Friday, 18 February 2011

February’s Fabulous First Five

Ah, if only every month started with an ‘F’ I could have such beautiful alliteration every time on my ‘first five’ lists (for those who might don’t know a monthly exercise wherein I look at the first five songs thrown up randomly by me ipod). Okay, for February 2011, the first 5 songs out of a possible 10247 are:

  1. Gerry Rafferty – Because
  2. Stealers Wheel – Another Meaning
  3. Pride of Lions – Prideland
  4. Marillion. – Don’t Hurt Yourself (Video edit)
  5. Marillion – Beautiful (Live)

Gerry Rafferty – Because (from Life Goes On  – 2009)

Rafferty’s final release was hardly a fitting swansong – or, indeed, epitaph, as it turned out: this is one of six ‘new’ songs featured on it, but tellingly only one of the six was a Rafferty-penned tune (and an old one at that) and most had been featured as downloads on his website a few years earlier. This is, of course, a cover of the Beatles tune which was originally the second worst song on the (slightly) overrated Abbey Road. As a cover it’s redundant from the start, but Rafferty’s multi-layered vocals never fail to delight and it’s at least as good as the original. But it only serves as yet another reminder of what could have been. (6/10)

Stealers Wheel – Another Meaning (from Stealers Wheel1972)

Kind of a Rafferty double-shot here, although this song was penned and sung by Joe Egan, the other ‘half’ (in inverted commas as there were 5 members credited on the debut, but of course only Rafferty and Egan got any further than that) of the band. This is a good, if not outstanding tune, on a par with most of the material on the album. With the legendary production team of Leiber-Stoller on board you’d be forgiven for expecting something approaching ‘rock and roll’ but this is very laid back and melancholic, like much of Egan and Rafferty’s material – and not as good as most of what followed. (7/10)

Pride of Lions – Prideland (from Pride of Lions  – 2003)

Yuk. Jim Peterik (Ides of March/Survivor) is one of THE great pop/rock songwriters, but sometimes he goes astray, and this is probably the ‘best’ example of this. Sounding desperately like something written for The Lion King although mercifully even Disney wouldn’t have allowed anything this twee like this on to the soundtrack, even if it hadn’t been over a decade too late. Vocalist Toby Hitchcock tries his best but you can pretty much hear him thinking how lame the whole deal is, especially on this *inspired* verse: ‘The lion king and the lioness/Defend their kingdom against the best/Their pride's survival's the only test/And all the proof their life demands.’ And it’s over six minutes long too…  (1/10)

Marillion – Don’t Hurt Yourself (from Marbles on the Road – 2004)

The second single of Marillion’s mid-noughties ‘chart comeback’, which began with their surprise return to the UK top 10 after a mere 17 years away with You’re Gone, this one also performed respectably, reaching #16. Many fans have a stated preference for Marillion’s more extended/progressive/experimental works, but I’ve always liked their more accessible/commercial stuff just as much and this ticks all the right boxes for me. I think it’s also the only Marillion song that opens with acoustic guitar that doesn’t reduce me to crying like a baby, so that’s nice too…this is an edited version, taken from the promo video as featured on the 2-disc edition of the  Marbles on the Road DVD (and below - check it out!). Presumably this was also the single edit (It’s about two minutes shorter than the album version in any case), but I’m not deducting anything on account of it being an edited version that’s popped up. (9/10)

Marillion – Beautiful (from Somewhere in London  – 2007)

A genuine double-shot to round out this month’s ‘first five’, and given that Marillion account for over 5% of the songs on my ipod (563 of the buggers at present!) if it’s going to happen with anybody it will be them – strange that for this double-shot we’ve also had two tracks from special editions of DVD releases though! The song itself was the band’s final single on EMI (and another UK Top 30 hit), and ranks amongst their very best singles (Kayleigh, Sugar Mice, Easter and Cover My Eyes round out my top 5, in case you wondered)  I’m yet to hear a below-par live version, but this (from what remains the definitive live DVD by anybody, in my book) is one of the best. Invigorating, life-affirming and, yes, beautiful. (10/10)

So another mixed bag, with one of the few truly dreadful songs I own bringing the average score down to 6.6…but let’s do some rounding – an average of 7/10’s pretty decent really, innit?

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