Mr. Brick’s Top Picks – Volume 10

Tracklist

01. Howard Shore – Foundations of Stone
02. David R. Holsinger – On a Hymnsong of Philip Bliss
03. Mannheim Steamroller – Fum, Fum, Fum
04. Brak – Don’t Touch Me
05. Howard Shore – Helm’s Deep
06. Judas Priest – You Got Another Thing Coming
07. Neil Diamond – Jingle Bell Rock
08. Paul McCartney – Live and Let Die
09. Howard Shore – The Uruk-Hai
10. Monty Python – Intermission
11. Leroy Anderson – Sleigh Ride
12. Joe Cocker – With a Little Help From My Friends
13. Led Zeppelin – Immigrant Song
14. Petitmoni – Baby! Koi ni Knock Out!
15. Shogo Sakai – Brinstar
16. Edgar Winter Group – Frankenstein
17. Paul McCartney – Maybe I’m Amazed
18. Takuto Kitsuta – Mute City
19. A Flock of Seagulls – (I Ran) So Far Away
20. Howard Shore – Samwise the Brave

 


 

01. Howard Shore – Foundations of Stone (Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, 2002)

You were granted enormous reprieve when the Lost Volumes containing all traces of Fellowship of the Ring were skipped, but that was only the first phase of the Great Mania which seized the better portion of my high school days.

The love of Tolkien is something of a family tradition, starting with my mother, who taught The Hobbit in her classes for over a decade, passing to my brother, who’s devoured just about everything put to paper by Professor Tolkien, and then there was me, plowing through my third read of Lord of the Rings during 10th grade biology.

By the time Fellowship dropped in theatres (Wednesday, December 19th, 2001) I had every finger crazy-glued to the pulse of the Tolkien cinema hype train. LordoftheRings.net and TheOneRing.net were bookmarked for daily visits, my Windows kit was pimped out with a LOTR theme, and I had all the official desktop wallpapers downloaded.

Only one mattered, of course.
Only one mattered, of course.

It was a long year of waiting for The Two Towers, but the wait only fed my madness, and despite some apparent diversions from the events of the book, my hunger was sated, and the Mania lived another year, fat and feverish.

 

02. David R. Holsinger – On a Hymnsong of Philip Bliss (1989)

Another concert band number, based on the hymn “It Is Well with My Soul” by, yes, Philip Bliss.

No lamentations to be found here. I go in big for the brass hymns and chorale-types. I suspect it’s still popular in the band circuit, and good on ‘em. The hell some strings should have all the fun in sweeping majesty of music.

 

03. Mannheim Steamroller – Fum, Fum, Fum (Christmas Extraordinaire, 2001)

What is Mannheim Steamroller? Seems to me like one of these amorphous New Agey ensembles: part rock, part classical, part progressive, part retro, part whatever. It’s probably staffed with band geeks too pale and squirrelly for a legitimate pop group, but thanks to the shiny slick production, I have no way of knowing which, if any, of the instruments played are real.

Not that it matters much. For the generous portion of video game music I’ve covered, I’ve no right talking down to emulated voices. Mannheim is (apparently) big on the Christmas circuit, which is weirdly receptive to the fake-soft-power-synth-rock amalgamation. Folks go nuts for the stuff one month a year. Kinda like eggnog.

Band geekery definitely brought me here, though: “Fum, Fum, Fum”, a traditional Catalan Christmas carol, was part of a band medley for the Christmas concert that year. I guess I liked it enough to search it on the open seas.

What I found didn’t exactly match my expectations from the band version. Today I have a little trouble stomaching this, at least unironically. It’s such a fine line in that uncanny valley, and this tune is just dancing all over it. I do get some nice Jethro Tull vibes from the recorder/guitar/kazoo unison in the first minute. Still, though, there’s more than enough actual Tull out there for that.

We can do Christmas better. Sit tight.

 

04. Brak – Don’t Touch Me (Space Ghost’s Musical Bar-B-Que, 1997)

Space Ghost was a sign of great things to come. The late night block of Cartoon Network was mostly unwatched and unattended, allowing the sheer insanity we now know as Adult Swim to blossom.

The concept was genius: a retired Hanna-Barbera hero returns as a talk show host, forcing his vanquished nemeses to work for him. While the modern spotlight brought out the worst in everyone involved, no one’s tragedy was more apparent than Brak’s, who apparently (and canonically) suffered release from “the burden of intelligence” after being thrown into space dust in the original Space Ghost series.

