Wednesday, January 23, 2013

The Pogues: “The Very Best Of” (2013) CD Review

Back in the late 1980s my friend Dan Ryan and I would listen to a lot of music, talk about music, and even make some of our own (him on bass, me on drums). One band that came up over and over was The Pogues. We loved Irish folk music, and were excited by punk bands like The Buzzcocks and The Modern Lovers. The Pogues combined all of that to create a sound that was all their own. And sure, part of the fun was trying to discern the lyrics when Shane seemed to mumble.

The Very Best Of is of course not the first collection of Pogues songs to be released. I picked up Essential a couple of decades ago when it came out, but that album only included Island releases and so didn’t have any tracks from Rum Sodomy & The Lash, which is perhaps the band’s best album (certainly one of the best titles of any album anywhere ever). This new collection, The Very Best Of, has a good number of tracks from that album, including “Sally MacLennane,” “The Sickbed Of Cuchulainn” and “A Pair Of Brown Eyes” (all of which are fantastic songs).

This collection features more than an hour of music, and has liner notes by Spider Stacy (according to the notes, “Streams Of Whiskey” was the first song they ever performed live). The songs are full of great characters and wonderful stories. Plus, they’re fun, and most will get you dancing. Try to stay in your seat during “Body Of An American” or “Sally MacLennane.”

This CD opens with “Dirty Old Town,” an Irish song that every single band will play on St. Paddy’s Day. And for good reason – it is a damned good song.  “If I Should Fall From Grace With God” is a favorite of mine. I used to listen to it a lot back in high school. Turn it up, and dance around.

This collection also includes “The Irish Rover,” and yes, it’s that great recording with The Dubliners. Just fantastic. Quick, name as many Irish songs with the word “rover” in the title as you can.

“A Pair Of Brown Eyes” in an incredible tune with some excellent lyrics. Check these out: “I lay down on the ground/And the arms and legs of other men/Were scattered all around/Some cursed some prayed, some prayed then cursed/Then prayed then bled some more/And the only thing that I could see/Was a pair of brown eyes that was looking at me.”

“Fairytale Of New York” is, without a doubt, the best Christmas song ever written. Nothing else comes close. What other song can make you laugh out loud on one line, then move you to tears on another? It’s a sweet love song (a duet with Kirsty MacColl), yet also has the line “Happy Christmas your arse, I pray god it’s our last.” This is one of the best songs I’ve ever heard, and is the only Christmas song I can listen to all year long. If somehow you’ve managed to get this far in life without having heard it, you owe it to yourself to give it a listen.

“Sally MacLennane” is one of my favorite Irish songs. Actually, it’s one of my favorite songs over all. It’s so much fun. And I can’t help but shout “In the rain,” “On the train” and “Far away” whenever I listen to it (sorry, neighbors). This also has that great line, “Some people left for heaven without warning.”

“Rainy Night In Soho” is another beautiful love song. Here is a taste of the lyrics: “We watched our friends grow up together/And we saw them as they fell/Some of them fell into heaven/Some of them fell into hell.” And then: “And I stepped into your arms/On a rainy night in Soho.”

CD Track List

  1. Dirty Old Town
  2. The Sunnyside Of The Street
  3. If I Should Fall From Grace With God
  4. The Irish Rover
  5. Rain Street
  6. A Pair Of Brown Eyes
  7. Boys From The County Hell
  8. Fairytale Of New York
  9. Body Of An American
  10. Thousands Are Sailing
  11. Sally MacLennane
  12. Misty Morning, Albert Bridge
  13. Tuesday Morning
  14. Rainy Night In Soho
  15. Streams Of Whiskey
  16. The Sickbed Of Cuchulainn
  17. Young Ned Of The Hill
  18. Love You ‘Till The End

The Very Best Of The Pogues was released on January 22, 2013 through Shout! Factory.


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