Trouble Sleeping

by Corinne Bailey Rae

~ Hit singles and expensive TV shows ~

Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip only lasted one season, in large part because the cast was really damn expensive. It’s still stands as one of the best seasons of prime time television in history. It was smart, and nuanced, and well written, and well acted, and not afraid to tackle thorny issues with maturity and class. It’s probably no wonder it didn’t survive in the era of Fear Factor Who Wants to Date My Mother.

The show takes place at a fictional late night TV show similar to Saturday Night Live and as great as the show was, the “musical guests” were just as excellent. Gwen Stefani is only referenced in passing, but Sting appears on stage rehearsing with a lute, and Gran Bel Fisher also perform a track on the show (which might just show up here one day).

Corinne Bailey Rae got two songs on the show, which was “hosted” by Howie Mandel that night in a blatant network tie in to Deal or No Deal. This one was her ‘other’ song that was not the radio hit, but is actually a better tune. It fits well in jazz, pop, or R&B playlists, and really showcases her vocals well.

Big Dog

by Seven Nations

~ Whiskey ads and Celtic Rock ~

In the early 2000s, Seven Nations were the face of the Dewars whiskey ads in magazines. Always game to check out something new, I dug up two or three of their songs on pre-Metallica Napster and realized they’re actually pretty damn good. The whiskey is not really all that, but the music certainly was.

It’s the opener from their 2000 release, which repackaged a handful of songs from earlier independent albums, but re-recorded with the newer (and theoretically more stable) lineup of the band. I got a copy of this CD for Christmas and we’ve mixed the songs into our playlists for years.  It is both unmistakably Celtic-influenced, and unmistakably rocking.  We’ve seen the band live several times over the last 15 years, including at an Irish pub with maybe 30 other people in the building. Didn’t matter the size of the crowd, they played their asses off.

What’s interesting about those whiskey ads is that Dewars is based in Pitlochry, Scotland, and Seven Nations are based in Orlando, Florida.

Black

by Pearl Jam

~ The slow burn ~

I’ve noted in a couple of places how I enjoy intricately layered production and songs that you have to listen to multiple times to really appreciate all of the parts as they appear. This one definitely fits that mold.

This was the first mellow song in the track order of their debut album. After four straight balls out rockers (Once, Evenflow, Alive, Why Go) they slowed down and gave us a softer side. Given that this was the era of the power ballad, there was an immediate assumption that this was some sort of grand bombastic love song as reinterpreted by Pearl Jam, but if you give it a closer listen you realize it’s nothing of the sort.

As the song builds along, you get different layers added throughout the song, from the backing vocals, to Rick Parashar’s repeated piano riff, to different guitar textures. By the end of the song, it’s almost a different composition than where you started, but it’s a great ride.