Thursday, November 01, 2012


Logged in today. After a long, long time. Suddenly realized that the entire process of posting blogs had changed. I had started working on a list of favourite songs. That had been abandoned just after I had started out. My last entry was in September last year. Since then, I have quit my full-time job with the Times of India - after a satisfying but long enough stint - to become a maverick all over again. Burp, my cocker spaniel son, has become a year older. Jack, the baby, has come into my life. I have moved into a bigger place: correction, a big place, the last one being small. Time has ticked away. It always does. Things have changed. They promise to change even further. That's the way life is. This blog will start. All over again. It needs to. It will.

Friday, September 30, 2011

iPod of my mind: Musical unforgettables part nine

The journey continues. Lots of lovely songs have come back to haunt my life as the objective of writing about ten thousand songs takes another step forward.

Am enjoying the feedback. Thanks guys.

White room, Cream: Cream was a supergroup that didn’t last long, all due to ego clashes between its hugely talented members, Jack Bruce, Ginger Baker and Eric Clapton. White room is psychedelic rock taken to a different level by Clapton’s masterly playing of overdubbed guitars and the songwriting of course.

Blowin’ in the wind, Peter, Paul and Mary: A track with a million versions, I personally admire the version of Peter, Paul and Mary, a folk music trio. Incidentally, this one is commercially the biggest success story of the track.

Me and Bobby McGee, Janis Joplin: This being a personal list, let me share something personal. Janis Joplin died the day I was born (October 4) and, somehow, I cannot delete that fact from my mind. This particular track, a version of the track originally performed by Roger Miller, topped the US charts after Joplin passed away. It did so because of pure merit, and only a little bit of nostalgia.

Everytime you go away, Paul Young: Written by Daryl Hall (Hall and Oates), this blue eyed soul cut sung by Young is his biggest hit ever. Young’s voice has a mesmeric silken touch, and this show manifests that beautifully.

We are the world, USA for Africa: Outstanding. This song written by Michael Jackson and Lionel Richie featuring the who’s who of popular music had charity as its mission. The composition is so touching that we cannot help but return to it time and again.

Kodachrome, Paul Simon: Named after Kodak’s 35 mm film, this track is typically Simon: well-written, well-sung, remarkably enjoyable. Not the sort of track you will forget easily.

Cajun moon, JJ Cale: I am a JJ Cale fan, and have very little doubt that this track is one of his best. Once again, what works for this one is Cale’s laidback signature style of performing. Quite outstanding, really.

Bound for glory, Neil Young: From his country album titled Old Ways, this song by Young (yes, the very same Young of CSNY) proves his musical versatility. If you have heard what one can say is ‘regular’ Young stuff, you might wish to check this out and be pleasantly surprised.

Sussudio, Phil Collins: This song about a crush became huge after it released. Everyone who was remotely interested in Western music seemed to have heard it. Years have gone by. But the memories linger on.

American pie, Don McLean: This one has been added because of a schoolmate’s suggestion. Not that it would not have made it – it is one of the best folk rock tracks you will ever hear – but I had planned to incorporate it sometime later. Brilliant song. Since you have heard it in all probability, just check it out once again.

Bye for now. Let’s meet on Sunday, if not earlier.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

iPod of my mind: Musical unforgettables part eight

The search for good music is an endless journey. And the discoveries as we go along are such that we don’t stop to seek breathing space. We just go on and on…

Ten more delightful tracks for you, without any regard for chronology or genre as usual. As I have told you earlier, I don’t believe in the relevance of either.

The road to hell, Chris Rea: Rea is an all-round musician and The road to hell, a two-part track, his biggest ever success so far. The guttural edge in his voice combines with superb lyrics and guitaring to make this rock track, one to die for.

Morning train, Sheena Easton: I must confess that I enjoy some pop tracks that are meant for easy listening and don’t mean too much beyond the obvious. Morning Train by this Scottish singer features in that list of mine. Good to hear but, more importantly, a fairly pleasing memory.

