Category Archives: 1990s

Wurlitzer piano favorites

wurlitzer

Few instruments play melancholia like the famed Wurlitzer Electronic Piano. Its touching tremolo is often overlooked but always critical to whatever tune employs it. Here are a few of my favorite examples:

-Neil Young – “See the Sky About to Rain” from On the Beach (1974) [buy]

Neil brings the piano to the center of this song, often sending Ben Keith’s slide guitar to the side. Nevertheless, they complement each other very well.

-Kris Kristofferson – “Epitaph (Black and Blue)” from The Silver Tongued Devil and I (1971)

This song inspired the post. The Wurlitzer is probably meant to lend a more funereal mood as if it wasn’t morbid enough with the vocal and string arrangements. (Buy this album. Fans of John Prine, take note.)

-Wilco – “Jesus, Etc.” from Yankee Hotel Foxtrot (2002) [buy]

Leave it to Wilco, classicists that they are, to prop the Wurlitzer up in the modern era.  Its use here is primarily as a rhythm instrument under all the strings and plucking. It doesn’t so much sing as propel the song. A lot like Supertramp might use it. Did somebody mention Supertramp?! Man, that was a great band… like Boston, but not as loud and better.

-Supertramp – “The Logical Song” from Breakfast in America (1979) [buy]

The piano is the spine of this song and, indeed, much of the album. How about that sax solo halfway through? That’s killer. What a slick song, eh?

Any other examples you’d care to cite?

*Update (7-30-09): Adam brings up the Fender Rhodes piano, which certainly has its place among the great gear of the 60s and 70s.  The Rhodes’ sound is a bit sharper and jazzier than the Wurlitzer.  I usually associate it with Bitches Brew as played by the late, great Joe Zawinul.  See Glenn’s homage and hear the Rhodes in action.  Also hear Zawinul and Jan Hammer in two different fusion outfits featuring the Rhodes.

As for rock, Pink Floyd owed a lot of its sound on Dark Side to the Rhodes.  Also, see the intro to “Sheep” from 1977’s Animals.

Posted by Jordy

Advertisements

9 Comments

Filed under 1970s, 1990s, 2000s, Rock

This may well be the dorkiest song ever posted to this blog

Fields of Gold

Sting – “Fields Of Gold” from Ten Summoner’s Tales (1993)

On Sunday evening, I was driving through west Michigan and scanning through radio stations when this song came on. I had spent a wonderful weekend with old friends; the sun was setting over rolling soybean and corn fields (no barley, far as I could tell); the gentle lilt of this tune bowled me over. It’s a great melody.

Give it a listen if you haven’t ever. It’s a tasteful, non-pompous song. This guy is way better than those other adult contemporary bozos.

My next post will be way cooler, promise, okay?

You know, Sting used to be kind of cool once

Buy it here, if you’re so inclined

Posted by Glenn

2 Comments

Filed under 1990s, Pop, Singer-Songwriter

“Joan of Arc rules Northeast, where the poor and the hipsters meet”

the protaganist of the S-K song below

the protaganist of the S-K song below

Sleater-Kinney – “Light Rail Coyote” from One Beat (2002)
Bill Fox – “Portland Town” from Transit Byzantium (1998)

I’m off to Portland, OR for a week of this, this, and this. So I offer two of my favorite Portland songs, including one from our main man, Bill Fox.

What are your fave geography tunes?

Buy S-K

Bill Fox is on iTunes, but you can check him out here

Posted by Glenn

2 Comments

Filed under 1990s, 2000s, Acoustic, Folk, Punk, Rock, Singer-Songwriter

“I can stay awake all night”

I caught Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy in Alexandria, VA over the weekend and thought it a terrific show.  Will’s brother Ned opened the set in the duo Old Calf which was also very good.  Oldham’s band was really excellent: great singing and very tight.  They even played Glenn’s and my favorite selection from the Superwolf collaboration.

As a further sample, here is one of my favorite tracks for a rainy day:  Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy – “Raining in Darling” from I See a Darkness (1999)

If you’re in or near any of his next dates, do try to check him out.  I guarantee a good time:

Tuesday, May 26
Knoxville, TN
Bijou Theatre
(w/ Lichens)

Wednesday, May 27
Asheville, NC
Grey Eagle
(w/ Lichens)

Thursday, May 28
Carrboro, NC
The Arts Center
(w/ Lichens)

Friday, May 29
Atlanta, GA
Variety Playhouse
(w/ Lichens)

Saturday, May 30
Birmingham, AL
Bottletree
(w/ Lichens)

Tuesday, June 2
New Orleans, LA
One-Eyed Jacks
(w/ The Howling Hex)

Wednesday, June 3
Baton Rouge, LA
Spanish Moon
(w/ The Howling Hex)

Thursday, June 4
Houston, TX
Walter’s on Washington
(w/ The Howling Hex)

