“Jambalaya” – Hank Williams. Classic. That steel guitar wandering around in the background. My old friend Pat McCurdy used to play this song at his shows (I’m sure he still does). There was something so charming about being in a bar packed with drunk Chicago people, all of us singing the lyrics to “Jambalaya” at top volume. Harmonizing. GO, HANK.
“That’s All Right” – Elvis. Live on the Louisiana Hayride radio broadcast, January 15, 1955. He had recorded the song that shook the world in July of 1954. It is almost inconceivable how quickly everything moved after that. Here he is, on the big stage in Shreveport, introducing the song – “We’d like to do for you our very first release.” His accent is still strong. Real strong. You can hear how raucous it is in that auditorium. Girls start screaming after the first line. It sounds like there’s boogie-woogie piano going on back there too (the sound isn’t too great). We are so lucky to have these recordings.
“I’m a Rover” – The Dubliners. I love how the first three songs on this shuffle all pre-date my own birth.
“Old Shep” – Elvis. Okay. So this song is pretty difficult to get through. I admit it. But there is something charming about it, merely because Elvis loved the song so much, he had sung it at the State Fair when he was 9 or 10 years old, and so had a soft spot for it. He chose to record it once he became a star, and that’s very touching to me. He wasn’t just going with the flow and doing what he was told (although that’s the common narrative). He also suggested songs. I can’t imagine that anyone at RCA was like, “Oh my God, Elvis, please sing this sentimental snooze-fest about a boy and his dog!” But he wanted to do it because to him the song represented how he got his start. He always remembered where he came from.
“Jump Jack Jump” – Wynona Carr. I will always be sorry that this wonderful singer did not record more. She died in obscurity. She did this one album, had cut her teeth on the gospel circuit (knew Sam Cooke very well), before transitioning to “secular”, following the lead of Cooke. She’s got a rough voice, gritty, earthy, that great gospel sound. There’s also a compilation of her gospel stuff, and you can hear how that style segued perfectly into pop music. Hell, it CREATED pop music.
“A Thing Called Love” – Jerry Reed. Oh, how I love the Alabama Wild Man. This is a beautiful gospel song. Elvis’ version is great, but this one is too. With that unmistakeable Jerry Reed guitar going on underneath.
“All Over Me” – Charlie Rich. Oh, Charlie, what do you do to me every time I hear your voice? Sexy sexy sexy. Yearning. Bluesy as hell. What a voice.
“Eleanor Rigby” – The Beatles. I have such vivid memories of discovering this song during the Beatles craze that swept my 5th grade class. This was long after the Beatles broke up. My parents had their albums, but 5th grade was when I really DISCOVERED them. (I learned how to sing harmony by practicing with their songs. “Love Me Do” is a great song to learn how to harmonize.) But “Eleanor Rigby” haunted me. I was 9, 10 years old. I could not understand the lyrics but they cracked open the adult world to me, a world filled with such sadness that it created a mood of anticipatory dread. His face in a jar by the door? “Nobody came.” That was the saddest thing I ever heard. The song was too “grownup” for me, but it was a glimpse … a glimpse of the way things are. It really disturbed me.
“Overture” – Bleu. I love this man. This is the first track on his latest album, To Hell With You. And it’s a real overture. Like something out of Disney, with sopranos singing. It sounds Danny Elfman-ish at points. I saw him in 2012. He’s one of my favorites. And welcome to the Shuffle List, first contemporary song of the bunch!
“Little by Little” – The Rolling Stones. It’s a jam. A rough jam that still leaps out of the speakers. 1964. They’re on fire.
“Naked” – Tracy Bonham. She’s a favorite. Great songwriter. Great singer.
“One Night” – Elvis, August 11, 1970, midnight show, Vegas. His history with this song is fascinating. It’s fun to hear him sing it as a full-grown man, filled with blues and sex and that careless sense of fun that he had at his best. He really goes there in this performance. Nothing, of course, can compete with his version of the song during the 1968 comeback special which is One for the Ages.
