Black Sabbath – Paranoid

Attack of the Killer Track! is a series that explores tracks from artists from a variety of genres. Some of the tracks were singles, some of them were obscure b-sides or long forgotten album tracks. One thing is certain – all of them are killer tracks.

The opening riffs of Black Sabbath’s Paranoid single pointed the way towards modern heavy metal. Released in August 1970, the song was a step forward from the band’s debut album released just 6 months earlier. All of the elements that made Black Sabbath great came together for this song – memorable doom laden riffs, pounding drum & bass, and Ozzy’s detached & demonic vocals. If Ozzy sounds like he is reading the lyrics as he is singing them that’s because he is. The song was written as an afterthought for their 2nd album (also named Paranoid) and came together in under an hour according to all band members. The song was a top 10 hit in the UK and remains one of Black Sabbath’s signature tunes. Curiously, the song never mentions the word paranoid in its lyrics – instead, the lyrics deal with depression in a poetic fashion. Worlds away from the Satanic imagery the band was / is known for. I’ve always thought the band’s lyrics were deeper than their reputation in some circles and this song is proof. “People think I’m insane because I am frowning all the time / All day long I think of things but nothing seems to satisfy / Think I’ll lose my mind if I don’t find something to pacify”. Perfection.

Advertisements

Arthur Lee – Everybody’s Gotta Live

Attack of the Killer Track! is a series that explores tracks from artists from a variety of genres. Some of the tracks were singles, some of them were obscure b-sides or long forgotten album tracks. One thing is certain – all of them are killer tracks.

Bring up the name Arthur Lee and hipsters in the know will wax poetic about the legendary 3rd album by Love, Forever Changes. A drug fueled trip the dark side of the summer of love (1967), it justifiably is always listed on greatest albums of all time lists. A culmination of Arthur Lee’s folk, jazz, & rock n roll fusions, this spells the end of the original Love band. It also marks the point where most people say “After that, Arthur just lost it, man!”. I’m here to tell you that is not true – not even close. The original band split and Arthur put together a new version of Love. Streamlined, it was a different band in tone and feel. Arthur’s new songs alienated his old audience, but he was following his muse. 1972’s Vindicator was released as a solo record instead of a Love record – kind of a mystery to me since the backing players changed steadily in the late 60’s and 70’s anyway. Everybody’s Gotta Live was the single, and what a single it was. A life affirming anthem, it blurred the lines between soul & singer songwriter poetry. Arthur’s always had a way of delivering lines that hit you right in the heart, and this one is no different. “Everybody’s gotta live / And everybody’s gonna die…I had a dream the other night, baby / I dreamt that I was alone / But when I woke up I took a look around myself / And I was surrounded by fifty million strong”. Note that the song was originally released in 1972, then remade for Love’s 1974 album Reel to Real. The solo version is superior. When I saw Arthur Lee & Love (Baby Lemonade was Arthur’s backing band after his release from prison) in 2002 in Seattle they played the song as a medley with John Lennon’s Instant Karma. At that time I was one of those aforementioned hipsters – not really aware of Arthur’s latter-day material. It gave me chills and changed my life. He passed away just a few years later and I’m left revisiting the magic on vinyl, video, and through words. Everybody’s gotta live…

The Chameleons – In Shreds

Attack of the Killer Track! is a series that explores tracks from artists from a variety of genres. Some of the tracks were singles, some of them were obscure b-sides or long forgotten album tracks. One thing is certain – all of them are killer tracks.

I was shocked yesterday (3-13-17) to wake up to the news that John Lever – drummer for The Chameleons, The Sun & the Moon, and The Red Sided Garter Snakes – had passed away after a brief illness. It is not often that you find yourself in touch with your musical heroes, but over the last few years I’ve had the opportunity to do that many times. I’d been in touch with John to discuss his departure from ChameleonsVox as well as get information on his latest stunning project, The Red Sided Garter Snakes. It amazed me that not only had John read some of my ramblings on this site, he also seemed to like them. John’s body of work is incredible – his musicianship added that intangible quality to a song that made it rise above the rest. One of the first tracks that John cut with The Chameleons was In Shreds. A blistering punk tune, it was released in March of 1982. A more aggressive track than most of what would be featured on the debut album Script of the Bridge, it features stunning work from Mr. Lever. The song builds and build to a punk breakdown “It seems to me / to be so contradictory / it seems to me / you’ve become a part of the machinery”. Mark Burgess, Reg Smithies, Dave Fielding, and John Lever were on the cusp of something great – and you can feel it begin with this song. RIP John, your art will be here long after us mere mortals are gone from this Earth.

Nirvana – Negative Creep

negativecreep

Attack of the Killer Track! is a series that explores tracks from artists from a variety of genres. Some of the tracks were singles, some of them were obscure b-sides or long forgotten album tracks. One thing is certain – all of them are killer tracks.

