Sir Duke by Stevie Wonder

Not much needs to be said about this song and certainly not about the footage itself. This is absolute gold in its purest form! To see it performed in a studio in a totally live format (and honestly, I don’t think there’s any overdubs here) is simply awesome! Sir Duke is hands down my favorite Stevie Wonder song. In fact, the album this was originally on, Songs In the Key of Life really has no bad moments but this one really shines for me. I mean seriously, does it really get any finer than that horn section popping out one of the finest runs of eight measures ever to be laid down on record? ( Count) Basie, (Glenn) Miller, ( Louis Armstrong) Satch-m-0 and king of all Sir Duke (Ellington)…What a blast!

Wasted Years by Iron Maiden

So I never thought much about Iron Maiden back in the 80s except of course for the fact that they had the coolest album covers ever made. Somehow though, I saw them as nothing more than another band based on this “dark” image that I thought was a bit silly. In the years since, I have grown to really appreciate what they have done and just how good they were and still are. I mean, let’s face it, is there anything more badass than Steve Harris standing there perched with one leg on his stage monitor and his fingers a blur as he simply mauls his bass strings? There is a plethora of tunes that I could post here but I chose Wasted Years simply for the fact that it’s subject matter is far from anything “satanic” or any of that sort of thing. It also perfectly displays musically what they are all about.

Carnival by Natalie Merchant

First of all, this is a magnificant song. Natalie Merchant’s voice is, as always, a perfect blend of soft tones and quiet intricacies blended exquisitely with the music. But for me, this track is all about the guitar. Jennifer Turner is the guitarist and I really don’t know anything about her. What I do know is that this thing is full of great licks, chops and blurbs from start to finish. Then you get to the best part…the tone. I’m guessing by the sound that it is simply a very high quality guitar plugged into a nice warm tube amp. Perhaps a PRS plugged into a late 70s era Marshall? I really don’t think there’s a lot of processing going on. What I would give for that tone…absolutely fabulous!

 

L.O.V.E. Machine by W.A.S.P.

W.A.S.P. Well, when it comes to 80’s era heavy metal, you really didn’t get much more ridiculously outrageous then this. Blackie Lawless’ brainchild was, from the outset, created to take the images of Alice Cooper and KISS and create a grotesque spectacle the likes of which nobody had ever seen. Suprisingly though they really were pretty decent musically compared to most of their peers. This song popped in my head today for the first time in probably twenty years and when I listened to it quickly realized it stands the test of time for me. That is extremely unusual for me especially in this era of music. For example, play anything by Motley Crue and I will become disinterested quickly. W.A.S.P.’s image can’t be taken too seriously though. They would be crucified today for their antics and unabashed (though intentionally grossly exagerated) misogyny. I’m not an easy person to offend but even I know that having a half nude woman strung up to a rack while throwing raw meat into the crowd during a concert is a little over the top and at best, of very questionable taste. With that said though, I consider them a couple of musical notches above those also from this era.

Fire On High by Electric Light Orchestra (ELO)

Although the epitome of pretentious and grossly overproduced music to some, I have always had a certain affinity for some of Electric Light Orchestra’s music. They’re one of those bands that have put out far more recognizable songs than most people realize (Strange Magic, Evil Woman, Can’t Get It Out Of My Head etc.) other than “Don’t Bring Me Down…Bruce”. Although certainly always a band with many members including a multitude of string players, they were essentially Jeff Lynne’s conduit for his sound. He has gone on to become a very successful producer over the past few decades as well as a founding member of the jangly supergroup The Traveling Wilbury’s in the late 80s and early 90s. This particular instrumental track from 1975’s Face The Music is one of my favorites. Something about the sound of the 12-string acoustic guitar is quite appealing. The intro is part Elton John’s “Funeral For A Friend” and part Sgt. Pepper with the unmistakable backward vocal which I believe goes something like “the music is reversible, but time isn’t…turn back”. Kind of peculiar in the afforementioned pretentious way but good fun all the same!

 

Tonight And The Rest Of My Life by Nina Gordon

Why in the hell this song would ever appeal to me I have no idea. I guess something about it just seems to match some deeply hidden (by choice, no doubt) introspective sensibility I have in me. What the hell kind of drive am I spewing you ask? I don’t know, but I do know I like this song and liked it the first time I heard it in probably about 2004 sometime when I was so disenchanted, without a soul and completely broken spirited from all the self destruction I caused. Regardless, I would have never imagined that this was the former lead singer of Veruca Salt, Nina Gordon. As a band, they are certainly not known for this type of music. They were more akin to Nirvana than vocal oriented sappy stuff like this. In conclusion, yeah, I’m comfortable enough in my masculinity to admit I like this song alot…so there!

Cat Scratch Fever by Ted Nugent

Ted Nugent. The Nuge. Motor City Madman. The Great Gonzo. What a trip this guy is! First off, he’s as strong an antidrug spokesperson as you could possibly be and I have the utmost respect for that fact alone. Then, you’ve got his extremely polarizing political views which some I agree with, some not so much. Fist and foremost though, he is a guitar slingin’ ass shakin’ fool who seriously enjoys playing rock and roll whether it be the occasional psychadelic rock in the late 60s and early seventies with the Amboy Dukes or damn near butt-rock with Jack Blades and Tommy Shaw in Damn Yankees in the early nineties. But let’s face it, he’s at his best when he’s just plain ol’ Ted. This song with its not so subtle innuendo and over the top machismo and bravado needs no introduction or explanation. Cat Scratch Fever. Is there really anything else to say?

 

Pick Up the Pieces by Average White Band

The Average White Band tore it up with this legendary fusion track from 1974. I don’t really know much about the band but do know that as a young boy, I loved this song! The one guitar (in this video, the Fender Telecaster) fast strumming, another guitar (the Gretch Falcon) doing a single note comp-style pattern and a solid funk rhythym and backbeat lay the perfect foundation for of course, the saxophones. Even though it screams ’70s John Holmes era 8mm porn films, there is still something bright and feel-good with this hoppin’ little number. Great stuff!