Welcome to Tom’s Pick Of The Week – something which I’m hoping will become a bit of a regular weekly post over here at Six Strings And A Pick.
I’m not sure whether it’s because, so far, this blog has been lacking in personal touch (I’ve very much just been reporting news) or whether it’s because nothing really happens in the music biz over the weekend in terms of press output and I just don’t like seeing my stats chart take a nosedive when there’s nothing to report.
Whichever makes me look better. I think the personal thing does, so we’ll go with that!
Basically, each weekend I’ll sum up my week’s listening in a nice Top 5 of stand-out songs, and why they’re so killer. You folk will appreciate it more than the friends on my Facebook list will appreciate being bombarded with status updates on why what I’m listening to is better than what they’re listening to.
Not that I’m intolerant or anything.
This kind brings me to my number one… (So here comes my first top 5, folks – expect future posts to be lacking in the past few pars of waffle!)
Tom’s Top 5 Pick
B.B King – The Thrill Has Gone
Real music. They sure don’t make it like they used to. Watch this video and then flick on Viva or Radio 1 and listen to the charts. You’ll want to chew your own ears off out of sheer despair.
The raw emotion that powers through B.B King’s voice and that flows through his fingers whenever he touches a string are enough to give you goosebumps. The feeling is indescribable – the only way I can put it into words is that it sets your soul alight and makes you feel alive.
Nothing tops seeing the big man face-to-face in a live setting (seeing him at the NIA in Birmingham, UK last summer was undoubtedly the most incredible musical experience I’ve ever had) but this particular performance of The Thrill Has Gone, in Kinshasa in 1974, comes mighty close.
B.B King doesn’t play the blues. He is the blues.
And that’s why it’s this week’s number one. There was no real reason for me listening to this, no topical attachment that caused me to listen to it, other than it’s just an incredible work of musical genius. If someone asked me what the blues was, I’d show them this video and let it do all the talking.
Steve Vai – Tender Surrender
If this isn’t a masterpiece I don’t know what is. Writing about Steve Vai’s plans with Ibanez to re-release his 7-string JEM guitars earlier this week reignited my passion for who is probably my number one guitar idol.
Another song that simply makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand on end.
I was never a fan of instrumental songs, but with Tender Surrender there’s no need for vocals. The guitar, the music, does all the singing you could ever need. The emotion conveyed in such a creative and impressive style of playing (without playing too many notes per second to venture into ‘shred guitar’ territory, a-la Michael Angelo Batio) just…does something to you.
As soon as you start listening to this track, without the need for words or lyrics, you’ll immediately start to feel the emotion that Steve’s feeling when he plays the song.
His facial expressions and motions in the video may look a bit daft, almost fake, but once you listen to the song from start to finish you’ll realise that it’ll do that to you. It’ll get you feeling, get you moving – both physically and emotionally.
Am I overselling this track? No. I can’t be. The song’s playing on a repeat as I write this and these are the words that are flowing, like the creamy melodies and solos that flow from Steve Vai’s fingers. Solos are typically amazing because you go ‘Wow that’s impressive’.
This solo, this whole track, is amazing because it makes you feel. It moves me emotionally more than any song with lyrics ever has done, and that’s quite an achievement – I’ve listened to A LOT of music!
And that’s why it’s my number 2 pick – #1 out of all of Steve Vai’s songs.
Bullet For My Valentine – Waking The Demon
Wow, if you’re listening to these YouTube videos as you read along then you’re in for a real change of pace.
There’s a strong theme here with the songs in my top five so far – they all make me feel emotion at the absolute top level. B.B King really made me feel the blues, as much as any one man can, and Steve Vai made me feel the gradually increasing feelings of ecstasy he’s trying to convey with Tender Surrender.
BFMV’s Waking The Demon sends me all primal; all the heavy metal music I like does that, it’s why I love it so much. Again, writing an article for this blog made me dust off my Bullet collection for a re-listen (I always like to listen to the band/artist I’m writing about while I write) and this is certainly my favourite track from their most recent album, Scream, Aim, Fire.
