Friday random 10: Prince esta muerto

I break the normal rules of the Friday Random 5 once again, this time for the obvious reason. I wasn’t as completely shocked by Prince’s death as I was by Bowie’s, but that’s partly because Bowie had just dropped an incredibly compelling new album that in retrospect clearly laid out what was happening to him. With Prince’s death, I’m still a little numbed by the suddenness of it. So I turn to his music.

Mom warning ahead: Prince wrote about sex so I will too.

Just 4 the Tears in Your Eyes: I still can’t believe that this song was only a b-side. I heard it for the first time 22 years ago when I picked up his first, and best, career retrospective, the three-disc monster Hits/B-sides compilation. It’s an appropriately somber note on which to start this retrospective and a useful reminder that Prince had spirituality as well as sensuality working for him.

Shy: Depending on how I feel at the time, this is either a monstrously underrated track from the underrated The Gold Experience, or it’s an arch piece of songwriting. I figure, the way life is, it’s probably both. But I love the way he builds the track off the footsteps of the protagonist, adding just a lead guitar, then building the track out on top of the rhythm guitar pattern that falls in behind the verse.

Adore: The slow jam that closes out Sign o’ the Times, complete with horn section and falsetto for days. An endlessly fascinating love song. This is definitely the song that Beck was listening to when he wrote “Debra.”

One of Your Tears: From the in-retrospect seriously interesting Crystal Ball rarities collection. I understand why this track remained a rarity; when your song has the narrator’s estranged girlfriend sending him a used condom in the first verse, it’s kind of amazing that it can actually recover. But the stacked harmony that fills out the chorus has insinuated itself into my brain.

Come: Okay, now shuffle is just playing with me. The salacious horn-driven title track from another underrated Prince album from the early 1990s and probably the most explicit paean to cunnilingus ever written. It appears that this song was a last minute addition to Come (the album), but it doesn’t sound like it. I hope Heaven has a horn section this funky.

Scarlet Pussy: Another early b-side, I think of this as the early flip side to “P. Control.” While it’s unusual in early Prince songs for having a female protagonist, the song doesn’t escape reducing her to her sexuality. But it’s got a George Clintonesque narrator, an electrofunk backbone, and an unforgettable chorus. So there’s that.

I Would Die 4 U: What does it say about this song that it’s probably the least memorable of the hit singles from Purple Rain? Only that Purple Rain is an album so full of win that it couldn’t have been written by anyone else. The beats and the one-note verse and the minimal arrangement (synths, handclaps, synth bass) all add up to something a lot more than the parts.

Interactive: Another Crystal Ball number, this is a rock number that featured in Prince’s Interactive video game CD. (Has a more early-90s sentence ever been written?) I don’t think the rock that Prince was writing in the early 90s was his best stuff, but this track is pretty good, particularly the guitar work.

P Control: The remix version of the lead-off track from The Gold Experience, this is another track on Crystal Ball. This version adds scratching and backing vocals and plays around with the instrumentation on the bass track, but it’s otherwise the same great song. I’ve always loved this song because it plays gleefully with the dirty words and paints a portrait of the most independent of his female musical protagonists, in which the only way the narrator wins a chance with her is by acknowledging and respecting her strength. That’s a long way from “Scarlet Pussy.”

Hide the Bone: Yeah, OK, shuffle, we get it. I should listen to Crystal Ball more often.

BonusCloreen Bacon Skin. After “Hide the Bone,” I listened to about another hour of miscellaneous Prince stuff before this track came on. Another treasure from Crystal Ball, a fifteen minute funk jam with just Prince on bass and Morris Day on drums, featuring Prince doing an impression of an elderly James Brown via George Clinton and … really, I don’t know what else to say because if you weren’t already looking up the song on Youtube by the end of that sentence, I don’t know what’s wrong with you.

Composition note: I dictated this via speech to text while driving to Charlottesville, only to lose it when the WordPress app hiccupped, so had to rewrite it from scratch.

The return of the Friday Random 10 … er, 5

It’s been over five years since I did a Friday Random 10 post. When I was last blogging daily, these posts started out as a group blogging challenge, a fun way to talk music and other stuff. After a while they became mechanical and they stopped along with my other blogging. Now that I’m three full weeks into my resolution to blog every weekday, I thought it might be time to resurrect the format, but with some changes. Namely, I’m not just going to post a list of tunes, I’m also going to write a little bit about each one, and so I’m shortening it from a Random 10 to a Random 5.

Otherwise the rules are the same: turn on your music player, hit shuffle, and list the first 5 tunes that come up… no cheating. I hereby swear to blog about it even if it’s embarrassing.

