1. Tom Waits – Blue Valentines
A lonely but cool bluesy/jazzy number from the world’s bluesiest/jazziest voice. I could write forever about Tom Waits tunes. He delivers each song with just the right amount of force, and this is no exception. The master storyteller pours his heart out over his “Blue Valentine” while an electric guitar accompanies and compliments with simple, unobtrusive and beautiful playing – interrupted only by a great solo somewhere near the middle.
And it takes a whole lot of whiskey to make this nightmares go away.
And I cut my bleeding heart out every night.
And I’m gonna die just a little more on each St. Valentines day.
This is the blues!
2. Caribou – Irene
After being strung along into a creepy, slightly detuned, electronic world of swirling synths and Rhodes piano for two minutes without any vocals, Caribou finally says the first word of the song – “Irene”. While there does appear to be a story line after this, it’s vague and a little confusing. The vocals sink back into the heavy chords, layers of electronic noise, and vocal harmonies without words. Then, just as you’re really starting to get into this cool track, a slow outro with a lot of static brings you to a rather abrupt end. One of those endings that really makes you want more. What a very cool tune from this eclectic artist!
3. Leonard Cohen – The Future
If someone asked you who your favourite Canadian poet is, would you have an answer? Unquestionably, I would tell you “Leonard Cohen”. Cohen’s ability to paint a mental image by use of words is unparallelled in this world. In an interview I read, he mentioned that he might spend years on some of his songs, changing them, adding, subtracting, until he gets exactly what is necessary on the page. I first heard this tune in the ’90s late at night on Much Music, believe it or not. At first, the sort of cheesy, dated music kind of put me off. Then his less-than-attractive voice began to churn and I searched for the remote. In my scramble for the remote, I hear,
Give me back my broken night
my mirrored room, my secret life.
It’s lonely here,
there’s no one left to torture.
Give me absolute control
over every other living soul.
And lie beside me, baby,
that’s an order!
Now I’m intruiged.
Give me crack and anal sex
Take the only tree that’s left
stuff it up the hole
in your culture
Give me back the Berlin wall
give me Stalin and St Paul
I’ve seen the future, brother:
it is murder.
Now I’m amazed! They can’t say that on Much Music, can they? Even if it is 3:00 in the morning! To this day, the lyrics in this tune are so bold and methodical, it amazes me. If you’ve never heard Leonard Cohen or read his work before, I highly suggest you jump right in with The Future.
4. Tower of Power – Soul With A Capital S
(Soul Vaccination: Live)
I’ll say it time and time again, everybody needs more funk in their life! I’m talking about the live recording, here. Lots of energy, great horn licks, damned funky slap bass playing, big rock drums, vocal harmonies, a powerhouse chorus and fantastic lead vocals! Every time I hear this tune, I feel about 4000 times better about everything in the world. No one could listen to a number like this and be angry or sad. You just can’t do it!
5. Stan Getz – Wee
(Ultimate Stan Getz)
This number has been attempted and even conquored by a few of the greats, but none swing it with such ease as Stan Getz and his band. Not known as a bebop musician, Stan Getz’s fame lies largely in his work with Bossa Nova greats João & Astrud Gilberto and Antonio Carlos Jobim. And while I love that sweet sultry sound that Getz lends to the Bossa Nova idiom, this quick bop number reminds listeners that Stan Getz ain’t no slouch! The tempo rips around 165 bpm, but that doesn’t stop Getz from playing 16th notes like riding a bike – not to mention the band! Some of the names on this collection include Dizzy Gillespie, Sonny Stitt, Chick Corea, Oscar Peterson, Charlie Byrd, Herb Ellis, Ray Brown, Ron Carter and Max Roach. I guess when you’re this good, you get to hand pick which of the who’s-who you want for each session! There are a lot of Stan Getz tunes that I really like, but this one makes my jaw drop every time!