Sunday, April 09, 2006

A few thoughs on music

It's rare that we're ever in the same location when we work on these editions. This time we were and one of the things we'll remember most from this edition is the music we played nonstop while writing. (RadioNation with Laura Flanders was in rebroadcast mode. Tomorrow night, the program broadcasts an interview Flanders did with Tom Hayden that hasn't been broadcast before so make sure to listen for that.) We had plenty of the usual suspects playing (such as Ben Haper's Both Sides of The Gun). But we thought we'd note a few albums that we really enjoyed.

Dona proposed this feature because she wanted Carly Simon's Hotcakes noted. Like many people, she knew "Haven't Got Time For The Pain" and "Mockingbird" but this was her first exposure to the entire album. Dona noted the power, force and softness Simon used throughout on the songs and wanted to note the lyrics specifically of "Just Not True:"

You're in my blood a Holy Ghost
I scream but it's a hollow plea
The thoughts I swallow leave me thirsty
You do a very fine imitation of me
And I say I'm not turned on by the way you laugh
I'm not turned on by the way you smile
I'm not turned on when you tell me that you love me
But sometimes, just sometimes
You can see the softness in my eyes
And you know, it's just not true.

Ty is a huge fan of Jeff Buckley's Grace CD and was thrilled to hear Goodbye And Hello. He knew the song "Once I Was" but nothing else from the album. He especially enjoyed the first track "No Man Can Find The War:"

Tape recorders echo scream
Orders fly like bullets stream
Drums and cannons laugh aloud
Whistles come from ashen shroud
Leaders damn the world and roar
But no man can find the war

Jim's revelation was from an album he'd never heard, Joni Mitchell's Song To A Seagull. And he's been singing "Night In The City" (to the annoyance of many) repeatedly ever since. The lyrics we'll note (picked by Jess and Wally) are from "The Dawntreader:"

Seabird I have seen you fly above the pilings
I am smiling at your circles in the air
I will come and sit by you while he lies sleeping
Fold your fleet wings I have brought some dreams to share
A dream that you love someone
A dream that the wars are done
A dream that you tell no one but the grey sea
They'll say that you're crazy
And a dream of a baby
Like a promise to be free
Children laughing out to sea
All his seadreams come to me

Many of us got to discover Aretha Franklin's cover of "Border Song (Holy Moses)" off Young, Gifted and Black:

Holy Moses, let us live in peace
Let us strive to find a way to make all hatred cease
There's a man over there,
What's his colour I don't care
He's my brother let us live in peace
He's my brother let us live in peace
He's my brother let us live in peace

When we started up The Third Estate Sunday Review, we frequently noted how few artists today were bothering to comment on anything in song. It wasn't that long that a certain well known artist who had made peace "statements" prior to the invasion of Iraq decided to turn out a sappy album about a happy "THIS IS IT!" relationship -- one that ended shortly after the album came out. Apparently denial of the world around wasn't the only denial going on when that album was recorded.

There were a group of artists we knew we could count on, like Ani DiFranco and Billy Bragg. Patti Smith, Prince and John Fogerty had stepped up to the plate before our site began. But in the early days, each new release would be a disappointment as the chroniclers of our times refused to write about the world around them. Green Day seems to have prodded many. We've also seen Bright Eyes, the Rolling Stones, Dolly Parton, Etta James, Joan Baez and others release albums in the time we've existed that took the time to comment on the world around them.

Cowboy Junkies' Early 21st Blues remains a favorite. And we're thrilled to listen to Ben Harper's Both Sides Of The Gun.

But what we noticed this weekend, as we pulled out various CDs from various periods, is that James Blunt is correct, there is "No Bravery." But we mean on the music scene. That's the rule. There are exceptions -- some of which we noted above. But compared to past periods, especially during Vietnam but also during the wars on Central America, artists weren't skittish.
They didn't hide behind love songs or "I'm so hot, look at me, I want to have sex but I won't so the Mommys and Daddys will let you listen to my music."

We're thrilled by the ones who've noticed that the world's more than a bed but we're less thrilled now that we grasp that it wasn't just John Lennon and a few others making statements in the late sixties and early seventies. We're glad Green Day stepped up but we have to wonder where the others are who made their name on the alternative scene? (Pearl Jam and Tori Amos made musical statements before this site was created.) Thought you were the big, bad, not scared of anything crowd? Where are you today?

It's not just the Disney Kids (or Paul McCartney) wasting everyone's time with drivel.

We're glad the numbers have grown but we're aware of how few they still are. We're also sure we've forgotten to mention some names. E-mail us if we didn't include someone making statements about the world today on their albums and we'll note them. (Cedric adds, "Bling-bling ain't no statement about the world around us. And the watering down of rap is a tragedy so don't bore us with any of that.")

But if two things stand out about this edition, it will be the stories people shared with us about why they are fighting the immigration "fix." (We agree with The Nation's editorial "Immigrants and Us:" "At this writing, in fact, the best outcome for now appears to be no resolution at all." ) and the wonderful music. Most of the time, we'll hear something over the phone and one of us we'll say, "Quiet everybody! What's that song?" So it was a real treat to be able to just sit around discussing the issue and listen to music together (and to do so while writing this edition). Readers always e-mail asking that we work in music more often and we agree that it's an important part of our lives. We just wish that more artists of today were releasing music that spoke to the times.

If through all the madness
We can stick together
We're safe and sound
The world's just inside out and upside down
The world's just inside out and upside down

When Carly Simon sings that on Hotcakes, it gives the love songs more meaning because there's a context for them beyond lust and money. Artists of today should take note.

"Safe and Sound" written by Carly Simon and Jacob Brackman
"The Dawntreader" written by Joni Mitchell
"Just Not True" written by Carly Simon
"No Man Can Find The War" written by Tim Buckley
"Border Song (Holy Moses)" written by Elton John and Bernie Taupin
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