Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Keep It or Lose It? Why Is It There?

Okay, so I know that 80 GB of music in portable form is, in some rational sense, too much. I know that having access to another 20 GB wouldn't -- again, from any rational perspective -- improve my life. Wouldn't even change it, really.

And I know that another 500 albums sitting in a pocket isn't, just by virtue of being more, automatically, better than not having another 500 albums.

And I know that the quest for the perfect collection of artists, the perfect combination of familiar and new music, is quixotic, at best.

And I know that the word quixotic marks me as an idiot.

But, just like using more activator only stimulates the jheri curl to want more activator, I find myself, every week or so, having to decide what GB of music to move of the iPod in order to make room for a different GB's worth.

Which brings me to this post. A few songs, shuffled up, and a decision, upon individual reflection, whether to keep or lose each one.

1. "Glass Hotel," by Robyn Hitchcock. There are only a few RH songs on here (and a handful of Soft Boys' numbers, as well), and all of them from Eye. I don't know that I necessarily need, say, "Queen Elvis" or "Certainly Clickot" (which I put on the iPod originally only so that sometime, somewhere, I could hear the lines "I had one chance to stop her eggs / Pronounced 'eggs' or 'Brad,'" lines that I used to find quite funny), but this one I like. It's got a great, delicate melody. And unlike "Beautiful Girl," which I like, but that originally made the cut mostly because it makes me think of Dan Wineman and my sophomore year of college, it's one that I like because of the song itself, not because of associations with it. And although I haven't listened to Eye in a few years, hearing this song now, out of context, made me want to hear the album again. So, it stays.

2. "I Don't Mind," by James Brown. The track itself was ripped from the Star Time box, but the version of the song originally came from Live From the Apollo. I'd rather hear the song in the context of the live album -- 30 perfect, joyous, pleading, soulful, knee-dropping minutes if there ever were -- but so good is JB here, and so good is his backup and so immediate and keyed in is the audience's reactions to his every cry and moan, that it has to stay.

3. "Billy Preston," by Miles Davis. From the Complete On the Corner Sessions. Now, I love me some On the Corner. It's chaotic, it's dark, it's dense, it's abrasive, yes, but it's also hypnotic, rich, layered, and, ultimately, melodic. And there are parts of the box set that are fantastic -- though mostly those parts, like "He Loved Him Madly" that had already seen release elsewhere -- but, like the Jack Johnson box, too much of the extraneous material doesn't work on its own. It might have a certain impressive cumulative weight over the course of several discs, but a track like this, 14 minutes of relatively aimless, formless searching-without-finding can't hold up to being excerpted from that context. A great bassline, with plenty of space, but nothing particularly interesting riding atop it. It should get cut, I guess.

4. "Percy's Song," by Fairport Convention. Dylan originally wrote this, and hearing his version, on the Biograph collection, when I was a sophomore in high school, was one (of soooo many) of the more formative musical experiences of my youth. FC's rendition lacks the weary sadness of Dylan's, and while it has an impressive arrangement, and great harmonies during the refrains, and fantastic guitar, it still sounds, in the end, like a bunch of good musicians singing a folk song. And that's not a bad thing, necessarily. And it does, in the end, achieve a certain catharsis. And it reminds me of what it was like to hear, really hear, Dylan for the first time. And, in that, it reminds me of what it's like to be open to getting, on such a wonderfully regular basis, absolutely blown away by music that you haven't heard before, to having your freaking life changed, man, by an album or song or cracked vocal or three-part harmony in a middle-eight every three or four days. So, it stays.

5. "The Clairvoyant (live)," by Iron Maiden. From the bonus disc included with some pressings of Seventh Son of a Seventh Son. Now, this is a Tuesday afternoon I can get behind. Sure, I desperately need to finish up a unit for my National Board Certification Seminar this evening, and I can't, in good conscience, spare the time to continue to write this nonsense, but, damnit, I like this song. I like the album. I'm tempted to cut it -- because, really, do I need a relatively straightforward live reading of an album track? It's not like they rearrange it for solo piano. And Bruce never, say, implores the audience to scream for him. But, instead, I think I'll cut the album track and keep this. It has less of a synthesized guitar sound.

6. "Long Lonely Nights," by Lee Andrews & the Hearts. From Rhino's first doowop box set. Now, here's the problem with this exercise: I don't want this thing to shuffle up when I'm driving home from school on a perfect spring day, or even while driving to an afternoon class on a perfect spring day, and so, part of me says, "Cut it. Cut it. Be a man and cut it, for Christ's sake, and quit your crying. 'Tis unmanly grief, as Claudius says." But, right now, in this moment, I like it. Sure, a little doowop goes an awfully long way, and I don't need 100 slightly different iterations of this song and sound, but isn't the occasional perfect doowop moment worth the 4 MB this thing probably takes up?

7. "Tell It to Me," by Tom Waits. From Orphans. No brainer: Tom stays. Unbelievable bass sound on this. I find the pedal steel to be a little intrusive, but only because the song is already so perfect before it wanders in. "For all of your faithless beauty / I'll give all of my tomorrows." That pretty much captures it, doesn't it? And don't be afraid to check out this Waits site: www.tomwaitslibrary.com.

All that to cut one song?

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