“Waiting” by Man Fighting Bear (2015)

Man Fighting Bear is a hard band to categorize.  In many of the songs on their 2015 album “Waiting,” you hear the influence of artists as diverse as Joy Division, Deep Purple, Brian Eno, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, King Crimson, the Rotary Connection and Leonard Cohen, sometimes within the same song.  But the one band that comes to mind the most when I hear “Waiting” is the Velvet Underground, especially the legendary post-John Cale concerts they recorded at the Matrix in San Francisco that eventually were released as the classic “1969 Velvet Underground Live” album in 1974.

“Waiting” is one of those wonderfully cool albums where you can never tell where the band is going to go next.  For example, the song “Into the Light” starts off as a beautiful Leonard Cohen-inspired hymn and then, approximately 2-minutes in, a wonderfully dirty-sounding organ kicks the church door open like a drunken interloper, though its inclusion is actually more seamless and organic than the opening shock would indicate.   And this is why the Velvets come to mind: Man Fighting Bear blend the sacred with the profane brilliantly to produce a complex sound full of sonic surprises.

Another standout track is “Jupiter” which starts out sounding like a loose, funky Booker T. and the MG homage and then segues into a wonderfully transcendent organ driven-jam that sounds like, yes you guessed it, the climax of the Velvet’s amazing “What Goes On” and “Ocean”  from the “1969 Velvet Underground Live” album.

“Breathe” sounds like Brian Eno producing a Nick Cave cover of a Joy Division song, which is musical heaven by any stretch of my imagination:

If you want to hear the rest of the album, please check it out at the link below and more importantly, if you dig what you hear, you are strongly encouraged to purchase this from iTunes or Amazon.

http://www.manfightingbear.com/#!music/c1mkb

This is a stand-out album that is eccentric in the best sense of the word.  It’s music like this that inspired me to start not only my blog, but Dave’s Strange Radio.  Many kudos to Bill Beach, Chris Beach, and Erik Fagrelius for one of my favorite albums of this year.

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“Goodbye to Love” (1972) by the Carpenters

On the surface, the Carpenters epitomize the nadir of middle-of-the-road 1970s AM pop. But “Goodbye to Love” is a great song.  Granted, a lot of my love for this song has to due with the very prominent fuzz guitar by Tony Peluso.   But that guitar sound adds a tremendous edge to the lyrics which rival Leonard Cohen and Nick Cave in their immense pessimism and depression.   Seriously, this is one hell of a great downer song.  Had this been sung by Cohen or Cave, this would be considered more of a classic than it is.   Because it’s sung by Karen Carpenter, it’s considered AM-radio cheese.  However, I would argue that her beautiful voice makes this song even more perverse.  Either way, I love this.

“Hallelujah” – John Cale

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This Leonard Cohen song is almost becoming a cliche in terms of being covered by singers trying to be “serious” or “spiritual.”  But it’s still a great song. Jeff Buckley’s 1997 cover is probably the most famous of all the most recent versions, but I prefer John Cale’s take. Cale’s cover was the version that was featured rather prominently in the first “Shrek” film. Hearing Cale’s inimitable Welsh voice sing this while watching a very mainstream family film was an odd, but very cool experience when I saw “Shrek” in 2001.

“Bird on a Wire” (Live at Montreux 1994) – Johnny Cash

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Cash’s beautiful cover of one of Leonard Cohen’s best and most famous songs. I like this even better than Cohen’s original, mainly because that voice of Cash’s sounds like he really lived these lyrics. This is a live version that’s not too different than the studio version he recorded with Rick Rubin in 1994 for “American Recordings.”