Posts Tagged ‘Rolling Stone’

Rolling Stone Top 100 Pt. 5

November 29, 2021
  1. Bruce Springsteen – Dancing in the Dark

There is a reason why The Boss has been so commercially successful. He has a lot of hits to pick from, all of which I can easily sing along to. I picked this one partly because of memories of the music video where he dances on stage with Courtney Cox. I just associate this song with fun. Springsteen is kind of the king of blue collar, middle-of-the-road rock and roll and I say that as a compliment. He has an easily recognizable vocal style with that rough voice that is also able to croon a bit. This song lives and dies by the drumbeat which just keeps the song going for me. Everything else is actually pretty chill. The guitar and keyboard are pretty slow and fade back to showcase Springsteen’s vocals. There is also a killer sax bit later in the song that I really like.

  1. Jerry Lee Lewis – Great Balls of Fire

One of those truly iconic songs that has been in a ton of movies and television shows. The song is a great showcase mostly for Lewis’ great vocals and piano playing. It was recorded with only bass guitar and drums to back Lewis up. Jerry Lee Lewis is one of those stars for whom a backing band just gets in the way. He is loud and energetic and that was what made him a star. The song also features a rare bass riff since guitars usually get all of the love. Lewis is hitting those keys hard, the piano blowing everything else away. It was a style that a lot of piano-centric musicians (Elton John, Little Richard) would also use.

  1. Fats Domino – Ain’t That a Shame

This song has a relaxed feeling to it as Domino sings about how he won’t be so broken up if his girl leaves him. One of the things the song does that I like is it has the instrumentation drop out during the chorus repeatedly and let Domino stand on his own. Domino’s voice is so smooth and so easy to listen to. This song is listed as rock and roll but feels more like jazz to me but genres can be difficult. Domino was yet another artist who did both vocals and piano in the mid-fifties. He has a smoothness and sardonic air in this song that I really enjoy.

  1. The Ramones – I Wanna Be Sedated

I have been a huge Ramones fan since I first heard them. Punk in general just has a lot of what I want in general. This song goes a mile a minute and is just so easy to sing along to. Especially the repeated refrain of “Ba ba ba”s. The song is a road song written as a semi-joke by the Ramones based on their experiences being on tour during Christmas and having literally nothing to do and being so bored between shows. They make the lyrics fun even if there is a tinge of worry mixed in there. The guitars just rock away in a constant bop for most of the song accompanied by a driving drum beat.

  1. Prince – Partyman

You do not understand yet how much I was obsessed with Batman (1989) and how formative it was in my early formative years. Looking back, I am absolutely fascinated that they got Prince to do much of the soundtrack of the movie and how well it worked. They also let him make some truly batshit insane music videos for his songs. The song itself is bouncy and fun, Prince at his best for me. I love the drum machine they used as it has a sort of fuzzy sound to it. It really does feel like the best parts of a party and I don’t really like parties. I will forever love this song for the museum scene in Batman but it stands great all by itself.

  1. The Clash – Rock the Casbah

The Clash is another punk band that I love but had a little bit of a different feel than other punk bands as they had a wider range of genres that they mixed in. This song definitely is an example of that wide range. It also has a bit of that great tendency of punk music to attack established political power structures. The song details the clash between a religious dictatorsip and the freeing power of music. Politicians have often either tried to tamp down rebellion in music or coopt it. I love Joe Strummer’s vocals in this as he belts out his lyrics only to be joined by his bandmates for the chorus. Topper Headon is putting in some great work on drums as well.

Rolling Stone Top 100 Pt. 4

November 15, 2021
  1. Muddy Waters – Mannish Boy

This is absolutely the kind of song that movies and television use as shorthand for “The Blues”. It has some guitar with a dirty sound to it, the drummer going hard on the downbeat, a wailing harmonica, and almost call and response cadence to the lyrics. The first thing I appreciate about this song is Muddy Waters told me that everything is going to be alright. That’s actually really nice to hear these days. This is the style that artists like George Thorogood tried to emulate. Waters is telling a story with every word and you can really feel his emotion. (So can his backup singer who keeps yelling like a primitive hype man). It almost feels like a prelude to brag and boast rap groups as well.