Like many people in high school in the early 90’s, I first heard about Nirvana through their world-changing 2nd album, Nevermind. Simultaneously killing the hair metal scene and bringing attention to the Seattle scene, it was an event that is unlikely to be repeated in my lifetime (I hope I’m wrong though). I did what any music obsessed 14-year-old would do – I took my paper route money to the local music store and asked the owner for anything relating to Nirvana and bands from Seattle. Bleach was the band’s 1st album, released in 1989. Dave Grohl is nowhere to be found (though he is on the live version embedded below). The sound is the rawest Nirvana would ever be (and for my ears, the best they ever would be). This is the sound of Aberdeen, WA. Where the bay leads to the sea. Gray mornings, rainy days. Negative Creep is quite possibly the most aggressive song Nirvana ever cut. An unholy blend of Sabbath riffs, Melvins sludge, and Mudhoney-ish lyrics. This one’s made for the mosh pit. The chorus positively kills “I’m a negative creep and I’m stoned!” Some of the other lyrics seem to pay homage to Mudhoney – can there be any doubt that “Daddy’s little girl ain’t a girl no more” owes a debt to Mudhoney’s “Sweet young thing ain’t sweet no more”? Only a positive in my book. Notable cover versions include Velvet Revolver’s and Machine Head’s. A deep album cut by Nirvana that deserves more attention.

José González – Stay Alive

stayalive

Attack of the Killer Track! is a series that explores tracks from artists from a variety of genres. Some of the tracks were singles, some of them were obscure b-sides or long forgotten album tracks. One thing is certain – all of them are killer tracks.

In late 2013 I saw two very different films in the theaters – The Wolf of Wall Street starring Leonardo DiCaprio and The Secret Life of Walter Mitty starring Ben Stiller. Wolf was an assault on the senses – every form of depravity in all its glory (and pitfalls) in my face for 2 hours plus. I loved every second (as did the critics). Walter Mitty was the follow-up film for me, and I also loved every second for very different reasons. Critics seemed divided, but I think is because there isn’t any sarcasm to be found. It’s just a feel good movie that leaves you feeling inspired at the end. Wolf doesn’t make my top 10 films of all time, while Mitty is entrenched in the 2nd spot (The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou will never budge from #1). Swedish artist José González was tasked with composing music for the film – star Ben Stiller had been a fan of his music and specifically requested his input. Stay Alive was the single from the soundtrack and was a collaboration between González, Ryan Adams, and Teddy Shapiro. I have had it on constant repeat ever since it was released. Plaintive vocals, lyrics that convey doubt & hopefulness – it is imbued with a sense of the Walter Mitty character that Ben Stiller brought to life so wonderfully. The orchestration is lush while the music is a perfectly constructed indie pop song. Lyrically, it is simply perfect. “Sometimes there’s things a man cannot know / Gears won’t turn and the leaves won’t grow”…We’ll do whatever just to stay alive / Well the way I feel is the way I write / It isn’t like the thoughts of the man who lies / There is a truth and it’s on our side”.

Evan Dando – All My Life

evandando

Attack of the Killer Track! is a series that explores tracks from artists from a variety of genres. Some of the tracks were singles, some of them were obscure b-sides or long forgotten album tracks. One thing is certain – all of them are killer tracks.

By the late 90’s The Lemonheads had mostly disappeared from the music world. 1996’s Car Button Cloth hinted at Evan Dando’s despair and drug fueled adventures, serving as a (temporary) epitaph and harbinger of things yet to pass. In 2002 a live album and EP was released under Evan Dando’s own name followed by 2003’s full studio album Baby I’m Bored. Years lost to partying parlayed into an engaging album full of self-reflection. Curiously, the song that I love the most was written by Ben Lee – though written from Dando’s perspective. All My Life deserves a place in the Great American Songbook. The weight of living a wild life is clear in every word sung by Dando – reminding more than a bit of the sole album by Dennis Wilson. Folk pop with a strong chorus, lyrically it is heartbreaking – though like the best songs it lets some sunshine in. You get the sense of sadness as he thinks about his days of drinking, drugging, and womanizing but also know that it is a thing of the past. “And I’m so impatient / For a new sensation / All my life / I thought I needed all the things I didn’t need at all”.

U2 – Staring At The Sun

sats

Attack of the Killer Track! is a series that explores tracks from artists from a variety of genres. Some of the tracks were singles, some of them were obscure b-sides or long forgotten album tracks. One thing is certain – all of them are killer tracks.

In the mid to late 90’s U2 were restless and relentless in their musical experimentation – beginning with 1991’s Achtung Baby and ending with 1997’s Pop (including 1995’s Passengers project w/ Brian Eno). For me personally, that is the 2nd Golden Age of U2 (the 1st period is their post punk masterpieces encompassing their 1st 3 albums). Pop was not universally embraced and was even later bashed by the band as feeling forced. I can see that on some songs, but Staring At The Sun doesn’t fit within that narrative. The 2nd single lifted from the album, it hit #3 in the UK and #26 in the US. Slightly less electronica based than other songs from the record, it has that classic U2 sound w/ sonic embellishments. Lyrically, it is one of my favorite U2 songs. Weren’t we all told not to stare at the sun when we were kids? Do we always listen to what we are told? Images of summer passing, pushing yourself to try something new, dealing with fears. The one lyric that really makes an impression on me is during the musical interlude. Adam Clayton’s bass sounds positively menacing (looped, sampled, and played live) while Bono sings “God is good but will HE listen”. As an artist who has continually put himself on the line by proclaiming his faith, those words pack a punch. A sometimes overlooked anthem in the U2 canon, Staring At the Sun is a song I continually return to. Perfection.