Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Song vs. Song #12: Billy Bob Bash

I don't know the official chronological constraints of the label "classic rock," but I think we're fairly safe pushing into the early 1980s, especially if we're citing musicians that hit the big time at least a few years prior to the turn of the decade. With that having been said, consider this post an ode to classic rock's odes to what would be classic rock's classic rock, the oldies. Everybody follow that? Good. Now tell me, which rock n' roll tribute song do you like best?

It's Still Rock & Roll to Me - Billy Joel


Old Time Rock & Roll - Bob Seger

Okay, I'll admit, Billy Joel's song isn't really a tribute to oldies music, but you can't deny that it thrives on its blatant nostalgic vibe. And regardless, these two songs always make think of each other. So there.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Song vs. Song #11: Men at Work vs. Toto

The world got a little bit smaller in the 1980s. We had the progressive rock band Asia. We had the hard rock band Europe. We even witnessed the miracle of a one-time pop conglomeration that brought together the likes of Michael Jackson, Willie Nelson, Bette Midler, and many more to croon against world hunger. (Funny enough, I'm losing my appetite just thinking about that combo of singers!) In addition, two undeniably awesome songs hit the radio and quickly heated up the charts. But which continental ode do you like best?

Africa - Toto


Down Under - Men at Work

Crown your chosen king of the southern hemisphere now!

Benny K says...

I'm keeping the vote unanimous and declaring Toto the official champs. "Africa" is in a totally (and not just Toto-y) different category than "Down Under," as much as I love the latter. In fact, I think juxtaposing these two songs is the perfect way to point out that invisible and inarticulable line where one crosses from pop perfection to outright songwriting craftsmanship--even if the latter still falls into the pop music category.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Band vs. Band #11: Death Cab for Cutie vs. The Shins

Still relatively new on the radar, these two bands have gone from independent label obscurity (avid fan-followings notwithstanding) to indie label superstars (as far as indie label superstars go). But which do you like best?

Death Cab for Cutie
(Probably most famous for the tune "Soul Meets Body" off of their most recent album, Plans. Experienced an initial surge in popularity after their 2003 release, Transatlanticism. Listen to snippets of these albums by clicking on the album titles and making use of Amazon's free song samples.)


The Shins
(Arguably pushed into the limelight by their dual song appearance on the Garden State soundtrack. As such, they are probably best known for "Caring is Creepy" and "New Slang." They recently released the album Wincing the Night Away, which has received decent critical and commercial success. Listen to snippets of these albums by clicking on the album titles and making use of Amazon's free song samples.)

Don't let Zach Braff be the only one to share his opinion -- cast your vote now!

Benny K says...

I'm tempted to say I'm more likely to listen to The Shins. Overall, I think they're a bit more upbeat than Death Cab, which means the latter band is often reserved for moments of relative calm and/or melancholia. But, if you compare my enjoyment of Death Cab when I'm really in the mood for Death Cab, and my enjoyment of The Shins when I'm really in the mood for The Shins, I think Death Cab takes the cake. All things considered, Death Cab for Cutie is a notch above and must garner my vote.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Band vs. Band #10: Alanis Morissette vs. Sheryl Crow

Going a bit more modern, let's turn to solo female singer-songwriters of the late-20th / early- 21st century. Which artist do YOU like best?

Alanis Morissette
(Some of her biggest hits include: "Hand in My Pocket," "Ironic," "You Learn," "Head Over Feet," and "Thank U." To refreshen your memory regarding these or any of Ms. Morissette's other hits, click here to see a "greatest hits" compilation complete with song samples.)


Sheryl Crow
(Some of her biggest hits include: "All I Wanna Do," "Strong Enough," "If It Makes You Happy," "Everyday is a Winding Road," and "Soak Up the Sun." To refreshen your memory regarding these or any of Ms. Crow's other hits, click here to see a "greatest hits" compilation complete with song samples.)

Benny K says...

Even though I like a decent amount of Sheryl Crow's material, I have to agree with Khrystine's remark that her remakes are abysmal. She may deserve the death penalty based on her rendition of Led Zeppelin's "D'Yer Mak'er" alone. But that's not the only reason I give the nod to Alanis Morissette, which, for the record, is where my final vote lies. Again, like other opinions expressed here, I found Morissette rather agitating at first, but I've since come to like her music quite well. Her last couple of studio albums have only been so-so, but her first three studio albums are all gems in their own right. I could definitely keep Morissette's CDs in more constant rotation in my CD player than Crowe's. Thanks to Canada for producing yet another quality musician!

