What Are You Listening To? (2017 — )

These posts tend to get heavy with YouTube embeds, making them tougher on mobile devices, so I’m starting a new one for 2017. The videos are great, but that last post was taking a while to load.

What are you listening to?

175 Responses to “What Are You Listening To? (2017 — )”


  1. Mitchell

    I See You by The xx
    2017 (Young Turks)

    I was watching football with my dad when a promo came on for the episode of SNL with Kristin Wiig as the host and The xx as the musical guest.  My dad has always liked Wiig, so he made a comment about being sure to see that one, and followed with a comment about how half the time he has no idea who the hosts are anymore.

    “You probably don’t know who the musical guest is either, but stay awake for this one.  That’s a great band,” I said.

    When the show aired six nights later and I watched it alone in my house, I left the TV on mute for everything except the Kristin Wiig sketches and the musical performance, for reasons I don’t want to get into right now.  Honestly, I didn’t want to watch SNL but I was eager for the first new music from The xx in four years.

    Midway through the first song, I thought, “My dad’s not going to trust my recommendations anymore.”  It was a fine performance, but who was this band and what were they playing?  This wasn’t The xx I knew, and I didn’t know how to hear it.

    But that was two months ago.  The new album, I See You, has been out two weeks, and I’ve given it six spins so far, and it’s as good as the critics say.  Somehow, it’s completely an xx album while being almost completely unlike the band’s first two albums.

    “More expansive” and “less insular” were the early pre-release buzzes, and all I could think was, why would I want a less insular xx?  If anything, I want more insular.  Where the first two albums were perfect driving-at-night music for remembering everything you’ve ever regretted and every stupid thing you’ve ever said to the women you’ve loved, this new collection of songs feels more like it’s meant for tearing yourself open and letting everybody take a look at what those stupid things are.

    And it feels pretty dang good.  Most of the defining elements of the xx sound are still there: the one-note-at-a-time, droning guitar riffs; the super-clean production; the breathy vocals by Romy Madley Croft that remind you of those Everything but the Girl albums you haven’t listened to in far too long.

    The “more expansive” part of the new sound is in some of those wide-open spaces in the band’s composition.  The playing on the first two albums is blessedly sparse, leaving room for memories of long talks over coffee where you wondered how someone so easy to communicate with for so many years could now be a total mystery to you.  It doesn’t leave that kind of time, driving you forward so that while you don’t go quite as deep, you cover a lot more ground.

    The vocals are less whispered, less eavesdropped-on, and more insistent.  The drums sound less like the slow-motion ticking of a clock in the other room and more like proper drum-playing on a good dance record.  There are strange sounds (synthesized horns, distorted tin whistles, muted humpback whale shrieks, excited walruses) all over the place, coloring in those spaces that used to make you stare into the void.  The songs are songier, with easily discernable verses and choruses.  The melodies are more varied from one song to the next, as with the almost Japanese-inflected notes in “Tell Me,” and with “A Violent Noise,” which sounds like it could have been an Of Monsters and Men song.

    If I See You were the first album by The xx, and if xx and Coexist came out later, I (and you) would probably like this album best, which feels like a weird thing to say.  But it’s not, and they didn’t, and I don’t.  I like it very much.  It just doesn’t take me where I long for an xx album to take me.  8/10

    —–

    • Most unlike what you’ve heard from this band: “Dangerous,” the opening track.
    • Most xx-like: “Performance.”
    • Best song: Probably “Replica,” which is one of those you kinda don’t really hear until you hear it, and then it’s all you want to hear.
    • Second-best song: “I Dare You.”
    • Song that reminds you of Tracey Thorn: “Brave for You.”
    • Most unexpected moment: Sampled and looped vocals from Darryl Hall and John Oates’s “I Can’t Go for That (No Can Do)” on “On Hold.”
    • Best lyric (from “On Hold”):
      Now you’ve found a new star to orbit
      It could be love
      I think you’re too soon to call us old
      When and where did we go cold?
      I thought I had you on hold
      And every time I let you leave
      I always saw you coming back to me
      When and where did we go cold?
      I thought I had you on hold

     

  2. Mitchell

    Well crap. Pouring one out for John Wetton. I’m listening only to Wetton today.

    This was only seven years ago, four years after Asia had to cancel its performance in Honolulu because of Wetton’s health. He could still sing. 🙁

    My favorite guitar player of all time, stage right, and my fifth favorite drummer, upstage center. 🙂

  3. Mitchell

    Monday, I spent my day discovering the complete discography of the Romantics. Something someone said on the Bill Simmons podcast got me curious. I knew they had a little bit of new wave and post-punk sounds, but “Talking in Your Sleep” was so poppy and slick, I just never took too much interest.

    It turns out that “Taking in Your Sleep” is sort of later Romantics, and “What I Like About You” is much more representative of their early work. It’s punky and new-wavey, but not nearly as slick. Sloppy and energetic, very garagey and fun. It’s good stuff; they kinda remind me of an American version of the Clash, but a little less angry. Good party music for sure.

  4. Mitchell

    Okay, so Reid and I were talking Friday night about power ballads and whether or not a rock ballad was almost by default a pop song. I mentioned that a rock ballad is constructed differently, that there’s a different emphasis, illustrated partly by guitar solos. It’s true that pop ballads often have guitar solos, but the way the solos are constructed and played is different from the way they’re constructed and played in a pop ballad. I mentioned also that there’s a difference in the orchestration, the way the musicians play with each other.

    I was listening to a few on the way to work yesterday, and I noticed also that there are differences in the drumming and bass-playing as well. I think the differences may have less to do with the genre of music than with the differences between bands and vocal performers. Rock musicians tend to play in bands. Pop musicians have bands with them, but they’re more likely to be solo artists, with the support of accompanying bands, but the focus is always on the vocalist. In a rock band, while each instrumentalist has his place, in the better bands he or she has a chance to chime in, to participate as an individual among the rest.

    Here are a couple of examples.

    That’s Poison’s “Something to Believe In,” and notice how the second half of the song is all five musicians contributing in his own way to a whole thing. Rock bands are about playing songs together, each in his way, and these guys are all playing. The production actually sounds like its intention was for you to notice each in turn, especially in what I’m calling the jam near the end.

    Okay, this is Motley Crue’s “Home Sweet Home,” which Reid said he’s not familiar with. It’s probably the one song Motley Crue can’t get away with not playing in concert — I’ve seen them play it live and it was definitely a highlight.

    One reason I appreciate Crue is that’s it’s really a power trio with a singer, meaning Mick Mars does all the guitar work by himself. All rock bands are heavy with egos, but it’s truer of Motley Crue than almost any band I can think of. Everyone really plays all-out on this song except maybe Nikki Sixx, the bassist. But since Nikki’s the songwriter, they’re all his songs anyway. This is not pop-style drumming or pop-style soloing.

    It’s funny, because I’m using these bands as examples of ballads that aren’t pop, but I call this music (“glam metal”) pop metal most of the time.

    Okay, last one, and I don’t blame you if you don’t watch this or any of the others. Guns N’ Roses, “November Rain.” A ballad. Not pop. Also nine minutes long.

  5. Mitchell

    PS: “November Rain” goes down in my book as one of the weirdest rock music videos ever.

  6. Reid

    I suspect that we define pop differently, at least slightly. Generally, pop is probably closer to an approach, more than a style of music. Basically, I think that most pop songs are watered down versions of an existing genre. So when we talk about pop ballads, technically, and more often than not, this isn’t specific enough. We should probably talk about an R&B pop ballad, a country pop ballad or a rock pop ballad. To my mind, songs from each group are often close enough, musically, that one could accurately label them all as a pop ballad or just pop. This doesn’t mean there aren’t any differences, though, but for me, the similarities stand out a lot more.

    That’s sort of how I feel about the first song “Something to Believe In.” Yes, it is more “rock” than something like the Jets’ “You Got It All,” but they don’t seem that significantly different.

    Regarding the Motley Crue song, is it really a ballad? To me, it seems a little too uptempo to be considered a ballad. It’s like Michael Jackson’s “Rock With You.” Is that a ballad? To me, it’s not really a ballad. I’d call it something like a “slow jam” which is a not the same as a ballad to my mind.

    I didn’t watch the “November Rain” clip, but I listened to it. One thing that occurred to me: are these really representative of the norm? That is, are you sure you aren’t cherry picking to prove your point. I would assume most rock ballads aren’t 9 minutes for example. The second song seems like a borderline ballad.

  7. Mitchell

    I guess I don’t know what you’d call a ballad then. “Home Sweet Home” is generally held up as the model power ballad, the one that represents the form. Wikipedia’s first sentence about the song identifies it as a power ballad.

  8. Reid

    Maybe power ballad is a slightly different form from a ballad, just as a slow jam is not really a ballad as well.

    Off the top of my head, I would say the tempo for ballads is slow, not medium or fast.

  9. Mitchell

    I’m going to try to keep better track of current music I check out, so that it’s easier for me to summarize my year of listening at the end of the year.