So here we go:

  1. What Is Your SecretNada Surf (The Weight is a Gift). A favorite band ten years ago, I need to go back and revisit some of their later albums which didn’t stick as much with me. But The Weight is a Gift and its predecessor, Let Go, are in my top 100 albums list, and even a lesser song like this is still a great listen for the harmonization.
  2. Song That Made Us What We Are Today (Demo)Red Hot Chili Peppers (Mother’s Milk). I’m not the biggest Chili Peppers fan in the world but I do love their earlier, edgier stuff, and this instrumental track is all bristly funk.
  3. Oh CarolinaVirginia Glee Club (Songs of Virginia). I’ve written about this track before and it’s still funny. What I didn’t write about is the musical form. A lot of these football songs were written for the spectators to sing at a football game and never had harmonizations, so when the Glee Club went to record this one they had to come up with a new arrangement for it. It’s a fun combination of traditional harmonization and multi-octave voicing that I hope we do as an alumni song someday.
  4. Like the 309Johnny Cash (American V – A Hundred Highways). In the aftermath of David Bowie’s death, it’s interesting to revisit Cash’s. Where Bowie’s was, in retrospect, a premeditated surprise managed for maximum artistic impact, Johnny Cash’s had all the inevitability of Revelations—the public awareness of his health problems, the death of June, the elegiac tone of the last few albums. In that context, his first posthumous release is both moving and comforting, with the bluesy shuffle of “Like the 309” a good representation of the tone.
  5. Above ChiangmaiBrian Eno (Ambient 2 – The Plateaux of Mirror). I went back to find the other albums in Eno’s Ambient series the other week, and was glad I did. This one is mostly composer Harold Budd on piano responding to “tones” introduced by Eno, who otherwise contributes mostly sound textures to the recording. The track “Above Chiangmai” is a soundscape in itself, sounding as though the piano is heard through the bones of the skull rather than the ears, and is hypnotic in its simple melodic improvisation. A little Satie, a little Cage, and all Eno.

Friday Random 15: Out of Rotation

I keep a playlist in iTunes, and on my iPod, that consists of highly rated songs (4 stars or better) that I haven’t heard in at least a year. It’s called Out of Rotation, and it always surprises me in a positive way. Today, when I needed a pickup after car trouble, it came through. Here’s the playlist:

  1. Johnny Cash, “Belshazzar” (Complete Sun Singles, Vol. 2)
  2. Liz Phair, “Chopsticks” (Whip-Smart)
  3. Pernice Brothers, “Waiting for the Universe” (Yours, Mine and Ours)
  4. Sonic Youth, “Radical Adults Lick Godhead Style” (Murray Street)
  5. Ted Leo/Pharmacists, “The High Party” (Hearts of Oak)
  6. Yo La Tengo, “Nothing but You and Me” (Summer Sun)
  7. UNKLE, “Nursery Rhyme Breather” (Psyence Fiction)
  8. The Raconteurs, “Blue Veins” (Broken Boy Soldiers)
  9. The Raconteurs, “Intimate Secretary” (Broken Boy Soldiers)
  10. Pixies, “River Euphrates” (Surfer Rosa)
  11. Gillian Welch, “Revelator” (Time (The Revelator))
  12. Gillian Welch, “My First Lover” (Time (The Revelator))
  13. Chemical Brothers, “Elektrobank” (Dig Your Own Hole)
  14. Prince, “Wherever U Go, Whatever U Do” (Rave Un2 the Joy Fantastic)
  15. Elvis Presley, “New Orleans” (The King of Rock ‘n” Roll: The Complete ’50s Singles)

Friday Random 10: because it’s been too long edition

I put the iPod on shuffle earlier this week and was struck by two things: out of 1500 songs, it came up with two Nick Drake songs off the same album; and there are all kinds of ways to be embarrassed by your musical taste.

  1. Smithereens, “A Girl Like You” (Blown to Smithereens: Best of)
  2. Nick Drake, “Things Behind the Sun” (Pink Moon)
  3. Sonic Youth, “New Hampshire” (Sonic Nurse)
  4. Nick Drake, “Place to Be” (Pink Moon)
  5. Minor Threat, “Look Back and Laugh” (Out of Step)
  6. The Byrds, “You’re Still On My Mind (rehearsal – take #43)” (Sweetheart of the Rodeo)
  7. Marvin Gaye, “You Sure Love to Ball” (Let’s Get It On)
  8. R.E.M., “Driver 8” (Fables of the Reconstruction)
  9. Pete Yorn, “For Nancy” (musicforthemorningafter)
  10. Bob Dylan, “Who Killed Davey Moore?” (The Bootleg Series: Vols. 1-3)

Attack of the Living Dead Friday Random 10

It’s been a good long while–over a year? really??? where did time go?–since I posted one of these. In that time I finished my “listen through” of my music library, so I don’t have a large pool of unlistened to songs on my iPod. Instead, a good many of these are likely to be songs that are already on my playlists, and therefore a little less revelatory. Let’s see what happens.

  1. U2, “11 O’Clock Tick Tock.” 11 O’Clock Tick Tock (Single)
  2. Howard Jones, “No One Is to Blame,” Dream Into Action
  3. Sun Kil Moon, “Si Paloma,” Ghosts of the Great Highway
  4. PJ Harvey, “The Letter,” Uh Huh Her
  5. Maddy Prior, “Singing the Travels,” Silly Sisters
  6. Jamie Lidell, “What’s the Use”
  7. Sarah Blasko, “Don’t U Eva”
  8. Peter Gabriel, “In Your Eyes (special remix)”
  9. M.I.A., “Bamboo Banga,” Kala
  10. Big Star, “Give Me Another Chance,” #1 Record