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Song vs. Song #10: Aerosmith vs. Queen

The basic recipe: start slow and pretty, gradually build things up, and then smack your audience with a dramatic powerhouse chorus. Who wouldn't love it? But, the question always remains, which epic arena rock song of the 1970s is your favorite?

Dream On - Aerosmith


We are the Champions - Queen

This is rock-n-roll anthem territory, folks, so make your vote count now!

Benny K says...

I claim Queen as one of my favorite bands. In my opinion, "We Are the Champions," despite its popularity, is far from their best work. My vote easily goes to "Dream On" by Aerosmith.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Band vs. Band #9: The Cars vs. Talking Heads

Both bands may be described as quirky, yet catchy. One band was in the mainstream, with several appearances on the pop charts, including four top-ten hits. The other band was a forerunner of alternative new wave, with one unforgettable top-ten hit and a small barrage of modest chart appearances. But which do you like best?

The Cars
(Best known for "Drive," "Shake It Up," "You Might Think," "Tonight She Comes," and "Magic." To refreshen your memory regarding these or any of The Cars' other hits, click here to see a "greatest hits" compilation complete with song samples.)


Talking Heads
(Best known for "Burning Down the House," "Once in a Lifetime," "And She Was," "Wild, Wild Life," and "Take Me to the River." To refreshen your memory regarding these or any of Talking Heads' other hits, click here to see a "greatest hits" compilation complete with song samples.)

Stop making sense and let the good times roll by casting your vote now!

Benny K says...

My favorite songs by Talking Heads easily outdo my favorite songs by The Cars. If I were merely listening to a greatest hits collection, I could go for either band, depending on my mood. Overall, though, I think I'll have to give a slight win to The Cars. The Heads' studio albums feature enough avant-garde crap to lose my interest at times. And while The Cars may have their own mediocre material, their consistently blatant and cheesy 80s sounds will probably always, if nothing else, amuse me.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Song vs. Song #9: Gaye and Ready for Action...

Hating to pit a man against himself, which of Marvin Gaye's pining odes to pent-up sexual frustration is your favorite?

Let's Get it On


Sexual Healing

Samples of both songs can be found on this box set anthology.
The mood has been set, so dim the lights and start voting now!

Benny K says...

Either the three or four people that once read this blog have forsaken me or no one has an opinion on the matter. Well, I'm not indifferent. I'm all for "Let's Get It On". Case closed.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Band vs. Band #8: Nirvana vs. Pearl Jam

Shifting gears a bit, let's jump a decade ahead and add some distortion to our guitars. As the forerunners of the 1990s "Grunge" movement, which of these bands do you like best?



Pearl Jam

These aren't exactly the bands that everyone would be familiar with, so pointing to their compilation albums seems a bit pointless. Nevertheless, feel free to look them up should you want to (re-)familiarize yourself with their work.

Don't be all apologies, get into a state of love and trust and cast your vote now!

Benny K says...

Pearl Jam certainly has a larger volume of music, and they're definitely the more sophisticated talent, but I have a fondness for Nirvana that can't be denied. In fact, I've learned that I like them more than I ever realize I do. When I've gone months without listening to them, I tend to start thinking they're just "really good." But when I finally put on a CD, I'm blown away by how much I love their stuff. Perhaps it is the simplicity that makes them so enduring. And, being completely honest, Pearl Jam seemed to peak with Vitalogy (though, admittedly, I've yet to listen to their most recent album). Nirvana may also have lost their momentum had Cobain stuck around, but it's the most recent impressions that last and, in this regard, Pearl Jam's longevity is not earning them any bonus points in my book. My vote goes to Nirvana.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Band vs. Band #7: Bryan Adams vs. John Mellencamp

While I'm all for giving peace a chance, it's time to pit the U.S.A. against Canada and ask which 1980s pop-rock singer-songwriter is your favorite?

Bryan Adams
(Best known for: "Summer of '69," "Heaven," "Run to You," "Can't Stop This Thing We Started," and "(Everything I Do) I Do It For You." To refreshen your memory regarding these or any of Bryan's other hits, click here to see a "greatest hits" compilation complete with song samples. You may also want to check out this album, which has a couple of songs not included on the former compilation.)


