And now for a stroll down memory lane… The sound of decades past.
Yep, I am wicked late on this one… try buying a house and starting a new job and see how your blogging goes… back at it!
Notable April 2009 releases:
Bob Dylan – Together Through Life
Mr. Zimmerman’s last great record (as least as of now…) finds him flirting with 70 but still plenty vital. If you are a fan of his other gems of the last twenty years (i.e. Time Out of Mind, Love and Theft, Modern Times) but haven’t checked this one out, do so now.
His growly warble steals the show on the Tex-Mex opening track “Beyond Here Lies Nothin’”, although the accordion riff that runs throughout is the true backbone of the song. The soul-crushing sadness Bob evokes on the lover’s lament “Life Is Hard” is as gorgeous as it is tragic – sample lyric: “since we’ve been out of touch, I haven’t felt that much; from day to barren day, my heart stays locked away”. “Forgetful Heart” is another sad bastard tune that features strong guitar and organ work.
There are also playful and upbeat moments, such as the biting vocal attack, standup bassline, and swinging accordion of “My Wife’s Hometown” (spoiler alert: it’s Hell). It’s Dylan, folks, I can’t help myself: “she can make you steal, she can make you rob; give you the hives, make you lose your job; make things bad, she can make things worse; she’s got stuff more potent than a gypsy curse”. “Jolene” finds the legend in a happier lovestruck mood, and musically it plays as a cross between a happy blues song and something you’d hear in a 90s honky tonk scene. I dig it, is what I am trying to say. “Shake Shake Mama” is another rockin’ track that finds Bob lusting after a lovely lady to a gloriously fun tune.
This is not his best work of his Third Act but it is proof that he was still relevant and kicking ass well into the 21st century. This is definitely an album worth your time – and if you don’t like Dylan, well, I feel bad for you. Your parents failed you.
Spotify album link: https://open.spotify.com/album/5mVEtOa0CmXH5nCivFoa4x?si=6ALedoHQQPKyYs3InxNjag
Neil Young – Fork in the Road
Hard to believe that my two favorite songwriters released albums within a couple weeks of each other, but indeed Neil also laid a gem down ten years ago. This record is in the midst of his electric car crusade that found him financing a team that converted an old boat of a Lincoln to run without fuel across country. Sadly, in the end a battery malfunction ended up burning down one of his prize car garages, but at least we got a fun concept album out of it.
“When World’s Collide” kicks the album off with some classic Neil grunge-riffing and allusions to driving across the USA and meeting people along the way. “Johnny Magic” finds Neil praising his “Wichita motorhead Messiah” who helped him convert the aforementioned Continental, with lovely backing vocals over a terrific groove. He may have different things to say about ol’ Johnny after the battery-induced blaze. Continuing the car theme are “Get Behind the Wheel” and “Fuel Line”. A couple of the prettiest songs on this record have little to do with cars or politics – listen to “Off the Road” and “Light a Candle” and thank me later. Solid advice from Mr. Young: “instead of cursing the darkness, light a candle for where we’re goin’; there’s something ahead worth looking for”. When the pedal steel kicks in, it’s goosebumps every time.
On “Just Singing a Song” Neil reminds us, and I reckon, himself, that words alone will not make a difference – they have to lead to actions. And, since this was recorded amidst the global financial crisis that sparked the Great Recession, we get a couple of songs that rail against greed and deregulation of the banking industry: the tongue in cheek “Cough Up the Bucks” (on which Neil asks “where did all the money go, where did all the cash flow, where did all the revenue stream?”) and the fantastic album-closing title track.
On the latter, he rails against the endless Afghanistan war (“forgot this year to salute the troops, but they’re all still there, in your fucking war – who’s idea was that?”) and the bank bailout (“there’s a bailout comin’ but its’s not for you, it’s for all those creeps hiding what they do”). He also finds time for some self-deprecation: “I’m a big rock star, but my sales have tanked; but I’ve still got you, so thanks; if you download this, then it sounds like shit”.
All in all this is Neil being Neil – rocking in the free world and raging against the forces he sees as making life Hell for ordinary people, and that of our children’s children. Unlike Dylan, Neil would go on to record more essential music (see the marvelous solo electric guitar tour-de-force Le Noise as proof).
Spotify album link: https://open.spotify.com/album/2jrHeo3Ln9RVKjXnQsQO1x?si=syDjndO-Q8m-e4AL9VkjVw
Notable April 1999 releases:
Staind – Dysfunction
Aaron Lewis gave up this type of music because it literally was killing his vocal cords, and I don’t blame him for it. When I first heard this in high school, I couldn’t get enough. Full of hurt and angst, but still beautiful in a jarring way that was distinctly different and more “real” than anything the nu-metal crew of the day was doing.
Everyone got to hear plenty of “Mudshovel” and “Home”, the two singles that dominated rock radio at the end of the century, but there is much more here. I truly love each and every song here, including the hidden track – an Aaron solo acoustic recording of pain and alienation called “Excess Baggage”.
Throughout his career he has remained one of my favorite artists, but he will probably never top the aggression, vitriol, pain, and unrelenting rock that he and his band achieve on their debut. Unbelievable. When I need a pick me up, or just to rock the fuck out, this one never lets me down.
Spotify album link: https://open.spotify.com/album/4fLp0YBi1chfMHSBkIeI6w?si=Tp-w53hgTFKyJr2uPpt2Cg
Also: Buckcherry – Buckcherry
Notable April 1989 releases:
Pixies – Doolittle
This album speaks for itself. A perfect blend of pop hooks, punk aggression, and Black Francis’s eccentric and visceral songwriting, it helped spark much of the great grunge music of the early 90s. No Pixies means no Kurt Cobain (and therefore Nirvana) as you knew him. The fact that they broke up at the height of their success only helped them build a giant cult following that waited breathlessly for the eventual reunion.
As for Doolittle, it is up for debate if it is their finest album: but there is no debate that it is badass. This post has gone on long enough, and I should really devote an entire essay to this thing, so I’ll leave it there. You may know the hits from this album: “Here Comes Your Man”, “Monkey Gone to Heaven”, and “Gouge Away”, but there is so much more here to offer. Give it a spin and I bet you’ll agree. “Hope everything is all right, hope everything is all riiiiiiiiiiiiiight” J
Spotify album link: https://open.spotify.com/album/6ymZBbRSmzAvoSGmwAFoxm?si=dfvW9Fa7SayrSFuSuSiRgA
Notable April 1979 releases:
Notable April 1969 releases: