A Day In The Life

Musicasaurus.com digs into the art of the music mix…

A new mix will be posted every two weeks on Sunday.....If you are a dinosaur, you’ll probably be searching out these tunes to create a mix copy on CD; if you have evolved, you may instead be pulling from iTunes or another downloading source to create a playlist for your mobile device.  Either way, ultimately allow yourself this time to shut out the world (and the physical and mental multi-tasking that we are heir to).  Sink into these sonic revelations...Let the songs insinuate themselves. 

Highly recommended:  Playback of these playlists should be through a home stereo system, cranked up mightily.


Posted 11/15/20.....

(Next post: Sunday, November 29, 2020)

A THEMED MIX…With things in the shape they’re in right now—disease and disruption seeming to prevail—it’s time to concentrate on our world.  Here are ten songs with “world” in the titles... 

1. What a Wonderful World – Toots Thielemans and Kenny Werner…..As a young man I first heard this song in 1967 on one of my parents’ 45 rpm singles as performed by the incomparable Louis Armstrong.  This version from a 2001 album entitled Toots Thielemans / Kenny Werner is an all-instrumental soul soother, meditative and quite gorgeous.  Harmonica master Thielemans, almost 80 years old at this juncture, skitters and floats with ease above the synthesizer strings and occasional piano of Kenny Werner and this is, notably, a live performance captured from one of a handful of onstage duo concerts that the pair collaborated on in 2001.  The album is chockfull of standards, and beyond “What a Wonderful World” you’ll find songs borrowed from Sinatra, Michel Legrand, Bach, Bill Evans, Herbie Hancock—and even a Disney mini-medley.  https://youtu.be/sHdITynB1iU


2. What If The World Stops Turning – Mindy Smith....This is a country rock gem that veers toward pop music, delivered with poise and purity by Long Island-born singer-songwriter Mindy Smith.  She shares the track with longtime Nashville music-man-about-town Buddy Miller who guests on guitar and co-lead vocals.  Miller’s impressive resume includes lead guitar stints with Emmylou Harris’ Spyboy band and with Robert Plant on some of the latter’s outings (a record and tour with Alison Krauss in 2008 and with Band of Joy in 2010/2011).  Mindy Smith had first perked up the ears of musicasaurus.com with the stunning gospel-rock song “Come To Jesus” from her 2004 debut album One Moment More.  The track listed here is no less compelling, just a bit breezier in style and execution; it hails from Smith’s second album, 2006’s Long Island Shores.  https://youtu.be/6ik2IRmv5lY


3. It’s A Man’s Man’s Man’s World – James Brown.....The Godfather Of Soul really shines on this string-laden funk ballad from 1965; it’s full of Papa James Screech and high drama, and the song became a # 1 Rhythm & Blues hit and a Top Ten success in the Pops realm.  Brown’s albums from around that stretch of time usually consisted of an anchoring, currently charting tune with a backfill of singles—individual songs released on 45 rpms—that were shoehorned in before each compilation album’s release.  That was the case with this tune as well which ended up on Brown’s identically titled compilation album released in 1966.  The song itself has been covered live by a world of artists through the years including Christina Aguilera, Joss Stone and the Grateful Dead, and on record by Tom Jones, The Residents, Seal, Concrete Blonde and many more.  Also, Brown teamed up with Luciano Pavarotti in a sizzling live performance of the tune in 2002 which has over 26 million views on YouTube since its posting in April 2019.  https://youtu.be/hK97cdbbsQw


4. Peaceful World – John Mellencamp…..Indiana native Mellencamp headed to NYC at the age of 24 in an effort to break into the music business.  From an early age he was a real scrapper and spent years in the somewhat torturous trenches of the music business with forced-upon-him “identity crises.”  His first manager insisted that Mellencamp go on record only as Johnny Cougar (1976).  The artist then jettisoned “Johnny” to become John Cougar (1979-1982).  Then with growing success and the release of his 1983 album Uh-huh, Mellencamp felt confident enough to tack his real last name on the back of that Cougar (becoming John Cougar Mellencamp) and finally four years later dropped the catty stance altogether to become simply John Mellencamp.  AND…enough of the name game.  In 2001 Mellencamp released his seventeenth album Cuttin’ Heads which bears this infectious mid-tempo rocker that examines race and prejudice.  It is a duet with R&B singer-songwriter India Arie and also features a cameo on the bridge of the song from Public Enemy’s founder Chuck D.  https://youtu.be/mPy50aadwGc


5. The New World – X.....This American punk rock band formed in L.A. in 1977, the year punk exploded here and abroad with debut releases in the USA by Talking Heads, Television, the Dead Boys, Johnny Thunder and the Heartbreakers and Richard Hell and the Voidoids, while across the pond hitting record store bins were the first albums from Elvis Costello, the Clash, the Buzzcocks, Sex Pistols, the Damned, the Stranglers, the Jam and more.  X was punky from the git-go but by their fourth album, 1983’s More Fun in the New World, the band was already mixing their usual explosives with folk and rockabilly influences.  Doors founding member Ray Manzarek produced this album as well as its three predecessors, and feisty, right-on rock critic Robert Christgau from the famous alternative newsweekly The Village Voice had this to say about the record and the two vocalists/songwriters who propelled the band, bassist John Doe and Exene Cervenka: “Aimed at the no-future generation, X's passionate reconstruction of musical (and marital) tradition is salutary, and this is their most accomplished album.”  https://youtu.be/450snxo-32g


6. In World – Television.....Television, like the band X mentioned immediately above, was one of the bands that first formed back in the punk explosion days of the mid-to-late 1970s.  But unlike X who was born in L.A., Television was a product of NYC.  They were part of the fabric of legendary Manhattan club CBGB, where on various nights of the week one might walk in and find bands on stage such as Talking Heads, the Ramones, Blondie or Patti Smith Group, or lesser known but equally intriguing punkers like Richard Hell & The Voidoids or the Cramps.  Television’s distinction was their two-guitar attack and the made-for-punk vocal style of lead singer-songwriter Tom Verlaine.  The ace second guitarist in the band was the incendiary Richard Lloyd and the two were interweaving specialists.  None of this really translated into much commercial success for the band back in the punk heyday, but in 1992 the group reformed (some say because of the early ‘90s Seattle scene with Nirvana and the like) and issued this self-titled, admirable outing.  “In World” is leavened with the spunk of punk, a good example of how deliciously this band could float along on intertwining guitars and Verlaine’s genre-appropriate vocals.  Infectious stuff.  https://youtu.be/ZJdLwcJrXCk


7. Back into Your World – Son Volt.....In 1994 famed alternative-country band Uncle Tupelo split up, and two of the principals veered off in different directions to form their own units—guitarist Jeff Tweedy went on to hatch Wilco and guitarist Jay Farrar formed Son Volt.  The latter band’s debut album Trace came out in 1995 and proved to be a reliably intoxicating mix of roots rock, country & folk.  Their second release, Straightaways (1997), followed suit and according to Allmusic.com reviewer Jack Leaver, there are “plenty of threads to connect Straightaways to Trace, such as the expressive playing of multi-instrumentalist Dave Boquist on guitars, fiddle, banjo, and lap steel, and Farrar’s forlorn vocal delivery, which could give even the weakest song emotional power.”  The tune listed here, “Back into Your World,” is straightaway one of the best in the band’s catalogue.  https://youtu.be/salUViy2uoA


8. One World – Dire Straits.....Mark Knopfler from Dire Straits is another of the esteemed group of British rock guitarists like Clapton, Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page that were weaned on American black musician elders like B.B. King while awakening their own talents.  Knopfler, though, was also a fan of Duane Eddy, the Everly Brothers (who had Chet Atkins playing guitar on some of their songs) and Elvis Presley, and so he crafted quite a unique lead guitar style that in 1978 propelled Dire Straits’ self-titled debut album onto American radio stations through its lead-off single “Sultans Of Swing.”  It was the band’s 1985 release Brothers in Arms, though, that really sent this unit into the stratosphere aided by MTV and the hit song “Money For Nothing.”  The song “One World” comes from this particular album.  https://youtu.be/nlL_ORdbMpY


9. When the World is Running Down, You Make the Best of What’s Still Around – The Police…..Late in 1978 Ihad a lightning bolt moment in the old National Record Mart flagship store in Market Square, downtown Pittsburgh.  I was about eight months into my new record company job of fashioning displays in music stores throughout Western PA, and I was up on a ladder stapling some priority Warner Brothers artist posters along the ceiling line.  Suddenly I heard over the store’s stereo system some muscular, incredibly rhythmic, and reggae-tinged power pop that had me spinning around immediately to see what the store manager had slapped on the turntable.  “It’s The Police” Maurice the store manager informed me, and he handed me the Outlandos d'Amour album while “Roxanne” and then “Hole in My Life” spilled out from the speakers above.  Something about this Police album really resonated, and I became a dedicated follower through their unfortunately somewhat abbreviated six-year career.  Among my favorites is the track “When the World is Running Down, You Make the Best of What’s Still Around” from the group’s third album Zenyatta Mondatta, released in 1980.  https://youtu.be/YC8vxXC0UMc


10. World Of Two – Cake.....The recipe for Cake: Take alternative rock and sprinkle it liberally with bits of other genres; add in lyrics that are laden with sarcasm, non sequiturs and pop-culture nuggets; and then top it off with the sometimes spoken, sometimes sung vocalizations of frontman John McCrea.  The band formed in 1992 in Sacramento and by 1995 were beginning to top the college and commercial alternative radio station charts with songs from two of their most recent albums, Motorcade of Generosity and Fashion Nugget.  The song “World of Two” from 2001’s Comfort Eagle release is a clever and catchy alt-ballad with a slight circus feel; something akin to sleigh bells show up amidst the usual guitar-bass-keyboards combination, and there’s a chorus that repeats “You...There’s only room for you...in your world of two…”  https://youtu.be/ErcKR1zKiGM





Posted 11/1/20.....

A VARIETY OF ARTISTS’ MIX…Some classic rock, Icelandic ethereal pop, and jam-based blues…some light on the ears funk-fusion…some scintillating soul, and more…

1. Of Angels and Angles – The Decemberists.....To state the obvious, pretty much everything’s gone niche and everyone’s the better for it (meaning the end-user music consumer).  We used to be more in that mass consumption mode, led and fed by mass media.  Now with years under our belt on the net we get our satiation from a million musical directions, and skittering about out there in the musical maw are the Decemberists.  This Portland, Oregon band formed in the year 2000 and proved to be fetchingly peculiar; they ably wield the accordion, guitar and Hammond organ, and blend their alternative flourishes with British folk, often spinning tales that reveal a deep appreciation of world history obscurities.  “Of Angels and Angles” comes from the group’s 2005 release Picaresque.  https://youtu.be/B02QfNV-66g


2. Poison Whiskey – Lynyrd Skynyrd.....The seeds of Skynyrd started in Jacksonville, Florida as early as 1964, but by 1973 they had their line-up solidified and a new band name courtesy of their disciplinarian high-school Phys-Ed teacher Leonard Skinner.  “Poison Whiskey” is a little over three minutes of Southern-style rock ‘n’ roll with lovely layers of guitar, and organ courtesy of musician/producer Al Kooper.  The latter had signed the band and literally put them on the road to success—and on the heels of this debut album, Pronounced 'lĕh-'nérd 'skin-'nérd, the group garnered the opening-act slot on The Who’s Quadrophenia tour of the U.S.  This is also the album that foisted “Free Bird” upon the land.  It is likely sacrilegious to say this, but musicasaurus.com has long been burned out on that tune and part of it is guilt by association; there were just way too many stoners clinging to classic rock and orbiting my social circles in the 1970s, most of them ineloquent and unconvincing champions of the song who merely threw it up on the pedestal while ignoring Skynyrd’s finer, tighter tunes—like “Poison Whiskey.”  https://youtu.be/pVkZo4ytM_E  


3. Boy Lilikoi – Jónsi.....Jón Þór Birgisson (Jónsi) is the vocalist/guitarist for Iceland’s ambient export Sigur Rós, who at this point have been a band for over twenty-five years.  There oughtta be a picture of the group under “ethereal” in dictionary.com—the music is full of space, savagery and beauty.  Lead singer Jónsi rose up out of Rós to debut his first sans-Sigur album Go in 2010, and “Boy Lilikoi” (from that record) traverses much the same terrain—fetching falsetto, strings, muscle and majesty.  Musicasaurus.com caught the full band at a Byham Theatre/Pittsburgh concert-tour stop in March 2003, and posted a while back in this website that the band was “cool and elegant…mixing fury and finesse” and that the concert itself was a “devastatingly beautiful evening of crushing volume and captivating soundscapes” (Musicasaurus.com isn’t above a self-referential quote; it balloons my importance but sadly, only to me).  https://youtu.be/hZi42PqmcL8


4. Reasons For Waiting – Jethro Tull.....Tull’s album Stand Up stood out to me.  When it hit record stores in 1969 I was a sixteen-year-old music sponge devouring the new sounds that were cascading their way across the pond from England.  That year of 1969 brought a lot to our shores including Abbey Road from The Beatles, Led Zeppelin’s first and second albums, Cream’s Goodbye and Blind Faith’s one and only, The Who’s Tommy, Jeff Beck Group’s Beck-Ola and many more.  The Tull album was decidedly different from much else out there; wild-eyed, high-stepping lead singer & flautist Ian Anderson and his mates were unafraid to venture forth from their previous blues-based rock to more tantalizing turf, leavening their still firmly-rooted rock sound with a mix of classical, Celtic, and English folk.  “Reasons For Waiting” is a mid-tempo, string-enhanced ballad with Anderson’s pleasing baritone and gentle acoustic guitar and flute.  Other highlights from the album include the hard-charging “Nothing Is Easy” and the fine instrumental “Bourée" which is based on a work by Johann Sebastian Bach.  https://youtu.be/exXKfGPgW00


5. Regarding Steven – Blues Traveler.....This band is a tight blues-jam unit that I’ve seen at a few festivals through the years, and it is fronted by showstopper John Popper, a towering force as harmonica wielder and lead vocalist.  Blues Traveler breached pop radio playlists a few times in the 1990s with songs “But Anyway” and “Run-Around,” and they are largely revered by the jam-band crowd for none-too-chintzy set lengths and improvisational lift-offs during song performances.  “Regarding Steven” is a mid-tempo slice with a slinky, sweet harmonica solo; this studio track is taken from the 2002 compilation Travelogue: Blues Traveler Classics though the song first appeared as one of five tunes on a CD single release coinciding with the arrival of the band’s 1994 album Four.  Two quick trivia notes: 1) Popper and his band were the genesis of the live music festival called H.O.R.D.E. (Horizons Of Rock Developing Everywhere) which hit U.S.A. amphitheaters to solid success from 1992-1998.  2) He and the group also dressed up as an Amish band, playing their hit song “But Anyway” as the closing credits rolled on the destined-not-to-be-a-classic Farrelly Brothers film Kingpin (though the film did sport some amazing stand-up by bowler Bill Murray’s hair). https://youtu.be/Kv9BaW5tMeg


6. Voodoo Woman – Lonnie Liston Smith.....By the mid-1970s, a number of jazz musicians who had schooled with trumpeter Miles Davis in the late 1960s/early 1970s were branching out and taking wing, like Joe Zawinul forming Weather Report and Chick Corea launching Return To Forever.  One of the other musicians who also took the cues from Davis in his turn toward electric jazz and fusion was Lonnie Liston Smith, an accomplished jazz pianist and electric keyboardist who went the post-Davis route with his ensemble Lonnie Liston Smith and The Cosmic Echoes.  “Voodoo Woman” from this group’s third album Expansions (1974) is prettily parked midway between innocuous smooth jazz and sophisticated fusion.  It is a spacey, dreamy four-and-a-half minutes of soft fusion with funk underpinnings, and sprightly flute and electronic keyboards that will lull you with its loveliness.  https://youtu.be/JjflHF1oGgM


7. A Long Walk – Jill Scott.....Vocalist Scott is a Philadelphian who turned from plans to teach toward a life in music.  Her full recording career blossomed with 2000’s Who Is Jill Scott? Words and Sounds Vol. 1 though she had been a local spoken-word artist prior to that, as well as had contributed to an album by the Roots and toured Canada in the cast of Rent.  What strikes musicasaurus.com is the suppleness of her voice, as evidenced by this track from the then 28-year-old’s debut album.  Two other points of interest: 1) Scott appears on a Chris Botti DVD entitled Chris Botti Live With Orchestra & Special Guests and she performs just one number with Botti and his band—but it’s Billie Holiday’s “Good Morning Heartache” and Scott just pulverizes any semblance of a doubt about her passion and vocal prowess; and 2) Scott dips a bit into acting as well.  She appeared as Mma Ramotswe in The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency, the BBC-produced series based on the Alexander McCall Smith novels.  The pilot episode debuted on HBO in the States in 2009 and ran for six more episodes before falling to the ax due to low ratings.  https://youtu.be/pO4zzgFAsxQ


8. The Long Road – Eddie Vedder and Nusrat Fateh Ali Kahn.....This is a rapturous tune from the 1996 album entitled Dead Man Walking: Music From And Inspired By The Motion Picture.  “The Long Road” is a hypnotic aural experience, with famous Pakistani singer Kahn—international “poster boy” for Qawwali, the devotional music of the Sufis—joining Vedder on vocals.  The song is buoyed by an enticing weave of harmonium and tabla, two instruments that are popular throughout certain regions in Pakistan and India.  “Dead Man Walking: Music From And Inspired By The Motion Picture” contains only four songs from the 1995 Tim Robbins-directed film and “The Long Road” is one of them.  The other eight tunes were coaxed into contribution by the director, who actively solicited a number of socially conscious artists for song donations to this particular album.  The artists who came through for Robbins included Springsteen, Johnny Cash, Steve Earle, Patti Smith and Tom Waits.  https://youtu.be/FmzT_wb6Dlo


9. Joy – The Sundays.....This four-piece unit from England developed sizeable cult followings on both sides of the Atlantic in the early-mid 1990s.  Their alternative-style songs featured pristine lead female vocals and instrumentation that was ringing and chiming—quite the effective blend, as it turned out, for some serious chart climbing (especially in the UK).  “Joy” is taken from the band’s 1990 debut album Reading, Writing And Arithmetic.  The track floats and flutters with vocalist Harriet Wheeler and guitarist David Gavurin playing off each other quite well.  Chicago Sun-Times writer Don McLeese reviewed their debut album in May 1990 and tried to peg the band’s unique sound this way: “On initial exposure, Britain's latest musical rage sounds like a preposterous hybrid, as if Rickie Lee Jones somehow found herself fronting the Smiths or the Sugarcubes.  Repeated listenings render comparisons and categories less appropriate, as the music reveals an internal logic that is all the band's own, and the insidiously seductive songcraft of ‘Reading, Writing and Arithmetic’ practically re-invents the ABC's of rock.”  https://youtu.be/mwEakHWFiSU


10. Where Does The Good Go – Tegan & Sara.....Canadian twin sisters Tegan and Sara Quin (born in Calgary in September 1980) had talent and timing on their side, first winning a hometown music competition in 1998 and subsequently being scooped up for Sarah McLachlan’s Lilith Fair tour that same year.  Their music alternately straddles and blends folk and alternative and the tune listed here is, from its very opening, a compelling example of their magical mix of girlish twin-vocal leads and harmonies, and musical heft.  The song, from 2004’s So Jealous, sounds a little similar to something that Tom Petty might have written.  It is an intriguing, purposefully “loping” type of opening that draws you in, followed by an explosion of anthemic hooks and chorus.  A great tune to be played loud, so turn these twins all the way up to eleven.  https://youtu.be/VFLzZY3w3vg





Posted 10/18/20.....


1. Raoul and the Kings of Spain – Tears for Fears…..Roland Orzabal and Curt Smith formed Tears for Fears in Bath, England in 1981, the same year MTV burst into being in living rooms and dorm rooms across the USA, and the two were simpatico in the bands’ evolution into smart-pop superstars.  The group’s second album in 1985, Songs from the Big Chair, was the one to gain solid footing in America with tunes like “Shout” and “Everybody Wants to Rule the World.”  The duo then parted ways in the early 1990s and Orzabal gained custody of the Tears for Fears name, producing a couple of elaborate solo albums including 1995’s Raoul and the Kings of Spain.  The title track is dense and delicious; a power surge so melodious and forceful that it practically laps at and leaps over the brain wall to settle right into the pleasure centers—whoa!  https://youtu.be/WJ4VHlluYnw


2. Queen Bee – Taj Mahal…..Singer-songwriter/musician Taj Mahal was born Henry Saint Clair Fredericks in NYC in 1942 of musically-oriented parents, one with Jamaican roots (his father) and the other a South Carolinian teacher into gospel music.  Taj Mahal has championed blues and all of its hues and origins throughout the past almost six decades.  High school musical mentors of mine in Butler, PA, David and Gary Kleemann, turned me on to him through 1969’s Giant Step album, but it was the freewheelin’ double-live album from 1972 The Real Thing and 1974’s reggae-filled Mo’ Roots that cemented my reverence.  The song included here for this Kings & Queens mix, “Queen Bee,” actually shows up on two Taj releases—1977’s Evolution (The Most Recent) and 1997’s Señor Blues.  It’s the kind of mid-tempo Calypso-tinged tune that cries out for an umbrella drink (or two or three) in some kind of ocean-side open-air café.  https://youtu.be/QCN4_dDysQ4


3. Kings Highway – Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers…..Into the Great Wide Open from which this track is taken was released in 1991 and was the band’s eighth studio record, chronologically coming on the heels of Petty’s first solo venture Full Moon Fever (1989).  Petty had worked with musician/producer Jeff Lynne (formerly of Electric Light Orchestra) on that earlier release, and continued on with that partnership for Great Wide Open.  “Kings Highway” is yet another of Petty’s riveting, rocking and fan-revered songs that he had seemingly effortlessly churned out since his band’s eponymous debut album in 1976.  I remember seeing a Petty & Heartbreakers concert at Star Lake Amphitheater in 1991, the first of his several visits to the venue over the next couple of decades, and I had at least two tingling revelations while soaking it all in—1) the band was truly a non-rock-cliché powerhouse, and 2) the songs, one after the other, were familiar hits and recognizable cherished deep tracks.  I was simply amazed at how many songs I knew and how many classics this band of brothers had produced over the first sixteen years of its existence.  https://youtu.be/-h3gXKArWyw


4. Bring Me My Queen – Abigail Washburn.....What a gem this singer-songwriter and banjo player has produced in this beautiful alt-folk song from 2011’s City of Refuge—but the whole record is really a boundary stretcher thanks in part, says AllMusic reviewer Thom Jurek, to album producer Tucker Martine.  “In Martine,” says Jurek, “Washburn found the perfect collaborator: he understands implicitly how far-reaching her songs are; he assists her in cracking wide the conventions of traditions while showcasing their influence with reverence and grace.”  Through her instrument and her song arrangements, Washburn here always proves bold in her steps to artfully incorporate a wide range of influences—folk, rock, country, jazz, bluegrass and blues, even mixing in some touches from Asia, the British Isles and beyond.  https://youtu.be/O316-4khIWE


5. King For A Day – XTC.....This British band formed in the mid-late 1970s and early on keyed in on the herky-jerky edge of New Wave.  That soon gave way to more ambitious explorations into pure pop, rendered on record through superior arrangements and production.  Chief songwriters Andy Partridge and Colin Moulding channel bands like The Beatles (circa their most adventurous periods), the Kinks and the Beach Boys to produce sonic concoctions of their own that are almost CDC-level infectious.  The track “King For A Day” comes from the double album Oranges and Lemons (1989), and it is a fetching slice of intelligent pop, lushly produced.  https://youtu.be/EVASP83kjT0


6. Caribbean Queen (No More Love on the Run) – Billy Ocean…..Originally from Trinidad and Tobago, Leslie Sebastian Charles had moved to England in 1960 with his family at the age of ten and by his early twenties was singing, recording and releasing singles that melded R&B and soul with a nice shot of calypso.  He “became” Billy Ocean at twenty-five, a bona fide hit machine in the U.K. with chart-topping songs and album sales beginning in the mid-1970s.  But this didn’t ripple across the pond to America right away.  When Ocean released his fifth album Suddenly in 1984, his lead-off single “Caribbean Queen (No More Love on the Run)” penetrated radio stations across the USA and the infection spread.  The singer had two subsequent Top Ten hits roll out of this particular album, and radio listeners and record buyers across the country flocked to this Ocean in staggering numbers through the rest of the decade.  Also of note: A smart marketing tool was employed by Ocean’s record label with “Caribbean Queen” upon its initial release; the song was re-recorded by Ocean for certain markets around the globe, so in Europe, for example, the radio waves carried a tune now called “European Queen” and a similar appropriate tweak was made for the African continent.  https://youtu.be/uxX2gA18grk


7. When You Became King – Alana Davis.....This Greenwich Village singer-songwriter was born in 1974 and I first caught wind of her through 1997’s Blame It On Me, which sported an Ani DiFranco cover (“32 Flavors”) and a couple of killer, far-from-filler tunes in “Murder” and “Crazy.”  In the summer of 1998 I was the general manager of Pittsburgh’s Star Lake Amphitheater (now S&T Bank Music Park) and I ran into Davis backstage at the H.O.R.D.E. Festival, a Blues Traveler-led event that toured the amphitheater circuit through most of the 1990s.  We stood in the dressing room hallway and there I confessed my love of her debut album from the year before.  I told her I also liked the keenly placed piano touches in her song “Murder” and she volunteered later in the exchange that her songwriting leads her to view her voice more as a horn than any other key instrument.  Davis’ second album Fortune Cookies from which this track is taken was released in 2001, and when this record didn’t commercially catch fire the way she had anticipated, the artist then ditched her lame-at-the-game record label Elektra and formed her own label Tigress to issue her future releases.  https://youtu.be/fMfmZ3bLmfk


8. Queen of the Silver Dollar – Emmylou Harris…..Music lovers can sometimes recall the first time they heard one very special album and so yeah, I couldn’t help but fall deeply in love with country artist Emmylou Harris’ Pieces of the Sky one night back in 1975.  I was glued to a small clock radio in a D.C. apartment where I was lodging with a friend of my parents’ for a few days, hunting for my first job out of college.  The deejay apparently played a brand new album at midnight on this particular night of the week, each week, and though the sound quality was tinny and nuthin’ but treble, the voice of Emmylou swept me away as only a true angel can do.  “Queen of the Silver Dollar” was just one of the treasures on this album and what I did not realize at the time was that this song was penned by Shel Silverstein.  I became aware of Silverstein in the mid-1980s by virtue of his children’s books but he was also an accomplished songwriter, illustrator, playwright, musician and so much more.  “Queen of the Silver Dollar” was first recorded by Dr. Hook & The Medicine Show (perpetrators of the 1972 novelty hits “Sylvia’s Mother” and “The Cover of ‘Rolling Stone’”).  Emmylou’s 1975 version is straight-ahead country with sweet pedal steel, piano, and fiddle, and harmony vocals provided by Linda Ronstadt.  https://youtu.be/zEzx3Fcrh_Q


9. King Of The World – Angelfish.....Scottish band Angelfish formed in 1991 out of an earlier incarnation called Goodbye Mr. Mackenzie, and both bands had as an active member the sultry redheaded singer Shirley Manson.  In Mackenzie, Manson was not significantly in the limelight with her keyboard playing and background vocals, but in Angelfish she wriggled into the spotlight as front woman and lead vocalist.  “King Of The World” is an up-tempo alt-rock tune from Angelfish’s one and only album (their eponymous debut) which hit record stores in 1994.  One of the band’s videos was then featured on MTV’s alternative music preview show called 120 Minutes and Manson was spotted there by American studio musician/record producer Steve Marker.  Marker and fellow musician/producers Butch Vig and Duke Erikson were coincidentally in the process of forming a band, and they all were smitten by Manson’s style.  The call went out to her and the four then formed the alt-rock band Garbage in 1995.  https://youtu.be/vsEmgZIT3xw  


10. Queen of Hearts – Gregg Allman…..The Allman Brothers Band released their fourth studio record Brothers and Sisters in August 1973, the first ABB album that was Duane-less.  Two months later organist/singer Gregg Allman released his debut solo album Laid Back, which yielded up that very soulful-beyond-his-years voice in a number of song settings that didn’t hew to the usual ABB formula.  Most of the tunes were indeed more laid back than what the Brothers had usually churned out; some gospel touches here, a swamp-music feel there, some mid-tempo R&B, honky-tonk and more.  Upon the album’s release most ABB fans and music critics embraced the effort, though Robert Christgau of the Village Voice demurred.  “Gregg still doesn't know the difference between drawling slowly and singing soulfully,” wrote Christgau in one of his Consumer Guide reviews, “and it isn't tragedy that makes him sound so doleful, it's a limited formal imagination.”  I disagree; this man’s voice at age twenty-six was a mighty fine thing to behold.  https://youtu.be/2jiInCL6dMo





Posted 10/4/20.....


1. The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine Anymore – Jules Shear.....Born in Pittsburgh in 1952, pop rocker Shear moved to L.A. in the mid-1970s and has had a career characterized by blips of success within various areas of the music business.  Although some of his solo releases from the early 1990s were critically acclaimed, they never engendered widespread fame; some of Shear’s songs, though, did strike a chord with the public through other artists—Cyndi Lauper had a hit with Shear’s “All Through The Night” and the Bangles covered his tune “If She Knew What She Wants.”  Shear also waded into MTV back in 1989, becoming the host of the first 13 episodes of the music channel’s program MTV Unplugged.  The track listed here—a cover of The Walker Brothers’ 1966 chart-topper—is from Shear’s 1994 release Healing Bones.  This album and 1992’s The Great Puzzle both have some gems to be mined by pop-rock fans who want to dig past the usual pop pablum.  https://youtu.be/Ri-mMuQNmnM


2. Moonlight Mile – The Rolling Stones…..This is a plain gorgeous six minutes from the Stones from their 1971 album Sticky Fingers.  One of its most famous lines is at the song’s outset when Jagger sings “When the wind blows and the rain feels cold / with a head full of snow / with a head full of snow”—and I believe Mick now disputes that those lyrics carry the meaning that things go better with you-know-what.  The song is just plain beauteous.  A major contributor to its overall impact is British composer/conductor/arranger Paul Buckmaster who orchestrates the song’s midsection and close, a buildup of stirring, sweeping strings.  Buckmaster was renowned at the time for a few other orchestral arrangements he had concocted for singer-songwriters David Bowie (“Space Oddity”) and Elton John (“Border Song” and “Levon”).  https://youtu.be/Bq4Q69_mdZw


3. Stars All Seem To Weep – Beth Orton.....Born in England in 1970, singer-songwriter Orton first notably teamed up at various points with electro-pop purveyors such as William Orbit and The Chemical Brothers.  Her first works as a solo artist came in 1996 with an EP and then a full album entitled Trailer Park.  The song listed here is from her Central Reservation record which came out in 1999.  “Stars All Seem To Weep” retains a bit of electro-pop though overall this particular album drifted away from such influences and served to reignite her original folk-leaning instincts.  Blessed with a clear and strong voice, Orton is a savvy songwriter and arranger as well. https://youtu.be/eMM9qhabMds


4. Tequila Sunrise – Eagles…..“Tequila Sunrise” is a sweet tonic of a tune any way you slice it, with the group’s trademark country lope, harmonies, and pedal steel.  Written by Don Henley and Glenn Frey, the song is on the Eagles’ second album Desperado (1973) which generally isn’t regarded as one of the band’s best efforts.  “Tequila Sunrise” and the title track were the only true standouts and yet the band was still methodically building a fan base, which of course reached just plain ol’ preposterous proportions when they checked in with Hotel California just three years later.  https://youtu.be/1K0N7UaZpz8 


5. Painted Moon – The Silencers.....Hailing from Scotland, the Silencers had Celtic and folk leanings and punkish beginnings—two former members were with a late-‘70s/early ‘80s doomed-to-obscurity group called Fingerprintz.  The Silencers' “Painted Moon,” from the group’s 1987 debut album A Letter From St. Paul, was hit in the UK and spread well beyond those borders to several other countries including the USA.  In The States it became a cult audience favorite on some alternative-leaning radio stations and made a bit of a splash on MTV as well.  Stylistically the band has been compared to their fellow nationals of that era, groups such as Big Country, The Proclaimers and Simple Minds.  https://youtu.be/FJC_cuAL1us 


6. Sea of Stars – Valerie Carter…..The first time I heard Carter’s self-titled debut album was when I was a part-time record store clerk in 1977 in Butler, PA and my boss’ girlfriend Karen ripped off the cellophane and gingerly laid the platter down on the store’s turntable.  The opening track “Ooh Child”—a tantalizing cover of The Five Stairsteps’ 1970 soul original—took my breath away.  Carter’s voice was angelic but the real power & glory rested in the moments when her uncorked soul took flight—the woman could wail!  Carter’s recorded output was spotty through the years, with solo album releases in 1977 and 1978, and then nothing until 1996’s The Way It Is, from which this track is taken.  This album was Carter’s last full-fledged release and featured guest appearances from some of her longtime music business buds including James Taylor, Linda Ronstadt, Jackson Browne, Lyle Lovett and Phoebe Snow.  https://youtu.be/N1FojEMolXk


7. In The Sun – Michael Stipe with Coldplay.....This track is from a 2005 Austin City Limits performance of R.E.M.’s Michael Stipe joining Chris Martin and Coldplay.  It is taken from a six-song EP (“extended play” record) entitled In The Sun.  The EP was released in 2006 exclusively through the iTunes Store, and its sales benefited the victims of Hurricane Katrina.  All six songs on the EP are versions of “In The Sun” with Stipe in collaboration with a) just Chris Martin, b) all of Coldplay, or c)the song’s originator, singer-songwriter Joseph Arthur.  The version listed here is the best of the six; it’s live and lyrically quite moving.  https://youtu.be/ffD6TP16ZFQ


8. The Girl Who Fell In Love With The Moon – Boo Hewerdine.....Folk-pop singer-songwriter Hewerdine is a Brit who’s been flying well below the radar of widespread fame since the late 1980s.  Critics lined up to praise Hewerdine’s 1989 teaming with Texas native Darden Smith on an album called Evidence, and the track “All I Want Is Everything” was a great tune that got passed around amongst the critics and the more perceptive members of the public.  “The Girl Who Fell in Love With the Moon” is a pleasing mid-tempo ballad from Hewerdine’s 2006 release Harmonograph, one of various solo albums that began surfacing only sporadically during the time period between 1992 and 2017.  https://youtu.be/3pfra46d1Rw


9. Stars – Dan Fogelberg.....I can’t explain why I’ve now come to actually like a couple of numbers by Fogelberg.  Older?  And maybe mellower?  It’s not nostalgia, because I was never really into this particular singer-songwriter’s music.  When I co-managed a record store in Wexford, PA in my relative youth, I pushed across the counter a good number of the artist’s Netherlands album plus a few others from his catalogue.  But his music never really made a dent each time my co-managing compadre Gary grabbed it from our set-aside stack of records and played it over the in-store stereo system.  These days, this track from the artist’s 1972 debut album Home Free and one other—“The Last Nail” from Captured Angel—are quite easy on the ears and even mesmerizing in a soft ‘70s kind of way.  “Stars” picks up mellow steam about a minute into the track, and at that point really kind of converts you.  https://youtu.be/Xjc15i_T8mI


10. Baobab Sunset – Manu Dibango.....Cameroon-born Manu Dibango is a talented multi-instrumentalist and arranger, which really shines through on this seven-minute odyssey taken from the artist’s 1976 album Afrovision.  “Baobab Sunset” is a simmering stew, understated yet majestic and buoyed by Dibango’s various turns on soprano sax, marimba and synthesizer.  I can personally attest that this song unfolds like an open road, as I once placed it on a road-trip cassette mix back in 1981 for a solo journey to Toronto, and the tune unfurled just as the sun came up on I-79 N headed toward I-90 E.  The track was perfect for the occasion; no jarring musical speed bumps, just grooves both sinuous and slinky, while my eyes took in a wide, beautiful vista that stretched out ahead.  https://youtu.be/NA51_h6kZwc


11. Jupiter or the Moon – Los Lobos.....Though musically tight and often thrilling in a live setting, Los Lobos can also surprise with their sophistication when churning out their blues-infused works on an album.  Tin Can Trust, their fourteenth studio record released in 2010, is a prime example of this.  Allmusic.com reviewer Mark Deming explained it this way: “Tin Can Trust captures this exceptional band in truly great form—the guitar interplay between David Hidalgo and Cesar Rosas shows both men are playing at the top of their game, bassist Conrad Lozano and drummer Cougar Estrada are a strong and soulful rhythm section, and Steve Berlin’s keys and sax add just the right coloring.  These performances are low on ego-driven flash but high on exciting, emotionally compelling music.”  https://youtu.be/zW56SAQlbMo


12. Northern Star – Ollabelle.....Musicasaurus.com has touted this under-appreciated band before.  The group’s roots are in NYC, and they had an organic birth around 2001-2002 in bar jam sessions that drew upon influences including gospel, very old soul, traditional folk and dusted-off blues.  Their live performances and recorded efforts are both revelatory—the band’s five members are all adept at lead vocal turns, and the depth of musical talent brought forth to bear on their original songs and older roots material is wayyy impressive and soul satisfyin’.  One of the band’s two female founders is Levon Helm’s daughter Amy, though all are skilled players and their usual song-to-song arsenal includes acoustic and electric guitars, keyboards, bass, drums, mandolin, accordion, dobro and mandola (ancestor to the mandolin).  “Northern Star” (voiced by Amy) comes from the band’s second studio album from 2006 entitled Riverside Battle Songs.  https://youtu.be/TJuBNOo26ts








Thanks to Stacy Innerst (www.stacyinnerst.com) for the design and creation of the Musicasaurus.com logo and the Tunes for Tables logo.
And...The "Tunes For Tables" fundraising campaign was created and conducted in memory of Margot Gloninger Jones (1952-2007).  With family and friends alike, she was a true knitter of the bonds that hold us together.





Posted 9/6/20.....

Ten tunes including one from an obscure late-‘70s Southern California singer-songwriter…and a massively popular female artist whose debut album hit stores and public consciousness twenty-five years ago…and a sax player that really Getz to you…and more…

1. Tell Me – Terence Boylan.....At Bard, Buffalo-born Boylan ran into fellow students Walter Becker and Donald Fagen, and the two soon-to-be Steely Dan chiefs produced Boylan’s first solo album Alias Boona, released in 1969.  After Boylan moved to California he was picked up by Asylum Records (label home of Jackson Browne, Linda Ronstadt, and others), and he pushed out his second album—this one self-titled—in 1977.  “Tell Me,” though, is a pretty ballad from Boylan’s third record Suzy which was also on Asylum and released in 1980.  Like Boylan’s second, this one featured a number of Southern California musicians including three of the Eagles, Steely-then-Doobie guitarist Jeff “Skunk” Baxter, and session guitar ace Larry Carlton.  https://youtu.be/RkhkjjERQE4


2. Hand In My Pocket – Alanis Morissette.....Canadian Morissette stormed into our consciousness back in 1995.  She’d been a bit of a Britney at first, becoming a dance-pop phenomenon in the Great White North before she had turned 18.  Then in a fortuitous move she left Ottawa and met up with producer-songwriter Glen Ballard in Toronto to collaborate on her third album, Jagged Little Pill.  The song “You Oughta Know” from that album was the first single released and the first song that caught fire in the USA, but the loose and shufflin’ “Hand In My Pocket” is Musicasaurus' favorite track on the album.  In 1996 Alanis set out on an 18-month tour that brought her to Pittsburgh’s Star Lake Amphitheater where she sold out the venue and played to a crowd of 23,000.  She never hit those heavenly heights again with subsequent album releases, but she did at least get to play God in Kevin Smith’s 1999 film Dogma; she was featured in a scene filmed on Star Lake’s little lake, which is nestled nearby on the right-hand side as you drive down the four-lane roadway entrance toward the parking lots.  https://youtu.be/CUjIY_XxF1g


3. California – Low.....Husband-and-wife Alan Sparhawk and Mimi Parker are the core of this “slowcore” band that formed in Duluth, Minnesota in 1993.  Their longstanding minimalist approach to songwriting and hushed harmonies—in the alternative pop vein—helped them cobble together a following through almost annual releases beginning in 1994.  Ten years down the road they turned toward a new producer that steered them toward more sonic depth, and this resulted in an album—2005’s The Great Destroyer—that captured their essence yet fleshed out the sound via this more full-bodied approach.  “California” is from that album, and it is a great textured piece with the Sparkhawk-Parker vocal blend and a commanding grunge-lite approach to the guitars and overall production.  https://youtu.be/FNI3tnnu2IM


4. The Girl From Ipanema – Astrud Gilberto, Joao Gilberto & Stan Getz.....This very early version of the song is synonymous with bossa nova, samba and the Sixties, and it comes from the one of the most famous and bestselling jazz albums of all time, 1963’s Getz/Gilberto.  Over the past almost-five decades the tune has almost been cocktail-hour’ed to death in cafes and clubs around the globe, trod on by myriad musical lounge lizards and various sultans of schmaltz.  Hearkening back to this definitive 1963 version brings a new appreciation for the cool sophistication of this worldwide classic...The players: Stan Getz on tenor sax, Joao Gilberto on acoustic guitar and vocals, Antonio Carlos Jobim on piano and Astrud Gilberto on vocals.  The latter is the wife of singer-guitarist Joao, and before the recording session for this song, reportedly she had never sung outside of her home.  https://youtu.be/Nim7Xs41UJo


5. Carry Me Ohio – Sun Kil Moon.....You need to just give in to this long flow-of-a-song.  It is six-and-a-half minutes of chiming guitar, a melodic alt-drone that features guitarist/singer-songwriter Mark Kozelek and his distinctive vocal style and world view.  The latter two are on excellent display in this tune from Sun Kil Moon’s first release, 2003’s Ghosts Of The Great Highway.  Kozelek formed this Bay Area band in 2002 after disbanding Red House Painters, another group who managed to cultivate cult worship instead of mass embrace.  No matter the setting, Kozelek’s always trafficked in deep confessional outpourings, largely set within his own atmospheric ballads.  But occasionally he crafts an unorthodox cover of another artist’s material as well, as he has done with the Cars’ “All Mixed Up” and some Bon Scott-era AC/DC songs, Yes tunes, and John Denver selections.  https://youtu.be/2bFCNJx-BpM


6. Summer Song – Yellowjackets.....“Summer Song” is a collaboration between this crisp and tuneful jazz-fusion band and guest star Bobby McFerrin (oft recognized in jazz circles as the El Supremo of wordless vocals).  The track “Summer Song” hails from the 1995 release Dreamland which is the Yellowjackets’ twelfth album.  Interesting to note: The criminally underappreciated guitarist Robben Ford was an original member of this group when it issued its R&B-oriented debut in 1981, but he departed the band two years afterward.  Over the span of their currently 39-year career the Yellowjackets have had only a few personnel shifts, and gradually moved from R&B more into jazz.  They are not for all tastes but within their expansive catalogue these Yellowjackets do have some buzzworthy tunes.  https://youtu.be/dB-C3LrAodk 


7. Win Or Lose – Paul Butterfield’s Better Days…..Butterfield is a blueblood—a member of the aristocracy of “blues greats”—who worshipped Muddy Waters and the genre’s other forefathers while pushing out some really passionate blues recordings of his own in a variety of settings throughout the 1960s and 1970s.  Although I treasure Butterfield’s late ‘60s blues material, I tend to gravitate to the two recordings he did with his assembled band Better Days in 1972-1973; here, the music is a bit more expansive to include folk and roots music influences.  The track “Win Or Lose”—from the Better Days’ unit’s second album It All Comes Back (1973)—still has the man’s trademark harmonica at the forefront, and he peels off some mighty powerful licks as he barrels through this blues-rock gem.  https://youtu.be/zWBTCV6bBGA


8. Missing – Beck.....This persistent indie artist is such a wonderful sonic adventurer.  He is perpetually hard to pigeonhole and each release has gems in store for the curious traveler who stays on course with him.  “Missing” starts out with a sinewy beat (with nice wood block percussion and acoustic guitar) that for an instant seems like the start of an alternative spin on “The Girl from Ipanema”(!).  Sitar-like strings soon slide into play, though, and above it all is a very warm and occasionally layered Beck vocal.  Atmosphere abounds...great stuff.  This song hails from the artist’s Guero album which saw the light of day in March of 2005.  https://youtu.be/Z-mUIWqIn6o


9. Roxanne – George Michael.....Michael has redefined this tune by stripping the reggae-pop feel of the Police and slowing it to a sensual, jazz-cushioned excursion into Coolsville.  His vocals perfectly suit the sweet and polished jazz accompaniment, and it is all the more remarkable because an approach such as this could have easily veered into schmaltz or parody.  It is a fine line that Michael has walked here and he has done it with ease.  “Roxanne” comes from the artist’s 1999 release Songs From The Last Century.  https://youtu.be/QnhNwcfZPpg


10. Rock Steady – No Doubt.....If you’re dismissive or just plain disinterested in this band, you should park your ‘tude and give this song a chance.  It is a bewitching number from their 2001 album of the same name, and it is also unlike a lot of their other material.  The band ended up with a number of outside producer-collaborators on this record, and electronic keyboard sound effects reigned (reportedly described by the band’s bass player as a lot of “Devo-y bleeps and Star Wars noises”).  That sonic approach is really what adds to the appeal of this mid-tempo dub-style tune, and lead singer Gwen Stefani’s intuitive vocals polish it all off–it is simply mesmerizing.  https://youtu.be/Ac2YHgLSDio 





Posted 8/23/20.....

Ten tunes including a slow funk jam…one of the first horn-fueled ‘60s rock hits on the radio…electronica meets trip-hop…a Motown classic song covered by an ex-Motown classic singer…Bewitching European jazz from a recording studio in Norway…and more.

