Features

Duke Egbert's 101, Er, 131 Favorite Songs

by Duke Egbert

So, I have to admit this feature was my idea. I’m trying to figure out if I regret that or not.

I happened to mention to the DV Crack Staff that I had this playlist on [a certain Streaming Service That Shall Not Be Named] -- the 131 songs that were essential to my listening pleasure. My personal happiness. My musical jones. Why 131, you ask? Well, at the time, I was going through chemotherapy and I just didn’t have the brain power or energy to get it any lower. Now, I kind of like it. The number has character.

More importantly, I think, this project is kind of a distillation of everything we do here. When it comes down to it, there’s no hiding; this is the stuff we sing in the shower, the stuff we blast while driving, the stuff we listen to when no one else is around. I’m prepared to live with my shame on a couple of these songs -- and a couple more of them are hills I’m willing to die on.

And yes, dammit, there’s one Barry Manilow song.

Without further ado – and in alpha order by artist, just like on the playlist -- here we go.

alanparsons_anything_199Alan Parsons -- “Mr. Time”
Alan Parsons-- “Take The Money And Run”

Alan Parsons’ solo career post Project has been uneven, to say the least; one great album, one absolute stinker, and a couple of mid-range collections of hit and misses. “Mr. Time” is from the great album, Try Anything Once, and is a haunting song about death and myth -- and “Take The Money And Run,” tossed on the end of his Live CD like the Andes mint at Olive Garden, is the best thing he’s ever recorded.

Amanda Marshall -- “Birmingham”
Amanda Marshall -- “Last Exit To Eden”
Amanda Marshall -- “Shades Of Grey”

When the Revolution comes and the rest of you are hanging the 1% and killing the lawyers, I will be guillotining record company executives with great glee and malice aforethought. Exhibit B in the show trial (Exhibit A will be seen below) will be Amanda Marshall, an amazingly talented singer from Canada who quit music rather than be forced into an ‘image.’ “Birmingham” is a song about domestic abuse that manages somehow to be both triumphant and desperately sad, “Last Exit To Eden” is a gut-wrenching blues number about losing your last chance at redemption, and “Shades Of Grey” -- well, Marshall is half Afro-Canadian and half white, and this is her take on race relations. No punches pulled.

Anna Nalick -- “Shine”
If this song doesn’t give you hope, you’re already dead.

Barry Manilow -- “When October Goes”
Manilow’s 2AM Paradise Cafe is a gem. This is the crown jewel, a simple, spare arrangement of the Johnny Mercer classic.

Beth Nielsen Chapman -- “Sand And Water”
Beth Nielsen Chapman is better known for writing songs for other people, but this elegy for her late husband manages to be both mournful and defiant.                                                                                                                                                                                            

Bill Morrissey -- “Harry's Last Call”
The late Bill Morrissey, a folk singer from New England, told stories musically better than anyone since Harry Chapin. I won’t say any more -- to give away the plot ruins the song’s impact.

Billy Joel -- “Stiletto”
Billy Joel gets a bad rap. It’s cool to not like Billy Joel. You know what? Fuck that. This is one of the best evil girlfriend songs ever written. And he played one of the best concerts I ever saw, so if this isn’t cool, I don’t want to be cool.

Boulevard -- “Lead Me On”
My mystery song. I know next to nothing about this band. (They’re from Canada.) I got this as a promotional single when I worked in radio twenty-five years ago. Yet -- it’s one of the greatest uplifting rock songs ever, with a pounding drum intro. I’ve kept a copy ever since. (Seriously: if any of our readers know more, tell me?)

Bryan Adams -- “Into The Fire”
The best song from the Bryan Adams Album That Doesn’t Suck.

Carrie Newcomer -- “Lazarus”
Carrie Newcomer -- “The Fisher King”

I love Carrie Newcomer. As a Neo-Pagan, she’s one of the Christians I really respect. And on these two songs, she nails spiritual subject matter; “Fisher King” is about sacrifice and what it really means, and “Lazarus”... well, you will never read the Gospels the same way again.           

Cast Of The Motion Picture Rent -- “La Vie Boheme”
The National Anthem Of The Freak Kingdom. Long may it play.

Charlotte Martin -- “Up All Night”
British chanteuse Martin was at her best on her first CD; I’m nowhere near as fond of the follow-ups. This song, about giving up a relationship for a dream, is a killer.                                                                                                                                                    

Cheryl Wheeler -- “Addicted”
The Best Bad Relationship Song Ever. 

