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Showing posts from January, 2008

12 by Kenny Loggins

Here's the drill: 12 songs to summarize an artist's career, in chronological order (of course).

Week 5

I'm doing this one for Wendy, my fiancee. She loves her some Kenny Loggins. Of course, As a child of the '80s, I can't help but have a soft spot for the king of '80s movie soundtracks. Listening to these 12 songs prove Loggins to be surprisingly versatile and eclectic.




1. Danny's Song (from Loggins & Messina Sittin' In, 1972)
A sweet little tune, not to be confused with Annie's Song or Danny Boy or Anne Murray's version.

2. Whenever I Call You "Friend" (from Nightwatch, 1978)
A duet with Stevie Nicks with a Beach Boyish opening and a Grease-like chorus. But why is the word friend in quotes?

3. This Is It (from Keep The Fire, 1979)
Is that a little bit of Blacksploitation funk I hear in there? Michael McDonald provides some white soul background vocals and you gotta love any song with a pre-chorus.

4. I'm Alright (from Caddyshack, …

158. The Beatles: Please Please Me (1963)

One of the joys of being a music obsessive is discovering new bands, and recently, I've come across a doozy! They're called The Beatles, and they're not new, only new to me.

In my countless trips through the used CD and LP bins, I would occasionally come across one of their albums, but I always passed them by. I wasn't into obscure music, especially obscure music from the '60s. But one day, out of boredom, I picked up an album called Revolver. And like the proverbial snowball rolling down the hill, it grew from there.

Now, having investigated their entire body of work, I undertake the mammoth task of reviewing every single one of their albums. My hope is to bring them a little bit more exposure than they received in their brief, prolific career.

The Beatles introduced themselves in 1963 with Please Please Me, a lively affair dominated by harmony and energy. The band display a surprising depth of talent, with all four taking turns on vocals and two of the band …

12 by Dave Matthews Band

Here's the drill: 12 songs to summarize an artist's career, in chronological order (of course).

Week 4







Disclaimer #1: I don't own any of the 152 live releases this band has put out and I don't play hackey sack, but I have still managed to quite enjoy their music through the years. Disclaimer #2: My favorite DMB album is Before These Crowded Streets, if that tells you where I'm coming from.

1. What Would You Say (from Under The Table And Dreaming, 1994)
Along with Wonderwall by Oasis and Gangsta's Paradise by Coolio, a song that can instantly bring up memories of my freshman year of college. Dig the John Popper harmonica solo.

2. Satellite (from Under The Table And Dreaming, 1994)
It has become a completely overused concept, but this is still a beautiful song.

3. Ants Marching (from Under The Table And Dreaming, 1994)
Does anyone else appreciate Dave's rapping turn ("Candy man/tempting the thoughts of a sweet tooth...") on the bridge of this song as muc…

157. Alanis Morissette: Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie (1998)

Ah, the album after the squillion-selling smash hit album. Artists generally react to massive success in three distinct ways. 1) They simply try to replicate the previous record. Examples: Michael Jackson's Bad and U2's Zooropa. 2) They make a slightly or significantly better album. Examples: Nirvana's In Utero and Beastie Boys' Paul's Boutique. 3) They get completely overindulgent. Examples: Oasis' Be Here Now and Fleetwood Mac's Tusk.

Alanis' follow-up to the massive critical and commercial success of Jagged Little Pill falls squarely into the latter category. Not only is it 17 songs long, many of the songs flirt with dissonance and showcase Morissette's tendency to force a lyric to fit a melody.

As with any overlong album there are three categories: 1) the good (which we'll save for last), 2) the neither good nor bad (a majority in this case) and 3) the interesting. As I wrote when I reviewed Robbie Williams' Rudebox, an indulgent …

12 by Aimee Mann

Here's the drill: 12 songs to summarize an artist's career, in chronological order (of course).

Week 3:

Aimee Mann is the poet laureate of the broken heart.
Picking 12 from her is tough. If you include her work with 'Til Tuesday, as I have, Ms.Mann is one album away from being too big for this feature. She's actually due to release a new record this year, so let's enjoy this while we can!


1. Voices Carry (from 'Til Tuesday, Voices Carry, 1985)
When I saw them in concert together, Aimee's husband Michael Penn did the "this little hobby of yours..." monologue from the video. It was great.

2. Coming Up Close (from 'Til Tuesday, Welcome Home, 1986)
This was an early indication that Mann's talents lay not in new wave but in bittersweet singer-songwriterly ruminations.

