Thursday, January 17, 2013

My top 4 solo musical artists

I've been reading Neil Young's autobiography, Waging Heavy Peace, but more about that later. I've been a fan of Young's for almost as long as he's been performing and own nearly everything he's released. It made me think about other artists who I like a lot. And an idea for a post was born.  You have to take inspiration where you find it.

I've put Neil Young at the top of this list but the next 4 are in arbitrary order.

Neil Young

The sharp-eyed among you will have noticed that this album cover makes up part of the heading for the blog. The first Neil Young song that I ever heard was probably "Mr. Soul" on Buffalo Springfield's 1967 album Buffalo Springfield Again, but it's this album, Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere that really turned me onto Neil. Released May 14, 1969, this is actually Neil's second solo album. The first, simply called Neil Young was badly produced and didn't sell well. It's also a great album but I didn't know about it until later. On Everybody Knows... Songs like "Cinnamon Girl", "Cowgirl in the Sand" and "Down By The River" just blew me away. I've only seen Young perform twice, once during his "Live Rust" tour back in 1980 or so, and more recently on his "Le Noise" tour.

Leonard Cohen

Undoubtedly, the first Leonard Cohen song I heard was "Suzanne" from Cohen's first album, Songs of Leonard Cohen released in December 1967. My parents bought me a record player for Christmas in 1967, and I think this album was one of the first I bought for myself. Songs like "Master Song" and "The Stranger Song" were like nothing I had ever heard before, certainly like nothing being played on the radio. I own just about everything that he has released. I've only seen him in concert once, in a small theater, appearing solo.

Kate Bush

Released in September 1985, Hounds of Love is actually her 5th album but I had never heard of her until a friend gave me a mix tape with "Running Up That Hill (A Deal With God)" on it probably in 1988. By then the album was hard to find and I had to settle for a cassette tape version. I love this entire album. I eventually acquired her earlier albums and nearly everything she released since.  She took a long break from recording (1993-2005) but her return album Aerial was worth the wait. I have not seen her in person as she doesn't like to travel and has never performed in the US.  There are a lot of other female artists I like (Judy Collins, Joni Mitchell, Tory Amos to name a few) but only Kate Bush has held for me for such a long period of time.

Bruce Springsteen

The first Bruce Springsteen song I ever heard was "Spirit In The Night" from the January 1973 Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J. As far as sales went, the single was not a success but I loved it the first time I heard it and still love it today. I bought the album as soon as I could find it. I lived in Philadelphia then, and Bruce was heavily played and promoted by the city's one "progressive" station, WMMR. Bruce's best work, in my opinion, are his songs that tell stories and every song here, from "Lost In The Flood" to "For You" tells a great story. In fact, "For You" is all tied up in my memory with a girl I was dating at the time.  I've only seen him perform live once, in a Jersey bar called Uncle Al's Earlton Lounge. He was with the full E-Street band and the performance was just stunning. I will confess that I fell out of love with Springsteen after Born In The USA but I've come back and even acquired the albums I missed.

I had fully intended this to include 5 artists, but as I was putting it together I realized there wasn't a fifth artist who, for me, made such an impact as these 4. People like Bob Dylan, David Bowie, and the aforementioned Tory Amos come close. And of course there are bands (The Beatles, Steely Dan, Yes) who do rise to that level, but that's another post.

And as I finish this up, Neil Young's "Words (Between The Lines of Age)" comes up on iTunes.

Someone and someone were down by the pond
Looking for something to plant in the lawn
Out in the fields they were turning the soil
I'm sitting here hoping this water will boil

When I look through the window and out on the road
They're bringing me presents and saying hello
Singing words, words between the lines of age
Words, words between the lines of age

If I was a junkman selling you cars
Washing your windows and shining your stars
Thinking your mind was my own in a dream
What would you wonder and how would it seem?

Living in castles a bit at a time
The king started laughing and talking in rhyme
Singing words, words between the lines of age
Words, words between the lines of age

This song came out in 1972, over 40 years ago and I never tire of hearing it.

1 comment:

Hackenbush said...

I've always been a Kate Bush fan. I first saw her singing "Those Heavy People" on SNL (may have been the first season). Tori Amos has claimed not to have been influenced by her but I still don't believe it. When you're done with the Neil Young you might want to check out, "I'm Your Man", the new Leonard Cohen bio. I'm only about a third of the way through it but it's a good read.