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Customer is King

This is new for me. I just discovered this band, and I think, this genre. It’s different, but I keep coming back to it.

It’s easy to get caught in the music definition conundrum. Include too little in your definition of music, and you leave out stuff you feel is music. Include too much, and you identify stuff you feel isn’t. There is no way to win. I think there is a difference between “music” and “musical.” I can define music as something with melody and rhythm. This leaves out the metronomic musicality of the washing machine thumping away as you dance along. I think the washing machine is musical, but not music. But where does that leave the piece performed in today’s video? Ultimately, the objective approach is probably unproductive. The subjective works better. If you think it’s music, it is. Despite the lack of melody here, the piece in this video is both music and musical. More importantly, it fits the spirit of this blog. What I hear and see in the video is very inspiring.

This video is a live performance of the song Customer is King by the German band, MEUTE (pronounced Moi-tah). This is an amazing group of musicians and this performance is so polished. It may take you a few playthroughs, but this song will catch you. It drives forward and builds to such a beautiful crescendo. It also uses instruments that computers just can’t replicate. Please listen to this more than once. Cheers.

The Only Living Boy in New York (cover)

Since this is a blog about music performances that inspire me, I really can’t avoid covers. I featured one cover a number of months ago (RodGab covering Metallica’s Orion), but that cover was so different from the original that I didn’t mark it as one. I think the next few blog entries are going to be some of my favorite covers.

This performance has about everything you want in any performance, original or cover. Great song – sweet vocals – nice mix – perfect collaboration. I have listened to a number of songs performed by the PigPen Theatre Company and I love them all. The other one I really like is their cover of Peter Gabriel’s Solsbury Hill. I really wish this group would produce a ton more videos. I’m greedy that way. But, they are so good and I think their fans would really appreciate them.

This is a live performance by the PigPen Theater Company of the song, The Only Living Boy in New York, by Paul Simon. There are a number of great covers of this song on YouTube, but I think this is my favorite (Josh Turner has a great one as well). Having the squeezebox provide the keyboard part is brilliant. I also love the bass part in this song. Cheers.

School

It’s fun to search YouTube for songs from your past. This video is new to me, but the song and group aren’t. It’s so amazing to have a video record of this performance. Future generations need to hear it and see the original writers and performers play.

I can’t remember when I became a Supertramp fan, but I think it was after hearing the album Crime of the Century. I was amazed at how perfect each song was. No weak moments. It felt that way with each album. Then, just when I thought they couldn’t top themselves, they released Breakfast in America. Wow. Another perfect album. It’s more amazing when you think that two men were responsible for writing the music: one a guitar player (Roger Hodgson) and the other a keyboard player (Rick Davies). They each sang lead vocals and they sounded completely different from one another. Yet, it always came together whether the cowrote or not. Another thing that stands out is the fact that the production value of the recordings could easily pass today’s standards. No remixing necessary.

This is a live performance of the song School from the album Crime of the Century. I could have chosen from so many songs and not missed. The sound quality of this video is amazing. And, it makes you appreciate what great performers they were. I got to see them live twice. I am so glad I did.

Blame it on the Sun

Stevie Wonder was a music giant when I was a kid. I hope he is more than that now. Tom Jones, on the other hand, was old-folks’ music when I was young. Sometimes getting older is okay. Of course, he didn’t grow on me because I got older, it’s because I got smarter. I have to say, this video is awkward, but amazing.

I don’t remember having friends that listened to Stevie Wonder when I was a kid. I think that was my thing. My oldest brother was listening to Herbie Hancock and Chick Corea during the 70s, but those weren’t my jam. My toe in the jazz waters included Chuck Mangione and Keith Emerson. Mostly though, it was Stevie. I listened to the album Talking Book many many times, and this song, Blame it on the Sun, was always my favorite. I first heard of Tom Jones when my grandparents said they saw him perform in Las Vegas. It was the early 70s. Only later did I realize that his voice was unique and deserves to be in the vocal hall of fame. Power, control, and sexuality. Something most popular music vocalists can only dream of. Tom Jones wrote the book.

This is a live performance of Stevie Wonder’s Blame it on the Sun. What’s interesting here is the difference between the two vocal styles. Wow, two different worlds. That’s why I think it was awkward, but held together by that melody it’s worth a listen.

Overkill

Sometimes I get curious about groups or artists from the past. I wonder what they transitioned to or if they are still performing. A while back I got curious about Colin Hay. I loved his voice and music and listened to Met At Work’s music for hours upon hours when I was a younger man. I was glad I got curious.

I laugh when I think about 80s music. I remember clearly the son of a colleague proclaiming, in the 90s, his disgust at music from the 80s. He thought it was bad and boring. That reminded me of kids I knew in the late 70s hating the Beatles. Each generation, it seems, has a compulsion to reject anything from their parent’s playlist. Looking back on it now, I really love music from the 80s. There were a ton of big names creating and performing during that decade, but Men At Work and The Police feel more 80s to me than any of them. I never saw Men At Work in concert, but I wish I had. I knew every song from the albums Cargo and Business As Usual. Great music.

This is live performance of the song Overkill. It’s just Colin Hay on the guitar, but this performance carries the full weight of the song beautifully. It takes a lot of energy to hike your voice up an octave mid-song, and I believe this recording was done in the morning. He still manages to nail it. Cheers.

Lucretia MacEvil

There are great singers in every generation, but I put David Clayton Thomas in a special class. Of course, this is just my preference, but in this case, I speak for everyone.

