Posts Tagged ‘Simon Garfunkel’

A List For The Ages

March 19, 2009

Rolling stone gathers no moss, but leaves a trail of busted stuff.

Dave Matthews Band

Busted Stuff

There has been a little game floating around Facebook for awhile.  It is in the same style as those many email forwards that once clogged up inboxes.  Essentially, you are supposed to create a list of 15 albums that had a profound effect on your life. Rather than join in the perpetuation of tagging on the social networking site, I decided to fulfill the challenge here on my blog.  The original post gives some metaphysical mumbo-jumbo explanation for how an album can deeply affect a person, but I’ve decided to base my decision on three criteria:

1) I must have listened to the album more than 20 times.

2) I must enjoy virtually every track on the album.

3) The album must have some kind of story attached to it.

I actually found these criteria very restrictive, which is good, considering I own over 300 albums. Now to the list:

1. Simon & Garfunkel – Sounds of Silence – This album followed me abroad on a wild 12 day adventure from Paris to Rome.  Whenever I listen to it now I flashback to the many plane and bus rides, the horrible pink eye, and a quiet sunset in Sorrento.  I suppose I should also mention the many hours I spent wearing a hamburger box on my head. Sounds of Silencecaptures a band on the rise, just about to explode into the consciousness of an era. It is a musical masterpiece.

2. Coldplay – Parachutes – I came to be a Coldplay fan just a little bit later than most of my friends.  I really got into them about a year after Yellow flew up the charts.  I think i was too distracted by Radiohead to really appreciate this emerging group.  It makes the list because of the many cover versions of Don’t Panic that Dave and I shared while at St. Jerome’s.

3. Genesis – We Can’t Dance – For me, this is the quintessential nostalgia piece.  Growing up my family would spend many of our weekends driving around the countryside, enjoying the scenery and ultimately grabbing a hot dog at some out of the way stand.  The tape deck would usually feature this album or one from of my mom’s Rod Stewart collection.  This is the one I still listen to.

4. Radiohead – Ok Computer – I have to admit I first got hold of this album through less than legal means.  My friend Darryl copied it on to tape for me when it first came out (I think I owned 1 CD at the time).  I instantly fell in love with the group and spent the next 5 years buying every piece of recorded Radiohead material that I could.  I still have some ridiculous singles that feature bizarre remixes from this era.  While I haven’t been as crazy about collecting their music since about 2002, I still love Radiohead.

5. Peter Gabriel – Passion – This is a bit of a surprise entry. I have always enjoyed a number of Peter Gabriel songs, but it is this soundtrack album that moves me the most.  It was recorded for a movie, The Last Temptation of Christ, which I have never seen.  I used to listen to it while playing Age of Empires II and also while studying.  It was the soundtrack to significant parts of my first two years of university. The middle eastern flair, and desert feel make it a nice change from what usually fills the air around me.

6. Death Cab For Cutie – Plans – This album was given to me as a gift, in the hopes that I would embrace more indie music. It succeeded as I am now a full on convert.  I have a strong emotional connection to several of the songs, for reasons I’d rather not get into.  But I will say this, Plans is the only record that has ever made me cry.

7. The Who – Who’s Next – Another bit of nostalgia for me.  Like many people I know I had a huge classic rock phase in high school.  No band epitomized that period more than The Who.  Thanks to my mom’s already robust collection I was able to dive right into their music. Who’s Next contains most of my favourite Who songs, and doesn’t love the lovely cover art.

8. Lisa Loeb & Nine Stories – Tails – I truly fell in love with Lisa Loeb upon hearing her beautiful voice.  Fortunately, I’m a little beyond teenage crushes now.  The music, however, stands the test of time.  I will admit to being disappointed when I read that, although she was starring in a show dedicated to finding a boyfriend, she only dated guys over the age of 30. My personal favourite on this album is Snow Day, not only because my name is in it, but because of the line it’s a bad day, but you’re my medicine

9. Counting Crows – Live Across a Wire – I had to think long and hard about which Counting Crows album to include. They are all amazing and meet the first two criteria. So the tie had to be broken by the story associated with them.  Live Across a Wire makes it for a couple of reasons. The first is a girl named Shanna, who I absolutely adored during my first year of university. Although I was far too awkward to do anything about my feelings, we did share a passion for music. She adored the version of Angel of the Silences found on the MTV Storytellers portion of this disc, and for some reason, I still remember that. I suppose the second reason I chose this album is that I have been to three Counting Crows concerts and I count each among the most memorable nights of my life, for various reasons. From a magical night under the stars with friends, to being stuck in downtown Kitchener at 2am, to flying down the QEW ready to burst in anguish, it’s been a wild ride.

10. Dave Matthews Band – Busted Stuff – Busted Stuff hit me at just the perfect time. The summer it came out I was working at a Seniors home doing a lot of outdoor maintenance.  My coworker and I alternated music choices from day to day. On her days we listened to Eminem and Our Lady Peace. On my days it was Counting Crows and Dave Matthews. This album became the soundtrack to that entire crazy summer. We worked for two men, Atilla from Hungary, and Tony from El Salvador.  Their seemingly endless feud and crazy stories made the absolutely dreadful work seem tolerable.

