Monday, June 14, 2021

Doing the Pandora shuffle, 7th edition

"OK, Google. Shuffle my Pandora."

"Red Rain," Peter Gabriel (So, 1986):
The lead track on Gabriel's breakthrough album was released in the US as a fairly successful followup single to "Sledgehammer." I remember "Red Rain" being featured in an episode of "Miami Vice" and getting a lot of airplay on FM radio. It's never been among my favorite Peter Gabriel tracks -- it's too heavy on gloomy synth-and-drums atmospherics for my tastes. I've never really understood what the song is all about. I get this apocalyptic sense of blood drops falling from the sky. "Red Rain" aside, I have had a love-hate relationship with So since the day it was released. I was a Peter Gabriel megafan for more than a decade when So landed, but it fell flat for me. It was far too conventional to satisfy my appetite for new Peter Gabriel material. I understand So much better in hindsight than I did then, and I find it brilliant. But it was such a drastic pivot both artistically and commercially that it took me a long, long time to get over the shock.

"I Should Have Known Better," The Beatles (A Hard Day's Night, 1964):
This one is all John Lennon, one of our first peeks at his Dylanesque introspection. This was written for the movie soundtrack and released as the B side to the single "A Hard Day's Night." I think it's one of the great tracks of the Beatlemania era, featuring Lennon's harmonica riffing and great vocals as well as a superb George Harrison guitar solo on the bridge.

"Foundations," Kate Nash (Made of Bricks, 2007):
The lead single from Nash's debut album, which topped the UK charts. Bob and I talked about this album with Millennial Marissa a few weeks ago on our Geezerology on YouTube channel. It's a little piano-based ditty that leaves plenty of space for Nash's heavily accented Britishness to describe the process of a deteriorating relationship. It's a marvelous piece of songwriting. It is impossible to listen to this song and not flinch at the vivid memory of going through the hell that Nash describes in remarkable detail. I love this album, and this track is one of the highlights.

"It Can Happen," Yes (90125, 1983):
This was one of the charting singles from that hybrid-Yes period remembered mostly for the chart-topping "Owner of a Lonely Heart." After Yes dissolved in 1981, bassist Chris Squire and drummer Allen White hooked up with guitarist Trevor Rabin to form the band Cinema. Cinema recorded a version of this song with Squire on lead vocal. As Cinema was putting together its album, the band brought in a few former Yes-mates -- singer Jon Anderson, keyboardist Tony Kaye and producer Trevor Horn -- to add some finishing touches. Next thing you knew, Anderson had rewritten some lyrics and took lead vocals on a couple of the songs, including this one, and Atco Records insisted that the band rebrand itself as Yes. And Cinema's debut album turned into the 11th Yes album, a much poppier and rock-driven one than their previous 10 and ultimately one of the best-selling LPs in their catalog. The album's title is its catalog number. That all speaks to the level of artistic inspiration found in this record. "It Can Happen" is OK, a nice little rock number. Anything with Jon Anderson on lead vocals is worthwhile.

"Teen Center," Kinski (Be Gentle With the Warm Turtle, 2001):
This is the closing track on Kinski's second LP -- you might recall I had a track from their debut album in a previous Pandora session. "Teen Center" is a slow-burn of a six-minute instrumental rocker featuring some beautifully fuzzy lead guitar and an aggressive guitar-bass-drums rhythm section. Be Gentle With the Warm Turtle was my LP entry into Kinski, after I had purchased the 2002 EP Semaphore for a quick delicious taste. Most all Kinski albums are excellent both for attentive listening and for background noise. It's all about rocking and riding the shoegazey wave.

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