Sledgehammer, Peter Gabriel: This track by Gabriel, a monster hit with sexual innuendos in its lyrics and diverse experiments with instrumentation, continues to be a major feature in many musical circles more than 25 years after it was released. Of course, you must check the video.

Itsy bitsy teenie weenie yellow polka dot bikini, Bryan Hyland: They call this bubblegum pop. All I do know – and what matters to me – is that this short and lively track with its fun lyrics can be enjoyed in a hurry but not forgotten as fast. Great stuff.

Everybody hurts, R.E.M.: When alternative rock aspires to be outstanding, a song like this is born. This cut targets the teenagers, and the vocals of Michael Stipe and Peter Buck’s style of guitaring make this one a modern-day classic of alternative rock. By the way, the video inspired by filmmaker Federico Fellini’s 8 ½ is fantastic in its own right.

Lucky lips, Cliff Richard: Typically Cliff. Not much adventure. Pretty much within his range. Pretty likable too.

No love, Eminem featuring Lil Wayne: Eminem is seriously talented. So is Lil Wayne. This song, that samples Eurodance performer Haddaway’s biggest career hit What is love, is hip hop when it is remarkably good. Listen without prejudice.

Layla, Eric Clapton and Wynton Marsalis: I know you must be wondering: what the hell is this? Well guys, the thing is, I am hearing this version right now. It is a ‘live’ performance, with the two maestros sounding heavenly in an act of mind-blowing experimentation. The original Layla stays in my list of favourites for being the way it is. But this one has its own jazz-soaked charm. Check it out.

There’ll be some changes made, Mark Knopfler and Chet Atkins: Knopfler and Atkins came together for a country album titled Neck and Neck. My personal favourite is There’ll be some changes made. The two masters of two diverse styles have a ball in this one.

Roll over Beethoven, Chuck Berry: Should rhythm and blues take over from classical music (hence, Beethoven)? Berry evidently thought so, leading to one of the greatest rock and roll tracks of all time.

Particularly happy to include the version of Layla that I heard today. It sounds really good to me.

iPod of my mind: Musical unforgettables part seven

This is the seventh installment of what is hopefully going to be a thousand-part-long series. But responses are pouring in. I am getting to read messages asking why there are no Foo Fighters, no Abba, no so many others.

Guys, this has just taken off. Give me some time please.

If you could read my mind, Gordon Lightfoot: This Canadian phenomenon has given some sublime classics in the country and pop genres. If you could read my mind is my personal favourite, although I must confess that many other Lightfoot tracks come close to that one.

Burning bridges, Status Quo: For a long time, this British rock band was known for consistency in output. Burning bridges, based on the English folk cut Darby Kelly, is a brilliantly well-knit number unveiling the act at their best.

What’s love got to do with it, Tina Turner: Tina Turner is an iconic singer, and this track, with its biting lyrics and majestic vocals, is definitely one of her best. Tremendously popular, it shows how great singing can make a track soar way beyond the ordinary,

Take me home, country roads, John Denver: Now, show me one person who loves music and hasn’t heard this one. Mellifluous and lucid, this one is the sort of country track that has given the genre so much popularity worldwide.

November rain, Guns N’ Roses: When it started out, this act had so much obvious talent that it could have done a lot better than it did. However, few rock music lovers can question the class of November Rain. From guitaring to vocals, this track scores highly in every aspect of the composition.

The man, Paul McCartney and Michael Jackson: I have always felt that McCartney and Jackson understood each other perfectly as performers. This great quality manifests itself most remarkably in The man, a lovely track from the album Pipes of Peace.

Holiday, Green Day: A track from the American punk rock act. The lead vocalist Billie Joe Armstrong used to introduce this song with the ‘f’ word directed at the politicians. Ignore that as a gimmick and hear the song.

Wind of change, Scorpions: Classified as a ‘power ballad’, this cut by the German heavy metal band celebrates the demise of the Cold war, among other things. Very few heavy metal/hard rock tracks are as infectious. Simply majestic, guys.

