the '80's.  This album stands-out as being a classic for its songcraft, professional production, and whip-sharp band playing with the intent suitable for the messages at hand.

         Losing John Lennon shortly after the release of this album is the most uniquely tragic event in music history.  Not only was he from the most famous pop-rock band of all time, he was a truth-sayer and a gifted songwriter of the highest caliber.  After dated efforts from the '70's, which although having great songs, certainly didn't have the purpose of the 1980 comeback.  The songs on this album and on the last album, Milk And Honey, would be his greatest statements (as a whole) since his Plastic Ono Band solo debut.  There's a majesty and maturity to his songs from 1980 that the production on Double Fantasy brings to the fore for the whole world to see.  What was a melancholy album in mood to begin with, became gut-wrenchingly sad after his death.  Though Milk And Honey has more upbeat moments, it's of the same ilk and the tears flow just the same as I smile at the enjoyment of hearing lyrical wit coupled with great instrumentation and vocal prowess.  His humor, wisdom, and melodic sense completely intact, these two records are a joy to hear, regardless of the sadness.

         This new edition of Double Fantasy may be enjoyable, and a must for my library, but let's just not get to thinkin' that less production equals "more real."  There's a time to be raw & simple and a time to be multi-tracked.  Let's not forget that multi-tracking is what blows the mind when we hear Revolver, Sgt. Pepper..., and Magical Mystery Tour.  The bare versions on the Anthology albums (and various bootlegs) are a revelation, but though some are great, some remind you why the finished track is a proper final statement.  I'm glad to own Let It Be ... Naked if that's what was truly intended by The Beatles, but that album is a special case.  We know they threw up their hands when it came to that project and listening to both versions of the album has a similarity that can't be found in listening to a bare version of one of their psychedelic tunes.

         So, let's all enjoy the latest edition (like the last one ... Acoustic) knowing it's just a fun side trip into the songwriting process. Let's not spread any rumors of how much better it is than the original.  Maybe, there really isn't a threat anyway.  Maybe I'm overreacting.  Maybe it doesn't matter anyway.  I'm just thinking that if his songs from 1980 didn't move you then, then they probably won't move you in a different form now.