Category Archives: Music

Top Ten Rock Cover Songs


I had fun putting together the list of Top Ten Rock Instrumental Songs a little while ago, so I decided to do it again. This time, I’m listing artists that took a good song and did an great cover. Again, these are in no particular order.

  1. Manfred Mann’s Earth Band: Blinded by the Light. The Springsteen song is all right, but Mann’s cover blows it away. I wrote about this song a few years ago.
  2. Dream Theater: Funeral For A Friend / Love Lies Bleeding. I love the original Elton John version as well but Dream Theater’s live version on “A Change Of Seasons” is excellent. They also do a great version of Deep Purple’s Perfect Strangers.
  3. Aerosmith: Come Together. They didn’t make vast changes to it, but they managed to make it sound like an Aerosmith song. If only we could forget the terrible movie it came from.
  4. The Ataris: The Boys of Summer. Make no mistake, the Don Henley original is one of my all-time favourite songs, but I really like this cover. Weird – a one-hit-wonder band, and the one hit wasn’t even their song.
  5. Creedence Clearwater Revival: I Heard It Through The Grapevine. The original is a Motown classic, but the CCR version is a rock and roll classic – eleven minutes long with a number of guitar solos.
  6. Van Halen: You Really Got Me. I was a huge Van Halen fan back in the 80’s, and now whenever I hear the Kinks original, I just think “how lame”. Van Halen actually did a number of pretty good covers in the David Lee Roth days (i.e. back when they were good) – Where Have All The Good Times Gone (more Kinks), Dancing In The Streets, Happy Trails, Ice Cream Man, You’re No Good, Big Bad Bill, Oh Pretty Woman.
  7. Metallica: Turn The Page. I’m a fan of Bob Seger, and this is one of his best songs, but Metallica’s version kicks serious ass.
  8. The Tea Party: Paint It, Black. Of all the bands to take a song with a sitar in it and do a cover without one. They just made it a straight-ahead rock and roll song and did a great job.
  9. Queensrÿche: Scarborough Fair. Can a hard rock band take an acoustic Simon & Garfunkel song, add distorted electric guitars, and make it their own? Yup, turns out.
  10. Faith No More: War Pigs. I really prefer Faith No More’s version of this song to the original, though admittedly I’m not a huge fan of Ozzy or Black Sabbath. Faith No More also did a cover of Easy by the Commodores, but rather than doing a Faith No More version, their version sounds like the original.

Runners-up: U2: All Along The Watchtower, John Mellencamp and Meshell Ndegeocello: Wild Night.

Honourable mention: Seether: Careless Whisper. Started off as a joke during a concert, but they did a good enough job of it that the fans loved it, so they actually recorded and released it. Cool song.

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iPod Meme Redux


I originally did this a few months after getting my iPod. Revisiting two years later. Old values that have changed are stroked out. Shortest and longest songs, and first and last artist and album have not changed. I’ve added over 850 new songs.

Attention facebook readers: You might want to click the “View original post” link at the bottom of this note to see it as I originally wrote it. Facebook sometimes messes up the formatting.

 

How many total songs?
6919 songs, 20.9 days, 41.79 GB
7773 songs, 23.4 days, 46.55 GB

Sort by song title – first and last
First: A by Barenaked Ladies
Last: 99% Of Us Is Failure by Matthew Good
Last: 999,999 by Nine Inch Nails

Sort by time – shortest and longest
Shortest: You to Me (0:04) by Bystander
Longest: Octavarium (24:00) by Dream Theater

Sort by Album – first and last
First: “Abacab” by Genesis
Last: “90125” by Yes

Sort by Artist – first and last
First: AC/DC
Last: 54-40

Top five played songs:
1. Fake It by Seether – 18
2. Be Yourself by Audioslave – 17
3. Found Out About You by Gin Blossoms – 13
T4. Like A Stone by Audioslave – 12
T4. White Shadows by Coldplay – 12
T4. High Class in Borrowed Shoes by Max Webster – 12
T4. Elderly Woman Behind The Counter in a Small Town by Pearl Jam – 12
T4. Emotional Rescue by The Rolling Stones – 12

Find the following words. How many songs show up?
Sex: 6 21
Death: 4 59
Love: 239 327
You: 535 822
Home: 42 48
Boy: 34 56
Girl: 60 80

First five songs that come up on Party Shuffle
1. Cesaro Summability by Tool
2. White, Clean and Neat by Robert Plant
3. Local Hero by Bruce Springsteen
4. Resist [Live] by Rush
5. Gimme The Love by Junkhouse

It looks like I’ve added a lot of “death” songs, but most of them are actually album names – “Death Magnetic”, “Live After Death”, “Life, Death, Love, and Freedom” (and the corresponding live album “Life, Death, LIVE, and Freedom”) , and “Viva La Vida or Death And All Of His Friends”. There are only 6 actual songs with “death” in the title.