In the Cartoon Planet days that followed Space Ghost: Coast to Coast, two CDs were released featuring the musical stylings of Space Ghost, Zorak, and of course, Brak. I 100% owe my Space Ghost exposure to my old buddy Andrew, including this album. Damn near every weekend I was at his house we played the hell out of this. The Brak songs were the best, because Brak is the best.

As an adult I find it therapeutic to consider that two adults, older than I am now, made this track. One dude laid down the sick beat, and the inimitable Andy Merrill bottled the pure wisdom as Brak. It doesn’t quite touch the greatness of, say, “Happy Happy Joy Joy”, but not all children’s entertainment need be a subversive assault on the conscience. And any sane person might still find this song just that. Who am I to disagree?

 

05. Howard Shore – Helm’s Deep (Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, 2002)

Such was the Mania. It wasn’t enough to watch the movies more than medically advised. There was painful downtime between the theatrical release and the DVD, and my parents only took me to the theatre six times this time around. I had to get my hands on the soundtrack, just so I could feel like I was still watching the movie for those lonely, lonely times in which I was not.

“Helm’s Deep” stood out because of the beefy French horn around 01:18. Say what you will about the French, man, they make a mighty good horn.

 

06. Judas Priest – You Got Another Thing Coming (Screaming for Vengeance, 1982)

Did you know? Judas Priest is NOT Billy Idol.

Don’t ask me why I always get them confused. Just throw tomatoes at me, because I’m sure the metalheads I’ve just offended are about to throw much worse.

I like metal, but I’m not a Metal Guy. I like hard stuff, but, real talk? I’m not a hard guy. I know…I know. But I swear, it’s true. Trust me.

I think when I wanted to dip my toes into heavier stuff, I really only wanted to go toe-deep. So, singles or bust. It’s good, what the hell do I have to tell you about this? Of course I had some aggression building, I was in the 10th grade, for crying out loud. It’s not like I needed to go mosh it out or paint my face or whatever. Just needed some angry fuckin’ dude spouting arbitrary anger at everybody in general. It did the trick, but it never made me a metalhead. Or whatever they’re identifying as these days.

 

07. Neil Diamond – Jingle Bell Rock (The Christmas Album, 1992)

BOOM. JUDAS PRIEST? MEET NEIL DIAMOND. DEAL WITH IT. NEIL WITH IT.

not sorry.
not sorry.

I have to hope that the juxtaposition of tracks 6 and 7 was deliberate and comedic in intention. I have to hope I was in on the joke of my own life. But like any good artifact, it only raises more questions than it answers, and like any good anthropologist, I can only make the assumptions which best serve my own interests.

Neil Diamond, guys. I grew up with Neil. My mom saw him in concert a bunch of times, played him in the car a lot. I spent almost a year in high school watching a VHS copy of Saving Silverman every Sunday night. And, yeah, I mean, I can understand why the non-Robbie-Robertson members of The Band didn’t know what the fuck he was doing on stage at The Last Waltz. But he’s still Neil. I still want to party with him.

But maybe not at Christmas. Maybe that was not a great call.

The best thing I can say about this song is that I once gave a Christmas mix CD as a gag gift. The CD was just this song 15 times. I’m usually terrible with gifts, and I totally nailed it on that one.

 

08. Paul McCartney – Live and Let Die (Live and Let Die, 1973)

I have never been a James Bond guy. To date I’ve seen two of the 451 Bond films, a veritable laughingstock in my inner circle of movie jerks. But I do love, love the Bond tradition of the Commissioned Opener. In the days of Music Review March (RIP), to celebrate whatever Bond movie was coming up (Quantum of Solace? Missed that one. Skyfall? I saw that with an ex-girlfriend, and it has since been erased from my memory, bringing my Bond Count to 1…whoops), I had a big plan to review every Bond song. I never finished the job (and probably never will), but I did learn…that Tom Jones owns. “Thunderball” is god tier.

anyway, here’s thunderball

So’s this one. Duh. Paul McCartney brings the pain, dogg, did you not know this?

Oh and fuck the Guns ‘n Roses version of this song. I’ll take six hundred Steve Perries over half an Axl Rose. What a travesty.