Smooth operator, Sade: This song by the British pop group Sade tells the story of a womaniser who breaks many hearts. What works for this one is the wonderful vocals by the lead singer, Nigeria-born Sade Adu.

Rivers of Babylon, Boney M: A track many of us grew up with. Originally a Rastafarian cut, the Boney M found its way into the hearts of millions of music lovers. We may not be able to take this one too seriously. But it is impossible not to smile and tap our feet when the song is being played.

Hear these tracks if you wish to. Hopefully, the majority would not disappoint you.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

iPod of my mind: Musical unforgettables part six

Was leaving for work today. All of a sudden, started humming a Pink Floyd song. When I wrote about it on Facebook, an old buddy responded by saying that the song had got stuck inside his head.

Happens. Happens very often. When a truly good composition comes our way, it doesn’t leave us very easily.

Some such songs that you could enjoy…if you already haven’t.

Baby elephant walk, Henry Mancini: This Mancini composition for the film Hatari! is so wonderfully engaging that you are going to stay hooked to it for years. Fun-filled and jazzy, Mancini broke away from his usual style and created a classic which music lovers must hear and enjoy.

Goodbye Charlie, Bobby Darin: Darin was a huge talent. And Goodbye Charlie with its lovely vocals and wonderful lyrics is a superb track indeed. Check this out. It will be a pleasant discovery.

Raindrops keep falling on my head, B J Thomas: Written by Hal David and Burt Bacharach, this song is remembered best for Paul Newman’s bicycle stunts in the movie Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Loads of fun, and distinctly memorable.

Staying alive, Bee Gees: This track from the motion picture Saturday Night Fever rewrote the meaning of universal popularity. Decades after actor John Travolta became synonymous with this one, the song continues to visit our lives one way or the other.

Californication, Red Hot Chilli Peppers: This alternative rock band consists of a bunch of very talented guys. And while they do not get it spot on often – one wonders why – they certainly did so in this particular track. Very well-knit, destined to outlive many of its contemporaries.

Bellbottom blues, Derek and the Dominos: A blues-rock classic written by Eric Clapton and performed by Derek and the Dominos. Clapton is simply fantastic both as a singer and a guitarist. He manages to bring out the emotions in the lyrics most wonderfully.

One night in Bangkok, Murray Head: The lyrics which speak of Bangkok and chess in a satirical tone created quite a furore. But the new wave track is full of energy, and some Oriental instrumentation in the beginning adds to the fun quotient. Good stuff.

More than I can say, Leo Sayer: Written by Jerry Allison and Sonny Curtis, two members of Buddy Holly’s band The Crickets. Also recorded by the band after Holly passed away. But the version I like most is the one by Sayer, which became hugely popular once it was released.

Space oddity, David Bowie: Belongs to the ‘space rock’ genre. Seen as a satire on the British space programme, this track has all those elements that a Bowie fan can ask for: and more.

Lucille, Kenny Rogers: The lyrics are about an extra-marital relationship – almost – but what makes this song actually haunting is Rogers’ out-of-the-world singing. Will stay on as a melodic memory. All you have to do is hear it once.

This list is the most ‘mixed’ among the ones I have uploaded so far. But then, I firmly believe that music knows no boundaries. What is good is good.

Monday, September 26, 2011

iPod of my mind: Musical unforgettables part five

Someone was chatting with me the other day. “Can you tell me about your top ten favourites of all time?,” he said. I thought for a while and answered, “Impossible. Too much has been happening for too long.”

That is the thing about music. So much of it is produced, and so many good songs, that we are faced with the problem of plenty. But think of it. Isn’t that fascinating? After all, who would have liked it if music had produced a few songs and become a dinosaur? Nobody, I am sure.

Cut to ten cuts. Let’s hear them and have fun.

Hello, Lionel Richie: Richie has a marvellous voice. And personally, I have a soft corner for his slow numbers because that is when he is at his best. Hello is his best track. And just in case you haven’t seen the video, find a way to do so.