    Today I checked out Grave Digger’s Healed by Metal (released in January on Napalm). It’s some of the cheesiest, dumbest, silliest metal ever — I’m talking cheesy in the league with Man-o-War. In one song called “Laughing with the Dead,” the lyrics actually go “laughing with the dead / whoa whoa / laughing with the dead / ha ha ha ha ha!”

    …and I really enjoy it. It’s like groovy thrash. The riffs aren’t very original, but they’re enjoyable. The soloing is mediocre at best, but it’s fun. It’s great music to stuff into my ears while I’m trying to get some work done: soothing and engaging at the same time, so that the distractible part of my brain (that is, most of my brain) can deal with it while the part of my brain that needs to focus can do what it needs to do.

    There are a few bonus tracks and I swear on two of them, it sounds like Lemmy Kilmister has returned to earth. Pleasant surprise there.

    it’s like a 4/10 quality-wise, but like an 8/10 guilty-pleasure-wise.

  10. Reid

    Is the cheesiness intentional, or at least, are the musicians not taking themselves seriously? If so, I don’t think I’d put them in the “guilty pleasure” category, not without some qualification, anyway. At least, this is how I think I would approach the music if it were me.

  11. Mitchell

    You bring up a good question, actually. I once cracked a joke about Man-o-War, and the friend who heard it said something about Man-o-War actually being participants in the joke, intentionally cheesy. Which I guess changes things. It’s tough to tell sometimes with European bands.

  12. Reid

    Which I guess changes things.

    Yeah, it totally does to me. An extreme example: Weird Al. One may not like his music because they don’t like his humor, but I don’t think you can say call it bad because it’s “stupid.”

    It’s tough to tell sometimes with European bands.

    I don’t realize they were European, and if they’re speaking in a foreign language, then, yeah, I imagine that’s tough.

  13. Mitchell

    Not a metal band, but I’m curious about whether this is what you’d consider a ballad.

    Listen to it. Don’t just go on memory.

  14. Reid

    Before: Ballad
    After: Ballad

  15. Mitchell

    Okay, well I measured the tempo this morning, and by my count it’s about 80 beats per minute. Right? That’s the same number I got when I measured the tempo of “Home Sweet Home.” So are we sure tempo is an issue with the latter? Depending on how you count it, of course. But as long as you count the same for both, I think you get the same number.

  16. Reid

    So, you basically think of “Eternal Flame” and “Home Sweet Home” as the same, with regard to being ballads? They seem different to me. The former seems more like a ballad, while the latter seems more like a “power ballad.”

  17. Mitchell

    Our original conversation was what would a ballad sound like if played by a metal band, I think. But you don’t want to call “Home Sweet Home” a ballad, so I’m trying to get at what you think the differences are. You mentioned tempo, but that immediately didn’t sound right to me, since I know “Eternal Flame” is a moderately-tempoed song. The more I thought about it, the more I thought “Eternal Flame” and “Home Sweet Home” have pretty much the same tempo, so I decided to put them to the test today. Can we agree that if “Home Sweet Home” isn’t a ballad, it’s not because of its tempo?

  18. Mitchell

    I don’t know if you remember the conversation, but I was basically trying to convince you that a ballad by a metal band is different, because (for one thing) it has a real guitar solo. You said (this was over pie at Bob’s Big Bear) that pop ballads have guitar solos, so it can’t be that. I tried to tell you that the guitar solo in a ballad performed by a metal band is difference in structure and performance.

    So I offered these examples, and your response was that you don’t think these are ballads. So I’m trying to get down to why not.

  19. Reid

    Can we agree that if “Home Sweet Home” isn’t a ballad, it’s not because of its tempo?

    By the number of beats per minute, I think you’re correct. Would you agree that how fast or slow a song feels can also depend on other things. For example, if the musicians play ahead of behind a beat can change how fast or slow a song feels. The volume and dynamics can also have an impact. In my view, ballads have a slower and maybe quieter feel in general. So, for example, I wonder about Bonnie Tyler’s “Total Eclipse of the Heart.” Is that a ballad? I would guess it is, but it’s pretty loud and energetic–qualities that I don’t associate with ballads.

    I don’t know if you remember the conversation, but I was basically trying to convince you that a ballad by a metal band is different,…

    I think you’ve convinced me, at least if we agree that a power ballad is basically a ballad. I’m not sure where I stand on that. Again, I see this similar situations where there is gray area between slows jams and ballads. If Bobby Brown’s “Tenderoni” a ballad or a slow jam? Are these basically the same thing? I don’t really think so, myself.

  20. Mitchell

    I spent yesterday and today checking out the new album by Pain of Salvation, In the Passing Light of Day (released in January on InsideOut). I’d heard that the frontman/guitarist had spent time in the hospital fighting a flesh-eating bacteria, and this album is about that ordeal.

    It’s a lot more accessible than their previous work. It’s still solidly a Pain of Salvation album, with a bit of that stuttered machine-gun djent-like guitar strumming, but as is this band’s wont, the sound is varied from track to track. It has the usual PoS (an unfortunate abbreviation) mellowness and understated vocals but also that proggy vibe that makes it an interesting band.

    Still going through the lyrics, but after about five listens I think it’s just a solid Pain of Salvation album, not a bad place to start if you haven’t listened to them or if you thought their earlier work was dense listening.

  21. Reid

    I’ve been listening to Miguel Zenon’s new album. Zenon is a jazz alto-saxophonist who has impressed me. While I like Latin music, including Latin influenced jazz, for whatever reason, a new album of the latter doesn’t really thrill me all that much, specifically in terms of hearing something new or innovative. (I don’t feel like I’ve heard anything new from that type of music.) While I wouldn’t say the music is revolutionary, it also doesn’t simply regurgitate the past. There is definitely a new contemporary sound and way of playing on this.

    What I really like is the way my ears perk up when I listen to his stuff. I might be doing something else, and then I have to stop because the music gets my attention. I love when that happens, and it seems to have quite a bit with Zenon’s music.

    Two things stand out:

    1. The guy consistently plays with a level of fire that seems different from other musicians (at least compared to contemporary jazz musicians). It’s enjoyable and impressive to hear. What’s interesting is that, as an alto-saxophonist, I don’t get the sense that he has a really distinctive and original sound or style of playing. But that doesn’t really matter so much, because of the fire and swing in his playing;

    2. The inventiveness of his compositions stand out. They’re not mere sketches that serve as blowing vehicles. As a composer, Zenon seems to have a really active mind. Specifically, he seems really sensitive to the potential for a song to bog down, and he seems to be actively trying to avoid this, finding creative ways to move the song in a new direction or develop ideas in a way that’s interesting. (This is one of the things that perks up my ears.) As a composer, the songs are far from sketches that serve as mere blowing vehicles. (Interestingly, I don’t think his melodies stand out, which is somewhat unusual because the compositions/composers that stand out for me also seem to have very strong melodies. Another exception might be Andrew Hill.)

    Here’s a live performance:

    I should also say that this I like the pianist, Luis Perdomo, and I also like the playing and tightness of the group overall (Hans Glawischnig on bass and Henry Cole on drums). I hope they come to the Blue Note. I would love to hear them live.

    (By the way, the droning piano accompaniment that you hear at times is part of the more newer, contemporary way of playing that I’ve heard in the last ten years or so.)

  22. Reid

    I was listening to two groups from the 70s and 80s recently. The first group was early 80’s, late 70’s Genesis, with Phil Collins singing lead–songs like “Abacab,” “That’s All,” “Misunderstanding,” “No Reply All.” (I really like the horns in the latter. I also like “I Missed Again,” but that’s a Phil Collins solo album.)

    As for the other group, see if you guys can guess the group, with the clues I give. I find this group interesting because when I think of either a 70’s or 80’s sound, I don’t think this group really fits in, either category. I almost never see any of their songs on 70’s or 80’s compilation as well. And yet, they had about four popular songs–maybe not top of the chart popular–but they were on the radio. The songs I’m most familiar with are from the mid-70s to early 80s. I’m sure Mitchell knows this group, and I’m almost positive Don would know them, too.

    I realize these clues are pretty vague, but let me start with that. If no one can guess, I’ll try to give more clues.

  23. Mitchell

    “Abacab” is an amazing song. Of that Genesis era, I think I’m fondest of the Duke album.

    Super vague. I’ll have to come back to the second group.

  24. Reid

    Yeah, it is vague, but I can’t think of other clues that won’t give the answer away. Hmmm…I would say the vocalist is fairly original (at least a comparison doesn’t come to mind; there might be groups that may have a similar sound, but none come to mind off the top of my head). That’s not helpful, either. They had at least one album cover that I feel like it fairly iconic–or at least it’s one of the covers that is etched in my mind….I don’t think I know anyone who really loves this group…among people our age, I wouldn’t be surprised if many wouldn’t even recognize their name (although I could be really off base on this). This may be due to the fact that most of their well-known songs ended by about 7th or 8th grade (I think). I don’t they made any popular videos, if they made any at all. (I’m giving bad clues, so it’ll be pretty great if you can guess the group.)

  25. Mitchell

    okay. don’t give me any more clues.