  1. Marvin Gaye – Can I Get a Witness

A lot of people put more stock into Gaye’s songs about love or sex but I really prefer this song. There is instantly so much joy in this song even though it is about heartbreak. Gaye is singing about how he has been mistreated and wants people to witness him. He wants acknowledgment which I think we can all empathize with. The song is very bouncy while still letting Gaye wail a little with his vocals. He sings over mostly a killer horn section and people clapping (tambourine?) which gives the song a simple feeling.

  1. The Velvet Underground – There She Goes Again

More twangy guitars are always nice. This is another band that I had to look up to remind myself of some of their songs. I have to admit that I am not really familiar with their work although I have heard the name as an influential group and I am somewhat familiar with singer Lou Reed’s later work. I think it is their lack of uptempo songs even though I fully admit that they are true artists. This is the best song that I could find. I do like Reed’s wandering vocals which remind me a bit of Bob Dylan here. It sounds like a great song to chill to if that was what I wanted out of music.

  1. Bo Diddley – Who Do You Love?

I have to admit that I first heard this song performed by George Thorogood and the Destroyers who I was obsessed with at one point. It is a really good song. I actually prefer the instrumentation of this version. Diddley’s band had some great guitar and some simple drumming. Diddley also sounds like he is having a little more fun with it as compared to Thorogood’s almost sinister delivery. In Bo Diddley’s mind, this song is a brag and boast song so that a woman would come away thinking that Diddley was such a badass that she would tell everybody she knows. It is basically just a list of dangerous and edgy things that make the singer look awesome.

  1. Otis Redding – I Can’t Turn You Loose

I first heard this song performed by The Blues Brothers, once again showing the benefit of cover bands who introduce you to great music. Redding’s band and The Blues Brothers band have comparable skills which makes sense because The Blues Brothers band was a supergroup of musicians that backed two comedians. Naturally, Otis Redding is so much better than John Belushi. He is throwing everything he has into this song and giving it so much more flair and soul. Redding sings in that almost gospel style that would be made famous by him, James Brown, and others. The song just really bops along behind Redding, letting him do his thing as he goes pretty hard. There are not many lyrics but sometimes you don’t need them.

  1. U2 – Elevation

I am not a U2 fan. In general, I am not a fan of Bono’s vocal style. I would not call it bad but it is definitely not my cup of tea as he slowly wails about Irish tragedies. This is the best song they have, in my opinion. The Edge and the rest of the band are obviously really good at singing and they got Bono to actually sing something a bit more upbeat, uptempo, and inspirational this time.

Rolling Stone Top 100 Pt. 3

September 20, 2021
  1. Bob Marley – Buffalo Soldier

When I was growing up, I never really listened to the lyrics of this song growing up because I had yet to learn history. The song’s title and lyrics make reference to the term Buffalo Soldier which was coined by Native Americans during the Indian Wars. The regiment of black US Army soldiers was given all of the difficult jobs in the military. One of those jobs was to protect colonizers from displaced Native Americans who thought that their hair looked like the pelt of a Buffalo. Marley was a fighter in his own way, fighting for the rights of black people through his music and his activism. The bouncy tune and Marley’s signature calm but forceful voice combine to create a great song.

  1. The Beach Boys – Barbara Ann

There are so many great songs to choose from when it comes to the Beach Boys. A lot of their songs were appropriately fast-paced and uptempo for me. Barbara Ann is just so much fun. The vocals have more of a layered feel as we have not only the usual vocals from the Beach Boys but also William Jan Berry from Jan and Dean (who originally performed the song). Those vocals are bouncy and cut loose and fun. There are not a lot of other instruments as the guys are mostly just jamming the vocals. The single was rushed out by the studio without the band’s knowledge to try and bolster the group’s reputation after the previous release was disappointing. Still, it gave the track a less polished feel which may be why I like it so much.

  1. Buddy Holly – Maybe Baby

My dad used to sing this to me as a kid. That is primarily why I chose this song out of all of Holly’s hits. Apart from my sentimentality, the song is really good on its own. The song is upbeat and up-tempo but somehow still allows Holly to croon out the vocals. The guitar and bass guitar parts form a really fun riff. The song has a little bit of a playfulness but definitely a bounciness that I love. This song (seeing as how I heard it as a baby) was my introduction of the genre of rockabilly. My parents taught me so much about music and how to appreciate it.