“Snowbird” – Elvis. From his wonderful country album, basically thrown together during a recording spurt for another album. Some great stuff on that album. I love it when Elvis goes country. This is pretty mild: after all, it’s mainly known as an Anne Murray song. It’s got no teeth. But he – and his gentle performance – is perfect.
“Almost Always True” – Elvis, from Blue Hawaii. That album is so good. Crazy. But totally entertaining. Elvis at top form. Everything looks fun. Everything looks easy. You think what he does was easy just because it LOOKS easy? Think again!
“Wishing” – Buddy Holly. The harmonies (he harmonizes with himself, doubly pleasing). The major-to-minor chord progression: so satisfying. And I love the arrangement. This was released posthumously.
“Then We Are Decided” – from Jesus Christ Superstar. “He’s just another Scripture-thumping hack from Galilee!” “The difference is they call him King. The difference frightens me!”
“Turn on a Dream” – The Box Tops. I love these guys. Where the great Alex Chilton – still a teenager – cut his teeth. Funky, doo-wop, bluesy Memphis boys. Memphis, man.
“Finale” – from Hello Dolly the movie. Walter Matthau. The stories of this overblown and unpleasant shoot are legendary. Plus how hugely it bombed, how it was the death of the big Hollywood musical, and all the rest. But I don’t care. I grew up on this movie. Mitchell and I quote it constantly. “You salt your beets, I’ll salt mine.”
“Take Me or Leave Me” – Idina Menzel, from Rent. I don’t know, girl, maybe you need to learn how to compromise, too. Maybe stop focusing so much on how awesome you are? Just a tip.
“Bullys Pt. 2” – Eminem. His lyrics and rhyme schemes are insane. It’s very complex, what he’s doing. Daunting. I love it when he sings, too.
“Life Story” – Lynne Wintersteller, from Closer Than Ever, the white-yuppie-30something-Baby-Boomer musical. Some wonderful songs in that musical, and I was very very into it in college. I grew past it. I see some the material as actually abhorrent now. The self-involved-ness of these people, their self-satisfaction about their political activity in the 60s (as though they are the only generation ever to give a shit), and their baffled reaction when the world didn’t turn out to be a Utopia. Now, granted, I’m Gen-X, and we are known for our cynicism. (I like to call it REALISM, but never mind.) Who the hell promised you people a Utopia? You took too many drugs in the 60s. Utopias don’t exist. Only dictators have the power to create a Utopia, so you can keep your Utopia. What the hell am I talking about. It’s a dumb musical. This is a beautiful song, a disappointed feminist anthem. A woman who gave up personal happiness for her career. And then looks out the window and wonders what she has done with her life. There is one great line about trying to get a job at age 49: “And those sweet young things who hire me now, those MBAs making 50 thou, who smile and ask what I have done, when they got their jobs from the fights I won …”
“All I Want for Christmas is You” – Michael Buble, covering the Mariah Carey classic. He does a lovely job. But it just shows that whatever happened with Mimi’s version: it can’t be recreated. What happened in her version was magic, eternal magic.
“Little by Little” – Nappy Brown. I love Nappy Brown, and all his Savoy stuff. I have a whole compilation.
“Candle: Coventry Carol” – Tori Amos. I love her. She also drives me crazy. Here, she drives me crazy. Lighten up, Tori.
“Woman Without Love” – Elvis Presley. Recorded in 1975. He sounds pretty damn good for a guy supposedly in a downward spiral. His voice is gentle and yet full. I love it when the huge chorus comes in.
“Right String Wrong Yo Yo” – Carl Perkins. This one MOVES. Well, they all move. This was recorded at Sun. Super sexy.
