#51 – Sleepers Awaken! (Wachtet Auf, Rult Uns Die Stimme)

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Artist – Douglas Major & Empire Brass (Composed Originally by J.S. Bach)
Album – A Bach Festival
Year – 1990 (Composed early 1700’s)
Genre – Classical

I don’t claim to be a classical music scholar, or even an aficionado at that, but I do know what sounds beautiful to me. Sleepers Awaken by Johann Sebastian Bach is one of my favorite classical pieces. It’s a cantata, or a church piece, written about the parable of the seven virgins that Jesus tells the Disciples. It involves waiting for the coming of the Lord and being ready for his arrival always. It’s an absolutely gorgeous piece that transcends all history. The version that I prefer listening to is actually a small piece of the entire cantata performed by Empire Brass. Let’s get into this wonderful piece.

The first thing I love about this particular version is the combination of the horns and the basso continuo of the organ. It creates one of the richest textures in classical music, and fills the room with warmth and a sense of peace and majesty. The piece itself has a repeating melody motif that is one of the most beautiful melodies I’ve ever had the pleasure of hearing. The notes descend and fall like water, only to rise back up in glory. The trumpet is crystal clear and cuts through the air like a knife, and the french horn (one of my favorite instruments) is rich and bombastic. The organ (Bach’s instrument of choice) always sounds beautiful to me, and provides a wonderful backing texture.

The whole ensemble group works together so well and paints such a lovely portrait of sound. I firmly believe there is no better classical composer than Bach, as he was impeccable at writing melodies that stand the test of time and even remain pleasing to modern ears. He is still one of my favorite composers of all time.

If there were any piece that should exist to praise God and paint a picture of majesty and glory, it would be this piece. The instruments sound as if they were played by the angels themselves, and the melody sounds as if it were passed to Bach through God himself. The intervals are perfect, and the performance is wonderful. I know this is a short review since there are no lyrics, but I truly think if you should have any classical piece on your ipod, even if you’re not a classical music fan, it should be this piece. It’s absolutely breathtaking, and a true treasure of the baroque period and of music.

Let me know what you thought of the song and review below in the comments!

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#50 – The Reckless and The Brave

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Artist – All Time Low
Album – Don’t Panic
Year – 2012
Genre – Pop-Punk

Happy 50th song, everyone! Looks like I’m still around, and I plan to see this project through to the end! As All Time Low would say, “Long live the reckless and the brave!” Speaking of which…

Modern day pop-punk staple All Time Low hit an all time HIGH with their 2012 release Don’t Panic, which I gave quite a fair amount of praise to in another publication. The opening track on the album, “The Reckless and the Brave,” is a pulse pounding rager of a track. It’s perfect to absolutely scream out in the car or sing into your hairbrush…not that I do that. It’s extremely hooky and catchy, like a lot of All Time Low’s material, but it’s also frenetic, and remarkably textured for a pop-punk track.

Starting with the awesome stuttering guitar effect at the very beginning, the song is very well put together musically. The guitar riffs are driving and powerful and they practically blow the speakers up. The drums are really something else though. They boom and crack like lightning, and they performance of all musicians here is super tight. The choice of chords maybe a little cliche, but my firm belief is that no matter how many times a progression is used, as long as you enjoy it, then you should definitely listen to it. The song drives through the majority of its length, but there’s a great little cut out and kick in at the final leg, and a great closing with a military march style snare drum beat.

Lead singer Alex Gaskarth is one hell of a singer and lyric writer. He absolutely kills it on this one with his trademark powerhouse voice and sarcastic, quick witted lyrics. But let’s talk about the harmonies here. Woo boy, the harmonies kill me every time they’re so good. I know they’re a trademark of the band, but the production on this album (which is fantastic by the way) really brings them out and you can hear every nuance. All in all, this is a standout vocal track for sure, and if you don’t sing along with this then you have more will power me, my friend.

Whether you like pop or rock or even both, this song is a must have for you. It’s easily one of the strongest tracks of this great album, and it’s a ten out of ten on the catchy-o-meter (maybe I should make this a thing…). But anyway, thanks for sticking around with my blog those of you who have read it and continue to read and/or follow it. We’re going to keep on trucking til we get to 1001, so long live the reckless and the brave!

Let me know what you thought of the review or the song in the comments below!

#49 – Kathy’s Song

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Artist – Simon & Garfunkel
Album – Sounds of Silence
Year – 1966
Genre – Folk/Acoustic

I have to credit my father for playing this song for me. I was immediately floored by how beautiful the song is. It just goes to further prove how incredible a songwriter Paul Simon is. Never have I heard such lyrics as these. This is a must listen right off the bat! Phew. Ok, let’s keep it together here and give it a go.

It’s a soft, gentle love song. But it’s more than that. It’s pure love poetry, and it is powerful. Instrumentally, the song is simple, with Simon simply playing an acoustic guitar and singing, but this is a man baring his love in the most profound way he knows how. The song deals with missing someone far away, and I’m sure to those with significant others that could be another town, another state, another country, or even down the street. Missing someone is a powerful feeling that’s hard to put down in words, but Simon does it more beautifully and poetically than many many others.

The lyrics are…I don’t even know where to begin. There’s such beauty held within such seemingly simple expressions of love and affection. Here’s a few of my favorite lines that took my breath away:

“My thoughts are many miles away
They lie with you when you’re asleep
And kiss you when you start your day”

What a simple sign of affection, but yet I couldn’t think of a better expression of true, true love than letting someone know that you are there for them always.