Various Artists / Chess In Concert -- “Anthem”
Various Artists / Chess In Concert -- “Someone Else's Story”

My favorite musical of all time, in the authoritative version starring Josh Groban and Idina Menzel. Review is linked here.

Chroma Key -- “Undertow”
From the ambient / electronica project of former Dream Theater keyboardist Kevin Moore.

Clint Black -- “Killin' Time”
Okay, we do not need any more honky tonk songs. The best one has been written.

Dan Fogelberg -- “Same Old Lang Syne”
Dan Fogelberg -- “Tucson, Arizona (Gazette)”

Another artist it’s uncool to like, if he’s remembered at all. Two more heartbreaking slices of life in song form. See a pattern here?

David & David -- “River's Gonna Rise”
Along with Motorhead’s “Eat The Rich,” the official theme song of the Smack The 1% Movement.

Delta Rae -- “Dance In The Graveyards”
A very recent add to this list, and a great representation of my personal spirituality.

Disturbed -- “The Sound of Silence”
Second Best Cover Version Ever. (For the best, keep reading.)

Don Henley -- “New York Minute”
“Harry got up / Dressed all in black / Went down to the station / And he never came back / They found his clothing / Scattered somewhere down the track / And he won't be down on Wall Street in the morning...

Don McLean -- “Empty Chairs”
When Roberta Flack wrote “Killing Me Softly With His Song,” she was talking about this song. True story.           

Duncan Sheik -- “A Mirror In The Heart”duncansheik_legerdemain_150
Duncan Sheik -- “Avalanche”

Duncan Sheik -- “Barely Breathing”
Duncan Sheik -- “Play Your Part”

Duncan Sheik -- “She Runs Away”
Duncan Sheik -- “The Dawn's Request”

Anyone who’s read my reviews on here knows I like Duncan Sheik. I would call him my second favorite artist of all time; the thing I find interesting about these six songs is they are all over the map in terms of when he recorded them and their mood. They range from the only song most people know by him (“Barely Breathing”) to obscure tracks from one of his musicals (“Play Your Part”). So what’s the same? Their honesty -- ranging on brutality at times. Sheik doesn’t pull punches, he doesn’t care what you think, and he writes what he wants. Bravo.

Electric Light Orchestra -- “I'm Alive”
Electric Light Orchestra -- “Twilight”

Would someone please remaster the Xanadu soundtrack? Thanks.

Enchant -- “Juggling Knives”
Another one-shot, from an Italian prog-rock band who manages to nail the terror and dystopia of modern life in about five minutes. 

Eva Cassidy -- “Fields Of Gold”
I’m saving the full Eva Cassidy story for an upcoming article or review. Suffice it to say there are three things that are important: 1) Her voice was angelic. 2) She died of cancer too young. 3) She’s one of the greatest what-if stories in music. And yes, she steals this song from Sting as effortlessly as Aretha stole “Respect” from Otis.

Fred Small -- “Denmark 1943”
A song about real heroes. I tear up every time I hear it.

Gordon Lightfoot -- “If You Could Read My Mind”
Gordon Lightfoot -- “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald”

You want to know how to write great lyrics? LISTEN TO THESE TWO SONGS.

Great Big Sea -- “Run Runaway”
Great Big Sea -- “The Night Pat Murphy Died” (Live)
Great Big Sea -- “The Old Black Rum” (Live)”

Because any band that can make a live CD that doesn’t suck AND cover Slade is OK in my book.

Harry Chapin -- “Bummer”
The entire cause and effect of racial injustice in this country in seven minutes. Black Lives Matter.

Heather Dale -- “Golgotha”
Heather Dale -- “Mordred's Lullaby”

Two meditations on the nature of evil from the brilliant Canadian folk singer.

Icon For Hire -- “Demons”
Icon For Hire -- “Make A Move”

Not just because they’re from Decatur, Illinois, where I lived for years. Also because they handle the intersection of rock and roll and mental illness brilliantly.

Idina Menzel -- “Brave”
My song for my second divorce.

Imogen Heap -- “Headlock”
Because it’s fun, damn it.

James McMurtry -- “Choctaw Bingo”
James McMurtry -- “Ruby And Carlos”
James McMurtry -- “Vague Directions”

There are at least two more McMurtry songs that could have made this list. But in the end, these three are the best examples of his sometimes mystical, sometimes dark, sometimes funny, sometimes horrid storytelling.

Jason & The Scorchers -- “Golden Ball And Chain”
Turn it up, very very loud. Trust me.

Jim Croce -- “Operator (That's Not The Way It Feels)”
Jim Croce -- “The Hard Way Every Time”

Another musical what-if. “Hard Way” is pretty much my life.   

