Wednesday, November 26, 2014

The 100 Greatest St. Louis Songs

Posted By on Wed, Nov 26, 2014 at 4:06 AM

Page 4 of 10

70. Ryan Spearman - "Willie McGee" (2011)

Like the best folk singers, local performer Ryan Spearman takes an old song and makes it new again. Using the tune of the folk standard "Daisy Dean," Spearman spins a tale of one of the finest, most beloved players to wear the Cardinal colors: No. 51, center fielder Willie McGee. He doesn't forget other members of that great 1982 squad -- Ozzie, Whitey, Hernandez all get namechecked, but it's the humble, capable McGee that is celebrated like a folk hero. "His '82 Game 3 was such a sight to see," Spearman reminds the faithful, as if we could forget his two homers and game-saving catch in center field. This song, released in 2011, recalls the days of powder-blue uniforms and Whiteyball while hectoring the ball club to retire McGee's number. Spearman got his wish this past August as Willie Dean McGee rightfully joined the ranks of the Cardinals Hall of Fame. -CS

69. Museum Mutters - "Gabriel w/ Gabriel" (2011)

"Gabriel w/ Gabriel" is a ballad bathed in booze, describing an experience familiar to the nocturnal set: being saved from the overwhelming loneliness of a Sunday-night ride home after last call by a familiar voice coming from the left of the dial. James Weber (of the band Museum Mutters) wrote this sincere song of thanks and praise to Gabriel -- legendary DJ, entrepreneur, recording artist and host of Gabriel's Tin Pan Alley on KDHX (88.1 FM) -- who captures the hearts of the lost souls of the city with an eclectic mix of blues, gospel, oldies, bizarre banter and occasional requests for a listener to bring him a sandwich. In this song, as in St. Louis every late Sunday, it's Gabriel, guardian angel of community radio, that guides the weary drunkards safely home. -Jenn DeRose

68. G.A.G.E. - "I Am Mike Brown" (2014)

The killing of Michael Brown and the aftermath have been devastating, transformative: To his family, friends, community, the greater region, the nation, it's not too much to say the world. "Ferguson is everywhere," says the graffiti. No one will ever think of St. Louis the same way; no one will sing this city as it was before August 9, 2014. The hip-hop community has responded -- in action, in words, in music. Tef Poe delivered "War Cry" and Mvstermind created "#OPFERGUSON WAVE 1 & 2 (Westfall)," and national stars the Game and J. Cole have all produced powerful work. One of the earliest expressions of grief and defiance, by a young Philly rapper, speaks to the moment in the summer of 2014 when the pain was searing. Chaz "G.A.G.E." Scott's elegy captures the universality of the tragedy. "I can't imagine Dorian's face when he saw Mike fall," he calls out, before splicing in a recording of Dorian Johnson recounting just what he saw. "We're from a similar town, walking similar streets," G.A.G.E declares. "We got similar police, so how I know I ain't gonna end up under a similar sheet?" The question still has no answer. -RK

67. Jon Hardy & the Public - "Restless City" (2014)

You'll hear fewer portraits of St. Louis that show the promise and splendor of our city so closely enmeshed with its cancerous violence and decay. Jon Hardy couldn't have known that his band's 2014 LP Restless City would be released just weeks after Mike Brown's death and the unrest that ensued, but the album's title track eerily pinpointed much of the tension that marked the last half of 2014. In the song, summertime drinks and dalliances on Cherokee Street are pierced by gunfire, and Hardy's protagonist comforts a mother whose son has been shot down. "I know this town gets heavy / Sometimes it hits so hard," Hardy sings with passion against the dense rumble of the Public's instrumentation, but he keeps the faith of a true believer who is convinced that the best of this city is still what defines it. -CS

66. The Art Ensemble of Chicago - "From St. Louis" (1970)

These titans of postmodern jazz aren't known for looking backward, but on the 1973 album Go Home (recorded in 1970 in Paris) the band, featuring St. Louis native Lester Bowie on trumpet, turned in one of its most lovely and loving slices of River City jazz. The brief "From St. Louis" is a snapshot of the band's roots and enduring (and often under-noted) affection for melody and dance-ready rhythms. The tune may seem quaint, even nostalgic when played next to visionary skronk-outs like "Theme De YoYo," but St. Louis swing is never as simple as it seems. -RK

65. One Fell Swoop - "Seven Solid Days/Film at Eleven" (1997)

By the end of 1993, things were looking grim in St. Louis. Violent crime was at an all-time high. The city had recorded 267 murders that year, and 1994 was shaping up to be more of the same. Then, a minor miracle happened: In late November, seven days went by and not a single murder was committed. The folk group One Fell Swoop celebrated this event in song, with songwriter John Wendland and singer Cheryl Stryker marveling over our good fortune and wondering over the cause for such relative peace on the streets (perhaps something good was on TV, they posit). Cynical? A touch sarcastic? Sure, but at least the song offers a way to look at our city's crime stats without breaking into tears. -CS

64. Funky Butt Brass Band - "South Broadway Stumble" (2011)

St. Louis' Funky Butt Brass Band lives up to its name with "South Broadway Stumble," the fourth track on the sextet's 2001 album, You Can Trust the Funky Butt Brass Band. Opening with a bass line from sousaphonist Matt Brinkmann, the track mixes punchy, free-funk-styled improvisations with a laid-back New Orleans-flavored rhythm from drummer Ron Sikes and wah-drenched growls from trumpeter Adam Hucke, creating a musical sketch of a drunken trek home through south city long after last call has come and gone. -NH

63. Rum Drum Ramblers - "South Saint Louis Boogie" (2010)

With an opening line of "I refuse to be broken, standin' in my own neighborhood," listeners might suspect that this song will be a statement on urban violence, but the sentiment quickly morphs into a celebration of south city, where the music scene carries a deep sense of community and good times (through hard work) are the goal. "South Saint Louis Boogie" is accessible pre-war blues merged with danceable funk that invites spectators to revel in staunch civic pride and to "throw your arms around each other and pass one another a beer." See you on a state street. -Jaime Lees

62. Darrell Glenn - "Born, St. Louis" (1966)

As cautionary tales go, Darrell Glenn's stab at rock & soul stardom is highly danceable and only nominally preachy. As the story goes, a young, hormonally charged St. Louis couple finds a slick set of Detroit wheels and a fifth of Kentucky bourbon and...well, you can guess the rest. Glenn first came to fame through his 1953 single "Crying in the Chapel," which was later covered by Elvis Presley and the Orioles, but 1966's "Born, St. Louis," traded in his tailored country croon for something a little more raw. The track's thundering drums and rangy guitar lead play against trumpet blasts, and Glenn's own full-hearted delivery gives a rollicking sendoff to these young, dumb lovers. -CS

61. Ebony Eyez - "Stand Up" (2005)

Ebony Williams is one of our city's most important rap artists, and not just because she broke the region's glass ceiling with her major-label debut 7 Day Cycle in 2005. Though she has yet to fully capitalize on that success, her verbal skills are undeniable, her work with Trak Starz and J-Kwon is the definition of confidence, and her sound and style is pure St. Louis. And there's no doubt where she stands on the track "Stand Up," which is more than just a club-smart vagina monologue. "Can't spell hustler without that S-T-L," she snarls. "Anytime that I failed, came back and prevailed." Against the Trak Starz's breathless beats she stares down a male-dominated scene and sounds like a champion: "Never hesitate, know I'm from the Show-Me State!" -RK

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