Welcome to my new monthly series called “Five on Shuffle” where I attempt to reconnect with my iPod by using it regularly throughout the year and using it only and continuously on “shuffle.” Once a month I’m going to stop at a completely random interval, snap photos of five songs in a row, and then post and write about them here. The writing may be heavy or light, depending on whether or not I’ve anything remotely clever to say about any given song in the moment.
1. The Xen To One Ratio – Steinski
Has Xen Cuts appeared here before? I feel like it has. But even if it has, this particular track is new, nonetheless. And what is this track. I believe it’s a sample mix by Steven “Steinski” Stevens, a music producer, though I could be wrong about that. Don’t know who Steinski is? Honestly, I don’t blame you, but here’s a nice Wikipedia article to bring you up to speed. What’s great about this track is that it pretty much introduces what you’ll hear on the album – samples, beats, breaks, and turntablism all intertwined. Good stuff, no doubt.
2. “Prelude,” The Ballad of Sweeney Todd
My personal love affair with all things Sweeney Todd began in high school show choir. At the start of each season, our music teacher presented the group with a varied selection of songs that we could potentially perform. One year, one of those songs was the prelude to something called the Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street. I had never heard of the musical before, and neither had many other folks in the choir. So our teacher played us a tape recording of this particular song…and I was instantly hooked. I adored the song’s cool yet sinister feel. It’s dissonance was purely captivating. Being only familiar with your classic musicals (West Side Story, My Fair Lady, etc.) and a few Broadway hits (Phantom of the Opera, Cats), Sweeney Todd was dark and magical. The film version with Johnny Depp notwithstanding (though it’s not that bad, really), I highly, highly, highly recommend Sweeney Todd to anyone who thinks they hate musicals.
3. Threshold – Steve Miller Band
When you say “synthesizers,” the Steve Miller Band isn’t a band that may readily come to mind. But this little synthesized ditty is certainly from this classic rock radio staple. I have it thanks to Young Hearts, a Steve Miller Band compilation album, but you’ll find it originally on the bands 1977 album Book of Dreams. While I suppose it’s a standalone song, it’s more of an introduction to the much more familiar song (I’m sure), Jet Airliner. Which is fun because I’m pretty sure that song is devoid of any synthesized sounds.
4. Too Shy – Kajagoogoo
True confession: For the longest time, I didn’t know if this song was sung by a man or a woman. I heard it on the radio long before I saw the video, and I just wasn’t sure. Because there are parts of the vocals that sound like they could easily be sung by a woman. Maybe the lyrics should have clued me in, but what did my young ears know? Anyway…could Kajagoogoo BE any more 80s? I don’t think so. This song is too cool for school in all the best ways.
5. A Simple Prayer – Harry Simeone Chorale
Ah, more Christmas. Only I don’t have much to say about this one. I had never heard it before purchasing this Harry Simeone Chorale album (which I only did for “Do You Hear What I Hear.”) (Also, I’m, like 99% sure his group is called a chorale and not a choir. Semantics, I supposed.) (Oh, and in case you were curious, Simeon arranged “Little Drummer Boy” – that’s one of his claims to fame.) Anyway…I will say that this song’s name belies its “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot“-type boisterousness.