Love, Forever Changes
Truth be told, I’ve been dying to write about the band Love for a pathetically long time. Led by Arthur Lee (who I’d be in love with if he wasn’t 37 years older than me and, well, dead) they were one of the most innovative bands to come out of the mid to late ’60s. Of course, they haven’t gotten a fraction of their due credit for being the huge influence they were on rock, punk and who-knows-what-else. On Forever Changes Lee drifts from the proto-punk you hear on tunes like “7 & 7 Is” (off Da Capo) into a softer yet moodier sound enhanced here and there with horns and strings. It’s hard to move beyond the addictive opening track, “Alone Again Or,” which is laden with classical guitar and passionate Tijuana Brass-style horns. Yet Forever Changes goes on to cover such territory as war (“A House Is Not A Motel”), cynicism (“The Red Telephone”) and suburban malaise (“The Daily Planet”). Even the songs that concern romantic love (“Andmoreagain”) are not without undercurrents of inner turmoil and political strife. It’s really hard to do Forever Changes justice in 200 words or less, but I hope I can inspire just one person to seek out Lee’s music.
Tom Waits, Small Change
This is one of those Tom Waits albums to which tee-totalers cannot relate. With song titles like “Tom Traubert’s Blues (Four Sheets to the Wind in Copenhagen),” “Bad Liver and a Broken Heart” and “The Piano Has Been Drinking (Not Me),” it’s clear that inebriation is one of the key factors at play over the course of this record. Assisted by a jazz trio, Waits poetically wades through a whiskey-soaked landscape filled with bad luck, strippers, city lights and longing. My favorite is the above-mentioned “The Piano Has Been Drinking (Not Me),” wherein the narrator accuses everything in the room of displaying various bad qualities (“the carpet needs a haircut…the owner is a mental midget with the IQ of a fence post”). Small Change is definitely not something you put on to impress members of the opposite sex. Trust me. It’s not exactly workout music, either. But I do know this: if the election turns out to be a dinosaur-ridden catastrophe, you know I’ll be giving this record a spin, whiskey tumbler in hand.
Bob Dylan, The Times They Are A-Changin’
Okay, I apologize for being so obvious with this one. At the same time it’s a hard to ignore this album given the showdown that’s due to take place (I hope) between two very different ways of thinking. Everyone’s heard the title track, of course, and it hasn’t lost any pertinence, but most of the other tunes on this record are just as important. I would have to say that the most applicable track is “Only a Pawn in their Game,” wherein Dylan tells the story of the 1963 murder of black civil rights activist Medger Evers. The song essentially outs racism as a tool that the ruling class uses to create hatred and division among the poor. This election year has certainly brought us more of the same, only with a greater assortment of enemies from which a politician can choose. Yup, making an undereducated majority afraid of a bunch of cardboard cutouts has done wonders for a certain political party, hasn’t it? Anyway, another conscious gem on this record is “With God on our Side,” which serves as a history lesson exposing the lunacy behind our leaders’ perennial rationale for going to war.