Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Top 5 Best Songs on the Album

This concept is pretty simple - while it's not necessary that the rest of the album on which these songs appear are bad, the songs listed here stand head and shoulders above the rest, and very well may be the only reason you own the album (if you do). So while a song like "A Day in the Life" is amazing, you wouldn't list it here because it was on Sgt. Pepper, and that whole album was amazing. Personally, I'm not counting obvious one-hit wonders, as that is too cheap - it has to be an established artist, and a decent album in general. So with that introduction taken care of...

Dan's Top 5:

1. "Solsbury Hill" from Peter Gabriel by Peter Gabriel - I've repeatedly stated that this song is my favorite song ever. If you could combine sex, drugs, and Twinkies into a single consumable substance, the result would not make me feel as good as this song does. The preceding track, "Moribund the Burgermeister," is another favorite of mine, but a small part of its magic is derived from the fact that you know the next song is "Solsbury Hill." Unless your music player is on shuffle. Probably the key to its brilliance was that Gabriel wrote it as an explanation of why he left Genesis to pursue a solo career. Fortunately, he had enough momentum from this song to carry him through not one but two poor albums - and boy, was Peter Gabriel II bad - before finally releasing Peter Gabriel III, my favorite of his catalog and the record that started bringing him some commercial success with the single "Games Without Frontiers."

2. "Under the Bridge" from Blood Sugar Sex Magik by The Red Hot Chili Peppers - Some may wish to crucify me with extra-blunt nails for this. But to me, there is everything else on the album, which is collectively a pretty good study of modern funk and definitely RHCP's best album, and then there's this song, which is one of the greatest 90's alternative songs period. It was a time when RHCP decided to stop being so much of a joke band, but before they became a joke again for trying so often to reproduce the mellow, pop-oriented sounds of "Under the Bridge."

3. "I Might Be Wrong" from Amnesiac by Radiohead - In this case, the rest of the album is pretty bad. "Knives Out" is a pretty good song, and the rest are somewhat listenable at best. This particular song, however, really rocks. It features a main riff in drop-D tuning, and now that I mention it, an actual guitar track, which was such a rarity for this album. In my opinion (but not the opinion of very many others who would self-apply the label of "Radiohead fan") this was Radiohead at their lowest point. In my quest to eventually find all the Radiohead albums on vinyl, I'd happily skip Amnesiac were it not for this awesome little tune.

4. "Regret" from Republic by New Order - Man, I can't believe I missed this one originally. New Order is a great band (though I don't know if anyone else on the Top 5 committee is going to agree with me). There are a ton of great tracks in their catalogue (just pick up their "Singles" two-disc set and you'll see what I mean), but this song is by far my personal favorite, and it's the band's highest-charting single in the US. The rest of the album contains a handful of good songs, such as "World" and "Spooky," but "Regret" is one of those songs that might get you listening to New Order in the first place. I dare say it would be worth it to see New Order live if they just played this and "Ceremony."

5. "Every Breath You Take" from Synchronicity by the Police - There are a number of really good songs on the album, such as "King of Pain" and "Synchronicity II." But this song is a behemoth, destroying skyscrapers in Tokyo and sending schoolchildren fleeing in terror. It was one of the songs that dominated the 80's, despite the fact that is was a song about stalking someone and written with a dusty old chord progression straight from Motown (G, Em, C, D). Despite it being overplayed as all hell, it's still a really good song, and stands in a class of its own above even the rest of the Police's best album. Of course, those other songs I mentioned are damn good, so this has to drop down to #5 on my list.

Honorable mention: "True" from True by Spandau Ballet, "Notorious" from Notorious by Duran Duran, "Just Like Honey" from Psychocandy by The Jesus and Mary Chain.

Ryan's Top 5:

This was harder than anticipated. I've stretched the logic a bit. Hi, I'm Ryan.

1. "Hotel California" from The Very Best Of The Eagles by The Eagles - I'm sorry, but The Eagles suck. I remember hearing David Spade talk about how he went to an Eagles concert and they had the balls to open up with "Hotel California." It'd be pretty convenient, I suppose, if this happened. Beat the traffic!