“The Impossible Dream” – Elvis, live in Las Vegas. It’s this kind of stuff that drives some Elvis fans crazy. WHY is he singing power ballads and show tunes? What happened?? But THIS is just as sincere as “Hound Dog”. And you have to accept that if you want to fully understand the man. Elvis lived the “impossible dream” and he KNEW it. It’s here in his voice, how he throws himself around in the song, up and up. Also, let’s not forget: a song like this allows Elvis to show off his pipes. The final note, he goes up the octave. It’s the “extra mile.” It’s a LEAP upward. He knows he can do it. But he’s got to take a big breath to get there. This is representative of pure guts, stamina, and heart. That’s why he was Elvis.
“(They Call It) Stormy Monday” – Lou Rawls. Man, he swings. His voice is so smooth, so beautiful. In the middle of swinging around, he’ll settle on a note for a second … and out comes his rich vibrato … but he doesn’t linger. He swings on into the song. The opposite of self-indulgent. The other thing I love about him is he is a storyteller. Every song is an inner monologue. A story he wants to share.
“Season of the Witch” – Donovan. My parents had one of his albums when I was a kid. I loved “Mellow Yellow” but it also scared me a little bit for some reason. It felt very grownup. I have a couple of Donovan tunes. This is my favorite. It still sounds fresh, no wonder it was picked as background for a recent commercial, although I’m not remembering which one. It’s very “90s-grunge” sounding, although 30 years before.
“It’s All Wrong, But It’s All Right” – Dolly Parton. This has been a pretty boy-heavy Shuffle thus far, so Dolly is welcome. She’s always welcome.
“Gimme Shelter” – The Rolling Stones. I don’t care how many times I’ve heard it. It’s still terrifying. I can’t say anything new about it. A song that tapped into – or, expressed – or ran from/embraced – the mood out there in the world that was dark and wild and terrible … in a moment when nobody really wanted to hear it, or at least didn’t understand the message, couldn’t hear it, there was still belief in that final chorus with the change-up: “It’s just a kiss away …” but in the song even Mick sounds like he’s not sure if that’s true, if that was ever true. After what they all just unleashed, “it’s just a kiss away” sounds like whistling in the dark. That’s not a criticism. It’s human to not want to face the darkness. It’s human to want to find hope.
“Drinkin’ In My Sunday Dress” – Maria McKee. I love her. What a voice, man. Have you seen the movies she’s made with her husband, Jim Akin? I recommend both: After the Triumph of Your Birth (my review here) and The Ocean of Helena Lee (my review here).
“Long Long Way From Home” – Foreigner. It’s so melodramatically macho.
“Good Time” – The Beach Boys. “Maybe it won’t last but what do we care? My baby and I just want a good time.” The arrangement, the progression … it seems so simple. IT IS NOT.
“Jailhouse Rock” – Jerry Lee Lewis. I am currently re-reading Nick Tosches’ dauntingly brilliant biography of Lewis, Hellfire: The Jerry Lee Lewis Story.
“Norwegian Wood” – Waylon Jennings. Sigh. So so good.
“Drunk Girls Don’t Cry” – Maren Morris. She is a recent discovery. I like her a lot. A tough-talking country song. “Girl, you gotta know when to clean house and throw his shit out in the yard.”
“Starstruck” – Robbie Williams. He has a new album coming out! I’m so excited. It’s been three years. I loved this recent interview with Williams on the Graham Norton Show. I love Justin Timberlake roaring with laughter.
“Taking Over Me” – Evanescence. I love her voice. It’s quite epic. A great rock ‘n’ roll voice. I love the heaviness of the arrangements, too. This is some dark shit.
“Borderline / Open Your Heart” – the Glee cast, in their Madonna episode. I like the harmonies they add in in their arrangement. I’ve heard both of these songs so many times it’s difficult to even HEAR them anymore. That’s part of the fun of some of these Glee songs. I’m not saying they’re better than the original, just that they breathe new life into an over-played song.