John Mellencamp
(This includes John in all his many varities: Johnny Cougar, John Cougar, John Cougar Mellencamp, and John Mellencamp. Best known for: "Jack and Diane," "Hurts so Good," "Small Town," "R.O.C.K. in the U.S.A." and "Pink Houses." To refreshen your memory regarding these or any of John's other hits, click here to see a "greatest hits" compilation complete with song samples.)

Tell it "straight from the heart" and let the votes start "crumblin' down" now!

Benny K says...

Like Jennifer I wouldn't consider myseslf a true fan of either artist, and I agree that "Everything I Do" was drastically overplayed. However, I have a weakness for greatest hits compilations, and thus both musicians hold a spot in my CD catalog. Based purely on the radio hits showcased by these compilations, I'm joining with the slight majority here and giving my vote to John Mellencamp. I'd shamlessly engage in a top-o'-the-lungs sing-along with most of his tunes. Bryan Adams, on the other hand, leans just a tad bit too much toward full-blown "adult contemporary."

Monday, April 10, 2006

Song vs. Song #8: Night Fever

While KISS prompted us to rock 'n' roll all night in the 70s, those who shunned heavy metal had to wait for the kindler, gentler persuasion of 80s pop icons before embracing all-night celebrations. Once they did, however, it prompted the #1 and #3 hit singles that respectively follow. But which song do YOU like best?

All Night Long (All Night) - Lionel Richie


Rhythm of the Night - DeBarge

Don't go to bed until you've put your vote to rest!

Benny K says...

Looks like I'm the tiebreaker for once! Truth be told, I don't know how strong of an opinion I have on this one. But, my inclination is to cast my vote for Lionel Richie. I have recollections of listening to Lionel as a young boy, so his song is a bit more nostalgic for me. Also, you have to admit it's the more sultry of the two -- that's something...

Monday, April 03, 2006

Band vs. Band #6: Piano Men

The 1970s saw the rise of two pop pianists whose hits continued well through the 80s and 90s. Given the longevity of their careers, you've undoubtedly gotten jiggy with at least one or two songs by each artist. Put them side by side, however, and the question remains: which is the honky cat of your choice?

Billy Joel


Elton John

Leave a tender moment alone and start voting now!

Benny K says...

Both artists have their fair share of blasé material, but I'm keeping the vote unanimous: I prefer Billy Joel. In fact, the later in their careers you go, the more I prefer Billy. If we had judged only their 70s careers, I would have been much more torn. By the 80s the vote becomes obvious. Elton had some decent tunes during this decade (the best likely being "I Guess That's Why They Call It the Blues"), but nothing comes close to rivaling almost anything on Billy's An Innocent Man. And when it comes to the 90s and beyond, Elton's musical circle of life has completely died.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Song vs. Song #7: Corey Hart vs. The Romantics

The 80's made it clear: if it's nighttime and your fashions and/or behavior doesn't follow suit, you may end up with strange looks, but you may also end up with a hit record. So, which song promoting a nocturnal anomaly do you like best?

Sunglasses at Night - Corey Hart


Talking in Your Sleep - The Romantics

Turn on the lights and cast your vote now!

Benny K says...

It looks like we're going to be split right down the middle on this one. I enjoy both songs, but I'm partial to the punk-rock-esque flavor of The Romantics. Ergo, my vote goes to "Talking in Your Sleep". To anyone who's yet to vote, here's your chance to be the tiebreaker!

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Song vs. Song #6: Otis Redding vs. The Drifters

Though summer feels all too far away, spring break (which either has or is currently playing in a city near you) is certain to get us itchin' for some sun and relaxation. In honor of such yearnings, cast your vote now for which lackadaisical summer 60's song is best:

Under the Boardwalk - The Drifters


(Sittin' on) The Dock of the Bay - Otis Redding

And nevermind the fact that the latter song has slightly depressing overtones. Summer's all about living in oblivion!

Benny K says...

"Under the Boardwalk" is a fine little diddy, but Otis' tune has an undeniable soulful maturity. My vote easily goes to "(Sittin' on) The Dock of the Bay".

Friday, February 10, 2006

Band vs. Band #5: ABBA vs Bee Gees

Say what you want about disco, you've gotta like something by one of these two superbands. But which band do you like best overall?