1. Didjital Vibrations – Jamiroquai.....Though this band sports a dazzling soul singer in the form of frontman Jayson Kay (a.k.a. J.K.), Jamiroquai also occasionally cuts some fetching instrumentals such as this one.  The band formed in London in 1992 and their style is a mix of house music and classic soul.  “Didjital Vibrations”—a slow, stewing bit of funk with slinky bass, synthesizers, and the Australian instrument didgeridoo (a.k.a. didjeridu)—comes from their third album, 1996’s Traveling Without Moving.  This is the album that also contained the band’s worldwide smash “Virtual Insanity” and reportedly it received a Guiness World Record for becoming the best-selling funk album in history.  https://youtu.be/TXah7y6XVxg


2. Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is – Chicago Transit Authority.....This song dates back to the late ‘60s when this brand new band emerged with a sound considered cutting-edge.  They broke new ground in combining electric guitar and solid rock rhythms with a powerful brass section and jazz-laced horn arrangements—quite a breakthrough back in 1969.  “Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is” hails from the band’s self-titled debut album Chicago Transit Authority; they subsequently dropped the “Transit Authority” portion of the band’s name from all albums that followed due to protests from the city of Chicago’s real transit authority.  https://youtu.be/9FzCWLOHUes


3. Everybody Loves A Loser – Morcheeba.....This British trio that came together in 1995 was originally comprised of musician-producers and brothers Paul and Russ Godfrey and female lead vocalist Skye Edwards.  Their music was a melding of electronica, pop, psychedelia and trip-hop for their first four forays into recording, but 2005’s The Antidote—the band’s fifth studio record—featured front-woman Daisy Martey in what turned out to be a one-time shot.  Allmusic.com reviewer David Jeffries summed up this bit-of-a-departure album this way: “Conjuring the spirits of Bill Withers, Shirley Bassey and Grace Slick while retaining that Morcheeba cleverness, The Antidote is both a total curveball and pleasant surprise.”  Future recordings featured other vocalists and eventually the wayfaring Edwards returned to vocally helm the band’s seventh release in 2010.  https://youtu.be/OsMAr_aNhNc


4. Ain’t That Peculiar – Martha Reeves.....This 1965 Motown classic originally performed by Marvin Gaye was covered by Reeves on her first solo album in 1974.  This eponymous release came out on the MCA label because Reeves had decided to leave Motown after founder Berry Gordy announced all label operations were moving from Detroit to L.A.  Reeves then aligned with in-demand music producer Richard Perry, who labored for more than a year on the album while balancing other current recording commitments to Carly Simon and Ringo Starr.  Perry’s high-gloss production never overpowers the intensity of Reeves’ sweet and soulful performance.  https://youtu.be/vNOLvDsGINs 


5. This Old Dark Machine – James Vincent McMorrow.....Irish balladeer McMorrow is a contemporary singer-songwriter who holed up in 2010 in a cottage on the coast of his native land to produce his debut album Early In The Morning.  The record is replete with sweet, layered vocals and acoustic guitar, all the more tantalizing as the artist basically used one microphone and no other professional recording equipment to craft the entire album.  Sounding at times a bit like Fleet Foxes and/or Bon Iver, McMurrow reportedly was influenced by the 1970s output of artists including Bob Dylan, Neil Young, and Donny Hathaway.  https://youtu.be/JJmN1cxWRt0


6. Witchi-Tai-To – Jan Garbarek-Bobo Stenson Quartet.....This thing of beauty hails from Norway, from inside a recording studio nestled in Oslo where through the years a lot of similar soundscapes were recorded for the European jazz label ECM.  The tune is from the 1974 album of the same name, and it is in my Top Ten for Eternity (should I live that long).  It is a superbly played and masterfully recorded composition, and the four musicians (on sax, piano, bass & drums) are exquisitely in sync in eliciting from the listener a flood of emotions.  It may not be for every taste, but give it a few attentive listens and you’ll be better (and broadened) by the experience.  https://youtu.be/6XVvOcyHDI8



7. Use To Be A Cop – Drive-By Truckers.....This song is a groove from start to finish—and what flows through it is the heart of rock ‘n’ roll, Southern-style.  The Drive-By Truckers first largely lassoed in fans and critics with 2001’s Southern Rock Opera, a concept double album set below the Mason-Dixon that explored Southern Rock history via a young musician’s odyssey, Lynyrd Skynyrd’s legacy, and more.  The Drive-By Truckers formed in Athens, Georgia in 1996 and since that time band members have come and gone except for mainstays Mike Cooley and Patterson Hood.  “Used To Be A Cop” from the band’s 2011 release Go-Go Boots is a first-person narrative of a former police officer who’s had bad luck and is bad luck; the song’s driven by multiple guitars in sinister parallel patterns and has drumming that’s pure whack-attack.  This is one great propulsive pleasure.  https://youtu.be/bsACioUPrgw


8. Brand New Cadillac – The Clash.....This fearless punk-rock foursome formed in London in 1976 and was comprised of a lead guitarist, a bass player, a drummer, and a Strummer.  The latter was a joe who was a vocalist from the “spit and snarl” school of rock, and the band itself was dynamic, irrepressible, and musically quite venturesome.  They blended political messaging with punk, ska, rock, reggae, rap and third world beats to produce an inspirational stew that ended up inspiring a number of questing alternative bands, both peers and progeny.  “Brand New Cadillac” is from The Clash’s landmark double-album London Calling which hit record stores on both sides of the Atlantic in late 1979/early 1980.  https://youtu.be/uqTpZXcTc_s


9. My Own Face Inside The Trees – The Clientele.....I first came upon these indie-pop purveyors with 2005’s Strange Geometry, the album from which this track is taken.  The band formed in London in 1999 and released a number of singles that were eventually spun into an album compilation in 2000, followed by their first full-fledged album The Violet Hour in 2003.  Strong reviews and critical buzz followed these efforts but mass acceptance never materialized, which is a shame; the music sounds a little like mid-tempo R.E.M. filtered through 1960s American pop.  There’s a literate approach to the lyrics, a chiming-guitar production sheen, and lead vocals that aurally caress.  https://youtu.be/aiUXvEnJ2dc


10. Lotta Love – Nicolette Larson.....I fell in love with Larson when her 1978 debut album Nicolette was released, mostly because I had 25 life-sized cardboard figures of her at my apartment.  Lest you think me some kind of perv, I shall explain: At that time I was a Warner Brothers Records’ field merchandiser and my job was to cover a ton of Western PA record stores with new-album display materials—including the aforementioned Larson cardboard stand-ups.  “Lotta Love” from Larson was a solid radio hit upon release, and the song’s composer Neil Young had already employed Larson on his own album released that very same year, Comes A Time.  In addition to good looks and a youthful exuberance, Larson had a strong set of pipes and she shines on this great little pop gem.  Tragically she passed away in 1997 at the age of forty-five.  https://youtu.be/aMpUMBfrkeE





Posted 8/9/20.....

Ten tunes including pop-rock from Todd Rundgren, a dialed-down cover of a classic Elvis Costello song, a compelling British jazz-pop cover of Miles Davis’ classic “All Blues”—and more.

1. Can We Still Be Friends? – Todd Rundgren.....Pop music auteur Rundgren’s first foray of any consequence was in The Nazz, a late-1960s American group who followed the musical paths of the British Invasion.  In 1972 he released his third solo album, a double-record set entitled Something/Anything, ¾ of which was ALL Rundgren; he had sung every vocal part, played every instrument, and produced the entire album.  This record also contained his most significant hits “I Saw The Light” and “Hello, It’s Me” (the latter a do-over by Rundgren from his Nazz days).  In 1978 Rundgren released the album from which this track is taken, Hermit of Mink Hollow.  Like Something/Anything, Hermit was entirely Rundgren on vocals, instruments, and studio production, and song-wise it nicely blended his idiosyncratic exercises with his pure pop instincts.  “Can We Still Be Friends” was covered by British singer Robert Palmer one year later after he palmed the piece for his upcoming album Secrets.  https://youtu.be/YtmrHm6Yxv0


2. (The Angels Wanna Wear My) Red Shoes – Hem.....Ahem, what is THIS?  A lounge version of an Elvis Costello classic?  Actually it’s a quite respectable cover of this tune from Hem, a folk assemblage from the New York area who traffics in traditional American music—meaning, traditional sounding songs played with traditional instruments (no studio tricks, no sampling, etc.).  On this track, lead songstress Sally Ellyson laments and lazes her way through, while banjo, slide guitar, and cymbals & brushes lilt alongside.  The track is from a 2002 tribute album entitled Almost You: The Songs of Elvis Costello, and in addition to Hem this album features Okkervil River, Mendoza Line, Matt Pond PA, and others of the indie ilk.  https://youtu.be/RUZ68eQLaT8 


3. All Blues – Julie Driscoll / Brian Auger & The Trinity…..In its original form this song was an instrumental and appeared on one of jazz’s best known classics Kind of Blue (1959) by trumpeter/composer Miles Davis.  Soon after the tune’s debut the singer, songwriter, poet and black activist Oscar Brown Jr. added lyrics, and about a decade down the road a British jazz-inflected pop-rock band led by keyboardist Brian Auger and singer Julie Driscoll covered the song on their 1969 double-album Streetnoise.  This version of “All Blues” is a marvel on several levels, chief among them Auger’s work on the ivories and vocalist Driscoll’s truly startling range.  The latter takes pure possession of this bluesy vamp—alternately purring, growling and soaring—and she infuses this tune with way more than a feeling; it is an incredible vocal tour de force.  https://youtu.be/Kx2YxTk_i-g 


4. Louisiana 1927 – Aaron Neville.....This tune is on Neville’s second major label solo release entitled Warm Your Heart which came out in 1991.  He is most famous for his 1966 chart topper “Tell It Like It Is” which became an oldies staple, and apart from solo projects and collaborative efforts with artists such as Linda Ronstadt he often musically resides within his family band the Neville Brothers.  Here, his cover version of a Randy Newman song is remarkably poignant, with full orchestra in beautiful restraint atop Neville’s fluttering vocal style.  Like some other Newman compositions it is a lovely evocation of time and place; in this case, the tune tells the tale of the Great Mississippi Flood which in 1927 left over 700,000 homeless in the states of Louisiana and Mississippi.  The song also became strongly identified with Hurricane Katrina in September 2005, after Neville performed it during NBC’s televised Concert for Hurricane Relief.  https://youtu.be/zEqiKpQte4c


5. Sun Touch – Herbie Hancock.....Master keyboardist Hancock has for decades immersed himself in jazz and fusion, and in collaborative projects that have helped obliterate the boundaries between set genres of music (the aforementioned jazz and fusion, but also rock, hip-hop, and classical).  He is primarily known for his time spent with jazz legend Miles Davis, and also for his subsequent 1970s fusion period with landmark releases such as Head Hunters from 1973.  “Sun Touch” is a tune taken from his 1975 release entitled Man-Child and it is a spacey, synth-driven piece with deeper currents of sophistication and precision that belie the surface noodlings.  Good cobweb-clearing music for ears open to aural exploration.  https://youtu.be/i79YGW9Ihz0 


6. On My Mind Tonight – Difford & Tilbrook.....Steely Dan has their Becker and Fagen; Squeeze has Difford & Tilbrook, the driving creative forces behind this UK band that first formed in 1975.  The song listed here is from the one and only album that they ever produced together outside of Squeeze—the self-titled Difford & Tilbrook, released in the middle of a three-year band hiatus (1982-1985).  “On My Mind Tonight” is a song that deepens the listener’s appreciation with each subsequent visit; there’s simply so much there in the songwriting and execution that it is really worth the search when scouring for non-formulaic power-pop bliss.  https://youtu.be/oQyvqu7QQYo


7. My Girl – Otis Redding.....This song is a triple threat—co-written by Smokey Robinson, forever branded as a chart-topping hit by the Temptations, and then exquisitely covered by the incomparable Otis Redding.  This version of “My Girl” comes from an extremely solid collection of Redding powerhouse covers that also includes “Wonderful World” (written by Sam Cooke and popularized by Herman’s Hermits), “A Change Is Gonna Come” (another song by Cooke), and “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” (from The Rolling Stones).  The latter three songs along with “My Girl” reside on Redding’s 1966 album Otis Blue: Otis Redding Sings Soul.  This was also the album that sported the Redding-penned composition “Respect” which later gained stratospheric recognition through a sizzling ’67 cover by Otis admirer Aretha Franklin.  https://youtu.be/tjDwzDyULvI


8. The Gardens Of Babylon – Jean-Luc Ponty.....Classically trained violinist Ponty was initially inspired by idols Miles Davis and John Coltrane, but veered into actual musical team-ups with Frank Zappa and The Mahavishnu Orchestra, then ending up a cult favorite of jazz-rock enthusiasts especially through his recorded solo works from the mid-late 1970s and early 1980s.  In concert back then—always with a commanding group of musicians in tow—he was one of the few performers who drew not only the jazz crowd but the in-the-know rock ‘n’ rollers as well, the ones who prided themselves on stretching their musical boundaries.  Some of the shows I saw from that time period—in Pittsburgh venues like the Stanley Theatre and the Syria Mosque—were transcendent.  “The Gardens Of Babylon” hails from Ponty’s 1976 album Imaginary Voyage.  https://youtu.be/R2ENEnxZQL0


9. Giving Me A Chance – Gotye.....This tune is the handiwork of Belgian-Australian multi-instrumentalist and singer/songwriter Gotye.  His real name is Wally De Backer, notable in some circles as a member of the Australian indie trio The Basics.  Beginning in the early 2000s the artist latched onto his Gotye moniker in order to have a public platform outside of the band to produce smart and appealing electronic pop music.  The sound of Gotye is reminiscent of the lush layering sometimes employed by Peter Gabriel and Sting on their solo releases, and the track itself comes from this artist’s 2011 album Making Mirrors.  https://youtu.be/KkoDyRJCeRg


10. Angels Walk – Paul Westerberg.....Westerberg led the influential Minneapolis punk band The Replacements from 1979 until their disbandment in 1991.  He released his first solo album in 1993 and his next one, Eventually, followed three years afterward.  The latter album from which this track is taken doesn’t proffer punk; Westerberg left that largely behind with The Replacements and instead crafted a path toward solid, still slightly-skewed songs that are a mix of Rolling Stones-style rockers (with an alternative edge and attitude) and non-cloying ballads.  Other notable tracks on Eventually include “Good Day,” “Love Untold,” and “Time Flies Tomorrow”.  The link to “Angels Walk:”  https://youtu.be/7TdWt0CaoLs





Posted 7/26/20.....

Six days on from this July 26th post will be the thirty-ninth anniversary of the debut of MTV Music Television.  On August 1st, 1981 MTV videos began airing on cable stations across the country, and this upstart music channel on television—revolutionary at the time—regalvanized the music business.

Which singer/songwriters and musicians had videos back then that were plugged into that historic first day’s broadcast?  There were 116 total videos that aired on MTV during its first 24 hours of life, some of which received multiple airings due to their perceived popularity.

Musicasaurus.com pored over the whole list of 116 and came up with its own Top Twenty from that riveting first-day peek at the future…For some this may constitute a genuine flashback; for others it may be simply a sound history lesson.  Either way, delights are in store—enjoy!

 Video Killed the Radio Star – The Buggles – This was the first video ever played on MTV, and a shot across the bow!  https://youtu.be/W8r-tXRLazs


 Peter Gunn Theme/Remote Control – The Silencers – This new wave/power pop Pittsburgh band featured the talents of Frank Czuri on vocals and Warren King on guitar.  https://youtu.be/fgO9MlgZoKY


 Turning Japanese – The Vapors – There was widespread scuttlebutt that this song was about orgasm after masturbation, but the band won this one hands down—they insisted it was simply about teen angst in general.  https://youtu.be/dx3HA-F8iVE


 Brass in Pocket – The Pretenders – This ¾ British, ¼ American band’s debut album was released in the U.S. in December of 1979; the song is also known as “Brass in Pocket (I’m Special).”  https://youtu.be/-7Hy7uAb_eU


 In The Air Tonight – Phil Collins – This tune was Collins’ first ever radio single, from his 1981 debut solo album Face Value; the song was also utilized in the debut episode of NBC’s 1984-1989 television series Miami Vice, accompanying detectives Sonny Crockett and Rico Tubbs on their drive through a Florida evening looking for criminals and more pastel colors.  https://youtu.be/YXa_mPXE9Vk


 Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around – Stevie Nicks and Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers – Written by Petty and guitarist Mike Campbell, this song was originally intended for the Heartbreakers but given to Nicks instead for her 1981 debut album Bella Donna.  https://youtu.be/H5i7j0VhEHw


 (What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love, and Understanding – Elvis Costello and The Attractions – Costello nicked this Nick Lowe composition for his third studio album Armed Forces.  https://youtu.be/Ssd3U_zicAI


 Little Sister – Rockpile with Robert Plant – This December 29, 1979 performance is from the Concerts for the People of Kampuchea (aka Cambodia), which spanned December 26-29, 1979 at London’s Hammersmith Odeon; this superstar run of shows benefited the victims of the Khmer Rouge communist regime.  https://youtu.be/Q5XJX8sjYDE                        


 Rapture – Blondie – Deborah Harry and her band with special guest sax player Tom Scott churned out this dance-floor delight, a mix of pop, disco, funk and hip-hop.  In the video, there’s a cameo by artist Jean-Michel Basquiat as a night hotspot deejay.  https://youtu.be/pHCdS7O248g


 Looking for Clues – Robert Palmer – This song from the artist’s sixth album Clues sported more new wave-ish material than preceding Palmer albums (it had guest musicians including Chris Frantz from Talking Heads and early electronica pioneer Gary Numan).  https://youtu.be/92wCPfqyVbg


 Too Late – Shoes – Two brothers from Zion, Illinois John and Jeff Murphy formed a pair in Shoes along with friend Gary Klebe.  The song is from their major-label debut album Present Tense which was released in September 1979.  https://youtu.be/1Opz_drg1O8


 Rough Boys – Pete Townshend – This tune hails from Townshend’s second solo album Empty Glass (1980).  The song is Who-like in its power and swagger, and in interviews at the time Townshend tap-danced around the sexual ambiguity that critics had picked up on.  https://youtu.be/dkT8W6u81Ks


 Fashion – David Bowie – Although Bowie’s “Ashes to Ashes” video had already been created in support of the artist’s 1980 album Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps), it was the video for “Fashion” (the album’s second single released to radio) that got the nod for airing on MTV’s first day.  https://youtu.be/F-z6u5hFgPk


 Once in a Lifetime – Talking Heads – This song from the band’s fourth album Remain in Light (1980) is about being pretty much on autopilot throughout your Life and then waking up to that fact: “And you may find yourself in a beautiful house / With a beautiful wife / And you may ask yourself, well / How did I get here?”  https://youtu.be/5IsSpAOD6K8


 Cruel To Be Kind – Nick Lowe – This was British singer-songwriter Lowe’s one and only “hit single” in America from his 1979 album Labour of Lust.  The video centered on the wedding ceremony of Lowe and new bride Carlene Carter (daughter of June Carter Cash and her not-Johnny first husband), and it contained actual footage as well as reenactment scenes taped the same day.  https://youtu.be/b0l3QWUXVho


 Wuthering Heights – Kate Bush – All the rage in the UK especially back in the late 1970s and throughout the 1980s, singer-songwriter-soprano Bush was only nineteen when this song rocketed to #1 on the English song sales charts.  In America this alluring and eclectic artist unfortunately has always had to settle for a fervent cult instead of mass recognition.  https://youtu.be/Fk-4lXLM34g


 A Message to You, Rudy – The Specials – This interracial British band trafficked largely in 2 Tone music (Jamaican reggae melded with new wave and punk music).  Part of their appeal besides the riveting, rhythmic drive of their songs was their onstage attire which included pork pie hats and mohair suits.  https://youtu.be/cntvEDbagAw


 Prime Time – The Tubes – Fee Waybill was the lead singer and provocateur of The Tubes, an early purveyor of music blended with satire and outrageous stage antics.  They were a must-see rock extravaganza with Waybill the onstage ringleader of song skits that skewered everything from rampant consumerism, game shows, beach movies, S&M, and more.  “Prime Time” was from the band’s fifth release Remote Control.  https://youtu.be/Jm6HQDKzImQ


 Let’s Go – The Cars – MTV really helped rev up this Boston band’s success through airings of “Let’s Go,” a song from the band’s second album Candy-O.  The New York Times and Rolling Stone magazine critic Robert Palmer described their sound as an appealing blend of “punk minimalism, the labyrinthine synthesizer and guitar textures of art rock, the ‘50s rockabilly revival and the melodious terseness of power pop."  https://youtu.be/-gr4QhKt8XY


 Do You Remember Rock ‘n’ Roll Radio? – The Ramones – These punk legends met up with gun-toting, wall-of-sound producer Phil Spector for their fifth album End of the Century (1980) in a bid for more mainstream acceptance—or at least that was Spector’s goal, and the band begrudgingly went along with the plan.  This song name-checked musical icons including deejays Murray the K and Alan Freed, John Lennon and T. Rex, and TV shows such as The Ed Sullivan Show, Hullabaloo and Shindig!  https://youtu.be/Gi9a7IdRiBI





Posted 7/12/20.....

Songs from ’79….These were on my cassette mixes that year, and ran the gamut of power pop to R&B, country to classic rock…Enjoy.

1. You Can’t Be Too Strong – Graham Parker & The Rumour..... English pub rocker Parker carved out a nice niche for himself in the New Wavy 1970s, forming his band The Rumour in 1975 and releasing two albums in quick succession the following year (Howlin’ Wind and Heat Treatment).  He beat by a year or two the emergence of somewhat similar British New Wave artists like Elvis Costello and Joe Jackson yet the latter two pretty much eclipsed Parker over the long haul with regard to popularity, name recognition and press coverage—a shame.  Parker’s songwriting is strong, never more in evidence than on his 1979 release Squeezing Out Sparks which featured tunes like“Passion is no Ordinary Word” and the track selected here for the mix, “You Can’t Be Too Strong.”  The latter song deals very frankly with the realities of abortion, and is well articulated in poetic yet disturbing lyrical imagery.  https://youtu.be/B1wQGsKblPQ


2. It’s Different For Girls – Joe Jackson…..Jackson’s second album I’m The Man (from which this track is taken) was released in 1979 hot on the heels of, and in the same year as, the artist’s debut album Look Sharp!  According to Billboard Magazine, Jackson’s latter album spawned an almost Top 20 hit in the USA with “Is She Really Going Out With Him?” but “It’s Different For Girls” from the follow-up didn’t quite crack the magazine’s Top 100 at the time of its release.  Jackson was interviewed back in June 1979 by CMJ College Media Journal’s Madeline Bocaro, who asked how he felt about a rising tide of comparisons to fellow Brit musicians Elvis Costello and Graham Parker.  “When people first started comparing me to Elvis Costello, I thought it was fair enough—they’ve got to compare me to someone,” replied Jackson.  “But then it continued a bit too long and I got really pissed off.  Then I got bored with it, and now I’m getting annoyed with it again.  It’s just that there’s no one else they can compare me to.  It’s a very superficial comparison, I think.  If you’ve ever met Costello, you’d see that we’re two totally different people.  I find him pretty offensive.  Graham Parker I really like.  I think he’s very genuine.  I don’t think Costello is.”  https://youtu.be/hSJpM_YQwro


3. Rock With You – Michael Jackson.....This song from Jackson’s fifth solo release Off The Wall (1979) entered and then clung tenaciously to the airwaves of pop rock radio all across the country.  For those of us who may have heard it 1,000 times too many over the years—in the background in retail stores or in passing on car radios, etc.—it seriously bears revisiting.  It is a gorgeous, gloriously produced song with sweet strings, layered harmonies and handclaps.  Songwriter Rod Temperton had offered it to Jackson only after Karen Carpenter had passed on it for her own solo album that was in the works at the time.  Producer Quincy Jones came on to helm Off The Wall and then kept up his journey with Jackson through Thriller (1982) and Bad (1987).  Off The Wall was Jackson moving beyond Motown; here he was venturing very confidently into a mix of pop, rhythm & blues, rock, and post-disco, proving he really had a nose for this stuff.  https://youtu.be/QtHRyy5LODE


4. The Very Thing That Makes You Rich (Makes Me Poor) – Ry Cooder.....Ry Cooder has always kind of lived outside the boundaries of conventional music making, and always has championed roots music above all else.  He started out as a session player and his slide guitar appears on a variety of late 60s/early 70s records by Captain Beefheart, Little Feat, Taj Mahal, Randy Newman, and even the Stones (on Let It Bleed and Sticky Fingers).  Cooder has a cauldron that he pulls from, and he covers a number of styles—rock, folk, blues, R & B, Tex Mex, Hawaiian, gospel and soul.  This particular track is from Cooder’s 1979 album Bop Till You Drop, which was the very first major-label rock album to be recorded digitally.  The sound of it, just like Cooder’s soulfulness, is clear and captivating.  https://youtu.be/OTJ3RQSa1PU


5. Girls Talk – Dave Edmunds.....This track is from Edmunds’ 1979 album Repeat When Necessary, cut at the exact same time as Nick Lowe’s album Labour of Lust.  Both Edmunds and Lowe were members of the UK band Rockpile along with Billy Bremner and Terry Williams, and these four musicians populated both albums.  The song “Girls Talk” was actually given to Edmunds by Elvis Costello, who was part of that late ‘70s West London artist scene with Rockpile, Squeeze and others.  Costello had not even recorded the song yet, and handed over a cassette of it to Edmunds to record for Repeat When Necessary.  The lyrics were reworked slightly beforehand, according to Edmunds in a June 24, 2015 interview with writer Carl Wiser of songfacts.com.  But the thing that grabbed Edmunds’ attention initially was the song’s opening.  “What I did like about it,” Edmunds said, “I've always thought that a really good song has a really great first line.  And that one does.  ‘There are some things you can't cover up with lipstick and powder.’  I went, ‘Wow.  Now there's an opening line for you.' ”  https://youtu.be/sa3l3Ei0tdg


6. Bartender’s Blues – George Jones (with James Taylor).....Country music legend Jones released an album 1979 that featured a number of other musicians helping out in duet pairings and harmonies.  My Very Special Guests featured, among others, Waylon, Willie, Emmylou Harris, Mavis & Pop Staples, Linda Ronstadt, Elvis Costello and James Taylor.  “Bartender’s Blues,” a James Taylor song originally on his 1977 JT album, is a nice enough stab at country music with Taylor on lead vocals and Linda Ronstadt supplying harmony on the chorus.  But in the hands of Jones, the song becomes a must-hear classic.  On My Very Special Guests, “Bartender’s Blues” is exquisite with Jones taking the lead with his velvet pipes and signature phrasing intact while Taylor provides the background harmonies.  This version could not be sweeter.  https://youtu.be/qPeufdxNm80


7. A Fool For Your Stockings – ZZ Top.....Musicasaurus.com was never a full-tilt fan of this little ol’ band from Texas, but a few select songs through the years have made it onto various cassette, CD and Spotify mixes of mine because of the sheer power behind the performances and the keen production touches achieved in the recording studio.  From a somewhat undervalued album released in 1979 entitled Degüello, “A Fool For Your Stockings” is a deep-bottomed, deliciously doled-out track that oozes the blues.  The usually caustic music critic Robert Christgau (most famous for his “Consumer Guide” album reviews in The Village Voice) said about this album “I’ve hear a shitload of white blues albums in the wake of Belushi & Aykroyd.  This is the best by miles.”  https://youtu.be/xbhUK9Loi1E


8. Driver’s Seat – Sniff ‘n’ the Tears…..A whiff of success never led Sniff to success.  The song “Driver’s Seat” from 1979’s Fickle Heart was a catchy late-‘70s hit for this six-man British band in the UK, the USA, Canada and a few other hot spots around the globe.  On the heels of the album’s release, though, half the original band quit and went on to musical pursuits elsewhere.  With shifting personnel Sniff ‘n’ the Tears soldiered on but any and all subsequent releases failed to register with the record-buying public.  While looking up their output, however, I noted that their record company issued a compilation album in 1991 entitled A Best of Sniff ‘n’ the Tears (really?  How many alternate versions of “Driver’s Seat” can be crammed onto one record?!!)…Also noteworthy: The song was used in the 1997 film Boogie Nights as background music for a party scene.  https://youtu.be/9SCzVEUlqqA 


9. I Wanna Be Your Lover – Prince.....This track is from Prince’s self-titled second album from 1979, and his falsetto here is funkin’ fantastic.  Essentially a dance tune, the song gives little hint that this Artist Then Known As Prince would a) produce something as groundbreaking as Purple Rain in 1984 and b) in 1993 become a symbol of....of....well, just become a symbol, period.  Of course he started takin’ names again (i.e., reverting back to being called Prince) by the year 2000.  In May of 2013 the Minneapolis, Minnesota’s Star Tribune printed an interview by the publication’s writer Jon Bream with internationally known music man Dick Clark.  Clark was asked about his own interview with Prince on American Bandstand, which took place in January 1980 (around three months after the release of the aforementioned second album).  Bream writes, “Clark asked the musician how many instruments he played.  Prince answered, ‘Thousands.’  Asked how long he'd been playing, Prince merely raised four fingers.  Clark remembered it vividly.  ‘He didn't talk to me,’ the Bandstand host said 15 years after the fact.  ‘I've always said that was one of the most difficult interviews I've ever conducted, and I've done 10,000 musician interviews.’ "  https://youtu.be/MtFnAbgd2lU


 10. Life During Wartime –Talking Heads.....Follow this recipe: Take spunk...add a dash of punk...and leaven with funk.  You’ll then have “Life During Wartime,” a tune from Talking Heads’ third album Fear of Music (1979).  This track is dense and driving, and its lyrics reflect the unease that exists in facing some of the threats of this modern age: “This ain’t no party, this ain’t no disco / This ain’t no fooling around / No time for dancing, or lovey-dovey / I ain’t got time for that now.”  We’ll wrap up this 6/12/20 post of songs from 1979 by providing you with TWO YouTube links: The first one takes you to the studio version from the Fear of Music release, and the second one is a live version—and not just any live version.  It is from the Jonathan Demme-helmed 1984 concert film Stop Making Sense, which was shot over several nights in 1983 at Hollywood’s Pantages Theater.  The film upon release was lauded by rock critics and film critics alike, and is widely acknowledged by critics and music fans as one of the best concert films ever made. (studio version from Fear of Music)  https://youtu.be/_NywTcGOUkE  (live version from Stop Making Sense)  https://youtu.be/jShMQw2H2cM





Posted 6/28/20.....

Ten songs including one from the duo who transported Fleetwood Mac to new levels of success…a pop music classic from collaborators Cee-lo Green and Danger Mouse…a New Age instrumental featuring one of jazz-rock’s finest violinists…a Sixties pop classic with mighty horns…and more.

1. Frozen Love – Buckingham Nicks…..Those who love Rock and don’t live under one know all about Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks, the two talented Californians who joined a reconstituted Fleetwood Mac in 1974.  The Mac then released their eponymous 11th album one year later and snagged major radio play and dizzying in-store sales success for the first time in its eight-year history.  Prior to joining Fleetwood Mac, though, Buckingham and Nicks produced an album—and only one album—as a duo.  For those who haunted the new-release sections of record stores back then, flicking their fingers through bin after bin in search of new discoveries, this album was a real find.  Buckingham and Nicks were formidable talents even before they were plucked into instant fame by Mac’s founder/drummer Mick Fleetwood—and the song he first stumbled upon which prompted his invitation to the duo was “Frozen Love.”  (this YouTube clip contains the full album; proceed directly to the 28:42 mark of this total 36:03 video)   https://youtu.be/E1kHeix-55c


2. Crazy – Gnarls Barkley.....This song seized the collective consciousness of music lovers circa the mid 2000s, especially fans of savvy pop, sampling, and vocals with a whole lotta soul.  “Crazy” came out of a collaboration of artist/producer Danger Mouse and soul singer Cee-Lo Green, and it hails from Gnarls Barkley’s St. Elsewhere album that was released in 2006.  Producer Danger Mouse was also the mastermind behind the internet-sprung Grey Album, the 2004 bootleg mash-up of The Beatles’ White Album and Jay-Z’s Black Album.  https://youtu.be/-N4jf6rtyuw


3. Wake Up – Arcade Fire.....In 2004 Montreal unit Arcade Fire sparked instant devotion with their first full-length release Funeral which featured the rousing-as-hell anthem “Wake Up.”  It was that particular song that smacked me in the breastbone the first time I encountered it, which was at U2’s October 22, 2005 Vertigo Tour show in Pittsburgh.  The tune was part of a pre-recorded music mix that the band had playing over their mammoth sound system prior to the start of their performance, and the song—at top volume, and crystal clear—nearly overwhelmed me.  I sought out Arcade’s album soon thereafter, and found it to be a stirring blend of styles including (but certainly not limited to) post-punk, pop and baroque.  https://youtu.be/z6R4DDuno5o


4. When We Were Children – Tristan Des Pres (with special guest Jerry Goodman).....This instrumental bobs right along in a kind of new-agey stream, but thankfully is quite spirited as well.  “When We Were Children” comes from Tristan Des Pres’ 2000 album Altered States.  Des Pres is a French multi-instrumentalist (on keyboards, guitar, bass and drums) and in addition to recording albums he’s spent well over twenty years composing and producing music and sound effects for major players in the videogame industry.  The star of “When We Were Children,” however, is Jerry Goodman.  His violin zips through the tune with great tone and a lyric sweetness, and near the end, the song ramps up to a breakaway stretch that features excellent speedster bow-work from this former Mahavishnu Orchestra band member.  https://youtu.be/yR8SkEejGCA


5. Down In Hollywood – Ry Cooder.....On “Down In Hollywood” we get to hear both the Pro and the Khan.  Singer/songwriter and guitarist Ry Cooder, already a 16-year music veteran when starting work on his 1979 album Bop Till You Drop, brought in R&B songstress Chaka Khan to help deliver this slinky, funk-fueled treat.  The song never abandons its steamy, slow sizzle and interestingly features a half-spoken/half-sung approach by Cooder as well as a couple of “downtown street character interludes” (as Stevie Wonder had done five years previously with his song “Living For The City” from the album Innervisions).  Here is “Down In Hollywood” ... https://youtu.be/d4lmMBHlAS4 


6. Long Way Home – Enter the Haggis.....This tune is from Enter the Haggis’ third album Soapbox Heroes released in 2006.  This five-piece Toronto unit blends Celtic influences with rock and world fusion, and above the swirl the lead vocals sound a bit like the Gin Blossom’s Robin Wilson.  “Long Way Home” is a straightforward ballad with bookending bagpipes, though other material on the album (like “The Apothecary” with its nicely wielded tin whistle) picks up the pace yet doesn’t abandon the Celtic thrust.  The band is named after the traditional Scottish dish haggis, which is a pudding made of sheep’s organs—the heart, liver and lungs.  Bon appétit!  https://youtu.be/QYqUMliOJIA 


7. Serenade To A Cuckoo – Jethro Tull.....This song was originally written and recorded by American jazz multi-instrumentalist Rahsaan Roland Kirk, ending up on his 1964 album I Talk With The Spirits.  For rock fans, though, this is really a Tull tale.  “Serenade To A Cuckoo” was reportedly the first song that Jethro Tull’s Ian Anderson learned to play on flute, and the band recorded the track for their 1968 debut album This Was.  Anderson also adopted a bit of Kirk’s distinctive flute-playing style—the practice of humming, and even a bit of mild muttering, while playing the instrument.  https://youtu.be/bq4bponfj2E


8. One Fine Morning – Lighthouse…..Lighthouse was a late ‘60s/early ‘70s Canadian band whose success was dwarfed by their similar-sounding and more successful mates to the south, the USA’s Blood, Sweat & Tears and Chicago Transit Authority.  Lighthouse formed in Toronto in 1968 with the idea of melding rock, jazz and classical music, and initially sported thirteen members—eight of ‘em on horns or strings, and the remaining five holding down the more traditional slots of guitarist, bassist, keyboard player, drummer and vocalist.  The band played a few festivals back then including Newport and Monterey, and even pulled a bit of a coup in 1970 at Isle Of Wight: They were the only other artist besides the electrifying Hendrix who were asked to perform a second night, an honor not accorded to other more prominent bands at the festival like Miles Davis, The Who or The Doors.  “One Fine Morning” is the title track of the band’s fourth album that was released in 1971.  https://youtu.be/RLdqe8idpFw


9. King Of The World – Angelfish.....The Scottish band Angelfish evolved from an earlier incarnation called Goodbye Mr. Mackenzie, and both bands had as an active member the sultry redheaded singer Shirley Manson.  In the former, Manson was not as much in the limelight with her keyboards and background vocals, but in Angelfish she wriggled into the spotlight as front woman and lead vocalist.  “King Of The World” is an up-tempo alt-rock tune from Angelfish’s one and only album (their eponymous debut) which hit record stores in 1994.  One of the band’s videos was soon featured on MTV’s alternative music preview show called 120 Minutes, and Manson was spotted there by American musician/producer Butch Vig and a couple of his peer producers who were all at the time contemplating forming a band.  The call went out to Manson and she eventually teamed up with the three to form the alt-rock band Garbage in 1995.  https://youtu.be/vsEmgZIT3xw


10. Fences – Phoenix.....This band from Paris, France formed in 1995 and after a bit of “feeling their way” arrived at a fetching formula of rock and pop laced with electronica and dance music.  Their fourth album, from which this track is taken, was entitled Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix (2009).  It pushed the band onto many more fan playlists in France and well beyond its borders (p.s. If you have a slavish desire to tie your daily satisfactions to celebrity news updates, then here you go: In case you hadn’t heard, Phoenix’s lead singer Thomas Mars is husband to filmmaker Sophia Coppola, and they’ve collaborated to produce offspring as well as film scores).  https://youtu.be/0vqQYC0jqdc





Posted 6/14/20.....

Ten tunes that hew to the blues, and/or to rhythm & blues…

1.Everytime I Roll The Dice – Delbert McClinton…..McClinton’s a Lubbock, Texas native with a bit of a raspy Southern twang to his voice, and he always surrounds himself on record and on tours with crackerjack musicians that deliver punched-up and provocative blues numbers, most of which are—as one would hope—toe tappers and head bobbers.  This particular song hails from McClinton’s 1992 album Never Been Rocked Enough.  If you have heard of this artist before, it may be due to his 1980 crossover hit “Giving It Up For Your Love” which back then ultimately climbed to #8 on Billboard Magazine’s Hot One Hundred chart.  https://youtu.be/p8Pia-wz7ts


2. Hold On, I’m Comin’ – Sam & Dave.....This duo delivered gospel-fired soul music and did so through the famous Stax studio and Stax record label which was Atlantic Records’ subsidiary based in Memphis, TN.  House musicians Booker T. & The M.G.’s and the Mar-Key Horns gave their soul support, and producers Isaac Hayes and David Porter were the songwriting team who fed the duo hit after eventual hit including “Soul Man,” “When Something Is Wrong With My Baby,” and “I Thank You.”  The track listed here is from a Sam & Dave album of the same name which was released in 1966.  https://youtu.be/6JElrEbAcwY


3. Bad Luck Situation – Johnny Winter…..It took until his fifth album—1973’s Still Alive And Well—for this Texas-born blues singer/guitar slinger to really dent the collective rock consciousness.  The follow-up to that popular album was 1974’s Saints & Sinners—from which this track is taken—and critics seemed to like it but the public a bit less so.  In addition to “Bad Luck Situation” (an energizing rocker flaunting the artist’s yowl and his git-tar’s growl), the album also features Winterized covers of the Rolling Stones (“Stray Cat Blues”) and 1950s rocker Larry Williams (“Bony Moronie”).  https://youtu.be/RCUjVA7vN4k


4. Fire – Etta James.....The song listed here comes from an incendiary collection of soul scorchers and blues tunes all performed by James in the mid-to-late 1960s.  At the time, she was sort of a “blues queen in residence” at the famed Muscle Shoals, Alabama recording studio where her powerful vocal performances were always backed by an amazing core band of house musicians.  The compilation, entitled Tell Mama - The Complete Muscle Shoals Collection, was released in 2001 and contains twenty-two classic performances from James during this particularly fertile and unfettered period of her largely troubled life.  On this song in particular, the brass and background singer sass both add a nice dimension, but every song on the album is rooted by that deep and passionate wellspring of a voice that courageously cried the blues.  https://youtu.be/ayE1buH-h9k


5. Devil With A Blue Dress/Good Golly Miss Molly – Mitch Ryder & The Detroit Wheels.....Ryder is a truly soulful, rasp ‘n’ roll white singer from Detroit who sounds, in retrospect, like the love child of Bob Seger and James Brown.  Ryder and his Wheels rolled out some passionate, live-sounding classics over a couple-year period in the Sixties, including the song listed here (from his 1966 release Breakout…!!!) and others pulled from his soulful kitbag like “Jenny Take A Ride” and “Sock It To Me Baby.”  https://youtu.be/RAClxmXqX0M


6. New Walkin’ Blues – Paul Butterfield’s Better Days.....One of the formative Chicago Caucasian blues masters from the 1960s, harmonica wielding Butterfield first fronted the Butterfield Blues Band (from ’65-’71) before departing to create two masterpiece recordings with his Better Days ensemble—Paul Butterfield’s Better Days and follow-up It All Comes Back, both released in 1973.  This group somehow plumbed the depths of authentic blues while also managing to create powerful songs that are timeless because of the level of musicianship and the pristine production.  “New Walkin’ Blues,” a Robert Johnson composition, is the leadoff track from the Better Days unit’s first album.  https://youtu.be/SV-aqZXlhDI


7. Wild Night – Martha Reeves.....Reeves romped high on the Pop and R & B charts in the 1960s as part of the Motown stable of acts and as leader of her girl group The Vandellas.  They scored big with “(Love Is Like A) Heat Wave,” “Nowhere To Run,” and “Dancing In The Street” in that breadbasket of talent that was the Motown label.  When Motown left Detroit to set up business in L.A. in 1973, Reeves parted ways with the company and went solo in 1974 with a self-titled release produced by then in-demand producer Richard Perry.  It was on this record that Reeves covered Van Morrison’s boisterous rocker “Wild Night,” wrapping her fiery pipes all around it and layering on some fuel-injected funk.  https://youtu.be/qxziDdrsD14


8. Born Under A Bad Sign – Robben Ford…..Ford is an explosive guitar talent, amazingly still a cult figure even today.  He and various support musicians have toured through the Pittsburgh area periodically through the years, playing places like the now-defunct club Graffiti in the Oakland section of town, and the Rex Theater on the Southside.  Ford in concert is pretty much reliably eclectic and electric, frettin’ over blues, jazz and rock in all sorts of combinations.  Many years back on the national scene he played with ensembles like Tom Scott’s L.A. Express and jazz fusion band The Yellowjackets, recorded with Joni Mitchell, and toured with Miles Davis.  I like him best, though, when he hews to the blues.  Here is “Born Under A Bad Sign” from his 1988 album Talk To Your Daughter: https://youtu.be/Ii3V4-tJAEU


9. ‘Fore Day Rider – Jay McShann.....Blues, jump & swing were McShann’s thing.  He was a pianist and bandleader who was born in Oklahoma in 1916 and then moved to Kansas City in his early twenties, forming a big band which at one point counted Charlie Parker as a member.  McShann’s career ebbed a bit after the 1940s but perked back up in the 1970s (his appeal at that point was based on jazz circuit appearances as a much-in-demand pianist/singer).  I first found out about McShann while leafing through the “M” section of a record store in the mid-80s, happening upon his 1978 release called The Last Of The Blue Devils.  This particular album includes treasures like “ ’Tain’t Nobody’s Bizness If I Do,” Count Basie’s “Jumpin’ At The Woodside,” the Leiber-Stoller classic “Kansas City,” and the track listed here, “’Fore Day Rider.”  https://youtu.be/-ao2_u3sFLY


10. Stop On By – Rufus.....One of the most talented musical ensembles of the 1970s and early 1980s, the interracial band Rufus defied easy categorization because they successfully straddled the genres of rhythm & blues and rock, while lacing in some heartfelt funk and soul.  On several fronts they excelled: The musical sophistication at the heart of the band, the songwriting, and the seemingly boundless talent of lead vocalist Chaka Khan.  The track listed here is their cover of a Bobby Womack song taken from Rufus’ third studio album entitled Rufusized (1974).  A few other praiseworthy releases: 1977’s Ask Rufus and 1978’s Street Player.  Here is “Stop On By” … https://youtu.be/Be6RyTPT9fI





Posted 5/31/20.....