“Just a Little Talk with Jesus” – Elvis and Carl Perkins. Part of the so-called “Million Dollar Quartet” … my favorite part. Elvis and Carl just go OFF. Elvis and Carl harmonizing. Elvis taking the lead. He so rarely sang with OTHER people, it’s so awesome to hear this. Elvis also plays conductor, saying at one point, “Slow it down, Carl …” Elvis continues on with the lead, and Carl does the echo behind him. Thrilling. Country boys. Pentecostal boys. With pompadours and shiny shoes.
“Mama Told Me Not to Come” – Tom Jones absolutely KILLING the Three Dog Night song. He KILLS.
“Suspended in Time” – Olivia Newton-John. From the Xanadu soundtrack. Because of course. She has such a perfect voice. It can be soft and whispery, but she can also open up her throat into a thrilling belt. I love her.
“Your Lovin’ Man” – Vernon Taylor. A Sun Records artist. My favorite parts: the bass line. The simple little guitar solo. Everything is in them: country/blues/gospel.
“Honkin’ Down the Highway” – The Beach Boys. I can’t wait to read Brian Wilson’s book, as well as Mike Love’s book. The Mozart/Salieri comparison is probably unfair! But still: I need to read both, and I need to read them back to back.
“Bones” – The Killers. I love them. What’s the consensus out there about them? I don’t care, because I’ll love them anyway, but I’m curious and too lazy to Google. I love Brandon Flowers’ voice.
“Survival” – Eminem. From his latest double-album The Marshall Mathers LP2. Along with “Legacy,” this is my favorite track on the album (which is back-to-back great).
“Thorn Within” – Metallica, from the generally-reviled Load, an album I really like. Yes, it’s different from their normal fare, and maybe it doesn’t “go” with their image. Strike that: it definitely doesn’t “go”. But I think it’s entertaining.
“They Won’t Go When I Go” – George Michael. A stunning vocal performance.
“Can’t Fight This Feeling” – REO Speedwagon. Oh, for God’s sake.
“Key to the Highway” – Big Bill Broonzy. The best. I grew up hearing that name around the house. My dad’s name was Bill. Mum occasionally called him “Big Bill Broonzy.” I totally accepted it, and didn’t really put it together as referencing something else. I come from a musical family. Not just The Clancy Brothers. But Big Bill Broonzy too.
“Still Doing Time” – George Jones. One of my favorite voices in country music. I realize that this does not make me in any way/shape/form unique.
“Tutti Frutti” – Queen, live at Wembley. Thrilling. This whole concert is incredible.
“Needles and Pins” – Del Shannon. “Runaway” might be my favorite pop song ever written. A Del Shannon fan from the first time I heard it. And I was probably 8 years old when I first heard it.
“Creep” – Radiohead. Bands go through entire decades-spanning careers without writing a song that strikes an emotional chord like “Creep.”
“Wildcat Tamer” – Dale Hawkins. Primal. “I’m a wild cat tamer …” The wild taming the wild. A match made in rockabilly heaven.
“My Baby Likes Western Guys” – Brenda Lee. You might want to look for another boyfriend, Brenda. One who likes girls. Just a suggestion!
“Farewell to Carlingford” – The Clancy Brothers & Tommy Makem. My entire childhood is in this sound. The harmonies here make me want to cry.
“Hoy Hoy” – The Collins Kids. Rockabilly heaven.
“Don’t Put It Down” – the cast of Hair, the Broadway revival. Great ensemble. Some good songs. But I have a problem taking this hippie-dippie shit seriously. It’s a character flaw, I admit that. Or maybe it’s that those in my family who were in that generation – those who were in their teens and 20s in the 1960s – were not flower-children, doing drugs and chanting in a commune and “checking out” and all the rest. My family wasn’t protesting the war. They were fighting IN the war. And they weren’t drafted, they signed up. I’m not saying it was a good war. If I sound snotty about this, well it’s a reaction to the snottiness of the other side who feel that going to muddy outdoor concerts represented some kind of enlightenment. So all the Utopia-Uplift stuff … it’s just not in my heritage. I’ve always had suspicion for it. As you can imagine, this attitude makes me a ton of friends!