  26. don

    Bay City Rollers? I have no idea if they fit any of the clues actually. haha

  27. Reid

    No, not them. (Did they have more than one hit?) I would say the group I have in mind is more popular. Another hint for Don (although this isn’t much of hint): I’m pretty sure we never sang any of their songs. And I really have no idea what you think of this group. I’m pretty sure you never mentioned saying you really liked them, either.

  28. Mitchell

    I’ll ask one yes/no question and give one guess per post.

    Lynyrd Skynyrd?

    Are the four popular songs you’re thinking of all sung by the same lead vocalist?

  29. Reid

    It’s not Lynyrd Sknyrd. (What if you give you hints regarding the music of the groups you guess and the group I have in mind?)

    Are the four popular songs you’re thinking of all sung by the same lead vocalist?

    No. (And I had no idea this was the case.)

  30. Mitchell

    No, don’t give us hints that aren’t answers to our questions. I know you have no patience for guessing games (you once gave up on a game of 20 Questions with me when you had already asked 18 and only had two more to end the game!), but you did initiate this. I happen to love guessing games.

    Deep Purple?

    Is it your impression that the lead guitarist is more well-known than the lead vocalists?

  31. Reid

    No, not Deep Purple.

    Is it your impression that the lead guitarist is more well-known than the lead vocalists?

    No.

    I know you have no patience for guessing games (you once gave up on a game of 20 Questions with me when you had already asked 18 and only had two more to end the game!), but you did initiate this. I happen to love guessing games.

    A part of me does want to move and talk about the group, but I also think the clues I’ve given aren’t very good at all.

  32. Mitchell

    Yeah but my questions are great.

    Crosby, Stills, and Nash?

    Is it a duo?

  33. Reid

    No, not CSN.

    No, not a duo.

  34. Mitchell

    How about Zapp?

    Is it an American band?

  35. Reid

    Not Zapp.

    Not an American band.

  36. don

    I don’t know Zapp, at least I don’t think I know them. Are they more popular than the Bay City Rollers? How about Supertramp?

  37. Mitchell

    Oh man that’s a good guess.

  38. Reid

    Ding! ding! ding! We have a winner! Supertramp!

    Don’t you guys think Supertramp is a group that falls between the cracks, at least when you think of 70’s or 80’s sounds? What would have been some better clues that I could have used.

    Don, how do you like that group?

    Is Zapp the group with Roger (“So Ruff So Tuff”)?

  39. don

    Their music seems pretty forgettable, but like you said they probably don’t have too much big hits. But the little I know of them they were pretty good.

    For some reason I thought they were still around in the mid 80’s (ie: high school years) no?

  40. Reid

    They were still around during high school (I think they continued performing), but I can’t remember any of their songs during that period.

    I don’t know if their music is forgettable so much as it doesn’t seem to get air time on retro radio stations, and I don’t think their songs get on compilations.

    I think they have a fairly unique sound, one that doesn’t really fit into neatly into any musical conventions of the 70s or 80s (but I could be wrong about that). The one musician I thought of comparing them to is Elton John, particularly his 70’s music.

    By the way, do you guys know which album cover I had in mind? (It’s one of those album covers that lodged itself in my memory from covers at record stores. Some others: Molly Hatchet, ELO.)

  41. Mitchell

    Zapp was effectively Roger and whoever he had with him. You’ve heard several of their songs. And they get sampled in hip hop music all the time.

    As soon as Don said Supertramp I had a feeling that was it, but they actually had one hit song in 1985 (“Cannonball”), from their first album after Roger Hodgson left the group. Hodgson also had one hit solo song (“Had a Dream (Sleeping with the Enemy)” in 1984), and it’s his voice that Reid means when he says it’s a unique voice.

    I may have been hindered by being too familiar with the group, as I’ve continued to follow Hodgson on FB and Twitter, so some of the clues didn’t quite connect.

    The two iconic album covers by them are …Famous Last Words, which has that highwire with the scissors about to snip it, and Breakfast in America, with the waitress. That was the height of the band’s commercial success.

    As for sound, you can put them right in there with Styx and Journey, really, or at least Styx and Kansas. They’re a rock band with progressive leanings but big-arena sound. If you go back in their catalogue, they sound more and more proggy. Their hardcore fans (I’m not really one) consider them a progressive rock band, which may be why one might have trouble classifying them when comparing them to pop sounds of the Seventies or Eighties. It’s true that Yes hit with “Owner of a Lonely Heart,” a pop song, but if you like them based on that song, you’d probably be disappointed if you picked up almost any of their other albums. The same can probably be said of Supertramp. They have that group of pop hits, “Dreamer,” “The Logical Song,” and “Give a Little Bit,” but then there’s “Bloody Well Right” and “Take the Long Way home,” one a dark, Pink-Floyd-like mystery, and the other a balls-out rocker.

    “Cannonball” and “Had a Dream (Sleeping with the Enemy)” are great songs, by the way, and if you somehow missed them, I’d recommend at least giving them a spin. “Cannonball” has a lot of the proggy leanings I associate with the band.

  42. Don

    I may have been hindered by being too familiar with the group,

    Actually not that I know Supertramp that much, but I was also thrown when Reid said, “I wouldn’t be surprised if many wouldn’t even recognize their name (although I could be really off base on this).” This is why I went Bay City Rollers. I would think most people would at least know the band’s name.

  43. Reid

    As soon as Don said Supertramp I had a feeling that was it, but they actually had one hit song in 1985 (“Cannonball”), from their first album after Roger Hodgson left the group. Hodgson also had one hit solo song (“Had a Dream (Sleeping with the Enemy)” in 1984), and it’s his voice that Reid means when he says it’s a unique voice.

    Listening to “Cannonball” sounds familiar; “Sleeping with the Enemy” a lot less so. I want to say that if both songs were played on top 40 radio or on MTV, it didn’t really last long; it doesn’t seem like either song had much of a life after they first appeared.

    As for sound, you can put them right in there with Styx and Journey, really, or at least Styx and Kansas

    Their hardcore fans (I’m not really one) consider them a progressive rock band, which may be why one might have trouble classifying them when comparing them to pop sounds of the Seventies or Eighties.

    This could be–but, to be clear, I’m primarily thinking about the songs that got radio play. I can’t remember which station played their music, but for a certain period of time, I would say three or four of their songs were played quite a bit. (You also didn’t mention “It’s Raining Again.”)

    One other memory I have of this group: Mitchell knowing the lyrics to “The Logical Song.” (I think you sang this at least once in our White Lightning excursions.)

    Don,

    Actually not that I know Supertramp that much, but I was also thrown when Reid said, “I wouldn’t be surprised if many wouldn’t even recognize their name (although I could be really off base on this).” This is why I went Bay City Rollers. I would think most people would at least know the band’s name.

    You think many of our classmates would know the name, Supertramp? Somehow I don’t get that sense. I wonder if Darren or Sean would remember the group.

  44. Reid

    By the way, I don’t really think of their popular songs as proggy (but I would have to listen to them again to be sure). A part of me feels like there’s a kind of Old Timey sound in there. I get the sense that there were a wave of 70’s songs that had this quality–e.g., “Just an Old Fashioned Love Song” or the theme to The Sting. It’s piano-based type of music. Even some of Elton John’s early stuff had that quality. (I think the opening piano solo on “Crocodile Rock” had this flavor.)

  45. Mitchell

    One of the things that defines progressive rock is the incorporation of different styles, instruments, meters, and themes. The hit Supertramp songs aren’t progressive rock, but the spirit that flows through a prog band definitely touches this band as it plays those songs. I’ll admit there’s a blurred line between the proggy (nerdy) composition aspect of the band’s approach and the showy, ostentatious focus on technical ability that characterizes the arena rock bands, which is why I put them with bands like Styx and Kansas. This is why I think you think they can be difficult to categorize with other bands from the period, because those bands often differentiated themselves from one another as a result of some of this proggy leaning.

    That honky-tonk piano style for sure does remind one of Elton John. But they also seemed to have a fondness for playing around with their electronic keyboard (or electric piano) sound, a kind of experimentation that you wouldn’t tag Elton with. If I had to put them in one category, I’d put them in the brainier end of the arena rock bands, closer to Styx than to Journey or Foreigner, but not as far in the Styx direction as Kansas.

  46. Mitchell

    I’m going to do a Daryl Hall & John Oates deep-dive for a couple of days. Thought it would be interesting to see what’s there beyond their many hits.

    I have a small, developing theory, based on my favorite songs from other rock bands who have pop success, that the best songs are among the non-hits, because pop is watered-down and mass-appealing. This is mostly for album-oriented bands, of course, which Hall and Oates is.

  47. Reid

    Sounds like an interesting project.

    I have a small, developing theory, based on my favorite songs from other rock bands who have pop success, that the best songs are among the non-hits, because pop is watered-down and mass-appealing.

