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Wednesday, December 04, 2002

I'm about due for a list of something...how about this?

Great Unrecognized Songs By Well-Known Artists...

"James Dean" - The Eagles
Glenn Frey's tribute to the fallen cinematic icon, found on 1974's On The Border is probably the best song he ever wrote, even if it wasn't his biggest hit (that would, sadly, be the execrable "The Heat Is On" from his uniformly lame-ass solo career.) Quite catchy, and with some fine Southern-rock solo work, The song is played every once in a blue moon on classic rock stations.

"Here, There, And Everywhere" - The Beatles
John Lennon once said this achingly lovely, tender ballad, was his favorite Paul McCartney-penned song. It's easy to see why - it goes down smooth without even a hint of saccharine. (Sadly, saccharine virtually defines most of McCartney's various solo projects to this day.)

"Out On The Tiles" - Led Zeppelin
How much ass does John Bonham kick on this song, from the generally less-appreciated album Led Zeppelin III? Enough to give his performance on the more ubiquitous "Rock n' Roll" a run for its money. 'Nuff said.

"Dogs" - Pink Floyd
Yeah, it's 17:03 running time is usually enough to keep radio DJs away. Go figure. Roger Waters brings his blistering lyrical attack on a vicious, winner-take-all business culture, even before the Thatcher-Reagan era began, with a snarling delivery. (There's no better soundtrack I've found for writing angry left-of-center political rants.) David Gilmour's ominous and yet agreeable main riff and razor-sharp solos somehow make the harsh medicine go down smoother. Seldom have these two elements converged in such a package that so defined what Pink Floyd at their best was all about. (The rest of the poorly-received album Animals, a conceptual piece loosely based on George Orwell's Animal Farm, grows on you but is too Waters-centered to have quite the same multi-pronged impact.)

"Workin' for MCA" - Lynyrd Skynyrd
Despite my nomination of two of their songs for Jukebox From Hell, I don't really hate Skynyrd. It's usually fun to watch the record industry get skewered in a song, especially with such a propulsive guitar riff. Not to mention the guitar solo workouts the band manages to stuff into a relatively compact 4:46.

"The Body Electric" - Rush
Rush drummer Neil Peart, not exactly known for his subtelty at the drum kit, plays in a surprisingly understated manner, relinquishing the spotlight for most of the song to his lyrics and to the other instruments before coming in with guns blazing in the final 90 seconds. A dark sci-fi tale (indeed, the whole of 1984's Grace Under Pressure is fairly bleak) of artificial intelligence and what it might mean to be human, Peart's lyrics suggest a perceptive ability to look at the world through multiple sets of eyes, a marked change from the heavy handedness of his strongly Ayn Rand-influenced early writings. The chorus somehow makes singing a series of 1-0-0-1-0-0-1 catchy, but the real gem is the solo section, where bassist/lead singer Geddy Lee and bassist Alex Lifeson seamless blend their soloing into a cohesive and explosive unit. (A special bonus for non-Rush fans: There is essentially no high-pitched screaming in this song.)

"Monkey Man" - Rolling Stones
A deceptively soft opening every bit as menacing as that of the more famous "Gimme Shelter." Mick Jagger's primal vocals tap into the abyss of drug addiction while sounding just as sinister as they did on "Sympathy For The Devil." Keith Richards brings the monster riff to the table, and the brief, mellow interlude resembles nothing so much as the eye of a hurricane. The Stones at their best, perhaps in part because they were reeling from Brian Jones' death during most of the sessions for 1969's Let It Bleed.

Now if only the radio would play more songs like the ones above, I wouldn't listen to so much NPR.


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