  1. Led Zeppelin – Immigrant Song

I have been slowly reminded lately that Led Zeppelin is actually a good band. I think that my perception of them is constantly colored by Stairway to Heaven which I dislike so much. They have so many rocking tunes. Early on when I was a kid I was blown away that they had so many Hobbit references in their songs. I just did not get a lot of that from other bands. This song was always my favorite with its battle cry and lyrics about Viking journeys and battles, it really gets your blood pumping. The guitar riffs feel all jangly and exciting. It does not hurt that this song had such a prominent place in Thor: Ragnarok.

  1. Stevie Wonder – Uptight (Everything’s Alright)

The first thing that hits me in this song is the rhythm from the drums as they kick in. Thar rhythm continues through the song like a steady march. Then the high horns kick in. Wonder sings with an obvious joy and passion that is impossible to deny. It is interesting that this is probably the song that saved Stevie Wonder’s career. He had only two moderate hits previously and, as his voice changed, the studio was about to cut him loose. Like me, the producer for this single and the fans really liked Wonder’s new, deeper tenor and he was back on top and headed toward becoming a legend.

  1. Sam Cooke – Good Times

Probably one of Cooke’s most iconic songs (and more commercially sellable than the very important A Change Is Going to Come). As usual, Cooke’s voice is so sweet to the ear as he croons out some great lyrics. The backing instrumentals are really good at staying out of the way and letting Cooke burn things up. The song speaks of the heart and soul of what music is and what feeling good should be.

Rolling Stone Top 100 Pt. 2

September 6, 2021
  1. Jimi Hendrix – Foxy Lady

I listened to a lot of Jimi especially when I was in high school. I had a friend that played a passable cover of his version of All Along the Watchtower. My brother learned to play guitar from watching Hendrix do it. He had many fantastic songs but Foxy (or sometimes spelled Foxey) Lady has long been a favorite of mine. Part of it has to do with this song being prominently used in Wayne’s World. Most of it has to do with the song itself. It is definitely a great display of Hendrix’s wailing vocals with his unique deep voice. The guitar riff also really does it for me. It feels like a revving engine to me as it punctuates each sentence in the song. One thing that really hit me as I went back through Jimi’s catalog to make my selection is that he only had two albums to choose from. It’s still pretty tragic.

  1. James Brown – I Got You (I Feel Good)

Yes, I went with the cliche. This song just makes me feel good. It starts with Brown’s excited scream and then the funky horns start. The horn riff feels joyous and playful. The drums and horns really punctuate the chorus and give it the oomph it needs. James was never really easy to understand but when he recorded this one, he was clear as a bell. It may be why this is the song most used in movies, television, and commercials. As with all of his songs, James Brown sells the hell out of it with his vocals and leaves everything behind when he’s done.

  1. Little Richard – Rip It Up

Decidedly not going with the cliche this time. When I think of Little Richard, I always think of him hitting the long high notes as he leans back as he plays the piano. He put his whole body into the music even when he was just sitting at the piano which would inspire plenty of other pianists (ie Elton John). When I was going back through his catalog, this song caught my eye and I realized I had forgotten about it. This song feels like it has a little more edge to it. The bouncy instrumentals make me smile. The slightly aggressive way that he sings about having a good time after work makes me think back to times that I felt the same way. It just feels so good to be done for the day and heading out (or in my case home) to have some fun.

  1. Aretha Franklin – Think

Once again influenced by movies as Aretha’s performance of the song in Blues Brothers is electric and sassy. Aretha may have been known for Respect but she shared it with many other acts. Aretha owned this song and nobody ever came close. I also really like the lyrics better for what Aretha does with them. The way she weaves the words (especially in Blues Brothers) felt like a predecessor to rap music with the speed she’s going. Aretha’s voice has always been one of my favorites and her songs seemed to be more uptempo than some of her contemporaries. I really love the bouncy, happy rhythm as Aretha threatens her lover.

  1. Ray Charles – Hit The Road Jack

There are not as many Ray Charles songs that I like as other artists on this list. He was a great singer and piano player but his songs were more crooning than I usually listen to. In fact, my favorite song he ever did was paired up with George Jones called “I Didn’t See A Thing”. It’s just so playful and funny but it doesn’t count for this list. Hit the Road Jack is playful and feels a lot like what I think of as traditional blues. This is definitely a song that does a lot between Ray and his backup singers. Ray gets the majority of it but the back and forth really sells it. The horns are iconic and once again it is easy to guess why this song is also used a lot in film.


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