Thursday, May 30, 2024

He's Guilty


Saturday, March 2, 2024

I'm Waiting for the Man

 This is the coolest thing I've seen/heard from Keef this century. His low-key approach, the fact that we all know whereof he speaks, and the lack of vocal fireworks on the original, make this a killer combo. 

Thursday, February 29, 2024


This is pretty amazing. Beyond the novelty factor—which is considerable—it works this way so much better than I ever would have believed. I especially appreciate the tiny bit of tapping towards the very end of the solo. But it's really the general vibe of the cover that shines, as well as the more harmonically interesting if less overtly virtuosic nature of most of the solo. 

Sunday, February 25, 2024


I don't know how I missed this at the time but I surely did. Eddie Vedder covering "One" for U2's Kennedy Center Honors. 

The song's abridged. The tempo's a bit too fast. And it's maybe the finest vocal performance I've ever heard Eddie Vedder give, and I believe I've heard everything official studio recording and dozens and dozens of hours of live material from him. 

Bono seems to be nearly vibrating as he listens and it's hard to blame him. 

Thursday, February 22, 2024


I'm a big fan of the generations that had the extreme misfortune of following mine. Huge fan. I'm Team Millenial and Team Gen Z all day. All. Day. But what they seem incapable of understanding (as with a distressing percentage of my own generation, and most of all know...Boomers) is that Journey pretty much sucks. Arguably as a band and definitely as a corporation. 

Look, I've come around on "Don't Stop Believin'," in large part because the drums are phenomenal and the structure is weird, and that's more than enough to overcome the arena rock platitudes and geographic sloppiness. Also, to be fair, it's truly hard to come up with a stadium stomper as powerful and enduring. So. 

But in general Journey is the anti-Beatles. They are five insanely talented musicians who together produce significantly less than the sum of their parts. 

Except...I really like some of their stuff. Which doesn't mean it doesn't suck. It just means that blind pigs and being a certain age and all that. So no matter how awful the video for "Separate Ways" is—and it is—the song's pretty kickin'. 

And even as my most sneering, as only a teenager can be (or one who remains terminally teenaged into his dotage), I always liked "Faithfully." I liked the backstory about Jonathan Cain's wife asking if he was ever tempted to cheat whilst on the road, and how he wrote this lovely ballad in reply. (The fact that he did indeed subsequently cheat on her, leading to their divorce may take some of the shine off the song but, hey, trust the art and not the artist and all that, right?) 

One of the delightful surprises over the past decade is watching as Miley Cyrus not only seems to have pulled herself out of what looked like a disaster spiral but has subsequently revealed herself to be one hell of an artist. I can't claim to be an expert, having heard fewer than two dozen of her songs, but every cover I've heard her do has been at least good and some have been extraordinary. 

Such as this casual walk through "Faithfully." The ease with which she dips in and out of it while talking with the audience at the famed Chateau Marmont is striking. And her husky voice is a wonderful counterpart to Steve Perry's crystalline vocals on the original. 

Tuesday, November 7, 2023

Cleveland Rocks

Ohio's had some issues this century. But as songwriter Ian Hunter said, "the inspiration for 'Cleveland Rocks' goes back to the old days when people used to make fun of Cleveland. Cleveland was 'uncool' and LA and NYC were 'cool'. I didn't see it that way. Lotta heart in Cleveland."

Damn skippy. 

Wednesday, July 5, 2023


Just earlier today I was thinking about how little I care for harmony. It's not that I dislike it—I often love it—but I care less about it than I do about timbre and texture and rhythm and, most of all, melody. In fact, when it comes to multiple vocals in popular music, I greatly prefer to have entirely separate vocal lines which perhaps sometimes interlock and perhaps sometimes don't than to have richly layered harmonies. 

Which is why I was shocked by just how much I love this cover of the great Replacements song. I assume it's mainly due to director Ione Skye. (I'm a big proponent of the auteur theory.) 

Wednesday, May 31, 2023

What About Me

 It's such a strange thing when someone mentions a song you've never even heard of, much less heard, and then it starts and you realize, oh, I heard that maybe a dozen times back when I was about 13 and not since and yet it's been rattling around in there all this time. 