John Fogerty & Bob Seger -- “Who'll Stop The Rain”
Did you know John Fogerty did a CD of duets? Did you know it’s incredible? Did you know this remake blows the original out of the water?

Original Broadway Cast of Spring Awakening -- “Those You've Known”
The penultimate song from my Second Favorite Musical Ever.

Johnny Cash -- “Hurt”
This is it, The greatest cover version ever.

Johnny Hates Jazz -- “Magnetized”
Yes, you heard that right. They’re still recording. Great song about, of all things, reincarnation.

Kansas -- “Hold On”
“Dust In The Wind” for adults.

Kate Bush -- “The Big Sky”
We used to have stereo wars in my dorm in college. This was one of my go-tos. 

Keb' Mo' -- “More Than One Way Home”kebmo_justlikeyou_150
My personal beliefs on religion in four minutes of sprightly blues.

Kenny Loggins -- “I'm Alright” (Theme from Caddyshack)
GOPHER DANCE!!!!!!!!!!

Marillion -- “Estonia”
Marillion -- “Hooks In You”
Marillion -- “Kayleigh”
Marillion -- “The Last Straw / Happy Ending (Medley)”

Part of the reason I like Marillion is they’re the Buy One/Get One of progressive rock bands. Their sound with original lead singer Fish is very different from their sound with Fish’s replacement, Steve Hogarth; Fish was baroque, Hogarth is more stripped down but still prog. These four songs are split right down the middle.

From the Fish era I have “Kayleigh”, a bittersweet love ballad, and “The Last Straw/Happy Ending”, the last track from Fish’s last album, Clutching At Straws (which I think is highly underrated, and need to review at some point). From Hogarth, there is “Estonia,” a complex meditation on survival (it refers to the sinking of the ferry Estonia, and the loss of loved ones in general), and “Hooks In You,” where for some reason Marillion decides to channel Van Halen and makes it work.                                  

Mary Fahl -- “Time”
Mary Fahl, former lead singer of October Project, is known for her ambitious vocal style. She decided to cover all of Pink Floyd’s Dark Side Of The Moon on her CD From The Dark Side Of The Moon, and this is the crown jewel of that CD, a cover that in my opinion supersedes the original. (I am putting on my bulletproof vest as we speak.)           

Matt Smith -- “This Is Not An Exit” (from the musical American Psycho)
Haunting. Elegant. Frightening. Worth checking out.

Megan McCauley -- “Tap That”
Guilty Pleasure Alert. Dammit, it’s fun, and it’s a great celebration of female sexuality.

October Project -- “Falling Farther In”
October Project -- “Wall of Silence”

Exhibit A on the “guillotining record company execs” trial. After two brilliant albums, to quote Wikipedia: “In June 1996 the band’s contract with Epic was terminated without official explanation from the label”. The unofficial explanation was that the band couldn’t be neatly labeled and fit in a niche. I have one track from each CD here, and they’re brilliant.

Pet Shop Boys -- “Integral”
I like the Pet Shop Boys. They’re alternately funny, fun, frightening, and angry. This is in the frightening camp; their theme song to an information dystopia.

Peter Cincotti -- “Do Or Die”
Peter Cincotti -- “Madeline”

Two widely different songs from prodigy pianist and vocalist Cincotti. “Do Or Die” is a peppy, poppy, danceable number about taking the opportunity when it comes. “Madeline,” on the other hand...intensely personal for me, and that’s all I’ll say. 

Peter Gabriel -- “Red Rain”
Speaking of intensely personal... I covered my love for Gabriel’s So in my review. For me, this is the highlight track. 

Pink Floyd -- “One Slip”pinkfloyd_momentary
Continuing my descent into progressive rock heresy, Pink Floyd is better without Roger Waters’ giant ego, and this is the best thing they’ve done without him. 

Poe -- “Haunted”
Another career destroyed by a negligent label. 

Porcupine Tree -- “Arriving Somewhere But Not Here”
I find Steven Wilson’s music uneven, but I can listen to this song all day. 

Prince  -- “Let's Go Crazy”
You had me at the first organ chord. 

Queen -- “The Show Must Go On”
How the HELL did Freddie Mercury do this? He’s dying. He knows he’s dying. He’s not well at all. But he comes into the studio and NAILS this song -- a song about, in the end, what he was going through. Awe-inspiring and desperately sad.

Ra -- “Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic”
Third best cover of all time. Ra takes a light, bouncy tune and turns in into a slam-dancing crunchfest.