    I think I had the same thought at some point. I’m not sure I believe that anymore, though. At least, I can’t recall the experience of finding a lot of non-hits that really stood out (i.e., that I would either really like or think highly of). Then again, perhaps I don’t have a good sense of what is a non-hit versus a hit. For example, with Steely Dan, I’m not sure I know which songs of theirs are hits or not. I was going to use them as an example of a group whose hits were just as good as their non-hits.

    With Hall and Oates, there are a few songs that I wasn’t really familiar with–e.g., “It’s Uncanny”–that I really liked. But it could be that it was semi-popular when it came out. Also, I don’t think this way better than some of their popular songs like “I Can’t Go For That.” Heh.

    Coincidently, I’m listening to a 1974 Al Jarreau album, “We Got By,” and Jarreau might be a good test for your theory, too. After I got into jazz, I would periodically check out some of Jarreau’s stuff, and it never really grabbed me, although I think that I wasn’t as interested in R&B. Now, I’ve sort of went back and embraced many of the R&B aspects of my tastes, and, perhaps because of that, I’m enjoying Jarreau’s music, and not really his popular stuff.

  48. Mitchell

    To be clear, I’m not listening in order to support or debunk my theory. I’m listening to see what I’ve been missing since I like them but don’t love them, and you seem to be more in love with them than ever. Maybe I never got more into them because I only know the hits, a criticism I’ve leveled at others who only know the hits of some of the bands I like.

  49. Reid

    OK, understood (about what you’re trying to do). I’m not sure this will matter, but I would say about 3/4 of the stuff I like is their popular songs. Also, I think a big part of my renewed interest is linked to the live performances on Daryl Hall’s TV show. Additionally, I really like listening to different variations of their songs–it’s similar to listening to jazz musicians play standards in different ways.

  50. Reid

    After the 80s, I must say that Prince’s music generally has left me cold. He released a lot of albums since then, and I would give a cursory listen to some of them, but over time, I lost interest. Recently, I listened to his music from the 90s that Warner Brother’s owned (no an album called, The Vault: Old Friends 4 Sale). It’s basically simple, old school mixture of rock, R&B, with a hint of jazz perhaps. I really liked it, although part of this may be due to listening to the music on my head phones (which basically provides the best sound that I can get).

  51. Mitchell

    Weird. I’m no Prince fan, but I thought he had a good three-album run in the early 90s, with Diamonds and Pearls, the love symbol album, and Come. Singles from those three albums include “Gett Off,” “Cream,” “Diamonds and Pearls” (not really a fan of that one, actually), “My Name is Prince,” “7” (a very good song), and “Come.” Songs I don’t go out of my way to listen to but enjoy when they come on the radio somewhere.

  52. Reid

    Like I said, his post-80’s music generally leaves me cold–I actually like some of the songs you mentioned.

    By the music from the Vault album isn’t great per se, but I like what he’s going for. It’s almost like he’s approaching the music as if he’s in a garage or cover ban–where, you’re not worried about doing anything earth-shatteringly new, but you’re just trying to play good music.

  53. Mitchell

    Some early thoughts on Private Eyes (1981).

    I picked this album to start my deep-dive with because although Voices the year before had been pretty big (“Kiss on my List” and “Everytime You Go Away”), I always think of “Private Eyes” as the moment Hall & Oates went huge. I remember KIKI debuting the song while my sister and I listened in the car, and I said to her, “That song’s going to be huge.” It remains a favorite of mine, among their catalogue.

    The hits:
    “Private Eyes”
    “I Can’t Go for That (No Can Do)”
    “Did It in a Minute”
    “Your Imagination”

    Deep cuts worth a listen:
    “Mano a Mano”
    “Head Above Water”
    “Friday Let Me Down”
    “Your Imagination”

    I’m listing “Your Imagination” as a deep cut because although it reached #33 on the Billboard Hot 100, I think it’s a forgotten song. I don’t remember it at all.

    All four of my deep cuts are better than “I Can’t Go for That.” I really, really, really dig “Head Above Water,” which is exactly the kind of thing I was hoping I’d find: a good rock and roll number that might have played on the rock stations but maybe not the pop stations. I’ll break it down more later, but this was a great find for me. Great songwriting!

    “Mano a Mano” is sung by Oates and it has a surprisingly Nick Lowe or Dave Edmunds sound. Pleasantly poppy and new-wavey. I’ve listened to Oates’s solo material, and the vocals aren’t as catchy as this. It has a cute, fun guitar solo, too.

    Another Oates number, “Friday Let Me Down,” sounds like it belongs in the middle of a film like Mannequin, and I mean that in the nicest way.

    Other discoveries:
    I never noticed the do-re-me-fa-sol-la-ti-do in the ad-libbed vocals at the end of “Did It in a Minute,” during the outro. Unexpected, fun, and cute. Stupid Top 40 DJs probably faded it out before then.

    “Tell Me What You Want” is about as out-there as I’ve ever heard these guys. Definitely more experimental and adventurous than I would have predicted. I knew they had something like this in them; it pleases me to see it. Cool vocals too.

    I know Reid likes to think of them as a blue-eyed soul group, but this is a rock album. I have a feeling it’s going to be difficult to find a better album from them.

  54. Reid

    I’m listing “Your Imagination” as a deep cut because although it reached #33 on the Billboard Hot 100, I think it’s a forgotten song. I don’t remember it at all.

    Same here. I don’t really remember the song, but I bought this song a while ago from apple catalogue, because I liked it. It could be that I liked it partly because I actually listened to it when it first came out.

    I never noticed the do-re-me-fa-sol-la-ti-do in the ad-libbed vocals at the end of “Did It in a Minute,” during the outro. Unexpected, fun, and cute. Stupid Top 40 DJs probably faded it out before then.

    The improvised outros are some of the best thing Daryl Hall does in my opinion.

    I know Reid likes to think of them as a blue-eyed soul group, but this is a rock album.

    Part of the issue is that we differ on what constitutes rock, I think. Having said that, I do think they have more rock-ish stuff in their catalogue, but I would say very little of it is hard or edgy. I have no problem calling them a rock n’ roll group.

  55. Reid

    I’m not finished listening to the album, but I wanted to jot down some responses.

    I liked “Unguarded Minute”–to the point where I’d add this to the regular rotation.

    “Tell Me What You Want” may not make it into my regular rotation, but it is kind of interesting. When the volume jumps up, that guitar riff is right from a Rush song–you know which one I’m talking about, right, Mitchell? (The name of the song escapes me….”New World Man” I think.)

    The definitely think of this music as rock n’ roll–the type of neo-rock n’ rock that I talked about somewhere else, as it draws on and updates older rock n’ roll. For some reason, there were times where I would think of the Go-Gos, and maybe other groups like that in the early 80s. There’s something teeny-bopper-ish about the music, and I don’t mean that in a bad way.

    What did (do) you think about their lyrics? To me, it borderlines on being bad in my view, in a dorky, earnest way.

    Oh, one other thing I realized, relating to our discussion about rock music. On my ipod, under the rock genre, I tend to put harder sounding music–e.g., AC/DC, Led Zep, etc. Basically, I want category for music that has more of harder sound. This is different from my pop section, which doesn’t have this harder sound and has catchier melodies and grooves. Hall and Oates would go in this category. I actually have Toto and Prince under my pop genre, even though both can play music that is harder/edgier. Here, I’m using the labels not so much for historical classification, but a way to find music to suit my moods. When I want songs to sing to or where I want a catchy appealing vocal, I go to my pop list. When I want to rock, then I go to my rock list. Music that I might classify as rock in another context could be in the pop category for this reason. (I’m just saying all this to give some background about our discussion of rock vs. rock n’ roll vs. pop.)

  56. Mitchell

    This is the Prince collection?

  57. Reid

    No, those comments were about Private Eyes.

  58. Mitchell

    Oh! Sorry. Man, I didn’t recognize those song titles out of context. I didn’t know you were also listening to Private Eyes.

    You think of the Go-Gos as retro?

    This album doesn’t sound retro to me at all — it mostly sounds like 80s poppy new wave. But maybe 80s poppy new wave is retro.

  59. Reid

    No, not “retro,” “neo-.” For example, Huey Lewis isn’t really a retro rock n’ roll group–I think of them more as neo-rock n’ roll.
    There is a new wave-y sound, but it’s mixed with an updated rock n’ roll sound. “Friday Let Me Down” has that kind of vibe. The other word that comes to mind is teeny bopper. I also thought of Tony Basil’s “Mickey.”

  60. Mitchell

    Okay, wait. Sorry, yeah. You said “neo-rock” but what does that mean? Neo means “new,” right? Are you talking about new-old rock?

  61. Reid

    “Neo-rock n’ roll” means (to me) an updated version of the original rock n’ roll. It sort of sounds like the older rock n’ roll, but it’s also not a simply a recreation–i.e., retro. Huey Lewis and the News might be neo-rock (n’ roll), while Stray Cats is retro. Does that make sense?

  62. Mitchell

    I suppose, but how does it update it? With new sounds or different instrumentation?

  63. Reid

    The updating can be via news sounds, instrumentation, or a different differences in melody, rhythm, and harmony. I don’t think there is’a clear demarcating point, separating a neo versus retro approach. Just to add something else: I would call the music of a group like the Cars as rock n’ roll in the 80s, not neo-rock n’ roll.