Saturday, November 19, 2022

Where the Streets Have No Name/Can't Take My Eyes Off of You

So I heard this maybe once or twice back in the day but had somehow entirely forgotten it had ever existed until today. 

I learned about it because I stumbled across an article that mentions that when it first came out, apparently Bono released a statement asking "What have we done to deserve this?" 

I at first assumed it was entirely in jest, especially since "What Have I Done to Deserve This?" is also the name of a Pet Shop Boys song. 

But listening to the track again, I have to think it was at least partially real. In fact, even for a Bono sliding so heavily away from his famous sincerity and into the ironically ironicalness in which he seemed to revel for most of the 90s, it's not hard to believe that to have a popular band he likely enjoyed and respected as the Pet Shop Boys release a piss-take on one of his most special hurt. 

And it's a bit hard to argue that it could be anything but a piss-take. It's not so much how they approach the song, which is an upbeat dance arrangement that actually manages to emphasize just how catchy the original melody is. Nor is it the vocal approach, which has been described as deadpan, and maybe so, but seems heartfelt if not terribly emotive. 

No, it's the part where it segues into the Frankie Valli classic "Can't Take My Eyes Off You." Which is a fine pop song, and one I've always absolutely loved. But the point of an interpolation (or medley or mashup or whatever) is to shed some extra or greater or at least interesting light on each individual part. And while I love "Can't Take My Eyes Off You," it's not only not exactly Dylanesque lyrically, but it doesn't seem to have any aspirations in that direction. Like much of the Four Seasons' work, it hews far more closely to the 50s or early 60s lyrical style, content with "moon/June" rhymes, and with no thought deeper than "you're really pretty and I would like to sleep with you." Which, hey, it's one of the prime human emotions and when it's set to a melody as catchy as this one, that's more than good enough for me. 

But "Where the Streets Have No Name" shoots far, far higher, taking on class warfare and ruminating upon where, if anywhere, one can truly find God. Now, it's possible the song does not achieve its goals as fully as the Valli song does. But there's no question its artistic goals are significantly loftier. 

And by melding the two, the Pet Shop Boys are either showing that they're determined to themselves tear down the walls that separate low art from high(ish) art, or they're sneering at the idea of a pop song even thinking of trying to be so pretentiously lofty and, possibly, at the very famous and famously pretentious lyricist. Or perhaps they're incapable themselves of seeing the difference between the two songs. Or maybe they really are simply suggesting there's no difference between the two. 

Sunday, June 5, 2022

Toothbrush / Trash

One of the things which never gets old about being a music fanatic (well, so far, at least) is how way can lead to way. You're reading a piece about a favorite artist and they mention some other artist, whom you've never even heard of before. And because we currently live in the age of miracles, you can just search for this new artist—the band Mount Eerie, which is apparently largely the work of Phil Elverum—and you discover he's been recording since the beginning of the century and you've just missed him. So you zip on over to YouTube and not only the song mentioned but indeed the entire album (2017's A Crow Looked at Me) is available, thanks to the artist himself. And you dive in and a bit later you hear a song and it just hits like a gosimer wrecking ball. 

And thanks to that websearch, you know that this album was not only written in the wake of his young wife's death but indeed in the room where she died, using her own instruments. 

Today I just felt it for the first time
Three months and one day after you died
I realized that these photographs we have of you
Are slowly replacing the subtle familiar
Memory of what it's like to know you're in the other room
To hear you singing on the stairs
A movement, a pine cone, your squeaking chair
The quite untreasured
In between times
The actual experience of you here
I can feel these memories escaping
Colonized by photos narrowed down and told my mind erasing
The echo of you in the house dies down

October wind blows
It makes a door close
I look over my shoulder to make sure
But there is nobody here
I finally took out the upstairs bathroom garbage that was sitting there forgotten since you were here
Wanting just to stay with us
Just to stay living
I threw it away
Your dried out, bloody, end-of-life tissues
Your toothbrush and your trash
And the fly buzzing around the room
Could that possibly be you too?
I let it go out the window
It does not feel good

I can't say I enjoy this song and yet at the same time I love it. 

