1. Devendra Banhart – See Saw (Rejoicing in the Hands, 2004)
Acoustic intro quickly followed by the recognizable voice of Banhart: an exhaustive summary of the man’s early work. Classified among a lot of genres, and in the end just not very enchanting, just funny at some points. Of course, when you’re called after the king of gods feat. Obi Wan Kenobi and release your albums on Young God Records, people tend to expect something special from you. Would raise his musical ambitions later, and with that move the remaining charm mentioned above also disappeared.
2. Madrugada – Running Out of Time (The Deep End, 2005)
Murmuring and spooky guitar and drum sounds in the beginning, powerful female backing vocals towards the end: sounds like Nick Cave’s theatre, but turns out to be the Norwegian Madrugada with Sivert Hoyem on vocals. Debuted at the turn of the century, searched for a more experimental sound on their third album Grit (2002) and definitely broke through in their home country with the golden pair of this one and their live recordings at Vonnegut’s Trafalmadore. Wanted to follow up with a fifth album in 2007 when they were struck by the death of the guitarist (eventually released in 2008 as their final album).
3. Isis – The Beginning and the End (Oceanic, 2002)
Another band that claimed their fame at the beginning of this century, but one I lost out of sight after one of their last live gigs. Started off as a heavy metal/hardcore band, but switched gears with this release, moving towards a more clear post rock sound. As such they were considered pioneers of the post-metal genre, that preserved the aggressive hardcore vocals I’m personally not a big fan of. Dissoluted in 2010.
4. Leonard Cohen – Dress Rehearsal Rag (Songs of Love and Hate, 1971)
Also an acoustic intro, also followed by a recognizable voice, and this time one that is indeed enchanting. Although Cohen might never have been called after some king of gods, he was told that he was the descendant of Aaron the high priest, which also should have granted him a considerable amount of street credibility. Cohen initially tried to make a (Canadian) living with his poetry but moved to the American folk scene as that didn’t turn out well. After some hanging around in Warhol’s Factory and a couple of folk festival gigs, he was signed by Columbia Records, the label on which he released his debut album (and on which he clashed with producer John Simon). Cohen collaborated with Bob Johnston (Highway 61 Revisited, Blonde on Blonde, Parsley, Sage, Rosemary & Thyme,…) on the next two albums, this being the second. The lyrical themes on the album are, well, principally love and hate. And of course a little depression, for example on this great track, that is rarely performed live by Cohen because of that reason. Recorded already in 1966 by Cohen disciple Judy ‘Blue Eyes’ Collins.
5. Fugazi – Margin Walker (13 Songs, 1989)
Fucked Up, Got Ambushed, Zipped In. Guitarist and singer Ian MacKaye decided to form another band after the dissolution of Minor Threat and succeeds in the end of 1987 with a little help from Joe Lally, Brendan Canty and eventually Guy Picciotto. 1988 delivered two EP’s (this song was on the second with the same name) and a lot of touring, resulting in this release which combines those two EP’s instead of another debut album. Fugazi is one of those rare bands that never, never bended for great amounts of money and always stuck to its own approach in making music (decline of the Atlantic Records millions-deal, personally keeping the concert admissions as low as possible, DIY-recording,…). Dissoluted (although not officially) in 2003.
6. The Smashing Pumpkins – Porcelina of the Vast Oceans (Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness, 1995)
Awesome track on a genius album. As on almost every track on the album, you get it all: elaborate, mysterious intro, aggressive guitar solos and the melo-dramatic vocals of the master himself. Corgan founded the band in 1988 (Chicago) with rhythm guitarist James Iha, but was never capable of keeping the same group together. Partly because of the personal toxic hobbies of some band members, to a large extent because of the fact that Corgan desired to play all the instruments except the drums on the studio recordings. The resulting tensions already rose on the first two albums (Gish and breakthrough record Siamese Dream), but Billy ‘Zero’ Corgan nevertheless succeeded to push all limits one more time on Mellon Collie, decribed by himself as ‘The Wall for Generation X’. Should have been dissoluted immediately afterwards.
7. Creedence Clearwater Revival – Born on the Bayou (Live in Europe, 1973)
Opening track of many CCR concerts, also on this album; or wasn’t it? Whether Live in Europe was an actual live recording or not, this original track still stands as one of their best songs. It was the B-side of CCR’s monster hit single from the same album: ‘Proud Mary’, that became CCR’s breaktrhu. The album Bayou Country still contained some weak spots that were to be replaced by strong album tracks on the following releases, but the hits… they were already there.
8. Guided By Voices – Alright (Alien Lanes, 1995)
Closing track of what is probably GBV’s best album, an instrumental with an occasional shout of the song title. A regular customer of the shuffle thanks to their great amount of tracks and I don’t even own a quarter of everything they released. It all started with a bunch of independant releases, followed by 500 copies of Propeller, Vampire on Titus in 1993 and heir breakthrough album Bee Thousand (1994, not a fan). It was only then when those guys could quit their daytime jobs and turn into full time musicians. Completely in Fugazi-style, Alien Lanes was created way below the available budget. Classic line-up fell apart one year later, but albums are still released at a CCR-rate today.
9. Eels – From Which I Came/A Magic World (Blinking Lights and Other Revelations, 2005)
Nice second track (after the Blinking Lights theme) from by far the best album of this Californian band. Mark Everett really exceeds himself here with a very lush sound, that was also reenacted live thanks to some serious personnel reinforcements.
10. Crosby, Stills & Nash – Guinevere (Crosby, Stills & Nash, 1969)
The genesis of this super group may be well-known meanwhile, debuting here with this great album that moved the main focus in rock music from blues to folk and country during the following years. Stephen Stills was the Billy Corgan of the trio, also playing all of the instruments of the album except the drums (Dallas Taylor). This song follows up Stills’ opening suite and Nash’s poppy ‘Marrakesh Express’, as a David Crosby song that could have also appeared on his last album with The Byrds. Did he write it as if he was Lancelot? Anyway, the women he reffered to as Queen Guinevere would have been (according to Crosby himself) Christine Hinton (his girlfriend), Joni Mitchell and… the unknown third lady.