Similarly, 15 of the 21 “sex” songs are on “Blood Sugar Sex Magik” by the Red Hot Chili Peppers and don’t have “sex” in the song title. There are only 6 songs with “sex” in the title, and two of them are “Sexy Sadie” by the Beatles (on different albums). I guess I’m just not that into sex. No wait, what I mean is… it’s not that… um….

Top Ten Rock Instrumental Songs


I’m only going to list instrumental songs by artists who primarily perform non-instrumental work, otherwise I could sit here all day listing Eric Johnson and Joe Satriani songs. There are in no particular order.

  1. Rush: YYZ – one of the first instrumental songs I remember from when I started really paying attention to music in the early 80’s, and still stands to me as the quintessential rock instrumental song.
  2. Alice in Chains: Whale and Wasp – Combines a beautiful acoustic guitar (the “whale”) with the occasional screeching electric guitar (the “wasp”). Listening to this song was the inspiration for this list.
  3. Triumph: Fingertalkin’ – An outstanding acoustic guitar piece by Rik Emmett, one of the best guitarists in any genre. Too bad it’s on what was probably Triumph’s worst album, “Progressions of Power”.
  4. Metallica: The Call of Ktulu – The opening sounds like two guitars playing together, but it’s only one. If they replaced Orion (also an excellent song) and Leper Messiah on Master of Puppets with this song and Creeping Death, Puppets would be the perfect metal album.
  5. Linkin Park: Session – the sole “electronic” entry on this list, complete with record scratches. In general I’m not big on this kind of stuff, but this song is very cool.
  6. Rush: La Villa Strangiato – over nine minutes long, and features some amazing guitar work from Alex Lifeson. I still think he’s the least musically talented member of Rush, but he ain’t no slouch either.
  7. Steely Dan: East St. Louis Toodle-oo – Somebody cranked the wah-wah pedal up to eleven for this one.
  8. Pink Floyd: One of These Days – Technically shouldn’t qualify because there are lyrics – right in the middle someone says in a very distorted voice “One of these days, I’m going to cut you into little pieces”. But David Gilmour plays some pretty sweet slide guitar.
  9. The Tea Party: Winter Solstice – two acoustic guitars and someone tapping on what sounds like a wooden block. Some of the fastest strumming you’ll ever hear.
  10. Porcupine Tree: Wedding Nails – Kick-ass guitar over a driving bass / drum beat.

Runners-up: Songs that I had listed originally but then I kept thinking of more.

  • Sarah McLachlan: Last Dance
  • Metallica: Orion
  • The Tea Party: The Badger
  • Yes: Mood For A Day

CD Review: Pearl Jam – Ten Redux


I originally bought Pearl Jam’s Ten album in about 1991 and have loved it ever since. It’s one of my all-time favourite albums, is simply great from start to finish, and even contains one of my favourite guitar solos (on “Alive”). This past week, Pearl Jam released a new version of Ten which contains two CDs – the first is simply the album I have, the second (called Ten Redux) contains remixed versions of every song on the album, as well as a few bonus tracks. This basically means that I just bought two copies of an album I already had.

I didn’t plan on buying this new version, figuring it was only for serious die-hard Pearl Jam fans. But Alan Cross talked about it on the Explore Music podcast a couple of weeks ago, and said that the new remixed version is simply amazing, so I ordered it from amazon.ca.

Strangely, Cross said that the changes are “subtle, but obvious – if you listen to it off CD and NOT off a compressed MP3”. So on the way into work the other day, I brought the CD with me and listened to it directly, rather than plugging the iPod in. (Ironically, the CD wouldn’t play in the player at first. I had to eject it and try it again before it would play. I think the first time I put the disk in, it got caught in the cobwebs inside.) I was a little sceptical that I would hear any difference, given what Cross had said – I figured that if the differences were so subtle that you couldn’t hear them from an MP3, then the $69 stereo in my car wouldn’t allow me to hear the differences anyway, but it did. I’m not sure I agree with Cross’s assessment, since the differences I hear are obvious enough (to someone who’s listened to the album enough times) that even with a compressed MP3, you can hear them. I listened to the MP3 version from my iPod as well, and sure enough you can hear the changes. I rip all my MP3’s at a variable bit rate, which means that the compression isn’t as good (i.e. the files are bigger) but you don’t lose as much sound quality. Maybe Cross uses a higher compression rate.

