I had my day in country music. And yeah, I loved it. But country isn't just country. It's the blues. It's jazz. It's pop. It's rock. It's classical.
Because music is music. Just like wine is wine. Just like business is business, and a deal is a deal...
OK. I've had my fun. But in all seriousness, few two things can appeal to the senses and attack them in such a blitzkrieg at the same time, with mainly favourable results, as a glass of wine and a great tune.
I'm ready to commit to three songs and three wines to hang my hat on for the rest of my life.
Or at least until the end of the week. Without further adieu, and in no particular order, I give you: my three favourite albums with specific wine pairings to go along.
Alright. I'm putting them in order. Here we go!
Song #3: Glamour Profession, Steely Dan
6:05 // Outside the stadium // Special delivery // For Hoops McCann
Fine. Nobody reading this knows this song. I can live with that. Even the album from which this epic tune hails seems to leave some Dan-Fans with tits-a-frosted. Not me. The album in question, entitled Gaucho, is the epitome of sonic sophistication. It's the perfect convergence of the complexities of jazz music, the cryptic, culturally-loaded lyricism of Walter Becker & Donald Fagen, the precision of endless sessions players at the top of their field in each respective instrument performing take after take with player after player going over the same part as Steely Don & Walt fussed meticulously over each performance, searching for absolute perfection and then some. Wait. I think that sentence got so long that I lost track of my point. But, that kind of sums up the album. Walter & Donald actually had their audio engineer, Roger Nichols, commission a special machine, which they fondly called "Wendel", that could record the actual sounds of each piece of a drummer's kit and allow them to move the hits to the exact beat, essentially creating the original version of modern digital music creation software in addition to objective perfection. The song itself is a slick (can anything in Dandom™ not be described as slick?) pastiche of the 70s Los Angeles drug scene, profiling dealers, kingpins, professional athletes, iconic meet-up spots (Mr. Chow's; at midnight, no less), Hollywood figures, all with sunset-drenched imagery to fill out the setting. If there's one criticism that could be made of this song, or even the album at large, or even most of The Dan's oeuvre, it's that it can feel a little sterile or devoid of emotion. I imagine that John Tortorella must love them. For me, this song is a clinical masterpiece that turns a real era in a major American city into a musical fairytale.
What am I drinking with it? Ridge. Anything they make. Probably Geyserville. There's a precision to these wines that doesn't totally eliminate the excessive hedonism (is that redundant?) that makes great American wines what they are. It's distinctly and unapologetically American in the most elevated way, just like The Dan. Get some.
Song #2: Jane, Barenaked Ladies
Jane // Desired by the people at her school and work
Jane // Is tired 'cuz every man becomes a lovesick jerk
If you were rolling your eyes at the first entry in this hootenanny, you're surely throwing your head back and cackling like you know something about music and think that I'm some, well, lovesick jerk for choosing a song by the fucking Barenaked Ladies. But, hear me out. I'll get it out of the way that I've been listening to them since I was 4 years old (that was in 1992 when they released their first LP studio album, Gordon), so there is definitely a familiarity bias, but that should go without saying. I've been aware of the songwriting forces in this band since I was 7 years old, and that's long enough to know that there's one member of the band, Mr. Steven Page, who was the artistic workhorse of the group. One might find it ironic that Mr. Page is no longer with the band, which, in my mind, has resulted in a far more prolific expression of artistic genius on his part as a solo artist, even though said genius had been there all along for anyone willing to look past the goofy shorts and haircuts. At their best, the Barenaked Ladies were an unbelievable backing band for Steven's genius as a songwriter and frontman, which includes this song, Jane, which he penned alongside his childhood idol, Stephen Duffy. The album on which this song was originally released was produced by the inimitable Ben Mink, who also produced and co-authored k.d. lang's lauded album, Ingénue. His touch is deft, smooth, and precise, not unlike the hands that guided the work of Steely Dan. But this song is transcendent. It's been performed live so many times, so beautifully, yet always in unique fashion. No one performance is ever like another, yet the song itself always shines. It carries the angsty emotional heartsickness that defines so many of our early (and middle and late-in-life) relationships, which is notable, as Steven Page was in his early 20s when the song was written. It's my go-to all-time favourite song by itself, and my #2 for drinking wine.
So, what do I drink with it? Breakup wine. What's breakup wine? It's Chardonnay. Preferably from the commune of Meursault. Patrick Javillier, Olivier Leflaive, or Domaine Michelot come to mind, if you're like the subject and can't decide what side you're on. This song requires a wine with polish and tragedy, in the sense that, damn the Burgundian Grand Cru classification system, how can Meursault not possess any vineyards considered as such? It's love, if not unrequited, then simply incomplete and inconvenient, but it's one that still feels so damn good.
Song #1: Atlantic City, Bruce Springsteen
Well they blew up the chicken man in Philly last night // And they blew up his house too
Didn't they ever. I think that great wine is often about substance. It's about a winemaker's ability to create a universe in which the fruit and subsequent wine belong together. For example, you don't need tart, crunchy, funky, underripe, chillable reds to spend 2 years in new oak. Let me tell you, they've tried. Oh, how they've tried. And music is no different. When the song itself is great, it's great. You can have anyone produce it and it will shine through. The best example of this is the song Hallelujah by Leonard Cohen. It's the most covered song of all time. How many of you have actually heard the original? Don't answer that. The original is a cheesy, dated (even at the time, I dare conjecture) synth-y version (which I personally love) that any untrained ear would scoff at and demand a turn of the dial upon hearing. You've never heard it, and you never have to, because so many of the best artists in history were so inspired by it that they took myriad stabs at it and they were (nearly) all great. Some turds can't be polished, and some cow patties just can't help but glisten, even on a cloudy day in Scotland. Back to the gin & tonics. Atlantic City. Bruce Springsteen. He recorded this album, called Nebraska, on a 4-track Tascam cassette recorder. He might have been in his kitchen. He might have been in his bedroom. He was definitely in his house, somewhere. The songs that came from these inventive solo sessions were initially supposed to serve as demos that he would bring to the studio with his band, but somehow these versions were released as an album, and we're all better off for it. I think The Boss had an affinity for the democratic feel of an album recorded on an $80 device that almost anybody could purchase, and he also proved that a true artist does not need a big, fancy, expensive studio to write great songs and create indelible recordings. It's his way of saying, "I've got more substance in my pinky fingernail than...than...fuck it, here's the substance in my pinky fingernail." Springsteen goes headfirst and deep into the grit of American life. But the wine isn't American.
It's plonk. It's straw-basket Chianti. How can it be anything else? It's that sad, sad nostalgia over a plate of pasta at the end of a really hard day when you know that the day after is going to be even worse and feel even more desperate. It's reality for so many who need a drink. And it hits hard. It's no surprise that they call it a 'fiasco'. Piccini is still producing it with this particular packaging. Go get one. Make a pot of spaghetti bolognese. Turn on The Boss.
And that universe I talked about establishing in the opening of this section? It's the hay.
Everything dies baby that's a fact // Maybe everything that dies someday comes back
Put your makeup on // Fix your hair real pretty
And meet me tonight in Atlantic City