Friday, June 5
Austin, TX
The Mohawk
(w/ Howling Hex)

Saturday, June 6
Dallas, TX
Granada Theater
(w/ Howling Hex)

Monday, June 8
Little Rock, AR
Sticky Fingerz Chicken Shack
(w/ Bachelorette)

Tuesday, June 9
Memphis, TN
Minglewood Hall
(w/ Bachelorette)

Wednesday, June 10
Nashville, TN
Belcourt Theatre
(w/ Bachelorette)

Thursday, June 11
Newport, KY
The Southgate House
(w/ Bachelorette)

Friday, June 12
Columbus, OH
Capitol Theatre
(w/ Bachelorette)

Saturday, June 13
Lexington, KY
Red Mile Round Bar
(w/ Bachelorette)

Buy all your favorite Drag City releases

Posted by Jordy

1 Comment

Filed under 1990s, 2000s

Live, live?

Live

Live – “Selling the Drama” from Throwing Copper [1994]

The band Live (ryhmes with jive) represents several firsts for me.  This album, Throwing Copper, was the first album I ever acquired on CD.  This song, “Selling the Drama,” was the first song of theirs that I heard on the radio, and subsequently made me a fan.  Also, Live was the first band I saw in concert without parental supervision, on the Secret Samadhi tour, back when I was in eighth grade.

I still listen to Throwing Copper and  Secret Samadhi every few months, and every now and then one of their songs will pop into my head for no apparent reason.  According to my last.fm page, I’ve listened to 51 tracks by the band over the past 12 months.  Not bad for a band who I have not purchased a new album by in twelve years.  I didn’t even know, for example, that they released an album in 2006 called Songs from Black Mountain, or a live album (that’s right, a live Live album) in November of last year.

I’ve always liked singer Ed Kowalczyk’s voice, and the thought-provoking lyrical content on Throwing Copper and Secret Samadhi (I can’t speak for their newer albums).  Plus, Live is one of the few bands that I listened to then that I still come back to today, which adds a nice bit of nostalgia for me.  This must be what it feels like for my mom to listen to the Beatles today.

Buy Live

Posted by Adam

2 Comments

Filed under 1990s, Rock

Wilco’s rock and roll mythology

Wilco – “The Late Greats” from A Ghost Is Born (2004) and “Monday” from Being There (1996)

Wilco sometimes writes wonderfully suggestive songs about a mythological rock and roll universe.

I, for one, would love to hear a triple bill with The Late Greats, The Kay-Settes Starring Butcher’s Blind, and Choo Choo Charlie’s Plenty Good Band.

Maybe Romeo, he of the golden vocal cords, could join the bands for a Kiss cover or two. Beautiful and stoned.

What are your favorite fictional rock bands?

Buy the Wilc-sters

Posted by Glenn

4 Comments

Filed under 1990s, 2000s, Americana, Rock, Roots rock

“Vessel stabbed. Next up? Volunteers?”

Pearl Jam – “Once” from Ten (1991) and “Immortality” from Vitalogy (1994)

Because of the recent hype around the 18th Anniversary reissue of Pearl Jam’s debut Ten, I’ve been diving back into the catalog of a band I haven’t listened to with any real interest in about 8 years. What I’m finding is that the first 4 PJ records are absolute monsters. Ten and Vs. reek of an earnest early ’90s obsessed with absent fathers, gun violence, homelessness, heroin, abortion, teenagers with “issues”–the sort of poker-faced stuff the culture wars of the early Clinton years fed itself with. Ten, which I thought for years was a.) overblown and b.) the genesis of the band I hate most in the world, turns out to have one-upped Loveless in the textured guitar department (this is how you do reverb and compression, folks); plus Eddie Vedder sings like Al Green or Van Morrison or somebody, a soul shouter always ready with a well-placed holler or mumble.

And Vitalogy. My god. This is one of the best albums of the ’90s. No joke. For all the talk about experiments and brittle punk rockers, don’t forget that Vitalogy is Pearl Jam’s most tuneful record. These are great melodies, well-played by a limber band. (Listen to the guitar solo on “Immortality.”) The songs on Vitalogy have a classic quality that seems to have started to elude PJ around Yield, when, not coincidentally, Ed Ved started letting the other guys write melodies and started trying to write Fugazi songs (“Grievance”? “Insignificance”? Yuck.).

That still doesn’t negate the fact that PJ’s albums are among the best-sounding albums of all time. Listen to these fuckers on headphones and they sound incredible.

Like Led Zeppelin and The Who, their two most frequent comparisons, Pearl Jam’s secret strength is an absolute killer bass player. Jeff Ament’s melodic licks are the tastiest parts of any Pearl Jam song — enough to distract you from the often-terrible lyrics.

God, what kind of dork am I, going on about Pearl Jam like this? Jesus.

Buy it here

Posted by Glenn

11 Comments

Filed under 1990s, Grunge, Rock