“It’s Over” – Roy Orbison. I was fascinated to read about Orbison’s journey at Sun Records and his relationship with Sam Phillips in Peter Guralnick’s recent biography of Phillips. Roy Orbison had been radicalized (as so many people were) after seeing Elvis play live. He immediately changed his life-goals, his inspirations, who he wanted to be. But Orbison had different gifts, and one of them was his stupendous voice, which he loved showing off in these melodramatic ballads. Sam Phillips didn’t care for it. It wasn’t the kind of music he was interested in. Additionally, Phillips got so swept up in the Jerry Lee Lewis fervor that the other Sun artists (Johnny Cash and Orbison, primarily) felt neglected. Orbison was his own kind of artist, and he was fenced in at Sun. He finally found his way but (if I recall correctly) there was a fair amount of bitterness at how Phillips had treated him.
“New York State of Mind” – the Billy Joel song as performed by Lea Michele and Melissa Benoit on Glee. I was such a huge Billy Joel fan as a teen that – honestly – I can’t listen to him anymore. I feel a little bit bad about that. That’s one of the fun things about these Glee covers: they can re-ignite interest in a song I have listened to one or twenty too many times. This is a beautiful duet by two talented singers.
“Pop, Let Me Have the Car” – Carl Perkins. The innovator. The guy who put it all together. He’s on fire here. He wants – he needs – to get laid. He needs that car.
“Roadrunners G Jam” – Humble Pie. So hot. There’s a blues-jam-session feeling to it, but it’s got some funk elements too, that crazy keyboard, like what the hell. This is off the first album they put out after Peter Frampton fled for greener pastures.
“Take Cover” – Bleu. What a voice. He can do anything. He DOES do anything. Great song-writer. He has this whole other career writing songs for Pop Princesses. I can see why. He’s a hit-maker. A star. But his own stuff, his performing, his voice … he’s just the best thing going right now.
“(I Love You) For Sentimental Reasons” – Sam Cooke. He was just a perfect performer. The whole package.
“You’ve Got Another Thing Coming” – Judas Priest. You promise?
“Dust” – Eli Young Band. Pretty “stock” contemporary country, but I like it. He’s no Eric Church. But who is.
“Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In)” – Kenny Rogers. Oh hell yes.
“Bass For My Birthday” – The Troggs. Hilarious. I love these guys. Probably the best thing written about them is Lester Bangs’ frighteningly-titled “James Taylor Marked For Death.”
“Hungover and Hard Up” – Eric Church. Speaking of Eric Church …
“Yup” – E-40. J’adore so hard.
“I Fought the Law” – The Stray Cats. You know, they were huge when I was in high school. There was this weird mix of New Wave and post-punk and rockabilly going on. People were actually wearing poodle skirts at one point. I had one. Plus Madonna and Prince. It was a rich time. Don’t let anyone tell you different.
“I’m Gonna Set My Foot Down” – Buddy Holly. I love it when he gets pissed off. The sweet love songs are good, too, but I think something interesting and exciting comes out when he gets fed up. That’s what rock ‘n’ roll is all about.
“Diamond Head” – The Beach Boys. Nice lazy Hawaiian beat. Soporific instrumental.
“Fairytale” – Elvis covering The Pointer Sisters. I love their version, but I love his too. Great country song. And he’s pissed. He’s outta there. “You used me. You deceived me. And you never seem to need me. But I bet you won’t forget me when I go.” We won’t, Elvis.
“John Wayne” – Lady Gaga. This is from her album that just dropped – her country-ish album – so I haven’t had a chance to absorb it yet. This is an excellent dance track. Leave it to John Wayne to continue to be cool.
“Quiet” – from Matilda, the Musical. Never seen the show. Love the music though! The kids are excellent, some of this music is very challenging! Like this one.
“Metal Militia” – Metallica. Is anyone faster than them? It’s overwhelming.
“Ride the Lightning” – Metallica. One of my favorites of theirs. Exhilarating.
