Alright, so I don’t really have an article lined up for today. I literally sat for hours trying to think of one and none came to mind.
However, I do feel I should include SOMETHING on the site today, so…how about a list of ten of my favourite songs for you?
Let me stress something: these songs aren’t necessarily in any order, they aren’t all of my favourite songs and I definitely do not intend this article to mean that you have to like these songs. These are just a few of the songs that I personally love to listen to and really enjoy whenever I hear them.
So, with that out of the way, let’s get this done!
“Mr. Scary” by Dokken
Normally, I’m not all that fond of metal instrumentals, because they usually don’t tend to work out especially well. However, this one is a true gem, with some truly epic guitar playing mixed with some great songwriting that causes the whole thing to just work wonderfully. It’s one of Dokken’s masterpieces in my eyes, one of George Lynch’s finest performances and one of the greatest instrumental tracks to come out of the glam genre, so, if you haven’t heard it yet, definitely check it out, because it’s absolutely incredible!
“An American Trilogy” by Elvis Presley
Most people will say that Elvis was just an incredible rock n roll singer, but it’s hearing stuff like his rendition of “Bridge Over Troubled Water” that make you realise that even that statement is selling him short, for he was just an incredible singer period. The crowning achievement in his repertoire, however, is his absolutely spellbinding rendition of “An American Trilogy”. Incredibly well sung, absolutely wonderful material and all tied together in a way that could make even the least patriotic American salute with a tear in their eye at the majesty of it all (hey, it works on me and I’m a Brit!), this is one song that simply must be heard by anyone who considers themselves a true music fan in my eyes and certainly one that all who have heard of Elvis should hear at least once in their lives.
“Diamonds on the Souls of Her Shoes” by Paul Simon
Speaking of Paul Simon, one cannot forget that this was the guy who brought South African music to the ears of the everyday man after already having had a career that most would have been impressed with in his time with Simon & Garfunkel. While most would be strongly tempted to give the accolade to “You Can Call Me Al” if they had to pick a track from Graceland, I feel that the better pick overall is “Diamonds on the Souls of Her Shoes”. Including some wonderful African vocals courtesy of Ladysmith Black Mambazo and some truly wonderful songwriting from Mr Simon, this track shows the potential Graceland had and manages to unite so many elements of both African music and western music so perfectly that to call it anything less than a resounding success would be an insult towards it.
“All Over Again” by The Shires
I am not the keenest fan of sixth generation country music, I’ll admit: to me, it’s just pop music with banjos and a southern accent and I usually don’t find that interesting to listen to. Yet The Shires prove that this can work wonderfully when proper effort is put into it and the results speak from themselves, with a truly excellent hook, some strong instrumental performances and great vocal work. Not going to be everyone’s cup of tea and I definitely can’t say that this has made me all that eager to dig further into the sixth generation of country music, but I’ve ranked up more plays of this song over the last year than I care to admit and I’m all too happy to check out the band’s recently released second album when I get the chance, so I ain’t complaining!
“Dance, Dance” by Fall Out Boy
I really don’t like what a lot of pop punk bands have done with their sounds over the last few years, if I’m completely honest. I get that a lot of the bands want to move in a more poppy direction because the genre as a whole has generally faded away in the eyes of the mainstream and there’s nothing necessarily wrong with that, but it’s got to the point where I honestly think Busted could be claimed to be more punk influenced than some of the pop punk bands still around, which doesn’t really bode very well when you think about it. That said, I do have an undeniable nostalgia for the original style of pop punk and the song that has always stood out as one of the crowns in the style is “Dance, Dance”. What can I say about this track: it’s got a great hook, some great bass playing, vocals that fit perfectly for what the track is doing…it’s just an all around excellent track! If you’re ever wondering what made pop punk so great, this track will explain it all!
“La Bamba” by Los Lobos
Famously joked as being a karaoke black hole by Bill Bailey, this song is one which everyone knows (but can’t sing). A Mexican folk song with confirmed recordings that date back to 1939, the song was famously popularised by Vitchie Valens in his 1958 recording and is still the standard by which most judge the song on. For my money, though, the greatest recording of it is by none other than Los Lobos, a much-underappreciated band outside of this recording who recorded their version of this song for the film of the same name and nailed it. A truly great cover of a legendary track!
“Desperado” by The Eagles
I know what you’re thinking: “What, no “Hotel California”?” Well, while “Hotel California” is an undisputed rock classic, it’s also so overplayed that it doesn’t really surprise me or gain any reaction from me now beyond a polite “huh” and a wish that whoever put it on would pick something a bit more original by the band. “Desperado”, on the other hand, is a whole different story, being a song which shows that The Eagles could do excellent emotional ballads when they wanted to while still having the trademark features that made the band so great. Combine that with a great vocal performance and you have a winner of a track that deserves a hell of a lot more attention than it usually gets outside of the band’s fans.
“Prime Mover” by Rush
Most people who think of Rush tend to either think of them as progressive rock titans or as the band who did that crappy green screen heavy video back in the 80s (which is a shame, because the song it was done for, “Time Stand Still”, is an amazing track!). While both interpretations are certainly very valid, the song which has always stood out to me as my favourite Rush song is actually one of the deeper cuts on one of their least liked records. “Prime Mover” is one of the deeper cuts off of Hold Your Fire and has some of the band’s most contemplative lyrics to date (including some great lines like “the point of the journey is not to arrive”), a great vocal performance from Geddy Lee and some strong instrumental work that, while not the band’s most complicated by any measure, still shows the band putting in effort into making complex material while still making it work through a pop filter (not as easy a feat as you might expect!). Not a song that is going to rank high on most Rush fans’ lists of favourite songs, but an overlooked gem in my eyes and proof that Rush, even when they aren’t at their best, can still put out truly great material.
“Stuttering” by Fefe Dobson
Normally, I don’t tend to enjoy pop music. I get what it is trying to do as a genre and there’s nothing TECHNICALLY wrong with it, but I just find that there has to be more to a song than mere catchiness for it to click with me and far too many pop artists sacrifice any possible depth a song could have in the pursuit of being catchy, so pop doesn’t work for me. Fefe Dobson, luckily, is a pop artist who knows how to write excellent pop music without sacrificing depth and can deliver it fantastically, with the crowning jewel in her repertoire being “Stuttering”. A truly wonderful pop song with an excellent chorus, a strong vocal performance and some pretty powerful lyrics, this is one pop song that you simply have to hear!
“The Man Comes Around” by Johnny Cash
A more unconventional pick from The Man in Black, coming from his last album released prior to his death and the same record as his incredible cover of “Hurt”, but one which I’ve always really loved for a combination of the lyrics (which, yes, I am aware are mainly Biblical references) and the surprisingly engaging music. While the vocal performance perhaps leaves something to be desired on some levels, it is still a great performance from a man then in his 70s and with damaged lungs from a severe pneumonia encounter several years earlier and it says a lot about the strength of the song and Cash’s voice that you don’t feel like he has done a bad job at all. I wouldn’t recommend this as a starting point if you’re wanting to dig into Cash’s (huge) discography, but it’s a truly great song and one that shows that, even to the end, Cash still had it.