3. (Believed You Were) Lucky (from 'Til Tuesday Everything's Different Now, 1988)
Mann is definitely not the type to let someone off the hook. Though it starts as a lament, the …

156. Tracy Chapman: Tracy Chapman (1988)

It's a shame how certain artists get taken for granted. It's hard to call an artist with two inescapable hits (Fast Car and Give Me One Reason) undervalued, but that's what she is. The fact has been mostly lost to time, but but when Tracy first came out, people were amazed by the maturity in her voice and her songs.

Listening to her self-titled debut album, it's easy to see why. There's an assurance and self-possession rarely seen in new songwriters. And it's worth noting that, though Chapman was 24 at the time of the record's release, some of the songs were written as many as five years earlier.

Obviously, that makes the maturity of subject matter even more impressive. Talkin' 'Bout A Revolution, while bemoaning plight of the economically oppressed, doubles as a threat: "Poor people gonna rise up/ And take what's theirs." It's slightly chilling, especially when she advises us to "run, run, run, run, run, run, run, run"…

155. Billy Joel: 52nd Street (1978)

You know you really like an artist when you can't decide which album is their best. In the past, Billy Joel has had no less than 4 albums (Turnstiles, The Stranger, The Nylon Curtain and An Innocent Man) contending for the top spot. Recent listening has led me to add a 5th consideration, 1978's 52nd Street.

The follow-up to Joel's 1977 smash The Stranger (featuring no less than 5 outright classics), this one is a bit more challenging and diverse, but that didn't stop it from winning the 1979 Grammy for Album Of The Year.

Of course, every one of Joel's albums has the requisite hit singles. In this case we have Big Shot, that ode to a bad night with a uppity companion, and My Life, the once-and-future Bosom Buddies theme. Honesty, a bitter, pretty ditty, also got airplay. Interestingly, these three hits are also the first three songs on the record.

But, as with any album, the proof is in the pudding, a.k.a. the non-singles. And there're some great ones on 52n…

12 by Foo Fighters

Here's the drill: 12 songs to summarize an artist's career, in chronological order (of course).

Week 2














This may be the easiest list I ever have to make.

1. This Is A Call (Foo Fighters, 1995)
"Fingernails are pretty, fingernails are good." Preach on Dave! He definitely grew as a lyricist. Great song though.

2. Big Me (Foo Fighters, 1995)
Hey the drummer from Nirvana has a new band, let's take a listen. Wait, what is this, did I accidentally put in that Del Amitri CD?

3. Monkey Wrench (The Colour and the Shape, 1997)
This is probably more what the Nirvana fans expected...

4. My Hero (The Colour and the Shape, 1997)
The fact that this incarnation of the Foos contained two members of Sunny Day Real Estate is quite apparent on this early emo track. Ironically, Grohl would later rib the emo movement with the fantastically-titled Cheer Up, Boys (Your Make Up Is Running).

5. Everlong (The Colour and the Shape, 1997)
Hypnotic. Probably their finest moment.

6. Breakout (There Is…

12 by Fountains Of Wayne

Here's the drill: 12 songs to sum up an artist's career, in chronological order (of course).

Week 1












The key with FOW is to create a good balance between their rocking songs and their ballads, while also representing their variety of styles.

1. Radiation Vibe (Fountains Of Wayne, 1996)
Their opening song is still one of their best.

2. She's Got A Problem (Fountains Of Wayne, 1996)
This was the first inkling of FOW as songwriters in the Billy Joel-character-sketch vein.

3. I've Got A Flair (Fountains Of Wayne, 1996)
A rare narrator of unabashed confidence.

4. Red Dragon Tattoo (Utopia Parkway, 1999)
On the other hand, the first of many self-deluded, well-meaning narrators.

5. Troubled Times (Utopia Parkway, 1999)
The poster child for all of those "why wasn't that a hit?" songs.

6. Stacey's Mom (Welcome Interstate Managers, 2003)
And then the actual hit.

7. Hackensack (Welcome Interstate Managers, 2003)
The best song containing a reference to Christopher Walken ever wri…

12 by...

In an effort to 1) make sure this blog has more regular content and 2) roll with the digital times, I'm instituting a new feature. So in addition to my sporadic reviews of albums, and the occasional rant about whatever is on my mind, you can look for 12 by... every week.

But what is it all about? Well, any music obsessive worth his or her muster has made at least one custom "best of" mix for his or her favorite artist, right? Best of collections are a tried-and-true tradition, and yet they are so often poorly done. (Read extensive thoughts on the matter here).

My idea is that there are many many artists who only need a 12 track best-of, and nothing more. Consider those 20th Century Masters Millenium Collections. Certain artists (Donnie Iris, Go West) are perfect for it and others (Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder) are not. You can't summarize Elton John or David Bowie in 12 songs.

Ironically, the number 12 comes from James Taylor's Greatest Hits album. I cannot i…