  64. Reid

    U2’s Joshua Tree

    (I was thinking of songs that Michelle and Derek could play, and some of the songs from this came up.)

  65. Mitchell

    Maybe one of the 20 best albums of all time.

  66. Reid

    The other day a lesser-known 80’s song came into my head, and I was going to see if apple music had it. If you guys are interested, I can try and give you a few clues to see if you can guess the song. If not, I’ll just post a link.

    ***

    On another note, here are some other things, I’ve been listening to and enjoying:

    Tony Allen, a afro-pop drummer, has an Art Blakey tribute album. What I like is how he brings his drumming sensibility into a jazz context. I’d be interested in listening to more music like this.


    I’ve also been enjoying the Rumer’s singing.

  67. Mitchell

    Is it by a duo?

  68. Reid

    No.

  69. Mitchell

    Is it by a band?

  70. Reid

    Nope.

  71. Mitchell

    Is it a solo female artist?

  72. Reid

    No, it is not.

  73. Mitchell

    “Key Largo” by Bertie Higgins?

    Is it a rap?

  74. Reid

    No, it’s not “Key Largo”

    No, it’s not a rap.

  75. Mitchell

    “’65 Love Affair?” by Paul Davis?

    Is the artist American?

  76. Reid

    No to “65 Love Affair.” That’s not a bad guess.

    Yes, the person is an American.

  77. mitchell

    “Theme from Greatest American Hero (Believe It or Not)” by Joey Scarbury?

    Is the artist a one-hit wonder?

  78. Reid

    No, that’s not it.

    S/he may have had another hit, but I think it’s fair to call him/her a one-hit wonder.

  79. Mitchell

    It can’t be a she because it’s not a solo female artist, right?

    “All I Need” by Jack Wagner?

    Is the artist a female vocal group, such as the Supremes or Destiny’s Child?

  80. don

    Funny but I had Scarbury as a guess as well. I thought Reid sort of liked that song. What about Eddie Murphy’s song?

  81. Reid

    Mitchell,

    Shoot, I forget you asked about the sex of the singer. The singer is male, solo artist.

    No, it’s not “All I Need.”

    Don,

    The song isn’t “Party All the Time.” That’s moving further away from the song, by the way.

    (I’m not that big of a fan of “Believe Or Not”–I don’t hate it, but it’s not something I love.

  82. Mitchell

    “Believe it or Not” is a GREAT song. I listen to it all the time. Definitely one of the 20 best TV theme songs of all time. Maybe in the top 10.

    “Makin’ It” by David Nauhgton?

    Is the artist Caucasian (or at least Caucasian-looking)?

  83. Reid

    Don, I think you mixed up me and Mitchell with regard to who really liked “Believe It or Not.” 🙂

    No, it’s not “Makin’ It.” “’65 Love Affair” was the best guess so far, I would say.

    Yes, the artist is Caucasian.

  84. Mitchell

    It’s not “867-5309/Jenny” by Tommy Tutone, is it? That’s not exactly a lesser-known hit.

    Is it a slow ballad?

  85. Reid

    No, not that song. As you said, it wouldn’t fit the criteria.

    Is it a slow ballad? In my opinion, it would be misleading if I said yes.

  86. Mitchell

    Yeah, and Tommy Tutone is a band anyway. I sorta expected you not to know that.

    How about “What’s Forever For” by Michael Murphey?

    Is the singer known as much for a look as for the song?

  87. Reid

    No, it’s not “What’s Forever For.” (I’m trying to sing the tune in my head–I’m not sure I’m singing the right song.) Did Murphy also sing, “Wildfire?”

    I’m pretty sure the answer is no for the last question.

  88. Mitchell

    Actually, yeah. He did sing that. And on the country charts he had a whole string of hits.

    How about “Far from Over” by Frank Stallone? 🙂

    Is it a get-up-and-dance number?

  89. Reid

    “From From Over” Man, you got me on that one. I don’t think I know it. Is that from Staying Alive?. I think the only Frank Stallone song I know is “Take You Back.”

    No, it is not a dance number at all. (When I said it would be misleading to say it was a slow ballad, that suggested that it’s close to a slow ballad, but not quite.)

  90. don

    Matthew Wilder???

  91. Mitchell

    How about John Waite’s “Missing You?”

    Was the artist notably a member of a band before the solo hit?

  92. Mitchell

    Matthew Wilder’s “Break My Stride” and John Waite’s “Missing You” are both from 1984, the best year in pop and rock history.

  93. Reid

    Not “Break My Stride,” guys. (That wouldn’t be close to a slow ballad.)

    Not “Missing You”–I wouldn’t count that as obscure. But let me ask you guys: would you consider that a slow ballad? I’d be just a little hesitant for some reason, although I guess it is a kind of ballad. The song is kind of in that vein.

    Mitchell,

    I want hear more on why you think 1984 is the best year in pop/rock history. That’s saying a lot!

    Oh, he wasn’t part of a group.

  94. Mitchell

    I’ll talk about 1984 later. But there may already be a Ringer article on it. I haven’t read it but I know there’s one out there.

    How about “Love Theme from St. Elmo’s Fire (For Just a Moment)” by David Foster?

    Is the song famously in a movie?

  95. Reid

    Not “St. Elmo’s Fire”

    As far as I know, the song isn’t in a movie.

  96. Mitchell

    This is probably too well-known, but how about Gregory Abbot’s “Shake You Down?”

    Is the song you have in mind the musician’s most successful song?

  97. Mitchell

    Oops. I don’t know what Gregory Abbot looks like but I’m guessing he doesn’t fit the Caucasian requirement.

  98. don

    Haha to the Abbot “doesn’t fit the Caucasian requirement” comment.

  99. Reid

    “Shake You Down” is not the song, and, yes, it’s too well known (and Abbott doesn’t have the right look). I wouldn’t be too surprised if the actual song sounded unfamiliar if you heard it. It’s also the type of song that I wouldn’t really make compilation recording.

    I’m pretty sure the song is his most successful song. I saw another song of his crack the charts. I listened to it, and it only sounded vaguely familiar–so vague that there’s a chance I never heard it before.

    I remember liking the song quite a bit when it was out–enough to remember singing it around the house. I might have taped it off the radio. But it’s one of those songs that fell off the radar for me, until recently. Again, “’65 Love Affair” is a pretty good example of that for me, but even that song might be slightly (slightly) more well-known.

  100. Mitchell

    How about “Only Lonely” by J. D. Souther? Probably too well known, but I’ll bet most people who can recognize the tune can’t identify the singer.

    Without looking it up, do you think the song as a video that was played on MTV?

  101. Reid

    I don’t even know that song–not by the title, anyway.

    I actually saw the video of the song I have in mind recently–I can’t remember if it was on MTV or not. If I had to guess, I’d say no.

  102. Mitchell

    You know it.

    How about “You Take My Breath Away” by Rex Smith?

    Was the artist admired for his looks?

  103. Reid

    Pretty good guess, but that’s not it.

    No, the artist is not known for his looks–so it’s not Andy Gibb.

  104. Mitchell

    Well Andy Gibb is Australian anyway.

  105. don

    “Rock On” by Michael Damian?

  106. don

    Sorry never mind my other guess. I change it to “Steal Away”. In my mind I can see you singing that.

  107. Reid

    Well Andy Gibb is Australian anyway.

    I’m forgetting what was asked and what wasn’t.

    No, to “Rock On.” (Would that be close to a slow ballad? I guess. I’m trying to remember the entire song in my head now.)

    No, to “Steal Away.” Oh, I definitely would sing that, and for many that might be obscure, but it’s not a song that would really slip far back into the recess of my memory. (DuPree also had another “hit” in “Hot Rod Hearts.”) But that song is a better guess than “Rock On” for what it’s worth.

  108. don

    Dang thought I had it.

  109. don

    What are the chances I know this song? 50-50 or more than that?

  110. Reid

    Don,

    I think it’s 50/50 or less. It’s not a song I recall singing with you or Mitchell–in karaoke or just singing songs like we used to do. Or, at least I don’t remember. You know how there are songs that you know what we’ve sung together–I want to say that this one wouldn’t be in that category or at least I can’t remember.

    Can I give you guys any hints?

  111. don

    So I’m guessing 50/50 that I would know the artist as well.

  112. Mitchell

    No hints!

  113. Reid

    No, I would think the odds are less–maybe a lot less. I couldn’t remember the artist’s name. But I recognized it when I heard it. If you guys get his name, I’ll be impressed.

  114. Mitchell

    How about Rocky Burnette’s “Tired of Toein’ the Line?”

    Would the song likely have been played on 98 Rock when it was popular?

  115. Reid

    I don’t know that song.

    The song I’m thinking of almost certainly wouldn’t have been played on 98 Rock.

  116. Reid

    The Sea and Cake–Oui

    I don’t know if I’m just in the mood for this type of music or what, but I’m really liking this. The music reminds me of Stereolab, but I’m enjoying this more than I remember enjoying Stereolab’s music. Again, maybe I’m just in the right mood for this.