“Rehab” – Amy Winehouse. It still sounds brand-new, alarmingly so. You stop in your tracks when the song starts. It’s audacious. You can’t believe it exists. I miss her.
“Who Do You Love?” – The Band. A crazy jam. One of the best things about their stuff is that you never forget that it’s PEOPLE making that sound. You feel their humanity, even when you don’t SEE them.
“A Flat” – Black Violin. I love these guys. I got into them – as I think a lot of people did – when their video for “Stereotypes” went viral (and maybe there was an NPR spot about them too.)
“The Adams Administration” – the Hamilton soundtrack. Poor John Adams. He’s not even IN the musical. Great song, though, about Hamilton going after John Adams. It was the beginning of the end for Hamilton. Political suicide.
“Something Inside of Me” – the great Elmore James. The blues can be Pure Heaven. Like this.
“Love and Peace Or Else” – U2. Shut up, Bono.
“Shake That” – Eminem and Nate Dogg. Oh hell yeah. Sex that shit up, Slim. Great dance track from the Gloomy Recluse.
“Man In a Suitcase” – The Police. Wow, I forgot about this song. I love that album, Zenyatta Mondattta. I was such an enormous Police fan in high school and that love has faded. Not sure why. Just one of those things I grew out of. But I’m still happy when they come up.
“Ol’ Man River” – Screamin’ Jay Hawkins. If an alien came to earth, and listened to Screamin’ Jay Hawkins, the alien would turn to us humans and say, “How do you explain this? What is this? How do I classify this?” The only valid answer is: “There is no explanation. Sometimes something comes along that cannot be sufficiently explained. The only thing to do is listen and enjoy and be thankful that geniuses sometimes choose to walk on the earth. But don’t expect to find a similar make and model among the rest of us. Can’t be done.” LISTEN TO THIS TRACK.
“25 Minutes to Go” – Johnny Cash at Folsom Prison. What an incredible moment. Listen to that crowd. You feel like at any second a riot’s going to break out. He gets them worked up. He’s singing about their lives. Not to mention the BEAT of that song: its insistent “rhythm of the tracks” (as defined by Keith Richards).
“Somethin’ About You Baby I Like” – Jerry Reed. I love when the girls come in in the background. I love how he’s basically stalking this woman down the sidewalk (“peekaboo”) because he’s too tongue-tied to talk to her. Creepy? Whatever, it’s JERRY REED.
“Boycott” – Brendan Benson. He’s been quietly doing his rock/folk thing for years. His main moment of stardom was when one of his songs played in one of the first iPod commercials. A total anomaly in his career. But I have Mac to thank for introducing me to him. He’s become one of my favorite singer/songwriters working today. He’s incapable of writing a boring song. He wears his influences (The Beatles, ELO) on his sleeve. Love him.
“Knives of New Orleans” – Eric Church. I’ve tried to write about why his music and attitude touches/excites me too much. He’s got the “I’m just a good ol’ boy” thing going on because he’s a country star. That’s the deal. But somehow it feels more genuine with him (than it did with, say, Garth Brooks), maybe because he’s honest about his dark side (one of his song titles), his feelings about Nashville (“she’s a bitch, a slut, a tramp, a mutt …”), his contempt for what he calls “soccer Mom Christians”, the main audience country stars have been gunning for for decades. He’s a party-hound. He’s a stoner and has written multiple songs about smoking pot. He’s a sex-pot. He’s a bad boy. His songs are peppered with references to Elvis, Hank Williams, Waylon … Those guys are rock ‘n’ roll to him. He wants country to stop being goody-goody. He’s definitely got his chip-on-the-shoulder Southern attitude (“I got my pick-up truck and I’m happier than you with all your money and your penthouse …” as though there’s not a middle-ground, people living in regular houses and driving Honda civics. Nope. It’s country boys wearing shit-kickers or elites at cocktail parties. Okay, Eric. You gotta speak to your culturally resentful base. I get it. But you’re a multi-millionaire now. How are you not in the elite of our society now?) Whatever. Whatever he does seems sincere to me. He’s pissed a lot of people off. But he’s embraced the audience that has been ignored by mainstream country: the outlaws, the boys, the Nascar fans, the party-hounds. A POWERFUL demographic.