Sink deep into the covers…Some you’ll find are the stuff that dreams are made of…Others might be lead to nightmares if you’re zealously protective of the original artists’ recordings…

1. The Flying Burrito Brothers cover Bob Dylan: “To Ramona”– The song listed here is from the 1971 self-titled third release from The Flying Burrito Brothers, a formative country rock band that had just then emerged from a significant personnel change.  Gram Parsons left to pursue a solo career and so the Burritos warmed up singer-songwriter and guitarist Rick Roberts to take his place.  If Roberts’ name doesn’t spark recognition, you may know him as the voice behind country rock band Firefall who churned out a few radio hits later in the 1970s like “You Are The Woman” and “Just Remember I Love You.”  Roberts ended up bringing a lot to the game for this 1971 Burrito platter; the album stands as probably the best arranged and most masterfully executed work by the band in their entire patchwork-of-players existence.  And the song?  “To Ramona” hails from Bob Dylan’s fourth album Another Side of Bob Dylan (1964), and here the Burritos’ version is beautifully lush and layered, with sweetly skittering pedal steel guitar work from band member Sneaky Pete Kleinow.  https://youtu.be/n7zijSFW0Ok


2. Travis Tritt and Patti LaBelle cover Sam & Dave: “When Something Is Wrong With My Baby”– Credentials are flyin’ all over this one: A) The song was co-written by Isaac Hayes of “Shaft” fame; B) It first aired as a 1967 chart-topping hit for the electrifying soul duo Sam & Dave; and C) It was covered with reverence and unrestrained passion by Travis Tritt and Patti LaBelle in 1994.  Their version of this classic tune comes from a high-concept album entitled Rhythm Country & Blues, an eleven-song experiment that in each case marries a prominent soul singer with an established country music star in the hopes that each collaboration collapses mistaken impressions of barriers between the genres.  Not all of the pairings on this album work—“high concept” sometimes just means someone was high when they thought of the concept—but on this track Tritt is a real fit and jells well with LaBelle, who takes this tune to an incredible climax with her laser-like precision on the emotional core of the song.  https://youtu.be/IWaP6H_n0qw


3. The Sundays cover The Rolling Stones: “Wild Horses”– The Sundays are a four-piece unit from England who developed cult followings on both sides of the Atlantic particularly in the early-mid 1990s.  Their alternative-based approach featured pristine female lead vocals and instrumentation that was ringing and chiming though none of that unfortunately led to chart climbing.  Critics gave their output a lofty review, but overall embrace by the public at any one point was muted. “Wild Horses” is taken from the band’s 1992 sophomore release Blind, and the track floats and flutters with vocalist Harriet Wheeler and guitarist David Gavurin playing off each other quite adeptly.  The Stones’ version from their 1971 release Sticky Fingers is a classic, but try The Sundays’ for some nice celestial seasoning.  https://youtu.be/wscB1ckO_Ew


4. The Aluminum Group covers Guns N’ Roses: “Sweet Child O’ Mine”– Slowed to a meditative pace, this cover by The Aluminum Group is a cool reinvention that will likely piss off Axl and Slash worshippers, but it supplies grandeur in a chamber pop setting and the result is quite lush and lovely.  This Chicago band led by brothers John and Frank Navin originally trekked within hardcore music circles under another band name, but then in 1995 indulged their love of 1960s pop schmaltz to form The Aluminum Group, releasing the album Wonder Boy from which this track is taken.  The original version of “Sweet Child O’ Mine” comes from Guns N’ Roses searing debut album Appetite For Destruction which was released in 1987.   Here is the video of the tune from YouTube, but I’m not sure why Stephen King’s killer clown Pennywise is at the beginning of it; the song actually starts about 45 seconds in… https://youtu.be/vNktzEYQlO0


5. Martha Reeves covers Van Morrison: “Wild Night”– Reeves romped high on the Pop and R & B charts in the 1960s as part of the Motown stable of acts and as leader of her girl group The Vandellas.  They scored big with “(Love Is Like A) Heat Wave,” “Nowhere To Run,” and “Dancing In The Street” in that breadbasket of talent that was Motown.  When the label left Detroit for L.A. in 1973, Reeves parted ways with the company and went solo in 1974 with a self-titled release produced by then in-demand producer Richard Perry.  It was on this album that Reeves covered Van Morrison’s “Wild Night” and she wrapped her fiery pipes all around it, laying her fuel-injected funk on top of the bedrock rock ‘n’ roll.  Morrison’s original version appeared on his very fine 1971 release Tupelo Honey.  https://youtu.be/qxziDdrsD14


6. David Lindley & El Rayo-X cover The Temptations: “Papa Was A Rolling Stone”– The original version of this song as performed and recorded by The Temptations appeared on their 1972 album All Directions, and it is a magnum-sized opus clocking in at over 12 minutes in length.  It was pared down to a more manageable seven minutes to garner hit-radio play for The Temps and in the cover version by Lindley included in this mix, the song settles in at just five.  Lindley’s a master of all things with strings—guitar, banjo, lap steel, mandolin, bouzouki, oud and others—and he’s also a lively spirit in a recording studio setting, fashioning songs (with his band El Rayo-X) like this one that brim over with rhythm and joie de vivre.  His “Papa Was A Rolling Stone” appears on his 1988 album entitled Very Greasy.  https://youtu.be/Dnbav8hd3jQ


7. Prince covers Joni Mitchell: “A Case Of You” – In 2007 an album entitled A Tribute to Joni Mitchell was released, featuring a myriad of musicians all sufficiently moved to muster up some quite compelling covers.  The artist line-up included, among others, Prince, Sufjan Stevens, James Taylor, Bjork, Elvis Costello, k.d. lang, and Cassandra Wilson.  Prince does a beautiful take on Mitchell’s “A Case Of You” solely for this tribute release (it hasn’t appeared elsewhere in Prince’s repertoire that I know of).  He excised some of the lyrics to tighten up the tune, and the result reveals a breathtakingly intuitive vocal by Prince and arresting musical accompaniment.  The original version of “A Case Of You” hails from Mitchell’s 1971 album Blue.  https://youtu.be/9lJ0f75oSL4


8. Big Daddy covers Rick James: “Super Freak”– Big Daddy is delightfully incorrigible.  They found their calling—satiric treatment of popular songs—back in 1988 on their first album What Really Happened To The Band of ’59.  The album cover for their debut was modeled after the front page of the National Inquirer—our nation’s forerunner of fake news?—and on that news-rag style album cover in a sub-headline, it reads: “Early Rock Group Held Captive for 24 Years Releases Album of Current Hits Performed in 1950s Style.”  That about sums it up.  The album is a doo-wop-like delight as Big Daddy gleefully deconstructs and reassembles the popular hits of the ‘70s & ‘80s with grin-inducing and twisted treatments of songs such as “Betty Davis Eyes,” “Whip It,” and “Hotel California.” Rick James’ “Super Freak” is covered here as well.  The original by James was on his 1981 album Street Songs but get a load of this loony and charming re-do.  https://youtu.be/kaufhdtVCJ8


9. Julian & Roman Wasserfuhr instrumentally cover The Who: “Behind Blue Eyes” – This is a totally satisfying reinvention but faithful fans of The Who are likely to pooh-pooh.  “Behind Blue Eyes” in the hands of German musicians Julian and Roman Wasserfuhr becomes a meditative jazz experience that is fulfilling as a new work of art, yet you’ll also love the wisps of recall you’ll experience as you reflect back on the original.  The Who banged out this classic rocker in 1971 as part of Who’s Next, and who-da-thunk that 42 years later two young and talented German brothers—Julian (age 28) on trumpet and Roman (age 31) on piano—would lay claim to it with heartfelt respect and then masterfully spool it out instrumentally into the world for all jazz lovers and connoisseurs.  The song hails from their fourth album on the German record label ACT entitled Running which was released in 2013.  https://youtu.be/WwC3YQ4JYKI


10.  Durand Jones and the Indications cover David Bowie: “Young Americans”–  Thanks to musicasaurus.com reader Jason Argenas for the introduction to this tantalizing cover…According to the band’s label’s website deadoceans.com, “The Indication’s 2016 self-titled debut was the product of friends who met as students at Indiana University in Bloomington, In., recorded for $452.11, including a case of beer.”  What better way to fuel the start of a new musical union? In 2017 as part of an appearance on Howard Stern’s SiriusXFM radio show, the band covered Bowie’s classic song from his 1975 album of the same name, and earlier this year finally released it for streaming and mass consumption.  Why this song?  Again, from the website, band member Blake Rhein: “The entire Young Americans album is an incredible piece of soul music history with brilliant flares gospel, funk, and disco. The way Bowie is able to use these ingredients and apply them to his own brand of weird-o pop is just amazing.” Durand Jones & the Indications’ music largely hearkens back to early 1970s soul music, something they blend nicely with their own contemporary spin.  https://youtu.be/Mt6v4AfGGsQ





Posted 5/17/20.....

Ten singer-songwriters that all creatively—if not all commercially—blossomed during the 1970s…

1. Canned Music – Dan Hicks & His Hot Licks.....If Hicks and his Licks are in your stable of Top Picks, then I’d bet you tend to like quirky, honest, and acoustic-based artists that don’t fall easily into categorization.  In the late 1960s and early 1970s, Hicks brought to college campuses and clubs across the country a freewheelin’ style of music sometimes called “hippie acoustic swing.”  Some may find him an acquired taste, but tracks like “Canned Music” and “Walkin’ One and Only” from 1972’s Striking It Rich are full of playful vocal harmonies, wry lyrics and fine acoustic strumming.  On Allmusic.com, writer Jason Ankeny labels him “one of contemporary music's true eccentrics.  While steeped in folk, his acoustic sound knew few musical boundaries.  He drew on country, call-and-response vocals, jazz phrasing, and no small amount of humor to create a distinctive, albeit sporadic, body of work that earned him a devoted cult following.”  https://youtu.be/lExwJ27A7m8


2. Don’t Hang Up Those Dancing Shows – Terence Boylan.....Buffalo-born singer-songwriter Boylan attended Bard College in Annandale-on-Hudson, New York in the late 1960s, and through these years of higher education and summertime breaks played Greenwich Village clubs in NYC before permanently migrating west to Los Angeles.  In L.A. he was welcomed into the burgeoning music scene via his brother John who was beginning a recording production relationship with Linda Ronstadt and her new back-up band (the future Eagles).  He also bumped into old Bard mates Donald Fagan and Walter Becker, who were in the process of forming Steely Dan.  Boylan thus had the cream of the L.A. crop of session musicians to record his self-titled 1977 debut, which featured Dan-like pristine production on smooth, sometimes sophisticated jazz-pop compositions that sported great players and Eagle-like harmony vocals on top.  https://youtu.be/M8QfnBszP0A


3. Night Train – Rickie Lee Jones.....In 1978 I began working as a “field merchandiser” (truer definition: a poster stapler-upper )for a group of record labels consisting of Atlantic, Elektra/Asylum, and Warner Brothers.  The latter had two major releases that year that they deemed a priority for my in-store record displays—Van Halen’s debut album, and the self-titled first release by Rickie Lee Jones.  The song “Chuck E.’s In Love” bounced happily all over the airwaves back then, but it only hinted at the depth of this record.  Jones’ supple soprano, her sometimes suite-like approach to songwriting, her cast of song characters, her creative vision in arrangements and execution—the blend of all of this was truly mesmerizing.  “Night Train” is one of musicasaurus.com’s favorite songs from this decade or any other; it’s that magical and moving.  https://youtu.be/XIZIAmzC_nk


4. Incident On 57th Street – Bruce Springsteen And The E Street Band…..This song was the opening track on side one of the artist’s second album entitled The Wild, The Innocent & the E Street Shuffle (1973).  This was Bruce’s first with the E Street Band, a follow-up to his debut album which was more of a lyric-stacked, almost modeled on Dylan type of solo effort.  The Wild, The Innocent & the East Street Shuffle left the folkie Bruce behind, and explored more expansive, complex, almost cinematic songs that were rooted in romance and life in the streets of urban America.  I first saw Springsteen live in February 1975 while attending college at Penn State main, and this was the very first song that he played that night.  It began unceremoniously on a darkened stage with two far-apart single spotlights; one illuminating a female violin player in a shimmering green dress, the other trained on Bruce, by himself, at the other end of the stage, standing before a single floor-stand microphone.  Just a violin and a voice, for the entire unfolding song-story…mesmerizing.  https://youtu.be/ioQcvijom28


5. Gone – Jerry Williams.....This Dallas/Fort Worth singer-songwriter released an album on Warner Brothers in 1979 entitled Gone and this title track is a real find, literally.  The album’s been long out of print, but luckily YouTube currently has the video for savoring.  It’s a catchy funk-rock tune and just might sound right at home on a Stevie Wonder record from the 1970s like Talking Book or Innervisions.  Also known as Jerry Lynn Williams, this artist wrote songs that were picked up and popularized by other artists, like Delbert McClinton (“Givin’ It Up For Your Love”) and Eric Clapton (“Running On Faith,” “Pretending,” and “Forever Man”).  https://youtu.be/N8PctxEASu4


6. Someone To Lay Down Beside Me – Karla Bonoff.....Bonoff was part of the Los Angeles 1970s scene, slugging it out at the famed singer-songwriter haven the Troubadour.  Before she even set about recording her own works, three of her songs were picked up by compadre Linda Ronstadt for the latter’s 1976 Hasten Down The Wind album—“Lose Again,” “If He’s Ever Near,” and “Someone To Lay Down Beside Me.”  Bonoff’s self-titled debut came out the following year and also featured the latter tune; the overall album featured support from Ronstadt as well as L.A. area denizens Leland Sklar, Russ Kunkel, Waddy Wachtel, Don Henley, and J.D. Souther.  https://youtu.be/rCurPh_ee28


7. Let The Rough Side Drag – Jesse Winchester.....Louisiana-born singer-songwriter Winchester skirted his country’s call to action in the Vietnam era and so in 1967 this draft dodger became a Montreal lodger, eventually gaining Canadian citizenship.  That move didn’t necessarily sully his name but might have crimped his fame; due to his inability to tour the States, Winchester couldn’t build upon the generally good reviews of his album releases through the late 1960s and mid-1970s until President Carter granted him amnesty in 1977.  The track listed here is the title track from Winchester’s fourth album Let The Rough Side Drag (1976).  His expressive voice and songwriting call to mind—not entirely, mind you—a mix of James Taylor and Lyle Lovett, and one of his better-known and commonly covered compositions is “The Brand New Tennessee Waltz.”  Here is “Let The Rough Side Drag:”  https://youtu.be/QRz1f8_tQ98


8. Hot Summer Nights – Walter Egan.....Egan was in the D.C. area in the late ‘60s/early ‘70s around the same time as other striving regional musicians were plying their trade, including Nils Lofgren & Grin, Roy Buchanan, and Emmylou Harris.  Egan and Harris then went westward to Los Angeles, and eventually his area appearances (including one at the famed Troubadour in West Hollywood) led to a recording contract.  Egan’s musician friends Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham became highly involved in both of his first two albums on Columbia Records, Fundamental Roll and Not Shy.  “Hot Summer Nights” from 1978’s Not Shy is a good example of Egan’s infectious Southern California pop ‘n’ roll, with background vocal assistance from Nicks and both production duties and sweet lead guitar lines provided by Buckingham.  https://youtu.be/7oZyT9z9Fmc


9. Heart Like A Wheel – Kate & Anna McGarrigle.....In the mid-to-late 1970s Canada’s the McGarrigle sisters were worshipped widely through the provinces but pretty much confined to cult status in the USA, even though they gained some traction courtesy of American pop-rock star Linda Ronstadt.  The latter had borrowed their classic composition “Heart Like A Wheel” as the title track of her 1974 blockbuster release, and through this exposure the McGarrigles got their shot two years later on the USA’s major record label Warner Brothers.  Aside from golden-throated folk tunes like this one from their eponymous 1976 debut, the duo also produced musical progenies—well Kate did, anyway—in the form of son Rufus Wainwright and daughter Martha Wainwright.  The latter were “co-produced” by renowned folksinger Loudon Wainwright III.  https://youtu.be/zcmy9KFsLYo


10. In The Eye Of The Storm – Michael Franks.....California native Franks was the consummate smooth pop-jazz balladeer in the mid-to-late 1970s and early 1980s who, on the generally-embracing FM radio stations of the era, gained a nice foothold with his “Popsicle Toes” in 1976.  The track listed here is from Franks’ second Warner Brothers’ release Sleeping Gypsy (1977).  His formula:  A smooth cocktail-hour voice with serious jazz backing, Brazilian flavors and strings that all jelled to become a perfectly sophisticated “lite bite” for the musical cognoscenti and open-minded rock fans as well.  He had wry and sly lyrics and sumptuous production on his records, and stellar players including—on this particular release—Larry Carlton on guitar, Joe Sample on keyboards, and David Sanborn and Michael Brecker on saxophones.  https://youtu.be/m1MmK9y9W8k 





Posted 5/3/20.....

SIXTIES CURIO MIX.....Ten tunes from the 1960s that run the gamut from class-doomed love to patriotic fervor…from society’s awakenings to silly pop nonsense…Enjoy.

1. The Ballad Of The Green Berets – Staff Sgt. Barry Sadler.....A rare patriotic hit that struck a chord and scaled the pop music charts in 1966, before the waves of war resistance significantly lapped at Middle America.  Sample lyrics:  While back at home a young wife waits Her Green Beret has met his fate He has died for those oppressed Leaving her this last request Put silver wings on my son's chest Make him one of America's best He'll be a man they'll test one day So have him win the Green Beret Have him win the Green Beret / Silver wings upon their chest These are men, America's best One hundred men we'll test today But only three win the Green Beret.”  https://youtu.be/BugBwt2ESpo


2. I Ain’t Marching Anymore – Phil Ochs.....This is the flipside (not literally, of course) of “The Ballad Of The Green Berets”—a pure anti-war song written and recorded by Texas-born Ochs, a renowned and revered 1960s protest singer.  Originally influenced by early rockers Buddy Holly and Elvis Presley and country music legends like Ernest Tubb and Hank Williams Sr., Ochs then followed the musical and political paths of artists such as Pete Seeger and Woody Guthrie.  “I Ain’t Marching Anymore” is a track from the singer’s 1965 album of the same name, and it is basically a first-person soldier’s look at the senselessness of war: It's always the old to lead us to the war It's always the young to fall Now look at all we've won with the saber and the gun Tell me is it worth it all.”  https://youtu.be/uRU_ruqnR6Q


3. Dang Me – Roger Miller.....Much better known in the Sixties for his song “King Of The Road,” Nashville country singer Miller put forth this “man ode” on his debut record Roger And Out released in 1964.  It’s a country-pop flavored down-home delight about a husband who believes more in carousin’ than marital maturity: Well here I sit high gettin' ideas / Ain't nothin' but a fool would live like this / Out all night and runnin' wild / Woman's sittin' home with a month old child / Dang me, dang me / They oughta take a rope and hang me / High from the highest tree, woman would you weep for me?”  https://youtu.be/BJQyiL-7NUc


4. Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini – Bryan Hyland.....I was only seven years old when this song hit the radio airwaves in 1960, but I remember my mom shimmying around the kitchen as this played over the transistor radio that was above the sink.  Not having the most discerning of musical tastes at that age, I ate it up.  It’s certainly worth inclusion here because this novelty song is such an innocuous slice of early ‘60s innocence, and some point to its overwhelming popularity as leading to a more widespread acceptance of two-piece swimsuits across the USA.  Parting note: Repetitive listens may be harmful and as “proof” of this, I cite the song’s use in the 1961 Billy Wilder-directed comedy One, Two, Three which is set in Berlin just before the wall was built.  In the movie, East German police use the song—play, repeat, play, repeat—as a very effective means of interrogating a young man who ultimately cracks and confesses.  https://youtu.be/n56E3kScoN8


5. Down In The Boondocks – Billy Joe Royal.....This song by Georgia-born Royal was a hit in 1965 and it had that ‘50s “teen angst” feel to it, via lyrics about a lower-class boy in love with a better-side-of-the-tracks young woman: Every night I will watch the light from the house upon the hill / I love a little girl that lives up there, I guess I always will / But I don't dare knock on her door / Her daddy is my boss man / So I'll just have to be content / To see her whenever I can / Down in the boondocks, down in the boondocks / People put me down 'cause that's the side of town I was born in”...The song was written by singer-songwriter Joe South, who on his own released a couple of interesting tunes that particular decade including “Games People Play” and “Walk A Mile In My Shoes.”  https://youtu.be/v4CeR9Mkjs4


6. In The Year 2525 (Exordium & Terminus) – Zager and Evans.....This sci-fi pop-rock oddity hit the top of the national song charts in July 1969 when men first walked on the moon and 400,000 people were a month away from straggling into an Aquarian Exposition: 3 Days of Peace & Music in Bethel, New York.  Zager and Evans were never again able to make a dent in the national song charts with any future recordings, but this unique and far-flung warning shot was welcomed by those concerned with the path that humanity was treading in dealing with technology and signs of our own destruction.  The song starts out with this: In the year 2525 / If man is still alive If woman can survive / They may find In the year 3535 Ain't gonna need to tell the truth, tell no lies Everything you think, do and say Is in the pill you took today.”  https://youtu.be/cVnU9HMX8xg


7. The Name Game – Shirley Ellis.....This is one of those pop tunes that crosses generations in appeal, with its naming rhymes and the zesty party feel of the original Ellis recording.  The single became a Top Five hit upon its release in 1964, so Ellis indeed found a formula—and it went a little somethin’ like this: “Shirley!  Shirley Shirley bo-birley, Banana-fana fo-firley, Fee-fi-mo-mirley...Shirley.”  Followed by “Lincoln!  Lincoln Lincoln bo-bincoln, Banana-fana fo-fincoln, Fee-fi-mo-mincoln...Lincoln.”  With funky punched-up horns in the background, Ellis rolls out the rules of the game and trots out various names; listeners of all ages ended up embracing this tune, whether the setting was alcohol-impaired adults at a backyard barbecue or a classroom of school kids at recess.  Warning: Avoid the names “Bart” and especially “Chuck.”  https://youtu.be/Ez8fEJ86hGI


8. Okie From Muskogee – Merle Haggard.....An absolute pearl from Merle.  Musicasaurus.com remembers watching the David Steinberg-hosted program called Music Scene, an ABC-TV show which ran from 1969 through 1970 and featured the era’s top performers and their chart-topping hits.  On October 20, 1969 Merle appeared on the program to perform “Okie From Muskogee,” but not before left-leaning guest host Tommy Smothers provided a tongue-in-cheek “suitable” introduction.  He said that due to other “hip” artists’ appearances on the program—like Lennon performing “Give Peace A Chance”—the show must make adjustments and adhere to equal time provisions by giving voice to the other side.  Then Smothers none-too-subtly puffed on an imaginary joint, and while half holding his breath, wheezed out “Ladies and gentlemen, Merle Haggard, and ‘Okie From Muskogee’!”…Sample lyrics: “We don’t smoke marijuana in Muskogee / We don’t take no trips on LSD / We don’t burn our draft cards down on Main Street / We like livin’ right, and bein’ free /  I’m proud to be an Okie from Muskogee / A place where even squares can have a ball / We still wave Old Glory down at the courthouse / And white lightnin’s still the biggest thrill of all.”  https://youtu.be/kSsJc3W8gXg


9. Eve Of Destruction – Barry McGuire.....McGuire released this prophetic and political piece of pop music in 1965 (from his album of the same name), and it resonated with the younger generation who were just then cluing into the rising tide of social changes in civil rights, the nascence of women’s liberation, etc.  The song was written by a Los Angeles musician/songwriter named P.F. Sloan, who was also churning out material for Jan & Dean, Herman’s Hermits, Johnny Rivers and others at that time.  McGuire gruffed out a lead vocal apparently in one take, a radio station jumped on it, and the song zoomed to national consciousness.  The song begins: The eastern world it is explodin' / Violence flarin', bullets loadin' / You're old enough to kill but not for votin' / You don't believe in war, what's that gun you're totin' / And even the Jordan river has bodies floatin' / But you tell me over and over and over again my friend / Ah, you don't believe we're on the eve of destruction.”  https://youtu.be/_38SWIIKITE


10. Let It Out (Let It All Hang Out) – The Hombres.....This song is truly a thing of wonder—uh, of the “one-hit” variety.  It is just a little over two minutes in length and featured a Dylan-spoofing lead vocal and inscrutable tossed-off lyrics over three descending chords.  It was also everywhere on radio and on 45rpm turntable spindles throughout 1967.  The “classic status” that is sometimes accorded this tune is kind of mystifying, but I can testify to being more than sufficiently under sway as a fourteen-year-old music lover.  It was a perfect pop-radio summertime song; a cool, mostly spoken vocal over an insistent rhythm, and lyrics that were tongue-in-cheek deep:  “No parking by the sewer sign / Hotdog, my razor broke / Water dripping up the spout / But (hey) I don’t care, let it all hang out”...The Hombres hailed from Memphis, Tennessee and this is their sole claim to fame, a successful single from their one and only album.  https://youtu.be/5nVAkvHTRB8





Posted 4/19/20.....

(Next post:  Sunday evening, May 3, 2020)

1. Drift Away – Dobie Gray.....Many years down the road, this pop song still sounds fresh.  Texas-born Gray was an African American singer who followed his muse to Los Angeles in the early 1960s, and navigated a career that veered from soul to pop to country through the next decade-and-a-half.  “Drift Away” hails from Gray’s 1973 album of the same name; it has been covered by a number of others through the years including Rod Stewart, Humble Pie, Ike & Tina Turner, and in more modern days (the early 2000s) by Uncle Kracker, with Gray actually guesting on the last verse of the song.  https://youtu.be/OnDu1HHOo78


2. Maiden Voyage – Brian Auger.....This tune was written and originally recorded by jazz keyboardist and composer Herbie Hancock for his 1965 album of the same name, and the personnel on this particular recording consisted of Hancock, Freddie Hubbard (trumpet), Ron Carter (bass), Tony Williams (drums), and guest George Coleman (sax).  The version of the song included in this mix is from British-born keyboardist Brian Auger who normally hews to jazz/pop but gives this tune a bit of rock muscle as well.  From Brian Auger & The Trinity’s 1970 release Befour, this “Maiden Voyage” features lilting chord work from guitarist Gary Boyle and heavenly Hammond B-3 from bandleader Auger. https://youtu.be/Z9NpaIQSKgM


3. Sing A Song – Earth, Wind & Fire.....From the double album Gratitude released in 1975, “Sing A Song” is a catchy, crisply-delivered bit of pop funk from this legendary Los Angeles band who first formed in 1969.  Gratitude was the band’s seventh release and the first to document the band’s prowess live in concert.  “Sing A Song” is one of the in-the-studio selections that were sandwiched into this overall live album along with the equally hypnotic “Can’t Hide Love.”  Here is “Sing A Song:”  https://youtu.be/X4dsPZmeTys


4. Swallowed By The Cracks – David and David.....Listen to this; I double Dave ya.  This sophisticated rock duo had their collective fifteen minutes of fame in 1986 with the release of the album Boomtown, which featured the FM hit “Welcome To the Boomtown,” an L.A.-based tale of excess and lifestyles of the rich and shameless.  “Swallowed By The Cracks” is another solid pop-rock tune from that particular album.  The Daves’ last names were Baerwald and Ricketts: The former went on to a solo music career kept way above life support by adult alternative stations across the country as well as by TV and film score work; the latter largely disappeared from the musical horizon.  https://youtu.be/L68CgF8sQC4


5. Runnin’ Blue – Boz Scaggs & Band.....Silk Degrees was the hugely successful 1976 album that brought Scaggs scads of airplay and fame, but prior to that record he had been producing some incredibly rich material since his solo career began back in 1969 with a self-titled debut on Atlantic Records.  The track listed here, “Runnin’ Blue,” is actually from Scaggs’ third album of blue-eyed soul entitled Boz Scaggs & Band (1971).  It’s a track that sounds just as fresh now, forty-nine years down the line—great R & B fused with big-band swing. https://youtu.be/F03_r6sjzz4


6. So Nice (Summer Samba) – Astrud Gilberto and Walter Wanderley Trio.....Gilberto is the soothing samba mama from the 1964 worldwide hit “The Girl From Ipanema,” a craze-inducing classic that was culled from the album Getz/Gilberto.  This milestone album included Gilberto and her musician-husband Joao Gilberto, plus guitarist Antonio Carlos Jobim and saxophonist Stan Getz.  Two years after that Astrud released an album with Brazilian organist-arranger Walter Wanderley and his trio, and this album—A Certain Smile, A Certain Sadness—failed to produce a song that achieved world dominance like “Ipanema.”  It is, however, a very fine release of bossa nova and samba selections.  https://youtu.be/0hB5F972QUk


7. Asleep – The Smiths.....This is one of The Smith’s B-sides originally released as the flipside of the band’s 1985 single “The Boy With The Thorn In His Side.”  Sometimes a bit of a cranky crooner, lead singer Morrissey floats above some wind wisps and melodic piano (versus the band’s usual jangling guitars) for this strangely calming tune about a better world waiting for someone who’s had just about enough.  The song was eventually captured for an album when the band released their collection of B-sides & singles, Louder Than Bombs, which was issued in 1987. https://youtu.be/KbuGWgYLqWk


8. Wonder Wonder – Femi Kuti.....Afro-beat artist Femi Kuti, son of the pioneering Nigerian musician Fela Anikulapo-Kuti, released his self-titled debut album in 1995, from which this track is taken.  It’s a rollicking tune about African unity peppered with sprightly horns; a melding of funk and jazz stirred into an irresistible stew.  Kuti’s debut was widely heralded across Africa and Europe, but it was some years later before American audiences began to catch up with him.  He was helped out by high critical praise from the likes of The New Yorker and Rolling Stone magazine in the late 1990s, and he snagged the opening-act slot on a Jane’s Addiction U.S. tour shortly thereafter.  https://youtu.be/OLkYg1TLLTY


9. I’m Lucky – Joan Armatrading…..British singer-songwriter Armatrading started recording in the early 1970s and was largely folky for a while, serving up songs such as 1976’s “Love And Affection.”  In 1981 she released her Walk Under Ladders album containing the track listed here and it’s a sonically rich slice of ‘80s music produced by famed U2 producer Steve Lillywhite and powered through by Armatrading.  Reviewer Dave Connolly of AllMusic.com once noted on that site that Armatrading has “a wonderfully expressive voice that can capture the shades between song and speech like a sweeter version of Ian Anderson.”  Hear for thyself:  https://youtu.be/HxQSfuGTCdM


10. Trader – The Beach Boys.....The years 1971-1973 were experimental for The Boys, who began incorporating rock and suite-like textures into their music, stepping away from their former Weltanschauung of surf, sand, and sun.  “Trader,” from the 1973 album Holland, was written and voiced by Carl Wilson and it is a lovely, loping tune about interlopers—the traders and explorers who find new lands and push out the current populace.  The song is really rich in the ebb & flow “wash” of beautiful background harmonies; that alone is worth the price of admission. https://youtu.be/cmS-H3M6Zg8





Posted 4/5/20.....


1. My Sky At Twilight – Peter Maunu.....Call it New Age if you wish, but Maunu is a bit more than meets the ear here.  The electronics-based instrumental ballad “My Sky At Twilight” comes from the only solo album yet recorded by this majestic guitarist, 1990’s Warm Sound In A Gray Field (on the Narada record label).  Maunu has contributed to film scores including Food, Inc. as well as participated in session work on recordings by Jean-Luc Ponty, Bobby McFerrin, The Commodores, and Mark Isham, the trumpeter/composer whose overall synth-laden, cinematic approach is similar indeed.  Isham and Maunu actually recorded together with additional musician Patrick O’Hearn in an early 1980s unit called Group 87, a trio that trafficked in hard-to-pigeonhole progressive music—electronics soaked in New Age with sprinklings of jazz fusion, all part of satisfying if occasionally sleepy explorations.  https://youtu.be/mZElDc718Kk


2. A House Is Not A Home – Stan Getz…..I have my father to thank for me getting into Getz.  Around my parent’s house when I was a wee one, our stereo console in the living room was littered with my mom’s 45 RPMs (then called “singles”) and a lot of show tune albums, but I eventually uncovered a few Ella Fitzgerald albums in the bottom of the bookcase that my father had stored there for safekeeping.  There were some Stan Getz records there as well, but it wasn’t until years later that I fully surrendered to the warm sound of this brilliant player.  “A House Is Not A Home” hails from Stan Getz’s 1968 album What The World Needs Now: Stan Getz Plays Bacharach and David.  The song was originally written for and recorded by Dionne Warwick in 1964 for a film of the same name, but in this case please go with my suggestion for this sax man’s instrumental version—it Getz no better than this.  https://youtu.be/TjkPD3xQ7Ic


3. Ain’t No Love In The Heart Of The City – Bobby “Blue” Bland.....I was streaming the 2011 movie Lincoln Lawyer recently and became reacquainted—while the credits were giving way to the film—with this soulful tune from Bobby “Blue” Bland’s 1974 album Dreamer.  This Memphis-area artist was prolific and also quite successful, albeit largely on the Rhythm & Blues touring circuits and national R&B music charts of the late ‘50s and early ‘60s.  He churned out tunes that blues die-hards today will still recognize, songs like “Farther Up The Road” (sometimes called “Further On Up The Road”), “I Pity The Fool,” “Turn On Your Love Light,” and “Stormy Monday Blues.”  Back to the featured tune: Though musicasaurus.com prides itself on musical knowledge, somehow the Whitesnake version of “Ain’t No Love In The Heart Of The City” slithered right past me when that hard rock band’s debut EP hit record stores in 1978.  Just as well; I would have recoiled.  https://youtu.be/38OOUDTsqM0


4. Sweet Soul Dream – World Party.....This beautiful ballad is from perhaps World Party’s best record, Goodbye Jumbo, which was released in 1990.  World Party auteur Karl Wallinger (he’s a one-man band) was weaned on Revolver-era Beatles and Motown, and he artfully incorporates these influences into pure pop nuggets like this particular track.  The song is immediately fetching, and just as sweet upon repeat.  https://youtu.be/NJcop92PPT0


5. If I Were A Carpenter – Tim Hardin…..from Tim Hardin 2, released in 1967…..Hardin was a late ‘60s/early ‘70s American folk singer-songwriter who had a troubled personal life including a stint in Vietnam that led to a monkey on his back.  But he also produced at least two very memorable tunes, “If I Were A Carpenter” (on 1967’s Tim Hardin 2, and covered by Dylan & The Band, Bobby Darin, The Four Tops, Robert Plant and others), and “Reason To Believe” (indelibly crooned by Rod Stewart, and part of Rod’s 1971 album Every Picture Tells A Story).  Hardin even netted a Friday evening slot at Woodstock in 1969—but back to that monkey.  Heroin claimed him in 1980, about seven years after his last record was released.  https://youtu.be/2RrRajjlo6M


6. Dolores – Freedy Johnston.....Kansas-born singer/songwriter Johnson had a well-deserved brush with fame in the early-mid 1990’s with some highly regarded albums that were critics’ and fans’ favorites.  With some concentrated FM airplay on adult alternative stations at the time, Johnston pervaded public consciousness with tunes from his 1994 album A Perfect World like “Bad Reputation” (not the Joan Jett song) and the track listed here.  A witty, insightful writer and style blender who clawed out his own unique voice, alt-folk rocker Johnston is one that deserved more than the Warholian fifteen minutes he was accorded.  https://youtu.be/SBUOt6A3WMs


7. You Got Me Humming – Cold Blood.....This is a propulsive funk number from pint-sized Lydia Pense and her band Cold Blood from their 1969 self-titled debut album.  Pense has been compared to Janis Joplin with regard to her intensity and raw & rippin’ vocal delivery, and in fact Joplin was the one who referred the fledgling band to San Francisco promoter and rock club entrepreneur Bill Graham, who ended up signing them to his own Fillmore record label.  “You Got Me Humming” is a blistering, flat-out funked-up phenom, first popularized by the R&B stars Sam & Dave in 1966. https://youtu.be/_quMD61F43I


8. Half Moon – Blind Pilot.....A folk-pop unit from Portland, Oregon led by guitarist/singer-songwriter Israel Nebekes, Blind Pilot in a live setting really delivers; the songs come alive with a captivating combination of acoustic guitar, upright bass, organ, vibes, dulcimer and banjo.  I can directly testify to this, as back in February of 2012 my twenty-seven year old daughter Moira and I stood riveted—no choice; general admission floor—at Mr. Small’s, a continuously busy little gem of a club in Pittsburgh that had just brought the band into town for their first area appearance.  This track comes from the band’s second album entitled We Are The Tide, released in 2011.  https://youtu.be/PfZKwjPjlW8


9. Pursuit of Happiness – Lissie…..Lissie was Annie in Annie at age nine in a high school play in her native Rock Island, Illinois, and so from an early age found her calling in music.  Her career trajectory includes opening for Lenny Kravitz and Tom Petty and recording with Snow Patrol, as well as releasing her own albums beginning in 2009.  But it is her dynamic interpretations of other people’s material that really shakes the rafters including this song plucked from a performance from 2010, a cover of Kid Cudi’s “Pursuit of Happiness.”  This live treatment was included on Lissie’s 2011 release Covered Up with Flowers. https://youtu.be/lmsbHGEB6UU


10. Dissatisfied – Fleetwood Mac....Originally a blues band in Britain, the Mac majorly changed members from 1968 through 1975 with the only constant being the rhythm section—Mick Fleetwood on drums and John McVie on bass.  This tune is taken from the group’s 1973 album Penguin and the upfront drivers within the unit at that time were Christine McVie (keyboards, vocals) and Bob Welch (guitars, vocals).  Christine wrote the song and sings lead, and it’s one of her greatest pop tunes but is often overshadowed by her later works when the band achieved mega success starting in 1975.  A quick sidebar here: Vocalist Dave Walker was also in the band at this juncture, having just completed a three-album tenure with Savoy Brown—Street Corner Talking, Hellbound Train, and Lion’s Share.  He didn’t last long, and departed during the sessions for the Mac’s follow-up album Mystery To Me.  https://youtu.be/tHxa7wSezC8





Posted 3/22/20.....


1. Spanish Harlem – Laura Nyro and LaBelle.....A gifted singer/songwriter and daughter of a jazz trumpeter, Nyro started writing songs at the age of eight.  At twenty, she issued her debut album More Than A New Discovery, which served to perk up other performers to her songwriting craft.  Her tunes filled the radio airwaves as covered by a host of others: “Stoney End” by Streisand, “Wedding Bell Blues” by Fifth Dimension, “And When I Die” by Blood, Sweat & Tears, “Eli’s Comin’” by Three Dog Night, and more.  The track “Spanish Harlem” is from the 1971 album Gonna Take A Miracle that Nyro recorded with LaBelle (i.e., Patti LaBelle, Nona Hendryx, and Sarah Dash).  The album is an evocative masterpiece of Motown, rhythm & blues and doo wop, with heavenly harmonies weaving in and around Nyro’s sailing soprano.  https://youtu.be/3hg_sKIJzRQ


2. This Love Is Real – John Prine.....Prine is a gem if you have for some ungodly reason not yet discovered him.  He has been recording since the 1970s in the folk-and-country vein, with atypical, insightful lyrics often trafficking in human foibles and preoccupations.  On the track listed here from 1995’s Lost Dogs And Mixed Blessings he duets with Marianne Faithfull to great effect, and if this fuels you to pine for more Prine, check out other signature tunes elsewhere: “Sam Stone” (about a returning Vietnam vet), “Angel From Montgomery,” and the LOL lyrics of his duet with Iris DeMent “In Spite Of Ourselves”.  Here is “This Love Is Real:”  https://youtu.be/96Ai52KJLd8


3. Future People – Alabama Shakes….These individuals do more than shake; they also rattle and roll.  Lead guitarist/vocalist Brittany Howard fronts this band of Alabamans that first reared their heads around 2009.  They went from endless bar and club touring to eventually crafting an independent release, which was then scooped up by ATO Records and re-released in 2012 with more marketing muscle behind it.  The song chosen for this mix is from their second release Sound & Color, which came out in April of 2015.  Howard is a howler and a headbanger, and her band is quite adept at straddling and intertwining blazing rock and blistering soul.  https://youtu.be/vda05lavUi0


4. It's a Man's Man’s Man’s World – Luciano Pavarotti and James Brown…..Pavarotti did a series of benefit concerts (occasionally, and over a decade's worth of time) and invited a slew of interesting guest performers to come aboard, including Sting, Bocelli, Bono, Zucchero, The Eurythmics, and others.  In each case Pavarotti focused largely on each particular guest’s own material and powered his way along, perfectly in synch.  The pairing of Pavarotti with James Brown in a 2002 concert event was heaven sent; the two artists unleash an incendiary yet at times measured version of “It’s A Man’s Man’s Man’s World” and—spine get ready—Pavarotti has a few positively electrifying interludes.  This performance can be found on a 3-CD box set released in 2019 entitled Pavarotti: The Greatest Hits.  https://youtu.be/qhtsnFhtIxg


5. Stone Rollin’ – Raphael Saadiq…..This tune is the title track of this “old school” R&B artist’s fourth album from 2011, which critics and fans concurred was an exciting, amped up release compared to his previous effort released three years earlier.  At the end of 2011, the album made a number of music critics’ Top Ten lists, with the Chicago Tribune’s Greg Kot saying “He's always written songs steeped in soul and R&B, but now he gives them a progressive edge with roaming bass lines and haunted keyboard textures.  He's no longer a retro stylist – he's writing new classics.”  Plus, the title track “Stone Rollin’” is…smoldering.  It stokes your inner fires.  It’s even guaranteed to get you into debates with friends, especially if you check out the official video that accompanied the release of the album.  One way or another—stirred up by this steamy video or offended by the content—your temperature’s gonna rise.  https://youtu.be/wHyalVRUXrA


6. Outside Of A Dream – The Push Stars.....This track is a lovely little alt-pop song (more pop than alt) by this Boston-based trio, who’s only real dent in the public consciousness came from another song of theirs included in the 1998 film There’s Something About Mary (“Everything Shines”).  The band formed in 1996 and their first major-label record After the Party came out three years later.  In 2003, Rob Thomas of Matchbox Twenty loved what he’d heard of their fourth album in progress, and took them out on tour with Matchbox as their opening act.  The following year that fourth album progressed to the finish line: 2004’s Paint the Town, from which this track is taken. https://youtu.be/iPUzHtTAqJY


7. That’s Just What You Are – Aimee Mann with Chris Difford & Glenn Tilbrook of Squeeze.....Please excuse musicasaurus.com from barking out orders here, but you need to “Mann” up!  Aimee is an underachiever solely in terms of widespread commercial success; she has a great knack for churning out quality alternative-pop songs that are lyrically arresting and melodic as hell.  “That’s Just What You Are” is a perky pop masterpiece from Mann’s second solo album I’m With Stupid, which hit the stores in November 1995.  Difford & Tilbrook, the dynamic duo behind the British band Squeeze, provide instrumental assistance and harmony vocals.  https://youtu.be/ArXL7uEQsEg


8. Angel To Be – The Subdudes.....This largely acoustic band is a hefty stew of influences with Cajun spices and bubblings-up of R&B, the blues, gospel, funk and more.  The group first recorded as a unit in their native N’awlins in 1989, but they have also guested on songs recorded by Joni Mitchell, Shawn Colvin and Rosanne Cash.  The track listed here is from the group’s third release in 1994 entitled Annunciation and it sports a sprightly accordion, bright harmonies, and fine acoustic pickin’—perfect for roots lovers.  https://youtu.be/dNZfYPwNEmc


9. Homeless – Paul Simon.....One of the first major US artists to immerse themselves quite publicly in the music of South Africa, Simon teamed up with some high-profile musicians from that country to record Graceland, his much-praised melting pot achievement from 1986.  The song “Homeless” features Ladysmith Black Mambazo, a male choral group who found Graceland to be their ticket to international recognition; their performance on this song is hushed, intricate and spellbinding.  https://youtu.be/Cb04PK_oTlM


10. Stranger To Love – Rufus.....One of the most talented musical ensembles of the 1970s and early 1980s, the interracial band Rufus defied easy categorization because they successfully straddled the world of rhythm & blues and rock, laced with funk and soul.  On several fronts they excelled—the musical sophistication at the heart of the band, the songwriting, and the seemingly boundless talents of lead vocalist Chaka Khan.  “Stranger To Love” is from the band’s 1978 album Street Player; it was written by band keyboardist David “Hawk” Wolinski and features Khan righteously sailing above a lightly polished jazz-funk base, sweetened by the horn section from the ‘70s fusion band Seawind.  https://youtu.be/Z5ZsYqx_hLo





Posted 3/8/20.....


1. Poor, Poor Pitiful Me – Linda Ronstadt.....Ronstadt was the reigning queen of country rock throughout the 1970s, an artist who had amazing popularity and girl-gone-wild chart success, and key to her ascension was a number of tasteful, energetic covers of other artists’ material.  “Poor Poor Pitiful Me,” a cover of Warren Zevon’s rousing rocker from his 1976 self-titled second album, appeared on Ronstadt’s Simple Dreams released in 1977.  Simple Dreams featured the cream of the California crop of backing musicians—including Waddy Wachtel, Andrew Gold, Kenny Edwards, David Lindley, and Danny “Kootch” Kortchmar—and the album sported two Zevon compositions (the track listed here, plus “Carmelita”) as well as songs originally done by Buddy Holly and Roy Orbison.  https://youtu.be/jpGkn5jbFfA 


2. Heartache – Valerie Carter.....In 1977 Little Feat’s founder Lowell George produced an album entitled Just A Stone’s Throw Away, the solo debut from 24-year-old Valerie Carter, an aspiring L.A.-based singer-songwriter.  George had produced an earlier group effort by Carter called Howdy Moon, but for her solo debut (from which this track is taken) George brought in the heavy artillery.  Just A Stone’s Throw Away features great instrumental and vocal backing from a lot of Little Feat, as well as Jackson Browne, Linda Ronstadt, John Sebastian, Maurice and Verdine White (of Earth, Wind & Fire) and many others.  But it is Carter’s voice that stands above it all; she’s angelic, but has a devil of a bluesy wail.  https://youtu.be/llgnTEEmVBU


3. Talk Walk Drive – Julia Fordham.....Beautiful British songstress Fordham has a distinctive, full-throated voice which she employs in rich sonic settings that are a far cry from formula.  The ballad “Talk Walk Drive” comes from her 1991 album Swept, and although wide public acclaim has long escaped her, she’s a “find” for any playlist.  For music fans who like to dig deep into album credits (where you can find ‘em!), the listing of contributing musicians on Swept is impressive.  There are several sidemen and sidewomen that really help bring the sheen and the spark to this album’s songs, including guitarists Dean Parks (Steely Dan), David Rhodes (Peter Gabriel) and Dominic Miller (Sting); keyboardist David Sancious (early Bruce); bassists Larry Klein (Joni Mitchell) and Pino Palladino (The Who); and background vocalist Valerie Carter (Jackson Browne/James Taylor).  https://youtu.be/KDWGwnea9f4


4. Help Me – Joni Mitchell.....This is Joni at her prime—or, in one of her primes.  This accomplished and visionary singer-songwriter tackles the topic of love and its trials and tributaries, its awe and its angst.  Court and Spark, from which this tune is taken, is as a whole musically quite a treat as well; the arrangements are first-rate fusions of pop, rock, folk and jazz, and Mitchell’s musicians include essential contributor (and saxophonist) Tom Scott and his L.A. Express. https://youtu.be/edUhlRxyGOY


5. Paint A Picture – The Wailin’ Jennys.....Canadian female folk outfit The Wailin’ Jennys came together in 2002 for a performance at a Winnipeg guitar store, and the immediate favorable response to their distinctive weave of alto, mezzo and soprano (courtesy Cara Luft, Nicky Mehta and Ruth Moody, respectively) led them to hit the road officially as a touring trio.  In 2005 Luft left and Heather Masse moved in...“Paint A Picture” is all of a minute-and-a-half, but it is the blend that gets ya.  It is just one of those reminders of the power of the unadorned human voice.  The album—2008’s Live at The Mauch Chunk Opera House—was recorded at the aforementioned theater in Jim Thorpe, PA, which sits in the Allentown/Bethlehem area of the state near the Poconos.  The Jennys spent a lot of time on Prairie Home Companion beginning in the early 2000s, and their name derives—no duh—from country artist Waylon Jennings.  https://youtu.be/LYv8v6gZ8Jw


6. Gasoline Alley – Phoebe Snow.....Contralto singer-songwriter Snow was born in NYC and in the early 1970s did yeoman’s work in Greenwich Village clubs honing her craft.  Her eponymous debut album hit the record store shelves in 1974, and the lilting, scat-tinged tune “Poetry Man” hit soft rock stations and dug deep into their playlists.  Her style straddled jazz, pop, soul and even—as evidenced here—some heartfelt rock ‘n’ roll.  “Gasoline Alley,” originally the title tune of Rod Stewart’s 1970 solo album, appears on Snow’s 1981 Rock Away release.  Though Snow slowed a bit in her recorded output after Rock Away, she occasionally still stepped up to the plate every few years during the ‘90s and early 2000s.  Snow passed away in April of 2011 of complications from a stroke one year earlier.  https://youtu.be/fieA-ZxNdQw


7. Dreams Come True – Marcia Ball, Angela Strehli & Lou Ann Barton.....This trio of Austin treasures teamed up for a dream album of Texas roadhouse rhythm & blues, and cut to cut, it is a loose and inspired gem.  This track is the title cut from the record, which was released in 1990.  Each of these ladies brings a lot to the game—Ball with her barrelhouse piano style; Strehli all wail-y, bringing in a bit of rock bluster to her blues; and Barton a pure gas with her sensuality and sass.  Dr. John leads the studio band of veteran Texas musicians on this album and is the producer of the record as well.  https://youtu.be/sbfX3nV8SqE


8.Hands – Jewel.....A sparkling ballad from Jewel which was, to the artist’s surprise, snatched up by some radio stations across the country in the days immediately following 9/11; these particular disc jockeys found themselves turning toward this meditative, prayer-like number to soothe our jagged collective consciousness.  I saw Jewel in a Greensburg, PA majestic theater setting in 2012, alone with an acoustic guitar and that voice, and she held the audience in her lovely “Hands” as she performed this particular number midway through.  The song comes from Jewel’s second release Spirit from 1998.  https://youtu.be/_R552UFoXaA


9. Bring Me My Queen – Abigail Washburn.....What a gem this singer-songwriter and banjo player has produced in this beautiful alt-folk classic; it is a small triumph of composition, arrangement, execution, and production.  Washburn’s vocals are occasionally gravelly and hushed, but always “spot on” to serve the song.  Through her instrument and in her song arrangements, she is always pretty bold in her steps to artfully incorporate a wide range of influences—folk, rock, jazz, bluegrass and blues, even mixing in some touches from the British Isles, the Far East, and beyond.  “Bring Me My Queen” hails from Washburn’s 2011 release City of Refuge.  https://youtu.be/O316-4khIWE 


10. Nothing Seems To Matter – Bonnie Raitt…..Raitt has a voice that beguiles and bewitches, and oh yes, on some material she just blazes on the bottleneck.  She got her first guitar at age 12 and spent her formative years in the clubs of Boston doing shows with blues mentors Howlin’ Wolf, Sippee Wallace, and others.  Her self-titled release from 1971 included blues in several hues (jazz and folk tinges, and R&B twists), yet this second album from 1972, Give It Up, really stretches convincingly in a number of musical directions and pacings.  Raitt wrote three tunes on this album including the track listed here, and covered other songwriters as well including cohort Jackson Browne, Eric Kaz and Chris Smither.  https://youtu.be/nlzFMVdBE0c





Posted 2/23/20.....