    Oh, both groups have this airy quality, and they also bring my back to my childhood, early 70s and late 60s–sounds that make me think of Sesame Street in some vague, distant way.

  117. Mitchell

    Is it “Heartbeat” by Don Johnson?

    Did the musician originally gain notability in some realm other than music?

  118. Reid

    No and No.

  119. Mitchell

    Please tell me it’s not Lee Greenwood’s “God Bless the U.S.A.”

    Does the song have a one-word title?

  120. Reid

    No, it’s not that song. I don’t think that song is that obscure.

    The song does not have a one-word title.

  121. Mitchell

    Is it “Goin’ Down” by Greg Guidry (1982)? Man, I’d completely forgotten that song until I saw it on a list.

    Is the musician still alive?

  122. Reid

    No it’s not–I don’t think I know that song.

    I believe he’s still alive.

    (Man, don’t take too long guessing. I hope I don’t forget the song and artist!)

    (I’m listening to the Guidry song. It sounds vaguely familiar–so vague that I’m not sure I actually heard the song before, or that it sounds familiar simply because it has qualities like other songs from that time period.

    I feel like this is pretty good guess though. You and Don may react to the song I’m thinking of, in the way I’m reacting to this Guidry song. I like the whole vibe–something I associate more with the 70s.)

  123. Mitchell

    Yeah, that song has you written all over it.

  124. Mitchell

    Marty Balin keeps popping up in my mind but I keep dismissing him because he was more famously a member of the Jefferson Airplane, but maybe you don’t know that. Is it “Hearts” by Marty Balin (1981)?

  125. Reid

    Is that the one that has the line, “Is everything alright?” If so that’s another good guess, but that’s not it. Really, it’s good in the sense that this is the type of song falls way far in the back of my mind, although it’s etched pretty deeply and clearly. It’s the type of song I almost never hear on 80’s radio stations, which is why it falls far outside of my consciousness. Great guess.

  126. Mitchell

    Yeah, that’s the one. Good song.

  127. Reid

    It’s a little melodramatic, to the point where you could make fun of it. (I think I did.) But it’s still a good song, at least for nostalgia purposes.

  128. Reid

    OK, I’m going to post the name of the song and the artist soon.

  129. Mitchell

    wait i’m still guessing

  130. Reid

    OK, but I might forget to answer this; I might even forget the answer, so try not to take too long.

  131. Mitchell

    I’m finding that certain kinds of progressive rock work best for certain kinds of writing I do in my job. I know that’s probably not an earthshattering discovery, but most of my professional work has been in situations where listening to music’s not an option.

    As I was settling in this morning, I thought of Anderson Bruford Wakeman Howe, a project by ex-members of Yes in 1989. I didn’t think much of it when it came out, but about 15 years ago it came alive to me. I’ve got it on right now, and it’s making me feel good, keeping me alert, and distracting a certain part of my brain just enough to let the other part of my brain, the part where the writing comes from, do its thing.

    Definitely not for everyone, but it’s a nice, accessible kind of prog I think some would at least find interesting. These are two of the better tracks. No idea what’s up with the fan video for the first one, but it’s the music I’m highlighting here.

    This was a weird period in the life of Yes, where there were, for all real purposes, two Yeses at the same time. The other, official Yes had Alan White on drums, Tony Kaye on keys, Chris Squire on bass, and Trevor Rabin on guitar, the 90125/Big-Generator era. The other had Jon Anderson (looking at this as a side project since he wasn’t as thrilled with Trevor Rabin’s more radio-friendly direction) on vocals, Rick Wakeman on keys, Bill Bruford on drums, and Steve Howe on guitar. That’s Tony Levin (formerly of King Crimson) on bass, doing a better than credible job.

    Shortly after this Anderson Bruford Wakeman Howe album, Yes released an album called Union, ostemsibly a joining of the two bands, although each group recorded its tracks separately. This may be the least popular Yes album ever among members of the band, most of whom say they hate it. The band did tour as a united group, but at the tour’s conclusion, Bruford, Wakeman, and Howe left again.

  132. Reid

    I’ve got it on right now, and it’s making me feel good, keeping me alert, and distracting a certain part of my brain just enough to let the other part of my brain, the part where the writing comes from, do its thing.

    What draws my attention is that fact that you have music that helps you do your work better, unless I’m misunderstanding you. I don’t think there is any music that does this for me–unless it’s relatively mindless work. What are some other examples of music that helps you do your (office) work better?

    I listened to the two tracks. They didn’t really grab me for whatever reason.

    By the way, Walter Becker, of Steely Dan, recently passed away. It got me to thinking: How did critics receive SD? I would think they could also receive similar criticism as prog rock groups. Same with Frank Zappa. Did rock critics come down hard on them?

  133. Mitchell

    No, the critics loved Zappa. I’m not sure about Steely Dan but I think they liked them too. I’ll look it up.

    Reid, I don’t think you have the distractability issues I have. I’ve learned, thanks to teaching ADHD students for so many years, that distractability is really sensitivity (sometimes hypersensitivity) to external stimuli AND a difficulty (or inability) to monitor for relevance. To an ADHD student, every incoming stimulus is interesting and relevant, while non-ADHD students know how to filter irrelevant stuff out.

    What helps for ADHD students (and me, ‘though I deny I’m ADHD) is to have something for those stimulus sensors to zoom in on so the part of your brain that’s supposed to be focused can do its thing. It might sound like a paradox, but Ritalin (which began as a medication for epileptics) actually works in a manner similar to caffeine: it overstimulates some of the brain so that students can focus on what’s important with the rest of their brain. It doesn’t work for everyone, but music works for me. I suspect I could get a prescription for Ritalin and see how it worked, but that would mean first getting a diagnosis (I think), and I’m unwilling to do that for now.

    Super familiar music, such as all my favorite rock bands from the 80s, also works well. It’s not distracting because my brain can hear it without fully engaging. In fact, I can often hum along or sing along, and since it’s so familiar, the rest of my brain isn’t distracted.

    Rap music, at least for writing, doesn’t work at all. I think the part of my brain that generates words might be the same as the part that receives and interprets them, because I can’t write at all if rap is playing.

    You’d think soundtrack music, mellow praise songs, new age, or light jazz would be great, but since they don’t give my brain anything to focus on, my brain tends to glance past it, looking for something else as stimuli. That must sound weird, but it’s true, and I’ve seen it in my students as well.

    Although I imagine that for my students, the actual KIND of music varies from person to person. I doubt they’d find melodic prog useful to them.

  134. Mitchell

    The weird thing about Walter Becker dying is that I spent the day before listening to the entire Steely Dan discography, in order, through Gaucho. And I never do that — I almost never make it a point to listen to Steely Dan, although I’ve always enjoyed them on the radio, and I have Donald Fagan’s first solo album on cassette.

  135. Reid

    OK, thanks for the explanation. (I don’t have much to add, though.)

    The weird thing about Walter Becker dying is that I spent the day before listening to the entire Steely Dan discography, in order, through Gaucho.

    That is weird. Anything stand out? I think Aja and Gaucho are my two favorites.

    No, the critics loved Zappa. I’m not sure about Steely Dan but I think they liked them too. I’ll look it up.

    Why like Zappa and not prog rock? One theory might be that, while Zappa’s music might be complex, his lyrics were goofy, crude and essentially the opposite of pretentious. Not sure why that would make him more acceptable to rock critics, though. His music did combine classical music, though–albeit more in the avant-garde vein. Why rock critics didn’t rag him for this, I’m not sure.

  136. Mitchell

    Well for one thing, Zappa’s style wasn’t very show-offy. That would be my guess.

  137. Reid

    I tend to think you could find a lot of examples from him of this, but I guess it depends on what you mean by that.

  138. Mitchell

    To review:

    The other day a lesser-known 80’s song came into my head, and I was going to see if apple music had it. If you guys are interested, I can try and give you a few clues to see if you can guess the song. If not, I’ll just post a link.

    Not a duo.
    Not a band.
    Not a solo female artist.
    Not a rap.
    American.
    Fair to call him a one-hit wonder.
    Not a female vocal group, such as the Supremes or Destiny’s Child.
    A male solo artist.
    Caucasian.
    Not really a slow ballad.
    Not really known as much for a look as for the song.
    Not a dance number.
    Not known as part of a group.
    Not famously in a movie.
    The artist’s most successful song.
    Video not played a lot on MTV, if at all.
    Artist not admired for his looks.
    Don has a less than 50% chance of knowing it.
    Almost certainly not played on 98 Rock.
    Artist didn’t originally gain notability in some realm other than music.
    Not a one-word title.
    Artist is (Reid thinks) still alive.

