Great songs, according to me (Part 33)
Here are the previous entries in my saga: The archive of Parts 1-15, the archive of Parts 16-30, Part 31, and Part 32.
321. The Last Mile (by Cinderella on the album Long Cold Winter, 1988): I've mentioned my love of Cinderella before, and this song is a good reason why I dig 'em. Solid guitar work, not flashy like a lot of hair metal, and your fairly typical lyrics, but Tom Keifer does his usual excellent job making us believe that he's lived it, man. "I guess I've always been a travelin' man, 'cause when I'm movin' I can make a stand," sings Tom, and it just feels like the years have been unkind to him, but he keeps getting up and moving on. Cinderella has always been a blues band disguised as hair metal, and this song straddles the line.
322. The Last to Know (by Asia on the album Alpha, 1983): Asia, with its keyboard-drenched music and its bland lyrics, was a prog band without, you know, the long songs or interesting lyrics. They were completely inoffensive and a mild success, but they've never gone away, probably because they came to prominence right at the cusp of the MTV explosion and are remembered fondly by Generation Xers, so there will always be a place for them on VH-1's panoply of pop culture programs. I'm being unduly harsh, maybe, because I actually like them, and this song is actually, you know, great. It features the overabundance of keyboards, sure, but it also features heartfelt lyrics and a forlorn sound. It's rare to hear an Asia song that hasn't had the emotion overmixed right out of it, but this one hasn't. And that makes it far better than most Asia songs.
323. Laura (by Billy Joel on the album The Nylon Curtain, 1982): Coming as it does at the height of Billy Joel's "rock" phase, this song confounds us by sounding like, well, the Beatles. Except much more bitter. Billy has the quirky Beatles musical vibe down, with the heavy lower octaves on the piano contrasting nicely with the melody, and his evisceration of both the title girl and his own inadequacies in the lyrics is brilliant. It's the self-loathing that makes this such a wonderful song. Billy's narrator bashes Laura and understands that he's "her machine," but he can't let go, and ends the song with the hilariously nasty "She always says I'm the best friend that she's ever had; How do you hang up on someone who needs you that bad?" Laura, of course, doesn't need him at all, and the worse thing is - he knows it. What a classic. This is also, I believe, the first time I ever heard the word "fuck" in a song. It came out when I was 11 and a few friends were big fans of Joel (I didn't get the album until years later). Yes, I was a bit sheltered. I was surprised that Joel said the word, and the line is so very venomous, much like the rest of the song.
324. Leash (by Pearl Jam on the album Vs., 1993): Speaking of angry songs, Eddie Vedder writes some very good "angry youth" songs, and this is one of his best. The lyrics aren't great, but the powerful music drives the song toward its triumphant and bitter chorus: "Drop the leash, get outta my fuckin' face." Eddie celebrates youth not by indulging in sex and drugs (although I'm sure there was plenty of that in Pearl Jam back in the day), but by trying to get young people to stand up for themselves. Power to the people, Eddie! These days, of course, I want to oppress everyone under 30, but it's still a great song.
325. Leave (by R.E.M. on the album New Adventures In Hi-Fi, 1996): This underappreciated classic album (Automatic For The People? Blah!) reaches that status thanks to songs like this, with its weird music (I'm not sure what that instrument is running throughout the song) and Michael Stipe's haunting lyrics that speak of heartache and an inability to, as he wants, "leave." Stipe's usual whining is tempered a bit by the lyrics, which demands a bit of the heartsickness that he brings to almost every song he sings. Sometimes it works better than others, and in this one, it works very well.
326. Let's Go Crazy (by Prince and the Revolution on the album Purple Rain, 1984): If you don't like this song, I seriously doubt you like music at all. Prince begins his masterpiece album with the declaration of faith that ends with him telling us that "in this life, things are much harder than in the afterworld ... in this life, you're on your own!" Then he launches into the wonderfully bouncy rock and the bizarre lyrics that really don't work out of context, but with the unbridled enthusiasm of Billy Mumfrey (sorry - lame Seinfeld reference there) that marks so much of Prince's early work. And then the transcendent guitar solo kicks in, and we're swept away, not only with this song, but with the rest of the excellent album. It's a great song on its own, but it's also a perfect way to get us into the rest of the songs. Man, I love this tune.
327. Let's Pretend We're Married (by Prince and the Revolution on the album 1999, 1982): Meanwhile, Prince was making some good music before Purple Rain, too. This song is a fairly typical early tune, but Prince's unbelievably raunchy lyrics elevates it above many of the others on the album. One of the great lines in music history comes from this song: "I'm not sayin' this just to be nasty - I sincerely want to fuck the taste out of your mouth." And, of course, Prince talks about how great God is just after that. What a goofy guy!
328. Life Going By (by King's X on the album Ear Candy, 1996): This is the final track of this very good album, and it's a perfect example of a King's X ballad. There's a breezy, nostalgic kind of vibe to the music, and the lyrics are heartfelt and wistful, and ultimately hopeful: "And I've sat there in awe and I've seen myself fall and I've felt the full light of the day." It makes you sit and appreciate all the little things in life, and that's a nice feeling.
329. A Lifetime (by P. M. Dawn on the album Jesus Wept, 1995): As usual with a P. M. Dawn song, we have a nice folksy kind of musical vibe blended with a funky beat, and somewhat incomprehensible lyrics. Prince Be sells it well, however, with his smooth vocals and his plaintive yearning, especially when he gets to the end: "What's a lifetime, if you love me? For a lifetime, you said you'd love me" and the song slowly winds down. It's ultimately a sad song, but it's still something that makes you sing along.
330. Like It Or Not (by Genesis on the album Abacab, 1981): There are a lot of good songs on Abacab, and usually this song, which comes toward the end, gets overlooked. It's a very nice song, however, with Phil pulling back on the schmaltz that gets him in trouble with some of his solo work. His vocals start soft, with nice lines like "I feel a little cold in the air, and you're not anywhere, you're just another face I used to know," and then he slowly builds in intensity, along with the music, until he reaches a powerful climax: "It's been a long, been a long, long time, since I held anybody, since I held anyone ..." Phil can sing with sincerity when he wants to, and this time he does, and the song is elevated to greatness because of it.
Well, that's another ten songs in the book. I'm about halfway through my list! At this rate, I'll get done by 2011 or so!