Ten songs including some Dead, percolating snazzy jazz, mellow Buffett, landmark Linkin Park, and more…

1. Bertha – Grateful Dead.....Hitting the record stores a year after the landmark 1970 Workingman’s Dead and American Beauty releases, the Dead’s second live double-album (usually referred to as Skull  & Roses) contained this track that, once recorded, became a staple of the band’s future live shows.  The entire album was recorded in 1971 at various concert venues in San Francisco and New York City, and at this stage of the game, The Dead were a five-some—Jerry Garcia, Bob Weir, Phil Lesh, Ronald “Pigpen” McKernan, and Bill Kreutzmann.  Skull & Roses also contains other Dead classics such as “Playing In The Band” and the two-song blend of “Not Fade Away / Goin’ Down The Road Feeling Bad.”  https://youtu.be/keHWn2c_UDA


2. This Is What You Are – Mario Biondi & The High Five Quintet.....This song starts out with a sinewy bass line...then congas come in...drums & cymbals ease into place...and finally piano chords set the stage before the alluring deep and soulful voice of Mario Bondi kicks off this absolutely swingin’ jazz tune (warning: This tune percolates with such smooth sophistication that a cocktail may suddenly appear in your hand; but relax, and keep the other one free for finger snappin’).  Born in Bitetto, Italy in 1971, Biondi came from a musical family and has recorded or performed with a number of artists from Italy as well as musicians beyond its borders.  “This Is What You Are” comes from the artist’s 2006 release Handful of Soul.  https://youtu.be/8Tc_hj-osEo


3. Pre-You – Jimmy Buffett.....Not too many years back, I had put together a CD mix for a couple of elderly but spry family members who were entering their 80s.  I went the way of a “deep cut” with this particular selection for that mix, and picked a commercially unrecognizable soft and smooth ballad from Jimmy Buffett, from his 1988 album Hot Water (the artist’s seventeenth release).  I purposely avoided Buffett’s overplayed “Margaritaville” and also sidestepped his “Why Don’t We Get Drunk” bar jukebox favorite—I didn’t want to screw up the mix with something that might lead to heart palpitations.  https://youtu.be/ph1-eBG-Rp0


4. What I’ve Done – Linkin Park…..Chester Bennington first broke through to the masses as lead singer on Linkin Park’s 2000 debut album Hybrid Theory, and was renowned for his vocal prowess which could go from anguished whisper to cathartic scream in just a heartbeat.  “What I’ve Done” is from the band’s third album, Minutes To Midnight, which was produced by Rick Rubin and which spotlighted Bennington’s towering vocals alongside the raps and rhymes of Linkin Park’s other vocalist, Mike Shinoda.  Bennington’s suicide on July 20, 2017 came just two months after Soundgarden vocalist Chris Cornell’s death by similar means.  Bennington had sung Leonard Cohen’s song “Hallelujah” at Cornell’s funeral, and was also the godfather of Cornell’s son Christopher.  https://youtu.be/dpif2shN0vg


5. Memphis – Janis Ian.....Reportedly Ian in the late ‘90s had cast off her accumulated fears about her lack of record sales success and instead just focused on putting together an album that pleased only her.  The resulting album—2000’s God & The FBI—was recorded in a house setting versus a studio with all contributors involved hunkered down in bunker mentality.  “Memphis” from these sessions eventually became a duet with Willie Nelson, with fine pickin’ in the middle from guitar great Chet Atkins.  https://youtu.be/p51e5G6GnuQ  


6. Changes – Charles Bradley…..Bradley’s success was not overnight—for him, it was late in the evening.  His debut album No Time For Dreaming was released in 2011 when Bradley had just turned 62.  He slogged through some tough times earlier on, but soul music was always in his head and heart starting with his life-changing concert experience as a 14-year-old when he saw James Brown at the Apollo Theater in 1962.  Some friends and I were first exposed to Bradley live at the 2016 Three Rivers Arts Festival in Pittsburgh, where Bradley was testifyin’ to the power of music and the power of The Lord; an incredible mix of passion and gratitude leapt out of that man’s throat at every turn…The song featured here is Bradley’s cover of a Black Sabbath song (you read right); it appeared on Bradley’s third album named for that song which in its original form appeared on Sabbath’s fourth album Vol. 4 (1972).  https://youtu.be/T791POjnzAs


7. Thinkin’ About It Too – Al Jarreau.....Jarreau’s Milwaukee childhood was all church and song, with his father a singer and minister and his mom the piano player in their house of worship.  In the late 1960s he hit L.A. with his hellacious vocal style which playfully braided together pop and jazz in a winning combination, and this helped establish him as a draw in venues like the Troubadour and the Bitter End West.  Television appearances on Merv Griffin, Dinah Shore, Mike Douglas and Johnny Carson then brought him mainstream fame, and in 1975 Jarreau released his first major-label album on Warner Brothers’ Reprise Records entitled We Got By.  The track listed here, though, is the lead-off track of Jarreau’s third major release, 1977’s All Fly Home.  This is the best track on the album, a funky fast-paced jazz-pop pleasure that has Jarreau sailing all around the syncopation and percolation.  https://youtu.be/NgKk_dg9vOU


8. Your Sweet Voice – Matthew Sweet.....Nebraska native Sweet first came to prominence with his 1991 album Girlfriend, a collection of alternative/pop that pointed to a mix of influences, most noticeably the Beatles, the Byrds and R.E.M.  The album was Sweet’s biggest and best; it had great songwriting and inventive guitar work from Robert Quine (who’d worked with Lou Reed, Eno and others) and also from Richard Lloyd (guitar slinger from the band Television).  “Your Sweet Voice” is one of the more lush and layered tracks; an aural cushion, and a beautifully rendered love song.  https://youtu.be/58JFP1oOlqA


9. Blue Moon – Mark Isham (with Tanita Tikaram).....Mark Isham straddles more than a few musical pursuits—solo trumpeter, prolific film and television composer, and a touring sideman of the first caliber.  In 1983 he released his solo debut Vapor Drawings on the prestigious New Age record label Windham Hill and also scored his first film, Disney’s Never Cry Wolf.  He has also toured and/or recorded with jazz greats like Pharoah Sanders and Charles Lloyd, and rock luminaries such as Van Morrison, Joni Mitchell, the Rolling Stones, Suzanne Vega, XTC and Springsteen.  His solo records are amazing; in addition to trumpet, Isham adroitly programs and incorporates synthesizers into his work.  The song “Blue Moon”—guest sung here by Tanita Tikaram—is from Isham’s 1990 self-titled album.  https://youtu.be/IpvAJ6cnnbQ


10. China – Red Rockers…..Those of you who were musically weaned on MTV in the 1980s might remember the video of this song from the group’s second full-length album, 1983’s Good As Gold.  Red Rockers formed in 1979 in New Orleans, a band of punk aesthetes who were itching to join the wave of political, in-your-face bands like The Clash.  By the time of their second album, however, they had streamlined their harder-edged attack into the smoother, moodier New Wave (less The Clash and more A Flock Of Seagulls).  Still, “China” was a catchy propulsive tune, now stuck in the ‘80s but back then, an anthem of sorts.  https://youtu.be/MycqOEkUqsA





Posted 2/9/20.....

A hodgepodge…Alt-country, blues, pure pop, reggae that rocks, a bit of a prayer, an ethereal slice from a film’s soundtrack, and more…

1. Gloria – Bryan Elijah Smith.....In 2013 a friend and I saw this artist live in a small, tucked-away club in tiny Thomas, West Virginia called the Purple Fiddle, and I was so enthralled that I reached out to this native of Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley to lure him up to Pittsburgh for a private party event in May of 2014.  Smith continues to knock me out with his atmospheric blend of alt-country and folk, and his compositions are hypnotic in the way he manages to work in great “hooks” that blend right in and always serve the song—never overblown; always enhancing and quite entrancing.  The song hails from Smith’s 2019 album In Through The Dark (p.s. This is not the old 1960s classic that Van Morrison’s old group Them originated and the USA’s Shadows of Knight then popularized; this is Smith’s own mesmerizing, moody tune.)  https://youtu.be/CLijV62nkKY


2. (Love Is) The Tender Trap – Robert Palmer.....British singer Palmer is best known through classic ‘80s MTV videos with pale faced, deadpan models mock-playing musical instruments, dispassionately backing up a dapperly dressed Palmer crooning hits like “Addicted To Love.”  He is lesser known for his solid earlier works when he was covering Little Feat tunes and weaving reggae into more of the proceedings...On Ridin’ High (1992), Palmer teamed up for strings and things on an album of popular American songs spanning the ‘20s through the ‘50s, including this one written by Sammy Cahn and James Van Heusen for the 1955 Frank Sinatra-Debbie Reynolds film The Tender Trap.  The producer of Palmer’s album was the highly revered Teo Macero, who had helmed Miles Davis’ Kind Of Blue and Bitches Brew, and Dave Brubeck’s Time Out.  https://youtu.be/OzJr-YhdU-o


3. The Prayer Cycle -- A Choral Symphony In 9 Movements: #1. Mercy – Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, Alanis Morissette, Lawrence Schwartz, Linda Ronstadt, Liz Constantine, Martin Tillmann, Ofra Haza, Richard Bona, Salif Keïta, The American Boychoir, English Chamber Orchestra, English Chamber Chorus and Yungchen Lhamo…..The Prayer Cycle is an ambitious and quite stirring blend of prayer, classical & world music, as masterminded by American film-and-television composer Jonathan Elias; the album was released on the Sony Classical label in 1999.  It works on many levels, but it is essentially a nine-part choral symphony utilizing twelve different languages (Swahili, Urdu, English, Italian, Hungarian, Tibetan, Spanish and more); reduced to a word, this long, flowing work centers on faith.  On the track listed here, “Mercy,” Morissette is front and center as well as West African afro-pop artist Salif Keïta, and their reverent wails soar over and through the lush orchestral and choral support.  https://youtu.be/kDpEhqEZoV4


4. Roxanne – The Police.....This is the song that I first remember hearing at the Market Square downtown Pittsburgh location of National Record Mart in 1978.  Chick, the store clerk that always regaled me with new releases every time I entered the store, was raving about this new British band after having cranked up the store’s stereo system to 11.  Punk was in flower right around then, and here was a new mesmerizing mix of punk with pop and reggae—with Sting’s signature voice soaring over all that propulsion.  The Police were three gifted instrumentalists—secretly more steeped in jazz—who had jumped onto the late 1970s new wave band wagon with abandon.  “Roxanne” is an arresting piece of work from The Police from their debut Outlandos d’Amour.  https://youtu.be/xB_BXsz3lTs


5. Feel Like Breaking Up Somebody's Home – Etta James.....African American singer James was most popular in the 1960s as a soulful interpreter of songs, some of which, like her 1961 version of “At Last,” have become classics.  Later in the decade she spun out rhythm & blues belters like “Tell Mama,” then covered by Savoy Brown on 1971’s Street Corner Talking, and “I’d Rather Go Blind,” which Rod Stewart took a turn on for his 1972 album Never A Dull Moment.  “Breaking Up Somebody’s Home” (sometimes also labeled “Feel Like Breaking Up Somebody’s Home”) is from James’ Seven Year Itch album, which was released in 1989 during one of this troubled singer’s career resurgences.  https://youtu.be/_kF4RUs1ogs 


6. Wakafrika – Manu Dibango.....Cameroonian saxophonist and vibraphonist Dibango, now 86 years old and active in recording since the 1950s, had a bit of an American hit in the early 1970s with a song called “Soul Makossa.”  The track listed here, “Wakafrika,” is a nearly five-minute instrumental culled from the album of the same name released in 1994, and it percolates with a perfect blend of African music, soul and funk.  The album also has guest appearances by Peter Gabriel (on a cover of Gabriel’s “Biko”), Ladysmith Black Mambazo, King Sunny Ade and Youssou N’Dour.  https://youtu.be/lc7AbWdxKIo


7. Wharf Rat – Grateful Dead…..I respect the Dead but concentrate on the living, and by that I mean having a life.  Unlike a few others in my wider circle of peers and compatriots, I made a decision way back in the late ‘60s/early ‘70s not to spend my mini-vacations following the band around the country.  And through the years I’ve also whisked away all thought of ever combing through archives and Dead tracks’ catacombs to possess every audio indulgence.  That said, I do love certain tracks by the band that feature Jerry prominently; to me, Garcia’s a lot more than the cherry on top.  The version of “Wharf Rat” that I’ve always prized is this one, from the second live Dead album commonly called Skull and Roses (1971).  https://youtu.be/P6NDmh86RAI


8. Meltdown – Lisa Gerrard.....Gerrard was one-half of the ambient, ethereal and otherworldly Australian music duo Dead Can Dance from 1984 through 1998 and soon after partnered with Pieter Bourke for a number of film scores, including one for director Michael Mann’s 1999 film with Russell Crowe, The Insider.  Getting lost in a film is a wondrous experience, sometimes expertly aided & abetted by a haunting theme that an intuitive director chooses to layer into the proceedings.  “Meltdown” is just that—an evocative, moody tune featuring Gerrard’s intriguing wordless vocals.  https://youtu.be/yAgtTK7pr2s


9. Bring It On Home – Little Big Town.....A country music quartet of two men and two women, Little Big Town came together as one in Nashville in 1998.  It wasn’t until their second album The Road To Here (2005) that they truly garnered success with two consecutive Top Ten country hits, including the track listed here.  All four band members swap on lead vocals and/or blend in various lead and harmony combinations, and the music isn’t pure country (damn strait!); on a few of the album’s tracks, like one entitled “Bones,” they put a kind of Fleetwood Mac feel over their pedal steel.  Here is “Bring It On Home”… https://youtu.be/69bEFFVaSjw


10. Name Of The Game – Abba.....This is the first and only time an ABBA song has graced a mix of mine.  Between 1978 and 1980 I worked for Warner-Elektra-Atlantic Corporation, the distribution arm of the three aforementioned record labels, and ABBA was a powerhouse for Atlantic in those years so it was indeed top of mind and now stuck in my mind—ABBA has that kind of addictive allure, I’m afraid.  But, no further apologies.  The song is a delicious confection that appears on the band’s 1978 release (their fifth) entitled The Album.  https://youtu.be/FCKMJwfgM4w





Posted 1/26/20.....

Ten songs including an import from Canada, two from California (early 1970s San Fran funk & early 2000s Orange County alt), two singer-songwriters from Austin, and more…

1. Talkin’ Bout A Revolution – Tracy Chapman.....Cleveland-born Chapman bubbled up to commercial and critical success via the song “Fast Car,” which was on her eponymous debut album released in 1988.  That song is Springsteen-like in sentiment, about a life bottled up by circumstances with a ray of hope (or at least acceptance) perhaps down the road a ways.  “Talkin’ Bout A Revolution” is also from her ’88 debut and though it didn’t speed up the charts like “Fast Car,” it was the song (in demo form) that first got her noticed by eventual signer Elektra Records.  Sample lyrics:  “While they’re standing in the welfare lines / Crying at the doorsteps of those armies of salvation / Wasting time in the unemployment lines / Sitting around waiting for a promotion / Poor people gonna rise up / And get their share...Finally the tables are starting to turn / Talkin’ bout a revolution.”  https://youtu.be/721JQZw6Spg


2. Jane – Barenaked Ladies.....Toronto musicians Ed Robertson and Steven Page started out as an acoustic duo in the late 1980s, opening shows on college campuses for headlining comedy groups—which may explain the origin of their winning in-concert formula of solid rock-pop songs mixed with comedic commentary in between.  The full band came together in 1990 and recorded their debut album Gordon in 1992, which contained the Ladies’ now well-known and well-regarded songs “If I Had A Million Dollars” and “Brian Wilson.”  The track listed here, “Jane,” is actually from the guys’ second release, 1994’s Maybe You Should Drive.   It wasn’t until 1998 that this Canadian band really broke big in the USA, a result of constant touring and a smash hit in the form of the song “One Week” from BNL’s fourth album Stunt.  https://youtu.be/XDbl6l_lofQ


3. What Is Hip? – Tower Of Power.....No windup here—the song’s opening riffs set limbs to twitching from the outset.  This is five minutes of broiling funk from a tightly rehearsed and highly skilled set of musicians, including five horn players.  Oakland, California-based Tower of Power were in that swirl of late 1960s/early 1970s Bay-area bands, but it wasn’t until their third release—1973’s self-titled album—that the band really broke through to national consciousness.  In addition to the riveting workout listed here, the album also included the band’s highest-charting single “So Very Hard To Go.”  (Here is “What Is Hip?” https://youtu.be/Pfim3SKTNkw)


4. Little – Something Corporate.....I first came upon Something Corporate in the early 2000s through the playlist pleadings of my oldest daughter Moira (then a teen) who wanted to expose me to a band she’d begun championing to her local peer network.  The band had formed in Orange County, California in 1998 and the song listed here stems from their extended-play release entitled Audioboxer, which came out in 2001.  A year after that, the band was invited to jump aboard the Warped Tour, the successful primarily punk-fueled music fest that annually trekked to outdoor concert venues across the U.S., and so I saw them “live” at Post-Gazette Pavilion where I worked as general manager at the time.  Something Corporate (no longer active as a band) was fronted by pianist, chief songwriter and vocalist Andrew McMahon, and the unit had great pop sensibilities that they blended with melodic, roaring guitars and piano accents. https://youtu.be/R_1eOlTbyrE 


5. The Bringdown – Bob Schneider......Austin-based Schneider flies a bit under the radar but by all rights should be soaring and on everybody’s screens.  “The Bringdown”—from Schneider’s 2009 album Lovely Creatures—is a slinky, slightly-jazzy slide ‘n’ strut.  His vocals are appealing; his guitar accents well placed.  Schneider weaves together country, folk and rock, and couples a 1970s singer-songwriter feel with indie-alternative flourishes.  https://youtu.be/fdSOfYmemyU 


6. Always There – Ronnie Laws.....Ronnie Laws, the younger brother of jazz flautist Hubert Laws, didn’t follow his older sibling into the jazz world; instead, he delved into a more of a rhythm & blues-based approach to his instrument via the tenor saxophone.  Arguably the best Ronnie record is his 1975 debut album Pressure Sensitive, from which this track is taken.  “Always There” is a pleasing bit of pop-funk that’s a pleasant head-nodder; it is not too challenging, but at the same time it has a decent-enough distance from the smooth jazz that used to haunt elevators. https://youtu.be/TDZeimhYdEI


7. Four Leaf Clover – Abra Moore…..Here is a find for you: An Austin, Texas-based female singer-songwriter who writes great pop songs that are far from formulaic—she mixes styles, blending an alternative sensibility with folk-rock leanings, all topped off by that caress of a voice.  Her handiwork also usually reveals a perceptive touch of atmospheric production.  “Four Leaf Clover,” from Moore’s 1997 album Strangest Places, was a mini-hit in Midwest radio markets back in that year of release, and landed on VH-1 and MTV2 for a spell as well.  https://youtu.be/AgWCX3fJSi8


8. You – Nils Lofgren.....This is a tune from Lofgren’s 12th solo album released in 1992 entitled Crooked Line.  The song is a quick folkie shuffle with some fine Nils pickin’ and harmonies and harmonica supplied by Neil Young.  For those who need schoolin’ on Lofgren, he was—at the age of 17—hired by Young to play guitar and piano on the latter’s classic 1972 release After The Gold Rush.  Since 1984, Lofgren has been an integral part of Springsteen’s E Street Band for albums and tours.  https://youtu.be/YTf09_C611U  


9. Lather – Jefferson Airplane…..This San Francisco psychedelic rock band formed in 1965 and then dotted the festival landscape throughout the late ‘60s, appearing at Monterey Pop, Isle of Wight, Woodstock AND Altamont.  Grace Slick replaced original female lead singer Signe Toly Anderson in 1966 and the band subsequently soared to great success on the newly-birthed FM Radio and on AM radio's hit-song countdowns as well.  Overall their albums were spotty in terms of great material, but 1968’s Crown of Creation, from which this track is taken, is an exception.  The band featured two lead, occasionally intertwining singers, Grace Slick and Marty Balin, and the musician lineup was a powerhouse with Jorma Kaukonen on guitar and Jack Casady on rumbling bass.  Here on “Lather,” it is Grace in the vocal spotlight—and near the end, Jorma on something called the electric chicken (you’ll know it when you hear it).  https://youtu.be/3VYDBZzM-g0


10. Portions For Foxes – Rilo Kiley.....Alt queen Jenny Lewis and fellow musician Blake Sennett formed the band Rilo Kiley in Los Angeles in 1998, and combined a lot of influences to craft a sound dappled with folk, country music, torch songs, alternative and pop.  The song “Portion For Foxes” stems from the group’s third album entitled More Adventurous (2004).  Lewis started out her pursuit of the arts in acting—in pre-teen-and-teen guest stints in television shows and in a few films—but graduated to musical performer full-time with the advent of Rilo Kiley.  https://youtu.be/Hn7Ldn7liGU





Posted 1/12/20.....

A variety mix of ten songs that take you into classical-meets-jazz, dreamy pop, folk-flavored pieces, ‘80s electronica and more…

1. Avenging Annie – Andy Pratt.....Boston-born Pratt was a singer/songwriter and Harvard English grad whose voice was a bit unusual, and whose songs were off kilter and wildly fascinating; he may have been the male Fiona Apple of his time in terms of talent, audacity, and idiosyncrasy.  In the fertile period of the early 1970s this self-titled, second album by Pratt was a real find, and the absolute gem was the lead-off track “Avenging Annie,” a song reportedly based on Woody Guthrie’s “Ballad of Pretty Boy Floyd” and featuring an amazing lead vocal of astonishing range, sung by Pratt in the first-person character narrative of a woman outlaw.  The artist toured a bit in support of this album and “Avenging Annie” snuck onto the Billboard Magazine Hot One Hundred charts, but the Pratt fall was coming—his record label dropped him, and though he continued off and on recording elsewhere, he never again broke through to the masses nor topped this 1973 artistic achievement.  https://youtu.be/DZI-DraC0o4    


2. (The Angels Wanna Wear My) Red Shoes – Elvis Costello.....Just before the year 1978 hit and a number of “new wave” artists like The Police, The Cars, Devo and Dire Straits emerged on record, there appeared in the USA’s record store bins a checkerboard album cover with a Buddy Holly-lookin’ Brit in the center named Elvis Costello.  Musicasaurus.com’s elder community will remember dropping the needle on side two of Costello’s debut My Aim Is True, where cymbals crashed, guitars chimed, and an edgy pop vocal erupted with the words “Oh I used to be disgusted / Now I try to be amused. / But since their wings have got rusted / you know, the angels wanna wear my red shoes.”  Costello’s been a mainstay of cool ever since; from his early punkish snarling to becoming Diana Krall’s darling, the guy is simply an abundant, tireless talent.  https://youtu.be/DMRM2AWzAXU 


3. Stacy – Chico Hamilton.....I remember a few years back snaring this 1973 release, Hamilton’s The Master, via a single seller on Amazon located in Japan. Surfing that night it was the only place I could find this largely out-of-print compact disc of jazz drummer Chico Hamilton playing not with a raft of peer musicians, but instead with five young pups from a rock band—Little Feat’s Lowell George, Paul Barrere, Kenny Gradney, Bill Payne and Sam Clayton.  I am not sure how Hamilton—born in 1921 and schooled in Duke Ellington, Count Basie and others of that ilk—ever latched onto Little Feat, but the latter brought a nice bit of funk, R & B feel, and fusion to the recording.  “Stacy” has a great mid-tempo groove aided especially by George’s sinewy slide guitar and Payne’s fluid keyboards.  The track may not be a masterwork, but it’s certainly a feat of accomplishment.  https://youtu.be/R_sNJC7XrO4


4. Ain’t No Rules – Farewell Milwaukee.....Musicasaurus.com reader and performing arts venue operator Bob Klaus from North Carolina first turned me on to Farewell Milwaukee, who have been on the Minneapolis music scene since 2008. Their music has been described by one critic as “folk rock with a head and a tail”—not exactly sure what that means, but I’m going to guess that it points to their willingness and ability to blend soft-rock, folk and a hint of country in their overall approach to songwriting and execution.  On the band’s website it reveals they have released five albums since 2009, and one can sample tunes from all of them at https://www.farewellmilwaukee.com/music.  Or if you just want to YouTube Musicasaurus.com’s current favorite, it is the song “Ain’t No Rules” from 2011’s When It Sinks In:  https://youtu.be/9LtphJjNieE 


5. Corfu – Claus Ogerman & Michael Brecker…..Ogerman was born in Germany in 1930 and at the age of 29 moved to the U.S. where he blossomed into a ceaseless arranger, composer and conductor.  Through the years he’s had his fingerprints on classic albums like the Sinatra-with-Antonio Carlos Jobim collaborations in the 1960s, George Benson’s immensely popular Breezin’ album (1976), and Diana Krall’s The Look Of Love (2001).  He also worked on countless arrangements for a multitude of artists’ recordings on the Verve and CTI jazz labels.  On his own, he has released a few albums of his original compositions which strive to marry the formidable force of jazz with a full classical music orchestra.  One of these successes is “Corfu,” a track from a 1991 album entitled Claus Ogerman Featuring Michael Brecker, which is an almost eight-minute voyage with sweet, sensitive strings and a host of “A+” session players that populate the whole album.  The musicians include the co-featured primary artist Michael Brecker on tenor sax, Brecker brother Randy on trumpet, Abraham Laboriel, Sr. and Marcus Miller on bass, Robben Ford and Dean Parks on guitar, and Vinnie Colaiuta and Steve Gadd on drums.  https://youtu.be/r9srxfk1Ync


6. Tainted Love – Soft Cell.....In the early ‘80s British synth-pop duo Soft Cell took note of a huge club hit in the U.K., a song performed by American gospel-rooted soul singer Gloria Jones.  For their first album, 1981’s Non-Stop Erotic Cabaret, the duo chose to approach this song with a complete ‘80s-style overhaul, messin’ with the tempo and nixin’ the traditional sounding guitars, bass, etc. in favor of just synths and rhythm machines.  Love or loathe the tune, it is a great ‘80s timepiece.  https://youtu.be/ZcyCQLewj10


7. Hold On When You Get Love And Let Go When You Give It – Stars..... Canadian group Stars’ shining lights are the principal vocalists Amy Millan and Torquil Campbell.  Originally from Toronto, this indie rock-and-pop band migrated to New York City and then up into Montreal, where they reached the apex of the local indie scene upon the release of their debut album in 2001.  “Hold On...” is from the group’s sixth album The North (2012), and they’re still only simmering in this country in terms of cooking up massive popularity, but they are continuing to build up a loyal and lasting fan base.  https://youtu.be/2SYO6a6PaTs


8. Don’t Dream It’s Over – Crowded House.....New Zealander Neil Finn formed the band in 1985 after his former group Split Enz dissolved, fomented by the departure of his brother Tim.  The new group then migrated to Los Angeles for the purpose of label shopping, and ended up cultivating a sweet and sophisticated pop sound for growing audiences in the late 1980s and early 1990s.  Interestingly, their 1986 self-titled Capitol Records debut (from which this track is taken) came out of the stalls somewhat...stalled.  The band felt that Capitol was delivering insufficient promotion and attention, so they “worked it” themselves for the next six months straight, doing industry acoustic gigs, record store appearances, song sessions in key markets’ restaurants, and appearances on talk shows. After this barrage of self-promotion, the album climbed into the Top Forty charts, and “Don’t Dream It’s Over” became, eventually, an international hit.  https://youtu.be/H7UMRkp7m80


9. Had I Known You Better Then – Hall & Oates.....This song from 1973’s Abandoned Luncheonette album was side one/track two, and while never considered a Hall & Oates hit, it is pure pop that captures the essence of this Philly-bred blue-eyed soul duo.  It has those distinctly different yet eminently compatible lead voices, the weaving harmonies, and the sophisticated musicianship—a perfect blend of rock sensibilities and rhythm & blues.  This album also contained the classic song “She’s Gone” (side one/track four of this platter, if you’re waxing nostalgic) which as a pop single—re-released a couple of years after Abandoned Luncheonette had come out—broke the band into wider circles of acclaim and eventually boosted the album to platinum sales status.  https://youtu.be/YOHIe5fRKhc    


10. Home – Barenaked Ladies.....This sly, cerebral party band from Canada achieved a wave of USA fan fervor in the 1990s, as their constant touring and legendary live shows which featured the between-song wit and witticisms of frontmen Steven Page and Ed Robertson brought them converts galore.  Their career apex seemed to be 1998’s Stunt album which contained the radio hit “One Week,” but the band had sewed these seeds years before, with the aforementioned relentless touring and the releasing of cult-building compositions like “Brian Wilson” and “If I Had A $1,000,000.”  “Home” is a sweet, straight-ahead ballad from the Ladies’ seventh studio album Barenaked Ladies Are Me (2006).  https://youtu.be/8IK23JE8KFg





Posted 12/29/19.....

Here are ten tunes that tie to some of the classic album covers mentioned in the A DAY IN THE LIFE section of this website (the 12/29/19 post).  The first five songs are from there and the remaining ones have just been plucked from the wider universe of inspired, artistic album covers.  

1. Long Time Gone – Crosby, Stills & Nash…..from their self-titled debut released in 1969.....“Long Time Gone” is lyrically a lament about the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy, and Crosby wrote the tune on the night RFK died.  This song also opens up the famed film Woodstock, playing behind the scenes of the furry freak-brother types who are building scaffolding and generally prepping Max Yasgur’s farmland for the imminent Three Days of Peace & Music.  “Long Time Gone” by the way is also the name of Crosby’s 1988 autobiography, a great tale of music, brotherhood, passion—and of course guns, drugs and jail.  Glad he’s still with us.  https://youtu.be/nS3l_TwPNRY


2. Tangled Up In Blue – Bob Dylan.....from the 1975 album Blood On The Tracks.....Back in ’75 my circle of friends (at college and on the homefront) were ravenous devourers of all types of new music.  Though Dylan loomed large with critics and the cognoscenti, some of us (due to the sheer volume of listening options) quite honestly lost sight of him in the early ‘70s until Blood On The Tracks was released to radio stations and record stores.  “Tangled Up In Blue” was the song that personally turned me around.  I didn’t start genuflecting at the turntable but the artist did creep more into my consciousness overall, and I stayed tuned to future efforts as well as dipped my ears earnestly backward to the artist’s earlier works.  https://youtu.be/QKcNyMBw818


3. Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band – The Beatles.....the title track from the band’s 1967 game-changer.....This song is in fact the album’s two-minute opener which sets the stage for the wonders to come by seamlessly segueing into “With A Little Help From My Friends,” “Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds” and so on.  McCartney is the lead barker on this particular track, enticing listeners along for the ride.  The chatter and cheers of an “audience” are prerecorded embellishments from the minds of the Fab Four and producer George Martin.  https://youtu.be/VtXl8xAPAtA


4. Can’t You Hear Me Knocking – The Rolling Stones.....from the group’s eleventh American release, 1971’s Sticky Fingers.....The album cover is a design from the mind of Andy Warhol, and the original release had a working zipper on the male model’s tight jeans.  “Can’t You Hear Me Knocking” from that album is one of the Stones’ best grooves, over seven minutes long and featuring the sax appeal of Bobby Keys and the guitar work of newly full-fledged band member Mick Taylor; both of these musicians slay on the song’s exit jam.  https://youtu.be/Gz5mI6tqm_Q


5. Piece Of My Heart – Big Brother & The Holding Company.....from the band’s second album Cheap Thrills--the last with Janis Joplin--which hit record stores in 1968.....The original version of the tune was recorded by Aretha Franklin’s sister Erma in 1967, but it pervaded public consciousness on a much grander scale the following year with Joplin’s searing treatment aided by Big Brother's muscle.  The Cheap Thrills album cover was courtesy of underground comics artist Robert Crumb, and arguably it is the crème de la Crumb.  Originally supposed to be the record’s backside—bearing song titles and band member credits—it then reportedly was flipped to become the cover when the band’s original nude-photo-in-bed concept was nixed by nervous sorts at the label.  https://youtu.be/SCngPse1iiI


6. Time – Pink Floyd.....from the band’s eighth studio Dark Side Of The Moon, released in March of 1973.....For those of you who are stat-obsessed, Dark Side was on Billboard Magazine’s album sales chart in the “Top 200” for more than 14 consecutive years after its initial release and it has sold more than 50 million copies worldwide.  According to Glenn Povey, author of Echoes: The Complete History of Pink Floyd (Mind Head Publishing, 2007), one in every fourteen people in the United States under the age of 50 is estimated to own, or to have owned, a copy.  Dark Side is truly the band’s masterwork, spilling its secrets without the slightest Floydian slip.  https://youtu.be/pgXozIma-Oc


7. Peaches En Regalia – Frank Zappa.....from the artist’s 1969 solo album Hot Rats.....The mother of all zippy, trippy, psychedelic-circus tunes, “Peaches En Regalia” is a fun and frenetic piece of jazz and classical fusion infused with a rock ‘n’ roll playfulness—and you can ruminate on that for a while or just call it indescribably delicious.  The album also sports one of the coolest album covers that ever came out of the ‘60s.  It is an infrared photo of Miss Christine of the L.A. groupie band The GTOs, rising up to eye level in an empty lily pond at an abandoned house somewhere in Beverly Hills.  https://youtu.be/t-uSUXw6ABU


8. Chelsea Morning – Joni Mitchell.....from her 1969 album Clouds.....Mitchell reportedly wrote this song while living in the Chelsea neighborhood of NYC and watching the morning sun roll in and through the stained-glass mobile hanging in her window.  The tune has been covered through the years by artists such as Fairport Convention, Jennifer Warnes, Judy Collins and Neil Diamond.  Also, Bill and Hillary Clinton were sufficiently inspired by Judy Collins’ 1969 version of the song to bestow half of its title upon their newborn daughter in 1980.  https://youtu.be/nWDyA4S-geg


9. Perfect World – Talking Heads....from the band’s sixth album Little Creatures (1985).....Alabama-born folk artist Howard Finster fed the Heads the cover artwork, and the music is typical Talking Heads with an occasional country music tinge to things.  The commercial radio stations of that era missed an opportunity here; “Perfect World” should have been a hit because it is accessible yet intelligent pop music.  Byrne even gives a vocal nod to John Lennon about 20 seconds into the song when he pulls a Beatlesque move—you’ll pick up on it.  https://youtu.be/y9dxOBzzJq0


10. Can’t Find My Way Home – Blind Faith.....from the band’s one and only album, the eponymous release that came out in 1969.....Fresh outta Cream, Eric Clapton and Ginger Baker joined up with ex-Traffic member Steve Winwood and another Brit, bassist/violinist Ric Grech, to form Blind Faith in 1969.  The original cover of the album was a waist-up view of an eleven-year-old naked girl holding a silver winged aerospace-lookin’ thing.  The U.S. record company, fearing and experiencing some controversy, released the album with an alternative cover as well (this more traditional band photo approach).  “Can’t Find My Way Home” is the long-enduring classic from this record, with Winwood’s haunting vocal and deft percussive moves from Ginger Baker.  https://youtu.be/OU6iplEflzs





Posted 12/15/19.....

From 32 years ago…in 1987…ten songs that leapt out of their respective artist’s new albums and made their mark on musicaurus…

1.) If I Had A Boat – Lyle Lovett.....This charming mystical slice graced the album Pontiac,the second release from this Texan that twisted up his country roots and nourished them—and us—with folk, blues, swing and pop.  The song’s lyrics perhaps reflect a bit of his family horse ranch upbringing:  “And if I had a boat / I'd go out on the ocean / And if I had a pony / I'd ride him on my boat And we could all together Go out on the ocean /Me upon my pony on my boat”...A couple of parting trivia notes here, especially for those casual followers who don’t exactly covet Lovett: 1) This singer-songwriter had his film acting debut in director Robert Altman’s 1992 movie The Player...and 2) There was a 1993 merging of Lyle and The Smile.  In a surprise move, Lovett married actress Julia Roberts just 3 weeks after they had met.  The union lasted a mere 21 months; no children, but Lyle was indeed husband and fodder—the tabloids took him to a whole new level of fame.  Gotta Lovett.  https://youtu.be/TKKcNjvxhns


2.) Touch Of Grey – Grateful Dead.....This was the Dead’s moment in the sun, in terms of a song reaching the mainstream pop charts.  It was in fact the band’s only Top Forty hit, and it also served to sate the Deadheads since it essentially captured in a studio setting the real style and tone of the live concerts.  To those who spurn or ignore the Dead, this is the album to check out; in addition to “Touch of Grey,” In The Dark contains other scintillating selections like “When Push Comes To Shove,” “West L.A. Fadeaway” and “Black Muddy River”.  Garcia is in fine form here on guitar and vocals; this was also the time, however, when he was occasionally “goin’ down the road feelin’ bad”—and just 8 years further down the line, he died at the age of 53.  https://youtu.be/80USYpvvF1M


3.) Weak In The Presence Of Beauty – Alison Moyet.....British-born singer Moyet has a robust blues-worthy voice and started gaining fans with the band Yazoo (called “Yaz” in the USA) in the early 1980s.  The latter band may be remembered for one of their typical synth-driven songs which happened to make a few alt-rock playlists back then, “Only You”.  Moyet then moved on to a solo career in 1983, and her first decent stateside success came four years later with the release of 1987’s Raindancing album.  “Weak in the Presence of Beauty” from that particular record is a great 80s ballad that holds up very well, overwhelmingly due to the passion in the bluesy, ballsy delivery from Moyet.  https://youtu.be/e5oSrmYZZtM


4.) Cherry Bomb – John Mellencamp.....Indiana native Mellencamp headed to NYC at the age of 24 in an effort to break into the music business.  From an early age he was a real scrapper, and spent years in the somewhat torturous trenches of the music business with forced-upon-him “identity crises.”  His first manager insisted that Mellencamp go on record as Johnny Cougar (1976).  The artist then jettisoned “Johnny” to become John Cougar (1979-1982).  Then with growing success and the release of his 1983 album Uh-huh, Mellencamp felt confident enough to tack his real last name on the back of that Cougar, and finally four years later dropped the catty stance altogether.  1987’s The Lonesome Jubilee, from the newly rechristened John Mellencamp, is a clean-sounding, uncluttered and compelling mix of classic rock and Appalachian folk & country; the album leans heavily on a sprightly combination of fiddle, accordion and acoustic guitar—check it out!  https://youtu.be/8jsUAfDa_nA


5.) Kiss And Tell – Bryan Ferry.....Ferry might well be called the “Synthesizer Bunny” for his strong and consistent output of solo releases—especially during the 1970s, while helming his full-time band Roxy Music.  His solo work is characterized by his cool romantic croonings and a musical palette dominated by synthesizers, guitars and insistent bass—all nudging the listener toward the nearest dancefloor.  1987’s Bete Noire was co-produced by Madonna confederate Patrick Leonard, who also co-wrote a number of the tracks.  Also contributing to the record on select tracks: Guitarists David Gilmour (Pink Floyd) and Johnny Marr (The Smiths).  “Kiss and Tell” is an impossible-to-resist dance tune, but it’s not merely that—the song is slickly produced, churning and hypnotic, and masterfully straddles the line between dance pop and alternative.  https://youtu.be/ys9g6wNSesA


6.) Hysteria – Def Leppard.....British band Def Leppard formed in 1977, and wove into their sonic assault the musical styles of some of their mentors—T Rex, Queen, Mott The Hoople, Zeppelin, and other such masters then on the British scene.  The ingredients on their climb to success included timing (MTV was nascent, attentive, and loved the Lep); touring (in their homeland as well as in The States), and tutelage (for 1983’s Pyromania, and again for 1987’s Hysteria, these pop-metal thoroughbreds turned to a Mutt---Lange, that is).  Revered music producer Lange proved invaluable in helping to craft the mighty sonic sheen that is the hallmark of the two aforementioned albums.  Pop charts today don’t mean diddly-squat, of course, but back then Def Leppard crouched and sprang onto the USA Hit Lists, holding on tight for a string of six straight Top Twenty songs, all from Hysteria.  https://youtu.be/vUXJEoa1yR4


7.) Hey Jack Kerouac – 10,000 Maniacs.....The band formed in 1981 in Jamestown, New York, cobbled together by co-founders Natalie Merchant (vocals) and John Lombardo (guitar).  Their major-label debut on Elektra Records was released in 1985, and shortly thereafter Lombardo left the band.  Carrying on as a quintet, the group released another record in 1987—and this one was the nexus for Natalie and band.  In My Tribe had fine production from Peter Asher (who had already helmed popular albums by James Taylor and Linda Ronstadt) and the socially-driven songs on the album resonated with the group’s increasing fan base, especially those on college campuses.  Radio stations and MTV fully embraced this outing as well, and In My Tribe bounded up the Billboard Magazine pop charts and nestled there for well over a year...Two postscripts about fame, fortune and fate: 1) Natalie departed the band in 1993, embarking on a string of strong solo releases through the rest of that decade. The Maniacs who were left (would that have made it 9,999?) decided to soldier on with different personnel, one of whom was returning co-founder Lombardo...2) Another founding Maniacs member Robert Buck—lead guitarist and co-writer with Merchant of “Hey Jack Kerouac” and “What’s the Matter Here” from In My Tribe—passed away in 2000 at the age of 42.  https://youtu.be/mJXZFo3kTiY


8.) Just Like Heaven – The Cure.....British band The Cure formed in 1976, all ghoulish-lookin’ and goth-like; you should check out their early stuff (black lipstick optional).  Their first album came out in 1979, and they reigned over the British pop charts for years to come.  Their first real stateside success came with 1987’s Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me, from which this track emanates (it was the band’s first Top Forty hit in the USA).  This period of the late 1980s turned out to be a pivotal stretch for the band.  They had pierced mainstream consciousness outside of the UK, become popular on the concert circuit, and proved inspirational to a new wave of similar-styled bands.  The ringing, rousing "Just Like Heaven" shows off the band's great blend of alternative & pop, and it's made to be played LOUD. https://youtu.be/Xmf5ct3rOSc


9.) Memphis In The Meantime – John Hiatt.....Hiatt’s first record came out in 1974, and this prolific singer/songwriter kept churning out albums to great acclaim from critics, yet he never seemed able to spark any momentum with the masses.  Though other artists covered his songs—Bonnie Raitt, Ronnie Milsap, Iggy Pop, Bob Dylan, and even Three Dog Night—Hiatt remained under the radar in terms of his own output all the way up to his 1987 release Bring The Family.  This VERY fine album was cut in just four days, and it features a quartet of seasoned players: Hiatt on guitar and vocals, Ry Cooder on lead guitar, Nick Lowe on bass, and Jim Keltner on drums.  There are a number of outstanding tracks on Bring The Family including the classic ballad “Have A Little Faith In Me,” but it’s “Memphis In The Meantime”—the album’s lead-off track—that is a full-on groove, blending rock ‘n’ roll with country swagger and a shot of rhythm & blues.  https://youtu.be/eaqH3HqhWls


10.) Sweet Child O’ Mine – Guns N’ Roses.....Derailed by a bad Axl in their later years, Guns N’ Roses in the beginning was a band that mattered.  They first rolled out of Los Angeles slowly in 1985-1986, touring heavily and generating word-of-mouth and industry buzz.  Then the band fired up their debut album in 1987, Appetite For Destruction, and surprisingly it languished for almost a year.  MTV then added “Welcome To the Jungle” and on its heels “Sweet Child O’ Mine,” and this sent Guns a-blazing into massive popularity and notoriety (the latter due in equal parts to the raw, almost vicious hard rock of the album and the on-and-offstage antics of the band—in particular, lead singer Axl Rose).  “Sweet Child O’ Mine” especially paved the way to their firestorm of success; it had relentless MTV play, that killer riff from Slash, and Axl’s unique screech-and-howl approach that sounded so deliciously demented and liberating that you just knew they couldn’t be denied a riotous run-up to rock stardom.  https://youtu.be/BFKHBX7yhGc





Posted 12/1/19.....

A mix of songs from the 1970s...

