Shuffle Lessons, Vol. 3

1. “Love Gun” Feat. Lauren Bennett – Cee Lo Green, The Lady Killer

This is one of my lesser played tracks off of Cee Lo’s genius 2010 solo album, but that doesn’t mean it’s a bad tune. It’s probably got a much higher skip count than it should. What’s tough about an album as solid as The Lady Killer is that it’s easy for strong tracks to fall through the cracks while one is obsessed with the four or five truly stand out tracks.

This one starts with the cocking and shooting of the eponymous “love gun” and it sounds like Cee Lo’s audition for a James Bond theme. The guitar sounds lifted directly from a Bond movie’s opening credits, and the orchestral strings sound like they’d be accompanied by stylized “BANG!”s and “POW!”s, a la the old Batman TV show. Cee Lo’s got this fantastic way of nailing down very specific genre sounds with his music, and this whole tune is a perfect example of that. It’s also maybe the most thematic tune on the whole album (The Lady Killer…love gun…). It might not be immediately catchy like “Wildflower” or “Cry Baby” so it’s easy to skip, but it’s a fun, albeit slow, song.

2. “I Love N.Y.E.” – Badly Drawn Boy, About A Boy

This is an instrumental from the soundtrack to the movie adaptation of Nick Hornby’s book, “About A Boy.” Good book, and surprisingly even better movie. About a self-centered rich guy whose life runs into that of a socially outcast boy with a depressed single mother. The whole soundtrack is awesome too, Badly Drawn Boy’s got very unique sounds that lend themselves well to the feel of the movie. I believe this particular song plays during the scene where Will first meets Rachel and is completely floored by her. The musical theme of the song is carried through much of the soundtrack, but it’s teased out most thoroughly on this track, and it is a very simple melody over achingly beautiful chords. Add some strings and you’ve got a tear-inducing instrumental piece that I’ve loved since I first heard it.

3. “In Repair” – John Mayer, Continuum

This is a great JM tune, an anthem about coming back to the land of the living after a particularly bad break up or other such depressing life event. I don’t think I’ve heard him do this one at any of the shows I’ve seen, but I’ve heard several live versions of the tune, and boy does it have room to open up and be a pretty kick-ass show closer. Even on the album, JM’s got an extended chorus that he just riffs on, so multiply that by 100 and you’ve got the live version. In this very cool documentary video of the writing and recording of this song, it was done in one afternoon and as soon as he found that weird reverbed, delayed pedal tone that made his guitar sound like an organ, the rest of the song came quickly after. What I love about that video is that it completely breaks down how this song was put together from the very first seed of the idea to the end product. You hear JM find the pedal combo that gets that organ sound, you see Charlie Hunter (guitarist featured on D’Angelo’s Voodoo) come up with the transition to the bridge completely on the fly on his 8-string guitar. You can even hear lyrics that were eventually scrapped once JM got the lyrical theme hammered down, but you can hear him sing the lyrics before he’s got the final melody in place. The most impressive thing is how he rips the actual guitar solo you hear on the finished product not 6 hours since the song was born. Watching that documentary gave me a completely new respect for a song that I originally kind of shrugged off. This tune is a great example of what happens when great musicians get together and get inspired.

4. “No Pause” – Girl Talk, Feed The Animals

I’ve been afraid of getting a Girl Talk song since I started the Shuffle Lessons series. But it was bound to happen, so let’s get into it. The song starts with Missy Elliott’s “Work It” and it really blasts off at 0:18 with Nu Shooz’s “I Can’t Wait” providing the backdrop over the chorus of “Work It.” It then transitions into Public Enemy’s “Rebel Without A Pause” over Heart’s “Magic Man.” We then jump over a short interlude of mixed songs and get into “Shake That” by Eminem Feat. Nate Dogg over Yael Naim’s “New Soul.”

As with every Girl Talk song, this is an insanely complicated mash-up of tunes new and old. Obviously I did not list every single sample that Girl Talk used for this particular track, but the easiest ones to hear are covered. In terms of lyrics, the “Rebel Without A Pause x Magic Man” is an awesome mash-up, but musically I like the “Work It x I Can’t Wait” portion, as the musical foundation from Nu Shooz elevates Missy Elliott’s original song. The end of this track kind of tailspins for me and seems to jar my ears with the transition from Hendrix’s “Purple Haze” lyric into the bouncy jingle of “New Soul.” It’s just not the smoothest transition and my ear doesn’t like it.

5. “Captain Jim’s Drunken Dream” – James Taylor, In The Pocket

This is a fantastically sad song about an alcoholic old boat captain who has forsaken his love of the sea for the safety of the mainland and can’t get over his regret. This is one of those killer JT tracks that I serendipitously stumbled upon because it is the song after “Woman’s Gotta Have It” on the album, and every few months or so I go on a tear of listening to that song because it is awesome. But letting the iPod play on after that one ends led me to this tune and the melody is what kept me from skipping back. JT’s got this great skill of mixing lyrical melodies so well with the rhythm of his tunes; they just live so harmoniously together. His line that begins “All I need is the sea and the sky…” is not only a heartbreaking lyric, but the way his melody jumps in time with the rhythm sounds so good.

And yikes, talk about a terribly sad song. Why did Captain Jim leave the sea? He doesn’t get into that, which is a great move for the song. Sadness that comes from feeling like you’ve got untapped potential is common, but even worse is the sadness that comes from having what you loved and being the reason you don’t have it anymore. Captain Jim is completely cognizant of the position he’s placed himself in, that he’s looked at like a crazy person and that he’s lost his mind in The Bottle, but the memories of where he belonged, where he fit and where he found purpose is such a downer. Captain Jim is the case for better never to have loved at all than to have loved and lost, because he loved and lost and he’s continually paying that price through depression, alcoholism and social ostracism.

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