Thursday, June 17, 2021

Can't Find My Way Home

Imprinting is a powerful force. It's not unusual for someone to permanently feel that whatever they first heard/saw/read is and always will be The Best Version or The Right Way. 

Certainly, I've found again and again that's how it so often is for me. The first cycle I heard of Carl Nielsen's symphonies were conducted by Neeme Järvi and I fell deeply in love from the opening bars. I've since heard a dozen other cycles, many of which are objectively better—if such a thing is possible, and I think it is—but the Järvi still holds a place in my heart that those superior versions can't quite displace. 

So with what is by far the best Blind Faith song, "Can't Find My Way Home." My first time hearing it was the live duet Eric Clapton played during the 70s with later hitmaker Yvonne Elliman. Its lovely, laidback, slightly woozy feel pulled me in and I was a goner. I'm not sure why it hit a teenage me so hard but, hey, music's mysterious. 

I was already a big van of Steve Winwood, thanks to his brilliant from stem-to-stern solo LP, Arc of a Diver, so when I could scrape together the money, I excitedly bought the Blind Faith LP...and was about as disappointed as I've ever been in a record. 

That a talent as huge and assertive as Winwood should take center stage was perhaps not surprising, but it was still a letdown that Clapton disappeared as much as he did; rather than a collaboration, the album was closer to a Winwood outing with famous friends playing along. And, unfortunately, one of those friends was Ginger Baker, who reminds the listener over and over again why Clapton had recently decided to stop playing with Baker. For all his own talents, there's a reason virtually none of his collaborators played with Ginger on a longterm basis. I mean, Winwood's the reason Ginger joined Blind Faith, and it doesn't seem coincidental that aside from a brief stint together in Ginger Baker's Air Force, they never really played together again.


Baker's brushwork is fine if unexceptional. His tom asides are actually kinda cool. But the explosive splashes he adds are just awful—jarring and tasteless. The twin guitar work of Clapton and Winwood—a greatly underrated guitarist–is lovely but it's not enough to push away the feeling that this is an exceptionally meticulous demo rather than the better final product it would later become. 

Such as this acoustic outing from decades later, as a nearly 45-years-older Winwood plays with delicacy and uses his otherworldly voice with dexterity and discretion.


Which, I guess, is to say that imprinting is a powerful force. But it's not the end-all and be-all, because I'd take solo acoustic Winwood over any other version any day, terrifying fire crackles and all. 

Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Who's Next/Achtung Baby — Going Bigger

Two legendary bands, at seemingly the height of their respective greatness, 20 years apart. Yet neither were satisfied with the enormity of their success and wanted to go bigger, newer and yes, even better.

And somehow they did.

The bands were The Who and U2. The years were 1971 and 1991—two absolutely monstrous years in music. And they each put out an album that signaled far and wide that the bands that the masses once new had changed. And a different era was underway.

Who’s Next. Achtung Baby. Absolute 100% bona fide game-changers. Any list of the greatest and most important albums in rock-n-roll history has these two albums on it. And if it doesn’t, the list is incomplete, almost stupidly so.

And here’s one more beautiful thing The Who and U2 had in common with these albums. The bands knew they were entering untouched territory, and they knew they had to let the listeners know that from the very start. 

So from the first seconds of opening tracks of those two albums, “Baba O’Riley” and “Zoo Station”—both amazing tunes, to be sure—our speakers and our ears were flooded from the get-go with sounds we had never heard from either band before. And holy cow did it get our attention. And still does today, to anyone listening.

Think about it. 

The epic synth drone which lifts “Baba O’Riley” up to some space-age plain the second the needle drops on Who’s Next was a brand new frontier for The Who. They had done some fine albums and all those great and taut Maximum R&B singles and then in 1969, with Tommy,  they invented the rock opera and created an album that seemed to almost swallow their identity…mostly in a good way. But they needed to move on and looked even bolder, brasher. Even bolder and more brash than Tommy had been two years earlier; after all, The Who had dabbled splendidly in longer-form narrative before Tommy (“A Quick One While He’s Away” in 1966, “Rael” a year later). But they had never, EVER tried anything like this before. 