1. I Met Him On A Sunday – Laura Nyro and LaBelle.....A gifted singer/songwriter and daughter of a jazz trumpeter, Nyro started writing songs at the age of eight.  In 1967 at the age of twenty she released her debut album More Than A New Discovery, which served to perk up other performers to her songwriting craft.  Her tunes filled the radio airwaves as covered by a host of others: “Stoney End” by Streisand, “Wedding Bell Blues” by the Fifth Dimension, “And When I Die” from Blood, Sweat & Tears, “Eli’s Comin’” by Three Dog Night, and more.....The short, sweet track “I Met Him On A Sunday” is from the 1971 album Gonna Take A Miracle that Nyro recorded with LaBelle (i.e., Patti LaBelle, Nona Hendryx, and Sarah Dash).  The album is an evocative masterpiece of Motown, rhythm & blues and Doo Wop, with LaBelle’s harmonies weaving in and around Nyro’s sailing soprano.  https://youtu.be/BhM7x3o75DQ


2. You and I – Dennis Wilson.....This is the Beach Boy that should have STAYED on the beach—he perished by drowning in 1983, after mixing alcohol with diving.  Wilson was one of the founding members of the group, and was the brother of band members Brian and Carl.  His one solo effort, Pacific Ocean Blue, was released to critical acclaim in 1977 and was out of print for a number of years before resurfacing in a deluxe Sony Legacy treatment in 2008.  The song “You and I” from the aforementioned album sounds like a Beach Boys tune, but better—the harmonies are superb (courtesy of brother Carl, fellow Beach Boy Bruce Johnston, and Dean Torrence of the surf duo Jan & Dean), yet it’s the lead vocal by Dennis which is especially captivating—rich, full-bodied, and very soulful.  https://youtu.be/2BgCvyCyqXg


3. Cause We’ve Ended As Lovers – Jeff Beck.....You don’t have to be a guitar zealot to love this track; you just have to allow yourself the time and space to sink into this almost-six-minute master class on wringing sweet sighs and war cries out of an earthbound instrument that plumbs the musical cosmos.  Beck is King, and this track (which he dedicated to Roy Buchanan) is from his 1975 jazz-rock masterpiece Blow By Blow.  If you have not experienced this song before, it is an eye (and ear) opener to the possibilities of making the soul sing through music; in this case, through a guitarist of unlimited gifts which fortunately for us he still shares with the world.  https://youtu.be/xiOPvOBd8IA


4. Broken English – Marianne Faithfull.....British-born Faithfull was well known in the 1960s as the longtime paramour of Mick Jagger, but in the States was better known for her 1964 pop-chart success “As Tears Go By.”  In the 1970s she split with Jagger and delved into drug use; in 1979 she surfaced in the music world once again with a bold new album entitled Broken English.  Her voice was an octave lower, but the praise couldn’t have been higher for this new direction; this turned out to be a great career jumpstart and a galvanic reemergence.  https://youtu.be/blH0DJ0pg-Q


5. Mellow Yellow – Herbie Mann (with Stephane Grappelli).....This swinging instrumental cover of Donovan’s late-1960s hit record hails from Mann’s 1974 album London Underground, a showcase album featuring British musicians teaming up with the musically adventurous Brooklyn-born jazz flautist.  The addition of Grappelli sumptuously sweetens this tune, and it hearkens back to the unique sound once performed by Grappelli and guitarist Django Reinhardt in Paris of the 1930s-1940s, and their Quintette du Hot Club de France.  https://youtu.be/qC_fxmkNvY0


6. Alchemy – Richard Lloyd.....This man’s talent and rock credentials are enough to give you the CBGBs.  Along with Tom Verlaine, Lloyd was a guitarist in the band Television, a staple in that New York City’s Bowery club that was both haven and incubator to the punk scene in the mid-late ‘70s (other fledgling bands that found a home there included Patti Smith, the Ramones, Blondie and Talking Heads).  Television split in 1978 and Lloyd—renowned for his angular, propulsive guitar style—moved on to a stop-and-start solo career beginning the very next year with the Elektra Records release Alchemy.  https://youtu.be/zxQlKMvpQmo


7. You’ve Got Me For Company – Martha Reeves.....Reeves launched a solo career after her few years of fame as leader of the Vandellas in the immensely popular stable of Motown performers in the 1960’s.  For her first self-titled solo album in 1974 she teamed up with lush producer Richard Perry (“lush” is a comment on his production style, not on his drinking habits) and birthed a great-sounding record which proves to be a fine showcase for Reeves’ soulful vocals.  The mid-tempo track listed here for the mix was co-written by Billy Preston; elsewhere on the record is a top-notch cover of Van Morrison’s “Wild Night.”  https://youtu.be/33hUgWH73gk


8. Room 335 – Larry Carlton.....Carlton first loped into the lobes of rock ‘n’ rollers’ consciousnesses as a session guitar player who cropped up on 1970s albums like Joni Mitchell’s Court & Spark, Linda Ronstadt’s Don’t Cry Now, Michael Jackson’s Off The Wall and others.  It was his blistering solo on Steely Dan’s “Daddy Don’t Live in That New York City No More” (Katy Lied; 1975) and especially his pickin’ for posterity on “Kid Charlemagne” (The Royal Scam;1976) that brought him wide acclaim in hero-worship circles.  “Room 335” (named after Carlton’s private recording studio near Burbank, California) is from his self-titled first major-label release that came out in 1978—and it exemplifies the fluid, rhythmic rock approach that Carlton cornered back then in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s.  https://youtu.be/PeXIWyhB4F8


9. Lost In The Supermarket – The Clash.....London Calling (1979) was the third album from UK punk innovators The Clash, and it creatively leapt head and shoulders above their two preceding releases, cutting a punk-edged swath through reggae territory, rockabilly, hard rock, and even lounge jazz.  Politically charged, musically adventurous, and rebellious as hell, The Clash were often called “the only band that matters” (though this phrase actually started out as their record company’s suggested promotional slogan).  This particular London Calling track bears some cool anti-materialistic lyrics as well: “I’m all lost in the supermarket / I can no longer shop happily / I came in here for that special offer / A guaranteed personality.”  https://youtu.be/FwNVTYwFXS0


10. Young Blood – Rickie Lee Jones.....Jones’ self-titled first album in 1979 was a stirring and exhilarating debut.  Her unique vocal style and songwriting, reflecting a refreshing brew of folk, rhythm & blues and jazz, had everyone at Warner Brothers Records harboring closely held hopes that success would soon follow.  This album indeed was critically acclaimed and commercially successful, and on subsequent releases Jones followed her muse with little or no regard for expectations from fans or the record company—but that’s kinda what we hope for from artists. (p.s.  Check out “Night Train” from Jones’ debut album as well.  It’s a heart-melter and a thing of beauty.)  Here’s “Young Blood” https://youtu.be/GdKqICmMCvI





Posted 11/17/19.....

Girls! Girls! Girls!, a mix dedicated to women—and no, you won’t find the Mötley Crüe song of that same title in THIS mix.  The inspiration actually comes from a campy 1962 Elvis Presley movie of the same name.

1. Angie – The Rolling Stones.....This song is from Goats Head Soup, the Stones’ album chronologically sandwiched between the band’s Exile On Main Street (1972) and It’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll (1974).  The Stones’ album output by 1973 was staggering (a word which we could also apply to Keith Richards during that timeframe).  1973 was the tenth year in a row that the band had released at least an album a year, beginning with their 1964 debut with the teen-titillating title of The Rolling Stones (England’s Newest Hit Makers).  Goats Head Soup is a fairly dark record overall with songs like “Dancing With Mr. D” and “Doo Doo Doo Doo Doo (Heartbreaker)” but the beautiful “Angie” was on every FM radio playlist back then and stands as one of the Stones’ best bittersweet ballads.  https://youtu.be/aVLBF-UKevY


2. Amie – Damien Rice.....This track is one of the simple yet sweeping tunes from Irishman Rice’s 2003 debut album O, which is a masterful work among the multitude of folk singer-songwriter releases.  Rice’s formula is emotionally stirring—voice & acoustic guitar gently nudging these tunes along, with sensitive orchestration that’s in a word “swell,” pulling you along by the heartstrings.  Irish singer/songwriter Lisa Hannigan joins Rice as vocal partner on some of the other fine songs on this album.  https://youtu.be/ibUpX-mZayQ


3. Sandy...official title: Fourth of July, Asbury Park (Sandy) – Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band.....In 1973 Springsteen released his second album The Wild, The Innocent & The E Street Shuffle which was sweeping in its ambition and evocative as hell.  There was poetry and pageantry in both the suite-like song arrangements and the band’s execution of Springsteen’s vision.  His vocals alternately hushed and then growl-yowl in the style of Van Morrison, Springsteen also lyrically captured the themes of life on the city streets of dreams.  Springsteen’s whispered, impassioned plea to Sandy is that she join him in leaving this place where “this pier lights our carnival life forever”, and eventually he confesses “For me, this boardwalk life is through / You ought to quit this scene too”... https://youtu.be/EiGfB0QBTV4


4. Christina – Patty Griffin.....With her alto and her alternative bent, Griffin has a song style that is pretty and pretty forceful.  She played around Boston in the mid-1990s and her unadorned demo became her debut record on A&M in 1996 followed by Flaming Red, a more fleshed-out, mesmerizing album released in 1998.  “Christina” comes from this great collection of tunes from Flaming Red, which also includes the track “One Big Love,” subsequently recorded by Emmylou Harris.  Griffin is noteworthy as well for having joined Robert Plant’s Band of Joy in 2010 as a singer and guitarist for the resulting album and tour.  https://youtu.be/G0VuRV1fSFo


5. Cecilia – Simon & Garfunkel.....Proof of the theory of evolution can be found in the seven-year journey of Simon & Garfunkel through the 1960s.  In the 1964-1970 time span this duo morphed from their simple Everly Brothers-inspired folk through the full flowering of folk-rock to their fully realized ambitions that were ultimately pressed to wax including the classic Bridge Over Troubled Water album released in 1970.  In addition to “Cecilia” and the grand title song, Bridge includes the classic “The Boxer.”  https://youtu.be/Ftgk_tkU-eY


6. Dolores – Freedy Johnston.....Kansas-born singer/songwriter Johnson had a well-deserved brush with fame in the early-mid 1990s with some highly regarded albums that were critics’ and fans’ favorites.  With some concentrated FM airplay on adult alternative stations at the time, Johnston pervaded public consciousness with tunes from his 1994 album A Perfect World like “Bad Reputation” (not the Joan Jett song) and the track listed here.  A witty, insightful writer and style blender who clawed out his own unique voice, alt-folk rocker Johnston is one that deserved more than the Warholian fifteen minutes he was accorded.  https://youtu.be/SBUOt6A3WMs


7. Michelle – The Beatles.....Arguably 1965’s Rubber Soul album was the one that first fully mined the unique talent confluence that was Lennon, McCartney and Martin (as in George Martin, their hands-on producer at Abbey Road Studios).  "Michelle" was mostly McCartney’s, the song with the French feel that was influenced, says Sir Paul, by the guitar style of Chet Atkins.  This tune from Rubber Soul won the Grammy Award for Song of The Year in 1966—the first win for the Beatles in that category—beating out four other songs in a move that may have signaled a bit of the changing of the guard: “Michelle” swept to the side the other more mainstream 1966 throne contenders "Born Free," "The Impossible Dream," "Somewhere My Love" and "Strangers in the Night.”  https://youtu.be/WoBLi5eE-wY


8. Evangeline – The Band with Emmylou Harris.....This song is from the soundtrack to The Last Waltz, the farewell concert by The Band filmed on Thanksgiving Day, November 25th, 1976 at San Francisco’s Winterland Ballroom.  Two songs from the movie—The Band with The Staple Singers on “The Weight,” and The Band with Emmylou Harris performing “Evangeline”—were actually filmed after the concert on a soundstage at M-G-M Studios in Culver City.  According to The Last Waltz’s CD soundtrack notes, Harris had been invited to participate in the Thanksgiving Winterland concert but was unavailable due to a touring conflict.  “At M-G-M,” the liner notes continue, “Harris shimmered like an Appalachian angel in an ice-blue chorister’s gown, her voice radiating chastity and sensuality in equal measure.”  The performance of “Evangeline” is a highlight of the film (lo, there are many) and thankfully the song lives on as well in the soundtrack’s CD boxed set which was released along with the DVD in 2002.  https://youtu.be/HYXv8uQbzA8


9. Lola – The Kinks.....The early 1960s British Invasion brought the Kinks’ music to America and the first big hit off their 1964 self-titled debut album was “You Really Got Me.”  As that song more than suggests, the band could really come up with some killer chords and memorable rock riffs which they certainly repeated here with “Lola,” a song from the band’s 1970 release Lola Versus Powerman and The Money-Go-Round, Part One.  Yes, this song is pretty Kinky; it’s the story of a man who meets a transvestite in a Soho club, and at first encounter he wonders aloud “Well I’m not dumb but I can’t understand / Why she walked like a woman and talked like a man / Oh my Lola.”  Besides bearing one of the most famous opening riffs in Rock ‘n’ Roll, the song was also included in Rolling Stone Magazine’s 500 Greatest Songs of All Time, and—perhaps the ultimate accolade—Weird Al Yankovic paid tribute to it on his 1985 album Dare To Be Stupid, by way of the song “Yoda” (“y-o-d-a, Yoda; yo yo yo yo Yoda”).  https://youtu.be/ZDxwAyjKKls


10. Angelene – PJ Harvey.....British born Polly Jean Harvey released a string of idiosyncratic, challenging alternative-rock records throughout the 1990s, with intelligent not always cogent lyrics and—earlier in the ‘90s—an off-beat theatrical approach to performing.  Her third album, 1995’s To Bring You My Love, is the one that brought her some significant Stateside buzz with the help of a key track (“Down By The Water”) that resonated on college radio and MTV.  Three years later Harvey released Is This Desire?, the album from which “Angelene” is taken.  https://youtu.be/hsuV75k0lig





Posted 11/3/19.....

Various Artists’ Mix.....Before the advent of iTunes, Musicasaurus.com was still putting playlists together for burning onto CDs, and this one hails from September 2000.  It’s got the blues, new wave, folk, R & B, and I remember it well; it was a mishmash, and I was making a splash, ‘long about a Saturday night.

1. Love Is Stronger Than Pride – Herbie Hancock.....from the 1996 album The New Standard.....Jazz keyboardist Hancock was early on a Miles Davis disciple (1963-1968) and continues to be musically adventurous to this day.  Like Neil Young and Joni Mitchell, Hancock is a pioneering spirit who pushes boundaries, blends genres, and occasionally courts collaborators in the process.  On The New Standard, Hancock offers a mixed bag of signature rock and pop tunes that he pries apart, injects with pure jazz, and then reassembles for his smokin’ band to tackle.  The players:  Hancock on acoustic piano, Michael Brecker on saxes, John Scofield on guitar, Dave Holland on bass, Don Alias on percussion, and Jack DeJohnette on drums.  The songs include Don Henley’s “New York Minute,” Stevie Wonder’s “You’ve Got It Bad Girl,” Peter Gabriel’s “Mercy Street,” Simon & Garfunkel’s “Scarborough Fair,” Nirvana’s “All Apologies”, and the best of the lot, Sade’s “Love Is Stronger Than Pride.”  https://youtu.be/66twZeBB1r8


2. Making Contact – Bruce Cockburn.....from the 1984 album Stealing Fire.....I became aware of this Canadian folkie in the late ‘70s through an album called Dancing In The Dragon’s Jaws, and songs like “Creation Dream” and the modest U.S. hit “Wondering Where The Lions Are.”  But it was Stealing Fire that gained Cockburn more widespread attention due to his politics, with songs like “If I Had A Rocket Launcher” (I know the title sounds like one-upmanship of “If I Had A Hammer,” but it is about the plight of Guatemalan refugees in Mexico).  The album is consistently fine, and includes less politically overt tunes like “Peggy’s Kitchen Wall” and the track listed here for this mix.  https://youtu.be/LlUhsPMa5BQ


3. Trouble Man – Buddy Guy.....from the 1993 album Feels Like Rain.....Louisiana-born Guy moved to Chicago in 1957 and made his early mark as a guitarist for Muddy Waters, and then he began a stretch of recording his own albums for the Chess record label.  Though deep blues aficionados have always known about the guy, his popularity eventually widened from constant touring but also from his move to Silvertone Records in the early ‘90s.  On these early Silvertone releases some of his idol-worshiping musician friends began jumping aboard to collaborate.  Damn Right, I’ve Got The Blues (1991) included Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, and Mark Knopfler of Dire Straits on select tracks, and 1993’s Feels Like Rain—from which “Trouble Man” is taken—featured guests like John Mayall, Travis Tritt, Bonnie Raitt, and Paul Rodgers (ex-Free and Bad Company).  I’m a little hazy on the following personal recollection, but I swear I saw Guy in the very late 1970s in McKees Rocks, PA (just outside of Pittsburgh) in a club called Mancini’s Lounge.  The memory is of Guy leaving the stage and—courtesy of a longgggg guitar cord—jumping up on the barkeep’s counter and strutting the entire length of it, peeling off hair-raising riffs left and right.  Damn right, I loved those blues.  https://youtu.be/a1-HqFoAfUI


4. How Could You Want Him (When You Know You Could Have Me) – Spin Doctors.....from the band’s 1991 release Pocket Full Of Kryptonite.....A pop-savvy jam band who toured incessantly in the early ‘90s to build its fan base, the Doctors basked in well-earned success but only a full year after the album’s release, when there was a sort of “good fortune cosmic convergence”—MTV was on ‘em, radio was picking up tracks, they played on SNL in late ’92, and then they made the cover of Rolling Stone magazine in early ’93.  I worked at the time at Star Lake Amphitheater in Pittsburgh and remember having to convince their booking agent that the time was ripe for a play at our 23,000-capacity outdoor venue.  He rolled the dice with us, and the June ’93 headlining gig at Star Lake pulled in over 15,000 fans.  The album has a lot of treats like “Two Princes” and “Little Miss Can’t Be Wrong,” but it is the track listed here that I found myself spinning quite a bit.  https://youtu.be/HOGBcYN1Hu4


5. Sweetest Decline – Beth Orton.....from Central Reservation (1999).....Through WYEP, the public-supported AAA (adult album alternative) station here in Pittsburgh, I learned of Beth Orton at the time of this album’s release.  Early on, her formative musical experiences revolved around William Orbit, a fellow Brit and ambient music/electronica artist and eventual Madonna producer.  With the release of her second album Central Reservation, Orton eased up on the electronica and put the peddle down on pop, folk and jazz, all anchored by her evocative, mellifluous vocals.  “Sweetest Decline” is very fine; she flutters and sails above a smooth, almost easy-listening instrumental blend of primarily piano and sensitively set-in-motion strings.  This is soothing, sensual stuff.  https://youtu.be/cwrqnSbh91Y


6. The Whole Town’s Laughing At Me – Teddy Pendergrass.....from the artist’s 1977 self-titled solo debut album.....Philadelphian Pendergrass was drumming with a doo-wop/early rock & roll band called The Cadillacs when Harold Melvin plucked him in 1970 to join him and his Blue Notes.  The latter band then found pop and rhythm & blues chart success starting in 1972 with the tune “If You Don’t Know Me By Now” (sung by Teddy, who had given up the sticks).  The artist then split from the Blue Notes in ’76 and a year later released his self-titled debut which oozed soul and self confidence—Teddy was ready.  He could have dubbed himself LL Cool Ted, for the ladies lapped him up and gave him sell-out concerts and incredible album and single sales for the next six years running.  A tragic car accident in 1982 left Pendergrass a quadriplegic, and though he continued to record, he didn’t appear live in concert anywhere until 1985’s Live Aid concert in Philly, reemerging—in his wheelchair—to sing Ashford & Simpson’s “Reach Out And Touch (Somebody’s Hand).”  The track included on this mix, “The Whole Town’s Laughing At Me,” is a pure delight with producer-team Gamble & Huff’s sweet arrangement, soulful back-up singers, and Pendergrass’ kinda-gravelly, exquisitely commanding vocal.  https://youtu.be/C8zJvwb0vwM


7. Migra – Santana.....from the 1999 album Supernatural.....Carlos Santana was once upon a time a true rock god though he looked a bit like the devil.  Check him out in the film Woodstock, where he is on-stage and garbed in a black shirt, leading the charge on a song entitled “Soul Sacrifice” (hmmm).  A few months after that in November of 1969, my friend’s big brother took us to see Janis Joplin at the Pittsburgh Civic Arena and the opening act was Santana.  He was even more devilish in appearance then, in black shirt and black leather pants, and once again was a sizzling soul stirrer through his lightning fast guitar runs.  Flash forward to his amazing commercial comeback thirty years later in the hands of Arista Record Company head Clive Davis.  The latter signed Santana to his label in 1999 and set about stocking the planned new album (the artist’s seventeenth) with guest stars in an obvious attempt to scale new commercial heights and sell a shitload of records—and it worked.  The album featured Matchbox Twenty’s Rob Thomas on “Smooth,” The Product G&B on “Maria Maria,” Everlast on “Put Your Lights On,” and Lauryn Hill and Eric Clapton on other selections.  The album did incredibly well and was a #1 top seller in ten countries including the U.S.  The track that holds up for me, though, is “Migra” which takes me back to my earlier days of wonderment over Carlos’ superb tone and his hellacious all-out attack.  https://youtu.be/LFDPqXlGxGE 


8. Ride The Wind To Me – Julie Miller.....from the artist’s 1999 album Broken Things.....Julie and Buddy Miller are an item, as they say, married since ’81 and part of the Nashville alt-country music scene.  Buddy is an unstoppable force, having played powerhouse guitar with the likes of Emmylou Harris (in her four-piece outfit Spyboy) and Robert Plant’s Band of Joy (which also featured Patty Griffin).  Julie started her solo recording career in 1990 on Christian label Myrrh, and then settled in with Hightone Records in 1997 for a few releases (some with Buddy).  “Ride The Wind To Me” is a bit Lucinda soundin’, but really more reminiscent of female folk-rocker Sam Phillips.  The album from which this track is taken features twelve tunes all written by Miller and it boasts some impressive contributors including husband Buddy, Patty Griffin, Steve Earle and Emmylou Harris.  https://youtu.be/H9Q4NHX7L7Y


9. 1880 Or So – Television.....from the band’s 1992 eponymous release.....Television was one of the bands that first formed in the punk explosion days of the mid-to-late 1970s, when the first wave of the New Wave rolled into the Manhattan NYC club CGBG—bands like The Ramones, Talking Heads, Blondie and Patti Smith Group, and lesser lights but perfectly named punkers like The Dead Boys, Richard Hell & The Voidoids and The Cramps.  Television’s distinction was the two-guitar attack and made-for-punk vocal style of lead singer-songwriter Tom Verlaine.  The ace second guitarist in the band was the incendiary Richard Lloyd and the two were interweaving specialists.  None of this really translated into much commercial success for the band back in the punk heyday, but in 1992 the group reformed (some say because of the early ‘90s Seattle scene with Nirvana and the like) and issued this self-titled, admirable outing.  “1880 Or So” is simply enchanting, leavened with the spunk of punk, a mid-tempo “best example” of how deliciously this band could float along on intertwining guitars and Verlaine’s genre-appropriate vocals.  Infectious stuff.  https://youtu.be/bv1ntXQTe1M


10. Rock & Roll – Johnny Winter.....from the 1973 album Still Alive And Well.....The same year that his brother Edgar’s band had the smash instrumental pop hit “Frankenstein” Johnny released his Still Alive And Well album, aptly named as he had recently risen from the lows of heroin, having sought treatment and eventually then breaking on through to the other side.  The album was a supercharged victory lap, powered by great song selection (including the self-penned tune listed here) and Winter’s balls-out style of blues-infused rock.  In one of his Consumer Guide reviews, famed Village Voice critic Robert Christgau wrote about the record, “Winter will never be an especially personable singer, but I like what's he's putting out on this monkey-off-my-comeback: two late-Stones covers, plenty of slide, and a good helping of nasty.”  Winter, still active on the touring circuit in his later years, passed away in July 2014.  https://youtu.be/djksTMenRMg





Posted 10/20/19.....


I will rarely trot out a mix that is dedicated to just one artist, but there are certain singer-songwriters that deserve this approach. 

Some artists push on through the years bumping up against boundaries and welcoming change and new stirred passions while staying true to their art, beautifully giving voice to these inner compass swings.  Joni Mitchell is truly one of these.  The singer/songwriter turned 75 this year and if you’re maniacally devoted to Mitchell, you have to check out the all-star 75thbirthday tribute concert that aired in the past year on PBS and is also now available on DVD. For now, though, let’s go with the artist’s own recordings and luxuriate in these nineteen gems plucked from points along her path…


Both Sides Now (1969).....“Both Sides Now” is the bookend piece for this special Mitchell mix and this version is from her 1969 album Clouds (her second release in a long line of startling works that now spans 50 years).  The tune was a charting hit for fellow female troubadour Judy Collins in 1967, but this was the first recorded version by the singer-songwriter/composer.  It is spare and lovely, with just voice and acoustic guitar.  https://youtu.be/7m_t3_1vbX8


Chelsea Morning (1969).....Mitchell reportedly wrote this song while living in the Chelsea neighborhood of NYC and watching the morning sun roll in and through the stained-glass mobile hanging in her window.  Stemming from Mitchell’s album Clouds, the tunehas been covered through the years by artists such as Fairport Convention, Jennifer Warnes, Judy Collins and Neil Diamond.  Also, Bill and Hillary Clinton were sufficiently inspired by Judy Collins’ 1969 version of the song to bestow the neighborhood’s name upon their newborn daughter in 1980.  https://youtu.be/nWDyA4S-geg


Big Yellow Taxi (1970).....This is the song with the famous line “They paved paradise and put up a parking lot,” and there continues to be many occasions out there in our march toward progress where you can hear this line being uttered, or at least muttered.  Mitchell handled all vocals, piano and guitar on Ladies Of The Canyon, the album from which this track is taken (and incidentally, a cool cover version of this song was done by the Counting Crows and appears on their 2002 Hard Candy album).  https://youtu.be/NhxZ8ok3Z2o


The Circle Game (1970).....According to some notes on Mitchell’s website, this song was written in response to  her friend and fellow Canadian Neil Young, who had just penned an ode to childhood called “Sugar Mountain” which contained, among other observations, “You can’t be 20 on Sugar Mountain.”  Neil wrote the song because of turning 19 years old and not being allowed into a favorite local teeny-bopper club any longer.  Mitchell wrote her rites-of-passage answer to this to provide Neil and all twentysomethings a ray of hope that Life continues on, with new dreams replacing the old.  “The Circle Game” (from Ladies Of The Canyon) is a classic coming-of-age song and the background vocals were provided by the Lookout Mountain United Downstairs Choir (rumored to include Mitchell’s good friends Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young).  https://youtu.be/5NEkJhBHh54


Carey (1971).....Stephen Stills guests on guitar and bass on this song from the album Blue.  Mitchell reportedly based this song on her exploits on the isle of Crete in 1970, and her encounters with a cane-carrying chef in the hippie-like community that was nestled there in the village of Matala.  https://youtu.be/wfZJ6sHeA6k


River (1971).....With its opening lines about Christmastime, this ballad ended up being covered by a number of notable singers on their holiday releases, but it is a song for all seasons.  “River” comes from Blue and has been covered—at last count—by over 250 other performers including Bela Fleck, Sara Bareilles, Aimee Mann, Lea Michele, Travis, Bettie Serveert, Sarah McLachlan, James Taylor, and Renee Fleming.  One of Musicasaurus.com’s favorites: Dianne Reeves’ stellar and dreamy jazz-tinged version from her 1999 album Bridges.  https://youtu.be/F8MqF7xEGhs


You Turn Me On, I’m A Radio (1972).....Mitchell reportedly wrote this track for her album For The Roses when a record company type requested that she try and include a radio-friendly song.  Her tongue-in-cheek tune sailed onto the Billboard Magazine charts and hit the Top Forty, a first for Mitchell at that phase of her career.  https://youtu.be/8YVroYzNz60 


Blonde In The Bleachers (1972).....“The bands and the roadies / Lovin' 'em and leavin' 'em It's pleasure to try 'em / It's trouble to keep 'em”...This excellent but largely unheralded tune about the adoration of rock ‘n’ rollers and their lifestyles comes from Mitchell’s album For The Roses, which was an all-star affair including Tom Scott on woodwinds and reeds, Wilton Felder on bass, Russ Kunkel on drums, and contributions from Graham Nash, Stephen Stills, and master session guitarist James Burton.  https://youtu.be/I3sHVM0rX40


Free Man In Paris (1974).....This song from the album Court And Spark was written about a trip to Paris taken by Mitchell and music industry friend David Geffen in the early 1970s, and in it she yearns to be eternally walking down the Champs Elysées instead of back home dealing with her relatively newfound life as a pop star: “You know I'd go back there tomorrow / But for the work I've taken on / Stoking the star maker machinery / Behind the popular song”...This is, in fact, one of the artist’s most popular songs.  https://youtu.be/jQj6h8KpkiQ


Help Me (1974).....I was playing this song a lot back in my junior year at Penn State, deejaying on the college campus station WDFM.  “Help Me” is from Mitchell’s album Court And Spark, and the tune is this artist’s only Top Ten hit (not that she ever aspired to such).  The song was also rated by Rolling Stone magazine in one of their polls as # 282 on the list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.  Jazz fusion sax player Tom Scott and his L.A. Express were the backup band on Court And Spark,and that musically intuitive ensemble included Joe Sample on keyboards and Larry Carlton on electric guitar.  https://youtu.be/edUhlRxyGOY


Shades of Scarlett Conquering (1975).....Joni was gestating toward jazz and Third World music by 1975 (or at least incorporating these influences into her work). This particular track from that year’s The Hissing Of Summer Lawns release could be considered an album deep cut—not a radio hit, but a beautifully composed and flowing work buoyed by the sensitive playing of her excellent ensemble including Victor Feldman on vibes and electric piano and Larry Carlton on electric guitar.  https://youtu.be/-BcZCV8LQuI


Off Night Backstreet (1977)....This tune comes from Mitchell’s release Don Juan’s Reckless Daughter, another innovative boundary pusher from this inspiring and ever aspiring artist.  Though this double album was uneven in its song selection—there were lean and tight successes but just as many wild excesses—there were tracks like the one listed here that were complex and rewarding, and a real joy to jump into headfirst.  The supporting musicians on “Off Night Backstreet” included J.D. Souther and Glenn Frey on quick-cameo harmony vocals on the choruses, and the gifted and galvanizing bass player Jaco Pastorius, whose spidery fingers and harmonics are blessedly all over this record.  https://youtu.be/Ewo2nXlGtiQ


In France They Kiss On Main Street (1980).....The studio version of this song hails from Mitchell’s 1975 album The Hissing Of Summer Lawns but the version listed here is live—and God gimme a high-five, this is incredible stuff.  In 1979 Mitchell toured in support of her just-released Mingus album and her assembled back-up band included Pat Metheny on electric guitar, Jaco Pastorius on electric bass, Lyle Mays on keyboards and Michael Brecker on saxophone.  This band was captured live on tape (and on video as well) at a Santa Barbara County Bowl performance in September 1979, and the audio results were released the following year as the double-live album Shadows And Light.  This album’s a powerful stew; a few of the songs, including the one listed here, call to mind the musical muscle and majesty of other live-in-concert career crowning achievements like the Allmans’ At Fillmore East.  https://youtu.be/89Z_hZarKP0


Snakes And Ladders (1988).....An uptempo tune that features Don Henley as co-vocalist, “Snakes And Ladders” is from Mitchell’s album Chalk Mark In A Rainstorm.  The song is a sonic treat with Mitchell layering on vocal harmonies that help propel the tune and Henley’s right there with her, trading off on the lead.  In a New York Times review of the album that same year, Stephen Holden said “The album extends Ms. Mitchell's longtime interest in developing pop studio collages that have dramatic content. The song ‘Snakes and Ladders’ is a densely textured musical play in which she and Mr. Henley portray ‘an airbrushed angel’ and ‘a young-fogie-financier’ parrying and flirting amid an aural maze of voices chanting fragmentary phrases that portray a couple clawing their way up the corporate ladder.”  https://youtu.be/DhHIO8gviwg 


My Secret Place (1988).....This song is a duet with Peter Gabriel from Mitchell’s Chalk Mark In A Rainstorm.  The duo shine in this intriguing and lovely, layered excursion. Commenting on the song in his 1988 Rolling Stone review of the album, J.D. Considine stated that it “uses its duet format and the similarities between her voice and Peter Gabriel's to illustrate the shifting confidences of shared intimacy, swapping lines or pulling back into separate verses as the balance within the relationship wobbles and shifts.”  What Considine didn’t point out about the track is the absolute ear-caressing beauty of this recorded work, resplendent in its layers and accents.  https://youtu.be/50tn9Es5ORU


Come in From The Cold (1991).....“When I thought life had some meaning / Then I thought I had some choice And I made some value judgments In a self-important voice But then absurdity came over me And I longed to lose control Oh all I ever wanted Was just to come in from the cold”...Mitchell here at the age of 48 weighs in on aging, love and long-held ideals, and the song is from her release Night Ride Home.  This album features at most four musicians per track, but it is also characteristically rich in production and atmospheric arrangement.  Mitchell plays acoustic guitar, billatron, and keyboards; Larry Klein’s on bass; the drummer is Vinnie Colaiuta and the percussionist is Alex Acuna.  https://youtu.be/pOfJ7S9f2LM


Nothing Can Be Done (1991).....Mitchell doesn’t usually feature guest vocalists in more than just a fleeting background scenario, but as she had done with Peter Gabriel and Don Henley for 1988’s Chalk Mark In A Rainstorm, she reached out to another simpatico male singer in 1991 to help boost the emotional impact of a key track for her album Night Ride Home.  “Nothing Can Be Done” features Mitchell’s own very fetching multi-tracked voice in a support role but also employs the complimentary vocals of David Baerwald, whose one main claim to mild fame was in 1986 with the duo David & David. Their album Boomtown yielded the somewhat dark, urban streets-themed slice of Hollywood life entitled “Welcome To The Boomtown” which snagged some considerable FM rock radio play that particular year.  https://youtu.be/cv7XACQeV2w


The Crazy Cries of Love (1998).....Mitchell spins a tale of healthy, romantic lust as two lovers find a place to connect that really frees them: “Every kiss was sweet and strong / Every touch was totally tandem / As the train come a-rumbling along / They sang a lover’s song of wild abandon...No paper thin walls, no folks above / No one else can hear / The crazy cries of love”...The song comes from Mitchell’s sixteenth studio album Taming The Tiger and once again, she aligns with incredible (and incredibly sympathetic) musicians to execute her vision.  On this luxurious jazz-inflected track Mitchell handles all vocals and plays guitar and keyboards; sidemen include Wayne Shorter (a founding member of Weather Report) on sax, ex-husband Larry Klein on bass, and Brian Blade on drums.  https://youtu.be/8b_7OqRx1b8


Both Sides Now (2000).....Thirty-one years after recording “Both Sides Now” for the first time on record, Mitchell at the age of 57 revisited and rerecorded the tune with a world of experience brought to bear.  Her voice here is husky, darker and deeper from the “miles of aisles” she’s traveled (and the ashtrays she’s filled) since 1969, and here she delves deeply from this new vantage point, adding only subtle swells of orchestration that dovetail and never distract.  The song comes from the album Both Sides Now which offers up orchestral versions of classic jazz songs plus two of Mitchell’s own.  This track is her masterpiece, and here it is especially poignant because of the passing of the years; the lyrics are unchanged, of course, but have gained far greater resonance.  If you are of a certain age and are indeed familiar with both versions, listen to them now back to back—it may make you weep.  https://youtu.be/7cBf0olE9Yc




Posted 10/6/19.....









1. Paint It Black – The Rolling Stones.....from the album Aftermath...This album was the Stones’ sixth American release and the first to be comprised of all original Jagger-Richards material; all previous releases sported at least 50% cover tunes including their tips of the hat to old blues masters and early rockers like Chuck Berry.  “Paint It Black” features some great drummer wattage from Charlie Watts and sinewy sitar from multi-instrumentalist band member Brian Jones.  https://youtu.be/b1uIM2nPocE


2. Sunshine Superman – Donovan.....from the album of the same name...The opening riffs of this quirky, semi-psychedelic love song kind of conjure up images of television’s Hullabaloo and Shindig go-go dancers.  The track is anchored by the earnestness of Scottish folk-pop singer Donovan, who trafficked largely in songs exhibiting childlike wonder and flower power.  https://youtu.be/YsX2FhBf9nY 


3. Devil With A Blue Dress/Good Golly Miss Molly – Mitch Ryder & The Detroit Wheels.....from the album Breakout...!!!...This truly soulful rasp ‘n’ roll white singer from Detroit sounds, in retrospect, like the love child of Bob Seger and James Brown.  Ryder and his Wheels rolled out some passionate, almost live-sounding classics over a couple-years period in the Sixties, including the song listed here (once a Springsteen favorite for his own concert encores) and others like “Jenny Take A Ride” and “Sock It To Me Baby.”  https://youtu.be/y1PE_YsSNkQ


4. Reach Out I’ll Be There – The Four Tops.....from the album Reach Out...This Motown production was a 1966 # 1 single in advance of this chockfull o’ hits collection which also contained “Standing In The Shadows Of Love” and “Bernadette.”  The original guys hung together for decades after the Sixties, and lead singer Levi Stubbs was the band’s baritone benchmark who also provided the voice for mean green plant Audrey in the 1986 soundtrack to the Frank Oz musical Little Shop Of Horrors.  https://youtu.be/rG1uh4CM_8Y


5. You Can’t Hurry Love – Supremes.....from the album Supremes A’ Go-Go...This was the girls’ first # 1 Pop album, largely a concept record that had the ladies covering a lot of their fellow Motown artists’ songs.  “You Can’t Hurry Love” was a hit written for the Supremes by the gifted Motown production team of Holland-Dozier-Holland, but the album also featured covers of songs by The Four Tops, The Temptations, Martha Reeves And The Vandellas—and even Nancy Sinatra (“These Boots Are Made For Walkin’”) and The McCoys (“Hang On Sloopy”).  https://youtu.be/uZj032MNIx4


6. Cherry Cherry – Neil Diamond.....from the album The Feel of Neil Diamond...“Cherry, Cherry” became an established hit before Diamond pushed out his 1966 debut album, and he went on to an illustrious career of chart-topping records and sold-out concert appearances that lasted for decades.  Early on, Diamond was a songwriter in NYC’s famous Brill Building and he first tasted commercial success via his compositions covered by The Monkees—tunes like “I’m A Believer” and “A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You.”  https://youtu.be/1nD7fYwnjK4


7. Hold On, I’m Comin’ – Sam & Dave.....from the album Hold On, I’m Comin’...This duo delivered gospel-fired soul music, and did so through the famous Stax studio and record label (Atlantic Records’ subsidiary based in Memphis, TN).  House musicians Booker T. and The M.G.’s and the Mar-Key Horns gave their soul support, and producers Isaac Hayes and David Porter were the songwriting team who fed them hit after eventual hit including “Soul Man,” “When Something Is Wrong With My Baby,” and “I Thank You."   https://youtu.be/Wizc2UC9s0A  


8. Daydream – Lovin’ Spoonful.....from the album of the same name...Back in the day, lead singer John Sebastian could really carry a tune; by the late ‘80s, however, judging from a show I caught, he should’ve leaned on Auto-tune.  Back in the mid-‘60s this blues and jug-band influenced group came together in New York City and in two years’ time amassed seven sizzlin’ chart-toppin’ hits including “Daydream” as well as “Summer In The City,” “You Didn’t Have To Be So Nice,” and “Do You Believe In Magic.”  https://youtu.be/sP63Kl_sB5E


9. Sunny Afternoon – The Kinks.....from the album Face To Face...This was reportedly the first Kinks album to contain all original compositions by Ray Davies, chief pilot and tale spinner of the band.  It is kind of a deceptively simple “music hall” sing-along, but the subject matter, like The Beatles’ “Taxman,” centers on the onerous progressive tax situation in Britain at the time.  https://youtu.be/NA88UQXchf0


10. California Dreamin’ – The Mamas & The Papas.....from the album If You Can Believe Your Eyes And Ears...A signature Sixties song, summing up the Southern California sound and allure like no other, full of electrified folk and a dazzling blend of four voices...The band produced three albums and reigned for two full years with hit after hit, but there was dysfunction--including a Mama makin’ moves on the wrong Papa--and sadly, all that harmony became disharmony.  https://youtu.be/oU6uUEwZ8FM





Posted 9/22/19.....

1. Are You Down – Lucinda Williams…..Originally from Lake Charles, Louisiana, Williams spent time in L.A. and Nashville as well, and from early on wasn’t the most prolific cranker-outer of albums.  She released two largely overlooked recordings in 1979 and 1980, and it wasn’t until 1988 that she birthed her third album, the self-titled Lucinda Williams.  This one was followed by 1992’s Sweet Old World and then 1998’s Car Wheels on a Gravel Road, the latter record the one that netted both critical praise and significant over-the-counter sales.  Three years after Car Wheels—which is still perhaps the best blend of this artist’s penchant for rock, blues, country and folk—Williams released the more downbeat and intimate album Essence.  It’s an album to sink into, though, especially with the five-and-a-half minute track “Are You Down,” which is a gorgeous slow ride of slinky, sultry blues...and nuance…and atmospheric organ work and guitar shadings…it’s all there.  Whoa.  https://youtu.be/EWRsTJZdaqk 


2. Time Stand Still – Rush.....Truth be told, I am not a huge Rush fan though I did see the 2009 buddy comedy I Love You, Man, and I would have gladly gone to that concert with Paul Rudd and Jason Segel.  What drew me initially to this tune was the chorus cameo by Aimee Mann, who adds a nice slice of harmony on top of Geddy Lee’s distinctive tenor.  With repeated listenings, I found a true integrity in the stops-pulled-out approach to this driving, rhythmic tune and the unabashedly honest lyrics about the fleeting nature of our lives…The song hails from the band’s twelfth studio album Hold Your Fire, released in 1987.  https://youtu.be/WtkWTh-nn9w


3. Black Violin – “Stereotypes”.....Black Violin is a contemporary duo of hip-hop artists from Florida who are classically trained on their instruments—Kev Marcus on violin and Wil B. on viola.  They have been merging beats & rhythms with classical music and making waves since 2004, and the song listed here is from their third album Stereotypes, their 2015 major label debut.  On October 13, 2017 as part of their Classical Boom tour the duo played the Byham Theater in Pittsburgh, and Post-Gazette reviewer Jeremy Reynolds said in a post-concert piece that their Pitt stop included two shows—a sold-out evening concert, and a matinee performance that day for school children.  About the latter, Reynolds wrote, “The matinee featured the music of Bruno Mars and Imagine Dragons alongside Bach and more.  Marcus performed on an electric violin, and both musicians were heavily amplified to mix with DJ SPS and their drummer Nat Stokes…The pair’s joy is infectious—they kept up a steady banter throughout the 90-minute performance, inviting the audience to take photos and videos, sing along and dance…The musicians spoke to the crowd about thinking outside the box and how classical music had provided them a means to see the world on their own terms.”  https://youtu.be/WYerKidQGcc


4. Dreams – Allman Brothers Band.....This classic Allmans tune was, for me, the highlight of their self-titled debut album which hit record stores in 1969. And damn it, just thinking back on that particular year when I was in high school irks me to no end.  Allow me to explain: One of my Butler (PA) Senior High School classmates Chris Romney reminded me a few years back that I was on the school’s concert committee in ‘69, and I was pestering the living shit out of our teacher-advisor to approve the booking of this brand new band called the Allman Brothers—for just $3,000.  To gain student support, I talked my way onto the morning public address system, and there gave an impassioned plea to the student body, saying things like “Ya know, this is NOT the Osmond Brothers we’re talking about here; it’s the AllmanBrothers.”  Ultimately the concert committee’s teacher-advisor nixed my idea, saying “Nobody knows who they are”—and we ended up with the Jagger instead.  https://youtu.be/ESDqkzZOQCo


5. Throw Down Your Weapons – Caleb…..Sometimes a songwriter brings forth a tune that ends up being the signature slice of an album because of the serendipitous convergence of songwriting + assembled musicians + the touch of a pop-savvy producer.  On this album, Caleb’s a star in his own right, with credits including bass, drums and drum programming, E-Bow, guitar, loops, organ, percussion, piano, electric sitar and synthesizer.  And a couple of his recording studio bandmates are notable as well—Gerry Leonard on guitar (session player, and Bowie guitarist on that artist’s Heathen and Reality tours) and Tony Levin (tall, bald, and a wonder on the electric bass, Chapman Stick and upright bass; also a longtime musical sidekick of Peter Gabriel)…Searching the internet, one can’t find too much on Caleb these days.  I believe he is still in his old haunts of New York City working somewhere in sound production, and trotting out occasional homemade solo efforts.  His one major-label bid for recognition—this album, 2001’s Fear of Success—sold poorly.  Unfortunately, it turns out he had nothing to fear.  https://youtu.be/kpFfAfIiKyQ


6. Dance Away – Roxy Music.....Manifesto, Roxy Music’s seventh album, came almost four years after the release of the band’s sixth one entitled Viva!.  Manifesto seemed to shed in large part some of the art rock influences of the earlier records, and the songs ferried more toward the lead singer’s penchant for soul-pop and disco-pop.  This track is percolating punk-drizzled pop at its best, with great guitar shadings by Phil Manzanera.  https://youtu.be/7lLcZPhTvFE


7. Half Moon – Blind Pilot…..A folk-pop unit from Portland, Oregon led by guitarist/singer-songwriter Israel Nebekes, Blind Pilot in a live setting really delivers; the songs come alive with a captivating combination of instruments including (but not limited to) acoustic guitar, upright bass, organ, vibes, dulcimer and banjo.  My late twenty-something daughter Moira and I stood riveted (no choice—general admission floor) at Mr. Small’s, a continuously busy little gem of a club in Pittsburgh, to see the band back in February of 2012.  This song comes from the band’s second album entitled We Are The Tide, released in 2011.  https://youtu.be/PfZKwjPjlW8


8. Be Still My Heart – Peter Bradley Adams…..There’s somethingabout this song…It’s a bit of country/pop that is quietly insistent and gets under your skin with its loping beauty.  I first discovered it on a compilation CD, the Nashville Indie Spotlight 2014, but I believe a slightly altered, slower version is available on an actual Peter Bradley Adams album.  I’m a fan of the former.  Adams has several things going for him here: An understated and breathy vocal style that really serves this particular song, and smart and luscious production on the tune which gives it a gossamer groove that is sweetly addictive.  https://youtu.be/kbjnF8gHGDU


9. Stéphane Grappelli – “Oriental Shuffle”.....Frenchman Grappelli (1908-1997) mustered a forty-year recording career out of his virtuosity from the mid-‘50s through the mid-‘90s.  To historians and fan-atics, Grappelli is revered most for his 1930s collaborations with Gypsy jazz guitarist Django Reinhardt who together founded the Quintette du Hot Club de France in 1934.  By the time the ‘70s and ‘80s rolled around, Grappelli had played on hundreds of recordings including those of Duke Ellington, Paul Simon, Oscar Peterson, David Grisman, Yo Yo Ma, and Toots Thielemans—even on a Pink Floyd record, 1975’s Wish You Were Here, where his handiwork is heard in the title track (but only in the 2011 Experience and Immersion editions of that album).  The track listed here, “Oriental Shuffle,” made its first recorded appearance on 1955’s Le Jazz Hot, a Grappelli and Reinhardt record.  The version that musicasaurus.com has chosen for you here is from 1980's Young Django album, and Grappelli is backed up by guitarists Larry Coryell and Philip Catherine, and bassist Niels-Henning Ørsted Pedersen.  At a certain juncture Grappelli edges out the ensemble, and for the listener, this sweetens the senses like some celestial caress for the remaining two minutes of the tune.  https://youtu.be/BLEVbX8cDSM


10. Flamin’ Angel – David Mead…..Mead spent years in Nashville after his parents filled his childhood with moves throughout the southern states, and he was an early achiever in music, latching on to his first guitar at the age of 13.  His style is melodic and memorable, owing to influences like The Beatles but also The Police and Rufus Wainwright.  He has logged road miles in support of a number of artists through the years such as John Mayer, Fountains of Wayne, Joe Jackson and others.  Music publications like Mojo and Paste have touted his work, the former calling him “a major tunesmith” and the latter labeling him “one of the best solo crooners such Jeff Buckley.”  “Flamin’ Angel” is the lead-off track to his 2001 release on RCA Records, Mine And Yours.  https://youtu.be/W9PQbkXfk70





Posted 9/8/19.....