When I was young, horn sections were common. Hell, my high school had a jazz horn group. You could hear horn sections on television theme songs, you could watch them every night on late shows, and you could even hear them in popular music. The two groups that come to mind are Chicago and Blood, Sweat, and Tears. Both of those groups had numerous hit songs. The horn section also gave these groups a legitimacy with serious musicians and made them acceptable for prime-time television. It wasn’t until I started to sing myself that I started to hear the voice above the horns. To me, David Clayton Thomas of Blood, Sweat, and Tears is a legend. What a voice.

This is a live performance of Blood, Sweat, and Tears playing two songs: Lucretia MacEvil and Spinning Wheel. Keep in mind that this performance is 25 years after these songs were released. But again, age makes this wine better. It’s so cool to see how the horns and electric guitar combine here. I am truly amazed that today’s popular music doesn’t employ horns. It would be awesome.

American Pie

Sometimes you have to resign yourself to the fact that some people and songs get famous because they are just that damn good. I think anyone that finds this blog will know this song. What you might not be aware of is how extraordinary Don McLean was as a performer. Take notes – this is masterclass.

I became aware of this video a couple of years ago. When I came across it, I was worried that I might be disappointed. This song is larger than life and the recording is drilled into my brain. I could only hope that the performance didn’t suffer from too much showmanship or worse, that real life just isn’t as good as production can make it. I’m so glad this video exists. Of course, it’s remarkably entertaining, but for the record’s sake, it shows how profoundly good Don McLean’s voice was. Amazing. When he hits the higher notes, it feels both powerful and effortless at the same time. The other part of this is how he engages the audience without limiting the song. This song uses a very old repeated verse-chorus form. No bridge, no extra parts. But he builds it with the audience. Then, he draws it way back to a spiritual level before booming out the last choruses. Such control.

This is a live performance of the song American Pie taped about a year after it was released. It’s fun to track all the little things done over the course of the performance that differ from the recording. Little guitar riffs, to embellished vocal lines, to his singing harmony to the crowd’s melody. Every drop of energy felt in that room is used. Nothing wasted. What a great video.

No One Else To Blame

A lot of people can sing the notes. Fewer people can play the notes while they sing the notes, but there are still a lot of them. Every once in a while, you find someone that makes music. That’s different. I don’t know how do define it and different people experience it differently, but some artists are convincing to most of us. They rise above the noise.

I have seen a lot of young people try their hand at YouTube. Most of them are okay, but not all that memorable. I found one the other day that jumped off the screen. Her voice put me back in my seat. She had that X-factor. More importantly, she wasn’t trying to be someone else. Her name is Madison Cunningham. I listened to a number of her songs and was impressed with everything. She even covered a Tom Waits song, and I would not suggest that to anyone, but she pulled it off. Then a couple of days ago she released this video. You’ll see.

This is a live performance of an original song called, No One Else To Blame. The guitar arrangement will grab you first. Then the rhythm. But that’s the tip of the iceberg. Everything about this song and performance is amazing. I won’t drone on here, I’ll just let you listen. Cheers.

A Whiter Shade of Pale

I don’t think many of the videos in this blog have millions of views. This video does, and I’m glad for that. Knowing that a piece of music from 50 years ago still has an influence is comforting. Knowing that this song was influenced by music from 300 years ago is even better. I would hope that Bach would be proud that people paid attention.

This is another instance of me knowing only a single song by the band showcased here, but that’s not really important. This is about this song and this performance. I remember when this song hit the radio. It was at a time in my life when I was just getting woke to music. Even though I was barely 8 years old, I remember the effect this song had on the listener. It was different than everything else from that time. I think because of that and the quality of the song, many bands panicked. The bar had been raised. You start to hear echoes of this song in subsequent Beatles’ and Stones’ songs, and you can’t help but think that The Doors and The Moody Blues were influenced by this song. The 60s used some instrumentation that died in later decades. Jazz horn sections and the Hammond Organ to name a couple. This might be the best Hammond Organ song ever.

This is a live performance of the song A Whiter Shade of Pale by the group Procol Harum. Well, Procol Harum and a full orchestra and choir. When I see a band cover its own song 40 years later I tend to cringe. Well, you never know. In this case, Gary Brooker shows what an old man’s voice can and should do. It’s almost better than the original. The 60s had a ton of good singers, I would confidently add his to any list. I hope this song is still being played in 300 years. I think that would be justice.

My Sharona

Most of the posts in this blog are inspired by videos I discovered some time ago. Fortunately, I continue to explore YouTube and find new inspiration all the time. Even from old videos.

I have no history with The Knack. Like you, I can read the Wikipedia article on them and learn the basics, but what I know of their music is bound in this song. I remember it being on the radio, but my younger self didn’t pay particular attention to it at the time. Because of YouTube’s recommender system, I recently watched a cover of this song from Phil X. Because of that video, I fell in love with the guitar solo. Keep in mind, what I knew of the song came from the radio and I was unaware of a longer version. As it turns out, like the one on the original album; one that The Knack performed regularly in concert. The Phil X cover showed off the full version in all its glory, complete with this amazing solo. Looking around, I was able to find several live versions by the original artists. Completely worth my time. The Knack were great musicians and their live performances were tight.

This is a live performance of the long version of My Sharona. It is totally worth your time as well. Just listen to everything each member adds to the whole. This song really shows off each of them brilliantly. Oh, and go check out Phil X’s cover too. Their version uses only three musicians, but it carries all the weight. And damn, that drummer is amazing. Cheers.

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