Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Top Ten Desert Island Albums - Number 9

Number Nine - “Come On, Come On” by Mary Chapin Carpenter.

Background: I have always been a fan for the female voice. The most talented vocalists I have known personally have mostly been women. And there are very few things I find hotter than a female vocalist (a female bartender is definitely on that list, but I digress).

With that said, there are almost no female artists on the radio that I enjoy listening to. Part of that is that I think the majority of women on the radio right now are what I call “manufactured talent,” by which I mean that most of them are poor vocalists, can’t write, can’t play, but are merely the pawns of the record companies, auto-tuned and processed until they have a marginally decent product that can be sold as a sex symbol.

No interest here.

Not all fit into that category; P!nk is one artist whose skills I highly respect. However, her songs are not intended to appeal to me, as they are all about female empowerment. I do not dispute the market for that, and have nothing negative to say about that, except that I am not a woman in need of empowerment or validation, so it does nothing for me.

The realm of Country Music seems especially poor right now, in terms of the quality of female artists. The few who can truly sing seem to only produce songs about a) how much they hate men, b) how they love to use violence to retaliate against any perceived slight by a man c) how lonely they are, and how much they want a man

Color me unimpressed.

It wasn’t always this way; in the early 90s I remember an abundance of exceedingly talented female singer/songwriters. Kathy Mattea, Trisha Yearwood, Suzy Boggus (whose album “Aces” I almost put on here - it’s still one of my absolute favorites of all time), among many, many others. Yes, Martina McBride was all over the man-hating/independent woman scene even back then, but I could just ignore her.

But the absolute top of the pack for me was Mary Chapin Carpenter. A smooth, velvety voice, with a very relaxed and natural rhythm. Melodies that had to have been written a cappella, with haunting accompaniments. And her lyrics were simply amazing. Simple, honest, yet touching on a wide range of human experiences. My absolute favorite album of hers? 1992’s “Come On, Come On.”

Track Listing

The Hard Way

This is a great intro to a mature, adult album (I don’t mean sexual, I mean adult). It’s about how you have to fight for the things that matter, that nothing worthwhile is ever given to you, and nothing meaningful is every easy.

He Thinks He’ll Keep Her

Those of you who know me, know that I’m about as far from being a feminist as you can get. In fact, I think feminism is one of the most ludicrous, damaging, and hypocritical movements I have ever witnessed. However, there are certain aspects of feminism based on reality (as with virtually any philosophy), and one of them is that neglecting a relationship won’t work forever. This song is about a man who completely neglects the woman who makes his life possible, and the unraveling of their future because of it. (yes, this could be a topic of an entire series of posts, but for right now… it won’t be)

Rhythm of the Blues

This one is hard to describe. It’s about the loneliness of a relationship that’s all but over. Listening, you get it. Talking about it… Not so much.

I Feel Lucky

Just a fun song about being in the right place at the right time, even if it seems otherwise at first. Nothing too deep or philosophical here. As an amusing note, at the time I thought the piano solo at the end was one of the most bad-ass things I’d ever heard. Now I’m all “meh” about it. Nothing to see here; move on.

The Bug

This is a Dire Straits song that Mary Chapin Carpenter covered. Since she didn’t write it, I really don’t have that much to say, other than it’s another fun song.

The Dire Straits version

Not Too Much to Ask

A great duet - I just wish it was with someone other than Joe Diffie, whose voice was always a little twangy and whiny, and whose vocal stylings involved a bit too much sliding from note to note for my taste. With that said, it’s really an excellently written foray into expectations versus hopes when it comes to romance.

Passionate Kisses

Another cover song - this time by Lucinda Williams. I am amused by the slow, almost soulful piano intro, which leads into a fun, uptempo song.

The Lucinda Williams version

Only a Dream

This was a true eye-opener to me in terms of what poetry and music can do in relating feelings so hard to express in normal conversation. As a younger sibling, watching your older siblings grow up and move on is a troubling, confusing, painful part of life. You want to hold on to the closeness of your childhood forever, you want that comforting, protecting presence right by you. I have never before (nor since) heard a song that captures that yearning like this one does. The depth of emotion here is astoundingly powerful, and the topic so much more meaningful than yet another song about falling in or out of love.

I Am a Town

Though I find the chord progression/pedal tone usage in this song to make it a little too “drone” like and monotonous for my personal taste, this song really captures a lot of the essence of small towns across America. And quite frankly, small town life comes with a certain amount of monotony and droning, so that might be exactly what she intended.

Walking Through Fire

One of the least original songs on here, this is a basic “take a chance on me, because I won’t hurt you like your past lovers” song. Think Billy Joel’s “Innocent Man,” Hal Ketchum’s “Don’t Strike a Match to the Book of Love,” etc. Not a bad song, by any means, just a bit formulaic. Then again, sometimes you gotta go with the formula.

I Take My Chances

This is one that I think is meant to be an ode to feminist independence, but I always heard it as a libertarian anthem; you do what you think is right, and take the consequences. You take the risks, and get the rewards. It’s my basic political philosophy, which I’m sure is far from what she meant for it to be.

Come On, Come On

A perfect ending to an incredible album. It’s about nostalgia, it’s about love, it’s about trying to capture those perfect moments before they’re gone forever.

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