Odds are you may not be familiar with most, even all of these...which is a good thing.  Enjoy!

1. Blood And Roses – The Smithereens.....This is a hypnotic and head-bobbin’ example of The Smithereens’ sound, which has that 1980s punk-like swagger with enough rock-bottom melody, though, to leaven it.  The name of the group stems from cartoon character Yosemite Sam’s signature expression "Varmint, I'm a-gonna blow you to smithereens!"  The band has had a neat brush with fortuitous moments through its career—the album from which this track came, 1986’s Especially For You, was reportedly one of Kurt Cobain’s favorites; a cut from it landed on a Miami Vice episode and a track or two leapt onto MTV; and the band even appeared (as themselves) in the low-budget, schlocky Troma film Class of Nuke ‘Em High, playing during an indoor beach party scene.  https://youtu.be/VzSqsoCMl7g 


2. Out Of Time – Sam Phillips.....Sam (real first name: Leslie) Phillips is a singer/songwriter from Glendale, California who started her musical career in Christian music in 1984.  Her first secular release came in 1988 with the album The Indescribable Wow, from which this track is taken...Her voice has a tad of “sixties girl group” in it, and/or a touch of Cyndi Lauper, but her songwriting has depth, her lyrics have bite, and her arrangements and overall album production are first rate.  https://youtu.be/fyQ4GSkgsLo


3. The Cricket's Wicket – Billy Oskay and Mícheál Ó Domhnaill.....New Yorker Oskay and Irish guitarist Mícheál Ó Domhnaill met in 1983 and together crafted a blend of Irish, jazz and classical music.  They also probably then suffered the “New Age” music tag that was applied by critics to a wide swatch of meditative works that floated out to consumers beginning in the 1980s, with the rise—in some circles—of Windham Hill, the record label that scooped up a number of these easy-on-the-ears musicians & recordings.  Oskay and Ó Domhnaill, though, perfected a style that is harmonic and hypnotic, beating back criticism through their instrumental expertise and excellent patient pacing.  “The Cricket’s Wicket, from their 1984 album Nightnoise, is piano, violin, viola, acoustic guitar and harmonium—oh, and the cricket chirps in at the song’s conclusion.  This dreamy Celtic piece cries out for loud volume on a traditional stereo set-up—so ear budders, please dust off that system that probably lays fallow in your living room.  https://youtu.be/sjHG55c0H04


4. Don’t Misunderstand Me – The Rossington-Collins Band…..In October 1977 Lynyrd Skynyrd was flying to a show in Baton Rouge from Greenville, South Carolina and their charted Convair CV-240 crashed over Mississippi near the town of Gillsville.  From the ashes, four of the surviving members—Gary Rossington, Allen Collins, Leon Wilkeson and Billy Powell—formed The Rossington-Collins Band in 1979 and released their first album Anytime, Anyplace, Anywhere in 1980.  Not wanting to tread Skynyrd waters so that no one would consider this the band reborn, Rossington-Collins added the former .38-Special back-up singer Dale Krantz to the line-up.  Though the band powered through material that was similarly Southern charged, Krant’s vocals lent it an edge with a style and delivery that seemed to, at times, meld Janis Joplin and Cold Blood’s Lydia Pense.  On “Don’t Misunderstood Me,” vocals are shared between Krantz and singer/guitarist Barry Lee Harwood, an Atlanta-based musician who had contributed to a couple of Skynryd albums earlier on.  The song was a sort of a hit on FM radio stations nationwide, with Skynyrd fans embracing these phoenixes who had risen in their new band setting.  https://youtu.be/scnVJFp2ERs


5. God of Loss – Darlingside.....I’ve seen Darlingside three times in Pittsburgh in the last few years, twice in a club but first as part of Calliope’s alt-country/bluesgrass/folk series of shows at the prestigious Carnegie Lecture Hall which adjoins the Carnegie Museums of Art & Natural History.  Their music is hard to categorize; it’s indie-folk with wisps of classical, but includes other weavings as well.  These four Williams College alumni started out as a choral unit, but now play bass, violin, guitar, cello and kick drum while blending all four voices clustered around a single, self-standing microphone.  Mesmerizing stuff…Here, they were recorded live in 2014 by Audiotree, an entity who produces studio sessions and live-streaming concerts and more, and bills itself as “a multi-faceted artist discovery platform.”  The song hails from their 2015 album Birds Say.  https://youtu.be/bAtPeX6Xuxo


6. Directly From My Heart To You – The Mothers of Invention featuring Don "Sugarcane" Harris.....This was straight ahead blues-rock Zappa, integrated into the usual zany and expertly executed hodgepodge of other tunes on this album that sports a surreal, provocative album cover illustration by Neon Park.  Park was an American illustrator who is best known in the small but fervent and smug circle of Little Feat fans who treasure his album artwork on that band’s output through the ‘70s.  Harris, who also gigged with John Mayall, blues legend John Lee Hooker, and others, plays violin and sings on this gritty, tear-out-your-soul tune originally recorded and performed by Little Richard.  This mother of a version appears on the band's 1970 album Weasels Ripped My Flesh.  https://youtu.be/z6bCRqEA_NI


7. Kidding Ourselves – Stabilo…..This Canadian outfit got together in 1999 and produced some indie releases before embracing a larger label deal with record company EMI Canada.  I honestly forget how I was first exposed to the band’s music, but I was definitely hooked by a few songs from this 2006 release entitled Happiness and Disaster, which was their second album for EMI Canada—and as far as I know, their last release ever.  The band originally went by the name Stabilo Boss, which was a brand of highlighter that they reportedly used early on during the initial process of jotting down potential band names.  Success eluded them in the USA, but across Canada particularly in the middle of the 2000s Stabilo was embraced by radio stations and discerning fans who liked their pop music “smart.”  https://youtu.be/m47msn9s8pI


8. Sunny – The Electric Flag.....This song, from Bobby Hebb’s 1966 album of the same name, was a huge radio hit upon release that year.  Amazingly, it became a smash across three national radio formats--Pop, Rhythm & Blues, and Country & Western.  The tune’s since been covered by a number of leading artists—Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, Stevie Wonder, Wes Montgomery, The Four Seasons, Marvin Gaye and many others—but for my money it’s the “Sunny” as performed by The Electric Flag.  Drummer and vocalist Buddy Miles, supported by the stellar jazz, blues & soul musicians within this fine 1960s ensemble, injects the tune with unbridled passion that borders on a tour de force.  The Flag’s version comes from the band’s self-titled second album.  https://youtu.be/WVe7nDfbj5c


9. A House Is Not A Home – Stan Getz…..I have my father to thank for me getting into Getz.  Around my parent’s house when I was a wee one, our stereo console in the living room was littered with my mom’s 45 RPMs and show tune albums, but I eventually uncovered a few Ella Fitzgerald albums in the bottom of the bookcase that my father had stored there for safekeeping—and there were some Stan Getz records there as well.  It wasn’t until years later that I fully surrendered to the warm sound of this brilliant player.  “A House Is Not A Home” hails from Stan Getz’s album What The World Needs Now: Stan Getz Plays Bacharach and David.  The song was originally written for and recorded by Dionne Warwick for a film of the same name in 1964, but in this case please go with my suggestion for the sax man’s instrumental version—Getz no better than that.  https://youtu.be/2uQ4bYtJq3Y 


10. The Hard Way – James Hunter…..British musician and singer James Hunter was born in 1962, and in some way seems to be frozen in that time period.  On albums and in concert Hunter kicks out some powerful, polished performances, and some of it seems to hearken back to the pre-Beatles era of rhythm & blues music.  I was lucky enough to catch Hunter in Pittsburgh twice in the last handful of years, the first time as part of the free summer lineup of musical acts at South Park, and the most recent time at Moondog's, the small club in Blawnox, in June of this year.  Hunter and his tight ensemble are a revelation, if you like smooth, insistent soul, blues, and funk all intriguingly melded together…“The Hard Way” is the title track from Hunter’s fourth album, released in 2008.  https://youtu.be/Yyp6NqwaBcw





Posted 8/25/19.....

A variety mix with Celtic influences, a sensitive cover, some post-Traffic Winwood, some classic Band music, and the group with the e-x-t-r-e-m-e-l-y far from household name Hatfield & The North…

1. Don’t Fear Me Now – In Tua Nua.....This Irish ensemble, sounding a bit like an Emerald Isle 10,000 Maniacs, got their first break in the early ‘80s by signing on with U2’s record label Mother for a radio single.  Nothing much gelled commercially, though, until a few years later after personnel shifts and a signing with Virgin Records; still, the band never really made any kind of dent in the United States.  In the mid-to-late 1980s I was working at Pittsburgh’s Civic Arena, and In Tua Nua was an opening act on a major tour coming through town which then led me to their album The Long Acre.  The particular track listed here is from that 1988 release, and another you can check out on your own is called “The Innocent And The Honest Ones;" they are the picks of that litter.  https://youtu.be/z3geXWCxKY8


2. Running On Empty – Bob Schneider.....Tribute albums that feature a hodgepodge of artists all converging on one artist’s material is sometimes a risky endeavor—for the listener.  If you are a diehard fan of a certain musician or singer/songwriter, you find yourself at the outset scanning the titles and muttering to yourself, “They covered that song? I bet they f*ck it up.”  And sometimes unfortunately you’re right on.  Cover versions of an original artist’s material can often be by the numbers or just disappointingly flat, and more expansive interpretations—like all-out monkeying with the song structure—can be equally upsetting.  But I found a gem on the recent 2014 release Looking Into You: A Tribute To Jackson Browne.  Austin singer-songwriter Bob Schneider turns in a reflective reading of “Running On Empty,” and it is, in his hands, a ruminative ballad that accentuates the lyrics and the wistful beauty within.  https://youtu.be/KD84gZuNlhA


3. Keep the Car Running – Arcade Fire.....If you’re looking to switch out a tune on your favorite rock anthems playlist and are looking for a more or less permanent fixture, this is it.  “Keep The Car Running” from the band’s 2007 album Neon Bible has the grandeur and the grit of the best alternative rock, and also evokes the spirit of Springsteen (not a leap to imagine this as one of the Boss’ works).  An apt description of the band, for those who haven’t delved deep or at all, comes from the New York Times’ Jon Pareles in a July 28, 2010 article that centered on their just-released album The Suburbs“The Arcade Fire’s songs, credited to the whole band but largely written by Mr. Butler and his wife, Régine Chassagne, mingle the punky and the symphonic, the cryptic and the heart-on-sleeve, the self-doubting and the anthemic, often with surging crescendos that make the tunes optimistic despite themselves.  It’s both a stomping rock band and a mini-orchestra, complete with string section, accordion or medieval hurdy-gurdy as needed.”  https://youtu.be/Jvrp2bM4FpE


4. Back In The High Life Again – Steve Winwood.....I remember back in the 1980s stewing in righteous indignation when I heard Winwood sold the use of one of his songs to a beer company for a TV commercial.  It wasn’t the tune picked for this mix, though Miller Brewing Company should have pounced on it.  The song sold to suds was actually “Don’t You Know What the Night Can Do?” from Winwood’s 1988 album Roll With It, and it was the artist’s tour sponsor Michelob who had snatched it up for on-air bastardization.  But back to “Back In The High Life Again:” The album from which it came, 1986’s Back In The High Life, was an artistic and commercial triumph for Winwood after years of his struggles to connect on a mass scale with the record-buying public.  The song is an uplifting pop-rock ballad with fine, understated harmony vocals from James Taylor and it is one of Winwood’s finest hours at the microphone.  https://youtu.be/jq40GsxIDBI


5. Situation – Jeff Beck Group.....Jeff Beck, one of the original Sixties guitar gods along with Jimmy Page and Eric Clapton, has continued to produce compelling works to this day, exploring new sonic directions and collaborations to keep him challenged and to keep us fixated, if not outright flabbergasted.  Through the decades, Beck has recorded full instrumental albums as well as anchored group efforts, veering from rock and jazz rock to edgy almost-metal—and then he’ll flex a slightly different musical muscle, switching gears as he did in 2010 to helm a tribute-concert recording session dedicated to Les Paul…Here on the album Rough And Ready from 1971, Beck’s in a fairly typical band setting of that era with guitar, keyboards, bassist, drummer and singer, but his wanderlust is discernible even in the brief but compelling solo turn he takes midway through the song.  Three years later he shed the band and produced what’s perhaps his magnum opus—1975’s all-instrumental jazz-rock masterpiece Blow By Blow.  https://youtu.be/YNxJiu6kirs


6. Painted Moon – The Silencers.....This choice for musicasaurus.com’s latest mix comes from the band’s 1987 debut A Letter From St. Paul.  Hailing from Scotland, The Silencers had Celtic and folk leanings, and punkish beginnings—two former members were with a late-‘70s/early ‘80s doomed-to-obscurity group called Fingerprintz.  The Silencers' “Painted Moon” was hit in the UK and spread beyond those borders to several other countries including the USA, where it became a cult audience favorite on some alternative-leaning radio stations and made a bit of a splash on MTV as well. Stylistically the band has been compared to their fellow nationals of the time, Big Country, The Proclaimers and Simple Minds.  https://youtu.be/G0Eiw5wY2ss


7. Heart of the Summertime – Charlie Mars.....Mississippi-born Mars is an alternative/pop singer-songwriter now in his mid-40s who has been slugging it out for the last twenty-plus years or so on the touring and indie label circuits.  “Heart Of The Summertime” is perfect summertime playlist fodder; it’s a lil bit funky and rootsy, but also pure pop.  The tune comes from Mars’ 2009 release Like A Bird, Like A Plane which was the first of his five albums to really start tongues wagging outside of the Southland.  The artist’s most recent recording (according to Wikipedia) appears to be Beach Town, which came out in 2018 on the Rockingham record label.  https://youtu.be/uBpWIW8iuuY


8. When I Paint My Masterpiece – The Band.....Dylan wrote this song, but The Band recorded it first.  1971’s Cahoots was the group’s fourth album (the one after Stage Fright and right before Rock Of Ages), and this is one of the standout tracks because of Levon Helm’s splendiferous pipes atop a fetching blend of mandolin and accordion.  Cahoots is generally regarded as a lot less than a masterpiece with respect to The Band’s whole catalogue; Robbie Robertson wrote most of the material and arguably only the track listed here and the album’s leadoff track “Life Is A Carnival” (written by Robertson, Helm and Rick Danko) are high praise worthy.  Dylan, by the way, ended up placing his version of “Masterpiece” on a compilation coaxed into life by his record company Columbia, Bob Dylan’s Greatest Hits Vol. II.  This 1971 collection of his bore some unreleased material in addition to choice cuts from albums past.  https://youtu.be/ahe-n6to3W4


9. Going Up to People and Tinkling – Hatfield & The North.....Hatfield hatched in Canterbury, England during that city’s first and most fertile period of improvisational and progressive rock in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s.  The four original members of the group came together from other early-on progressive rock outfits such as Caravan and Gong, and “Tinkling” is a sprightly sprinkling of time signature shifts and stellar musicianship, representative of what this English outfit trafficked in, back in the day.  Confession: I really just love the song title, so maybe I’m not mature but this track sure the hell is.  It is short, celestial and sophisticated, and feels a bit like one of the passages from a Grateful Dead outer space jam except this is more keyboard led.  The tune hails from Hatfield & The North’s self-titled debut album that was released in 1974.  https://youtu.be/uGiew3hgE-o


10.  …If You See California… – Chris Robinson & The New Earth Mud.....This is an affront to the Crowes nation, I know, but musicasaurus.com really, really likes the Crowes reduced to Robinson (or at least his musical steps away from that band, when he gloms onto other musicians to do more of a solo thing).  “…If You See California…” is from Robinson and company’s 2004 release This Magnificent Distance, and this album reflects a greater range and more of a creative spirit than the Crowes’ feats.  Pretty much the whole album is resplendent with moments of shimmering and slow-churning psychedelic/folk music, rock ballads and poetic turns, captivating song arrangements and sparkling production.  https://youtu.be/nJhD0b-le-w





Posted 8/11/19.....

A variety mix featuring a couple of ‘80s acts, some Whiskeytown to let soak in, an R&B nugget from the soulful ‘70s and more…

1. The Future’s So Bright, I Gotta Wear Shades – Timbuk3.....If you HAVE to become a one-hit wonder, then may you be renowned for it eternally in a good light.  Back in 1986 Timbuk3—at the time a Madison, Wisconsin husband and wife AND musical union—came up with this lyrical, satirical pop culture nugget that appeared on their own release Greetings From Timbuk3 and subsequently in CD compilations, films and TV programs aplenty.  Sample lyrics:  “I study nuclear science, I love my classes / I got a crazy teacher who wears dark glasses / Things are going great, and they’re only getting better / I’m doing all right, getting good grades / The future’s so bright I gotta wear shades”.....and.....“I gotta job waiting for my graduation / Fifty thou a year will buy a lotta beer / Things are going great, and they’re only getting better / I’m doing all right, getting good grades / The future’s so bright I gotta wear shades.”  https://youtu.be/7C3FzjIIkEg


2. Easy Hearts – Whiskeytown.....Alt-country band Whiskeytown released their third album in 2001, their swansong, entitled Pneumonia.  The band’s internal driving force was singer-songwriter/guitarist Ryan Adams, and this last Whiskeytown record was a harbinger of his bold and idiosyncratic solo career to come.  Quite simply, “Easy Hearts” is a gorgeous and meditative masterpiece, aided immeasurably by Adams’ co-vocalist and fiddle player Caitlin Cary.  It is a thing of real beauty.  https://youtu.be/7A79RZ8Lr-c


3. After Midnight – Jerry Garcia & Merl Saunders.....J.J. Cale wrote the song in 1966 but never recorded it for an album until his 1972 debut Naturally.  Clapton of course killed with it, including the song on his own solo debut album in 1970.  The version here, though, is from the early 1970s archives of Jerry Garcia and keyboardist Merl Saunders, who were quite fond of gigging and recording together and stretching out their selected songs into sinewy, jazz-tinged jams.  The album from which this version of “After Midnight” comes is entitled Well-Matched: The Best of Merl Saunders & Jerry Garcia (2006).  It is a sweet compilation of Saunders/Garcia material that also boasts multi-minute explorations of Dylan (“Positively 4th Street”, clocking in at 7:43), Smokey Robinson (“I Second That Emotion” / 9:45), and Jimmy Cliff (“The Harder They Come” / 6:22).  https://youtu.be/WNvhYmRKZCw


4. All Touch – Rough Trade.....Toronto-based vocalist Carol Pope and keyboard player/guitarist Kevan Staples formed a band in 1968, shifted personnel and redubbed themselves Rough Trade in 1974, and then achieved cross-Canada success starting in 1980 with the release of the song “High School Confidential.”  This tune, from their 1980 album Avoid Freud, was in its day quite controversial with its overt references to lesbian love.  The album For Those That Think Young followed that next year, containing another somewhat explicit song in “All Touch” which became a top radio hit outside of Canada when the once-delayed international release of the album finally happened.  The song hit modern rock stations in the States in late 1982/early 1983, and aided by an MTV video picked up much wider recognition.  Singer Pope was clearly the centerpiece of the band, looking like Grace Slick’s younger, bondage-garbed sister (judging from her concert getup), and “All Touch” was their forever frozen-in-time moment in the sun.  https://youtu.be/GN3NyK8gRQI


5. I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight – Maria Muldaur.....The original version of this tune was written and performed by Dylan, and appeared on his eighth studio album John Wesley Harding (1967).  Muldaur’s cover here is actually from an album that is full of ‘em: In 2006 the singer released Heart Of Mine: Maria Muldaur Sings Loves Songs Of Bob Dylan, and throughout this album you can feel Muldaur’s jazz and blues passions percolate as she plies the songs of Bob.  Other songs on the record include “Buckets Of Rain,” “You’re Going To Make Me Lonesome When I Go,” and “You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere.” … This is a YouTube clip of the entire album, so for “I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight” go on over to the 36:54 mark and begin there.  https://youtu.be/aosYU_aWJ4A


6. By Way of Love's Express – Ashford & Simpson.....Nickolas Ashford and Valerie Simpson were prolific ‘60s songwriters who really clicked in ’66 and scored with their #1 R& B hit song as written for Ray Charles, “Let’s Go Get Stoned.”  That same year they joined the Motown stable and up through 1973 churned out songs that became label classics including “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough,” “You’re All I Need to Get By” and “Ain’t Nothing Like the Real Thing” for Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell, and “Reach Out and Touch (Somebody’s Hand)” for Diana Ross.  The duo left Motown and signed as performing artists with Warner Brothers in 1973, were married in 1974, and spun out some solid soul and R&B albums for the next decade and a half, including 1977’s Send It from which this track is taken.  The song is an irresistible blend of rhythm & blues, soul, and pop.  https://youtu.be/qAzDyqVZdX8


7. On the Wing – Sea Level.....One has to take the time to scour through this Southern-style jazz-rock fusion band’s catalogue, but in there gems do reside.  Born out of the Allman Brothers Band’s initial breakup in 1976, Sea Level absorbed bassist Lamar Williams, drummer Jaimoe and keyboardist Chuck Leavell (the latter lent his name to the outfit, through a phonetic pun).  The personnel shifted a bit from album #1 in 1977 through album #5 in 1980, but consistent aural pleasures abound like the soaring instrumental plucked for this mix.  “On the Wing” is from the band’s On The Edge release from 1978.  https://youtu.be/-LefFQZOREU


8. New Coat Of Paint – Tom Waits.....Waits was in good form here on his second major-label release, 1974’s The Heart of Saturday Night.  A few of the tunes from the previous year’s debut album were showing up on other artists’ records (like The Eagles’ cover of “Ol’ 55”) and thus he was gaining a few more fans on top of the critical acclaim that he had garnered in most quarters.  Some critics didn’t like his approach, however.  Robert Christgau from the Village Voice reviewed this record and stated “...while nostalgia for past bohemias sure beats nostalgia for past wars, it’s still a drain and a drag.  I mean, there might be more coverable songs here if maudlin melodies didn’t merge with neon imagery in the spindrift dirge of the honky-tonk nicotine night.  Dig?”  Musicasaurus.com thinks this song and the title tune are standouts, though.  There is an art to lead-off lyrics like these from “New Coat of Paint:" “Let’s put a new coat of paint on this lonesome old town / Set ‘em up, we’ll be knockin’ em down. / You wear a dress, baby, and I’ll wear a tie. / We’ll laugh at that old bloodshot moon in that burgundy sky…”  https://youtu.be/p7Z-apC912Y


9. A Church Falling Down – Little Feat.....Though long ago Feat lost a founder, they never really floundered.  This musically diverse band (with a bedrock of rock & blues and New Orleans funk) disbanded after the death of Lowell George in 1979, but then reformed in 1987 and continue to this day (after some personnel shifts) to tour and record new material.  This year in fact, the band is celebrating its 50thanniversary…“A Church Falling Down” is from 2012’s Rooster Rag album, and is a contribution from guitarist and mandolin player Fred Tackett who jumped in Feat first in 1988.  https://youtu.be/Bhgf1jHyfoE


10. Searching for a Heart (live) – Warren Zevon.....There is a studio version of this song on Zevon’s 1991 album Mr. Bad Example, but here I went with Zevon’s solo-acoustic performance from 1993’s Learning To Flinch, his second and final live record.  Zevon peaked commercially in the late 1970s with “Werewolves Of London” (from 1978’s Excitable Boy) but all throughout his career he delivered wry, funny, insightful, pointed and poignant observations about Life.  In 2002 doctor-shy Zevon was suddenly diagnosed with inoperable cancer, and he opted not to take on the rigors of medical treatment.  Instead, he set about working on his final release The Wind, and invited longtime friends like Bruce Springsteen, Don Henley, Jackson Browne, Tom Petty, Emmylou Harris and others to take part in the recording.  Also, on October 30, 2002 he said a very public goodbye to his close friend David Letterman by spending a full hour as Dave’s only guest on the Late Show (he’d been a frequent visitor since the program first aired in 1982).  Zevon performed some numbers and freely talked about his illness.  Letterman asked, “From your perspective now, do you know something about life and death that maybe I don’t know now?”  Zevon replied, “Not unless I know how much you’re supposed to enjoy every sandwich.”  Zevon passed away on September 7, 2003.  https://youtu.be/SF4yyvxNLyg





Posted 7/28/19.....


Thanks to my friend Rick for lending me a copy of a book of rock reflections entitled Never a Dull Moment: 1971 The Year That Rock Exploded by David Hepworth…

It gave me the impetus to pull ten of musicasaurus.com's favorite songs from some landmark albums released that year…

1. Feel Flows – Beach Boys.....By the latter half of the 1960s, the Beach Boys had shifted gears and surrendered their sand pails; no more preoccupation with cars, sun, surf and sand.  Experimentation then ruled the day in the band’s music and—unfortunately—in Brian’s bloodstream as well.  As Brian went on trips without ever leaving his house, brother Carl emerged as a strong bandleader and producer.  The lead-off song on the album Surf’s Up from 1971, “Feel Flows” has crystalline harmonies, lush production, and a reverse echo utilized in the recording of Carl’s lead vocal.  The song has a strong Sixties hypnotic “wash” to it and provides the listener with a pleasant aural rush, making me think Carl might have dipped into Brian’s chest of drawers for a little bit of Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds.  https://youtu.be/bp_8GKcNvdQ


2. Wailing Wall – Todd Rundgren.....Rundgren is a wizard (a true star) in the studio as well as a talented songwriter and performer—a real D.I.Y. kind of guy.  As a producer he’s birthed classics in the rock sphere including Stage Fright by The Band and Meat Loaf’s Bat Out of Hell, and as a musician he’s pushed boundaries with his recorded works including 1971’s Runt: The Ballad of Todd Rundgren, his second solo album. The 23-year-old Rundgren wrote and produced it, played all instruments (including guitar, mandolin, fiddle, piano, organ, clavinet, vibraphone and baritone sax), and sang all vocal parts (the latter pretty much amounts to layered magic).  https://youtu.be/o7ZMA_aIBf4


3. Hidden Treasure – Traffic.....This is the opening track from the band’s sixth album The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys.  The album cover itself was die-cut; the top right corner and bottom left corner were sliced off diagonally, which aided the 3-D image of the cube on the cover.  The band didn’t cut any corners on the record, though.  The title tune ran over twelve minutes long, which deejays doubly loved—the song “Low Spark” is arguably the band’s magnum opus and early 70s FM stations embraced it for that reason, but the radio jocks also loved the fact they could hit the bathroom and be back in the chair in time for the next song.  The track listed here, “Hidden Treasure,” is a highmark of Traffic’s hallmark sound.  It is a mid-tempo groove with a beautifully-restrained vocal by Steve Winwood and leisurely paced & placed accents of percussion, acoustic guitar, and flute—a masterful blend of the band’s influences, including English folk, prog-rock and jazz.  https://youtu.be/PUntEk2wuLo


4. Ain’t No Sunshine – Bill Withers.....Whither he goest, so do I.  Blessed with an authentic down-home style and a dynamic voice, Withers produced this smooth rhythm & blues classic as part of his debut album Just As I Am, which featured Stephen Stills on guitar work and Booker T. Jones as keyboardist, second guitarist, and album producer.  And just in case you’re a music stats freak, also know this: Withers sings the two words “I know” twenty-six times in succession in one part of the song, which is really some kind of record.  And it truly made it some kind of record.  https://youtu.be/5PeyzXvvdmw


5. I’m Eighteen – Alice Cooper.....From the album Love It To Death, the third album from Cooper and the one that brought him a much wider teen fan base based on the anthemic tune listed here.  1971 was also the year that Cooper’s shock-rock concert performances started to gain significant traction through word of mouth and the rock press, which consequently fueled more album sales.  The son of a preacher man, the theatrically innovative Cooper incorporated guillotines, straitjackets, and live boa constrictors into his riff-crunchin’ musical sets.  https://youtu.be/AZ1MdRgU7Hw


6. Move Over– Janis Joplin.....Catch Janis in any live situation—like in the concert film Festival Express, or on “Raise Your Hand” from the Tom Jones television variety show DVD collection—and you’ll witness a fireball of passion.  Hailing from Port Arthur, Texas, singer/songwriter Joplin first gained prominence in San Francisco’s Big Brother & The Holding Company before turning toward a solo career with other band mates.  The song “Move Over” is the lead-off track from her acclaimed album Pearl, which was released posthumously in 1971; Joplin had overdosed on October 4, 1970 at the age of 27, only sixteen days after Hendrix (also just 27) heard his train a comin’.  https://youtu.be/h51c50idSRM


7. Done Somebody Wrong (live) – Allman Brothers Band.....There is no finer live rock album than At Fillmore East, the double record from 1971.  “Done Somebody Wrong” cooks with Duane Allman’s wicked slide guitar out front and the band tightly coiled behind him.  At Fillmore East was the third record from the band and the last with the original line-up.  It featured their trademark two guitarists and double drummers, and showcased the band’s adventurous explorations of rock mixed with searing blues and propulsive hints of jazz.  This is one for the deserted island and/or the space station; timeless and essential.  https://youtu.be/CIZr1MQyOqo


8. Tupelo Honey – Van Morrison.....Van the Man was living in Woodstock, NY around the time he was writing songs for his 1971 album Tupelo Honey, but then he headed west to live in Marin County, California and there the record came to life.  It was the fifth solo album from this distinctive Irish singer-songwriter who found his calling in rhythm and blues laced with rock, country and jazz-inspired instrumentation.  Reportedly Dylan once remarked that the title song had always existed, and that Morrison was just the vessel through which it flowed.  A notable cast member in the recording of the album in San Francisco was Ronnie Montrose, a guitarist who quietly dazzled and shone on a number of the album’s songs and who then went on to front his own bands that eschewed sophistication for gritty rock—Montrose (1973-1977) featuring lead singer Sammy Hagar, and Gamma (1979-1983).  https://youtu.be/QGkQ4mPiyoU


9. Sam Stone – John Prine....Illinois-born Prine is a wry singer-songwriter who straddles folk and country, and his self-titled debut record came out in 1971.  The album includes the track listed here, a tale of a returning veteran caught up in drugs and addiction.  The most memorable line: “There’s a hole in daddy’s arm where all the money goes / Jesus Christ died for nothin’ I suppose”.  Two other Prine classics are on this album as well: “Angel From Montgomery” (since covered by everyone from Bonnie Raitt to the Dave Matthews Band) and—a song title to treasure—“Your Flag Decal Won’t Get You Into Heaven Anymore.” https://youtu.be/Yxgrl1yx8tg


10. Uncle Albert / Admiral Halsey – Paul and Linda McCartney.....Ram was the second album released by McCartney after leaving the Beatles and before forming his new band Wings.  It contains some classic McCartney magic like “Monkberry Moon Delight” and “Heart Of The Country,” as well as the sweet and suite-like “Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey.”  The latter tune almost seems like two different songs stitched together at the midway point, reminiscent of George Martin’s tinkering with song fragments and sequencing during the recording of the Abbey Road album—but I believe that wasn’t the case here.  One final note:  I never noticed before that the album cover’s backside had a picture of two beetles engaged in sexual intercourse; this is reportedly what McCartney felt the other Beatles were doing to him as the band teetered into final break-up.  https://youtu.be/8Y8fDsU0hX8





Posted 7/14/19.....

Get Your Kicks from Mix Sixty-Six...

1966 was the summer before the Summer of Love, before the true floodgates of the younger generation’s music opened up in full flower.  But the following dozen tunes from ‘66 signaled the shift to come and in many cases paved the way.  All twelve of these songs are under three minutes long, illustrating that this fertile mid-Sixties period produced quite a few bits of compressed artistic brilliance.

1. Sloop John B. (2:58) – The Beach Boys.....from the album Pet Sounds...This is classic early Beach Boys, a seafaring tale with wondrous harmonies where, just shy of the two-minute mark, high-throated Brian and Carl Wilson swoop in with angelic abandon.  The album from which it came—a landmark rock & pop record in the realm of composition, arrangement, and execution—was one that Paul McCartney cited as really raising the bar for him and his mates.  The Beatles then took up the gauntlet and produced Sgt. Pepper’s one year afterward.  https://youtu.be/nSAoEf1Ib58


2. 5D (Fifth Dimension) (2:33) – The Byrds.....from the album Fifth Dimension...Helmed by Rickenbacker rocker Roger McGuinn, the Byrds chimed in with their near-perfect blend of British Invasion and electrified American folk music in the mid 1960s.  This song in particular was daring in its day; it was released to radio stations as the first single from the album, and lyrically it dealt with the planes of perception and various levels of reality.  McGuinn has been quoted as denying it was a paean to drugs; he cites Albert Einstein’s theory of relativity and a book by Don Landis entitled 1-2-3-4, More, More, More as his inspirations.  Regardless of the source or substance(s) the song is truly a milestone, sweeping and majestic, with soaring harmonies provided by Byrds band members David Crosby and Gene Clark.  https://youtu.be/l42vmO1LiK0


3. (We Ain’t Got) Nothin’ Yet (2:10) – The Blues McGoos.....from the album Psychedelic Lollipop...This time-capsule tune has perfectly cheesy organ and Sixties-style psychedelic guitar work, all adding up to a rollicking, raucous one-hit wonder that radio stations played to death.  The Blues McGoos hailed from the Bronx and paid their dues in various Greenwich Village clubs throughout the early 60’s; this, their debut album, also contained a notable cover of the J.D. Loudermilk classic “Tobacco Road.”  https://youtu.be/6jNXRr2aINw


4. Homeward Bound (2:30) – Simon & Garfunkel.....from the album Parsley, Sage, Rosemary And Thyme...This duo in the span of just six years (1964-1970) created a lot of lasting triumphs, including the song listed here.  The album from which it came was their third, and their first to reflect the duo’s full control in the studio.  For those of a certain age Parsley Sage was all the rage, a mainstay on turntables in college dorm rooms from sea to shining sea.  https://youtu.be/7z9wd9bS1FM


5. Last Train To Clarksville (2:44) – The Monkees.....from the album The Monkees...In a nutshell: American television magnates emulated the successful Beatles’ film “A Hard Day’s Night” with a concocted boy-band TV show in September 1966, and the rest is history...The Monkees’ self-titled first album, released a month after the TV program’s premiere, is still one of the most successful debut albums of all time. With Beatle-esque riffs and Micky Dolenz’s memorable lead vocal, “Last Train To Clarksville” is a nostalgic buff’s nirvana.  https://youtu.be/o4FIu4Xj16I


6. Gloria (2:34) – Shadows of Knight.....from the album Gloria...The original version of the song was done by Van Morrison while fronting the Northern Ireland band Them, but it was the USA’s Shadows of Knight from Chicago, Illinois that managed to blanket stateside AM Radio playlists with this blues-hued, garage-style rocker.  The band was very much in step with the sound of the British Invasion groups including The Stones and The Yardbirds. https://youtu.be/NdAezc-RX-o


7. Uptight (Everything’s Alright) (2:54) – Stevie Wonder.....from the album Up-Tight...Blind since shortly after birth, Wonder channeled his inner visions into a string of musical masterpieces beginning in 1962.  His first album on Motown’s Tamla label came out when Wonder was all of eleven years old, and he produced the track listed here—for his fifth studio recording Up-Tight—at the ripe old age of fifteen.  https://youtu.be/ZZK5tH7J_0g


8. Dirty Water (2:48) – The Standells.....from the album of the same name...The band was a one-hit wonder, but what a wondrous one-hitter they had.  An ode of sorts to Boston, Massachusetts, the song was a deliciously endearing, searing, semi-sneering piece of garage rock that populated many a teen dance playlist in ’66.  The Standells were from Los Angeles and when they recorded this song none had ever been to Beantown.  “Dirty Water” was written by their record producer Ed Cobb who based it on his own experiences there, including getting mugged down by the banks of the river Charles: “That’s where you’ll find me / Along with lovers, muggers and thieves”...  https://youtu.be/GZVgNwD14pA


9. It’s A Man’s Man’s Man’s World (2:47) – James Brown .....from the album of the same name...Brown’s albums from around that stretch of time usually consisted of an anchoring tune that had charted, with a backfill of singles that were shoehorned in before release.  The Godfather of Soul really shines on this string-laden funk ballad, and it became a # 1 Rhythm & Blues hit anda Top Ten charter in the Pops realm.  I have included two YouTube links for you—the first is the 1966 studio version of the song and the second is a live version from 2002 where Brown pairs up with—are you ready?—Luciano Pavarotti.  https://youtu.be/QCdc1YW001Q … https://youtu.be/GaB9F3R9cIY


10. Pushin’ Too Hard (2:38) – The Seeds.....from the album The Seeds...A song that was embraced by radio programmers and caressed by critics, “Pushin’ Too Hard” has long since been labeled as one of the formative Sixties tunes that led and bled into punk.  In fact, the tune was included on the much-revered double-album collection of gestating punk performances that was released in 1972, Nuggets: Original Artyfacts from the First Psychedelic Era, 1965–1968.  https://youtu.be/aKZ1NYmgDHc


11. Secret Agent Man (2:58) – Johnny Rivers.....from the album And I Know You Wanna Dance...Born John Henry Ramistella in NYC and raised in Baton Rouge, the artist later rechristened Johnny Rivers moved to Los Angeles in 1961 and eventually took up residence at a new music club called the Whisky a Go Go.  Rivers’ popularity endured through the latter part of the ‘60s into the early ‘70s, and his specialty was convincingly covering other artists’ material like Chuck Berry’s “Memphis,” Willie Dixon’s “Seventh Son,” and The Four Tops’ “Baby I Need Your Lovin’.”  The tune listed here was birthed in a much shorter version as the theme song for the 1964-1966 CBS television program Secret Agent, but there was such a flood of viewer inquiries that Rivers then stretched the tune to full length and recorded it live at Whisky a Go Go in 1966.  The song hit the Top Five in Billboard Magazine’s Hot 100 that same year.  https://youtu.be/RBHcWvqXUQI


12. 96 Tears (2:56) – ? and The Mysterians.....from the album 96 Tears…Michigan-born Mexican American Rudy Martinez legally changed his name to Question Mark (yes, ?) after joining his brother’s band, and then—no question—produced an enduring garage rock/early punk classic in the form of “96 Tears.”  It was either a Vox Continental or a Farfisa organ that provided that magical swirl that kicks off the song and then powers it along, and the tune became de rigueur for newly-hatched bands and wannabes in basements and attics across the country.  https://youtu.be/Y_Ax2N-VmfQ





Posted 6/30/19.....

An hour’s worth of blues—some down and dirty; others showing different hues…

1. One More Heartache – The Butterfield Blues Band.....from the 1967 album The Resurrection of Pigboy Crabshaw.....At the tender age of fourteen, musicasaurus.com distinctly remembers dropping the needle down on Track One, Side One of this, the band’s third album.  “One More Heartache” captures the essence of horns-and-harmonica driven blues-rock; it is ageless to the ears, and a marvel in the wailing, sailing lead vocals and harp playing from bandleader Butterfield.  Not a note is wasted and it’s a propulsive career cornerstone from an ensemble that, at the time, also included guitarist Elvin Bishop and horn section member David Sanborn.  https://youtu.be/KFOLED9VfVQ


2. Molly O And Dog Boy – Roy Rogers and Shana Morrison.....from the album which is credited to both artists, Everybody’s Angel, released in 2000.....Shana is daughter of Van and grew up in Marin County, California, where she hung out at an early age with Van’s parents who literally ran a mom & pop record store in that area.  By the time of her second recording, Shana had teamed up with fellow Californian and Delta blues slide guitar player Roy Rogers (named after the famous 1950s singing cowboy and early television star).  This melding of musical influences led to an intoxicating album highlighted by the deliciously moody, slow-tempo groove that is included here as part of the mix.  Though the album sports a number of styles, this song in particular is a haunting duet with wry lyrics atop a spooky, almost ominous rhythm.  https://youtu.be/UKtw3zSgHfI


3. I Got Love If You Want It – Slim Harpo.....from the 1961 album Slim Harpo Sings “Raining In My Heart...”.....This song is the flip side (the “B” side) of Harpo’s debut single “I’m A King Bee.”  Both songs were on this 1961 debut album that was recorded in Crowley, Louisiana.  Like other American blues musicians, Harpo’s tunes were soon appearing in the repertoires of congealing ‘60s British rockers like The Stones, The Yardbirds, The Kinks and Them (Van Morrison’s first group).  Although Harpo enjoyed a string of successful R & B singles in the early ‘60s, he maintained a day job running a trucking business and died relatively young from a heart attack in early 1970 at the age of 46. https://youtu.be/EdwWWAUfbo0


4. I’d Rather Be Blind – Curtis Salgado and The Stilettos.....from the aIbum Soul Activated (2001).....Salgado is not and never has been a household name, yet this electric performer was certainly plugged in.  In the late ‘70s he befriended John Belushi during the latter’s filming of Animal House in Oregon, helping to inspire the creation of The Blues Brothers, and then he spent time in the late ‘70s/early-mid ‘80s with Robert Cray’s band and then Roomful Of Blues.  Forming his own band The Stilettos in 1991, Salgado managed a year later to snag the opening act slot for Steve Miller’s 1992 tour.  This is when I first saw the man in full-throated action, onstage at Star Lake Amphitheater belting it out and batting away any preconceptions that an opening act can’t command the stage…The song included here, “I’d Rather Be Blind,” is a nice slice of Salgado and his Stilettos with stinging guitar work amid the blues-funk, but it’s Curtis all the way on the impassioned R&B-fueled vocals.  https://youtu.be/5tB6a5hx72Y


5. Born Under A Bad Sign – Albert King.....from the 1967 album of the same name.....If you’re into the blues, you know that this genre has a lot of royal elders; in fact, there are three kings I can think of right off the bat: B.B., Freddie, and Albert.  Mississippi-born guitarist Albert King came to prominence in the mid-60s with a move to Memphis, Tennessee and some groundbreaking releases on the Stax record label (where the in-house studio band was Booker T & The MG’s).  King’s weapon of choice was a Gibson Flying V, and he had a stinging, soulful tone that he peeled off always in service to the song.  Musicasaurus.com’s first exposure to “Born Under A Bad Sign” was from Cream’s Wheels Of Fire double album back in 1968, but of course the song’s been covered by a host of others through the years.  There have been admirable attempts or clear successes on studio recordings by artists including the Butterfield Blues Band, the Pat Travers Band, Etta James, Robin Trower, Rita Coolidge, Koko Taylor, Jimi Hendrix, and Stevie Ray Vaughan; live, it has shown up on albums from artists like Nina Simone and Widespread Panic.  https://youtu.be/lkzuJzZDFXs


6. Stormy Monday – Eva Cassidy.....from Live At Blues Alley, a 1996 release.....Cassidy was an incredibly talented vocalist and interpreter of other artists’ songs that never in her lifetime (a scant 33 years) appreciably caught on outside of her D.C./Baltimore base of fans.  Posthumously, though, her fame went well beyond the borders.  Her vocals are incredibly emotive in service to the song, whether it is a cover of “Fever” (originally popularized by Peggy Lee) or Fleetwood Mac’s “Songbird,” or in this case—in a live setting at D.C.’s Blues Alley—a scorching rendition of the 1947 blues classic originally written and performed by African-American guitarist/singer-songwriter T-Bone Walker.  Other artists have covered this song through the years, but musicasaurus.com ranks Cassidy’s version second only to the one immortalized by the Allmans on 1971’s At Fillmore East—different treatments indeed, but they both soar.  https://youtu.be/KzEL-pVqs3g


7. Little Red Rooster – Sam Cooke.....from the artist’s 1963 album Night Beat.....If you’ve never dipped into the recording career of Cooke, you’re missing some powerful performances that touch on gospel, soul, rhythm & blues and more.  The man knew how to write a snappy pop song as well, for in the late 1950s through the early 1960s Cooke served up one appetizing offering after another—the original radio hits of songs like “Wonderful World” (later popularized by Herman’s Hermits), “Twistin’ The Night Away” (covered by Rod Stewart in 1973), “Another Saturday Night” (on future albums by Cat Stevens and Jimmy Buffett), “Bring It On Home To Me” (covered by practically everyone except you and me), “Cupid” (taken to the top of the pop charts by Tony Orlando & Dawn in 1976), and “Having A Party” (which Springsteen has done live a number of times).  On the song included in this mix, Cooke gets bluesy with this cover of a Willie Dixon song, first charting for Howlin’ Wolf in 1961.  The song absolutely swings, and the artist’s vocals are as always smooth and commanding.  Musicasaurus.com’s advice: Go ahead and confidently load up a number of his songs on any given playlist; too many Cookes don’t spoil anything.  https://youtu.be/lCVg0NsWjmk


8. One Man’s Ceiling Is Another Man’s Floor – Robben Ford and Susan Tedeschi, from Ford’s album Truth (2007).....A great pairing of two blues guitarists, one much better known, of course, due to her marital musical union with slide guitarist Derek Trucks.  On this particular tune, a Paul Simon cover, both Tedeschi and Ford play off each other vocally and instrumentally and it is full of great flourishes and sharp, tight solos.  Lesser known Ford has great credentials from a relatively early age playing with, among others, Joni Mitchell and Tom Scott’s L.A. Express, the Yellowjackets (a group he help co-found in the ‘70s), and Miles Davis (on the master trumpeter’s tours of the ‘80s).  In the ‘90s Ford turned more toward the blues, where he’s largely resided since then. He is an average vocalist at best, but what streams from his head through his fingers to the strings is flat-out amazing most of the time.  https://youtu.be/airEitq4f6g


9. Dear Jill – Blodwyn Pig.....from the album Ahead Rings Out (1969).....English guitarist Mick Abrahams was a founding member of Jethro Tull when the band first landed a recording contract in 1968 and produced their jazz-and-blues-influenced debut album (the record included a reverent cover of Rahsaan Roland Kirk’s “Serenade For A Cuckoo”).  Abrahams split after that album; Tull then followed its inclination toward rock and English folk while the liberated guitarist stayed the course with a new blues-rock unit called Blodwyn Pig.  “Dear Jill” starts off with a fetching slide guitar riff and maintains a relaxed bluesy pace throughout, with acoustic guitars and a brief sultry soprano sax solo in the midst.  https://youtu.be/UbOwmVGFc4k


10. It Hurts Me Too – Angela Strehli Band.....from Strehli’s debut album Soul Shake released in 1987.....Austin, Texas became a true blue mecca in the 1970s.  Musicians like Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker, Albert Collins, and B.B. King consistently rolled through town to play at the new blues club Antone’s, which in turn bred future greats from the Austin area including Kim Wilson (The Fabulous Thunderbirds) and the Vaughan Brothers (Jimmy and Stevie Ray).  Three female artists grew up musically in that fertile blues pool as well: Lou Ann Barton, Marcia Ball, and Angela Strehli.  In the mid-‘70s, Strehli was stage manager for a while at Antone’s, largely continuing, though, her own personal journey as a committed blues belter.  Antone’s the club spawned Antone’s the record label in 1987, and Strehli was one of the first artists on board.  “It Hurts Me Too” is a horn-drenched mid-tempo classic written by Chicago blues legend Elmore James, and Strehli nails it with her vocals, exuding sass and conviction in equal measure.  https://youtu.be/u9VgQCpiXyo





Posted 6/16/19.....