And those sounds that open “Baba O’Riley,” that hypnotic and circular Lowery organ pattern which seems to have been dreamed up as much by Arthur C. Clarke or Stanley Kubrick as by Pete Townshend, damned if it didn’t work and take the listeners on an uncharted journey. No one could have expected it, but within seconds we couldn’t imagine music without it.

Fast forward 20 years. Now how about the volcanic industrial sound that drops into our laps about three seconds into “Zoo Station,” a sound so thunderous and forboding it almost sounds like the musical version of The Big Bang. This was not "traditional U2", awash in reverb and shimmering delay and spiritual and political forthrightness we had come to know and deeply love, played majestically from Boy through The Joshua Tree. This was cataclysmic sonic mayhem, all metal and stone and echoes and shadows and distortion. U2 had conquered all worlds by 1991, even trotting out the highly subversive and (according to at least this writer) highly underrated multi-media experiment of Rattle and Hum in 1988. But now, much like The Who in 1971, they needed more, and they got more. 

And much like “Baba O’Riley,” it all sounded like world-building, because it was. For “Baba” it was a gateway into the aimless, miasmic plasma of the 1970s and out of the (fictitious) Age of Aquarius. For “Zoo” it was a guillotine to the Reagan-Thatcher years of despotic, plastic self-virtue (laid in musical form by years of empty-headed Aqua Net-pasted glam metal) and an invitation to blaze new trails across previously neglected human wastelands. In every sense of the word this was music of change.

And neither exactly occurred in a vacuum—both came out at momentous times in rock-n-roll history amidst staggering competition, and still were able to not just stand on their own, but stand victorious and proud amongst the very very best musical offerings of their respective years. Or most any years.

I mean, 1971. Look. LOOK at the kind of the music their counterparts were offering:
  • Marvin Gaye – What’s Going On
  • Led Zeppelin – Led Zeppelin IV
  • Joni Mitchell – Blue
  • Rolling Stones – Sticky Fingers
  • John Lennon – Imagine
  • Sly and the Family Stone – There’s a Riot Goin’ On
  • David Bowie – Hunky Dory
  • Funkadelic – Maggot Brain
  • Carole King – Tapestry
  • Allman Brothers –At Fillmore East
I mean. I mean!

Not to be outdone, 1991? Well…again, just look:
  • Nirvana – Nevermind
  • Metallica – Metallica
  • R.E.M. – Out of Time
  • Matthew Sweet – Girlfriend
  • Michael Jackson – Dangerous
  • Public Enemy – Apocalypse 91: The Enemy Strikes Back
  • Dinosaur Jr. – Green Mind
  • Pearl Jam – Ten
  • A Tribe Called Quest – The Low End Theory
  • P.M.Dawn: Of the Heart, of the Soul and of the Cross: The Utopian Experience

Those are a couple of Murderer’s Rows of musical years, and sure, maybe some of those albums were as good as Who’s Next and Achtung Baby, but none of them—NONE of them—were better. 

Both offered a promise of a new day, a new musical awakening, with those opening tracks, and both delivered. Because of course it didn't stop there. In addition to the epochal starters each album contained arguably the respective bands’ greatest songs (“Won’t Get Fooled Again” and “One”), some statement of purpose masterpieces (“Behind Blue Eyes,” “Song Is Over” for the Who, “Mysterious Ways,” “Until the End of the World” for U2”) and, yes, some familiar musical territory done with as much muscle and gritty agency as ever (“Bargain” on Who’s Next, “Even Better Than the Real Thing” on Achtung Baby).

They were gutsy moves. Two of the greatest bands ever, each having reached pinnacles they couldn’t have imagined when they were starting out years earlier. Each wanting more. And each getting it.

It’s unfair to offer that they never would be that good again, because how do you top sheer once-in-a-lifetime masterpieces? Hell, if they didn’t equal those efforts they came pretty close—All That You Can’t Leave Behind, Quadrophenia, The Who By Numbers, How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb—and that’s saying more than something. But those efforts they churned out in 1971 and 1991 remain sui generis works of art. And if there’s one thing that art does, it lives. Does it ever.