    Not:
    “Key Largo” by Bertie Higgins.
    “’65 Love Affair” by Paul Davis.
    “Theme from Greatest American Hero (Believe It or Not)” by Joey Scarbury.
    “All I Need” by Jack Wagner.
    “Party All the Time” by Eddie Murphy.
    “Makin’ It” by David Naughton.
    “867-5309/Jenny” by Tommy Tutone.
    “What’s Forever For” by Michael Murphey.
    “Far from Over” by Frank Stallone.
    “Break My Stride” by Matthew Wilder.
    “Missing You” by John Waite.
    “Love Theme from St. Elmo’s Fire (For Just a Moment)” by David Foster.
    “Shake You Down” by Gregory Abbot.
    “Only Lonely” by J. D. Souther.
    “You Take My Breath Away” by Rex Smith.
    “Rock On” by Michael Damian.
    “Steal Away” by Robby DuPree.
    “Tired of Toein’ the Line” by Rocky Burnette.
    “Heartbeat” by Don Johnson.
    “God Bless the U.S.A.” by Lee Greenwood.
    “Goin’ Down” by Greg Guidry.
    “Hearts” by Marty Balin.

  139. Mitchell

    Is the artist primarily successful in Hawaii?

  140. Reid

    No. Or at least I’d be surprised if this was the case.

  141. Mitchell

    How about Steve Forbert’s “Romeo’s Tune?”

  142. Reid

    No. (I don’t think I know that one.)

  143. Mitchell

    Is it Tom Johnston’s “Savannah Nights?”

  144. Reid

    Nope (I don’t think I know that one.)

  145. Mitchell

    It wouldn’t have satisfied one of the requirements anyway. He’s the lead guitarist in Doobie Brothers.

    How about something by Lobo?

  146. Reid

    Nope.

  147. Mitchell

    This one’s really reaching deep: How about “Goodnight My Love” by Michael Pinera?

    Has anyone notable covered the song?

  148. Reid

    Nope. As far as I know, no one has covered this song.

  149. Reid

    By the way, I listened to “Savannah Nights.” It didn’t sound familiar at all, but it was pretty good. I also listened to “Romeo’s Tune.” That one sounded vaguely familiar.

  150. Reid

    One of my favorite groups, Bobby Watson and Horizon. I love Bobby Watson and Victor Lewis!

  151. Mitchell

    I was looking at something on YouTube and YouTube recommended I check out Cheap Trick’s appearance on Daryl’s House. So I did. The whole show.

    A couple of things: First, I don’t think I ever saw a whole show. I didn’t know they show the artists talking between songs about who’s going to do which parts, or them talking about how certain things arose in the songwriting process. There are also anecdotes about life on the road, or about stuff that happened in meetings or the studio. This is the geeky stuff I like to be in on.

    Second, Daryl’s voice belongs in serious rock bands. He actually made “Hello There” and “I Want You to Want Me” better than I’ve heard them. I don’t think he added much to “Surrender,” but then that’s Cheap Trick’s best song, so it would be hard to make it better.

    Finally, the editing in this show drives me crazy sometimes. What is there to look at during a Rick Nielson guitar solo but Rick Nielson playing his solo? They seemed to be intentionally editing so that we never saw Rick’s chording or picking during a solo. Irritating and unforgivable.

    But good episode! I didn’t watch the Sammy Hagar one because Reid didn’t care much for it, but now I suspect it’ll be one of the better ones. 🙂

  152. Reid

    Wouldn’t you say that Hagar is a harder rock than Cheap Trick? I can barely remember the one with Cheap Trick, but I don’t thinking it wasn’t very good–or at least I don’t think it failed in the way that the Hagar episode failed.

  153. Mitchell

    Hagar’s vocal style is harder, but the music isn’t. I’d say it’s the same level of hardness. Cheap Trick’s is artier and Sammy’s is more playful.

    And the stories they tell when they’re sitting around? That’s some good stuff, some historical background that always makes me appreciate the music better. More of this.

  154. Reid

    I like the stories, even the cooking segments, as it creates a cool hangout vibe, but generally, I just listen to the music.

  155. Mitchell

    I just started watching the Sammy Hagar episode. It opens with “Rock Candy!” C’mon now. That’s from Sammy’s days in Montrose. I never woulda predicted they’d go for such a deep cut. Sweet!

  156. Mitchell

    Okay, so far the setlist is “Rock Candy,” “Family Man,” and “Your Love is Driving Me Crazy” (my favorite Sammy solo song). This is terrific.

  157. Reid

    So you’re liking Hall’s singing on that? You think it suits the music?

  158. Mitchell

    Which one? I like him a lot on “Rock Candy.” I like his lead vocals on “Your Love is Driving Me Crazy,” but that’s not really a challenging song — even I do a decent karaoke take on it. His backing vocals (all the BGVs) on that performance are kind of bland and lackluster. Were you surprised to hear that Eddie Van Halen asked Hall to be the new VH lead singer? I was, but it totally would have worked!

    Still haven’t finished watching this one, but I’m mostly digging it. Quite a bit.

  159. Reid

    I don’t have any specific songs in mind. I just had a general impression that his voice didn’t seem to suit the music in general. (I did re-watch the first song with Cheap Trick, and that sounded pretty good.)

    Were you surprised to hear that Eddie Van Halen asked Hall to be the new VH lead singer?

    Yes, I am. I can’t see that working.

  160. Mitchell

    Wait. Yes you _are_ or yes you _were_? Just curious if you watched the whole episode and knew that before you read it here or if you just found that out.

  161. Reid

    I am surprised (just heard about it when you mentioned it).

  162. Mitchell

    I can’t honestly recommend you watch the whole episode since I haven’t finished watching it myself, but I’m still going to urge you to see the clips in context. You might come away with a different view of how good Hall is in these songs.

  163. Reid

    Are you talking about watching Hall singing with Hagar, Cheap Trick, or VH? (I’ll definitely check out the VH thing if it exists. I’m really curious to hear that.)

  164. Mitchell

    Sorry. I’m talking about the Sammy Hagar episode of “Live from Daryl’s House” or whatever it’s called. There’s a section where Sammy confirms something he’d heard: that Daryl Hall had been asked, before Sammy, to consider joining Van Halen. I get the feeling you haven’t seen the whole episode, so I’m suggesting you might give it a try. You might not be as unimpressed as you were.

  165. Reid

    I definitely didn’t watch the non-musical segments (not that I remember, anyway). I don’t think I listened to every musical segment, because after a while it got too painful. I’ll try to give it another shot. What song(s) would you recommend I check out?

  166. Mitchell

    Sorry I’m not being clear. I was recommending you see the whole episode in the order that it aired, with all the stuff in between the performances too. Yeah, I know that’s 40 minutes and of course that doesn’t make sense. If it was painful it was painful. I’m just a little mystified that it was painful. It’s so far been a really good show, and I love the way the musicians interact with each other, and how their goodwill translates to their performances. Sammy says that when other musicians want to jam with him, they always want to play “Rock Candy,” so watching a guy like Daryl Hall, who clearly likes and admires Sammy, join him on that song is pretty cool.

    Then to see that their paths don’t just overlap but pretty much intersect at Van Halen? That’s kind of mind-blowing. I mean, what if Daryl had said yes to Eddie? Sammy might still be the semi-successful solo artist who used to be in Montrose, and Daryl Hall might have a cantina in Cabo San Lucas and own his own tequila label. Or something. And what would a show like Daryl’s House sound like if it were now hosted by Daryl Hall, former lead singer of Van Halen?

    Yeah yeah. I know those things don’t actually mean anything in just whether you like a particular performance of a particular song or not. Still, those things contribute, if not in any audible way, then certainly in how I appreciate and enjoy it. Which of course isn’t necessarily going to be your experience.

    I hear a song like Van Halen’s “Finish What Ya Started” and I can toooooootally hear Daryl Hall singing that. So it’s cool to see him get in with Sammy on some of the songs he’s known for. And yeah: it sounds great! 🙂

  167. Reid

    Yeah yeah. I know those things don’t actually mean anything in just whether you like a particular performance of a particular song or not.

    Exactly.

    Still, those things contribute, if not in any audible way, then certainly in how I appreciate and enjoy it. Which of course isn’t necessarily going to be your experience.

    Right. I understand that the extra-musical factors can actually impact the enjoyment of the music. My impression is that those things impact your listening experience a lot more than it does for me–although I will say that actually seeing the musicians perform does enhance my listening experience…Well, then again, I think it might be more accurate to say it enhances my overall experience of the music. (Being able to watch a live performance, versus just listening to it, does make the overall experience better; maybe not always, but often, I think.)

    I hear a song like Van Halen’s “Finish What Ya Started” and I can toooooootally hear Daryl Hall singing that. So it’s cool to see him get in with Sammy on some of the songs he’s known for.

    That song might work for Hall. I mean, I think there are certain songs that would work. The harder songs that call for screaming/yelling or an edgier vocal sound–no, I don’t think Hall would sound good. If I recall correctly, the song that pained me was “I Can’t Drive 55.”

  168. Mitchell

    Yeah, but they would have been different songs in the post-David-Lee-Roth era, because he would have been their singer, you hear what I’m saying? Forget whether or not he could sing “Running with the Devil,” which nobody can sing like Dave. Think what VH woulda sounded like with Daryl Hall as a singer. It would have been swell. Especially since Hall is a good songwriter.