A hodgepodge. Some folk-pop…an ‘80s dose of L.A. debauchery…early Todd Rungren…pop with a tinge of punk…something from the European jazz-and-more record label ECM…and more.

1. Painting By Chagall – The Weepies.....This is a breezy love-fueled slice of folk-pop from a couple who are a unit both onstage and off.  Singer-songwriters Steve Tannen and Deb Talan bonded ‘round Boston and were a mutual admiration society of two before they came together in the early 2000s to lyrically dissect love and spin sweet harmonies.  Their path was from the folk club scene to adult alternative radio to tunes snatched up for teen-and-twenty-something shows such as Grey’s Anatomy, Everwood, One Tree Hill, Gossip Girl, etc.  “Painting By Chagall,” from the duo’s second album Say I Am You (2006), is not the usual harmonic convergence of the two; it is Deb Talan’s turn front and center for the most part to voice the couple’s unabashed contentment with each other: “Sometimes rain that’s needed falls / We float like two lovers in a painting by Chagall / All around is sky and blue town / Holding these flowers for a wedding gown / We live so high above the ground, satellites surround us…”  https://youtu.be/3PmXpT6ejE4


2. Gettysburg – The Brandos.....The band formed in New York City in 1985 and the subsequent MTV adoption and radio embrace of the tune “Gettysburg” propelled them onto critic’s lists—and onto cassette mix tapes like mine!  The song, from the band’s debut album Honor Among Thieves (1987), was one of those power-chord rock anthems that sounded refreshing—at the time, at least—as it served as a nice break from the dominant synth and new wave-ish stuff that was being pumped out by a lot of other ‘80s outfits.  https://youtu.be/72SPIVTphtk


3. Baby Don’t Go – Dwight Yoakam and Sheryl Crow.....This is a rollickin’, good-timey duet from Yoakam’s 1997 album of covers aptly entitled Under The Covers.  The song features the artist sharing the microphone with Crow; on the original version from 1965, the song’s composer Sonny Bono of course shared it with Cher and it became that duo’s first big hit and the title song of their debut album from that same year.  FYI, Yoakam has some other sleek and satisfying numbers on Under The Covers, including Roy Orbison’s “Claudette,” The Clash’s “Train In Vain,” an imaginative big-band reworking of The Kinks’ “Tired Of Waiting For You,” and a runaway bluegrass romp through the Rolling Stone’s “The Last Time.”  https://youtu.be/Zb8gbcmFPts


4. Heartbeats – Jose Gonzalez.....Reared by Argentinean parents and raised in Sweden, Gonzalez has been branded indie rock but his style could be called intelligent acoustic tranquility—quiet, confessional songwriting shaped by a number of disparate musical influences, flowing through unhurried vocals and a sweet bedrock of acoustic guitar.  The song “Heartbeats” comes from his debut album Veneer, originally released in 2003 overseas and available in the states by 2005.  https://youtu.be/ruQQ5UvICvA


5. Welcome To The Boomtown – David & David.....David Baerwald and David Ricketts were L.A. musicians who came together for just one album, 1986’s Boomtown, which featured this electrifying rock song that brought a bit of fresh air to FM stations across the country.  It sounded like little else on the radio back then; sonically the song’s a churner with rich, atmospheric layers of guitars and keyboards, and lyrically, it spins a tale of the moneyed malcontents of 1980s Los Angeles—perhaps once well-heeled, now soul deprived and artificially fueled.  The chorus: “I say welcome, welcome to the boomtown / Pick a habit, we got plenty to go around / Welcome, welcome to the boomtown / All that money makes such a succulent sound / Welcome to the boomtown.”  https://youtu.be/c3st4AD69-0


6. This Lonely Love – Juliana Hatfield…..I’ve loved Hatfield from afar for years (actually, I got close to her just once at the intimate music venue Club Café in Pittsburgh some years ago).  Boston-bred Hatfield writes on-the-surface simple, almost throwaway pop songs but they are melodic and usually filled with hooks, often laced with a bit of punk energy (check out her song “My Sister” from her 1993 album Become What You Are).  Here for the mix we have a later-on effort from Hatfield, “This Lonely Love,” from the artist’s eighth studio album How To Walk Away (2008).  This could have been and should have been a hit on pop radio stations, a place seemingly reserved for Auto-tuned over-emoters.  A nice addition to this track is Richard Butler from the Psychedelic Furs on harmony vocal.  https://youtu.be/WvKOmpejLno


7. Wailing Wall – Todd Rundgren.....Rundgren’s long been home-schooled in the realm of music, video, and production—a real D.I.Y. kind of guy.  As a producer he’s birthed classics in the rock sphere including Stage Fright by The Band and Meat Loaf’s Bat Out of Hell, and as a musician he’s pushed boundaries with his outsized talent.  For 1971’s Runt: The Ballad of Todd Rundgren, his second solo album, the 23-year-old Rundgren wrote and produced it, played all instruments (including guitar, mandolin, fiddle, piano, organ, clavinet, vibraphone and baritone sax), and sang all vocal parts.  About the latter: Focus on the layered magic on this beautiful ballad; it is mesmerizing.  https://youtu.be/o7ZMA_aIBf4


8. I Won’t Be Here – The Marcus King Band…..King was born and raised in Greenville, South Carolina, gigging since the age of 8 under the watchful eye of his blues-gospel musician father Marvin.  And young Marcus (he’s now 23) has had more than his share of mentors, including Warren Haynes from Gov’t Mule and the lesser known but no less impactful Steve Watson of Greenville’s Fine Arts Center, who introduced King to jazz.  "I guess you could say we're applying jazz principles on overall just a rock thing, like Southern rock," King said in a 2015 interview in GreenvilleOnline about the band’s debut album Soul Insight.  "It evolved more from blues into what we now call jazz-influenced psychedelic Southern rock.  It's a mouthful, but that's kind of the only way we've found to describe it."  The track here belies that definition, however, as it is more of a slow driftin’ quite soulful ballad.  Set yourself down…and crank it up.  https://youtu.be/a7G9xUYP_jk


9. Create – Alana Davis.....This Greenwich Village singer-songwriter was born in 1974 and I first caught wind of her through 1997’s Blame It On Me, which sported an Ani DiFranco cover (“32 Flavors”) and a couple of killer, far-from-filler tunes in “Murder” and “Crazy.”  In the summer of 1998 I was the general manager of Pittsburgh’s Star Lake Amphitheater (now Key Bank Pavilion) and I ran into Davis backstage at the H.O.R.D.E. Festival, a Blues Traveler-led event that toured the amphitheater circuit through most of the 1990s.  We stood in the dressing room hallway and there I confessed my love of her debut album from the year before.  I told her I also liked the keenly placed piano touches in her song “Murder” and she volunteered later in the exchange that her songwriting leads her to view her voice more as a horn than any other key instrument…For her third album Surrender Dorothy (2005), from which this track is taken, Davis ditched her original label Elektra who were much too hands-on for her taste, and she formed her own label Tigress to issue her releases from that point on.  https://youtu.be/bKvgqcvOb6o


10. The Mother – Ketil Bjornstad.....This track MAY be one of my favorite songs of all time.  The album from which this track is taken, The Sea II (1998), is listed in ECM Records catalogues as a release by the Norwegian pianist Ketil Bjornstad but it is truly an ensemble effort with David Darling on cello, Terje Rypdal on guitar and Jon Christensen on drums.  Save one, all of the compositions are by Bjornstad alone and he is a fluid driving force here, but really it is the mournful, masterful cello of Darling and the powerful yet not overpowering drum thrash of Christensen that put this piece on a pedestal for me.  It is simply heartrendingly gorgeous. (Alas, there is a clip of this on YouTube but it’s apparently held hostage by the channel’s drive to get YouTube premium subscriptions—so try this through Spotify.) https://open.spotify.com/track/41Rw6v88NFZg2DEJMWo0Qq





Posted 6/3/17.....

1967 ... This is the year that Rolling Stone magazine debuted, and Sgt. Pepper’s blew young minds and befuddled old ones…Here are ten classic songs released that year that had a huge impact on me:

1. Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds – The Beatles…..Yeah, this epic song could have been inspired by John Lennon’s experiments with LSD or by his young son Julian’s nursery school drawing.  Maybe it was the former; he certainly was a bit acidic during the band’s breakup (Oh No!).  https://youtu.be/naoknj1ebqI



2. Light My Fire – The Doors…..My strongest memories of this song spring from a Lake Erie family vacation.  I was fourteen, on my towel and baking on the beach, lying back with my hands behind my head checking out the swooping gulls, and suddenly I heard this song crackle out of my mom’s nearby transistor radio.  Girl, we couldn’t get much higher—really?!!  Talk about opening up doors of perception… https://youtu.be/jKU74Uns9_0


3. Chain Of Fools – Aretha Franklin…..In the Fall of 1967 this song hit Top Forty radio, blaring out of our kitchen clock radio and causing my mom to sidestep, shuffle and spin on her way through the living room.  Looking back now I admire her spunk but she couldn’t quite inhabit the funk.  Aretha was killin’ that same year with other singles, too, like “Respect” and “Baby, I Love You.”  https://youtu.be/tdr6gKiLLkI


4. Nights In White Satin – The Moody Blues…..This band of Brits was originally rhythm & blues based but changed directions in 1967 at the advice of their record label Decca, practically birthing the meld of classical music and rock ‘n’ roll through their resulting album Days of Future Passed.  This mix of orchestral sweep and British rock lodged in my brain and spurred my search for more things with mellotrons and strings.  https://youtu.be/kx-vy-pmZ4I


5. Somebody To Love – Jefferson Airplane…..This San Francisco psychedelic rock band took off in a big way in ’66 after original female lead singer Signe Toly Anderson left the group and Grace Slick replaced her.  The next year this scorching and propulsive tune, sung by a searing Slick, hit the national airwaves and galvanized attention for that flowering San Fran music scene.  If I had had a pinup girl back then, Slick was the one to have graced my wall next to my Buffalo Springfield pix.  https://youtu.be/a-C9pUGszsw


6. Funky Broadway – Wilson Pickett…..This African American soul artist was nicknamed “Wicked” Pickett for a reason—his hellacious growl and howl of a vocal style was accompanied by a fantastic bed of funk in songs that skittered across the top of the pop and R&B charts for a lot of the mid-late 1960s and early 1970s.  Even today I can’t sit still, listening to some of his limb-twitchin’ masterpieces like the one listed here, and earlier gems like “Midnight Hour” and “Land of 1,000 Dances.”  https://youtu.be/hj0XM92UvHc


7. Whiter Shade of Pale – Procol Harum…..This song by British band Procol Harum sounded like little else when it hit the USA radio stations in May of ’67.  It had classical nods, a rich organ, and literary allusions in the lyrics, and was played at every teen dance across the country for the longest spell.  Word has it that it has been covered by more than 1,000 other artists through the years, including Michael Bolton, The Highwaymen (Johnny Cash, Kris Kristofferson, Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson), Herbie Mann, Annie Lennox, and...well, about 996 others.  https://youtu.be/sblgLwpTNbc


8. Purple Haze – The Jimi Hendrix Experience…..The song hails from Hendrix’s 1967 release Are You Experienced, and he reportedly maintained that his composition wasn’t drug-related, but rather a love song inspired by a dream of his that he was walking under the sea.  The track also has one of the most frequently misheard lines in rock history—“Excuse me while I kiss the sky” is often audibly ingested as “Excuse me while I kiss this guy.”  https://youtu.be/ZGc4TLyr9yc  


9. One More Heartache – The Paul Butterfield Blues Band…..Okay, so I wasn’t even aware that this song was a Motown-bred hit for Marvin Gaye in 1966, because by 1967 I was immersed in a lot of other forms of music which is how I came across the song as performed by the Paul Butterfield Blues Band.  I dropped the needle on Side One, Track One of this band’s third album The Resurrection of Pigboy Crabshaw (1967), and was blown away by this blues-infused shot of R & B led by the wailing, sailing Butterfield on lead vocals and harmonica.  Spine-tingling stuff, still, fifty-plus years on… https://youtu.be/KFOLED9VfVQ


10. I Can See For Miles – The Who…..Back when this track from the album The Who Sell Out hit my turntable for the first time, it stunned me.  It was an all-out assault with bashes-full of drumming by the late Keith Moon and power-chord slashes extraordinaire by guitarist Pete Townshend.  I never saw The Who do this song live, but did get to see a number of late 1960s SW Pennsylvania bands pummel out respectable covers.  In particular, a band that’s now lost to the mists of time named Freeport played this tune a lot at regional rock festivals I attended through the late 60s, and even in the hands of a local poser unit, the song still killed.  https://youtu.be/GL8tPJPiZ64





Posted 5/19/19.....

Musicasaurus.com may be a bit long in the tooth, it’s true, but it tries to deliver these ten-tune mixes to you every two weeks with a wide swath of songs from the 1960s all the way through present day.  Below are ten, though, that are all from the 1990s or later (musicasaurus is movin’ on up through the epochs!)

1. White Winter Hymnal – Sonos.....A beautiful a cappella version of a song originally written and recorded by the Fleet Foxes for their 2008 debut album.  This is one to crank to the rafters when testing out a new sound system; you can hear even the faint preparatory breaths taken before these spellbinding voices enter their weavings.  Sonos is three men and three women from Southern California, and the song is from their 2009 release SonoSings (which also sports a cappella covers of tunes by Rufus Wainwright, Imogen Heap, and Bjork).  In 2013, Sonos changed their name to Arora to reflect new directions including an album of all original material called Bioluminescence, released that same year.  https://youtu.be/-Y-zOfpeu5s


2. 6th Avenue Heartache – The Wallflowers.....On the Wallflowers’ second album Bringing Down The Horse from 1996, son-of-Bob and band leader Jakob Dylan brings to life this solid mid-tempo rocker awash in and particularly rich in organ and guitar.  Guests Adam Durwitz of Counting Crows and Tom Petty’s right-hand man Mike Campbell pitch in on background vocals and slide guitar, respectively.  https://youtu.be/XrKzH37BOok 


3. Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm – Crash Test Dummies.....The Dummies, Canadians all, came together in Winnipeg in the late 1980s and won widespread acclaim in their native country with their 1991 debut album The Ghosts That Haunt Me.  Though they won the Canadian version of the Grammy the following year—a Juno for “Group of the Year”—you could still only hear crickets from their neighbors to the south (that would be us—or more properly, U.S.).  But then in 1993 came “Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm,” the band’s first single from their second album God Shuffled His Feet, and aided by quasi-mystical lyrics about a few unnamed children’s strange afflictions, and delivered via the deliciously deep-set pipes of lead singer Brad Roberts, the tune was a worldwide curiosity—and a huge hit.  https://youtu.be/t05G0983BcI


4. Better Together – Jack Johnson.....Hawaii-born surfer and singer-songwriter Johnson musically rode a wave into the minds of many a college kid in the early 2000s, as he was an audibly affable twenty-something who epitomized “cool” and laidback charm.  The tune included here is one of Johnson’s best known songs from his In Between Dreams album (2005), and there exists on DVD (and on YouTube) a great version of it performed live with accompaniment from frequent touring sidekick G. Love on harmonica.  That’s the one you’ll hear here:  https://youtu.be/9NoWDrslhm0


5. Fell On Black Days – Soundgarden…..Superunknown, from which this track was taken, was this Seattle band’s blistering, bludgeoning, and quite tuneful fourth album, the one that brought them widespread acclaim critically and commercially in 1994.  It was dense and delicious, sounding a little like the crew of Zeppelin had decided to steer toward sky’s-the-limit alternative rock.  Chris Cornell was the frontman who led the charge here, and then later on, vocally led Audioslave which featured three remnants of Rage Against The Machine—guitarist Tom Morello, bassist Tim Commerford and drummer Brad Wilk.  Cornell was hugely respected within the industry, by peers and by fans, for his vocal talent but spent periods of his life chased by internal demons (drugs and depression).  He took his own life one evening after a Soundgarden performance in Detroit, on May 18, 2017.  https://youtu.be/UtO-YNBNAL4


6. Your Heart Is An Empty Room – Death Cab For Cutie.....Death Cab is an indie/alternative rock band from Washington state that came together as a four-piece in 1997, fronted by guitarist/pianist Benjamin Gibbard.  Their style is off-kilter in a good way, interesting yet accessible, and the song listed here is from the band’s fifth album Plans (2005).  The group’s name was borrowed from the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band, a 1960s-era British collective of music-loving art school grads, who at one point notably wrote and performed a song called “Death Cab For Cutie” for The Beatles’ 1967 film Magical Mystery Tour.  https://youtu.be/pOy1aX8SvE0


7. I Can’t Remember – The Thorns.....A “supergroup” of sorts: Shawn Mullins (he of the one-hit-wonder “Lullaby” from 1998), Matthew Sweet and Pete Droge all teamed up in 2003 to produce a beautiful blend of harmonies for their self-titled debut on Columbia Records.  The album is a paean to the classic rock bands of the 1970s—the lush harmonies of Crosby, Stills & Nash, America, and the Beach Boys; and the jangling guitars of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers.  https://youtu.be/6OCkcTLIEOI


8. Surface Of The Moon – Del Amitri…..This alt-pop-yet-folkie kind of band originally formed in Scotland in 1983, and in terms of success over here in the States, they penetrated the Top Ten nationally with only one song, “Roll To Me,” from their 1995 album Twisted.  I have dug deeper, though, and there are a few other really compelling bits of songwriting and execution by this band to be savored: The beautiful ballad “Driving With The Brakes On” from the Twisted album, “Kiss This Thing Goodbye” from 1989’s Waking Hours release, and the track included here, “Surface Of The Moon,” from 1992’s Change Everything.  https://youtu.be/eF-6y7xjjQs


9. I and Love and You – The Avett Brothers.....With a melding of country, folk and bluegrass at their core, North Carolinian singer-songwriters and musicians Scott and Seth Avett have toured and recorded for almost twenty years now as the Avett Brothers.  Their music is hard to pigeonhole; they have the finesse and the resolve of old timey folk musicians, but they also rage on stage in Mumford-like bits of fury.  The album from which this song is taken was their sixth, but their first for a major record label.  Entitled I and Love and You, it was produced by the idiosyncratic (and artist sympathetic) outlier Rick Rubin.  https://youtu.be/T0eSpAgqrWo


10. The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine Anymore – Jules Shear.....Born in Pittsburgh in 1952, pop rocker Shear moved to L.A. in the mid-1970s and has had a career characterized by blips of success within various areas of the music business.  Although some of his solo releases from the early 1990s were critically acclaimed, they never engendered widespread fame.  Some of Shear’s songs, though, did strike a chord with the public through other artists—Cyndi Lauper had a hit with Shear’s “All Through The Night,” and the Bangles covered his tune “If She Knew What She Wants.”  Shear also waded into MTV back in 1989, becoming the host of the first 13 episodes of the music channel’s program MTV Unplugged.  The track listed here—a cover of The Walker Brothers’ 1966 radio hit—is from Shear’s 1994 release Healing Bones.  https://youtu.be/Ri-mMuQNmnM





Posted 5/5/19.....

Musicasaurus.com loves women artists.  Their combined creativity dwarfs a ton of posers and pretenders of that other sex, whether the genre is jazz or alternative or country, folk or rock. Here is a handpicked ten that you’ll treasure perhaps from your first foray into their worlds…

1. Soviet Snow – Shona Laing.....from the 1988 album South, the artist’s fifth.....Laing is an alternative-pop New Zealander who first made significant headway in America with a song that became a heavy favorite on college campuses back in the late ‘80s, “Glad I’m Not A Kennedy.”  Another song from South, the one featured here on the playlist, is “Soviet Snow” which illustrates Laing’s knack for sometimes writing melodic, powerful, and politically relevant alt-rock songs that have anthem choruses and intelligent spins of lyric:  “Are we wide awake? Is the world aware? / Radiation over Red Square / Creeping on to cross Roman roads / Fear of freezing in the Soviet snow /  One eye on the winter / Oh there's just a hint of Soviet snow”.....and.....“We need something to keep the chill / From freezing our own free will / We're teasing at war like children / Love is the one solution / Seeing ourselves inside / Our enemies' need for shelter / Same winter wind that's blowing Deep down inside we know / We’ve got one eye on the winter...”  https://youtu.be/cbLL5mekc34


2. Help Me – k.d. lang.....The province of Alberta, Canada has produced two of recent history’s most talented female singer-songwriters in k.d. lang and Joni Mitchell, and it is befitting that one covers the other here.  The original version was a pop radio hit when Mitchell’s 1974 Court And Spark was released, and lang acquits herself nicely here in this contribution to the 2007 album A Tribute To Joni Mitchell.  Other notable artists having a go at Joni on this covers compilation include Sufjan Stevens performing “Free Man In Paris,” Prince’s royal treatment of “A Case Of You,” Emmylou Harris’ sensitive reading of “The Magdalene Laundries” and Elvis Costello’s tackling of “Edith And The Kingpin.”  https://youtu.be/6z8CiPHifvw 


3. What Do I Do – Sam Phillips.....This song is one of many satisfying numbers included on Phillips’ second album The Indescribable Wow released in 1988.  Producer T-Bone Burnett puts meat and muscle into all of the songs’ arrangements and production, but on this particular track it is really Phillips’ infectious, layered and occasionally interwoven vocals that clinch it.  Plus the song beautifully swells into being for its first 28 seconds of life and ultimately ends the same way, in an ear-caressing orchestral fade.  A pretty and precious little sonic wonder.  https://youtu.be/P96om77z9hI


4. I Think We’re Alone Now – Lene Lovich.....The original version of this pop song was an inescapable Top Forty radio hit in 1967 from Tommy James and the Shondells, and then twelve years later the Detroit-born, Britain-bred new wave musician Lovich quirkily covered it.  On the basis of a demo of this tune Lovich was signed to the prestigious British new wave record label Stiff, the original recording home to Elvis Costello, Nick Lowe, Ian Dury and The Blockheads, Wreckless Eric, and other pioneering English pop-punkers.  Her yelping vocals and new wave-y thrust really clicked with fans in the UK and with those in-the-know in our own United States, and Lovich also influenced a number of similar bands in her wake.  But her career in large part only carried forward a few years beyond her 1979 debut Stateless, from which this track is taken.  https://youtu.be/uJRGdQSvwjU


5. What Becomes Of The Brokenhearted (live) – Joan Osborne.....There is an original recording of this song as performed by Jimmy Ruffin, but it is Osborne’s version that is Oz-some (referring to her wizardry here).  She grabs a hold of this tune as a fully flowered artist and interpreter, and never lets go until the spine-skittering conclusion.  This song was recorded live for the 2002 documentary Standing In the Shadows of Motown with Joan fronting the Funk Brothers, the studio musicians who backed up all of the original stars of Motown in recordings from 1959 through 1972.  https://youtu.be/vftsblnJlxg


6. Tulip – Jesca Hoop.....The scoop on Hoop: This Northern Californian is the offspring of folk-singing Mormons; she reportedly nanny’ed at one point for Tom Waits; and she toured between 2007-2011 with the likes of Peter Gabriel, Polyphonic Spree, Andrew Bird, Matt Pond PA, British alternative band Elbow, and Mark Knopfler.  My daughter first alerted me to Hoop in 2011 when she happened to catch the artist warming up a local Pittsburgh club audience in front of headliners The Punch Brothers (mandolin player Chris Thile’s post-Nickel Creek band).  That night in the club, Hoop and The Punch Brothers tackled “Tulip” together.  Here in Hoop’s studio version of the song from her 2010 release Hunting My Dress she comes charging out of the gate, her slightly Celtic-sounding voice floating confidently above a wonderfully arranged, sonically rich tapestry that is reminiscent of Kate Bush’s or Bjork’s more pop-centric stuff.  https://youtu.be/yvr8K9Jclpw


7. Holding Back The Years – Gretchen Parlato…..Parlato is an L.A.-born jazz songstress who has only three studio albums and a live recording under her belt as a solo artist, yet she has collaborated as a guest vocalist on approximately one hundred other musicians’ projects thus far.  Her work is lauded by Downbeat Magazine, Grammy voters, and jazz fans nationwide who, once smitten, never abandon the fetchin’ Gretchen.  The song listed here is a smooth, insinuating piece of work that must be ranked at least equal to the powerful, time-tested original as debuted by British soul and pop band Simply Red on their 1985 debut album Picture Book.  Parlato’s version, dreamy and expansive, comes from her 2011 release The Lost And Found.  https://youtu.be/HccPfkdgR0s 


8. Your Husband’s Cheating On Us – Matraca Berg.....From Berg’s 2011 release The Dreaming Fields, this is a fascinating sung-in-first-person slice about a mistress coming to visit the wife of her current lover, expressly to tell the woman at home that her man is cheating on both of them.  Berg truly inhabits this cool and confident character, with a half-sung, half-spoken vocal that conveys a touch of menace amidst the swamp music feel that is provided by her gifted backing band (in sound and instrumentation, this song would fit right in with a mix of more familiar, somewhat similar fare like Tony Joe White’s “Polk Salad Annie,” John Fogerty’s “Born On The Bayou” and Bobbie Gentry’s “Ode To Billie Joe.”)  https://youtu.be/Jg8KEjg-Mdg


9. Calling My Children Home – Emmylou Harris.....This track is from a live set from Harris, captured for posterity in 1998 for the album Spyboy.  The record features a stellar touring band composed of Daryl Johnson on bass, Brady Blade on drums, and Buddy Miller on guitar (Buddy is an under-the-radar guitar hero; his stints include a couple of Robert Plant collaborations, one with Alison Krauss and then one with Band of Joy).  “Calling My Children Home” is awe-cappella at its finest; just Harris and her three band mates.  This is just one milestone of many in Harris’ long and illustrious career bringing what her mentor Gram Parsons called “Cosmic American Music” to the masses.  https://youtu.be/ggwPUsaBmOk


10. Don’t Stop Believin’ – Petra Haden.....Idiosyncratic vocalist Haden, the daughter of jazz bassist Charlie Haden, took this arena-rock anthem (and Sopranos series ender) and subverted its classic rock stature by supplanting Journey’s instrumental portions with her quirky, alternative-style vocals.  The result may be an acquired taste, but it is a grand a cappella attempt to redefine this 1980s radio staple and elicit new emotions from listeners.  Haden’s remake comes from a compilation album entitled Guilt By Association, Volume I (2007), a mix of indie-rock artists covering well-known pop, rock, and rhythm & blues hits.  https://youtu.be/_P9XWWgN4uc





Posted 4/21/19.....

JAZZ ROCK FUSION (whatever) MIX..... 

If you’ve shied away from jazz fusion in the past, musicasaurus.com advises you to now throw off the shackles of preconception and attune yourself: You’re going to like this heady batch of jazz-meets-rock through ten artists who have blazed trails while blending the genres. 

1. Dark Eye Tango– Al Di Meola......This American-born jazz fusion and Latin music guitarist attended Berklee College of Music in Boston, and then at the age of twenty joined Chick Corea’s band Return To Forever for their high-water mark period of 1974-1976.  Known for his technical mastery and speed, Di Meola rips into this tune with sultry-then-searing guitar work.  “Dark Eye Tango” is from Di Meola’s third solo album Casino, released in 1978.  https://youtu.be/iYr3ixsJl6A


2. Ready For Take-Off– Passport.....Saxophonist Klaus Doldinger is the creative, collaborative auteur who helmed this German jazz-infused progressive rock band through the years, as various members passed on to other ports of call.  Active through the decades but most notably in the 1970s, Passport produced a full-bodied stew of jazz improvisation and relentless rock rhythms.  This track is from the band’s 1974 release Looking Thru.  https://youtu.be/WHFB-ozjNs8


3. Expresso – Gong.....The band Gong formed in the late 1960s and pursued a sound early on that mixed prog rock, psychedelic music, jazz and assorted trippy touches.  Some players came and went, and for this 1976 release Gazeuse!, Gong brought on board guitar player Allen Holdsworth.  Here, Gong coalesced into a juggernaut of percussion, vibraphones, saxophone, glockenspiel and cosmically wailing guitar.  “Expresso” is a percussive dream with Holdsworth’s celestial, cerebral guitar attack leading the charge and floating in and out of the fray.  https://youtu.be/2NEH3UCXklg


4. The Art of Happiness – Jean-Luc Ponty.....French violin virtuoso Ponty started on his instrument at the age of 5, and stayed true to straight jazz until the late 1960s when he ventured to America and stinted with Zappa & the Mothers of Invention, the George Duke Trio, and from 1974-1975, the Mahavishnu Orchestra.  Ponty was the pioneer of the electric violin in the 1970s jazz-rock explosion, and was the first to borrow and bring over to his instrument some of the effects more commonly applied to electric guitars—Echoplex, distortion bars, wah-wah pedals, etc.  This fusion laced with funk track is taken from Ponty’s 1978 album Cosmic Messenger.  https://youtu.be/VGEDgsSXRBM


5. Golden Rainbows– Alphonse Mouzon.....Along with fellow jazz drummer Billy Cobham, Mouzon was instrumental in putting jazz fusion on the map in the early-mid 1970s.  Cobham produced a well-regarded jazz fusion record called Spectrum in 1973, and Mouzon followed in 1975 with arguably his best solo record, Mind Transplant (from which this tune is taken).  The two albums share a common thread: Guitarist Tommy Bolin.  To my ears, rocker Bolin is more riveting on the Mouzon release, especially on this track.  He is front and center with his usual economy of style; not a wasted note, all of them perfectly placed and imaginatively accented so that his guitar carries the song to several emotional climaxes.  Sadly, Bolin overdosed on heroin a year after this record was released, at the age of 25.  https://youtu.be/Kg381P4jCEI


6. Black Market– Weather Report.....This band is the enduring giant of jazz fusion based on the skill of the players and the caliber of the recorded performances.  The band formed in 1970 and weathered some personnel changes through 1976, when founding members Joe Zawinul (keyboards/synths) and Wayne Shorter (saxophone) welcomed in Narada Michael Walden and Chester Thompson on drums, Alex Acuna and Don Alias on percussion, and newcomer Jaco Pastorius on bass.  This song is the title track of their 1976 release.  https://youtu.be/hBtB3QLCP2c


7. Silver Sword– Flora Purim.....Brazilian jazz singer Purim was influenced heavily by Ella Fitzgerald and Sarah Vaughan, and her six-octave voice is a marvelous instrument that is showcased to great effect on the first two early 70s Chick Corea & Return To Forever albums (Return To Forever and Light As A Feather).  The track listed here is from Purim’s second solo release from 1974 entitled Stories To Tell, and it is a breathtaking piece that features Purim’s wordless vocal soaring amid the frenzied fireworks of guitarist Carlos Santana.  A piece of advice: The marvel truly deepens with time, so check back in with this on more than one occasion.  https://youtu.be/_oCno8bGvjI


8. San Lorenzo – Pat Metheny Group.....Missouri-born Metheny started playing guitar at the age of thirteen and taught at both the University of Miami and Berklee while still a teenager.  His style is an almost indescribable mix of jazz, rock, and folk but that doesn’t capture the idiosyncrasy of his approach to this instrument.  Aligned through his early years with European jazz label ECM, Metheny played on albums by vibraphonist Gary Burton and released solo records on the label as well.  In 1978 he formed the Pat Metheny Group and released a self-titled band record that year featuring musicians Lyle Mays (keyboards), Mark Egan (bass), and Dan Gottlieb (drums).  This track “San Lorenzo” opened the album; it is cinematic, majestic, and achingly beautiful in the interplay between all four musicians.  In the late 1970s and early 1980s, I caught the Pat Metheny Group live in concert several times and thought to myself, “I’ve stumbled into the Church of the Truly Transported.”  https://youtu.be/_RrUS2N2MyI


9. Butterfly– Herbie Hancock.....Born in Chicago in 1940, Hancock started on piano at the age of seven and his career path thus far has been a dotted landscape of acoustic and electric jazz, and forays into funk and rhythm & blues.  From 1963 through 1968, Hancock spent formative years with Miles Davis, all the while also issuing classic Blue Note label recordings as a solo artist.  Early in the 1970s Hancock entered his jazz fusion period with the release of Head Hunters in 1973, and Thrust in 1974 from which this track “Butterfly” is taken.  This song is a funked-up mid-tempo masterpiece, and Hancock’s clavinet and synthesizers match up well with Bernie Maupin’s sophisticated and snaking soprano sax.  https://youtu.be/knbmKDUYDXc


10. Crossed Wires– Mike Mainieri.....This track is from Mainieri’s 1981 album Wanderlust, which sports a who’s who of jazz greats including Michael Brecker on sax, Randy Brecker on trumpet, Steve Khan on guitar, Marcus Miller and Tony Levin on bass, and Peter Erskine on drums.  Vibraphonist Mainieri goes electric on this Weather Report-ish tune, and his solo in the latter half of this propulsive number is not just good, it’s great vibrations.  https://youtu.be/aMs6CioUaqg





Posted 4/7/19.....

We’d all like to give the gift of Time.....This is a themed CD mix I used some years back as a birthday present for friends.  I usually wrote a message as well at the top of the song list, especially for folks who were reaching pivotal birthdays (sample: “Tom’s turned 40 / Scary or sublime? / Hey, like this mix, there’s plenty of Time!”).

1. Time – Pink Floyd.....This track is from the band’s eighth studio album Dark Side Of The Moon released in March 1973.  “Time” is famous for bearing that sound-effect-laden opening of chiming clocks that Abbey Road Studios staff engineer Alan Parsons recorded individually in a number of London antique shops.  For those of you who are chart-obsessed, Dark Side was on Billboard Magazine’s album-sales chart in the “Top 200” for more than 14 years straight after its initial release, and it has sold more than 45 million copies worldwide.  Success (most of the time) breeds widespread recognition and a deep reverence; this MAY be the band’s masterpiece, as it spellbinds throughout with nary a Floydian slip.  https://youtu.be/pgXozIma-Oc


2. Ain’t Wastin’ Time No More – Allman Brothers Band.....This song is from 1972’s Eat A Peach album, the band’s fourth overall record and their first without an Allman Brother; Gregg’s older sibling Duane died at the age of 24 in a motorcycle accident the year before the album’s release.  Contrary to some once popular myths about the death of Duane, the guitarist was killed when his motorcycle plowed into a flatbed lumber truck—not a truck full of peaches.  The album title reportedly comes from Duane’s response to an interviewer who once asked “How are you helping the revolution?”  Duane’s answer:  “There ain’t no revolution, only evolution, but every time I’m in Georgia I eat a peach for peace.”  https://youtu.be/7njWAsTkOuM


3. Comes A Time – Neil Young.....This is a feel-good, fiddle-fueled country rock song with the beautiful harmony of Nicolette Larson layered on top.  It is also the title track of this tenth album from Young which came out in 1978, almost six-and-a-half years after the release of Harvest.  The latter album was similarly country-tinged and predominantly acoustic, and like its successor was a Top Ten album for this Canadian musical iconoclast.  https://youtu.be/qxH_4e7W7hc


4. The Last Time – Dwight Yoakam.....The best cover versions are reinventions, not replicas.  The Rolling Stones issued this song originally in 1965 as a single release, but the tune ended up as well on an early live album by the band, 1966’s Got Live If You Want It!, and on an early hits compilation that same year, Big Hits (High Tide & Green Grass).  Yoakam took this Stones tune in 1997 and included it on an album of covers aptly entitled Under The Covers.  He put his heart & soul into it, and even added a bit of locomotive breath; the song is a runaway train with a dizzying, dazzling pace of nonstop country/bluegrass.  https://youtu.be/8cdWL5n4zWc


5. Time Loves A Hero – Little Feat.....By 1977, Lowell George—Feat founder, guitarist, and principal songwriter since 1969—was deeper into drug use and somewhat directionless.  Thus guitarist Paul Barrere and keyboardist Billy Payne stepped in, and on 1977’s Time Loves A Hero, they continued with the band’s recent shift away from their rock/folk/New Orleans funk toward jazzier jams and touches of fusion.  When George finally tired of Barrere and Payne putting that one Feat before the other, he declared the band to be “broken up” in 1979 and left for a solo career.  The track referenced here, Time Loves A Hero, is a mid-tempo piece of polished funk with the usual stellar production, solid anchoring by bassist Kenny Gradney and drummer Richie Hayward, and keyboard flourishes aplenty by Payne.  https://youtu.be/PR8Y07-pALw


6. Not A Second Time – The Beatles.....If you’re fanatical about the Fab Four, you know that this song DID have a second time.  The tune first appeared in 1963 on the band’s second UK album entitled With The Beatles, and then reappeared (as did most of the other songs from that album) on the band’s second American release, Meet The Beatles.  This particular album, released in the United States in January 1964, was the one that changed lives; for most Americans, this was their real introduction to (and induction into!) Beatlemania.  This was the record that was plopped down on parents’ living room hi-fi consoles and on teenagers’ plastic record players all across the country—and a month later, the band debuted on national television on the Ed Sullivan show.  https://youtu.be/Gi8dTDuRCOk


7. The Time Is Near – The Keef Hartley Band…..This song is from the group’s third album of the same name, released in 1970.  Hartley was a Englishman who emerged early in the ‘60s rock scene, starting out as a drummer in Rory Storm and the Hurricanes (replacing Ringo Starr, who was exiting for The Beatles).  Hartley also played with fellow Brit John Mayall for a spell, and then cobbled together a band of his own which produced a not-quite-timeless mix of blues, rock and jazz—but it was adventurous and fresh to the ears back then.  The Keef Hartley Band had its moment in the sun at the original Woodstock festival in 1969, landing a slot between John Sebastian and The Incredible String Band on Saturday afternoon’s line-up.  https://youtu.be/WMaa7TCBiKQ 


8. A Matter Of Time – Los Lobos.....This band first formed in East Los Angeles in 1973, and perfected through the years a rich blend of rock, blues, country, Tex Mex, rhythm & blues, authentic Spanish and Mexican music, and more.  They put in THEIR 10,000 hours in bars, at wedding receptions, and in any other place that would have them; finally in 1984 they released their critically-acclaimed debut How Will The Wolf Survive?, which contains this track (side bar: Check out their 2004 CD/DVD package entitled Live At The Fillmore in order to get a taste of the band in their “natural element;” the band is at its very best in live performance.).  https://youtu.be/X_5J8GETMG8


9. The Times They Are A-Changin’ – Bob Dylan.....“Come senators, congressmen / Please heed the call / Don’t stand in the doorway, don’t block up the hall / For he that gets hurt will be he who has stalled / There’s a battle outside and it’s ragin’ / It’ll soon shake your windows and rattle your walls / For the times they are a-changin’.”  Pretty freakin’ prescient…however, Dylan’s actually referring here NOT to budget impasses and polarizing, paralyzing politicians, but instead to the rising, resounding wave of Civil Rights awareness.  This track from Dylan’s 1964 release of the same name is perhaps the first real anthem of change that a lot of Americans heard back in the early-to-mid-sixties, in that time of turbulence and societal shifts.  https://youtu.be/90WD_ats6eE


10. Come Down In Time – Elton John.....This absolutely beautiful ballad is from Elton’s “kind of a concept album” on the great American West entitled Tumbleweed Connection (1970).  This was Elton’s third release, after Empty Sky (1969) and Elton John (1970).  The songs on Tumbleweed Connection—with all lyrics by Bernie Taupin—were a mix of country, blues and pop, and were very cinematic in nature.  Most were also adorned by very intuitive and song-serving string arrangements by veteran British arranger and conductor Paul Buckmaster.  https://youtu.be/ZdkvZhsrtM8





Posted 3/24/19.....

Various Artists Mix...Some jazz rock, some Americana, a zippy number used in an old iPod television commercial—it’s all here for you!

1. 4 on 6 – Lee Ritenour.....Musicasaurus.com doesn’t usually traffic in the type of jazz that is fairly universally defined as “lite”—i.e., somewhat sprightly but lacking bite (the kind you used to hear boxed in with strangers while looking up at ascending or descending floor numbers).  I do have a soft spot, though, for Lee Ritenour.  I first became aware of him in the mid-late ‘70s when I worked as a merchandiser for Warner-Elektra-Atlantic Corporation, and Ritenour—early in his career here—was releasing some jazz-rock tunes amid the fluff (from fairly solid albums like 1977’s Captain Fingers and 1979’s Feel The Night).  The song listed here, "4 on 6," is a Wes Montgomery cover from Ritenour’s tribute album to the revered jazz guitarist, 1992’s Wes Bound.  Yeah, you’re maybe still on the elevator with this one, but it’s a sweet ride featuring fluid and soft-toned lead guitar, punchy horn accents, and some enticing organ.  https://youtu.be/GoTFokZwRng


2. Curs In The Weeds – Horse Feathers.....This is beautiful bit of Americana from Portland, Oregon.  The song comes from the band’s second album House With No Home, released in 2008 and sporting the talents of singer-songwriter Justin Ringle and accomplice orchestrator of strings and things, Peter Broderick.  It’s certain to call to mind Bon Iver, Damien Rice and other contemplative alternative-folk artists.  House With No Home was released on the terrifically-titled, small independent record label called Kill Rock Stars, which since the early 1990s has been champion of and home to a number of way-under-the-radar, off-mainstream talents from that Oregon and Washington state area. https://youtu.be/RBPO9Kun_9A


3. What A Number – Inara George.....George is the daughter of Little Feat founding member Lowell George, and thus comes from good musical stock (though her father passed away when she was but five years old).  She grew up in Los Angeles county’s Topanga Canyon which was renowned in the late 1960s and early 1970s as a hotbed of then-emerging talent like the adventurous rock band Spirit, Neil Young, Canned Heat, and Emmylou Harris, among others.  Instead of following in the Feat steps of her father’s blues, funk, and rock & roll, George first gravitated toward theatre and then a musical palette of alternative, pop and folk.  “What A Number” has been plucked from the artist’s initial solo album All Rise which was released in 2005.  The year afterward, George teamed up with keyboardist/songwriter Greg Kurstin to form—and start recording as—the electro-pop duo The Bird and the Bee.  https://youtu.be/NG3VM4fOM8Y


4. Bruises – Chairlift.....Tech titan Apple had used a number of new artists’ songs in the 2000s to promote their products in television ads, and in most cases this linkage led to a subsequent and most immediate $pike in the particular artist’s career (Feist with “1234” from 2007, for example, but also the Ting Tings, Jet, The Vines, and other fortunate souls).  The track listed here is a zippy, altogether infectious slice of synth-pop, and it stems from Chairlift’s 2008 debut entitled Does You Inspire You; each song on the album is a rich stew of the past (1980s), present (contemporary flavors), and future (spacey spicings).  Originally from Boulder, Colorado, the trio comprising Chairlift then moved to New York City where the big Apple took note of their debut album in the Fall of 2008, serendipitously plucking “Bruises” for the company’s upcoming iPod nano television ad.  https://youtu.be/w8HRCacAQ-4


5. This Must Be The Place (Naïve Melody) – Talking Heads.....This song from the band’s fifth studio album Speaking In Tongues (1983) is doubly insinuating—the lyrics suggest a love song though it is not all spelled out; the music subtly yet surefootedly weaves its way into your pleasure centers.  The year after Speaking In Tongues hit the record stores, the Heads’ concert film Stop Making Sense (helmed by filmmaker Jonathan Demme) arrived in theaters, and there the band’s fans were treated to a live version of “This Must Be The Place,” one of the many highlights of this landmark capture of the group’s polished, deliciously quirky power.  During this particular song, lead singer David Byrne dances and toys with a self-standing floor lamp, perhaps inspired by Fred Astaire’s similar yet more mesmerizing moves with a coat-rack in the 1951 MGM musical Royal Wedding.  The Talking Heads link:  https://youtu.be/JccW-mLdNe0  The Fred Astaire link:  http://youtu.be/VqMI441t2f0


6. Last Call – Jukka Tolonen.....Tolonen is far from a household name, unless your household happens to be in Helsinki.  This electric guitarist from Finland has a technician’s craft and imagination to spare, and he unleashes it in somewhat different settings.  His best works include instrumental tracks like this one from the jazz-rock flavored album Big Time, released in 1998.  “Last Call” is a great rocksong; it has polished production with the bass and drums “up” in the mix a bit, and there is also some breathy flute accents as well, but it is really Tolonen’s show all the way.  The sounds he wrings out of his guitar are astounding; at times he might even skirt heavy metal, but mostly his fingers foment fusion.  Great stuff.  https://youtu.be/YzKfMsPeMsc


7. Hollywood – Kasey Chambers.....At the time of her third album’s release in 2004—Wayward Angel, from which this track is taken—Chambers was 28 years old and already a major star Down Under.  She’d grown up literally on the land with parents who were hunters and trappers and country music lovers, who picked & sang ‘round the campfires under Australian night skies.  Wayward Angel furthered her inroads with American audiences courtesy of Adult Album Alternative (triple A) stations across the country, as well as occasional touring (at one point opening up for Lucinda Williams).  “Hollywood” is a soft and enveloping little gem; Chambers’ little-girl voice evidences big passion, and the acoustic accompaniment (with lightly chiming guitar work) is simple yet sublime.  https://youtu.be/1of2aWId2lc


8. Hate To See You Go – Randall Bramblett.....Musicasaurus.com is bettin’ you don’t know the over-under on Bramblett: He’s an overachiever who’s underappreciated.  This Georgia-born multi-instrumentalist and singer-songwriter first garnered recognition as a member of the mid-1970s Southern-rock fusion band Sea Level, which also included former Allman Brothers Band members Lamar Williams (bassist), Jaimoe (drummer), and Chuck Leavell (keyboardist and Sea Level’s namesake & bandleader).  Bramblett had spun out two solo albums before arriving at Sea Level, and after that band’s dissolution he later toured and/or recorded with rock legends including Gregg Allman, Robbie Robertson, Steve Winwood, and Traffic (in the latter’s early 1990s reunion period).  His solo output picked up again in the late 1990s and continued on through the next decade. “Hate To See You Go” comes from the artist’s 2006 release Rich Someday, and it is a great place to start for the uninitiated: Bramblett’s soulful voice and folk-rock-blues is better than a lot of other pliers of this trade, and while these others might have scored more handily over the years with radio play and recognition, Bramblett deserves fuller exploration of his very worthwhile solo outings.  https://youtu.be/BiqqjTz9VwI


9. Lights Out – Santogold.....Philadelphia-bred Santi White is an African American singer-songwriter who recorded her first album in 2008 in a duo setting with musician/producer John Hill entitled Santogold, the name of the duo and the debut.  Singer White has been likened to M.I.A., but largely in the sense of approach rather than musical style, as the two women are both multicultural females who blend almost disparate genres of music to create exciting new sounds.  To gain more exposure for their initial release in 2008, Santogold hopped on dates as the show opener for artists including Coldplay, Jay-Z, Bjork, M.I.A. and the Beastie Boys.  In early 2009, Santogold changed their name by a single letter—Santogold to Santigold—to avoid a potential lawsuit from a producer plying a sci-fi/wrestling film entitled Santo Gold’s Blood Circus.  The track included here, “Lights Out,” is from the duo’s debut.  It is a perfect pop pastiche of dub, rock, hip-hop and ‘80s new wave, guaranteed to get under your skin and travel down to your tappin’ toes.  https://youtu.be/-RA_M33fQxo


10. My Girl– Otis Redding.....The song listed here is a triple threat—co-written by Smokey Robinson, forever branded as a chart-topping hit by The Temptations, and then exquisitely covered by the incomparable Otis Redding.  This version of “My Girl” comes from an extremely solid collection of Redding powerhouse covers that also includes “Wonderful World” (written by Sam Cooke and popularized by Herman’s Hermits), “A Change Is Gonna Come” (another song by Cooke), and “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” (from the Rolling Stones).  All three of these reside on Redding’s 1966 album—the artist’s third—entitled Otis Blue: Otis Redding Sings Soul.  This was also the album that sported the Redding-penned composition “Respect” which later gained stratospheric recognition through a sizzling ’67 rendition by Otis admirer Aretha Franklin.  https://youtu.be/0iPtG_O8w8g




Posted 3/10/19.....