Ballerina girl, Richie: Another Richie track. Another slow one. And almost equally good. Don’t miss this one.

Time, Pink Floyd: As a kid, I was intrigued by the way the song began. With the tick tick sound, symbolising the movement of time. As I grew up, the song grew in me. No matter how many classics hit the music scene later, I cannot let go of this one. Too precious.

Words, Bee Gees: Vocal harmony is the USP of Bee Gees. And, Words brings out that quality best. Beautifully written and sung, this one will stand the test of time.

Top of the world, The Carpenters: If you like lilting tracks, you must be in love with this act. What about me? Well, I don’t like everything they have done. But I would need to lie to say that I don’t adore this one. Uncomplicated, and thoroughly lovable.

Crocodile walk, John Mayall: If we start making a list of musicians whom the blues musician John Mayall has mentored one way or the other, the list will be very long indeed. Crocodile walk wasn’t a major commercial success by any yardstick of judgment. But it shows the sort of musicianship that Mayall fans expect from the man. Superb stuff.

Beat it, Michael Jackson: What a track, and what a performance. One of the biggest hits of Jackson, this one is the king of all songs for many Jackson fans. Check out the video to see the sort of magic the man could whip up with consummate effortlessness.

Oh, pretty woman, Roy Orbison: Roy Orbison was quite a performer, and this song which inspired the title of a Richard Gere-Julia Roberts starrer is his most popular. You have heard it, right?

To all the girls I have loved before, Willie Nelson and Julio Iglesias: Hey all, you will love this. Subtle competitiveness between singers of two diverse styles makes it delightful. My vote for the better vocalist goes to Nelson. But I am biased towards the guy. So don’t trust me, but hear it anyway. (This is the cover version of an Albert Hammond song. But that is inconsequential).

Take on me, A-ha: This Norwegian band was a huge success. This track is among their best. Not much ambition here, only the desire to produce a light-hearted enjoyable track. The honesty of intention works.

So then. Hope you liked this one. Good to hear from many of you. And we shall hear some more very soon.

Friday, September 23, 2011

iPod of my mind: Musical unforgettables part four

Music has so much to offer that, if you have time and taste, you can indulge in what you like and be at complete peace with yourself. And this, even if you dig heavy metal and nothing else at all.

When somebody read my first three posts yesterday, the person’s first reaction was, “Wow, your range is phenomenal.” Thanks for that, but I genuinely believe that there are other nutcases like me who enjoy all sorts of music, without any discrimination whatsoever. After all, what is important, at the end of the day, is the sound of music. And, if you find the sound relatable, guys, nothing else matters.

Here are ten more songs. For your eyes as of now, and hopefully, your ears thereafter.

Cocaine, Eric Clapton: Written and recorded by JJ Cale, this song became famous because of Clapton’s version. This one was supposed to be an anti-drug song, but the intention was so unclear in the lyrics that Clapton added the phrase ‘that dirty cocaine’ to the track later. I am of the view that this track’s initial performances has EC at his best. In saying what I do, I am not the only one.

La bamba, Ritchie Valens: This Mexican folk track was popularised by a prodigy named Ritchie Valens. Today, it has become an anthem the world over. I hardly know any music lover who hasn’t heard this one. So, what do I add?

The house of the rising Sun, The Animals: Plain knockout material. Originally a folk track, The Animals gave this one a superb twist and made it a folk rock classic that will last forever.

Part time lover, Stevie Wonder: This visually challenged maestro has one of the most mesmerising voices you can ever hear. Part time lover, as the title suggests, is, lyrically, a naughty track. Wonderfully sung by Wonder, you cannot stay away from hearing it time and again.

Eye in the sky, The Alan Parsons Project: The title track of a hugely popular pop rock album. Fantastic instrumentation, great vocal harmony, eminently enjoyable.

Teach your children, Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young: Trivia freaks might like to know that this track had Jerry Garcia on the pedal steel guitar. Written by Graham Nash and dealing with the theme of teaching children about war and other concerns, this folk rock track is seriously good.