2. "Free Bird" from Pronounced by Lynyrd Skynyrd - I apologize to any Skynyrd fans out there. Wait, no I don't. Anyway, I've never been a fan of most of their non-Free-Bird stuff. (I call it Hotel-California-Syndrome.)

3. "American Pie" from American Pie by Don McLean - OK, hotshot, you try listening to any of the other songs on the album without falling asleep. I'll wake you up when you're ready to admit defeat.

4. "Carry On My Wayward Son" from Leftoverture by Kansas - Well, I assume. I'll admit that I haven't made it through the entire album. Prove me wrong, closet Kansas fans, prove me wrong!

5. "Dream On" from Aerosmith by Aerosmith - Aerosmith does not have another song equal to this one. I already used the Best Of trick with The Eagles, though, and I don't feel comfortable doing it with Aerosmith ("Walk This Way" et. al. are pretty good...Aerosmith circa 1980-present just plain sucks, though. Do not tell me that the Walk This Way/Run DMC remix is good. No. No. No. No.)

Tim's Top 5:

I won't include compilations, greatest hits albums, or albums I don't own.

1. "Let's Get It On" from Let's Get It On by Marvin Gaye - I own the remastered version of Let's Get It On that has bonus tracks on it. Thus, this has to top the list, because the two best songs on the album are "Let's Get It On". Sure, there's other songs on the album that are okay, "Distant Lover" would become a classic, but this song is so timelessly carnal and represents one of Marvin Gaye's best vocal performances ever. I don't know what percentage of children conceived in 1973 were conceived while this song was playing or were conceived as a direct result of this song, but I'd have to venture that it's probably greater than 1%.

2. "Roc Boys (and the winner is...)" from American Gangster by Jay-Z - The album is good, eventually, though it took its time to grow on me. But nothing else on the album has one shred of energy compared to this horn-laden endorphin dump that is really Jay-Z giving in to Kanye's pop sensibility in its entirety.

3. "Dry the Rain" from The Three E.P.'s by The Beta Band - Rob was right to play "Dry the Rain" in order to sell his copies of The Three E.P.s, because the other tracks on them...are uniformly not very impressive. "Needles In My Eyes" is my second favorite song on the album, apparently, and I've listened to it once.

4. "Common People" from Has Been by William Shatner - The Pulp song may be the best on its album, but it makes this otherwise largely-forgettable pastiche of odd songs and spoken word from William Shatner. There's something frightfully wonderful about him saying "chip stain grease" like it's something quaintly American.

5. "Spitting Games" from Final Straw by Snow Patrol - This song is so unlike most of what Snow Patrol has recorded, I don't know what exactly the music in the intro is composed of, but I wholeheartedly support it. I got hooked on this song when it was on MVP Baseball in some year, but I'd forgotten its existence until shortly after "Chasing Cars" began getting way too much airplay. It sounds heavily-produced like the first album from The Bravery (also guilty of appearing in MVP Baseball), but actually executed in a proper fashion. When they opened their concert in Camden with Spitting Games last year, I honestly felt like I was ready to go, it was going to be their high point, and I'd already seen OK Go. While I like the remainder of their work, it's just not on the same level.

Honroable mention: "Jeepster" from Electric Warrior by T. Rex - Electric Warrior is supposed to be the paragon of glam rock along with Ziggy Stardust. There's only one problem. The album's not very good. I had originally slotted it at #3 in my list before I realized that although I used to have the album during Cornell's free napster period, I don't have it now. So it warrants mention; "Nothin' Better To Do" from Boo-Tay by Bare Jr.; "No Name #1" from Roman Candle by Elliott Smith; "My Eyes" from The Boy With No Name by Travis


Ryan said...

Just a note--I will be responding to this topic (a good one), but I probably will not be able to get around to it until I get back to Kansas on Friday night (post on Saturday?).

Dan said...

to Tim: I honestly believe that the intro to "Spitting Games" contains, amongst other things, a kazoo track.