Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The Hump Day Shuffle: 1985

1. The Cure - The Blood - The Head On The Door
When I first listened to the Cure, on my friend Marc's tapes in high school, I had the distinct sense that The Head On The Door was sort of set apart from the rest of their work. These days, that sense has entirely vanished, mostly because I've heard far more of the band's sparer earlier work, as well as much of the hit-or-miss Cure of the past decade. Still, at least with this song, there's evidence that the Cure was a much more rhythmically dynamic band at its midpoint, when they'd grown into a force, but before the success was too great.

2. Richard Manuel - Piano Quickie #2 - Whispering Pines (Live at the Getaway)
The most soulful member of The Band, and perhaps the one most torn apart by personal demons, Richard Manuel never had any sort of a proper solo career to speak of. This is from a live set that barely saw release in the U.S. in 2005 (fittingly on a Canadian label). Manuel's take on "Georgia On My Mind" is heartbreaking and on par with Ray Charles' own best take.

3. Bonnie Raitt & John Prine - Angel From Montgomery - Tribute to Steve Goodman
This live cut has long since become the definitive version of Prine's classic tune in my mind. I absolutely love the lines: "If dreams were lightning thunder was desire / This old house would have burnt down a long time ago."

4. Meat Puppets - Maiden's Milk - Up On The Sun
This instrumental, with its rolling, jittery guitar lick, tangled bass line and subtle whistling, is the perfect follow-up to the album's opening title track. Up On The Sun is every bit as good as Meat Puppets II, though lacking any song that Nirvana would later cover to international acclaim. I finally saw the Meat Puppets this summer, and was blown away.

5. The Replacements - Bastards Of Young - Tim
Simultaneously anthematic and careless, this is one of the best songs ever recorded. I was plenty late to the Replacements, buying this classic album in 2001, and playing it incessently all fall, when the line "Got no war to name us" developed an unexpected and depressing poignancy.

6. Jesus & Mary Chain - My Little Underground - Psychocandy
Though "Just Like Honey" is absolutely genius, much of the rest of the Jesus & Mary Chain debut record strikes me as just too far buried in distortion. Yes, I know that's the hallmark of their innovation, but I definitely prefer the darkly melodic Darklands, the synthier Automatic and definitely the poppier Stoned & Dethroned, which for my money is the band's peak.

7. Dire Straits - One World - Brothers In Arms
Since I actually really like this record, I would have preferred any other song to this one. The slickest song on a supremely slick sounding album, this is without a doubt one of the best examples I can point to of a song done in by its era. The fulcrum of a cold and pathetic decade, 1985 will never be remembered as a cultural high point in any way.

8. Bob Dylan - Tight Connection To My Heart - Empire Burlesque
Just my luck to have been born when Dylan was embarking on a 10-year dry spell. I'd love to give shuffle the chance to pick through the 1960s and 1970s classics instead of the over-produced 1980s records. Still, as with many of Dylan's lesser-known songs, this one has many of the elements of greatness: there's compelling lyrics and an outstanding groove. I'd love to hear what Daniel Lanois would have done with this song. And it's never been a live staple, but given a different setting, the song does grow significantly better.

9. Sonic Youth - Ghost Bitch - Bad Moon Rising
I'm a complete Sonic Youth neophyte, and I just picked up this record after reading "Our Band Could Be Your Life." I guess like even most music fans at the time, I'm not sure what to think of this record or this song. It's unapologetically dark and disconcerting, not a listening experience I typically go for. On a first listen, all I can offer in response is mild curiosity - I kinda wonder what I might find on repeated listens, but then again, I probably wouldn't care if I never heart it again.

10. Clarence Carter - Strokin' - Dr. CC
I've seen conflicting dates for the release of this bawdy classic, but it sure as hell sounds like 1985. While the appeal of this song is certainly in its barely concealed sexual references, I think it's lasted for its groove as much as for its audacity. I have fond memories of my friend Tim going where few karaoke singers dare to go and setting the bar on fire with a spirited rendition of "Strokin'," complete with a few lyrical additions that, ah, shall we say, pulled back the veil even further.

Replacements - Bastards of Young (live) - (From the Shit, Shower, Shave bootleg)
The Cure - The Blood (unplugged)
Bob Dylan - Tight Connection to My Heart (live)
Meat Puppets - Maiden's Milk (live KCRW, 1986) - (Download that entire performance at the Meat Puppets live repository)

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