Sultans of swing, Dire Straits: Dire Straits, led by the charismatic Mark Knopfler, delivered this pulsating number. The songwriting is great, and the big man’s guitaring and vocals make this one a track for all seasons.

Blowing in the wind, Bob Dylan: Dylan is the best lyricist the world has ever produced. This track, with its haunting thoughts and ‘interesting’ vocals – interesting is the word one must use for Dylan’s singing – is among the most popular ones of all time. Am sure you have heard it, even if politics doesn't interest you one bit.

After Midnight, JJ Cale: Popularised by Clapton, but I like Cale’s original version a little bit more. The laidback style of Cale’s singing lends this track, a peculiar charm: or, so I feel.

The sound of silence, Simon and Garfunkel: Simon and Garfunkel have given us many classics. Thank God for that. But nothing quite matches the haunting flavour of this track. The word ‘sound’ has been used in both its singular and plural incarnations, but we will stick to the former since Simon, in his book Lyrics 1964-2008, has it that way.

Bye for now. And enjoy. On Sunday, we shall sing together once more.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

iPod of my mind: Musical unforgettables part three

Guys, this series has just started. And I am getting all sorts of interesting messages already. Am glad, because it shows that people are seeing the stuff. What’s interesting: I have been inundated with thoughts and suggestions on which bands to include, why, and so on.
Thanks for your advice, guys. Hopefully, I will be able to find space for your preferences as I go along. Just in case you think that ten thousand songs is a hell of a lot, well, the fact is, it is not. So, what you think is an inevitable addition might be left out, this series being governed by personal likes and dislikes to a great extent.
Some more stuff. That is, ten more songs.

Watching the wheels, John Lennon: This song was inspired by John Lennon’s experience as a ‘house husband’ when he stayed away from work to look after Sean, his son. And, it was released after Lennon’s assassination. All of us know that the ex-Beatle had written innumerable memorable tracks by then. But hear this if you haven’t. It might make you rewrite your list of Lennon favourites.

Rude awakening, Bill Medley: He is one half of The Righteous Brothers. And, he did this track for the motion picture by the same name. To be heard because of solid performance, and of course, great lyrics.

Voodoo Chile, The Jimi Hendrix Experience: This song emerged from Catfish Blues, Hendrix’s homage to Muddy Waters. It is the longest ever studio recording by Hendrix, and must be heard for the various styles of blues (right from BB King to Delta Blues) that Hendrix incorporates in the performance. I am aware that the critics of Hendrix have problems with his musical pomposity. But I love him for that. Just that.

Watching TV, Roger Waters (with Don Henley): How did the media make an impact on the Chinese protests for democracy in Tiananmen Square? Through his concept album titled Amused to Death, Waters sought to address this question with this particular song. The lyrics may not be great, but the overall feel of the song shook me up alright.

Candle in the wind, Elton John: This one, a tribute to Marilyn Monroe, should be on anybody’s list. Or, so I would like to believe. Great singing, good writing by Bernie Taupin, lovely melody: what more can you ask for? What I did not like, however, is the way John tinkered with the track to offer a tribute to Princess Diana. Simply not done.

Imagine, John Lennon: Philosophical, straight from the heart. Lennon inhabited a dreamer’s world when he came up with this one. Won’t be surprised if the song outlives many Beatles classics.

What’s up, 4 Non Blondes: The only studio album released by this alternative rock band, and it was called Bigger, Better, Faster, More. What’s up, a track from BBFM, is a classic example of how good these girls were, and suggests what all they could have achieved had they stayed together.

Two princes, Spin Doctors: When I heard this track for the first time, the rhythms swept me off my feet. It took me several days before the reality sunk in. Yes, these ‘docs’ were outstanding in this particular alternative rock track. Deserves to be in your list if it isn’t there already.

Song Sung Blue, Neil Diamond: What vocal depth, and how adorably simple songwriting. What is special about this one is that Diamond didn’t try too hard. But what he did, he did most brilliantly.

