Chartburn: 5/15/09

Written by Chartburn, Music

You voted for it, and now it’s back! Chartburn returns with a look at oldies but goodies(?) from the Black Crowes, Depeche Mode Camouflage, Michael Johnson, Shalamar, and the Stones.

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Mainstream Rock: The Black Crowes, “Remedy” (1992)

David Lifton: It’s easy to mock them, but the Crowes were a good gateway drug if you didn’t know their influences. Those first couple of records had some good songs on them, regardless of how derivative they were. They were unabashed music fans, and had really good taste. There’s nothing wrong with that.

Beau Dure: Really a pretty song and not a bad band, even if Chris Robinson always looked like he’d blow away in a mild breeze. And Kate Hudson, for the record, could surely do better. How many years can you really stay in a serious relationship with a dude whose first love is always going to be herbal?

Scott Malchus: Great rock and roll song. Plenty of swagger and southern blues. Talk about a band that had a good thing and imploded. I wish this song got as much airplay as that damn remake of the Otis Redding song, I’m sure the Robinson brothers feel the same way.

David Medsker: When I first heard the riff to this song, I couldn’t believe that it hadn’t been written yet. It just sounded like something knocking around classic rock radio since 1972. I’ve still never heard a Crowes record in its entirety. I don’t hate them or anything. They just don’t excite me.

Will Harris: I listened to this album a thousand times upon its initial release if I listened to it once, thanks to working at a record store at the time, which would probably explain why I’ve still never gotten around to buying it. But that doesn’t explain why I’ve never bought any of their other albums. Listening to “Remedy” now, however, I think I’ve figured it out: I just don’t really like the Black Crowes very much.

Zack Dennis: My first introduction to the Black Crowes was via a cassette of Shake Your Moneymaker that someone left inside a boombox they returned to the department store where my friend Tony worked. It was something of a diamond in the rough – I listened to it repeatedly – and the follow-up single Remedy ended up being a big disappointment for me. I missed the nimble diction of “Hard to Handle” and the backup harmonies on Remedy felt artifical and irritated the hell out of me. I’m happy to say it’s grown on me – I like it a lot more now than I did back then.

Dw. Dunphy: I’m not going to dredge all the old crapola about how The Crowes stole anything that was good from The Stones or The Faces, because that’s just the nature of blooze-style rock. Nor am I going down the road of how wildly uneven the band is, swinging to decent tunes, then fro to less than decent tunes. I’m not even going to say that even though I’m not a huge fan, I still think Kate Hudson did Chris Robinson dirty. So, essentially, I haven’t anything to say about The Black Crowes.

Mike Heyliger: This is probably my favorite Crowes song. It rocks harder than most rock music circa 1992, and grooves way harder than most soul music circa the same era. So what if it sounds completely derivative?

On a side note, I’ve met the Robinsons, and I’m happy to report that they don’t smell as bad as one would think they would. Of course, it’s hard to smell anything other than pot when in their presence…

Ken Shane: Is it possible to be fresh and retro at the same time? The arrival of the Black Crowes was welcome indeed for an old Faces fan like myself. “”Jealous Again” was a great start, and then this song cemented my admiration for the band. I saw them at Newport last summer, and despite the fact that their profile may be lower these days, they really haven’t lost a step.

Jon Cummings: Remember when American rock bands weren’t afraid to dress up? Fuck Seattle, and everything that came after! I just want that happenin’ suit Rich Robinson’s wearing. The Crowes were great — and then, shortly after this, they weren’t. Actually, the decline might have begun here — while the guitar riffs and the verses are aces, the chorus just kind of sits there.

Taylor Long: It seems you can add me to the list of Popdosers not really impressed by the Black Crowes. I don’t think they’re bad, per se, just uninspired. And as both a Seattlite and someone who loves a lot of rock from the ’90s, I completely disagree with that “Fuck Seattle” comment. More like Thanks, Seattle!

