Staff Picks: What we are listening to #4

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Matt Miller

Staff Writer

Being a musician, I have great respect for music and consider it a large portion of my life.  I enjoy numerous genres of music, spanning from blues to new wave. I would rather listen to a slick guitar solo then listen to “Party Rock Anthem.” I prefer a lengthy instrumental to a techno song. Lately I have been listening to a smorgasbord of tasty morsels. Here are a few recent personal favorites of mine in no particular order.

1. Steely Dan’s Can’t Buy A Thrill

Steely Dan’s Can’t Buy A Thrill

Released in 1972, this was the band’s debut album. It is the established the sleek, jazz rock sound that they are often associated with. All the  songs are well crafted pieces written by the duo of pianist/keyboardist Donald Fagen and bassist Walter Becker.

The album has a variety of songs, from an Eastern, sitar filled “Do it Againto a Latin-Jazz romp “Only A Fool Would Say That.” Probably the most famous track off of this album would have to be the FM radio staple, “Reelin’ In The Years.” To this day, this remains to be one of their most popular tunes. This track contains two guitar solos provided by a great session musician named Elliot Randall. Randall also provided a guitar solo on the track Kings. Despite being the bands most beloved song, both Fagen and Becker claim to dislike the song. Elliot’s solos on “Reelin’ In The Years” garnered praise from many other musicians including Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin who has stated that it is his favorite guitar solo.

Overall this album, is an excellent jazz-rock album that brings everything to the table and leaves the listener satisfied.

Listen to: “Reelin’ In The Years,” “Only A Fool Would Say That,” “Fire In The Hole


2. Rush’s 2112

After the commercial failure of Caress of Steel, Rush were experiencing a period of hardship. Caress of Steel was thought to be the trio’s breakthrough album. However it deviated from their previous album Fly by Night and alienated many of their devoted fans.  2112 was produced as a last stand of sorts. The band completed it believing that everyone would hate it, but as it turns out this was the breakthrough album they yearned for.

Rush’s 2112

The album itself is dominated by the twenty minute progressive rock track 2112. The track is divided into seven sections or parts. The song tells a story beginning in the year 2112 in which the world is ruled under a totalitarian government called the Solar Federation. The government controls every facet from what people read to the songs they sing. An unnamed character finds a musical instrument of the “elder race” and learns to play it. This act of self expression is eventually put down by the higher powers and then the song draws to a close.

There are five other tracks on the album. Most of the others are just standard Rush, except for  “A Passage To Bangkok” and “Something For Nothing.” The album marries the complexity of progressive rock with the heavy, drive of hard rock into one, direct stream.

Listen to: “2112,” “Something For Nothing”


3. The Black Key’s El Camino

Released in December of 2011, this is a relatively new album. The duo of guitarist/vocalist Dan Auerbach and drummer/percussionist Patrick Carney have been producing albums for the past decade. Their blend of blues and garage rock helps to create their unique sound.

There is a total of eleven tracks on this album. However, this album relies less on blues and puts more emphasis on garage rock. The album also draws influence from genres such as soul, R &B and rockabilly.

The Black Keys El Camino

The one track that is the most memorable would have to be “Lonely Boy.” This was released as a single prior to the release of the album. It is a very catchy tune that resonates in the mind. The single was accompanied by a humorous video of actor/musician Derrick Tuggle dancing and  the lyrics of the song. Another track on the album, “Gold On The Ceiling,” is slated for release on February 27, 2012.

Listen to: “Lonely Boy,” “Nova Baby,” “Gold On The Ceiling”


4. Robert Johnson’s Complete Recordings

Released in 1990, this compilation album released all twenty-nine recordings made by the late blues great, Robert Johnson. The twenty-nine tracks were recorded over a period of a year beginning in 1936 and ending in 1937.

All the tracks have been remastered  from the original recordings. All of the tracks on the album were crucial in movement of the blues and eventually rock and roll. The most notable tracks include “Traveling Riverside Blues,” “Sweet Home Chicago” and the blues standard “Crossroad Blues.” Almost every other blues artist or song has been influenced by Robert Johnson.

Listen to: “Sweet Home Chicago, “Crossroad Blues”, “Dust My Broom”

Robert Johnson’s Complete Recordings