Sunday, September 22, 2013

Three Epic Songs

I listen to satellite radio rather than internet radio or terrestrial radio. Well, mostly. I do check out everything. My local NPR station gets my support (and if everyone who listened to their local NPR station just sent $10 in once a year, pledge wouldn't be nearly the chore it becomes twice a year*) but I really can't stand commercials on regular rock radio. Bugs the hell out of me.

Plus, the local stations aren't all that diverse. At least with XM I can get classic rock, NEW classic rock, alt rock from the 90s, jazz, movie scores, classical, opera, Old Time Radio and some really intelligent talk, too. Those are the stations that I have programmed in my two radios, anyway.

So - when I'm driving/commuting I can hear mostly uninterrupted programming. In addition, the stations I listen to play a wide variety of whatever their genre is. 

Not every song is a winner, that's true of every radio station no matter what. But some - SOME - are the ones that get turned up and sung along with. Of those, the ones that ALWAYS get turned up and sung along with are the truly epic songs. It's not necessarily about length (that's what she said) it's a quality to the song that brings something to the heart, something that is soaring in some small way. The rare combination of words, music, voice and state of mind is what qualifies it in my book.

Me, I'm into progressive rock and I grew up on 70s album oriented rock (AOR) radio. I loved it when KY-102 would play entire sides of albums before release day. That just doesn't happen much any more, even on satellite radio.

I wish it did.

Anyway,  here are three epic songs for you to consider in no particular order. Your mileage may vary. 

Rush - Xanadu : This particular track comes from my all-time favorite double-live album, Exit... Stage Left. I was a member of the Columbia House Record Club and when this one came in the mail I was engrossed immediately. I'd heard the track before on KY, the studio version, but this one just blew me away. When I saw the video of it, on VHS, there was nothing else going on around me. This is everything I want in an epic song: soaring vocals, meaningful lyrics and masterful musicianship. E..SL solidified that I would be a lifelong Rush fan.

Bruce Springsteen - Jungleland : I remember the first time I heard this song and it resonated with me. I was in my parents' delicatessen and it came on the radio. The opening strings caught my ear, I was a teenager, 15 or maybe 16 - I can't recall exactly, and the vocals were strong and sure. Then it became a rock song and it was better. But it was the sax solo that hooked me and dug in hard. The chord changes were unlike anything I'd registered before. This was around the time I was learning more about how music worked, more about theory. So everything that's going on here through the middle of the song until it quiets down again was blowing me over. I tried to absorb it all. Then the end, when Bruce does the best he can to throw some gravitas into his vocals, when the piano and the bass are punching the listener in the gut, that's the button on the epic-ness of this song. I was already a fan of the Boss and this was just another reason to be.

Cheap Trick - Dream Police : The odd song out here in the trio shouldn't surprise anyone who knows me. Cheap Trick is The Great American Rock Band and is criminally underrated by the public for their contributions to American Music. This quartet of brilliant musicians went out on a limb with the Dream Police album, making something that defied critics' expectations of the band at that point. All the songs were longer, a little more complex, more layered. This song, in particular, is bombastic and lively from the opening chord and creates a sense of unease in the verses that's relieved by the chorus. The middle breakdown with exhortations for 'them to leave me alone' adds some excellent creepiness to the song. But what makes it really epic is the final musical vignette where the band climbs the scale and puts strings on top of it to add even more urgency. 

There are more epic songs for me, but these are the top three, hands down. In the comments if you wanted to share your epic songs, I'd love to know about them.

*Think about it: 6000 listeners who send in $10 once a year, or even twice?, well that adds up pretty damn quick. Really, just think about it and then send in your sawbuck. 

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