Friday, May 02, 2008

100 Favorite Songs - #s 61-70

70. "Gone" - U2
Maybe my favorite "rock" song of U2's. It's got a great, big, fat song with a heavy beat and a beauty of a reaching, desperate chorus, along with some artfully deployed piano. Bono's voice was a bit shot on Pop, and more so on the tour, but he still manages to do some great vocals work here, the rawness in his voice only adding to the feel of desperation.

69. "Brand New Day" - Sting
I love the quiet and slow build of the opening, with some soft background keyboards and spare guitar figures playing around before the main guitar figure comes in, and a few moments of that kind of peacefully repeating before that great Stevie Wonder harmonica. I like how the song, which is after all a pretty standard kind of thing about the possibility of new openings, is so understated about it - it's not grand or dramatic but almost happily resigned.

68. "Love and Happiness" - John Mellencamp
A pretty (for Mellencamp) distorted guitar and urgent drumbeat kick things off. And things stay pretty spare, with just that distorted riff and quick beat playing over the verse and chorus. A second guitar kicks in for the chorus, but it's all very stripped-down and spare, Which makes the blaring, high, high trumpet line that comes in out of nowhere for the bridge so wonderfully unexpected. I remember reading somewhere that it was born out of Mellencamp's dissatisfaction in the studio when it was suggested that the obligatory guitar solo would be inserted for the bridge.

67. "Alibi" - Elvis Costello
An epic, 6:43 song from Elvis about the multitude of ridiculous excuses modern society has developed to justify any bad act it wants. Basically a list song, with all of the "alibis" listed one-by-one. A slow, deliberate bass and drum line with some typically wonderful Steve Nieve organ lines providing ample color.

66. "Po' Boy" - Bob Dylan
A sweetly slow, countrified old-fashioned sounding song from Dylan's late period. You can feel the breeze on the porch, and see the band up there, in old, comfortable lockstep with each other. The mix of the band's remarkable tightness and the easy and free way Dylan plays with the beat musically is just delicious.

65. "Just Like a Woman" - Bob Dylan
Classic Dylan, with a lyrical harmonica over a sweetly waltzing guitar line. Live, he often takes this song much slower, but it really works in the studio version's quicker pace with the speed kind of offsetting the melancholy.

64. "When the Deal Goes Down" - Bob Dylan
A beautiful, late-period bookend to "Knockin' on Heaven's Door." There are lots of meditations on death in Dylan's last few albums, but maybe none as quietly beautiful as this one. "Tomorrow keeps turning around/We live and we die/We know not why/But I'll be with you/When the deal goes down." Gorgeous.

63. "Human Wheels" - John Mellencamp
What could have been just a standard three-chord mid-tempo rock song is made extraordinary by a piquant mandolin and probably Mellencamp's best-ever vocals, suffused with tired, weary resignation and sadness.

62. "Veronica" - Elvis Costello
Elvis' tragically bittersweet song about an old woman with dementia, inspired by his grandmother. This is the first Costello song that attracted my notice, back when I actually used to watch MTV (and when they used to play videos).

61. "Pink Houses" - John Mellencamp
Probably Mellencamp's best song, a stubbornly defiant thing with some very simple, yet very wise, lyrics about the ways in which we deceive ourselves. Featuring one of my favorite all-time lyrics: "And there's winners/And there's losers/But they ain't no big deal/Cause the simple man baby pays for the thrills/the bills/and the pills that kill."

Until Whenever

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