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Thursday, May 15, 2014

Top 5 for May 15, 2014

In my time of dying – Led Zeppelin, from Physical Graffiti

Oh let's see here, the label says this is an original composition by the four members of the band from 1974. Um, wait, didn't Bob Dylan record this song twelve years earlier? I mean this song was probably 100 years old, but by this time Jimmy Page's habit of putting his name on other people's songs was well ingrained. And, after all, you get paid a lot more for writing a song than for arranging one. This is what Homer Simpson is talking about when he call Page “one of the greatest thieves of American music” (And to think he was recently honored by the institution that once granted me a degree in composition.)

(Sure, Dylan's capable of this too, but he's usually pretty blatant about it, as if he wants to get caught in order to promote the source. His recording says “traditional arr. Dylan” but he probably copped the arrangement from Dave van Ronk or somebody).

But, regardless, this Zeppelin performance is one of the most amazing things ever. From the slow slide introduction to the boogie rave-up and Plant's gospel howl, this is the groups finest hour (Stairway to Heaven?, oh, please). At the 8:50 mark is the greatest drum fill ever (or eight measures after the band come back in after the “Oh my Jesus” part), some of the ones that follow are pretty good too. It's a totally Zeppelin moment, but it all stems from that old song.

Girlfriend by Matthew Sweet, from Girlfriend

Power-pop with Robert Quine and David Leisz on guitars. It definitely captures a sort of longing whit which I'm all too familiar. Makes me want to be in a band that plays this song. (I take the easy guitar part in the left channel.)

Life on the Moon by Erin McKeown from Daytrotter Studio session, 04/23/2006

More power-pop from a guitar/drums duo, thankfully not in the White Stripes/Black Keys mold (anyone else remember the Spinanes?) A majestic introduction leads to a very pumpy song, that releases itself into a catch chorus. Something I picked up when you still had free access to this site trough Wolfgang's Vault, before they put up their paywall.

The Torture Never Stops, part two by Frank Zappa from The Best Band You Never Heard in Your Life

Mostly a long guitar solo, but ends with a recap of the song, one of Frank's more thoughtful, less flippant political offerings (although, at least on this album, part one gets undercut with some cheap comedy). Now, though I get struck by the line “That's what's the deal we're dealing in” and how when this song was written thirty or so years ago, it was referring to how the US was supporting these “sinister little midgets” in third-world countries who would rule with fear and torture, killing nuns and what have you. But now in the last decade plus, we are dealing with the deal directly. And that, I'm sorry to say, infuriates me.

Dylan's Gospel by the Brothers and Sisters

A collection of Dylan numbers recorded in 1969 by an ad-hoc collection of mostly African-American singers from the LA scene. These include 20 Feet from Stardom star Merry Clayton (most famous for telling us rape and murder are just a shot away), Gloria Jones (who first recorded Tainted Love), and future Mrs. Bob, Clydie King (plus a bunch of other people I should probably know. Organized by producer and impresario Lou Adler and arranged by Gene Page, it's people who love to sing, singing some great songs, digging into the, well I don't know if “spirituality” is really the right word, um … biblical-ness (sorry) of these songs, written many years before Dylan began writing explicitly religious songs. The brotherhood of man feeling of The Times They are A-changin' which exists in churches, but also in secular gatherings like civil rights marches and union rallies. The quest for self-knowledge and one's place in the world that drives My Back Pages. These feeling have analogous religious sentiments, and I think this record find those sympathies. Only I'll Be Your Baby Tonight doesn't work for me as this sleepy song gets turned into an uptempo stomper. Originally released by Ode records, this reissue on Light in the Attic is lovingly packaged with some well written liner notes telling the story of the session. A great find.

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