Eight fall classics: An autumn playlist for Thanksgiving

Categories: Lists
Yes, that's a Bob Dylan cameo in "Gone Till November."

By Peter Gerstenzang

All of us rock and roll kids have some reason to be thankful this holiday. Maybe it's the beautiful orange foliage. Or the fact that we just defeated a really bad guy running for President. A former missionary, who probably ate cannibals. In that spirit of the season, of Thanksgiving, I offer up a handful of songs that invoke autumn. In imagery, vibe, sometimes by their very title. Listen, then. And be grateful.

8. The Band - "King Harvest (Has Surely Come)" from The Band

According to both Robbie Robertson and Levon Helm (who'd soon become each others' Superman and Lex Luthor), this classic Americana album is all about Autumn. "When the harvest is in and the carnival is in town," said Helm. While Robbie's Fender clucks like a sick chicken and Levon's drums beat like a life-threatening arrhythmia, Richard Manuel spins the tale of a farmer whose life has reached its breaking point. His barn's burned down, his horse has gone mad, then things get really bad. He prays his union will save him. But sounds so hopeless, he could be working at Wal.Mart. Hear Richard and Levon sing, "Corn in the field/Listen to the rice when the wind blows cross the water." Feel the chill.

7. Neil Young - "Harvest Moon" from Harvest Moon

For years, Neil's hippie fans had been begging him to stop with that discordant squall capable of shattering precious metals. And to play something so mellow it'd inspire deep hits on a bong. The kind that make you sound like you're breathing with an iron lung. In 1992, Young assented and brought forth this gem, the sequel to his biggest-selling album. Sung to the accompaniment of detuned guitar, brushes and Spooner Oldham's recessive organ, Young yowls about cool nighttimes, slow dancing and one big-ass moon. In an unsurprising bit of bi-polar behavior, his next album was as grungy as a 20-year-old shower mat.

6. Wyclef Jean - "Gone Til November" from The Carnival

Hip-hop star turned Ritz Cracker shill, Wyclef made this rangy, woozy mini-masterpiece about our eleventh month. Beautifully approximating the schizziness of November's extremes, redolent of both beauty and sadness. The real treat is the video, where Clef wanders woefully in one surreal freaking airport. And if he's not having a hard enough time? At one point, sitting next to him, is Master Thespian Bob Dylan. Bob nods. Wyclef wonders, 'Who is this weird little spider monkey?' The tune is gorgeous; the strings, sick!

5. Yo La Tengo - "Autumn Sweater" from I Can Hear the Heart Beating as One

A Fall classic, delivered neurotically by rock's Alvy Singer and Annie Hall. Over Georgia Hubley's complex drum pattern and Ira Kaplan's minimalist organ, this husband-and-wife team conjure up the season, by performing this tune. This quiet song may also remind you of our current U.S. Congress. Hushed and secretive. But you just know something bad is going on here. And it's echoed in the lyrics: "We could slip away, wouldn't that be better/ Me with nothing to say, and you in your autumn sweater."

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