“I stand alone without beliefs
The only truth I know is you”

Wow. Words fail me for how beautiful this line is.

“And as I watch the drops of rain
Weave their weary paths and die
I know that I am like the rain
There, but for the grace of you , go I”

Is there anything more powerful and beautiful than finding that person who makes your life not just a straight path to death, like the rain? Who fills your life with things you couldn’t have dreamed of before. Life is all about the ones you love and hold dear, and without them, we would exist simply to go on our ways and then die, without truly being happy (at least in my opinion).

All in all, the best way to sum up the song is this: the music is simple, yet incredibly profound, as are the lyrics. It’s pure poetry, and it’s poetry about love written in a way that I myself tear up every time I hear it. I hope that you share this song with someone special to you, because it deserves that much. I hope each one of you finds something in this song that resonates with you, because not only is it worth a listen, or a spot on your Ipod for that matter, it may be that song that reminds you of your love, whether far away or right next to you.

Let me know what you think of the song or review in the comments below!

#48 – Bye Bye Love

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Artist – The Everly Brothers
Album – The Everly Brothers
Year – 1957
Genre – Rockabilly

Due to the death of Phil Everly yesterday, the song I chose is by The Everly Brothers and is one of the greatest songs about lost love ever written, albeit not by them. However, their performance of the song “Bye Bye Love” is so melodic and iconic that it remains the definitive version even today. Rest in peace Phil Everly, your music will live on.

The first thing I should do is credit the actual songwriters of this track. Felice and Boudleaux Bryant, a country songwriting couple who wrote many songs for artists like The Everly Brothers. This is new knowledge to me as well. I only found this out today while researching the song. In any case, Mr. and Mrs. Bryant have written a lost love song so unpretentious and honest, that in my opinion it’s one of the best ever written. The chorus alone is not only of the catchiest songs from that era, but also one of the most emotional and most sincere.

Bye bye love
Bye bye happiness
Hello loneliness
I think I’m-a gonna cry

Bye bye love
Bye bye sweet caress
Hello emptiness
I feel like I could die
Bye bye my love goodbye

Has a simpler, yet more affecting chorus about lost love ever been written? I don’t think so. The lyrics throughout this song are a prime example of simple and honest songwriting being the most affecting.

What makes this song what it is, however, are the beautiful melodies of Don and Phil Everly. The main vocal duty is taken by Don, who’s youthful, crystal clear and sweet voice give the sense of innocence and true compassion.

There goes my baby with someone new
She sure looks happy, I sure am blue
She was my baby till he stepped in
Goodbye to romance that might have been

As these lines are sung, you can’t help but feel the sadness in his voice as Everly truly sounds like his happiness has been taken away. The quaintness and candidness of this verse in particular add to the emotional quality in a sense, as you genuinely feel bad for the brothers as they pour their feelings out.

Despite the heartbreaking lyrics, this is a rockabilly song through and through. The guitars are jangly and sunny, creating a wonderful acoustic texture with just a tad bit of electric in the background when it’s needed. Instrumentally, it’s about as raw as you can get, but like I said earlier, it’s the harmonies of the brothers Everly that make the song what it is. They work together, well, like brothers. They’re so in sync and their harmonies are catchy and totally singable. Seriously, I bet you can’t fight the urge to sing along.

In short, this is a song about losing your girl. But it’s the most honest and candid capture of loneliness perhaps ever captured in song. We have the Bryant couple to thank for it, but we have the Everly Brothers to thank for making it what it is. I’ve said it once and I’ll say it a thousand times more; honesty and simplicity create the best songs because though it may come across otherwise, we feel no pretentiousness in our emotion, so why should are songs be that way? This is a beautiful little song that deserves your attention no matter what. And to Phil Everly, thank you for making this song so iconic and for your career in music.

Let me know what you think of the song and review in the comments below!

#47 – Don’t Dream It’s Over

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Artist – Crowded House
Album – Crowded House
Year – 1986
Genre – Soft Rock/New Wave

Happy New Year everyone! I really wanted to find a great song to ring in the new year, and I couldn’t think of a better song than this. It’s a song with a message of hope and optimism despite all the troubles and pain in the past. And looking ahead to a bright future is what the New Year is all about.

The song itself is filled with the bravado of the time period in which it was written. The drums are booming and the guitar echoes and twangs with the opening chords. However, it’s exactly this kind of instrumentation that lends the song the precise mood it both needs and is trying to get across. The powerful instruments add to frontman Neil Finn’s conviction as he sings. The melody in the chorus is catchy and certainly memorable, and the whole song is both well intentioned and constructed.

The lyrics are what make this song both powerful and emotional. As you listen, it really brings to attention to the hardship and suffering in the world. However, the message in the chorus tells us to always look with hope on what’s to come. “Don’t dream it’s over…They come to build a wall between us. We know that they won’t win.” No matter the trials and tribulations of the past, goodness and hope prevail. It’s all about making personal choices. We can choose to give in to despair and look at the bad in life, or we can move ahead and focus on the good we find within ourselves and in those around us.

The song builds and adds more layers of instruments like some wonderful keyboard overlay and a guitar solo, and as the song ends, we’re left to wonder how we’re going to choose to approach the future. For the new year, I hope we all choose to look upon each other with kindness and learn from our past to create a better future. To me, that’s what the song speaks of. It’s got a great message for the new year, and has a pleasing melody as well.

I hope you all have a safe, happy new year. Best of luck to all of you, and thanks to all who have followed and liked my posts. There’s so much more to come! Here’s to 2014!

Let me know what you think of the song and review in the comments below!