The Who and U2 live forever in those opening generational strains of “Baba O’Riley” and “Zoo Station.” The music explains why, as it always has.

Friday, April 2, 2021

Message in a Bottle, Stewart Copeland, and Artistic Blindness

I've been an obsessed music fan for more decades than I like to consider, and one thing that has hit me over and over is just how wrong so many great artists can be about their own art.

Today's installment: drumming great Stewart Copeland's absurd opinion of his own performance on the Police's all-time greatest song:
“There are some things I would have done a little different now,” said Copeland. “There are too many drum overdubs. It’s such a great song, and then it comes to the end, and [if I hear the song on the radio] I’ll switch over to another station because I screwed up.”
However, Copeland isn’t taking all of the blame for the over-the-top drumming in the hit’s last few seconds.
“Where was Andy [Summers, Police guitarist] at that moment?” he mused. “Andy was a really good filter, because we all overdid it, but then usually Andy would say, ‘No. Too much. Too much. Less is more.’ And he was usually right. Where was he when I needed him at the end of ‘Message in a Bottle’?”
It's a fascinating insight...until one listens to the recording in question, at which point Copeland's POV is unambiguously revealed to be completely and totally wrong.

(Sidenote: how silly does a drummer look air-drumming? Even the great Stew-Cope can't make that look cool. Fortunately, the World's Coolest Man—and at that point he really was a serious contender—is next to him in a bowtie to take quite a bit of the heat.) 

I mean, seriously, just listen to this guy! He could have gone on like, unaccompanied, for another twenty minutes and it still wouldn't have been enough. 

Wednesday, March 31, 2021


 I'm always excited by the prospect of a new Dinosaur Jr album; for my money, they're easily the most artistically successful band reunion ever. And "I Ran Away," the first track released off their new album, Sweep It Into Space sounds like vintage post-Green Mind Dino Jr, which is to say, spectacular. 

But "Garden," the track just released today, is really something else. The new LP apparently has two or three songs written by Lou Barlow, as usual. And they're generally good, although I find to my surprise and disappointment that I almost always like Barlow's solo work better than his Dinosaur Jr stuff; I like his band offerings, generally, but I often love his solo outings. He was ridiculed in their early days for being so emotional, and it sometimes seems to me that his band songs downplay that slightly, but he leans into it on his solo records, with superior results. 

But here he seems to have somehow found the magical combination. It's got that emo Barlow feel, and his more conventional vocals are especially strong here. But it also has a distinctly Sufjan Stevens Carrie & Lowell vibe to it, but with a J Mascis guitar solo. And since perhaps the only thing better than a distinctly Sufjan Stevens Carrie & Lowell vibe is a J Mascis guitar solo, well, this is simply superb. 

Also, the video's pretty groovy. 

Wednesday, January 6, 2021

Georgia On My Mind

 This'll do. This'll do just fine.

Monday, November 9, 2020

Why Does Love Got to Be So Sad?

Happy 50th birthday to Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs, one of the all-time great double albums, one of the all-time great guitar bands, and the artistic highpoint of Eric Clapton's career. 

It's been interesting to watch as this album, which was so acclaimed when Greatest Albums Ever lists first became a thing in the 80s to nearly forgotten here, outside of aging boomers and Dad Rock adherents. And it's a shame, because while classic rock radio is a dustily mild abomination, this album truly is a five-star classic gem. It's got one of the all-time great rhythm sections in Carl Radle and the phenomenal Jim Gordon, Bobby Whitlock was a killer second vocalist, and Duane Allman kicked Clapton's ass up one side and down the other...and rather than resenting it, Slowhand absolutely loved it, recognizing that it was exactly what he needed and that the results were better than anything he'd ever done (or, sadly, would ever do again). So damn good. 

Saturday, November 7, 2020

Philadelphia Freedom

 As a sage on reddit said earlier today: 

Philadelphia: taking out tyrants since 1776, one vote at a time.  

Philly, the city that decapitated a hitchhiking robot, coming through in a big way for democracy—we owe you a big damn beer tonight. 