“American Middle Class” – Angaleena Presley. I love her voice. This song is brutal. There’s a lot of anger in America right now.
The mood is extremely volatile. It’s a terrible time for our country. I have contempt for the racism and xenophobia and misogyny in politics right now. But the economic situation – especially for those in country areas, places not on the coast – places who have been decimated by the closing of factories and coal-mines, the decimation that things like Walmart can wrought – the forgotten and hated “rednecks” – well, what the hell are we going to DO about that demographic? SOMETHING’S got to be done. Job creation, education incentives, whatEVER. I’m not saying “Yes, let’s listen to racism and xenophobia and empathize with where that’s come from.” But I AM saying that ignoring these people – and their economic distress – has CLEARLY NOT WORKED. Anyway, that’s what this song is about.
“P.S. I Love You” – Bobby Vinton. An emanation from an America that died a long time ago.
“She-Bop” – Cyndi Lauper. Talk about songs from my high school years. She’s amazing. It was whispered amongst my friends that this was about masturbation. We listened agog, and felt like we were in on the secret.
“Temptation” – The Everly Brothers. “It would be thrilling if you were willing …” That’s the crux of it, ain’t it.
“I’m Gonna Stay” – Mary Wells. Motown’s first big star. She helped create that Motown sound, or at least she was one of the first expressions of it. Her hairdos were extraordinary.
“Hot as Ice” – Brit-Brit. This was from the horrifyingly-titled Blackout, recorded during the period of her life where she was having an extended breakdown, lovingly recorded by the tabloid press, who – if she had committed suicide – would have blood on their hands, as far as I’m concerned. There are some good tracks on this album, all things considered. Poor Britney. I am glad she is still with us.
“Chicago Shake” The Bruce Fowler Big Band. This is from the Public Enemies soundtrack. Bruce Fowler is on almost every Frank Zappa album. Captain Beefheart used him all the time too. Trombonist!
“Working on the Building” – Elvis, one of his gospel tunes. He recorded so much gospel, and I love all of it: the jumping up and down hand-clapping variety (like this one), the holy-man at the organ variety, and every style in-between. He could do it all. But this one … this one … This one is in my Top 5 Elvis Gospel list. Because it’s very important to have such a list.
“When Irish Eyes are Smiling” – The Irish Tenors. Give me a break.
“Function at the Junction” – Little Richard. What a MADMAN. From him, all good things spring. I love how he goes OFF, and the background music/background singers/everything keeps up the beat, on repeat, full energy, until he “comes back” and they can continue. Classic blues style.
“Solitaire” – Elvis Presley. Devastating. There are a couple of tracks near the end where his pain is so evident it’s difficult to listen to. “It’s Still Here” is another one. But his voice is able to EXPRESS that stuff. It’s full and rich and evocative. He sounds amazing here.
“The Fightin’ Side of Me” – Merle Haggard. Okay, Merle, okay, I know. I can’t imagine what the 60s/70s looked like to you. I know you’re pissed. And I actually agree with a lot of your sentiments here. But “If you don’t love it, leave it …” Well, that’s not how we do it here in ‘Murrica. We are allowed to be pissed off at our government and still live here in peace. We are allowed to be angry at government policies and not fear a firing squad or imprisonment. It is our RIGHT to criticize our country if we see fit. That kind of criticism is ALSO a form of patriotism. But still: I feel your pain, Merle. And I will always love you.
“Time” – Sly & The Family Stone. Delicious. So sexy. It starts sexy and then it gets sexier and the whole thing is unbearably hot. And coming from a very real place.
