It's almost always a mix CD. Mr. Triple Air Sign here is always after the novelty, but many times these mash-up discs are organized around a theme. Like this one:
We present, for your listening and dining pleasure, the Fallen Angel himself: Lucifer.
1) Symphony for the Devil / Blood, Sweat & Tears. The Jagger/Richards classic arranged to within an inch of its unholy life. Beginning with a 90 second solo trombone space fantasy – of course! – we eventually enter verse #1 at a speedy clip. Dig the dueling tympani mixed left and right. By verse #3 we have entered early 70’s self-indulgence heaven: Behind David Clayton Thomas chewing the scenery on vocals the horns blare a descant down through every note of the scale (twice!) while a wailing guitar rises chromatically through the same scale and underneath the drummer seems to be fighting off a herd of squirrels that are overrunning his trapset. Then a 3 minute moody solo fugue for piano – of course! One wonders what Mick and Keith thought upon hearing this for the first time, but I bet the phrase “…..Bloody ‘Ell?” was uttered at some point.
(all videos open in a new window)
3) Devil House / Shonen Knife. Speaking of mirrors of American Society: You won’t find more heartwarming slices of Americana than those that come from Japan. After some ‘spooky’ sound effects a solo guitar enters and plays the ‘creeping across the room’ riff – and comes very close to hitting the last note properly. Twice! Then our mini-skirted power trio jumps in and starts the perfunctory punk. Here is the chorus: “It was a devil house / I saw it once on T.V. / Devil house / And it was very, very scary.” And who can argue with that? The fun here is the game attempts to pronounce the word ‘Devil’ repeatedly. “Da-Vee-La” is the consensus winner by the end of the song.
4) The Devil / PJ Harvey. Here’s a shocker: A PJ song that is a light and lovely piano ballad, all whispery vocals, subtle dynamics and skeletal mandolin. Want some easy money? Put this on right after any song from “4 track demos” at a party and make bets as to whether this is the same artist.
5) When You’re Evil / Voltaire. We’re cheating a bit here as the narrator is merely a minion of the Devil, but the sheer enthusiasm in which he lists his sins qualifies him at least as one a Satan Scout, or at least an Evil-lo. And few musicians nowadays have the cajones to release a march, let alone one based around a violin. Hats off (and horns on), I say.
6) Devil in Disguise / Elvis Presley. Take another look at the bejumpsuited cliché that was the King of Rock and Roll: This a rare instance of a hit 1950’s song that has two different tempos and time signatures. The verses are a sedate stroll, with some mambo accents, and the choruses are a manic zydeco/polka snare drum fest. Put this one on and see if it doesn’t make you want to dance, even if you can’t quite figure out how to.
7) Devil in Disguise / Lost Lyrics. Nobody does British punk with American stylings like the Germans. This is the same song as above, complete with bad Elvis impersonation intro, but taken at a let’s-get-this-thing-over-with-quickly pace. The tempo shifts are there, but each one is taken at twice the clip as the original. And there’s nothing funnier than a drunk German tenor attempting to approximate Elvis’ baritone.
8) Preaching Blues (Up Jumped the Devil) / Robert Johnson. And now for the real deal. This track is from the 1936 recording session, the one done in a hotel room in San Antonio, Texas. Actually two rooms: One for the artist sitting on a wooden chair in front of a microphone. And the other for the recording equipment and engineer, with the mic cord running under the door and down the hall. Over a jarring staccato descending riff, with numerous slide fills Robert sings, howls, whispers and speaks of his torment. It’s a bit minstrely, but it’s not without some genuine drama. When he tells you matter-of-factly of the Blues: “If you aint never had ‘em / I hope you never will.” It is not hard to hear the pathos and compassion of his world. In the final third of the song his guitar playing and singing become so manic and energized that you can hear his wooden chair bouncing and sliding around on the bare wooden floor of the hotel room. Awesome.
9) The Devil Went Down to Newport (Totally Rocking) / Mono Puff. Actually a solo album from They Might Be Giants’ guitarist, John Flansburgh. This is the epic tale of a surfing contest between God and the Devil. See kids, check out the Apocrypha; all kinds of fun stuff in there.
Mono Puff - The Devil Went Down to Newport (Great video!)
10) Devilmaster by Infermco / Firesign Theatre. First rate send-up of an informercial by the zanies who brought you “We’re All Bozos on This Bus” more than 35 years ago. And they haven’t lost their edge yet. “Out demons out – and in profits in!”