At the risk of getting mushy? 
Shine the light, won't you shine the light 
Philadelphia freedom, I love you, yes I do

Tuesday, November 3, 2020

Election Day Bob Dylan Listenings

I have written it many times here on Reason to Believe, almost on an annual basis. On Election Day
each year I tend to turn to Bob Dylan. As there is no voice for the unheard, advocate for the unseen, and spotlight into the darkness that has been louder, more prominent or shone brighter than Mr. Zimmerman for more than a half-century now. A big part of American music? Hell, Bob Dylan is American music. He is America, through and through.

So today I listened to a few old nuggets, some of which have been featured here before. The clarion call for the forgotten of "Chimes of Freedom." The meditation of hollow exceptionalism that is "With God On Our Side." The monument to white privilege and injustice that is "The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll." And the paean to Medgar Evers and the civil rights movement that is "Only A Pawn in Their Game."

Those words rang out in the early 1960s and they still ring out today. Because they have to.

And our votes counted and needed to be counted in 1800 and 1864 and 1904 and 1932 and 1952 and 1960 and 1964 and 1972 and 1980 and 1992 and 2000 and 2008 and on and one because they always will, and always have to.

So consider this my annual PSA. Listen to a little Bob Dylan today. And then go vote. It always feels so good when we do!

Happy Election Day. Go vote!

"Through the wild cathedral evening the rain unraveled tales,
For the disrobed faceless forms of no position.
Tolling for the tongues with no place to bring their thoughts,
All down in taken-for-granted situations,

Tolling for the deaf and blind, tolling for the mute,
Tolling for the mistreated, mateless mother, the mistitled prostitute,
For the misdemeanor outlaw, chased and cheated by pursuit,
And we gazed upon the chimes of freedom flashing."

- "The Chimes of Freedom" - Bob Dylan, 1964

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Walk on the Wild Side

Q: when are we talkin'?

A: now. Right now. Now we're talkin'.

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

RIP Eddie Van Halen

I confess that I have never really been a fan of Van Halen. I love some of their songs, don't get me wrong ("Dance the Night Away" is a perfect song, as an example), but despite growing up exactly during the time when they hit it huge, my VH phase really didn't last that long.

I mean sure, I remember owning the first three albums and getting into it at my musical awakening when I was 12-13. But my tastes later veered in other directions and I kinda left Van Halen in the rearview mirror. Not that this had any impact on the band, of course.

But while the music didn't thrill me, Eddie Van Halen usually did. How could he not? Just the way he made guitar fans out of so many Gen Xers was impressive enough. Wickety-wickety guitar playing is touch and go with me (no pun, you know what? Screw it, that was pretty good. Pun intended!). Which is why Joe Satriani and Yngwie Malmsteen just never got me excited. But when it was melodic and not just going for land speed records? Yeah, I could dig that. And that's what Eddie Van Halen always seemed to bring. Sure it could be lightning fast, but it was tuneful and even, often times, soulful.

"Eruption" was a sonic revelation. His work on "And the Cradle Will Rock" sounded like the guitar version of impending doom. "Atomic Punk." The aforementioned "Dance the Night Away." His epic turn on "Beat It." Eddie could play, and part of being a music fan is respecting those artists who could, even if maybe you don't love their stuff. That was Eddie Van Halen to me.

The other thing? I loved how he always seemed to have so much fun when he played. I ever saw the band live in concert (again, not a big enough fan for that), but I've seen plenty of clips and he has always seemed to belie the classic "lay back and let the frontman preen" guitar God persona. Think about the detached cool of Jimmy Page or (once long long ago) Keith Richards or Jeff Beck. That wasn't Eddie. Even though he had a life-sized, manshaped peacock in David Lee Roth dominating the stage, and later a hardly gunshy Sammy Hagar doing same, Eddie was still out there and seemingly having a blast. Never upstaging the showy glitter Gods at the microphone, but just smiling and hustling and laughing and looking like this was what he always wanted to do, this and only this. Bravo for that. Seriously.

RIP Eddie Van Halen, gone too young at 65.