MARS, THE BRINGER OF WAR - ELP
Ever wonder where Star Wars music came from? I know, John Williams…but who inspired him? Gustav Holst, of course with his orchestral masterpiece “The Planets.”
There are seven tracks for seven planets and each on has its own feeling and relates to the emotion given to the composer by each planet’s image.
The set opens with “Mars, The Bringer of War.” Now imagine, in 1905 when this was introduced to an audience…there was nothing of this power that had ever been played on stage from any mainstream composer. The first performance supposedly caused a riot and the music was terrifying to the crowd. If you’ve ever heard the rest of “The Planets” you’ll realize this is the hardest piece of music in the set and the rest is quite mellow. Just imaging the Mozart crowd listening to this pounding classical music.
Cozy Powell joined Keith Emerson and Greg Lake for this album and this song is a great way to introduce rock fans to classical music. You’ll be amazed that one keyboardist could create a whole orchestra…this is very close to the original classical piece. The ending is great by the way.
Rock on with some classical rock!
DON’T SHED A TEAR - PAUL CARRACK
Second best breakup song ever. Why? A fantastic soul singer, power, emotion, and the words speak for themselves. Back in the early 80’s when I made my “ultimate breakup cassette” this song would have been perfect to kick it off, but it wasn’t released until 1987, when I really wasn’t dealing with a breakup…so I just thought it was a great song with a great groove.
By the way, if you like this song and the voice sounds familiar…you’ll also know Paul as the voice behind the song “How Long” by Ace (1975), “Tempted” by Squeeze, “Silent Running” and “All I Need Is A Miracle” by Mike + The Mechanics (oh and The Living Years). This was his biggest solo record. I used to ask my program director at KISS-FM why he didn’t keep it in the oldies mix…he said it didn’t test well. Now you know why I’m not a fan of radio anymore.
SHADOWFEET - BROOKE FRAZER
My favorite song of 2009. And yet, I don’t think this ever achieved hit status (I am so out of the loop on the pop charts now that they are dominated by rap and dance music). A New Zealander and Christian Contemporary artist…Brooke was one of many Christian acts last year to create very contemporary music that had subtle religious themes. I’ve always felt this form of message music was much more effective than praise music for the masses.
The video is quite interesting…not a smooth transition in morphing like Michael Jackson’s Black and White video…but along the same concept. What’s funny is, some people look bored…but the business guy gets into it.
STATE OF THE HEART - RICK SPRINGFIELD
I always thought Rick was unfairly stereotyped by “Jessie’s Girl,” his Dr. Noah Drake General Hospital character, his David Cassidy looks and screaming teenage girls. There were some really good songs in his collection and this was one that slipped by as his young fans started to get out in the world.
His albums continued to mature over time and “Tao” seemed to be the turning point. An accident left him away from recording for four years, but one of his best efforts followed in “Rock of Life.” Since then, he has resurrected his career on the tour circuit. I’ve heard his shows are quite good.
This song is always a great listen.
THEY DANCE ALONE - STING
A chilling true story, beautiful melody, and fantastic subtle story telling make this one of my all-time favorite songs.
When Sting traveled to Chile in the late 80’s, Augusto Pinochet was the dictator ruling the country. At that time, it wasn’t out of the ordinary for enemies of the government to just disappear, leaving families in despair.
As Sting relays it, “the women in Chile whose husbands and sons had disappeared would dance outside government buildings with invisible partners. I thought it was such a powerful silent protest and an incredible metaphor for loss and suffering that I wrote this song.”
My favorite part of this song is when Sting says,
“hey Mr. Pinochet…
No wages for your torturers
No budget for your guns
Can you think of your own mother
Dancin’ with her invisible son”
I have heard this line to mean, watch out Pinochet, you’ll get what you have coming. It could also be a plea to ask him to sympathize. But I always felt its strongest meaning was a more cutting…you are so vacant of feeling…your mother would be dancing with someone who bares no resemblance to a human.
Branford Marsallis was still playing saxophone for Sting at this time and his work is brilliant. In addition, the dance at the end adds a feel of hope at the end of an otherwise sad and chilling song. If you haven’t heard it before, pay close attention to the lyrics. This is powerful song writing.
MY GIRL (GONE, GONE, GONE) - CHILLIWACK
I must admit, I was once accused of liking too many Canadian groups. Since I was born in Detroit, I guess a little Canuck snuck into me. This song was once voted as the most popular forgotten hit. I’m not sure why it was forgotten…its a catchy little tune, showcased here are a part of the classic show “Solid Gold,” hosted by Marilyn McCoo. I used to love watching that show…okay the Solid Gold Dancers were campy…but it was always fun to watch bands try to lip sync to songs and then try to act normal when the song fades out. In this song there is a horrid edit in the single version, but they pull through it.
Kenny Rogers was my favorite guest on Solid Gold. That guy couldn’t lip sync to save his life.
Enjoy the song…its a pop hit blast from the 1981 past.
ROCKIT - HERBIE HANCOCK
Before Peter Gabriel’s Sledgehammer, this was probably the most creative video MTV had seen. That this song is done by a master of jazz is a bit of a shock, but Herbie Hancock always pushes the envelope. A great beat…a wild video…and memories galore with this one. It made scratching records an art.
MAMA USED TO SAY - JUNIOR
On the tail end of the funk 70’s (decimated by its co-opting to disco), there was still some great dance funk that made its way onto the charts. Notable amongst the entrants were The Gap Band, Carl Carlton, Prince and this song by one-hit wonder Junior.
I remember the first time I heard this song…I sat around for a few hours waiting for it to play again so I could catch it on my little tape recorder…oh, those were the days.
MODERN DAY DELILAH - VAN STEPHENSON (Tribute)
A rockin’ gem from the mid-eighties in the Corey Hart “Sunglasses at Night” mold (actually this came first).
I have a great personal story about this song. It was 1995 and I was working in a paint store in Nashville, Tennessee. I was waiting on a lady who was buying quite a bit of paint for her house. When she started writing her check, I noticed it said “Van Stephenson” on it. I asked her if she was related to the Van Stephenson who had a minor hit in the 80’s called “Modern Day Delilah”…she said, yes, that was her husband. Amazed, I asked her what he was doing now. She said, oh, he’s the lead guitarist for the country group “Blackhawk.” At the time, Blackhawk was even known to me, a very casual country listener.
Two days later, she came back to the store…she said “I brought him with me.” I said, who? She said “my husband…he had to meet the one guy who remembered his pop career.” We talked briefly, but it was a very cool moment. A guy who was on top of the world came to see a paint clerk who was a fan. It was extremely cool.
A sad follow up to the story though. If you followed the group Blackhawk, you’ll know that Van died of skin cancer in 2001. It was pretty much the end of the band and a sad end to my story. Its something I’ll never forget though…Van…this one’s for you.
JIM CAPALDI (of Traffic) - THAT’S LOVE
For fans of Traffic, this might not be what you would consider standard fare, but that eighties sound quickly becomes familiar when Steve Winwood kicks in with a keyboard solo.
Released in 1983 amongst the Duran Duran’s, Kajagoogoo’s, Naked Eyes, etc…this one was missed unless you listened to Adult Contemporary radio. Enjoy it now, it is a finely crafted 80’s pop song.