Jeff Giles: When the Crowes first made it big, plenty of people were pissed at them for ripping off the Faces, but not me — I was pissed because they ripped off the Faces less gracefully than the Georgia Satellites, and while the Sats were going nowhere, these clowns were going platinum. Frankly, it still pisses me off a little. That’s what leading off your career with a laffer novelty single like “Keep Your Hands to Yourself” will get you.

Jon: Leading with “Keep Your Hands to Yourself” was no crime — it’s a great song — and radio committed a bigger crime by failing to send “Battleship Chains” rocketing up the charts. But the Satellites really screwed themselves by putting a lame version of “Hippy Hippy Shake” on the Cocktail soundtrack, where they got to cozy up to “Kokomo.” Bye-bye, credibility; hello, Dan Baird solo career…

Modern Rock: Camouflage, “The Great Commandment” (1988)

Taylor: Much like this song, I have nothing new to add here.

Ken: God, how many of these ’80s synth pop bands were there? I’m not at all familiar with this band, but I’m certainly familiar with the sound. I suppose this would be an okay song if they were the only ones working in this style. The video is kind of cool, though.

Zack: When is the time on Sprockets when they dance? I’m not sure how I’m supposed to recognize that this *isn’t* Depeche Mode, but I guess it’s not bad. I’ve never been any good at deciphering lyrical messages packaged in Eighties synthesizers and drum machines, so I suppose I’m missing the point of the song anyhow.

Dunphy: I’ve never heard this before, and while I don’t necessarily mind it as a relic of its time, this is really, really Depeche-y. I am tempted to come up with a Joe Depeche-y joke here but I’m feeling lazy.

Jeff: Hey, what’s this singer up to? Maybe he can pinch-hit for Gahan while he’s laid up with gastroentiritis or whatever it is.

Jon: This band came along about two years too late, didn’t they? I wonder if this song would have shifted any units at all if it weren’t for the awesome way the singer pronounces “comMONDment”? By the way, that singer looks like the love child of Ben Affleck and Matt Damon (but only if neither Sarah Silverman or Jimmy Kimmel was involved).

Medsker: It was a shameless Depeche Mode knockoff, but I didn’t mind. Always liked this song.

Scott: Wow, always thought this was New Order, which says a lot. Oh I get it, the man on the pulpit is a ROBOT. Very deep, very very deep.

Lifton: Twenty years on and I still can’t tell the difference between good synth-pop and bad synth-pop.

Will: I can still remember hearing this and just being dumbstruck at the pure Depeche Mode-ness of it. Seriously, it’s right up there with Red Flag’s “Russian Radio” for songs which you absolutely cannot imagine existing in a world without Gahan, Gore, and the gang. I followed them to the next album because I dug “Love is a Shield,” too, but they lost me on the third album. I did, however, download the 2006 single by the band, “Motif Sky,” and I really dug it. They’ve still got it!

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Adult Contemporary: Michael Johnson, “Bluer Than Blue” (1978)

Zack: I’m not sure if it’s a coincidence that this song was mentioned in a recent Song-Off, but I can’t say I remember ever having heard this song before. I’m not particularly interested in hearing it again. I don’t really have any objections to hearing it again, either, as long as the volume is nice and low. It’s not horrible, but there’s just no real *emotion* in the song. Not to mention that most Operation Ivy songs feel as lengthy as Anagadadavida compared to this nugget.

Medsker: I love lines like “Change the numbers on my telephone, but the nights will soon be colder,” because they make no sense whatsoever. Was there anything from the mines of mellow gold wussier than this? Hell, Fogelfuck didn’t even stoop this low, did he? (*pops on Paul Davis’ Greatest Hits, feels better*)

Will: I’m surprised that I don’t really remember this song, as this was right around when I was waking up to the sounds of my AM-only clock radio. I guess the Little River Band got more play in Virginia than Mr. Johnson did. Listening to it, it’s very, very ‘70s…but given that I’ve been feeling my age a lot in recent years, this only means that I really like it a lot. God, I’m pitiful.

Dunphy: This is wussy, even for 1978. One of the primary reasons someone writes this type of song is to express, even fictionally, how miserable one has made the singer. It’s a guilt trip, essentially, but this song wouldn’t make anyone feel guilty at all. Narcoleptic? Maybe. Glad that they broke up with this Weenus before he impregnated you with four pounds nine ounces of milquetoast? Probably.