Bee Gees

Step right up and say "Thank you for the music!" to the one you prefer!

Benny K says...

While I am admittedly more likely to listen to ABBA, I recognize the fact that the Bee Gees are the most sophisticated songwriters. But, as I'm always quick to point out, "favorites" and "bests" are not necessarily one and the same. Though I find many of their songs only so-so, I have to concede that I favor ABBA over the Bee Gees.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Favorite Songs #9: Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree

To celebrate the Christmas season, I am introducing a three-fold song poll. After all, three is a significant number for this holiday (three wise men, the Trinity, etc.), so it only makes sense! What I’m asking for is your three favorite Christmas songs—but here’s the catch: you should only vote for one song in three distinct categories. These categories are as follows:

1. Religious Classics
Vote for your favorite, religiously-themed Christmas song. For example, “Silent Night,” “The First Noel,” or “Away in a Manger.” You are not, however, voting for a particular rendition of the song. It doesn’t matter if Bob Seger’s “The Little Drummer Boy” is your all-time favorite, or if anything by Mannheim Steamroller gets your sleigh bells jingling. Your vote should not be specific to a particular version, though you may note which version is your favorite. This is merely to distinguish from those cases when we’ve been blown away by the performance of a song we don’t normally care for. On the other hand, this in no way obligates you to liking every version known to humankind of your favorite song.

2. Secular Classics
Vote for your favorite secular Christmas song, such as “Jingle Bells” or “Deck the Halls.” Included in this category are what I will dub neotraditional Christmas songs. These are those songs that, while fairly contemporary (i.e., from the 20th century), have become traditional standards. For example, “The Christmas Song” (Chestnuts roasting on an open fire…) or “Silver Bells.” However, once again, you are not voting for a particular version, though you may make note of such.

3. Pop Christmas Songs
Here, you are voting for your favorite Christmas song that is typically considered a pop/rock song. Naturally, these will all likely stem from the last 50 years or so, whether it’s Bobby Helm’s 1957 hit, “Jingle Bell Rock,” or (heaven forbid) Britney Spears’ “My Only Wish (This Year).” Due to the nature of this category, many songs could be unique to a particular artist, but this needn’t be the case. Despite their youth, most of these songs have also been covered numerous times.

So there you have it. Now, ‘tis the season to be voting!

Friday, November 18, 2005

Favorite Songs #8: Magically Delicious

Having absolutely nothing to do with the release of the new Harry Potter film today, I hereby ask you for your favorite "magical" song (or, as always, top 5, top 10, etc.). Here's the only real rule -- the song must have the word "magic" in the title (e.g., "Practical Magic" by Stevie Nicks), a variant thereof (e.g., "Magical Mystery Tour" by The Beatles), or an otherwise blatantly magical reference (e.g., "Abracadabra" by Steve Miller Band).

So is that a magic wand in your pocket, or are you just excited to vote?!?

Benny K says...

We've had some good nominations, my personal favorite of which is JL Pagano's nod to The Police's "Every Little Thing She Does is Magic." (Sarah, I'll have to hunt down the Ghostbusters soundtrack to check out your vote.) Still, I believe some gems were missing, including (in no particular order): "You Can Do Magic" by America, "Magic" by Pilot, "It's a Kind of Magic" by Queen, and "Strange Magic" by Electric Light Orchestra. But the number one song left off the list, for nostalgic purposes, is "Magic" by The Cars.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Band vs. Band #4: Bon Jovi vs. Def Leppard

Twenty years ago, these bands were considered "hard rock" and favored by edgy teenagers whose parents feared for their futures. Nowadays, you're likely to hear these bands on the adult contemporary station. Hysteria, indeed! So which band do YOU like best?

Bon Jovi (including Jon Bon Jovi solo)


Def Leppard

Your votes are wanted ... dead or alive!

Benny K says...

While I can't vouch for their newer material, my vote undoubtedly goes to Def Leppard. Sure, they're both dumb fun to sing along with, but what if you couldn't sing along? What if you had to just listen to them and appreciate them in their own right? Def Leppard would get my vote, hands down. (Note: as I write this, my vote for Def Leppard merely makes it a tie ... anyone want to be the tiebreaker???)

