by Safet Bektesevic
Sounds, vain sounds of conversations heard and forgotten. The buzz of elevators and revolving doors that never, never stop, beating irregularly like hurting hearts. The unsteady, strident noises from the other side of the street. Do our lives need some more pleasant rhythms, maybe?
Last Thursday the irregular sound of our footsteps had brought us to the Atrium at Lincoln Center for a date that was like a small wrapped gift. Inside, where at times it seemed primarily to be a place of retreat and relaxation in the midst of city hustle and bustle, we encountered stimulating, dazzling notes of Jazz, a genre that one finds in life like all that which, secretly, one needed, but did not expect to find – an oasis or a lost piece of a dream.
Braxton Cook and Jazze Belle had created a parenthesis of unsuspected notes that widens and widens ever since – which, like heartbeats, immediately took possession of the language of our veins. With the music’s vigorous and vibrant dynamics, these two ensembles made us bid farewell to the hum of indistinct sounds lost in uncomfortable silences, to the the grinding noise of elevators and doors, to the pandemonium of the busy hour, and brought us, if only for awhile, to that place that we all have left, but to which we all want to return. Like inadvertent lovers, they took us on a date only to raise before us a spectacle that made us escape from our own arduous routines, and from the incessant, grueling, even maddening march of the typical New Yorker, the one who does not even sit down to heave a sigh of relief.
Let the strident noises in the street be silent, let the arduous race cease for a moment…these great musicians offered us what we longed for without knowing it: a chair for when we were exhausted, a break from the seemingly unbreakable noise of the city (and of life), and music that spoke squarely to our experiences and to the human condition. With these artists’ warm, liquid notes, the atrium revealed itself for what it truly is: an oasis for the urban traveler, where one can regain strength while drinking water in the form of bright, refreshing melodies before returning to one’s post in the frenetic march that takes place on the streets. The memory of the oasis accompanies us, showing us a rhythm in the veins of our wrist, a rhythm that palpitates, that moves us forward, that pursues new possibilities, and that is stronger than any other. At this point, I can only ask myself, “Where is the next oasis at?”
Every day our 1000 best albums of all time countdown continues, all the way to #1. Monday’s is #743:
The Alan Parsons Project – The Turn of a Friendly Card
From 1981, this is their most theatrical album. The poor man’s Pink Floyd had a good run with a series of loosely thematic collections of artsy, orchestrated pop anthems, from their 1976 debut Tales of Mystery and Imagination through 1984’s Ammonia Avenue. The trouble with all of them is that alongside the good songs, there’s always a real stinker or two. We offer you this bright, slickly cynical concept album about gambling, chance and existential angst as the band’s most consistent effort. And there is one real stinker here, but otherwise the tracks are solid: even the big top 40 hit, the caucasianally funky Games People Play has an absolutely scorching Ian Bairnson guitar solo. The track that still gets classic rock airplay is the sad ballad Time, a ripoff of Us and Them, which helped solidify songwriter Eric Woolfson’s reputation as a minor league Roger Waters. Nothing Left to Lose is also poignant, as is the swaying, brooding instrumental The Ace of Swords. There’s also the sarcastic casino theme Snake Eyes, the apprehensive May Be a Price to Pay and the warily cinematic five-part title suite interspersed among the tracks. Caveat: some of you may find this overproduced and considerably more pop-oriented than the other albums on this list. Here’s a random torrent.
The best 666 songs of alltime countdown continues every day, all the way to #1. Wednesday’s song is #71:
The Alan Parsons Project – Don’t Answer Me
With the boomy kettle drum lurking in the background, Alan Parsons’ wall-of-sound production beats Phil Spector at his own game. It’s a great song, too, an anguished, artsy, backbeat-driven alienation anthem from the 1984 Ammonia Avenue album. To stream it clink the link above and scroll down to the video.
The best 666 songs of alltime countdown continues every day, all the way to #1. Friday’s song is #153:
Barry McGuire – Eve of Destruction
What a fortuitous coincidence – snow in New York! The apocalypse has arrived! Suspend civil liberties, declare Michael Bloomberg mayor for life, call out Blackwater…woops, the National Guard! Seriously though…written surprisingly by born-again El Lay scenester songwriter P.F. Sloan, this snarling Summer of Love single embodies yet transcends every folk-rock cliche of the era. You gotta love that kettledrum. The Dickies’ hardcore punk version is also a lot of fun; if janglerock is your thing, check out the Red Rockers’ 1984 cover.
Every day, our top 666 songs of alltime countdown gets one step closer to #1 (in case you’re wondering, there’s no Michael Jackson on the list). Friday’s song is #397:
Manfred Mann – Living Without You
Randy Newman cover by the 1970 version of the British band responsible for three of the most ridiculous hits in rock history: Doo Wah Diddy, The Mighty Quinn and, as “Manfred Mann’s Earth Band,” Blinded by the Light (you know, “wrapped up like a DOUCHE!!!”). But this sad midtempo ballad is nothing like that. The contrast of the gently skeletal texture of the acoustic guitar against some of the most booming bass ever recorded is exquisite; nice Badfinger-esque slide guitar too.
This is pathetic. We haven’t put up a real post here since the middle of last week and we’re getting more traffic than we’ve seen in weeks. You must like songs with a lot of swear words in them. This one doesn’t have any but it is on our top 666 songs of alltime list which we count down daily, one at a time (tons more reviews coming soon…). Monday’s song is #450:
Robert Cray – Smoking Gun
Wherein the great bluesman decided to write a REM song and succeeded wildly. Like nothing he ever did before or after – maybe that’s a good thing. Love that catchy bassline. And notice how, on the solo, he goes from matter-of-fact swing to absolute redline in a split second? Wow. From the Strong Persuader album, 1986; mp3s are everywhere
Every day, our top 666 songs of alltime countdown gets one step closer to #1. Saturday’s song is #494:
King – Taste of Your Tears
Members in good standing of the Zager and Evans Hall of Fame, these wimpy British “new romantics” were the last band you would ever expect to deliver this beautifully wistful 1986 epic pop hit bouncing along on layers and layers of gorgeously watery, staccato wah-wah guitar. Neither the band nor frontman Paul King in his blip of a solo career would ever create anything remotely as good. Mp3s are everywhere; the link above is to the original video (check out those ridiculous haircuts!)
Every day, our top 666 songs of alltime countdown gets one step closer to #1. Thursday’s song is #517:
Genesis – Home by the Sea
Don’t laugh: keyboardist Tony Banks’ swirling, ominous organ tune has a beauty that transcends the presence of both a drum machine AND Phil Collins, no small achievement. MP3s are everywhere; if you’re looking for vinyl, dig through the dollar bins for Genesis’ 1983 self-titled album.
The top 666 songs of alltime countdown continues, one day at a time all the way to #1. Today’s is #612:
U2 – Another Time, Another Place
At the risk of alienating the diehard obscurantist following here, we give you something popular but perhaps not so obvious. This is by far the best song – maybe the only good song – that the band ever recorded. It’s a strangely jangly, uncharacteristically melodic anthem that for one reason or another sounds a whole lot like Television – and like absolutely nothing else U2 ever did before or subsequently. Available at all the mp3 sites and also in the dollar bins at your favorite vinyl retailer – it’s on the Boy album, from 1980.