 

09. Howard Shore – The Uruk-Hai (Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, 2002)

The Two Towers was the soundtrack to a big year for me: getting my first girlfriend, getting notes from my first girlfriend, getting a Valentine’s Day gift bag from my first girlfriend (nice timing on that one), getting dumped by my first girlfriend after three weeks, getting my ass kicked in geometry, screwing around in P.E. class…

It felt like a big year, okay?

 

The battle of Helm’s Deep draws to a close. King Théoden and his boys are in a bad way. From an overlooking cliff, Gandalf the White appears. It doesn’t take a wizard to see the situation is dire.

“Theoden King stands alone.”

Enter Kermit the Frog, strutting in on horseback. “Not alone.”

use your imagination, pretend it's kermit
use your imagination, pretend it’s kermit

“TO THE KING!!!”

The Muppet cavalry charges down, slaying every uruk in their path, their numbers great enough to tip the balance in favor of Rohan.

 

Thanks, Jimmy.

 

10. Fats Waller and/or Neil Innes – Intermission (Monty Python and the Holy Grail, 1975)

Here is a pickle.

I wanted to credit this to Neil Innes, the default musical Python, but it turns out that sourcing the various works of music in Holy Grail is kind of tricky. A lot of the legitimately epic Arthurian stuff is taken from a professional library, but then you have some original songs like the Ballad of Sir Robin, and then you have the intermission, already out of place in its own home. Nothing like a funky organ groove to take you completely out of the fantasy and back to your pointless existence.

Anyway, Python grabbed in multiple directions for the film, and since this isn’t on the official soundtrack, I (sort of) tried to do the due diligence here so I could get a legitimate credit for a song I love. The best I can give you is Fats Waller’s “Alligator Crawl”:

And sure enough, it’s uncanny…at 01:07, for maybe 20 seconds. I don’t hear the resemblance anywhere else, though, which leads me to believe Neil Innes (or whoever the hell played this) decided to do their own jazzy spin on Fats’s tune. I’m happy to accept this, cause Fats Waller is fucking great, but I don’t know. I can’t be sure.

But I do care. It’s just that I am also trying to knock these reviews out a little faster than I have been lately, so do your (my) own research and leave me alone. THANKS NEIL THANKS FATS THANKS FOR READING, LETS MOVE ON

 

11. Leroy Anderson – Sleigh Ride (1948)

As I get older, I don’t want toys or games or stacks of cash or frankincense or peace on Earth or any of that boring garbage for Christmas anymore. I want to party with Leroy Anderson and the Boston Pops. I want the biggest, clunkinest, bog-hogginest jambox my allowance can buy, and I want a Christmas mix of this song 15 times in a row.

I wanna go down the street all day every day from December 1st through December 25th, carrying my jambox, playing this song. I want the townspeople to hear Christmas coming from around the bend, Christmas so loud that they retreat indoors out of primal instinct. I wanna knock on people’s doors and put this song in their face when they answer. I want to creep up to their living room windows on Christmas Day while they’re opening presents and press the jambox gently against the pane. If people start trying to sing along, I’ll turn the volume up. If people give me money to go somewhere else or because they think I’m homeless, I’ll turn the volume up. If Santa comes after me with a crowbar and a pack of overworked elves, I’ll turn the volume up. I’ll break into the school gym during the Christmas nativity play, go backstage and hook my jambox to the PA. The police will probably have caught up to me by then, and as they lead me away in cuffs, I’ll sing (the melody, not the lyrics) in the squad car. I’ll sing in jail. I’ll sing at the trial. I’ll sing on death row. My last words will be my best imitation of a trumpet’s imitation of a horse neigh, and the snap of a slapstick, crisp as the snow on a winter morn, will be my deathrattle.

 

12. Joe Cocker – With a Little Help From My Friends (With a Little Help From My Friends, 1968)

Poor Ringo. He finally gets to sing a song again, then Joe Cocker bursts through the wall a year later and steals the show flailing like the majestic beast he is.

I like you, Ringo, but Joe burns the fucker down with a little help from his friends Jimmy Page and B.J. Wilson, and dare we forget backing singers Madeline Bell, Rosetta Hightower, Patrice Holloway, and Sunny Wheetman. Those girls are the spine of the song.

Hat tip to The Wonder Years, which carried me through the proto-grief of the 7th grade and gave me fair warning that high school was just going to be weirder. And weird it was, with a little help from my friends.

