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Five Albums You Should Be Listening To Right Now: Lyrical Gems
Feast your ears on the tunes of these mighty wordsmiths.
by Trevor Fisher
One, Two, One, Two, Three, Four is a blog run at which "some of us are involved in the business as musicians, DJ's, producers and managers and some of us just dig a great tune, man." Trevor Fisher digs both a great tune and great lyrics, as his Five Albums shows.
1. Barenaked Ladies, Rock Spectacle (1996)
Barenaked Ladies' lyrics are often funny and articulate, whimsical, and un-self-conscious. There are few acts that have as much fun as these guys onstage, and this live album captures it all. The stand-out track "If I Had $1,000,000" contains the line "I'd buy you a green dress / but not a real green dress, that's cruel," riffs on animal cruelty, and if you like John Lennon and don't like Yoko Ono, you'll also love the hilarious "Will You Be My Yoko Ono." Listening to Rock Spectacle is like joining a gang and getting the in-jokes right away.
Listen: "Will You By My Yoko Ono"
2. John Cale and Lou Reed, Songs for Drella (1990)
Songs for Drella is like witnessing John Cale and Lou Reed compete for Andy Warhol's posthumous approval. Despite their frequent spats and inability to play nicely, they managed to keep the toys in the pram long enough to record this profoundly intimate peek behind the curtain of life at The Factory. When Cale sings, "Let's do a movie, right here next week / we don't have sound but you're so great, you don't have to speak" (from "The Style It Takes"), it's not hard to imagine that line coming out of Warhol's mouth. Listening to Drella is a bit like eavesdropping on two well-educated married friends arguing: reprehensible, riveting, and entertaining in equal measure.
Listen: "The Style It Takes"
3. Bill Withers, Live at Carnegie Hall (1973)
Bill has a way of sharing the experiences of everyday folks without resorting to $20 words. "Grandma's Hands"' is a tender snapshot of poor urban folk in the 1970s and what got them through the day: church, love, and each other. This live version also has a very funny spoken intro reminiscing about the church choir: we're introduced to a reverend who used to get so into it "he'd hit himself upside the head with a drum stick." All this delivered in Withers' endearing laconic drawl — just beautiful.
Listen: "Grandma's Hands"
4. Various Artists, The Definitive Burt Bacharach Songbook (2006)
This double album has all of Burt Bacharach and Hal David's finest songs, performed by their chosen singers. The whole album is like a gourmet box of chocolates: varied, delicious and filled with a few surprises. Bacharach and David's songs pop up time and again because their unforgettable melodies are always twinned with equally unforgettable words. No one just hums a Bacharach and David song; from "The Look of Love" to "I Say a Little Prayer," the signature lines of these songs stay stuck in your head just like the melodies.
Listen: "I Say a Little Prayer"
5. Tom Waits, The Heart of Saturday Night (1974)
Forget the cartoon version of Tom Waits; he's more than the "chainsaw voice" that the later half of his career would suggest. The Heart of Saturday Night is chock-full of great lines, like the one about the "solitary sailor who spends the facts of his life like small change on strangers" in "The Ghosts of Saturday Night." The best cut on the album is the title track, a wonderful celebration of youth and what Saturday night means to single men the world over.
Listen: "The Heart of Saturday Night"