It just gets your blood pumping – it’s empowering, almost strengthening, and the video makes it all the more emotive. Ever been in that situation? Listening to this song makes you almost believe you could pull something off like the ending in the video.
Like it’d make you powerful and brutal enough to carry it out, and teach them a lesson.
There’s no other way to describe it than the fact that this song is just raw power and aggression. Simply awesome. Makes me look forward to Bullet’s new album even more!
Rock Sugar – Dreaming Of A Whole Lotta Breakfast
If you haven’t heard of the band Rock Sugar, you soon will. Their debut album, Reimaginator, will feature in the reviews section of the site very shortly, with other features in the pipeline.
Rock Sugar are basically a covers/mash-up band – they cover classic 80s rock and hair metal songs, and cross them with well known 80s pop songs. Examples include AC/DC-Madonna mashups and a an Ozzy Osbourne-Paula Abdul crossover.
This particular song is one of the richer and more complex concoctions from the rock quartet. The song opens as Aerosmith’s Dream On, before transforming into Supertramp’s Breakfast In America as the verse kicks in. Towards the end, as the song gradually gets heavier, Rock Sugar drop in the Whole Lotta Love riff and chorus before lead guitarist Chuck Duran launches into the infamous solo from Stairway To Heaven.
Even though this week has actually been a week of the whole Reimaginator album, this song in particular stands out. It’s very, very musically impressive – a truly epic rock output. Taking a Supertramp song like that and making it as heavy and epic as they do is an incredibly achievement.
Don’t get me wrong, the whole album is incredible (wait for my review!) but there’s something about the closing track, Dreaming Of A Whole Lotta Breakfast, that’s just so powerful and epic. I keep using ‘epic’ to describe the song. It’s not because I lack variety in my writing, but there’s no other way to describe it.
If you’re listening to the song for the first time right now then you’ll know what I mean. With each change in feeling, or change in which song is being mixed, your draw will drop progressively further towards the floor as you can’t help but rock out and sing along at the top of your lungs at the same time.
One of two things will happen once you’ve finished listening to their song above. You’ll either hit play again and again, or you’ll look at the related videos and check out some of their other stuff.
There’s a secret third option, which involves you not liking the song at all, but if that’s the case then you won’t have read this far.
The band are still relatively unknown, but watch out – they’re gonna be big. There’s no way a band who can produce this kind of stuff so…perfrectly don’t deserve all the fame in the world.
Pantera – Heresy
Like I said up in the BFMV section, if I’m writing about a band then I have to listen to them. I was reading Black Tooth Grin: The High Life, Good Times and Tragic End of Dimebag Darrell Abbott as research for a Pantera retrospective article I’m the process of writing.
This year will mark the 20th anniversary of the release of the Cowboys From Hell album that this track is taken from, so what better way to get into the spirit than to listen to the album.
But oddly, out of all the more popular tracks on the album (such as the title track, or Cemetary Gates), Heresy stood out from there’s all. It seems to be one of the few tracks on the album that captures Pantera’s crossover from glam metal to the pure, brutal heavy metal.
The relentless speed of Vinnie Paul Abbott’s drums and the crushing heaviness of Dimebag’s guitarwork all show the heavy metal Pantera that everyone knows and loves. But Phil Anselmo’s vocals give an insight to the glam metal days of Pantera, before they were famous and back when they were spandex wearing kids.
Both entirely different worlds, but seemingly well fused together in some of the tracks on Cowboys From Hell – particularly Heresy.
In addition, if anything, this is some of Pantera’s heaviest work. You can tell they’re trying to shrug off a well-established image with something entirely different, which makes the track seem even more brutal.
Heaviness doesn’t necessarily come from gain, bass and production value (qualities which might make, say, Waking The Demon ‘heavier’ than Heresy). The raw power and emotion really hammer through. The riff, the speed, Phil’s ‘fuck you!’ lyrics and growling yet powerful vocals…all add together for, what I think, is one of my favourite metal tracks.