11. Wide Mouth Mason – Wide Mouth Mason – I have already written an entire entry on this album. I’ll direct you there for more information about it’s inclusion here.

12. Sufjan Stevens – Illinois – Sufjan Stevens  epic attempt to record albums about each state is impressive.  This particular effort blew me away the first time I heard it.  He has a way of creating a surreal landscape in his songs that feels very comfortable to be in. I particularly love the remix of Chicago on the version I bought, but for maximum creepiness check out John Wayne Gacy, Jr. 

13. u2 – War – Much like Dave, I would be remiss to leave U2 off of this list.  Although I was hard on their new album I still love the old stuff.  I find that War among all the others represents the pure unbridled passion of the band, and catches them right before they became the world’s biggest band with The Joshua Tree.  War particularly brings me back to my university days.  During Winter exams (April) the weather starts to turn.  The snow melts and the sun warms people and places alike. There is a special feeling in the air when that happens.  There is also the anticipation of the summertime and freedom from school work. I will always associate this album with those feelings.

14. David Gray – White Ladder – David Gray essentially changed my life at the beginning of second year.  Or perhaps I should say that my life changed and his music was there. I embarked on a bizarre and often painful 3 year journey at that point. It dominated the rest of my undergraduate career and helped make me the person I was, and some of what I am today.  In the space of two months I purchased all of his albums and essentially memorized every song in his catalogue. Now that is devotion. 

15. The Verve – Urban Hymns – Originally, I wasn’t going to include this album.  I had some other ideas of ones that fit better or had more ideal stories.  But I was drawn back by the story of a band who was robbed of royalties by an unscrupulous man, and the life of Richard Ashcroft who went from the highest of highs, to the humbling experience of being almost forgotten.  This album is itself a modern wonder.  I don’t think you’ll find another recording like it anywhere.  Although they are considered one hit wonders in North America, The Verve will always be stars in my heart.

This has been a lot of fun. I’d love to hear your thoughts on the albums above, or any that have really moved you.

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They Say That Richard Cory Owns One Half of This Whole Town

February 3, 2009

I can hear the soft breathing of the girl that I love, as she lies here beside me, asleep with the night, her hair in a fine mist, floats on my pillow, reflecting the glow of the winter’s moonlight,

I’ve got to creep down the alleyway, fly down the highway, before they come to get me I’ll be gone, somewhere, they can’t find me.

Simon & Garfunkel

Somewhere They Can’t Find Me

Regular followers of The Alder Fork know that I tend to look backwards a lot, in the hopes of embracing the feeling of nostalgia, and resurrecting creative ideas that remain relevant.  In today’s post I am tackling one of my all time favourite albums (as mentioned on a recent podcast episode) Simon & Garfunkel’s 1966 classic Sounds of Silence.  This was the group’s second album under that name, having previously released music as Tom and Jerry, and as solo artists.  It was the first album to feature tracks that were virtually all written by Paul Simon, as their previous LP featured a number of covers and traditional tunes.  At the time of the album’s release, the title track was already extremely popular as an overdubbed version of the acoustic original.  It later appeared in the film The Graduate several times.

I first listened to this album from front to back when I picked up a CD copy at a used music store in high school.  I took it along with me on a trip to Europe because I loved it so much.  To me the most interesting thing about Simon & Garfunkel in general is that in a time where rock & roll, psychedelic rock, and rebellious folk rock were popular, they were receiving widespread acclaim for songs that, while folky, touched on a wide variety of themes.  Sounds of Silence was certainly in the Bob Dylan tradition, but April Come She Will, I am a Rock, and Blessed were a little off kilter from a lot of other mid-sixties popular music.  Yet they fit in beautifully and found themselves playing to appreciative audiences across America, and at the legendary Monterey Pop Festival.

Musically, the album ventures in directions that had recently been pioneered by Bob Dylan in the folk genre. For their first effort, and the solo Paul Simon Songbook of 1965, the music arrangements were simple and centred on the acoustic guitar.  This album contains multiple instruments and sounds supporting the trademark vocal harmonies of Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel.

The one track I will expand on is quoted at the start of this entry. Somewhere They Can’t Find Me began life as Wednesday Morning 3 A.M. the title track of the groups debut album.  I actually don’t enjoy that version very much, it is far too slow for my liking.  The reworked version on Sounds of Silence moves along at the speed you’d expect from a song about running away after committing a crime.  The story of a young man abandoning his love after robbing a liquor store is the type of vignette that Paul Simon excels at writing (see A Most Peculiar Man and Richard Cory for other examples on this album).  The opening riff, which seems isolated from the rest of song, reappears later on the album in Anji, an instrumental cover. Unlike other Simon and Garfunkel tracks this one relies less on vocal harmonies than rock & roll power. Again this is fitting given the theme of the song.  The contrast of this song with most of the others on the album is very noticeable.

Sounds of Silence is a classic album that has been critically acclaimed and widely loved.  Paul Simon’s songwriting had come into it’s own with his earlier work and would only get better over time.  The group was still climbing towards its musical peak, and would play some fantastic live shows in the next few years.  A couple of those are available on CD, and I’d recommend checking them out.