‘And the magic music makes your morning mood’

A sticky bike ride this morning, a day in the office, an evening in the studio. There’s not a lot to show for all of that, but my legs are tired, at least, and some meetings took place and shows got produced. The usual, as they say, if there’s anyone else having a day like that.

So let’s do another music post, where we catch up on the re-listening project. I am working through all of my old CDs in the car. It’s easy content! And there’s some good music here and there — featuring two records today. These aren’t reviews, usually. Mostly they’re just memories, or marking the time.

This is strictly chronological, which is to say the order in which I bought all of these things. My discs cross genres and periods in a haphazard way and there’s no large theme. It is, a whimsy as music should be.

First up is a record, and a band, that I’ve pretty much outgrown in every way. In 1993, when Counting Crows’ debut album, “August and Everything After” came out it was the perfect timing of emo and rock. (Ahhh, high school.) Think of it. The top albums up to that point in 1993 were Whitney Houston, Eric Clapton, Depeche Mode, Aerosmith, Janet Jackson, Barbra Streisand, U2, Cypress Hill, the Sleepless in Seattle soundtrack, Billy Joel and Garth Brooks. Nirvana’s final album came out that same week, but even still it felt like a mid-sea change, musically. And at just that moment T Bone Burnett produced August. Four singles were released off the record, Mr. Jones hitting number two on the charts. The album made it to number four that year. It went platinum in Australia, New Zealand, and the UK, seven-times platinum in both Canada and the United States.

I have a lot of their music, and it fits a certain … mood … let’s say. But I’ve just outgrown most of Adam Duritz’s oeuvre. (I bet he has, too.) So I skip a lot of this one when it’s on now, though they held my rapt attention — this record and the later works — for many years.

I still play “Rain King” because it’s a great live tune, and I still like to think of it that way.

There’s still enough musicianship and jazz in “Ghost Train” to make me listen closely now almost 30 years later.

“A Murder of One” is a lot of fun, until you think about is transpiring there, and then, catchy tune or not, it can bum you out. Which one of those things is the real point?

And yet, it’s still a catchy tune.

From 90s alt rock, let’s shift up to 70s and 80s progressive rock. In case you’ve never looked it up, prog rock is used broadly because all the creativity was going into the music and not the labels. So you have a few decades of bands evolving from psychedelia and further away from standard pop. Record labels started giving a little more leeway to their musicians, meaning more intricate instrumentation and compositional techniques, more poetic lyrics and new sounds and, a wide fusion of styles. It turned into art.

Which is to say that’s what Rush was, but by the time they released “Exit … Stage Left” they were starting to reign it in. This was the Canadian group’s second live album, and it features music from their previous two tours, each of which supported studio records that saw the band headed in a more radio-friendly direction.

So think of it as a transitional moment in a Hall of Fame band? The album went to number six in the U.K., hit seven in Canada and 10 in the United States in 1981. I bought this on cassette in high school, because a guy I worked with turned me on to one particular song. We had a big discussion about the best guitar riff of all time. He played me the acoustic version of “La Villa Strangiato.”

That probably won the conversation. I think I decided ‘What if the best guitarist isn’t Alex Lifeson, but some guy in a village somewhere and we’ve just never heard him?’

The guys I worked with had their minds sufficiently blown. It was probably the last time I’ve asked a question that impressed anyone.

So I went out at some point and got “Exit.” It features the much more familiar electric version of “La Villa Strangiato” but a great deal of other important songs, too. (And also Tom Sawyer, but we’re skipping it.)

This is a song about a car; this is called “Red Barcheta.”

P.J. Spraggins was a drummer. He invented extra drums he could play in the marching band. One night at a game I happened to be at a transformer blew and the stadium went half-dark. The game was paused. The band played. The other school’s band played. And then P.J. played for the better part of 45 minutes or so. Just making stuff up, brilliant guy that he is. Spraggins is still a drummer. He became a professional musician. He’s played with everyone. He’s released three jazz records. And he’s still doing it. I remember one sunny day we sat in my card because I wanted him to hear the drum solo in YYZ.

I wish we had cameras in our phones — or phones in our pockets — at that point. It would be great to make a reaction video with him. I, a listener who can keep rhythm, listen to the beat. My friend, the musician, was visualizing the mechanics of it all. Until he couldn’t anymore. It was a great time.

Prog rock isn’t snooty, just FYI. “Closer to the Heart” is a singalong.

And just as soon as I say that, I’ll close this little list with a song that has maple trees unionizing so that they can get some more sunlight in the forrest.

Prog rock, man.

These days, I almost never listen to either one of these bands. They’re there if needed, though, I still, as Neil Peart wrote, made a choice.

Comments are closed.