THE WOOF 200 FOR 1993
It’s August of 2016. My last entry for this little project was just under two months ago. I’m already woefully behind on my “Top 200 For 2015”, which may never see the light of day, and I’m scrambling to keep up with the best that 2016 has to offer. So yeah, getting this ’93 deal finished off would be a grand thing, if only I could find the desire. I love the music, but I hate the writing. So here they are, numbers 50-41, with no promise that we’ll see 40 and beyond any time soon. Here’s hoping though.
Saigon Kick had a brief moment of fame when their song “Love Is On The Way” became a minor radio hit in 1992 back when hair bands could still get played with a well-timed ballad. (Of course they weren’t really a hair band, but that’s neither here nor there.) They pushed out a follow-up in late ’93 which produced a number of killer tunes, including two on this countdown (not counting their cover of “Space Oddity” which made the Honorable Mention list). I love what they do with layered vocals throughout their work, highlighted on this otherwise dark track about the atrocities of the Bosnian War which were taking place in the early 90’s. Like I said, not really a hair band.
Speaking of hair bands that weren’t all about sex, drugs and rock & roll, White Lion carved out a nice niche by writing about serious topics while wrapping them in pleasing 80’s style hard rock. They disbanded in early ’92 and singer Mike Tramp formed a new outfit called Freak Of Nature (where he vented some of his frustration on the excellent track “’92”) which was mostly in the White Lion vein but with a slightly less polished sound. He still had an ear for a catchy hook though, as evidenced by this punishing rocker. They produced a follow-up a year or so later and then also broke up, with Tramp moving on to a surprisingly long solo career as a roots rocker in the John Mellencamp vein. Got to admire a guy who sticks with what he loves.
Track number two from the surprisingly good Duran Duran “comeback” album. This track earns its keep thanks mostly to its utterly sublime chorus, showcasing Simon LeBon’s gentle style, plus a shockingly good guitar solo from Warren Cuccurullo. Just a nice little slice of pop craftsmanship here.
Another repeat entry, this time Austin bluesman Ian Moore and his ridiculously soulful white boy blues. Here he slows things down a bit for more of a Jeff Healey feel and a guitar solo that reminds me quite a bit of B.B. King what with its clean sound and total economy of notes. Once again Moore shows himself to be a deft vocalist, which while maybe a little too nasal for some tastes, reveals a guy who is 100% committed to his tale. I can totally see him extending out that last note in a live setting and really bringing the song to a rousing finish. No matter how derivative this kind of music is it always seems to get me right in the gut. I will never get tired of passionate blues rock, which I suppose isn’t surprising when you consider pretty much all rock & roll owes a debt to the same blues base from whence this came.
This is a beautiful Peter Gabriel song that is damn fine in its original form and probably never needed to be covered. Of course that’s what makes a great song great, because a totally different artist can take it, make it their own, and produce an entirely different version that while not equal to the original can still be great. Storyville is another Austin blues act (this one featuring Stevie Ray Vaughan’s old rhythm section) who somehow find a way to meet Gabriel’s atmospheric British art-pop halfway and find the true soul of the song. Vocalist Malford Milligan has a bit of a high pitch for a blues guy, but it works for him and he delivers a stunning performance here. I had a girlfriend once who was a huge Peter Gabriel fan and one night we were driving around listening to some random comp I had this on. She was stunned about halfway through when she finally made the connection as to why this recording she had never heard before sounded so familiar. She preferred the original (natch), but she gave this one her stamp of approval. Isn’t that all any of us are ever looking for?
I raved about this underrated album from Scotland’s finest back at #135 and will again way up near to the top of this countdown. I simply can’t overstate how good this album is, a ragged masterpiece of pop/rock that made me forever stop thinking of them as an 80’s one hit wonder. There is an energy to this track even without a blistering pace, this very real sense that the band is holding back as they play it, almost forcing themselves to restrain from busting out even though they desperately want to. Of course that all goes south right around the 4 minute mark when they roll out of a mid-song breakdown with a rolling drum fill that barrels back into the chorus. Rock & roll in its purest form.
The Goo Goo Dolls were basically a shitty garage punk band until this song where they teamed up with Paul Westerberg of The Replacements and learned how to write with enough pop sensibility to actually sell records. It didn’t really pay off until their next album, but you can totally hear it here. The punk angst is still bubbling under the surface, but the song has form and structure and – here’s the key – listenability! Yeah, the few hundred or so fans they had back in their early days hate them as total sellouts now, but they made a million more fans in the process so I think they did okay. I backtracked into this album (and song) after getting hooked on A Boy Named Goo even before “Name” became their first signature hit. The violin intro feels a bit unnecessary to me, and I wish the electric guitar came in sooner, but that’s nitpicking, as this song kills.
Dirty southern rock ballad. I don’t feel it needs justification for being here.
Of all the songs on this countdown this one probably suffered the most due to this project taking place. It was legit one of my top 20 fave songs of the year when I started but I just started slowly pushing it down until it landed here at #42. Now I’m beginning to wonder why that happened, as I absolutely love it. I think it’s probably due to Marq Torien’s vocal performance irking me just a bit in places. Otherwise it’s one of those slow building deals that is totally in my wheelhouse, beginning with an acoustic intro and slowly adding intensity and power as it goes. Totally a song that lifts me up, that baseline subtly projecting upward until the guitars join in and the gang vocals really take over. Sometimes I hate what working on this thing has done to me. Sorry, guys.
I got this Alan Parsons album (Try Anything Once) for reasons I’m not entirely sure of. I liked his 80’s hits, but it wasn’t like I was a huge fan or ever bought anything he ever released. As a result it’s probably no surprise that it lay dormant in my record collection for years, rarely if ever listened to. Then, as I’m want to do, I pulled it out one day years ago and gave it a cursory listen and this song absolutely jumped out at me. It starts slow enough, but about two minutes in it finds a (subtle) second level that really gets under my skin. The song soars at that point and becomes this epic thing, particularly when it comes back around to the “chorus” at about three-and-a-half minutes, including an impassioned (though aborted) guitar solo. This reminds me of some of Toto’s best work, although maybe just a touch more prog than they ever ventured to go. I’m forever torn between wanting music that is raw and passion-filled and stuff that is full of elaborate musicianship. Variety is the spice of life, I guess.