Song #21: “Nothin’ Stays The Same Forever”

My father’s incidental influence on the music I listened to during my formative years petered out as I got older. He usually bought whatever was offered through the Columbia House record club, mostly pop schlock that I had little interest in. Once in a while he’d order some records or CDs that collected dust, and those were usually the ones I noticed. He bought a series of CDs called Atlantic Blues, for instance, packed with great blues artists from the Atlantic label I’d never heard of it. Some were blues, some where R&B — cool cats like Van ‘Piano Man’ Walls, Rufus Thomas, Jay Mcshane, Mama Yancey, Jimmy Yancey, John Hammond Jr, Jack Dupree, Sippie Wallace, and Professor Longhair — and they were all an education for me. “Nothin’ Stays The Same Forever,” by Percy Mayfield, is the killer track on that collection that hit me the hardest and still does.

(It takes about 10 seconds before the music starts.)

Song #20: “Shaved Head”

I nominate Rheostatics as the best band to come out of Canada in the past 25 years, and seeing how my vote is the only one that counts, they win. I don’t listen to much generic white rock these days, but when I did, Rheostatics were at the top of the pile. I didn’t care for their more popular songs like “Claire.” Songs voiced by Martin Tielli like “Onilley’s Strange Dream” and “California Dreamline” were my favourites, but neither of those songs are available through YouTube, so I’ll pick “Shaved Head” from their magnum opus, the 1992 album Whale Music.

“Hanna” Just Misses the Mark

  Hanna is about a girl raised in the woods by her former super secret agent father who has trained her to be the ultimate soldier and killing machine. But really she’s just sad and lonely and misunderstood. Or something. Watch the trailer to see all the best parts of the movie.

“Hanna” could have been tense and emotionally engaging, but I began to lose interest about 10 minutes into it because all the musical cues and the editing were too obvious. Quiet music or no music + slow edits = empathy. Loud music + frantic edits = tension. Repeat and rinse, then fade to black. The elements for an exceptional action thriller are there, but they’re diminished by unimaginative choices made in post-production.

Song #19: “You Must Be Born Again”

Following the tradition of good Christian mothers everywhere, my mother forced me to go to church when I was kid. I got out as soon as I was big enough to physically resist being dragged there. Years later I dug up a dusty box set of Mahalia Jackson recordings my father had ordered from Columbia House and realized I might have stuck around longer if the music I experienced in church hadn’t been so wretched and dull. I never heard anything that made me want to get up and move (more like get up and leave). Mahalia Jackson singing “In The Upper Room,” “Joshua Fit The Battle of Jericho,” “Keep Your Hand on the Plough” or “You Must Be Born Again” puts the music I heard in church to shame.

All I learned from going to church is that if we don’t sin, then Jesus died for nothing. I guess I kinda missed the boat on that one.

Song #18: “Jah Rastafari”

I think it was Tom Waits who said the best thing to come from religion is the music. That means reggae music for me, because once you get into reggae, it doesn’t take long to notice certain religious themes all over place, namely Jah (God) and Jah Rastafari (God incarnate). The Rastafari movement is more accurately a form of religiosity than any kind of religion. It’s a bit half-baked, but it seems generally harmless and positive, so what hell. I can sing along to Culture’s “Jah Rastafari” and go along for the ride and love every minute of it. (I can’t make out half the lyrics anyway.) It’s all about peace, love and harmony, man, and giving thanks. At least I think that’s what it’s about.