The Difference

Despite sounding oxymoronic, Cross’s description of “subtle, but obvious” is exactly right. This not a “director’s cut” – there are no new verses, no new solos, and none of the songs are any longer or shorter than the originals. Nothing has been added or removed, and most importantly, Han still shoots first. Most of what they’ve done is modify the relative volumes of the instruments. In most songs, the rhythm guitar has been turned up during solos — in a couple of cases, it’s been turned up enough that it’s harder to hear the solo guitar. There were a couple of relatively quiet sections (like the first time you hear “Why go home?” in “Why Go”) where the drums and bass have been turned up a little. In some cases, the background vocals have been turned down. The most obvious specific difference I found was that the “hoo hoo hoo hoo” high-pitched vocals on “Jeremy” have been almost removed. There are a few other smaller changes:

  • in “Even Flow” after the line “Where do I stand?”, the echo of “stand” is gone
  • the bass at the very end of “Why Go” is a little louder, and is sustained just a touch longer, causing the segue into the brilliant “Black” to be a little less smooth than the original.
  • the opening guitar on “Garden” has a different tone

There are also six bonus songs included, some of which were previously unreleased. “Brother” and “Just A Girl both” sound like they could have been on Ten, and I might even have included “Brother” over “Deep”. “Breath And A Scream” is kind of boring, and sounds like a bonus track, i.e. one that wasn’t good enough to make the album. “State Of Love And Trust” isn’t bad, and “2,000 Mile Blues” is cool – very Zeppelin-esque. “Evil Little Goat” is only a minute and a half long, but if Eddie Vedder ever sang for The Beach Boys, this might be what it would sound like.

Now if only Pearl Jam could remix their later albums (anything after Vs.) to make me care about them. I loved Ten and really liked Vs. as well but for some reason, I completely lost interest in Pearl Jam after that. No idea why. I have a couple of later albums (Riot Act and Pearl Jam) and I’ve listened to them a couple of times, but they seem kind of forgettable. But now that my interest in Ten has been rekindled, I’ll give them another listen.

Porcupine Tree


I have recently been introduced to a progressive rock band from England called Porcupine Tree. Not only does the band have a cool name (very important), but they’re talented musicians (also very important). I now have three of their albums, and I’m really enjoying them. I’ll talk about the band itself in a minute, but I wanted to mention the way I discovered them, since it’s rather unusual.

While writing some internal documentation for some code I had written, I used a tool called doxygen, which reads specially formatted comments in source code and creates documentation from it. Very nice tool, and while perusing the acknowledgements on the web site, I came across this line:

[Thanks to] the band Porcupine Tree for providing hours of great music to listen to while coding.

I was intrigued by the name of the band, but never thought much about it. A little while later, I was on amazon.ca and looked at my personal recommendations (after having bought some Rush and Dream Theater CDs), and there was a Porcupine Tree album. I immediately remembered the name from the doxygen guy, and since amazon said that the album was recommended because of my interest in Rush and Dream Theater, I was even more intrigued. After looking at some CD reviews, I took a $10 leap of faith. Without ever having heard any of the band’s music, I downloaded their latest album, Fear of a Blank Planet, from puretracks.ca. After listening to that for a while, I went onto eBay and bought the two previous albums, Deadwing and In Absentia.

The boys in PT are big on eyes; of the three albums I have, two of them have covers that show someone with blank eyes – the Blank Planet one reminds me of the I Love It Loud video from Kiss, while the In Absentia one is so creepy that I don’t even like looking at it.

While researching the band, I saw a comparison to Queensrÿche, who I’m a fan of (well, the older stuff anyway). But Steve Wilson’s vocals and Geoff Tate’s are nothing like one another, so it’s kind of hard to hear the similarities. Musically, they’re not that far off, but Porcupine Tree is a little more… well, “psychadelic” isn’t the right word exactly, perhaps “ambient”. Having said that, they remind me a little more of Tool or Dream Theater than Queensrÿche. They all have frequent time signature and key changes and some heavy guitar work, though PT isn’t quite as heavy (well, usually – “The Creator Has A Mastertape” from In Absentia is pretty kick-ass). The vocals are quite different as well – PT’s Wilson, Tool’s Keenan, and DT’s LaBrie can sing cleanly and quietly at times and louder at others, though LaBrie and particularly Keenan can also scream with the best of them (listen to Ticks & Leeches from Lateralus for a good example) while Wilson doesn’t scream. However, PT and DT use a lot more acoustic guitar than Tool, and I’m pretty sure that neither Tool nor Dream Theater use a banjo on any of their recordings.