Scott: Life without you will be bluer than blue if I could just wake up from this drowsy… sleepy… song. ZZZZZZZZZ

Jon: I saw MJ perform during the brief period (around 1979) when he could fill a medium-size college auditorium. He did a nice show (I liked “This Night Won’t Last Forever” better than “BtB”), but the gig was more memorable for the creepy college kid who opened, accompanying himself on piano. He offered streams of utterly sincere, utterly ridiculous between-song patter about “being true to yourself” before launching into yet another Billy Joel cover — or, as the kid called him, “Billeh Joooooooooool.” Maybe you had to be there…

Dunphy: My God, you went to this show of your own volition?

Jon: I was 13, tickets were free, there was nothing else to do in my hometown on a summer night … are any of these excuses working?

Mike: For half a sec, I got excited because I thought we were gonna get to chat about Michael Jackson. But damn, even at his wussiest (see “Heal the World”), the KOP never recorded anything this lame or sleep-inducing.

Taylor: Oh dear. Firstly, let’s call a spade a shovel here, the thing this guy’s really going to be doing after his woman leaves involves his right hand. Secondly, the song isn’t great, but having to look at all those close-ups of Michael Johnson is worse! Loving the shots where he’s superimposed twice and it looks like he’s singing to himself.

Robert Cass: When I was 14, I understood “Bluer Than Blue” completely. I mean, I felt that shit, y’all. But probably only the part about not having to miss any TV shows if I was single again, because if girls had actually liked me at 14, I would’ve had to miss Full House on Friday nights, and that would’ve sucked.

“I can’t go away with you on a rock-climbing weekend / What if something is on TV and it’s never shown again?” That’s a couple of lines from Smudge’s “The Outdoor Type.” VCRs and DVRs may have made the second line obsolete, but I’d still like to use it as an excuse.

Lifton: At first I got this confused with a possible cover of Bobby Vinton’s “Blue on Blue,” and I screamed. Then I heard the song, and screamed even louder. I just installed a new soundcard for this? Where do you find this shit, Jeff?

Jason Hare: Jessica and I spent our 10th (dating) anniversary by going up to a romantic little B&B in Connecticut. I brought my laptop, and I spent part of my time meticulously learning everything I could about Michael Johnson and his oh-so-sad 1978 hit, for Adventures Through the Mines of Mellow Gold 18. That’s right: I was on vacation with my wife to celebrate 10 years together, and I was researching Michael Johnson on the Internet.The only explanation for why I’m still married is because my wife is a frickin’ saint. She should have left me with bluer than blue balls.

And that’s why you’re not seeing more Mellow Gold posts — it could potentially lead to divorce. Screw you, Michael Johnson.

Lifton: So to answer my own question, Jeff finds this shit by going through Jason’s archives.

Beau: I had no memory of this song and only knew Michael Johnson in his days winning gold in the 200 and 400. So I read the comments here and prepare for the worst. You know what? Shame on you all. This is soft-rock mourning at its best. The contrast of the verses and chorus is well-crafted. And the dude actually studied classical guitar. Check out the fretwork here.

Ken: Decent voice, decent song, I guess, but all in all just more MOR crap. Again, so many people doing this that it’s hard to tell one from another. What makes this guy more special than Paul Davis, for example? Or Peter Cetera? And they had better songs. Just a waste of our time, really.

Jason: Which Peter Cetera song is better than “Bluer Than Blue”?

Ken: I don’t care.

Jason: I’ll answer the question, then: there is no Peter Cetera song better than “Bluer Than Blue,” because Peter Cetera is, for all intents and purposes, a robot who eats Botox for breakfast. Michael Johnson actually injects some real, true heartbreak into his vocal, which is why I was never able to write this song off. On first listen, I did, but one of the great/truly terrible things about covering these songs for Mellow Gold is that I have to actually listen to them again and again. As I mentioned then, “Bluer Than Blue” is one of those songs you can listen to when you’re sad and actually feel a little better. Tricky little nuance, and it’s helped by a clever lyric about someone describing, in detail, their attempts to be optimistic, but failing. Who can’t relate to that?

