Certain Songs #196: Chuck Berry – “Roll Over Beethoven”

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Album: Chuck Berry is on Top.

Year: 1956.

Is there any sound more perfect than Chuck Berry’s guitar open to “Roll Over Beethoven?”  We are almost 60 years from when he wrote and recorded that song, and yet the immediacy of his guitar intro – and that solo!! – is as powerful as ever. And that’s despite the fact that approximately 5,694,875,634 other guitarists have played that lick in the intervening decades!

And the words. While Chuck Berry wrote more than a few songs extolling the rock and roll music he was the real king of, the beauty of “Roll Over Beethoven” was that it was also a “fuck you” song to older forms of music, specifically classical.

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Certain Songs #195: Chris Isaak – “American Boy”

Always got tonight

Album: Always Got Tonight.

Year: 2002.

Let’s pour one out for The Chris Isaak Show.  Gone for over a decade now, The Chris Isaak Show – running from three seasons from 2001 – 2004 on Showtime, of all places – was as agreeable and as  friendly of a TV show as you could imagine. But it’s nowhere to be found: because of what I’m assuming to be rights issues over the original musical performances featured every week, it’s not on DVD, not on streaming, and you can’t even torrent it (or so I’ve heard.)

It’s a ghost show, and that sucks, not because The Chris Isaak Show was great, but because it was fun and funny and highly watchable. Each week, Chris, the actual guys in his band, and a comic actor ringer they brought in to pretend to be a hipster doofus keyboardist would face some kind of low-stakes crisis involving either Chris’ career, a girl or both. In the end, it would all be resolved in time for everybody to play a song with whomever the musical guest was that week.

I really enjoyed it at the time, maybe because in the early 2000s, the San Francisco locations helped me get over some of the sadness I felt over leaving The Bay Area.

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Certain Songs #194: Chris Isaak – “Somebody’s Crying”

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Album: Forever Blue.
Year: 1995.

You can argue that Chris Isaak has only one move: the big, sad torch song with a beat. But like his forebearer Roy Orbison or contemporary The Mavericks, you can’t argue with his execution, which is absolutely top-notch.

And for me, his execution peaked with the utterly stellar Forever Blue album, a fully-realized record filled with great vocals, swampy guitar licks and subtly sophisticated arrangements.

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Certain Songs #193: Chris Bell – “I Am The Cosmos”

I am the cosmos

Album: I Am The Cosmos.

Year: 1974.

Posthumous releases are a tricky thing. But posthumous releases of an album that was never quite officially finished are even trickier – as we don’t really know what the artist truly wanted – so it was with trepidation that I approached Rkyodisc’s 1992 release of Chris Bell’s I Am The Cosmos.  For one thing, we don’t even know if he wanted to call it I Am The Cosmos.

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Certain Songs #192: Chemical Brothers – “Setting Sun”

Album: Dig Your Own Hole.

Year: 1996.

While over the years I’ve dipped my toes into the ever-raging waters of what is currently called EDM, I’ve only been baptized a couple of times. So therefore, like when I write about hip-hop and country and jazz, you probably should assume that in no way do I consider myself an expert in any of this: I’ve heard a tiny fraction and love an even tinier fraction.

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