 

13. Led Zeppelin – Immigrant Song (Led Zeppelin III, 1970)

JP was (and no doubt remains) a Zephead, and we hung out a lot, so no surprise that Zeppelin keeps turning up in these lists.

Here’s that Tin Men cover of “Immigrant Song” you didn’t ask for:

 

14. Petitmoni – Baby! Koi ni Knock Out! (Zenbu! Petitmoni, 2002)

Hooooooooooooooo boy. I wanted diversity. Nobody to blame but myself.

Look, it’s not so surprising to find a raw nugget of colorful J-pop in the video-game-dad-rock dirt, right? I may not have been an otaku kid, but I was all over that internet, and even in 2002, Japan was all over it, too. It’s like…toothpaste. You’re not supposed to swallow it, but with all that brushing, you’re bound to eat some fluoride.

It’s not like I was trolling Gaia Online for all the latest J-pop girl band hits. There were plenty of dorks doing that shit at the time, and they just had to inject it into their own works.

THAT’S IT! That’s where I found it! IT WAS FROM A FLASH ANIMATION! IT’S NOT MY FAULT YOU GUYS. What Flash was that? Gimme a minute, I can google this down. Albino Blacksheep never tosses the old stuff.

AHA! I HAVE IT! RIGHT HERE! Flash required, though. No Youtube mirror available…

asseat

…for reasons that will become rapidly apparent. UUUUUUUUUUUGGGGGGHHHHH.

Okay, you know what? The Flash is garbage, forget it. But the song? Call it acclimation, call it Stockholm syndrome, call it what you want. THIS SONG HOLDS UP. There’s a few interesting bits going on apart from the commercially engineered sugary texture. Okay, one bit: that spooky Saturday morning cartoon villain voice in the beginning that helps out in the chorus. What’s that all about?

And who’s the middle girl, anyway? She’s cute. Say, girl. I dig your work. You, uh…you speak English?

 

15. Shogo Sakai – Brinstar (Super Smash Bros. Melee, 2001)

If you’re even remotely a Nintendo kid, this game needs no introduction. For the rest of you, Melee is the second entry in the Smash Bros. series of crossover fighting games featuring Nintendo characters from various games. While the original entry had just a handful of well-known characters, Melee introduced a massive cast of both main and supporting characters from popular games, forgotten games, foreign games, and even my main man Mr. Game and Watch.

mrgw
Fighting with the TRUE WARRIOR’S ARSENAL of lobsters and sausages.

Combined with the expanded cast, the combat engine was painstakingly refined, making Melee arguably the most quintessential entry in the series. It remains popular as a competitive game fifteen years after release and two sequels followed it.

Smash calls from assets far and wide: not just in characters, but in stages (just as memorable as the characters), and with the stages come the music. Smash was a wet dream come true for game music junkies, including a fabulous array of old tracks intact and great remixes, all done by veteran composers in the industry, if not the original composers themselves.

This take on Metroid’s Brinstar is just one of several popular enough to appear in multiple Smash titles. Fresh enough to stand out in 2001 without sounding cheesy or dated. If you’re ever looking for a cross-section of Nintendo’s best music, look no further than Smash soundtracks, friends.

 

16. Edgar Winter Group – Frankenstein (They Only Come Out at Night, 1973)

Let’s stop a moment and reflect on what a heroic feat it really is to get an instrumental work of music to the top of the charts, even for a week. “Frankenstein” is the only instrumental track on its album, and it was included as an afterthought, elevated only after public demand. As in, people actually calling up the radio stations and demanding the synth-driven thrill ride colored with saxes and an elaborate percussion freakout. Truly a work of magic, but then, have a look at Mr. Winter, then look me in the eyes and tell me the man ain’t a wizard.

edgarwinter

17. Paul McCartney – Maybe I’m Amazed (McCartney, 1970)

If I am very, very lucky in this life, I will before the end have felt exactly what good Paul did when he wrote this song, will have experienced his state of pure adoration. I’ve been staggeringly close (haven’t we all?), but the difference, however small, is hardly insignificant.

For now, at least, I’m lucky enough to get to spin the song and have a look from the outside any time I need it. Nobody’s ever made it seem more real than Sir Paul.