To answer your question, that’s what makes him more special than Peter Cetera. Also, he never recorded a song with Cher.

Medsker: I’ll take “The Next Time I Fall” any day of the week over “BtB.” If we include Chicago, I’d add a half dozen more.

Jeff: I’d take half of Cetera’s ’88 album over “Bluer Than Blue” and “The Next Time I Fall.”

Jason: I see where this is going. Bring it on, fuckers, I’ll take on all of you. MELLOW GOLD SMACKDOWN!

Ken: I see I’ve started something that I’m not particularly proud of, nor do I know or care much about. Good luck.

Jeff: I propose we have Ken do a Terje-style series where he listens to everything Peter Cetera has recorded since 1980.

Including the Christmas album.

Jason: ESPECIALLY the Christmas album! Oh, that version of “Jingle Bells.”

Ken: I’d rather be waterboarded, thank you.

Jason: That would also make for a good series.

Dunphy: Has the US decided whether waterboarding is finally considered torture or not? I’d like to know and, if possible, have the solo works of Peter Cetera added to that tribunal.

Lifton: “I still don’t know why they asked me to do this commercial.” –Marv Throneberry

Medsker: I have no idea what’s going on here.

Jason: We’re going to waterboard Ken. What’s the problem?

Jeff: Confession time: I only chose “Bluer Than Blue” so I could send everyone to this link.

You’re welcome.

Robert: For a second I thought it was going to be “Two Girls, One Cup.”

Jeff: Don’t worry, I’ll goatse you before I do that.

Medsker: God, this is all my fault. I sent Jeff that link a month ago. (hangs head in shame)

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R&B/Hip-Hop: Shalamar, “Second Time Around” (1980)

Jeff: I can’t help wondering what Ethel Merman could have done with this song.

Mike: This song is badass. Remember when R&B music could make you smile? I miss groups with both male and female vocalists. What happened to them?

Beau: Shalamar’s OK, but they’re no Animotion.

Jon: The first minute of this song is what arcade games sounded like in 1980. Now I have visions of “Galaga” dancing in my head. This is one of those songs that instantly conjures memories of the other songs that surrounded it on the radio — “Special Lady,” “Coward of the County,” “Please Don’t Go.” Speaking of which, can anyone prove definitively that Shalamar and the SOS Band were two separate groups?

Dunphy: Roller boogie, y’all! Space Invaders! All seven minutes of it!

This song reminds me of when I was twelve years old and had the Synsonics drum pad. I thought I was rockin’! I’d plug into my stereo, crank up the on-board and Bow! Biddi-doo! Bow! all day long! Only it wasn’t all day long, but more like an hour. After that, my dad used a hammer like drumsticks and sent my Synsonics to Biddi-doo Heaven.

Scott: Bewwwww! Bewwwww! Funky bass, slick guitar. And Bewwww! Gotta love Shalamar. You know, this song gets better… the second time around. Bwa ha ha ha! Man, I crack myself up. Bewwww!

Medsker: And to think I thought Anita Ward had patent pending on that “Bewwwwww” sound. I’m only familiar with Shalamar’s neutered work from the ’80s, so this is a most pleasant surprise.

Ken: Ah, the disco years. Not bad, as these things go. Funky, cool horn arrangement, and lead vocal. Yeah, not bad at all. Makes me want to do the Hustle … but I won’t.

Lifton: After the last two songs, an actual groove is welcome It’s amazing how much disco was hated (passive voice alert!), and yet the good stuff has held up so well. Like any great soul song, there’s a lot going on, but nothing gets in the way of each other. When the strings stop, the horns come in, with a little bit of piano thrown in. It works great.

Will: Am I the only one who didn’t know anything about Shalamar until the “Dead Giveaway” / “Dancing in the Sheets” era? It wasn’t until years later that I knew this song was by them as well. Great tune, though. Reminds me of the Spinners’ “Working My Way Back To You / Forgive Me, Girl” a little bit in places…and that’s a good thing.

