THE WOOF 200 FOR 1993
I’ve been procrastinating on getting back to this countdown for reasons that don’t really exist, so of course the moment I sat down to slog through it things came quickly and easily and I wonder what the hell I’ve been waiting for. Inspiration is a cruel mistress. Anyway, enjoy.
No, not a cover of the Beach Boys tune, though it is entry #2 for the Gales boys with the first being a Beatles cover back at #99. This original track is a beautiful guitar-centric ballad that is the song that really brought me to this band big-time. Their other work was centered on a clear Hendrix via Stevie Ray Vaughan type of blues. This tune though is something entirely different, showcasing Eric’s ridiculously melodic and emotional guitar chops. Seriously, this solo is other-worldly. Would have been a huge radio hit even in ’93, but record labels are stupid.
More from Sweet Water, this time with a strutting, swinging ode to the cool older kid that you wanted to be when you were in high school. Might as well just call it the “Ballad Of Wooderson”. The guitar solo starting at 2:20 on this one is one of the most Slash-like on the album. It was that weird melding of Seattle grunge with GN’R that really hooked me on this album, as they somehow managed to combine two sounds that I loved while still managing to feel fresh and new. I can’t praise this album enough, although I keep trying.
Texas Blues, there’s really nothing quite like it. Ian Moore may not be a household name, but if you really give a shit about that Austin sound then you know who he is. For those who don’t this, the opening track from Moore’s debut album, is the perfect introduction. First time I heard those opening chords come out of the store sound system at Tower I had to know who the dude was. We only had a blank cover promo version in play at the time and I was convinced Moore was black given how soulful his vocals were. That fact that a skinny white boy can sound like that still blows my mind. Anyway, this tune is a sick groove that finds a sweet pocket right quick and then just allows Moore to unleash righteous licks on top of everything as he sees fit. I’d say more, but this won’t be the last we here from the man, so I’ll save some bullets in the chamber for later.
Apparently this part of the countdown is dedicated to the blues, because once again we dial some southern-styled blues rock, this time courtesy of North Carolina’s Cry Of Love. They previously charted at #109 (and with an Honorable Mention) with some slightly more rockin’ tunes, but this slow cooking number ended being my favorite track on the album, once again showcasing their Americanized Bad Company sound. That main riff come chorus time is one of those things that just goes straight to my balls, like all good rock & roll should. Vocalist Kelly Holland (sadly RIP in 2014) delivers a hellaciously soulful performance to top it all off. Sometimes the most basic examples of the form are the best.
Time for another country interlude, the second from whiney-vocaled Clay Walker, who manages to make his peculiar twang work to my ears by way of delivering some fantastically catchy melodies. This thing has a classic country swing that I find irresistible, especially when you add in all the trimmings (steel guitar, fiddle, slide). Kinda makes me wonder why I ever stopped following the country scene in the first place. Too much music, too little time, I guess.
This one goes out to my friend Bill, who has been waiting patiently for Morphine to hit the countdown. So here they are, bud, the title track from their sophomore album introducing me to their decidedly quirky yet addictive sound (pardon the choice of words). Drums, bass, saxophone, with nary a guitar to be heard. Morphine was something unlike anything I had ever heard before (or since), and that might have been true based solely on Mark Sandman’s rich baritone if not for the whole sax-for-guitar thing. This album is a trippy listen all throughout, most songs coming in with the same sort of subdued (alright, sedated) delivery. I mean, was there ever a band more aptly named?
Given the current state of the world and news headlines currently highlighting another senseless mass shooting in America, this song rings even more true as I listen to it today. Sadly we don’t seem to have learned much in the last 23 years (surprise, surprise), hate still as rampant today as it has ever been, even if we’ve been trying to convince ourselves for decades that we’re progressing as a society. As for the song itself, it’s another example of Lillian Axe’s tremendous mix of prog rock stylings and Beatles-inspired harmonies. I love the steady build here, the song underscored by a weird keyboard trail that keeps things on edge as the bass sends us chugging towards an inevitable destruction. Even the guitar solo feels like something out of an old black-n-white silent film score. I can totally picture the The Tramp trying desperately to outrun a steam engine before it runs him down as parts of this tune play out. Good stuff.
I had no idea who the Throwing Muses were (I had heard OF them, but not HEARD them) back when Tanya Donnelly broke free and formed Belly. But 1993 was a different time and I was willing to listen to different things and when this song (and it’s slightly better known big sister “Feed The Tree”) started clogging up the airwaves I took notice. How could you not with that insanely catchy little-girl-skipping-along-playing-hopscotch rhythm that they lay down. I mean this is head-bopping music at its finest. Tanya’s ethereal vocals don’t hurt either, lending even more of an air of light playfulness to the whole thing.
Alright, enough of that nonsense, it’s time to get a little metal up in this bitch. And who better to deliver that than the Metal God himself, Rob Halford. His first post-Priest vehicle, Fight, delivered a slightly modern bent on his classic sound, this song in particular dropping the guitars way down and pretty much handing duties over to the bass. This is way more heavy than metal, which is only notable because I always considered Priest to be the band that put the metal to Black Sabbath’s heavy to really give the genre its two main spectrum ends. Rob foregoes the usual vocal histrionics here, keeping it low and within ranges most normal humans could hit, but of course with his unique demented charm. I can totally see why he needed to get away from Priest for a while if this is the kind of sound he wanted to play with, because they just weren’t capable of getting this grimy, hell bent as they were on (leather and) speed. Man the bass (and accompanying down tuned rhythm guitar) just rules all here.
What the fuck, let’s turn it back to country for the final entry today to really just hammer home how completely off the tracks this part of the countdown has gone. This song has two things going for it (three if you count how smokin’ hot Deborah Allen is in the video, which come to think of it, I do), one being Allen’s airy yet expansive vocal which reminds me a lot of Martina McBride or Patty Loveless (two of my faves), and the other being the use of dobro in the intro which is about as a quick a way to my heart as there is. But really, it’s mostly about that soaring vocal, which comes at the top of the verse rather than the chorus, something which you just don’t normally hear. Oh, and I did I mention how beautiful this woman is?