Rawlins Cross -- “Long Night”
One of the three songs that will be played at my funeral.

Red Wanting Blue -- “White Snow”
Sometimes you just make the perfect pop song.

Renée Elise Goldsberry -- “Satisfied” (from the musical Hamilton)
Everyone focuses on “My Shot,” but this is the best song from the show.   

Rick Springfield -- “Miss Mayhem”
He still has a career, and he’s gotten better. The best song about THAT girl. 

Rush -- “Between The Wheels”
Rush -- “Bravado”
Rush -- “Distant Early Warning”
Rush -- “Red Tide”

I guess it’s obvious; my favorite era of Rush music is the eighties and early nineties. I like the synthesizer, sorry. Two great tracks from Grace Under Pressure, an eerily prophetic song from Presto, and the best song off Roll The Bones -- another of the three songs that will be played at my funeral.

Sam Riggs -- “Second Hand Smoke (Acoustic)”
The best obsession song ever written.

Sara Bareilles -- “King of Anything”
One of the best “Fuck you” songs ever written.

Sloan -- “The Other Man”
To date, this is literally the only song by Sloan I like. This one, though, is an elegant portrait of the third party in a love triangle.    

Sting -- “Fortress Around Your Heart”
Yes, he can be pretentious. Yes, sometimes his albums required a reading list. But he transcended all that here...           

Sugar -- “If I Can't Change Your Mind”
Who knew Bob Mould could be a pop star? 

Susan Cattaneo -- “Just Want To Know That It Mattered”
Another deeply personal choice. See “Madeline.”    

Susan Werner -- “Barbed Wire Boys”
Susan Werner -- “St. Mary's Of Regret”

“Barbed Wire Boys” is about almost every man I knew growing up in rural Illinois. 

Suzanne Vega -- “Calypso”
Suzanne Vega -- “In The Eye”

Vastly underappreciated artist. “Calypso” is a vivid portrait of a mythological figure.          

The Adventures -- “Broken Land”
A great one-shot minor hit from the eighties.

The Alan Parsons Project -- “Breakdown”alanparsons_irobot
The Alan Parsons Project -- “Games People Play”
The Alan Parsons Project -- “May Be A Price To Pay”
The Alan Parsons Project -- “Old and Wise”
The Alan Parsons Project -- “Prime Time”
The Alan Parsons Project -- “Psychobabble”
The Alan Parsons Project -- “Standing On Higher Ground”

Look, if you’ve read my stuff you know this is my favorite band. So why THESE seven songs? Simple. They all create a specific mood, and they create it with no wasted effort. Parsons’ greatest skill as a musician is his ability to eschew the unnecessary; if there’s bombast, there’s supposed to be bombast, damn it. These all work perfectly in that light.

The Call -- “Let The Day Begin”
Celebrating essential industries long before we got a plague.

The Police -- “Synchronicity II”
I once played this song eleven times in a row while driving ninety on an interstate in Mississippi.     

The Protomen -- “I Still Believe (Great Design)”
Two songs above we had The Call. Now we have a The Call cover. But The Protomen did it better.           

The Rankins -- “An Innis Aigh"
A gorgeous Gaelic song from an amazing family of harmonizers.

The Smithereens -- “Behind The Wall Of Sleep”
The Smithereens are the third greatest American rock band ever. Fight me.

The Waterboys -- “The Return Of Pan”
The Waterboys -- “The Whole of the Moon”

Featuring Mike Scott and a cast of dozens.  

Thomas Dolby -- “I Love You Goodbye”
My favorite song by Dolby is a song where he got really odd and dabbled in zydeco. Weird and wondrous.

Toy Matinee -- “Last Plane Out”
In a truly just world, Kevin Gilbert would be being considered for the Rock Hall Of Fame and Sheryl Crow would be a trivia question.

Vertical Horizon -- “Save Me From Myself”verticalhorizon_burning_150
For everyone who’s ever been self-destructive.

Vienna Teng -- “Enough to Go By”
Vienna Teng -- “Knock Knock”
Vienna Teng -- “The Tower”

I love me some Vienna Teng. She’s on my list of artists I need to review now that I’m back.

Wang Chung -- “To Live And Die In L.A”
Wang Chung -- “Wait”

The most underrated and underappreciated synth-pop band of the eighties. These two tracks, from their soundtrack to William Friedkin’s film of the same name, set the tone for the dark film noir perfectly.   

Warren Zevon -- “Run Straight Down”
From his Transverse City album, the CD that should be the soundtrack to William Gibson’s Neuromancer.

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