Taylor: Digging the funky beat, and the vocals aren’t half bad, but seven minutes? At that length, I won’t need to listen to it a “Second Time Around”… bahaha, ok, that was bad.

Zack: Ah, sexual innuendo. I can’t resist the catchiness of this song — light and crispy. It’s the kind of song that Rollergirl would listen to on her earphones while she cleaned up her room.

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Hot 100: The Rolling Stones, “Get Off My Cloud” (1965)

Ken: From the Stones’ first great era. A perfect follow up to “Satisfaction,” in that it sounded so similar musically. It never achieved quite the same notoriety, but that only makes it easier to listen to today, after being bludgeoned by “Satisfaction” so many times over the years. This song comes from a time when, for me at least, the Stones could do no wrong.

Lifton: Charlie. That’s all I’ve got to say about this one. Charlie.

Dunphy: Not one of my favorites in the early Stones category. That would probably go to “Mother’s Little Helper” – But I don’t really mind it either. At least it has a pulse, unlike ol’ Bluer Than Johnson.

Will: I’m still always going to be more of a Beatles man, but I do love the Stones’ singles, and this is an undeniable classic. But, frankly, I’m still bitter over Mick bailing out of ABC’s “The Knights of Prosperity” a couple of years ago. It’s a total TV critic’s grudge, but, dammit, I’m still pissed. That show was awesome, and it never recovered from losing its original title, “Let’s Rob Mick Jagger.”

Scott: One of my favorite Stones songs. I’m not a big fan of Mick and the boys (sacrilege, I know), but this song is tight. Their early work is still my favorite period and this song is one of their best.

Medsker: I’m shocked that Will didn’t use this spot as an opportunity to pimp “I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend” by the Rubinoos.

Will: Huh. I didn’t even think about it. Now that you’ve brought it up, I’m a little embarrassed that I didn’t. I wonder if Jagger and Richards have ever heard the Rubinoos’ song. Given their litigious nature, I have to presume that they haven’t, because the similarities are certainly there. But, of course, then you get into the discussion about whether Avril was actually ripping off the Stones rather than the Rubinoos…

Medsker: (Insert Verve/George Michael comment here)

Dunphy: George Michael can handle his own insertions, tankyuveddymuch.

Jeff: As I believe I’ve mentioned before, my formative years coincided roughly with the Stones’ Dirty Work period, and it’s taken me over 20 years to forgive them for that. (Shitty records like Voodoo Rest Home didn’t help, either.) But I have fond memories of this track, because it’s one of like five songs that my dad blurts out at random moments. (The others include “I Am the Frito Bandito” and “Hot Rod Lincoln.”)

Taylor: Unlike most of us, I guess, I’m into the Stones bigtime, but admit this wouldn’t make it onto my shortlist of favorites. That said, I really like it as one of their earlier, dancier tunes.

Jon: While the “cloud” reference may have been vaguely titillating as a euphemism for getting high, “Get Off My Cloud” never really lives up to that sense of danger the Stones were supposed to be projecting in the mid-’60s (at least compared with the Beatles). Mick doesn’t seem to be giving the song much attitude in this clip. It’s a fun record, though. I went to a college dance with a girl named Chris Cloud; don’t strain yourselves imagining the chants that poor Chris (and her dates) had to endure from her dormmates.

Mike: Is it sad that I’m more aware of the chorus of this song as the opening line to Wu-Tang Clan’s “Method Man” than I am of it as a Rolling Stones song?

Beau: My most notable association of this song is in a Saturday Night Live fake ad. Hey! Hey! You! You! Leggo my Eggo! Memorable hook in the chorus, sure, and the rhythm in the verses is inventive, but the guitar is just grating. And perhaps it’s unfair to judge it with the ears of someone who’s heard great bands over the decades reinvent the rhythm section, but this is so rudimentary that I just can’t get into it.

So I like the Michael Johnson song here, and I’m indifferent to the Stones. I’m not kicked out, am I?

Medsker: Please. That’s what being a Popdoser is all about.

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