Wednesday, March 17, 2010

"Is there anyone out there with a little Irish in them?"

Singer, bassist and chief songwriter Phil Lynott posed this question on Thin Lizzy's classic 1976 album Live And Dangerous. After a cheer from the audience, he followed up with, "Are there any ladies who'd like a little more Irish in them?" Politically correct it wasn't, but charming it was, and Phil could pull it off and make the women (and the men) smile.

In honor of St. Patrick's day, I've put together a few peak moments of my favorite Irish band (sorry, U2).

Most fans of 70's rock are quite familiar with Lizzy's breakthrough (so to speak) release from 1976, Jailbreak, featuring one of the all-time radio classics "The Boys Are Back In Town," as well as highlights "Cowboy Song" and "Jailbreak."

But I also love their earlier stuff, when they were a funkier three piece, with Eric Bell on guitar. This track is from can certainly hear the Hendrix influence but (forgive my sacrilege) I actually prefer Lynott's voice.

Another early highlight was a traditional folk song cover, which in turn was nicely covered later by Metallica. (See that video here. It scares me how much this reminds me of my college days!)

In 1973, Thin Lizzy let rip with one of the greatest songs ever about rocking out (you gotta love the 70's when it was cool to do that), called, obviously enough,
"The Rocker." This is an abbreviated version. Check out the full studio version, where they really, er, rock out.

But they could do ballads, too. This really set them apart from a lot of the hard rocking bands of their time.

They lost their classic "twin guitar" lineup of Scott Gorham and Brian Robertson in the late 70's but issued one last great album in 1979, Black Rose: A Rock Legend, featuring a pyrotechnical Gary Moore just before he hung up the black leather pants and went all blues. Here's the lead track from that album. I love the lyrics:

Sadly, it was not to last. After a few more albums with diminishing results, Phil passed away from heart failure (he played hard in more ways than one) in 1986 at the ridiculously young age of 35.

Happy St. Paddy's Day, Phil and the rest. All you surviving members: Keep rockin!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

My first two “Best Songs of 2010”

It’s been kind of a slow year for great singles so far. Spoon’s new album, Transference, is terrific but no one song stands out for me. Ok Go has the viral hit of the year with the song “This Too Shall Pass” (the second song to enter my comp list for this year), but it’s more notable for the (not one, but two!) cool videos that go with it (see below). Sorry to report that the rest of the album, while boasting a big sound and funky vibe, is quite short on hooks and melodies, and passes by without making much of an impression.

So, my first official “best of” for 2010: Yeasayer’s “Madder Red” from their second album Odd Blood. It doesn’t rock out, it doesn’t have an “oh wow” hook, but it gets by on cool charm and a slightly retro vibe:

Nice tune, with vocals that remind me of mid-70’s Moody Blues. The whole album is quite an aural extravaganza, with enough musical weirdness to keep it interesting, but not so much as to completely disorient the senses (see Animal Collective). review of Odd Blood.

As for OK Go, you’ve probably already see them, but just in case, here are the two videos of “This Too Shall Pass,” both worth checking out:

Marching Band version

Rube Goldberg Machine version

I actually like the lyrics as well (usually an important consideration for a Best Of compilation), but I had to listen without video before I could really focus on them. Mysterious yet hopeful:

You can't stop these kids from dancin'.
Why would you want to?
Especially when you're already gettin' yours.
'Cause if your mind don't move and your knees don't bend,
well don't go blamin' the kids again.
Let it go
This too shall pass