 

18. Takuto Kitsuta – Mute City (Super Smash Bros. Melee, 2001)

Melee is possibly the most important game to me that I’ve never owned. Hell, I never even had a Gamecube. I had to get my fix on weekends playing at friends’ houses. And yeah, I was pretty bad at it.

Didn’t stop me from registering an account at Smashboards.com, then (and to this day) the premier community for all the Smash information you could need, including tier lists, tips, and tournament information. Even after I stopped playing Melee, I’d become a regular on the forums. Made myself a few friends, whom I eventually followed to another forum, where I made more new friends, followed them to another forum, even lended a hand as a moderator, then after a few years of following the trail, found myself in the most unusual, eclectic, and hilarious group of people I’ve ever met. And I do mean met; we’ve had meetups large and small for over ten years across the US and Canada. I’ve got people in Austin, New York, Canada, California, China, Ohio, Seattle, and beyond, all because of a game I never even owned.

Sure, having friends on the internet isn’t quite the oddity it used to be, but…well, it still feels just a little nuts to me when I step back and examine it, is all.

 

19. A Flock of Seagulls – I Ran (So Far Away) (A Flock of Seagulls, 1982)

This song takes me straight back to confirmation class, where I was thrown into a totally different pool of people than I was used to, due to (insincerely and unenthusiastically) attending weekly mass in a different town than where I went to Catholic school. That’s how it worked, okay? Even in the 10th grade. I didn’t resist authority or ask questions. “Go here. You’re receiving a sacrament.” “Okay.”

In confirmation class I met a bunch of public school kids in my grade and, yes, fell head over heels for one of them. Didn’t hurt that she was a Lord of the Rings fan. Since this was 10th grade, first I became her friend, started chatting regularly on AOL Instant Messenger, and eventually we hung out a bit outside of confirmation class. I spent every night wondering just how I was supposed to proceed but never quite divined the formula. Eventually, probably over AIM, I choked out my affections, which she gently put to sleep like a sick dog. I might’ve had a harder time getting over that, but out of nowhere, a girl who actually went to my school acted on her own designs toward me. Three weeks later we broke up. BEST DAYS OF MY LIFE.

This song’s assignment to this particular memory only happened because the song, a decidedly old one, fell into my good favor when I saw it on a TV spot for Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, a game released for consoles I never owned.

Anyway this is a good song. Maybe this is a good band. But the song’s legacy in the Brick canon is unrequited love. The band’s actual legacy is the haircut. In either case? No way out.

 

20. Howard Shore – Samwise the Brave (Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, 2002)

This number comes in at the end of The Two Towers, after the completely contrived and wholly uncharacteristic diversion of Faramir taking Sam and Frodo back to Osgiliath goes to shit, and the Ringwraith, whose sole purpose for existing at this point is to get the Ring, just flies away after Sam tackles Frodo to the ground. He’s riding a winged hellbeast, he’s invulnerable to everybody in the immediate area…and he just fucked off? What the hell kind of report did he make to Sauron?

“I mean, the guy was holding it out. I was about to take it. Then this other guy tackled him down. I was right there. I guess I could’ve hopped off and cut off everybody’s head and we could’ve won the war already, but, you know what? I think it was the guy from Rudy. HOLY SHIT, that’s it!! THAT’S why. The ringbearer’s best friend is Rudy. Come on, everybody knows you cried for that on Movie Night. It’s okay, boss. We all did. I almost cried again today! I could hear him doing an uplifting monologue as I flew away. Man I wish I could’ve stayed. I love that movie.”

That’s actually a pretty accurate depiction of my own conflicted emotions about this movie. Faramir even considering taking the ring to his father was totally out of the question, and his doing so in the film is yet another example of the needless, excessive conflict that Peter Jackson and company just couldn’t resist stapling all over Tolkien’s story.

Yet…I still get the fuzzies from Sam’s speech, the shots of Theoden declaring victory, the Ents trashing Isengard. Emotions run wild. Emotions run deep.

In high school I used to have Sam’s speech memorized. Still never seen Rudy, though.

rudy_no

 


 

The tracklists stay meaty, and the tracks stay mighty. With the exception of “Koi ni Knock Out”, I’d say we’re operating well within standard parameters here. No tricks, no surprises.

Going back, I certainly should have done the Interlude about Lord of the Rings, but in truth, I’ll probably never find the words to truly describe the Mania. Like I said, enormous reprieve. Let us count our blessings and enjoy this, the second and final Christmas Brick!

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