Brian Troutman Land

The Greatest

Duel – Steven Spielberg, Dennis Weaver

by on Apr.01, 2005, under The Greatest

Dennis Weaver in Duel

Dennis Weaver outruns a blood-thirsty Peterbilt in Duel

The greasy rig and its concealed driver represent the evil Halliburton and the corrupt Dick Cheney, respectively, and David Mann is the downtrodden proletariat…

OK, I have not actually read that in some self-important dunderhead’s analysis of Steven Spielberg’s 1971 film, but I wouldn’t be surprised if such drivel disgraced the screen of my Mac someday while I’m doing some “research” on the Internet. Duel is routinely and rightfully praised as a triumph of minimalist moviemaking, but it is also subject to endless interpretation. Every idiot seems to know the true meaning that lurks beneath the movie’s 90 minutes of Peterbilt/Plymouth rivalry. But who gives a you-know-what?

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Basket Case – The Moog Cookbook

by on Mar.01, 2005, under The Greatest

The Moog Cookbook

The Moog Cookbook

If anyone ever holds a contest for “Most Mispronounced Name,” Bob Moog would have to fight it out with Wilkes-Barre for the grand prize. Moog, whose name rhymes with rogue, invented the analog synthesizer around 1964, and his instrument brought a very new and very unique sound to the music world. While its sound was considered unearthly and futuristic at first, the Moog synthesizer matured into a regular fixture of popular music by the 1970s.

Two decades later, Roger Manning, then part of a retro rock band called Jellyfish, was not finding any market for his style of music. The early ’90s music-buying crumb crunchers were busy spending their entertainment dollars on “alternative” rock from groups like Nirvana and Pearl Jam. Jellyfish folded in 1994, but Manning partnered with Brian Kehew to form a new group, the Moog Cookbook two years later.

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Alice Childress – Ben Folds Five

by on Nov.01, 2004, under The Greatest

Ben Folds Five

In the mid 1990s, a trio from Chapel Hill, North Carolina emerged from the local NC indie-rock scene to national prominence. Interestingly enough, Ben Folds Five was set apart from other groups by what it lacked: a guitar player. Instead, the band’s high-powered tunes were fueled by the masterwork of namesake pianist Ben Folds, a master at the ivories who could probably one-up the likes of Elton John and Billy Joel in the realm of pop piano.

The group’s self-titled 1995 debut album features a dozen tightly crafted songs, most with a comically impish streak. The antics are partially (and I should stress not fully) balanced by a couple of more sedate and serious numbers, including the contemplative “Alice Childress.”

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International Geophysical Year (I.G.Y.) – Donald Fagen

by on Oct.01, 2004, under The Greatest

Donald Fagen - The Nightfly

Donald Fagen - The Nightfly

Donald Fagen is perhaps best known as one of the two principals behind the ’70s jazz-rock fusion (I hate that term) group, Steely Dan. As listeners follow Donald Fagen, Walter Becker, and a rotating group of highly skilled hired hands through the group’s discography, they will note that each successive album becomes more polished, more calculated, and that rock and roll stylings take a back seat to blues-inspired riffs and jazz-based chords that are ingeniously interwoven with enigmatic lyrics to create unique and captivating musical experiences.

The 1980 release Gaucho marked Steely Dan’s last studio album (for the next two decades, at least), and someone searching a database only for “Steely Dan” would miss one of the greatest entries in Fagen’s entire career. A solo effort, The Nightfly, was released in 1982, and the entire album deserves a “Greatest” mention, but the standout is Fagen’s most successful solo single, “I.G.Y.” (continue reading…)

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