Monday, April 29, 2019

Favorite Songs by Year - 2019 Edition

I saw a tweet by writer/podcaster Marc Benardin last week in which the exercise was to choose a favorite song for each year you've been alive. Easy. The only caveat: you can only choose one song per artist. Not easy.

You see, I am a hard-core fan of my Four Pillars of Rock. They are, in chronological order of how I discovered them: KISS, David Bowie, Chicago, and Bruce Springsteen. For each one of these bands I could pick a favorite song per year. Mostly. But with this exercise, that was off that table. Then comes the real question: what song do you pick for your favorite bands? Throw in Genesis and Sting into this conundrum as well. I went ahead and applied this rule to composer John Williams because, let's be honest: I could easily select fifty great pieces of music by the composer of Star Wars and Raiders of the Lost Ark.

There were some years in which the favorite song leaped into my head (1969, 1999, 2015, 2016). Other years in which I had to select a song that I liked but don’t love (2011). Then there were years (like 1975, 1977, 1984, 1989, 2004, 2016) in which there were so many good songs I ended up having to cast aside songs I truly love and listen to constantly.

But what ended up happening was by restricting the number of songs I could select, it actually ended up becoming a more freeing exercise. For example, if I could not choose Chicago's "25 or 6 to 4" fin 1970, then I was now able to choose a Beatles song.

So, here's my list, broken out by decade, with notes on a few.

1968 - All Along the Watchtower - Jimi Hendrix
1969 - Introduction - Chicago

1970 - Let It Be - The Beatles
1971 - One Fine Morning - Lighthouse*
1972 - Supper's Ready - Genesis
1973 - Band on the Run - Wings
1974 - Miles Out to Sea - Slade
1975 - 100,000 Years (live) - KISS**
1976 - Hotel California - Eagles
1977 - Star Wars, Extended Version - Meco (aka Disco!)***
1978 - Summer Nights - Grease soundtrack
1979 - Rainbow Connection - Muppet Movie

*Another favorite horn rock band out of Canada. I take a daily walk around my office building and this song is one of the ones I choose often.

**Not my favorite KISS song, but if I have to choose only one tune, here, I get an 11-minute tune with Paul's singing, Gene's bass solo, Ace's guitar solo, and a Peter drum solo. Plus, Paul's stage rant.

***I love the disco version of Star Wars, and this 15-minute song gets every major theme from the movie. Plus disco!

1980 - Back in Black - AC/DC
1981 - Under Pressure - Queen and David Bowie
1982 - Hooked on Classics
1983 - Separate Ways - Journey
1984 - Heaven - Bryan Adams
1985 - The Power of Love - Huey Lewis
1986 - Livin' on a Prayer - Bon Jovi
1987 - I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For - U2*
1988 - Lead Me On - Amy Grant
1989 - The End of the Innocence - Don Henley

*Brilliant Disguise was the song that turned me onto Springsteen, but it doesn't make this list.

1990 - Silent Lucidity - Queensryche
1991 - Enter Sandman - Metallica
1992 - Pull Me Under - Dream Theater
1993 - Rock and Roll Dreams Come true - Meat Loaf
1994 - Singin’ with the Big Bands - Barry Manilow*
1995 - Peace Prayer - Clarence Clemons
1996 - Christmas Eve (Sarajevo) - Trans-Siberian Orchestra
1997 - Follow Me - Pat Metheny Group
1998 - Basic Instructions - Burlap to Cashmere
1999 - Desert Rose - Sting

*I could have easily selected The Brian Setzer Orchestra's "Lady Luck" but the historian in me is drawn to Manilow's recitation of famous big bands in this tune.

2000 - Absolute Beginners (live from Bowie at the Beeb) - David Bowie*
2001 - The Middle - Jimmy Eat World
2002 - The Rising - Bruce Springsteen
2003 - It's a Groove, This Life - Robert Lamm
2004 - Black Crow - Diana Krall
2005 - Mother India - Caedmon's Call
2006 - Crazy - Gnarls Barkley
2007 - One More Night With You - Brian Setzer Orchestra
2008 - Sister Lost Soul - Alejandro Escovedo
2009 - Haven't Met You Yet - Michael Buble

*Absolute Beginners (1986) is probably my favorite Bowie song, and this live show is my favorite concert he's released. Only bad thing: Had to jettison The Howland-Imboden Project's "Inching Towards..." (2000), but I got the Bon Jovi song on 1986.

2010 - City Noir - John Adams (as performed by Gustavo Dudamel and the Los Angeles Philharmonic)*
2011 - I Am Made of You - Alice Cooper**
2012 - Cinnamon Tree - Esperanza Spalding
2013 - Give Life Back to Music - Daft Punk***
2014 - Gimme a Feelin' - Ace Frehley
2015 - Uptown Funk - Bruno Mars, Mark Ronson
2016 - Put Your Money on Me - The Struts****
2017 - Cumberland Gap - Jason Isbell
2018 - On the Soul Side of Town - Tower of Power
2019 - In and Out of Love - Perfect Plan*****

*Saw a performance of this classical piece on PBS and was hooked. Even got a chance to see Adams conduct the Houston Symphony Orchestra doing this work. Turned me on to modern classical music.

**Here's ironic timing: as of 4 January 2019, I had never heard this song or album. But I love it. This song, with its dramatic entry of electric guitar, is everything you'd want to hear in an Alice Cooper song.

***Had never heard of Daft Punk, but I bought this album because of this song. The entire album is one of the best of this decade.

****This was THE song that turned me onto The Struts. In fact, it was purely the opening chord. This will likely be my favorite song of the decade, edging out Uptown Funk by a hair. And, in a week, I finally get to see the band live!

*****As of 26 April 2019, with the debut of the new Bruce Springsteen song, "Hello Sunshine," the category of Favorite Song of 2019 is now over. One word review: Gorgeous.

It's been three years since I had an emotional reaction to a song on first listen. That one, The Struts' "Put Your Money on Me," was joy. This one was simultaneously happy, melancholy, and nostalgic. It was like a song from my childhood I hadn't heard in decades, yet it's a tune my fifty-year-old self experienced for the first time. I didn't roll a tear, but they were in there. And, as I listened to this song about fourteen times on Friday, the emotions came over me more than once. Still don't understand it, but I'm good with it. Beautiful song. Instant classic Springsteen song for me.

If this is any indication of how the rest of the new album is, then the contest for Favorite Album of 2019 is done.

Yet as much as I love that song, I'm still going to keep "The Rising" on this list.

I hope you enjoyed this list. Turns out, I did something similar back in 2017. I'd love to see your list. Post the link in the comments.

Tune in Tomorrow...

For thoughts on Avengers: Endgame

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