    By the way, Sammy Hagar is 70. I can’t believe he still sings like that and looks like that.

  169. Reid

    Oh, if you mean VH would have tailored songs to suit Hall’s singing, that could work. The thing is, I think it would probably move VH away from a harder, aggressive sound, and that would be a shame to me.

  170. Mitchell

    Maybe it’s a fine distinction, but I wasn’t thinking they would tailor songs for Hall. I mean he would have been one of the contributing songwriters, so the songs would be stuff with his mark on it, the same as it with David Lee Roth, Sammy Hagar, and Gary Cherone. If Eddie plays around with a riff and Daryl Hall starts improvising lyrics and vocal lines, he’s not going to write songs that sound like Sammy Hagar Van Halen, you know?

    Anyway. I swear I am not being contrarian, but I loved that Sammy Hagar episode of Daryl’s House. I finished watching it and then immediately watched it again, and I had a long wait for a bus and I kinda hoped the bus would take even longer so I could finish it the second time. I’m not exaggerating.

    But yeah: “I Can’t Drive 55” is the worst of the performances. Neither of them could hit that super high note at the end of the chorus, but whatever. I’ve seen a lot of musicians play live when they couldn’t hit their highest notes.

    I’ll expound a little more later. Not ’cause you asked 🙂 but because I’m kind of bubbling over with good feeling about what I saw.

  171. Reid

    If Eddie plays around with a riff and Daryl Hall starts improvising lyrics and vocal lines, he’s not going to write songs that sound like Sammy Hagar Van Halen, you know?

    At first, I thought this seemed like the very definition of tailoring the music for Hall. But now I’m wondering if you mean something like making accommodations for Hall, while still largely maintaining the VH sound; versus accommodating Hall so much that that the music no longer sounds like VH. Is that what you meant?

    Anyway. I swear I am not being contrarian, but I loved that Sammy Hagar episode of Daryl’s House.

    No problem. This is ultimately a matter of taste. Still, I’m surprised that you thought Hall’s singing worked with Hagar and the music, and I’m wondering if I’m wrong about this.

    Did watch the episode with Kenny Loggins? Did you think Hall and Loggins sounded good together? It wasn’t terrible, but it wasn’t as good as I thought it would be.

  172. Mitchell

    Okay, here’s my breakdown and response to the Sammy Hagar episode of Live from Daryl’s House

    1. “Rock Candy” (Montrose 1973)
    This is the highlight for me. The song rocks, and Daryl Hall does his verse really well! Feels like a bunch of musicians having a great time on a great song. I also think Hall gets some nice sound out of that semi-hollow Telecaster. And is that a pink shirt Sammy’s wearing? I thought he always performs in red. I mean, it’s his nickname.

    2. Sammy talks about how cool it is having this band playing at Cabo Wabo, and how it’s a pleasure to play with Daryl and this band.

    3. “Family Man” (1983 Daryl Hall and John Oates cover of a 1982 Mike Oldfield song)
    It annoys me sometimes when musicians, having performed certain songs so many times over a long period of time, have let the song sorta evolve until the familiar parts are no longer familiar. Hall’s super-staccato phrasing in the first half of the song almost irritate me, but Sammy saves it with his ad-libbed BGVs. When Hall and Hagar trade “Leave me alone!” and “Family man!” lines, it’s really cool, and I really dig the keyboard solo at the end. Sammy does some guitar soloing, something he doesn’t do a whole lot of. Sammy’s Les Paul and Daryl’s Tele are a nice contrast. I always wish guitarists would work a little harder to have different voices when they play together. I can’t tell which of the three lead Iron Maiden guitarists is soloing at any given moment, and I want to know this stuff. I really like the blending of their voices on this song, but Sammy’s phrasing on the verse he sings is also kind of annoying.

    4. Sammy talks about how great it must be for the band to land in Cabo after taking off from the Northeast. He says when he’s in Cabo, his uniform is a bathing suit, no shoes, and maybe a shirt because he’s old.

    5. “Your Love is Driving Me Crazy” (Sammy Hagar 1983)
    This is my favorite Sammy solo song (and his most successful). I’ve already said I really dislike the BGVs (which become sorta lead vocals in the choruses) on this song. After seeing it a few times, I still feel that way. Daryl’s verse and a half, while not very challenging, are really well done! Especially that half verse, where he sings my favorite line of the song, “Hot, sweet cherries on the viiiiiine!” (which doesn’t make sense because I don’t think cherries grow on vines) I’m not sure, but it looks like they didn’t plan for Daryl to jump in, but he asserts himself and Sammy backs off to give him room. Nice!

    6. Sammy talks about how he decided which songs they should do, zooming in on Chickenfoot’s “Sexy Little Thing,” and how well this band plays it. He says it’s the highlight of this show.

    7. “Sexy Little Thing” (Chickenfoot 2009)
    I bought this album soon after it came out, and the song never stood out for me. But I said in my review on VI that the songs seem like they would translate great for live performances, which is evidenced nicely here. It’s still not a memorable song in the least, but it’s a fun groove. Not very challenging for Hall, but he does fine with it.

    8. “Foolish Pride” (Daryl Hall solo 1986)
    Interesting. Sammy sings his verse like Daryl. Close your eyes and you can’t tell the difference for the first few words.

    9. Sammy and Daryl make Sammy’s Wabo Shrimp.

    10. “I Can’t Drive 55” (Sammy Hagar 1984)
    Yeah, this is the low point of the show. Those high notes are just too much for both of them! But it’s still a rocking song and they all do great on the verses.

    11. Daryl talks about how he met John Oates when they were 17 years old. Sammy and Daryl talk about how when you have a musical collaborator for so many years (Sammy has a drummer he’s worked with since they were teens), those shared experiences are like having a brother. Then Sammy asks Daryl to verify something he’s heard: that Eddie asked Daryl to sing in VH before Sammy took the gig. Sammy says Daryl coulda tore that **** up, because Eddie’s funky, and Daryl could really “swing that stuff.”

    12. “I’ll Fall in Love Again” (Sammy Hagar 1981)
    Almost fully acoustic performance (the bassist is playing electric) with Sammy on a 12-string Ovation and Daryl on a 6-string Gibson. This is really sweet. It feels like two friends who’ve been playing together a while. I like the laid-back feel and the blending of the voices. I don’t know if I knew this song before. Might have to investigate. It’s from Standing Hampton, the album that has “There’s Only One Way to Rock” and “Heavy Metal,” two songs I’m very familiar with. Rockers playing acoustic guitars while sitting on high stools? I almost never get enough of that!

    This is only the second full episode I’ve seen of this show and I love it. I just learned there’s an episode with Billy Gibbons. I have enjoyed the one-song clips Reid has shared, but for some reason that just can’t compare to seeing them as part of an entire program. I may be taking a deeper dive.

  173. Mitchell

    At first, I thought this seemed like the very definition of tailoring the music for Hall. But now I’m wondering if you mean something like making accommodations for Hall, while still largely maintaining the VH sound; versus accommodating Hall so much that that the music no longer sounds like VH. Is that what you meant?
    If John Oates and Daryl Hall write a song together, is John Oates tailoring his music or making accomodations for Hall? Or are they two people creating something together? Van Halen songs would sound different with Daryl Hall as a co-songwriter not because anyone is making accomodation, but because the ingredients in the songs would be different, the chefs putting the songs together would be different. This is why “Right Now” sounds different from “Panama.” Eddie, Alex, and Michael weren’t making accomodations for David Lee Roth or Sammy. The songs came out different because the collaborators were different.

    Did watch the episode with Kenny Loggins? Did you think Hall and Loggins sounded good together? It wasn’t terrible, but it wasn’t as good as I thought it would be.
    Not yet, but they’re very similar singers and songwriters. Should be interesting. I can totally hear Daryl singing “Celebrate Me Home,” “This is It,” “Footloose,” “Don’t Fight It,” and even “Lahaina.”

  174. Reid

    This is why “Right Now” sounds different from “Panama.” Eddie, Alex, and Michael weren’t making accomodations for David Lee Roth or Sammy. The songs came out different because the collaborators were different.

    Musicians and their music can change over time–how do you know the differences are not due to that?

    I understand that when musicians collaborate with a new musician the music of the former can change. But for the music to work, I think we have to assume that the musicians are compatible, at least to some degree. My sense is that the Hall wouldn’t be a good fit for VH, unless VH altered their music pretty dramatically.

  175. Mitchell

    I saw the Darius Rucker episode of Live from Daryl’s House. It was fine. Pleasant. Enjoyable in a not-outstanding way. I like Darius’s country mode just fine, but the songs in this episode seemed all to be midtempo, not-very-challenging stuff. At least they ended with “Wagon Wheel,” my favorite Darius solo song (a cover, by the way), and Daryl was kind of cool on the BGVs, singing them a Daryl Hall kind of way that really colored the song nicely.

    Here’s how I rank the episodes I’ve seen in their entirety:
    Sammy Hagar
    Cheap Trick
    Darius Rucker

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