“Stray Heart” – Green Day. It was so exciting when they quickly – and overnight – came out with 3 albums. What on earth …. This is one of my favorite tracks off of the three. Classic Green Day pop-sound.
“Reviewing the Situation” – Ron Moody, as Fagin in Oliver! A GREAT vocal performance. (Great acting performance, too. But the STUFF he can do with his voice … the variety, the intonation, the CONTROL he has … breath-taking.)
“I Wonder” – The Ronettes. That Phil Spector wall of sound. Rather amazing. The sound is so huge it sounds like they’re in a warehouse. And still the voices of the women are highlighted. They’re not lost in all that sound. Amazing balance found.
“Minnie the Moocher’s Wedding Day” – Cab Calloway. The BEST. I have his Greatest Hits. Always happy when he shows up.
“All Things Must Pass” – The Beatles. Working it out in 1969. A demo. Rough. Near the end of the road.
“Bo Diddley” – by none other than Bo Diddley. Keith Richards again: “the rhythm of the tracks.” Thrilling. It SOUNDS dangerous. Because it is. The culture is about to crack apart.
“Bad Example” – The Pistol Annies. “Somebody has to set a bad example, teach all the prim and propers what not to do …” I love these broads. They keep it real. “I’m a third-generation bartender …”
“Make You Feel My Love” – the new Nobel Prize winner. Who is currently refusing to even acknowledge that he just won the Nobel Prize. Like, he’s not even answering the Nobel committee’s phone calls/emails. Which is, honestly, the most rock ‘n’ roll thing he could ever do. It’s brilliant.
“Better Off” – Foo Fighters. Sometimes a song hits my sweet spot. Well, my musical sweet spot. This is one of those songs.
“Oh Baby (We Got a Good Thing Going)” – The Rolling Stones. The whole thing is great, but it’s fun to “isolate” Keith and listen to what he’s doing back there.
“Hell on the Heart” – Eric Church. “Every bit as funny as she is smart …” I like your taste in women, Eric. This song works best blasted in the car with the windows down.
“Ricky Ticky Toc” – Eminem. A sort of rapprochement song. Trying to find common ground with his rivals. It’s one long monologue. Not a chorus-verse structure. Just one long stream of thought.
“Angel of the Morning” – Nina Simone. What she does with this song is literally mind-blowing. It’s completely transformed. It’s hers. She makes you feel like this is the way the song needs to be sung. Her deep-dive into the lyrics, her burrowing into the psychology … There is literally nobody like her. Her interpretive powers are stunning. Otherworldly, almost, but also always attached to the earth: coming from HER, everything she did was personal.
“Run For Your Life” – The Beatles. One of their scariest songs.
“Be Still” – The Beach Boys. Another track off of Friends, released in 1969. One of the craziest awful-est years in American history. This is haunting. And so quiet it’s almost not there. A retreat from the chaos?
“Boogie Woogie Teenage Girl” – Dale Hawkins. I love how he just keeps repeating it, I also love how he makes “sugar and spice and everything nice” sound totally dirty.
“Busted” – Ray Charles. Hahahaha. He’s so awesome. And those horns. So snarky.
“Daddy Was an Old Time Preacher Man” – Dolly Parton and Porter Wagoner. This literally could not be more country.
“Charlie’s Soliloquy” – the marvelous Stark Sands, from Inside Llewyn Davis.
“Roi” – The Breeders. Ah, the good old days when girls could be rock stars and not have to be sex-pots.
“Memphis Exorcism” – The Squirrel Nut Zippers. Recently, my friend Jordan said on Twitter that he sure hoped the Squirrel Nut Zippers created a “diversified stock portfolio” in the 90s, cause they’d need it now. That made me laugh.
“That’s What You Get For Loving Me” – Waylon Jennings. What a song. I’m so glad so many of my favorites have covered it. I mean, you can’t get more truth-talking than that: Listen, you knew what I was going into this, so that’s WHAT YOU GET, ma’am.
“The Question of U” – Prince. Shit.
On that note …