iTunes Tournament of 64, Round 2
See Round 1.
- The Memphis Train (Rufus Thomas) vs Popular (Kristin Chenoweth). Rufus Thomas had quite the interesting life and career. Before helping found the Memphis sound with Stax records, he had Sun Records first hit; and before that, was one of the first black radio personalities in the 1940s. One problem with Memphis Train is that it's derivative of his earlier Stax releases. But what really hurts it is the post-production of actual train noise before and after the song. Much like the seagulls in Otis Redding's Dock of the Bay, this added atmosphere is distracting and takes you out of the song. Chenoweth uses the phrasing in Popular to great effect and I'll give it a slight edge.
- Seven Deadly Sins (Flogging Molly) vs Get Up Offa That Thing (James Brown). From the opening scream to the fadeout, JB can do no wrong. Flogging Molly, with their Irish-folk-punk sound will obviously be compared to the Pogues. While not fair, Flogging Molly can almost stand up to that comparison. Actually, they fall somewhere in between the Pogues and the Mighty Mighty Bosstones, so if you're a fan of either of those two bands you should enjoy Flogging Molly. Seven Deadly Sins is good, just not good enough to defeat the hardest working man in show business.
- Laughing at Birds (The Subdudes) vs The Garden (PJ Harvey) The Subdudes are a collection of of New Orleans musicians who have been kicking around for close to twenty years. This song is from 1996 and since then they've broken up and gotten back together. If PJ Harvey puts out a CD, I'll stand in line to buy it, even though nothing has ever again reached the level of Rid of Me. The Garden suffers from not being as good as I want PJ Harvey to be and Laughing at Birds surprises by being better than expected.
- The Christmas Song (Jackson 5) vs Till I Whisper U Something (Sinead O'Connor). The Jackson 5 Christmas album is 'pert near perfect and is one of a small handful of Christmas albums everyone SHOULD own. In one form or another, I've owned a copy since 1970. O'Connor's Faith and Courage is almost as strong as I Do Not Want What I Haven't Got and Till I Whisper is a fine example for her strength as a singer. It's a close call, but it's Sinead.
- I Hear the Bells (Mike Doughty) vs More than Meets the Eyes (Bangles). Crap. All Over the Place is easily my favorite Bangles album and this is one of the top tracks. I think what I like about it is the emphasis on group harmonies. Subsequent albums were more pop/new wave with Susannah Hoffs taking more of a lead singer role. Not bad, just not the same. I Hear the Bells is from Doughty's new release and I'm constantly replaying this song. Come back in a month and the result might be different, but today the Bangles go home.
- Good Enough (Sarah McLachlan) vs I Shall Believe (Sheryl Crow). These two are evenly matched. I guess what tips it in favor of Sheryl Crow is the realization that Good Enough reminds me of Anticipation, which reminds me of ketchup. I'm not a big fan of ketchup. This is what happens when I force myself to pay attention to what I'm listening to.
- Body By Fisher (Zydeco Force) vs The Volga Vouty (Duke Ellington). I'm keeping Zydeco Force around for at least one more round, so let's talk Ellington. Volga Vouty is from Ellington's version of the Tchaikovsky "Nutcracker" Suite. Brilliant music - even Tchaikovsky approved. Like the Jackson 5 Christmas album this is another everyone should own. You can find it on the Three Suites collection. My first exposure to it came at a small cabaret in Minneapolis. Instead of the traditional Nutcracker ballet, this version was with tap dancers and the setting was moved to 1940's Harlem.
- Every Little Bit Hurts (Charles Brown) vs We Belong Together (Rickie Lee Jones). Good song from a great album, but Rickie can't stop Charles. Go, Charles, go!
- 7 Deadly Sins (Mary's Danish) vs Never Like This Before (Peter Wolf). Read the sad tale of the music industry killing a band that should have been huge: The life and premature death of Mary’s Danish.
- Writing on the Wall (Lowen & Navarro) vs Lucy Doesn't Love You (Ivy), Lowen & Navarro are a completely likeable duo, in the easy adult alternative mode of Dave Matthews or Dave Edmunds. Nice, but nothing gripping. On the other hand, starting with some jangly guitar and throwing in a horn arrangement, Lucy Doesn't Love You has me immediately humming along.
- Hey (Shona Laing) vs Living Loving Maid - She's Just a Woman (Dread Zeppelin). Dread Zeppelin rocks. Shona Laing has had an interesting career. She's performed since the age of 17 and in addition to her solo career has performed with Manfred Mann and New Faces. What grabs me about Hey is that it sounds exactly like Joan Armatrading. I'm listening to it now and as soon as the first notes kick in I'm thinking I clicked Joan by mistake. Freaky.
- Hard Times (Eddie Bo) vs Borderline (Camper Van Beethoven). Now if Eddie added some accordian and a washboard, he'd have a kick ass zydeco stomp; as it stands it isn't much more than chanting over a nice piano line. I have a Borderline story that I'm saving for later.
- Add It Up (Violent Femmes) vs Drunken Lullabies (Flogging Molly). My favorite Flogging Molly song up against one of my favorite Violen Femmes songs. My daugher will request Drunken Lullabies had ear drum splitting levels and there's nothing cuter than a 4-year-old headbanging and pogoing to punk folk. But you cannot fuck with the Violent Femmes. You cannot fuck with this band.
- Rainbow Connection (Me First and the Gimme Gimmes) vs Ball the Wall (Professor Longhair). Tough, tough choice. Professor Longhair is genius and this is one of those songs that made the creation of rock and roll possible. Me First and the Gimme Gimmes are the ultimate punk cover band. Their version of Rainbow Connection is performed with such affection it's infectious. One of those songs I could listen to all day.
- Hamlet (John Wesley Harding) vs Lucky Day Overture (Tom Waits). Waits never had a chance against this sub-4 minute version of Shakespeare's Hamlet.
- Whippin' Piccadilly (Petty Booka) vs Under Pressure (Queen/David Bowie). I enjoy the Petty Booka CD Let's Talk Dirty in Hawaiian. I have this theory, though. I'm convinced that these cute Japanese girl bands like Shonen Knife and the 5,6,7,8s all speak perfect English. And that their cutesy schoolgirl Engrish is a calculated effort to appeal to the same pervs that find anime to be artistically interesting.
Ok, so that leaves Round 3 looking like the following. I'll be back in a few days to wrap all this up.
- Popular (Kristin Chenoweth) vs Get Up Offa That Thing (James Brown)
- Laughing at Birds (The Subdudes) vs Till I Whisper U Something (Sinead O'Connor)
- I Hear the Bells (Mike Doughty) vs I Shall Believe (Sheryl Crow)
- Body By Fisher (Zydeco Force) vs Every Little Bit Hurts (Charles Brown)
- Never Like This Before (Peter Wolf) vs Lucy Doesn't Love You (Ivy)
- Living Loving Maid - She's Just a Woman (Dread Zeppelin) vs Borderline (Camper Van Beethoven)
- Add It Up (Violent Femmes) vs Rainbow Connection (Me First and the Gimme Gimmes)
- Hamlet (John Wesley Harding) vs Under Pressure (Queen/David Bowie)