Amazon recommended PT to me because of both Rush and Dream Theater, but honestly, I don’t see a lot of similarities to Rush. Other than the frequent time signature changes, the music is quite different.  They’ve been compared to Pink Floyd as well, though their music is much heavier.

Anyway, they have six other studio albums and a couple of live albums as well, so perhaps I’ll peruse through the eBay listings again. I should probably take a break from eBay, though; I’ve bought 11 CDs (2 PT, one Nine Inch Nails, six Beatles, two Rammstein) through eBay in the last two months. I just love discovering new music.

Recommendations for you


I’ve only bought a couple of things on amazon.com, since I mainly use amazon.ca. When it gives me recommendations, they’re based only on a few things and are therefore rather diverse:

  • A book called Understanding IPv6
  • a couple of CCNA guides (I had to look up what CCNA meant – it’s some kind of networking certification)
  • 101 Dalmations DVD
  • Star Wars: The Clone Wars DVD (which I have, though amazon.com doesn’t know this)
  • Tool’s Ænima CD (which I also have)
  • Slayer’s Reign in Blood CD

I imagine that there aren’t many lists of anything that both Reign in Blood and 101 Dalmations are a part of.

CD Review: Nine Inch Nails – The Slip


I downloaded the new Nine Inch Nails album a week or two ago (for free!). This was my introduction to NIN who are known as “industrial metal”, but as with other labels, I’m not really sure what that means. Similarly, what does it mean for a band to say they are “alternative”? Alternative to what? R.E.M. was the quintessential alternative band for a while, then they sold zillions of CDs and had #1 hits and stuff, so are they still “alternative”? The best description I’ve heard for “alternative” was “Any band that I like that you’ve never heard of”, which fits as well as any other description.

Anyway, back to industrial metal. Those readers familiar with NIN might be shaking their head, but I really have never heard any of their music, so I’m a NIN virgin, please be gentle. I have a couple of Rammstein albums (Feuer Frei! is such a great song), and a few Tool albums as well. NIN has a fair number of time signature changes, moreso than Rammstein though not as much as Tool, and both NIN and Rammstein have songs that have some electronica aspects while definitely having a basic metal sound. Both Rammstein and NIN have a couple of these type of upbeat almost-danceable songs (Discipline, Echoplex, Demon Seed), while the thought of dancing to a Tool song is just laughable.

One similarity among all three bands is that the vocals are frequently hard to decipher. I can safely say that I have no idea what any Tool or NIN songs are about — or Rammstein either for that matter, but that’s because they sing in German. NIN and Tool also have songs with long instrumental stretches. With Tool, the instrumentals are mostly done with actual instruments, while the NIN songs 999,999, Lights In The Sky, Corona Radiata and The Four of Us Are Dying are mostly ambient sounds and minimal actual music. (Then again, the Tool songs Eon Blue Apocalypse and Faaip de Oiad (WTF?) are pretty much just noise too.)

One thing that differentiates NIN is the guitar sound. The guitar in NIN is much “fuzzier”, while Tool and Rammstein use your standard distorted metal guitar. One album by The Tea Party, Transmission, has some songs that feature the same fuzzy distorted guitar sound as NIN, though I wouldn’t generally call The Tea Party industrial or even metal. If you took Tool, swapped out the guitarist’s distortion pedal for a more fuzzy one (or maybe added a few distortion pedals in series), mixed in some of the keyboard fills of Rammstein, and then somehow got the lead singer to cheer the fuck up a little, you’d get NIN.

To confirm what I said before about why free music is a good thing, I bought the older NIN album The Downward Spiral a few days ago, and I’m looking forward to receiving it this week. I just love listening to new music!

I just realized something else though — I bought The Downward Spiral used on eBay, so Trent won’t actually be getting any money from me. But I can’t confirm that the guy I bought it from didn’t rip it and keep a copy on his computer or iPod. So why isn’t Lars Ulrich fighting against the used CD industry?