Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Song of the Day 4/8/09

Every day, our top 666 songs of alltime countdown gets one step closer to #1. Wednesday’s song is #476:

Bruce Springsteen – Adam Raised a Cain

With the Walmart debacle, most of the blogosphere considers this guy a complete hypocrite, no better than the Eagles or AC/DC. Still, we should always distinguish the art from the artist. To his credit, Da Boss has a long and distinguished career of anti-fascist activism and charity work that predates that one offhand decision to give Walmart an exclusive on a cheap greatest-hits compilation. Here’s a number completely in touch with his working-class roots, from his raging late 70s peak, Darkness on the Edge of Town, 1977, a study in violence getting passed down through the generations: “You’re born into this life paying for the sins of somebody else’s past.” The best version out there is actually the ferocious live take from the multi-lp set, 1985. Good luck finding it online – there’s probably as much Bruce as Dead floating around limewire. The link above is a decent live take from Boston, 1999.

April 8, 2009 Posted by | lists, Lists - Best of 2008 etc., Music, music, concert | , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

In Memoriam – Danny Federici

One of the greatest rock organists of alltime, Danny Federici of Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band died this past Wednesday after a battle with melanoma. He was 58.

Originally an accordionist, Federici brought a sweepingly orchestral, haunting sensibility to Springsteen’s songs. Go to your favorite file-trading site and download the live version of Sandy from the live box set (you can also get the album version from The Wild, the Innocent and the E Street Shuffle, but the vocals aren’t nearly as good because Springsteen goes way out of his 2-note range). Listen to how plaintive and beautiful Federici’s accordion intro is.

While you’re at it, download the album version of Independence Day, from The River, if you don’t already own it. Federici plays the lead, a soaring trumpet melody, a particularly nasty Sunday morning wakeup call. This is one of Springsteen’s best songs, a vicious, offhandedly dismissive slap upside the head of a controlling parent, as resonant today as it was almost three decades ago, and it’s Federici who makes it work, his organ line hopeful, optimistic and brutally inevitable behind the Boss’ vindictive vocal.

Also download Point Blank, arguably the best song on The River. Federici doesn’t really contribute til about three-quarters of the way through, when his organ starts mingling with Steve Van Zandt’s distant, reverbed-out guitar in a devil’s choir of overtones. It’s a song about losing a girlfriend to either drugs or simply the call of the underworld, something that happens to a whole lot of people who have nowhere else to go. The brilliance of Springsteen’s lyric is its blunt opaqueness, leaving the listener guessing as to what horrible fate befell the woman. Federici offers more than a hint.

And since everything Springsteen is up online for download, Federici’s first solo album, Flemington is worth owning. It’s a thoughtful, pensive, ultimately optimistic bunch of soundtrack-style instrumentals, the title track a particularly standout cut.

Federici wasn’t a “chops” guy – tens of thousands of classically or jazz-trained keyboardists could play faster and more fluently than he did. Federici’s genius was a seemingly instinctive ability to find the underlying emotion of a song and channel it with a purity and clarity that bordered on the supernatural. If you’re a Springsteen fan, now’s the time to revisit his good albums – Nebraska and everything before that, along with his criminally underrated Live in NYC double cd set, featuring Federici at his understated, brilliant best. If not, you’re missing out on one of the most soulful players who ever sat down behind a keyboard.

April 19, 2008 Posted by | Music, obituary, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment