Today’s selection suited me a little better than yesterday’s but it still wasn’t my favorite thus far. Nonetheless, any mix that includes both The Band and Pink Floyd can’t be that bad.
“Signs of Life” is from Momentary Lapse of Reason, which I never hear many Floyd fans talk about. I adore this album. Partly because it was my first exposure to Pink Floyd and partly because it’s just a great album.
“Signs of Life” has always been really interesting to me because that’s exactly what it sounds like. I can imagine this playing in the background of a documentary on evolution. It starts out with the sound of water and a few quiet notes. As the song progresses, Gilmour comes in with his guitar gently, and as the life develops, so does the sound. It’s just brilliant. I don’t know if that’s what they intended, but if it is, they succeeded.
I didn’t discover The Band until I saw The Last Waltz at a movie theater next door to the Ryman in Nashville. I was completely blown away by it (and how could you not be) and have since been in love with The Band. I’m so sad about Levon. And now only Garth and Robbie are left.
Which brings me to Rick Danko, who takes the lead on “Stage Fright.” Danko’s songs were always easily discernible from the others because they had a more contemporary sound to them, yet retained the soul of The Band quite brilliantly.
I understand why some folks like to compare DBTs-era Jason Isbell to Rick Danko, but it’s not so much about the music and the attitude as it is about what he was to the band. I think a lot of music fans have difficulty comparing musicians without implying that the sound is what’s most comparable. That’s not always the case.
Like Danko, Isbell brought a new element to the DBTs sound even though he never exactly fit in with them. I’m so pleased that he’s had more success than Danko did as a solo artist.
And I can’t mention Rick Danko and Jason Isbell in the same post without including “Danko/Manuel.” This is one of my absolute favorite songs in the world. This song, along with “Let it Ride” by Ryan Adams, is responsible for the rebirth of one of my novels.
I never understood why Concrete Blonde’s biggest hit was “Joey” because it isn’t their best song: not by a long shot. And I never understood why they were never freaking huge. They captured the dark 90s with Johnette’s unmistakable voice and a truly unique sound. I’ve often heard them dismissed as a goth band just because their biggest album was called Bloodletting, and the title track is about vampires. But listen to Concrete Blonde, then the Cure or Bauhaus and see where that’s just not the case. (Not that there’s anything at all wrong with the Cure or Bauhaus.) Sure, their sound can be dark and the subject matter can be dark, but make no mistake that this is a balls-out rock band. And God knows how dark balls-out rock can get.
“God is a Bullet” is a perfect example of this dark balls-out rock. A driving beat, a walking guitar line, and Johnette’s cheeky, even suggestive vocals followed by her fantastic wail. I just love that she always sounds like a girl you don’t want to piss off. I’d like to think if I was a rock singer, I’d be able to convey something like her mysterious badassitude.