Jailhouse rock, Elvis Presley: The first Elvis entry and, I must confess, possibly a much delayed one. The song has been recorded by everyone right from Motley Crue to John Cougar Mellencamp. But the version by Elvis is certainly the best of them all. And, even now, this rock and roll cut continues to rule.

Wrapped Around Your Finger, The Police: A song from Synchronicity, the last studio album recorded by the band. To be heard for the literary references, if you give a damn, and for sheer compositional genius if you don’t. The video, honestly, is almost as good.

Songs are meant to be enjoyed, aren’t they? That is why I have decided to break all genre-specific boundaries as I work on this series.
Hope you are liking it. I certainly am.

iPod of my mind: Musical unforgettables part two

This series seems to have started off okay. What’s more, I am quite enjoying what I am doing. The target that I have set for myself is an obscene challenge. Writing about ten thousand songs isn’t easy: not for me, at least. But it promises to be fun.

Let me cut the crap. For the time being. Here are ten more songs that you might wish to check out.

Comfortably numb, Pink Floyd: Many can’t see beyond this Floyd number. Waters and co. have done much better stuff. But this one as a popular classic beats most.

No rain, Blind Melon: My introduction to this American rock band. The video featuring Heather DeLoach performing in front of people who respond with sarcastic laughter, before moving on to show the girl’s quest for appreciative viewers, is brilliant. (For the final moments, check it out). As for the song, you have to hear it to believe that these guys could deliver some seriously good stuff.
Btw, would have liked the front man Shannon Hoon to go on and on instead of dying of cocaine overdose like many others of his kind.

Coward of the county, Kenny Rogers: Country music has produced great performers. And, Kenny Rogers is right there at the top with a few others. This song that tells the story of a young ‘coward’ who becomes a ‘real’ man in the end, the songwriter has enough in it to sustain one’s interest. Add Rogers’ vocals to that, and what you have is a seriously good track.

Mr. Record Man, Willie Nelson: A brilliant track from that ‘rebel’ named Willie Nelson. Great writing and superb vocals take this song to that special level that makes Nelson a unique happening in the world of country music.

Thriller, Michael Jackson: No matter what his critics say, MJ is the biggest entertainer the world has ever seen. Thriller’s music video is one of the best you can ever hope to see, with Jackson, the idol of idols, in full flow both as a singer and performer. Yes, outstanding.

Woman in love, Barbra Streisand: What a voice, and what a song. I have known diehard metal lovers who have been felled by the haunting beauty of this romantic number. As a matter of fact, nobody I know has managed to be an exception, which says a lot about the merit of the track.

Rhinestone cowboy, Glen Campbell: Blessed with a rich voice, Campbell has pulled off several magical tracks during his illustrious career as a country music performer. Rhinestone cowboy is one of his biggest hits, and what’s more, continues to make its presence felt despite countless country music releases every year. You just cannot miss this one.

Don’t know much, Linda Ronstadt and Aaron Neville: This song had been sung by others earlier – including Bill Medley and Bette Midler – but none of them matches the version sang by Ronstadt and Neville (of Neville Brothers). It has the classic quality of any good duet: which is, two brilliant vocalists complimenting each other with instinctive ease. Personally, I believe that Neville eclipsed Ronstadt. But my view may not be shared by others.

Careless whisper, Wham!: Have never been much of a Wham! fan. But I confess that Careless whisper, when released as a single in 1984, pretty much convinced me, a schoolboy, that the band was destined to go far. That, it did, before the members George Michael and Andrew Ridgeley parted ways. Till today, the number sounds good to my ears. Not bad, 27 odd years having gone by since I heard it first.

Roadhouse Blues, The Doors: The last screw of sanity abandoned my mind-screwed head when I heard this track years ago. Although the song has been flogged to death by countless cover version artists, Jim Morrison’s voice reminds me of his nearly matchless charisma whenever I return to the track.

See you till next time. Which should be very very soon.