11) Devil’s Trill / Vanessa Mae. I own several versions of Guiseppe Tartini’s Solo Violin Sonata in G Minor – it’s one of my favorite pieces of classical music. The trills in the title refer to brief staccato ‘bounces’ that move from string to string, like plucking with the bow. And near the end of the piece the violinist is required to trill on one string whilst simultaneously ‘executing swift passage work’ on another. Wow. As I said, I own several versions of this, but I chose Vanessa Mae’s techno version for several reasons: It squishes 16 minutes down to less than 4, you can dance to it, she's really purty, and it features lots of beepy cellphone sounds throughout the mix. No, really!
12) Me and the Devil Blues / Cowboy Junkies. I’m sneaking in another Robert Johnson song here. I mean, the guy totally rocked and he wrote about the devil A LOT. This is a unique version, sung from a woman’s point of view. And it is no less chilling to hear Margo Timmin’s angelic voice sing a line like “I’m going to beat my man till I get satisfied.” The mix I have in mind is far different from the slow, acoustic album version however. This is the one included in the “Pump Up The Volume” soundtrack, which simply doubles the tempo of the backing tracks. It’s a carousel of spooky accordion, bass, slide guitar and violin, all sliding in and out of Margo’s riveting vocal. Awesome atmospherics.
13) The Devil’s Son / Jolly Rogers. Change of pace. This is a down and dirty song about Blackbeard; accapella with a continuo of bodhran and didgeridoo.
14) The Day the Devil / Laurie Anderson. One strange song from one strange woman. I could point to many reasons, but we’ll just leave it at the gospel bridge where a chorus triumphantly sings: “Gimme back my innocence! / Gimme a brand new suit!” Ummm, yeah. Sure. Whatever you say Laurie…….(*tiptoes away quietly*)
15) Runnin’ With the Devil / Van Halen. As mentioned above, I am a 70’s kid. I was 13 when I first heard Eddie’s guitar, and I still feel that age when I hear it today.
16) Race With the Devil / Stray Cats. About 2 minutes of this 3 minute song are Brian Setzer’s guitar solos, and that still aint enough for me.
17) Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea / George Harrison. With nothing more to prove as a guitarist George here tackles a Dixieland classic on the ukelele. Go George! You were always my favorite Beatle.
18) Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea / The Firehouse Five Plus Two. This is the Dixieland version of this Dixieland song. It only lasts 2:30 and the first half is a massive tuba solo. Zaniness.
(Couldn't find an appropriate video, so here is an inappropriate one.)
19) The Devil’s Been Busy / The Traveling Wilburys. Speaking of George, and of a bunch of other legends with nothing left to prove. This song is so cheeky it even has George playing fills on a sitar. The real fun though is that they handed the second verse to Bob Dylan, who sounds like he just woke up in the studio hungover after losing a fight the night before. He takes a stab at the melody for awhile, but since it is far beyond his range (not a hard task, admittedly), he just sort of gives up towards the end. Thanks Bob! Voice of a generation!
20) Witches of Eastwick: The Devil’s Dance / Gil Shaham and Jonathan Feldman. From an entire album of spooky duets for violin and piano. Bouncy Halloween fun.
(Couldn't find a video of this version, so here is another song from the same album and a video that features Benedict Cumberbatch's cheekbones.)
21) Satan’s Bed / Pearl Jam. Speaking of giving up on a vocal line. Halfway through the last verse Eddie Vedder comes down out of the screamy emo posturing and just talks to you, the listener, as a friend. Charming. Also Includes the line “I’ll never suck Satan’s dick” which mitigates the charm of the song to some extent.
22) Devil Got My Woman / Skip James. More Delta Blues. A haunting tenor voice that could make Prozac weep. Don’t listen to this alone in the dark.
(Video from 1966, when Skip was about 130 years old. Yes, that's Howlin' Wolf watching reverently off to the side.)
23) Mephistopheles’ Return / Trans-Siberian Orchestra. Overblown dynamics of Meatloafian proportions. DO listen to this one alone. Anybody else in the room will just roll their eyes, call you a drama queen, and suddenly remember that they had an emergency appointment to go get the couch reupholstered.
And that, with a little trimming here and there, is my Devil CD. Most tracks available from iTunes. And if you have some Satanic faves, leave me a comment. Who knows? Volume 2 might descend from Heaven someday! Bwa-ha-ha!!