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Favorite Songs #7: Counting Crows

Neil Young did it. The Violent Femmes did it. Smashing Pumpkins did it. A not-so-great singing voice does not automatically rule out an artist's success, as Counting Crows have been quick to prove. With a plethora of catchy tunes, it's time to ask for your top Counting Crows tunes. The list can be as long or as short as you'd like, but here are the ground rules:
  • The songs should appear in order of preference. If you just vote for your very favorite song, this shouldn't be a problem. However, if you provide a Top 5 or Top 10 list (or any wacky number above or inbetween), please make the rankings mean something. Otherwise, the fun (and the challenge) is lost.
  • As always, please stick to singles. This will ensure that the maximum number of participants can play along, whether voting or just following along. This also provides a nice limitation to the songs being considered.
  • To ensure you remember what songs are eligible, you may click here and view a greatest hits package that also includes song samples. The one song you may want to consider which does not appear on this collection is "Accidentally in Love," from the Shrek 2 soundtrack. Click on the song title if you'd like to find a sample for that one.

Benny K says...

Here's my top five:

5. Anna Begins
This song might rank higher, but the verses aren't nearly so melodically engrossing. It could be one of their best songs, but it's not one I'm as likely to stop on if not in the right mood. Still, it works to a gentle, epiphanic climax that carries the listener's emotions right along. For that, it deserves a spot on the list.

4. Hangin' Around
Songwriting gold? Far from it, but let's see you avoid cranking up the radio and singing along when you stumble upon it. That's what I thought.

3. Mr. Jones
Okay, let me explain. If I were to pass this song on the radio, I can almost guarantee I'd skip by it. But anyone who's being honest with him/herself knows this is only because the song has been so overplayed. Try to listen to it with the ears of someone hearing it for the first time. Quite simply, it's a great pop-rock single with a distinct rhythm guitar riff and a catchy chorus. So long as rock 'n' roll exists, this will always be an instantly-recognizable classic. We have to admit this fact and move on with life, folks.

2. Rain King
Despite the sour-noted, cringe-worthy "yeeeaaaaahhhh!" with which lead singer Adam Duritz finishes the tune, this song packs a solid four-minute punch of pop-rock pleasantries. It's one of very few songs to maintain the band's expert songwriting craft while simulteanously kicking things up a notch tempo-wise. Other pop-friendly singles (including "American Girls," "Accidentally in Love," and my number three pick, "Hangin' Around") are extremely mediocre in comparison. "Rain King," on the other hand, demonstrates the group's true potential as talented-yet-mainstream musicians.

1. Einstein on the Beach (For an Eggman)
This gem was not released on a normal album, but got some decent airplay back in the band's earlier days. Like "Rain King," it's a bit more upbeat than many Counting Crows songs, which pays off beautifully. No other CC song has even come close to knocking this one from the top spot on my list. Even if you own every other Counting Crows album, buying their greatest hits would be worth it for this song alone (or just buy the original compilation album on which it appears, DGC Rarities, Vol. 1).

For all it's worth, ranking this band's songs was one of the hardest things I've done. Even composing a top five list was qutie a challenge, simply because so many of their songs are of equal caliber. Almost every song on their greatest hits album deserves an honorable mention. However, I can tell you that I "Accidentally in Love" and "A Long December," both rather popular songs, are pretty low on my list. And the horrendous "Big Yellow Taxi" should be shot. Why the Crows thought this song should be taken so darn seriously is beyond me.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Song vs. Song #5: People Are Strange

Sometimes you're just in the mood for some good male falsetto. Thank goodness for the 70's! But which song do YOU like best?

Goodbye Stranger - Supertramp


Strange Magic - Electric Light Orchestra

Tighten up those pants and vote now!

Benny K says...

Apparently nobody cares and/or has ever heard this song before. In that case, I better just tell you. "Goodbye Stranger" is the better song.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Song vs. Song #4: The Police vs. U2

Two huge bands, two huge hits that still receive regular airplay. Which do YOU like best?

Every Breath You Take - The Police


With or Without You - U2

Slow dance your way out of the 80's prom and into the voting booth now!

Benny K says...

The votes were fairly one-sided on this one. Amie-J stood out from the crowd, which is always admirable. Hold your head high, Amie-J, it's okay to be alone. And so, if it isn't obvious enough, my vote goes to "With or Without You" for reasons JL Pagano has already mentioned. Thanks for playing, everyone!