Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Top 10 Favorite Mellow 90's Jams

I figured out the reason I haven't covered the 90's a lot is because of the last five decades that was the time that rocked the least for me. The first half went OK, but after 1995 Rock music fell into a black hole of rap rock and, uh, that was pretty much it. Because I couldn't relate to the Limp Bizkits and Korn's of the world I listened to more Classic Rock. But the music of the time that had the most impact to me was...mellow Adult Contemporary. Whooping hyperactive divas, old Rockers vying for their last few CD sales of new material and sensitive lovermen pitching woo to their women couched in mushy synths and streamlined production was the backdrop to much of my life during the Clinton Presidency.

Help! I'm lost in a haze of signature coffee brands and Macarena line dancing. So let's get it started with the Masters of Mellow!

10. Dave Matthews Band - Crash Into Me (1996)

The DMB was one of the most successful bands of the 90's and their biggest hit was this nursery rhyme styled acoustic ballad. "Crash Into Me" brings back memories of spending time with my wife driving around the Bay Area or going bowling with friends. A few years ago I saw Dave Matthews perform, his voice was tore up from an admitted partying binge that left him hoarse and raspy. The song itself is one of Dave Matthews Band's finest moments, a nice blend of strummy guitars and tasteful percussion. If it wasn't for Phish, DMB would have been the jam band to take up the mantle of the Grateful Dead, bong pipe, hackeysack and all.

9. Jewel - You Were Meant For Me (1995)

Oh Jewel, your music made waiting rooms and lobbies bearable for me! Though I've never been a super fan of the Alaskan busker, I've always enjoyed the folky pleasantness of her melodies and tunes. My wife liked the first album which included this track back in the day, this is one of the songs I liked (though I prefer the single mix not included on the CD). It has a simplistic purity and bounciness to it.

8. The Verve Pipe - Freshmen (1997)

I have no freakin' idea what this song is about. Is it about, I guess, being a Freshman in school? I don't know, but the song has a nice marching beat and that "I'm so worldly with my straining vocal" tone that was popular at the time. Personally, I associate this song with going camping with my wife in Lake County. Driving with the windows down on an unlit street going through the warm Summer air. One of those "moment in time" kind of memories backed by this song, which played often on the radio that summer.

7. Lisa Loeb - Stay (1994)

When you look up "One Hit Wonders of the 1990s", there's a good chance a picture of this girl with cats eye glasses will be staring back at you. Launched from the soundtrack to the film Reality Bites, Loeb's talky ode to co-dependency had an awesome circular melody and played out like an internal dialogue arguement. The song was omnipresent and recalls the first apartment my wife and I had (it was just on all the time, no specific thing happened). Please stay Winona! No, you can't take that with you, leave it here you clepto!

6. Sting - When We Dance (1994)
At one of my first full time jobs we used to play the local Adult Contemporary stations and this song was on often. So I often think of working in that specific building, watching the rain hit the windows while carrying on with business inside a warm room. It was a pleasant feeling with a slight touch of freedom that comes from the chorus. One of my favorite Sting songs, there is also a pensiveness like something great is going to happen.

5. R.E.M. - Man On The Moon (1993)

A song from before I was married, in the early 90's R.E.M. were unstoppable and were considered the greatest thing since the invention of the wheel after unspooling classic songs like "Losing My Religion", "Everybody Hurts" and this song. One of R.E.M.'s catchiest and upbeat songs that seemed to be about late comedian Andy Kaufman. A wonderfully obtuse nostalgia piece that inspires hope and positivity.

4. Babyface - When Can I See You Again (1994)

In the early 90's Babyface hit the guitar and wrote two mushy acoustic MOR classics. The first was "Change The World" which he gave to Eric Clapton. The second was this little number, an effective coffee house folk guitar plea filled with longing and bolstered by a sparse beat. Another work song, I used to work in a back area of a store that was sort of like a cave - I often think of missing my wife while at work when I hear this song. What can I say, back then my workday was a little long.

3. Fleetwood Mac "Silver Springs" (1997)

They said it could never happen, but in 1997 the Rumours era lineup of Fleetwood Mac regrouped for a live album and tour. One of the stand out moments of the live album was a revival of this lost 70's B side, Stevie Nicks "Silver Springs". The song stands out to me as one of the defining moments of the reunion, the songwriting and passion for the music reach its peak as Nicks berates the final moments of the song at Lindsey Buckingham as he hides behind his microphone. It was great to see this song finally get its deserved audience after 30 years. I never thought the five members would reteam so The Dance was a rare treat. I went to my parents house just to watch the live MTV showing of their first concert in over a decade.

2. Journey - When You Love A Woman (1996)

Extreme bias? You betcha! Steve Perry's last great moment with Journey came from the lead single to the reunion album Trial By Fire. In the days before internet became pervasive, it was tough to get music news so I had no idea that the Escape era lineup was regrouping. My wife says I asked her to be quiet when I first heard this song at the laundromat. To a Journey fan that hadn't heard any new material since 1986, "When You Love A Woman" was water to a dehydrated man. Majestic and fantastic, no comparisons to Bryan Adams "(Everything I Do) I Do It For You" will stop me. I recall driving to Tower Records with my wife to buy the cassette single as soon as it came out. It was Beatlemana for me all over again.

1. Seal - Kiss From A Rose (1995)

Timely considering the Batman context, this swooping and delicate ballad comes from the Batman Forever film. Seal outdid himself creating this elegant piece of music, with the soft overdubbed vocals, feeling of discovery and skillful piano playing. "Kiss From A Rose" is a stone cold classic to me and one of my favorite songs. Seal's overdubbed vocals almost answer each other to build up the emotion of the piece. A great piece of music! And all this before he married Heidi Klum. Completely unexpected from the guy that plays "crazy".

And that's it for my mellow jams of the 90's. Maybe I'll be able to dig up enough rock music to make a 90's list. Until then, feel free to enjoy the sights and sound of a mellow mood in the caffeine obsessed decade of Friends.


ZombieKitteh said...

really? You left out Mazzy Star.

Mr. Mike said...

"Fade Into You" is a nice song, I'll keep that one in mind if I make another list. Thanks for posting!