Various Artists Mix...

1. Gideon – My Morning Jacket.....This tune is from the band’s fourth album Z, released in 2005, which was to musicasaurus’ ears the best of the batch released up to that point in time.  This album evidenced maturity in production and songwriting, and songs like “Gideon” were an exciting blend of classic rock fervor and new music grit and attitude.  I have seen the band only once in concert, almost ten years ago at the Trib Total Media Amphitheater (originally the I C Light Amphitheater), a 5,000-capacity venue which was tucked right alongside the Monongahela River next to downtown Pittsburgh.  In a live setting My Morning Jacket is incendiary, and is in that coterie of great rock performers such as Pearl Jam and Counting Crows who take their audiences to unexpected highs through their fury and finesse.  https://youtu.be/rJTQDzt3ME4


2. Stinging Velvet – Neko Case.....Alt-country queen Case released her third album Blacklisted in 2002 and it was an ever-so-slight departure from the country-influenced records that preceded it.  “Stinging Velvet” is a great intro to her talents if you have never stumbled across her before; if you are already on the case, however, you know that she’s also renowned for her contributions to the recorded works of Vancouver-based indie band The New Pornographers.  https://youtu.be/QozMJpyZja0


3. Scar Tissue – RedHot Chili Peppers.....A lot of music fans think that the Red Hot Chili Peppers is a funkin’ great band, but musicasaurus.com has found it needs to wade through that forest of funk to find the choicest material.  This L.A. quartet came together in 1983 but it wasn’t until 1999’s Californication that the stars aligned and the band scaled new levels of success.  Part of the ascension was likely due to the return of guitar hero John Frusciante; he’d been a part of the band’s rising success from 1988 through 1992 but then dropped away when “hero met heroin.”  Frusciante returned—all personal demons exorcised—just in time to contribute mightily to Californication.  “Scar Tissue” stems from that release.  https://youtu.be/U7k2qv8KTDI


4. Grits Ain’t Groceries – Little Milton.....Mississippi born Milton was an African American soul, blues, and R & B musician whose first commercial break came from legendary Sun Records producer Sam Phillips, but Milton achieved his widest success after joining up with Chess Records’ subsidiary Checker Records in the mid 1960s.  “Grits Ain’t Groceries” hails from that time period and is also the title tune of Milton’s 1969 album.  It is a kick-ass rhythm & blues song, punched up by horns and some gritty, lived-the-life blues belting by Milton.  There are great opening lyrics as well that set the song in motion: If I don’t love you baby, grits ain’t groceries, eggs ain’t poultry, and Mona Lisa was a man…”  https://youtu.be/BhIUlT3Hy74


5. Rise Up –Parachute Club.....This is a tune from the 1980s, an anthem of empowerment with a whiff of synth, grounded and propelled by an infectious world beat.  Parachute Club were truly all about the ‘80s, forming in Toronto in 1982 and then disbanding in 1989. Their 1983 eponymous debut, from which this track is taken, was produced by Daniel Lanois (who went on to helm production chores on signature albums from U2, Dylan, Emmylou Harris and many others).  Parachute Club was notable in that their music centered on the personal and the political to reflect changing social mores; they also early on incorporated reggae and soca (Afro-Caribbean music) into their musical stew.  https://youtu.be/JcC-SbcihKI


6. Cusp – Goldspot.....This NYC indie band got their initial break—denting the consciousness of avid NPR listeners—through a key public radio station’s embrace.  Santa Monica’s KCRW championed their sound right around the time of their first album’s release, 2005’s Tally Of The Yes Men.  Singer-songwriter/band leader Siddhartha Khosla had been raised on Middle Eastern music but skillfully wove in strands of alternative rock to forge his band’s alluring sound.  There are other standout cuts on Tally as well: Dip your ears into “Motorcade” or “Rewind” or both.  https://youtu.be/Lw-jovRHqOg


7. You Don’t Move Me – Keith Richards.....Richards had two stints without Stones (in 1988 and 1992) when he both recorded and toured with a band he had assembled called The X-Pensive Winos.  The Winos included Richards, drummer Steve Jordan, Southern California session guitarist Waddy Wachtel, keyboardist Ivan Neville (son of the Neville Brothers’ Aaron) and Charley Drayton on bass.  “You Don’t Move Me,” from the Winos’ 1988 release Talk Is Cheap, is a perfect slice of gritty rock ‘n’ roll—no frills, just great steeped-in-Stones guitar chords, rhythmic slashes, and the characteristic and beloved off-kilter vocals by Richards.  https://youtu.be/-AX2NpF3j0M


8. E.M.P.T.Y – The Clientele.....This British band is hard to describe...perhaps indescribably delicious?  They produce intelligent indie pop for discerning ears, yet I believe they are criminally under-exposed.  The album from which this pretty pop nugget comes is called Strange Geometry, the band’s second full album released back in 2005. Most of the material is quite good—great production, inventive song structure, passionate playing, and soothing, somewhat breathy lead vocals by singer-guitarist Alasdair MacLean.  https://youtu.be/INixSWIxWEk


9. Tuesday Morning – The Pogues.....Irish freewheeling band The Pogues formed in London in 1982, and up until 1991 featured the quite charismatic and alcohol addled lead singer Shane MacGowan.  After the departure of MacGowan, the Pogues briefly took on former Clash singer Joe Strummer, and afterward longtime band member Spider Stacy stepped up to the mike for the band’s 1993 album Waiting For Herb.  “Tuesday Morning” comes from this Herb release; the song was the last one by the band to make Britain’s Top Twenty, but also was the group’s most successful single internationally.  https://youtu.be/pcEcmJHhFN4


10. Fake Palindromes – Andrew Bird.....Chicago native Bird is a multi-instrumentalist (violinist, guitarist, and a fine whistler) who produces unique and category-defying music that is a wondrous blend of alternative, pop, Americana, classical, English and Scottish folk, and more.  “Fake Palindromes” is from Bird’s 2005 release Andrew Bird And The Mysterious Production Of Eggs.  For any scorekeepers out there, renowned music website Pitchfork rates this particular album #181 out of the Top Two Hundred best albums of 2000-2009.  https://youtu.be/l01rGqgzHLQ




Posted 2/24/19.....

Various Artists Mix...originally recorded on the evening of January 25, 2006.

1. Urban Strut – Steve Hunter.....This is an instrumental classic-rock strut; a well-produced track that features Hunter’s guitar up front in the mix, rip-roarin’ its way through the bedrock.  Hunter has done session and tour work for a number of artists through the years (Lou Reed, Alice Cooper, Peter Gabriel and others), in addition to occasional solo recordings.  This particular track comes from a 1988 sampler CD entitled Guitar Speak, released by Miles Copeland’s I.R.S label on its subsidiary, No Speak. This series of all-instrumental releases from No Speak featured a number of rock guitarists—most renowned, a few unheralded—and was apparently Copeland’s answer to the late ‘80’s popularity of la-de-da New Age music; “No Speak eats New Age for breakfast” was one of his quotes upon the launch of this specialized line from the I.R.S. brand.  https://youtu.be/evAFBuX1sH4


2. Angry Eyes – Loggins & Messina.....This almost eight-minute rock ‘n’ roll track from Kenny Loggins and Jim Messina appeared on their self-titled second album released in 1972, and it is expansive in scope and generous with band solos that organically flow into each other.  The song doesn’t have a gratuitous bone in its body; the solo turns (sax then guitar then flute) serve to propel the tune to various highpoints until Loggins & Messina enter back in at the finish to tie together this perfectly-punctuated rock odyssey.  https://youtu.be/6U7FFE_c1Ds


3. Over & Over Again (Lost And Found) – ClapYour Hands Say Yeah.....From the opening insistent drumbeat and bass line to the David Byrne-like vocals, this song mesmerizes and playfully unfolds.  “Over & Over Again (Lost And Found)” comes from this Brooklyn band’s eponymous 2005 debut album, which blew up via the internet and word of mouth to grab honors, ears and accolades.  It is “indie” in all the right ways, and the band took a total indie approach to recording, distributing and promoting it as well.  https://youtu.be/phzgoOBKNVM


4. Golden Years – Bowie.....This track hails from Bowie’s 1976 release Station To Station, recorded in Los Angeles in allegedly coke-fueled sessions of the non-soda variety.  The album itself is a significant bridge between Bowie’s Young Americans release from the year before, and the beginning of his Eno-driven Berlin period which started with 1977’s Low album.  “Golden Years” was a Top Five radio hit on both sides of the pond, and Bowie reportedly offered it early on to Elvis Presley to perform but was rebuffed (knowing this, you just might be able to ear-imagine The King doing this song).  https://youtu.be/ApHM1ct4tdM


5. Leather Jacket – Mick Taylor.....Taylor was in the limelight in the fertile Stones period of 1969-1974, when he played second string-slinger to Keith Richards on the classic albums Let It Bleed, Get Your Ya Ya’s Out, Sticky Fingers and Exile On Main Street, followed by Goats Head Soup and It’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll.  Taylor departed the band in ’74 and gigged around with other artists until he fashioned his first solo effort, 1979’s Mick Taylor.  The album was a commercial stiff but we’re lucky to have this particular standout track as evidence of Taylor’s self-styled rock ‘n’ roll spirit.  https://youtu.be/YGnkAHXO87k


6. Staple It Together – Jack Johnson.....Johnson stayed true to form for his third album, 2005’s In Between Dreams, from which this track is taken.  The album sports more of his signature blend of champion-level chill, easy funk, and feel-good folk.  Born in Hawaii, he excelled in the surf before staking claim in pop music’s turf, winning millions of college-age fans via his first few records beginning in 2001.  “Staple It Together” is one of the more uptempo songs on In Between Dreams, though his calling card is usually more mellow, moderate fare.  https://youtu.be/uEGbhFUDRhs


7. Blue Bell Knoll – Cocteau Twins.....Someone will have to someday explain to me what lead songstress Elizabeth Fraser is vocalizing here; until then, I’ll just call this particular track bewitching and bewildering.  The Twins’ sound is spacey, mesmerizing and beautiful—almost celestial—concocted out of hovering and haunting guitar, tape loops, and drum machines.  The Twins (actually a threesome) formed in 1979 in their native Scotland, and amassed a body of work through the 1980s and early 1990s that has many fine celestial seasonings anchored by the almost operatic Ms. Fraser. “Blue Bell Knoll” is the title track from their fifth studio release from 1988.  https://youtu.be/m_YT36TvpkE


8. Music For Gong Gong – Osibisa.....Fresh out of high school in 1971, I remember spotting this album in the indie record store bins, and being captivated by the cover—an illustration of an insect-winged elephant by British artist/designer Roger Dean, who soon went on to greater fame for his fantasy-style covers of albums by Yes, Asia, Uriah Heep and many more.  “Music for Gong Gong” is an instrumental, highly-percussive track from Osibisa’s 1971 self-titled debut.  This band of African and Caribbean musicians formed in London in 1969, and were one of the first groups to truly fuse together rock, R & B, and jazz with their native countries’ rhythms and textures; count them as one the earliest bands bringing awareness to the emergence of “world music.”  https://youtu.be/Mh86EoPmD8c


9. Night Train – James Brown..... “All Aboard for Night Train!” sings The Godfather of Soul at the outset, and then his funk-fueled express barrels over his shout-outs to Miami, Florida; Atlanta, Georgia; and Raleigh, North Carolina before these loco motions morph into a sizzling instrumental section.  “Night Train” comes from Brown’s 1961 album of the same name, released just two years before his landmark Live At The Apollo album, which catapulted him across the musical racial divide into well deserved and widespread fame.  https://youtu.be/iAeh40tamYc  


10. Burnin’ For You – Blue Oyster Cult.....BOC was born in Long Island, New York in 1967, out of the efforts of a couple of Stony Brook College mates who were literary enthusiasts, sci-fi fans, and eventual rock critics/producers.  The band achieved major lift-off when their fourth studio album was released in 1976 bearing the ubiquitous FM Radio hit “(Don’t Fear) The Reaper.”  Commercial success went fallow for a few years, but after three more studio albums the group struck gold again with 1981’s Fire of Unknown Origin, a return to form and to strong sales based on FM Radio swooping in on the track listed here.  “Burnin’ For You” is a solid example of the band’s appealing brand of pop metal steeped in classic rock.  https://youtu.be/KQSkjl6oOF0




Posted 2/10/19.....

In honor of our subzero weather recently here in southwestern Pennsylvania, musicasaurus.com has ice-picked out some chill tunes for you...Create your own harsh weather playlist for enjoying indoors, starting with these:

1. Cold Shot – Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble.....from the group’s second album Couldn’t Stand The Weather (1984).....Call him inspired, in league with the devil, a channeller of the music of the spheres, whatever—Vaughan was one of the Gifted and the Greats.  I was fortunate enough to catch him in his early blues-club-circuit years, playing in places like the Evergreen Hotel in Pittsburgh when his first band Cobra would very occasionally slither into town.  The album from which “Cold Shot” comes was recorded at the Power Station in NYC in January 1984 with executive producer John Hammond; the album also includes the scorching Hendrix cover “Voodoo Chile (Slight Return).”  https://youtu.be/2O_ke8MTjfE


2. Out Of The Cold – Amos Lee.....Acoustic funker Lee is loose and laidback, and a good churner-outer of memorable tunes that occasionally call to mind James Taylor with a bit more soul.  The song “Out Of The Cold” stems from his fourth album Mission Bell (2010).  I saw Lee warm up for Lucinda Williams on a Pittsburgh outdoor tour stop in July of 2011, and a few years later headline with Lake Street Drive at Stage AE (also in Pittsburgh).  He was in each case audience-friendly, focused and fantastic, with musicians behind him that added much to the material.  The album Mission Bell, produced by Calexico’s Joey Burns, has Lucinda as a guest as well as Calexico and Iron & Wine’s Sam Beam; the other standout tracks on this release include “Violin” and “Learned A Lot.”  https://youtu.be/O3AEDcbFkoY


3. Ice Cream Cakes – Jeff Beck Group.....Jeff Beck, one of the original Sixties guitar gods along with Jimmy Page and Eric Clapton, has continued to produce compelling works to this day, exploring new sonic directions and collaborations to keep him challenged and to keep us fixated (if not outright flabbergasted).  Through the decades, Beck has recorded full instrumental albums as well as anchored group efforts, veering from rock and jazz-rock to edgy “almost-metal."  The song included here, “Ice Cream Cakes,” is from the Jeff Beck Group’s self-titled album released forty-seven years ago in 1972.  At the time, Beck had teamed up with keyboardist Max Middleton, drummer Cozy Powell, bassist Clive Chaman and singer Bob Tench to ultimately produce two classic rock records with this particular line-up.  Beck’s a wizard on two fronts—solos (all too brief) plus incredibly succulent guitar accents throughout; “Ice Cream Cakes” is a classic-rock-guitarist wannabe’s orgiastic delight.  https://youtu.be/NzazEJcXswY


4. Don’t Let The Cold – Tanita Tikaram.....from the artist’s 2005 release Sentimental.....German-born Tikaram, now solidly a Brit, is a folk-and-pop singer-songwriter with a fascinating tone.  I first ran across her via a largely instrumental album from new-agey electronica artist Mark Isham, who in 1990 had reached out to Tikaram to sing on his warm, jazz-tinged cover of the classic 1934 Rodgers & Hart song “Blue Moon.”  Takiram may best be known for her 1988 song “Twist In My Sobriety” from her debut album Ancient Heart, though the latter seemed to be a hit everywhere except, it seems, in the good ol’ USA.  On “Don’t Let The Cold” Takiram is joined on the chorus by Nick Lowe, and here they’ve churned out a breezy, quirky pop song that is quite infectious (in a non-CDC way, of course).  https://youtu.be/iYg7QURRXeA


5. Tenth Avenue Freeze-out – Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band.....from Bruce’s true breakout release Born To Run (1975).....This song contains the fan favorite shout-out to blood brotherhood, when Bruce at the start of the third verse sings “When the change was made uptown / And the Big Man joined the band.”  Obviously that moment in the song may STILL lead to a moistening eye, even though it’s been almost eight years since saxman Clarence Clemons passed away.  Aiding mightily in the impact of the recorded version of this song is the tight, crisp horn section that plays alongside Clemons, which included the Brecker Brothers—Michael on tenor sax and Randy on trumpet—and David Sanborn on baritone.  https://youtu.be/g5mxxU2R2sc


6. Cold Wind Across My Heart – Night.....The classic rock band Night formed in L.A. around 1978 and lasted just four years, with two recorded attempts to establish themselves—their self-titled debut in 1979 and a follow-up album entitled Long Distance.  “Cold Wind Across My Heart” comes from the band’s first album, with lead vocals by Chris Thompson, ex-singer of Manfred Mann’s Earth Band.  The latter group may be best known for their FM radio hit from 1976, a cover version of Springsteen’s “Blinded By The Light.”  https://youtu.be/wMHIQHg4frY


7. A Long Cold Night In Minneapolis – Dead Man Winter.....from the 2011 album Bright Lights.....Dave Simonett is Old Man Winter here.  He is a singer-songwriter and guitarist for an alt-bluegrass assemblage called Trampled by Turtles, and Dead Man Winter is an offshoot enterprise of his, a sidebar project, and it’s a fine blend of folk and rock.  The tune listed here is a mid-tempo affair with some lazy fiddle, a bit of harmonica, and a “Neil feel” (as in Mr. Young)--not in the vocal department, really, but in the country-folk flavor of the songwriting.  https://youtu.be/j1wtY2j0BpA


8. Freeze Tag – Suzanne Vega.....I caught up with this Barnard-educated, Greenwich Village-hangin’ folk singer on her self-titled debut album in 1985, from which this track is taken.  Like most of the other material on this album, “Freeze Tag” is lyrically astute and the music/instrumentation is quite hypnotic.  Vega was a breath of fresh musical air in the ‘80s, and the songs hold up after many listens, especially for those who treasure a bit of eclectic atmosphere with their dose of folk.  https://youtu.be/D0K6xOM5HY0


9. Ice And The Storm – My Brightest Diamond.....from A Thousand Shark’s Teeth (2008).....Classically trained Shara Worden is the wunderkind called My Brightest Diamond, and she is an NYC artist who has collaborated with a number of exciting slightly-off-mainstream acts such as Sufjan Stevens and the Decemberists.  Her music is moody and intoxicating, incorporating influences from opera, classical, cabaret and more, fueled by an alternative music approach (in most cases).  This particular album features her alt-spin on things, but with a string quartet prominently in the mix.  https://youtu.be/pXB3ervvOrw


10. Cold Girl – The Phil Keaggy Trio.....from the 2010 release Inter-Dimensional Traveler…..A few years back Musicasaurus.com spoke with Robert Brandt, manager of Glass Harp (another trio with Phil) and a music/broadcast researcher and archivist, and he volunteered to provide a brief write-up about this song and the album from which it came: “Two thirds of Glass Harp (Keaggy on guitar and John Sferra on drums) teamed up with Clarion, PA’s Jack Giering on keyboards for the first of three (mostly) instrumental releases,” said Brandt.  “Interestingly, the guys were never in the same room at the same time, instead recording each song in their respective home studios and shooting tracks/ideas back and forth online.  It is a terrific showcase for all three of them, especially Jack who was around some really interesting stuff in the 60s, but then more or less re-emerged nationally via these recordings. “Cold Girl” is only a small sample of the numerous styles heard on the album, zigzagging between fusion, blues, world, new age, rock, and whatever other label one might slap on it.  As Phil’s acoustic performances/recordings vastly outnumber his electric stuff nowadays, it is something to savor when we get a whole album’s worth—especially one in which he brings all of his various chops to the table.”  https://youtu.be/eDWhFPGxrJ0




Posted 1/27/19.....

Ten tunes in all…one in the realm of reggae…another a song of sweet surrender…and eight others.

1.) Slave Driver – Taj Mahal…..I don’t know where my disconnect was back in the early 1970s but somehow I wasn’t—early on, at least—majorly swept up in the rising tide of Jamaican phenomenon Bob Marley. It actually took a Taj Mahal album released in 1974 called Mo’ Roots to energize me into a full-on reggae worshipper.  The song here is a sweet, richly textured cover of Marley’s tune that originally appeared on the Bob Marley and the Wailers’ 1973 album Catch a Fire.  https://youtu.be/AQM31tyUCsc


2.) Sweet Surrender – Sarah McLachlan…..A song from Canadian songbird McLachlan’s mostly mesmerizing album Surfacing, her fourth, which came out at the same time (July of 1997) that the artist’s Lilith Fair festival was making noise and making the rounds to large amphitheaters all across the U.S.  https://youtu.be/k--TkFlV990


3.) The Magnificent Seven – The Clash…..Reportedly Mick Jones from British punk rockers The Clash fell in love with late 1970s/early 1980s hip hop tunes he’d come across from the likes of the Sugarhill Gang and Grandmaster Flash & the Furious Five, and so Jones and his band mates ventured into what was one of the first major white rap records.  It’s hypnotic and propulsive, and the lyrics were spit out quickly, in session, by the band’s main vocalist Joe Strummer. The tune is from The Clash’s double-album set Sandinista!.  https://youtu.be/HnSQFaHvxTI


4.) Murder – Alana Davis…..I remember running into this artist—literally—by rounding the corner of the dressing room hallway at Star Lake Amphitheater back in 1998.  I was general manager of the venue back then, and happened to be backstage during that summer’s edition of the traveling H.O.R.D.E. music festival, which Davis had climbed aboard as an untested but talented new attraction.  I confessed to her that I loved the songs from her debut album that had come out the year before, and she was noticeably moved by my stuttered praise.  Her song “Murder” is a great window into her atmospheric debut album Blame It On Me.  https://youtu.be/24PHLRawVSc


5.) My Stupid Mouth – John Mayer…..A lot of us have “I remember when…” moments when it comes to hearing songs for the first time, and with this one, I was riding to a concert with Cleveland friends and company mates in the summer of 2001 when I first laid ears on Mayer’s “My Stupid Mouth.”  There was something very refreshing about the lyrical spins and the pure pop pleasure of this Mayer-crafted tune, and the album (2001’s Room for Squares) held other treasures as well. https://youtu.be/2Xqm-zvart0


6.) Free Man in Paris (live) – Joni Mitchell…..This jazz-tinged rollicker by Mitchell was originally on her 1974 studio album Court and Spark, but here is the powered-up live version that this pioneering artist eventually released as part of some captured lightning-in-a-bottle performances from 1979. These performances—now available on the artist’s Shadows and Light CD—lent incredible muscle to Mitchell’s music; her backing band on this particular tour included saxophonist Michael Brecker, bassist Jaco Pastorius, keyboardist Lyle Mays and guitarist Pat Metheny.  Incendiary stuff.  Crank this up significantly so you feel you’re in the audience; especially spine-tingling are Jaco’s spidery fingers and Brecker’s wailin’ near the climax: https://youtu.be/5_p84ZK97Eo


7.) The Freshman – The Verve Pipe…..There are several versions of this 1990s underground (for a time, above ground) alt-rock song that combines heaviness in theme as well as delivery.  First recorded acoustically by Michigan-based alt-rockers The Verve Pipe for an indie release in 1992, the song was rerecorded for their 1996 major-label debut Villains, and AGAIN soon thereafter for a release as a single for radio play. The latter move brought them widespread acclaim (at least throughout 1997), and odds are today if you chance upon it, its grandeur will stick with you.  https://youtu.be/1umEXpGHc0E


8.) Solsbury Hill – Peter Gabriel…..Once ubiquitous on FM radio and cool kids’ turntables throughout 1977, “Solsbury Hill” is arguably Gabriel’s most accessible and commercially sprightly tune. The song hails from his first solo album entitled Peter Gabriel and is ostensibly about his decision to leave the band Genesis, but honestly I almost don’t hear the lyrics and have always approached this song as a most pleasurable musical lark of a listening experience.  If you are a fan at all, you’ll enjoy this current YouTube clip of the song that has an edited-in “Peter through the years” approach:  https://youtu.be/WeYqJxlSv-Y


9.) If It Makes You Happy – Sheryl Crow…..As the story goes, Crow was once part of a musician’s songwriting collective that edged into the process of working toward and then completing Crow’s own album debut in 1993.  Even if you’re of the camp that considers Crow just occasionally worthwhile, “If It Makes You Happy” (from 1993’s Tuesday Night Music Club) has enough grunge-lite guitar work to pull you in, and it has a slight Stonesy feel to the pacing and rhythm.  https://youtu.be/yPV4nMUfdcQ


10.) The Last Goodbye – Jeff Buckley…..The credentials for this one are pretty good.  Reportedly David Bowie thought the album from which it came, 1994’s Grace, was the best, or one of the best records ever made.  It is a haunting achievement and not just because of Buckley’s soaring on "Hallelujah;” the other tracks are worthy of exploration as well, including “The Last Goodbye” which was the artist’s most widely heard FM Radio track upon the album’s initial release.  Jeff is son to singer-songwriter Tim Buckley, who was praised by the most adventurous of folk music fans in the late ‘60s-early ‘70s as a dynamic vocalist and genre-twisting artist.  Like father, like son.  https://youtu.be/3MMXjunSx80




Posted 1/13/19.....

Ten songs that appeared in films in piecemeal or in full, and/or in the accompanying soundtracks…

1. How The Heart Approaches What It Yearns -- Paul Simon.....In 1980, Simon wrote and starred in a film called One Trick Pony, reportedly based on his own life and career, but veiled in different character names and situations.  The song “How The Heart Approaches What It Yearns” comes from the album released concurrently with the film, and the album and the film both employ a dream team of musicians including guitarist Eric Gale, drummer Steve Gadd, bassist Tony Levin and pianist Richard Tee.  The song that broke big for Simon out of this effort was “Late In The Evening,” but the track listed here is also a keeper.  https://youtu.be/I54Z9xaBH5Q


2. Love On A Real Train– Tangerine Dream.....This instrumental stirs visuals for anyone who has ever seen the film Risky Business, and in particular the sweet ride taken by Tom Cruise and Rebecca De Mornay on the Chicago “L.”  Experimental electronic music pioneers Tangerine Dream formed in 1967 in Berlin, and lead Dreamer Edgar Froese charted a course in the 1980s that included a lot of film soundtrack work.  In addition to Risky Business, Tangerine Dream also scored the films Thief (director: Michael Mann), Sorcerer (William Friedkin), Legend (Ridley Scott), Shy People (Andrei Konchalovsky), and Near Dark (Kathryn Bigelow).  https://youtu.be/eaMyqZdvfRY


3. In Your Eyes - Peter Gabriel.....Britain’s Gabriel reached his critical and commercial peak with the release of the album So in ’86, and “In Your Eyes” stems from that release.  The mid-80s must have been “his time;” MTV was four years old at that point, and Gabriel was doing tremendously innovative song videos which then had incessant play on the channel.  Musically, he was creating albums that sacrificed nothing to commercial considerations yet the public widely embraced them on their own terms. “In Your Eyes” features South African vocalist Youssou N’Dour on the choruses, and longtime Gabriel musicians David Rhodes, Tony Levin and Manu Katche on (respectively) guitar, bass and drums.  This song from So was later famously featured in the 1989 Cameron Crowe film Say Anything, when John Cusack’s character Lloyd Dobson stands defiantly outside of his lost love’s bedroom window, hoisting up a boom box over his head and blaring this tune, seeking strength and another chance, determined to win her back.  https://youtu.be/78U-WMJ7F3E


4. Left Of Center – Suzanne Vega.....from the 1986 soundtrack to the John Hughes’ film Pretty In Pink.....Barnard graduate Vega essentially grew up in Greenwich Village, NYC and came up through the coffeehouse/club circuit.  Her largest commercial success through the years was her audio exposé “Luka” which dealt with child abuse and domestic violence; it was her only significant chart-topper in the USA, hitting #3 in Billboard Magazine’s Hot One Hundred in 1987.  “Left Of Center” is credited as being a musical collaboration with singer-songwriter Joe Jackson (no co-vocal, just piano), and it is a nice ode to individuality:  “If you want me / you can find me / left of center / off of the strip / In the outskirts / in the fringes / in the corner / out of the grip.”  https://youtu.be/gjKmrz_nxgI


5. Both Sides Now – Clannad and Paul Young.....Though this cover of the Joni Mitchell classic was released in 1991 the production on it has just a touch of an ‘80s sheen, but not near enough to mar the beautifully matched vocals of Clannad’s lead singer Máire Ní Bhraonáin (aka Maire Brennan) and English singer-songwriter Paul Young.  The two came together for this soundtrack submission to the 1991 film Switch which starred Ellen Barkin and Jimmy Smits; the song also appears on Clannad’s greatest hits compilation from 1994 entitled The Best Of Clannad: In A Lifetime.  https://youtu.be/NHlPoEXYkxI


6. A House Is Not A Home – Stan Getz…..I have my father to thank for me getting into Getz.  Around my parent’s house when I was a wee one, our stereo console in the living room was littered with my mom’s 45 RPMs and show tune albums, but I eventually uncovered a few Ella Fitzgerald albums in the bottom of the bookcase that my father had stored there for safekeeping—and there were some Stan Getz records there as well.  It wasn’t until years later that I fully surrendered to the warm sound of this brilliant player.  “A House Is Not A Home” hails from Stan Getz’s album What The World Needs Now: Stan Getz Plays Bacharach and David.  The song was originally written for and recorded by Dionne Warwick for a film of the same name in 1964, but in this case please go with my suggestion for this sax man’s instrumental version—Getz no better than that.  https://youtu.be/2uQ4bYtJq3Y 



7. Put A Little Love In Your Heart – Al Green and Annie Lennox.....This cover of a Jackie DeShannon song is a little ‘80s sounding in its overall sheen, having first appeared on a late-1980s movie soundtrack—Bill Murray’s film Scrooged (destined not to be a holiday classic for the ages).  The pairing of these two velvety voices makes this tune timeless, though, and it is one of the better treatments to come along since DeShannon’s original chart-topper in 1969.  This Green & Lennox version—soul man meets soul sister—can also be found on various Al Green compilations, and there are many; I came across it on at least three Green retrospectives that were issued in 2001, 2004 and 2006.  http://youtu.be/S3J_3mcOwdQ 


8. All I Want To Know – The Magnetic Fields.....This and other songs by New York singer/songwriter Stephin Merritt (this time out, with his band the Magnetic Fields) may be an acquired taste, but the acquisition is worth it.  He writes wryly, and the end results are quirky and winning.  “All I Want To Know” hails from the 2003 film Pieces of April, a very cool little alt-comedy/drama with Katie Holmes and Patricia Clarkson.  Note that the Magnetic Fields stopped in Pittsburgh this past year, playing the Carnegie Music Hall in Oakland on two consecutive nights (6/19 & 6/20) as part of an only-three-cities tour that chronicled the fifty years of Merritt’s life with one song per year.  The band played songs 1-25 the first night and songs 26-50 the next.  https://youtu.be/o7vT14NnkCc



9. Living In America - James Brown.....The Godfather of Soul, so famous and aflame in the 50s and 60s, really hit a dry patch in the decade leading up to 1985.  Then came the film Rocky IV—Sly Stallone’s most commercially successful entry in that beaten-but-not-broken boxer series—and this catapulted Brown back in the limelight with “Living In America” (Brown appears in the film performing a bit of this song, and the tune was released as a single as well).  The song appeared both on the Rocky IV soundtrack and on Brown’s 1986 album Gravity.  It was also the final Top Ten Pop hit for this artist, and was his first in that category since 1968 (editorial aside: Local readers of musicasaurus.com can take pride in the lyric shout-out from Brown when he’s rattling off the names of cities near the tune’s climax and includes “Pittsburgh, P-A”).  https://youtu.be/rpTPaIUR45U


10. Long Time Gone – Crosby, Stills & Nash (from the landmark self-titled debut of this trio, released in 1969).....“Long Time Gone” is lyrically a lament about the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy, and Crosby wrote the tune on the night RFK died.  This song also opens up the famed film Woodstock, playing behind the scenes of the furry freak-brother types who are building scaffolding and generally prepping Max Yasgur’s farmland for the imminent Three Days of Peace & Music.  “Long Time Gone” by the way is also the name of Crosby’s 1988 autobiography, a great tale of music, brotherhood, passion—and of course guns, drugs and jail.  Glad he’s still with us.  https://youtu.be/nS3l_TwPNRY 




Posted 12/30/18.....

A smorgasboard of tunes...Some blues, a couple of covers, '80s new wave, country and more...


1. Super Freak – Big Daddy.....I remember discovering the Southern California ensemble Big Daddy in the early ‘80s through their first release on Rhino Records, Big Daddy aka What Really Happened To The Band Of ’59.  This 1983 album bore songs that totally upended the originals through a very clever concept: Framing each tune in a late-1950s/early-1960s performance approach.  The original “Super Freak” of course is a long-lasting party favorite from 1981, and one would think Rick James’ version was sacrosanct.  But Big Daddy slows it down and gives the song a yearning ballad approach, and to hear these lyrics so sweetly crooned—“She’s a very kinky girl / The kind you don’t take home to mother / She will never let your spirits down / Once you get her off the street”—is precious, maybe even priceless.  Other righteously overhauled songs from Big Daddy on this particular album include  “Betty Davis Eyes,” “I Write The Songs,” “Hit Me With Your Best Shot,” “Hotel California,” and “Whip It”—all doo-wopped or Duane Eddy’ed satirical little gems that are polished perversions of the originals.  http://youtu.be/kaufhdtVCJ8 


2. Charlotte Anne -- Julian Cope.....from the artist’s fourth solo album released in 1988, My Nation Underground...Cope is a citizen of the world—would that make him the original citizen Cope?—as he is a musician, an author, a political activist, an antiquarian, a counter-culturalist and much more.  Interestingly, the album from which “Charlotte Anne” stems is one that Cope labels a wrongheaded move or a misstep; his albums before and after, he proclaims, were more experimental and more to his liking.  “Charlotte Anne” did, though, help him get solid exposure in America for the first time as the more progressive rock stations across the U.S. added the song and ran with it, delighting seekers like myself that were glued to the alt-airwaves looking for fresh off-kilter sounds to feed upon.  http://youtu.be/QtgXVZmIoy4



3. Smiling Faces Sometimes – Joan Osborne (with Isaac Hayes).....The Undisputed Truth, a psychedelic soul band originally part of the Motown Records stable of artists, had a few minor chart hits in the ‘70s, more often than not songs previously released by their Motown mates the Temptations.  “Smiling Faces Sometimes” was a cautionary tale in the vein of the O’Jays’ “Backstabbers” – two-face-edness, if you will.  Here, Joan Osborne covers this 1971 hit on her 2002 album How Sweet It Is, an all-covers release that has well-plotted-and-played rearrangements of classics like Edwin Starr’s “War,” Hendrix’s “Bold As Love,” The Band’s “The Weight,” Aretha’s “Think” and more.  https://youtu.be/90GR2nqZbeU 


4. Crazy ‘Bout You Baby—Johnnie Taylor.....The song’s opening is very appealing—the guitarist peels off a monster riff right out of the chute, and Taylor immediately howls “All you blues fans get ready out there!”  Taylor’s a formidable singer and a passionate purveyor of both rhythm & blues and straight-ahead blues.  He began his musical journey in Gospel in the early 1960s, becoming a protégé of Sam Cooke and his band the Soul Stirrers (in fact, after Cooke booked, Taylor slipped into place there).  Taylor then concentrated largely on rhythm & blues music, and had just a few moments in the sun with two R&B-and-Pop hits in 1968 and again in 1976 (“Who’s Making Love” and “Disco Lady,” respectively).  The song included herein, “Crazy ‘Bout You Baby,” comes from a 2003 collection of previously-unreleased material, all wrapped into a posthumous record release entitled There’s No Good In Goodbye.  https://youtu.be/tcoTBrD7HZY


5. The Otherside—Breaks Co-Op.....This three-member unit was first a duo, composed of original members Hamish Clark and Zane Lowe in their native New Zealand.  After relocating to England and before the recording of their 2005 album The Sound Inside, singer Andy Lovegrove was added and they first collaborated as a group on the track listed here.  “The Otherside” is a great mid-tempo pop song that would sound a natural fit for a cover by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, or say, Amos Lee.  The tune was a huge hit in New Zealand upon release in 2005, and picked up “Single of the Year” honors from New Zealand’s music awards, the Down Under’s equivalent of the Grammies. It has life-affirming lyrics (plus an odd, mid-song bit of narration) that hints of Christian mysticism or Scientology or…you decide.  https://youtu.be/AMiwJ9HqQ0M


6. Orion—Elizaveta.....Here’s another tune with a somewhat startling opening—the multi-tracked angelic and operatic voice of (full name) Elizaveta Igorevna Khriponova.  Though born in New York, the classically trained Elizaveta was raised in Russia and graduated from the University of Southern California.  Her passions lie in classical, opera and indie-pop, which is a captivating formula quite evident in the ear-caressing track included in this mix.  “Orion” comes from Elizaveta’s first full-length album Beatrix Runs (2012), and her idols reportedly include both Adele and the rock band Queen. Listen to the soaring multi-tracked harmonies and the handclaps here; somewhere Freddie Mercury has his ear buds in, singing to the high heavens.  https://youtu.be/_IXetWgBK9o


7. Representing Memphis – Booker T. Jones.....Booker T & The M.G.’s were the house band in Memphis for all of the Stax Records’ studio recordings—a ton of pivotal pop hits, mostly soul and rhythm & blues—from the beginning of the 1960s into the early 1970s.  On this particular track from keyboardist Jones’ 2011 solo album The Road From Memphis, the late Sharon Jones (of Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings) and Matt Berninger (lead singer of The National) dish out a soulful duet, aided by Booker T’s characteristically rich and sweet sounding Hammond organ.  https://youtu.be/RV6-NAFFBRw


8. Still Breathing – If By Yes.....If By Yes is an interesting partnership project of Japanese musician Yuka Honda who co-founded Cibo Matto, and Petra Haden, an L.A. singer/violinist who’s done some interesting a cappella quirky covers of—who’da thunk—Journey and Who songs.  “Still Breathing” (from 2011’s Salt on Sea Glass) creates a sonic dreamscape throughout that ends with a blissful blend of vocal trills and thrills.  https://youtu.be/vey90o-g1zw?list=PLTiDFSb-dmMtCq8W4yzwsUW2nCmf_JdbP


9. Too Much Ain’t Enough Love -- Jimmy Barnes.....from the album Freight Train Heart released in 1987 in native Australia, and in 1988 in the USA.....Singer-songwriter Barnes left the dissolving but immensely popular Australian band Cold Chisel for a solo go in late 1983.  Freight Train Heart was his third solo effort after leaving the band, and it was #1 in Australia but also once again aimed at perking up more ears in the States.  Neal Schon and Jonathan Cain from Journey were involved in the record as well.  Barnes’ strong suit?  He’s a blackbelt belter, for sure.  http://youtu.be/xn-BeXNNDYM


10. Jolene – Mindy Smith…..I first heard Smith on a local Pittsburgh indie station doing a hellacious tune called “Come To Jesus” that forced me to the curb to crank it up and soak it in with 100% focus—the song was that powerful.  This was 2004, and as it turned out, this Nashville resident had just released a debut album entitled One Moment More from which this heavenly track hails.  I bought the CD soon thereafter, and as I made my way through the songs I came to “Jolene,” another track of significance—it turned out to be a song that, one year earlier, Smith had recorded as a one-off for an upcoming Dolly Parton tribute album. Parton was impressed—and Smith soon moved on to clinch her own record deal.  https://youtu.be/fhBECqryY1c




Posted 12/16/18.....

RIFFS & GROOVES.....Ten tunes from a mix that will restart your heart, cause your head to bob, provoke leg shakin’—whatever happens when music really moves you:

1. The Sky Is Falling - James Cotton.....from the 1970 release Taking Care Of Business.....Cotton is one of the legendary American blues masters who is in that prized circle of key influencers who inspired musicians like Steve Miller, Boz Scaggs, Paul Butterfield, Bonnie Raitt and many more.  He was born in Mississippi in 1935 and early on was schooled in Howlin’ Wolf’s band, playing blues harp; by the mid-1950s he had moved on to Muddy Waters and then formed his own band around 1966.  On Taking Care Of Business, the rock quotient is increased a bit (compared to most of his output) thanks to guests and contributors including album producer/player Todd Rundgren, Michael Bloomfield, David Sanborn (at the time, with Paul Butterfield’s band) and Johnny Winter...“The Sky Is Falling” is the lead-off track on the album, and has those key moments you hope for in a blues-rock record--the band sailin’; the harp wailin’.  https://youtu.be/yOt0KjLZHjo


2. Burning Down The House -- Talking Heads.....from Speaking In Tongues, the band’s fifth studio album released in 1983.....Musicasaurus.com especially loves the opening and the closing instrumental parts of the song—they’re quirky, murky and of course rhythmic.  This was the band’s one and only Top Ten hit on radio, and the tour that stemmed from this particular album brought about The Heads’ well-received concert film helmed by film director Jonathan Demme, Stop Making Sense.  Link is to the performance from Demme’s film:  http://youtu.be/-FlIV6Bmd5g   


3. Daytripper - The Beatles.....from the band’s 1966 release Yesterday And Today.....Readers of a certain age may remember buying the 45 PRM when it was released in American ahead of the full album; it was the “A” side of the radio hit single, with “We Can Work It Out” as the flip side.  The song was actually recorded around the time that the band was putting together 1965’s Rubber Soul, and those studied in Beatles’ lore generally regard that album as the first to reveal in full flower the boundary pushing of the songwriting team Lennon & McCartney…Okay, so, YouTube clips of the original Fab Four are scarce and are instantly uprooted if posted there by fans (apparently), so here’s a knock-off Beatles tribute band who does a decent job of capturing the propulsion of the original:  https://youtu.be/imi3o3Ba6fA   


4. Dancing In The Street -- Bowie & Jagger.....This musical collaboration became a 1985 single and video, produced by the duo expressly for the Live Aid event held that summer.....Listening to this song as part of a mix is fun, but to reach pure exhilaration one needs to ramp up to the music video that can currently be found on the Live Aid DVD set.  Bowie & Jagger recorded the song first at Abbey Road studios and then filmed the video in the London Docklands.  The video was shown twice at Live Aid, and soon after this world-stage event had concluded, the song was released as a single with all profits going to the event’s famine-relief charity.  The video has a spontaneous, tossed-off feel and is basically two of Rock’s greatest icons clown prince-ing and prancing for a great cause.   http://youtu.be/9G4jnaznUoQ  


5. Good Rockin’ Daddy -- Marcia Ball, Angela Strehli & Lou Ann Barton.....from the 1990 album entitled Dreams Come True.....This is fine Texas roadhouse rhythm & blues, with three powerhouse ladies each taking a turn or two front and center, backed by a band of Austin’s finest players on the national blues circuit (led by Dr. John, who also produced the record).  The song was originally a Top Ten R & B hit for Etta James back in 1955, but Barton stakes her claim with sensuality and sass aided by swooping horns, sizzling harmonies from Ball and Strehli, and a short but stingingly sweet guitar solo from Stevie Ray’s older brother Jimmy Vaughan.  https://youtu.be/L7OrLErpf6A    


6. 867-5309 / Jenny -- Tommy Tutone.....from the group’s 1981 aIbum Tommy Tutone 2.....I heard this song at more bad parties in the early ‘80s than I care to think about, so it’s a bit tainted---but now with refreshed ears, musicasaurus.com better appreciates this time-capsule bit of power pop.  The tune led to all sorts of phone-call pranks especially in that ’81-’82 time period, and these days, the number 867-5309 is the fourth most common 7-digit password (so saith at least one recent study on password security).  http://youtu.be/5g22Ja32QDU 


7. Ants Marching - Dave Matthews Band.....from the group’s 1994 debut album Under The Table And Dreaming.....If musicasaurus.com gets a vote (admittedly easier when wielding a website), this is the best Dave song.  More than a handful of others come close, but this is just the happiest sort of alternative rock hoedown.  Dave first surfaced at the concert venue I worked for (Star Lake Amphitheatre, Pittsburgh) in 1995 as part of a multi-act festival called H.O.R.D.E., but soon returned on his own as a headlining act and sold out all 23,000 available tickets.  Oftentimes when a sell-out-level artist would play our venue, we would buy about 10-12 dozen golf shirts with left-breast logos of the particular artist (or his or her printed name), along with the amphitheatre’s name and the date of the concert.  These were free gifts from us to the artist; in concert industry parlance, these bestowed items were called “swag.”  For this first-time headlining gig by Dave, we had golf shirts made up that had that left-breast info of name/date/venue, but circling all around this little word-and-logo cluster we stitched in place a number of tiny ants “marching”.  The band loved the reference to what was still at that time their biggest hit and concert highlight.  http://youtu.be/XFgfqEPhYOQ    


8. You Got Me Hummin’ - Cold Blood.....from their 1969 self-titled debut album......Pint-sized vocalist Lydia Pense has been compared to Janis Joplin with regard to her intensity and raw & rippin’ vocal delivery, and in fact Joplin was the one who referred this at-the-time fledgling band to San Francisco promoter & rock club entrepreneur Bill Graham, who ended up signing them to his Fillmore record label.  “You Got Me Humming” is a blistering, flat-out funked-up phenom, first popularized three years earlier by ‘60s rhythm & blues singers Sam & Dave.  http://youtu.be/Y2mzaL_U1lc  


9. Superfreak -- Rick James.....from the artist’s 1981 album Street Songs.....Buffalo-born James was an American singer-songwriter/musician who injected this bit of infectious funk into the mainstream in July of ’81.  The song became a crossover hit nationally on the Pop, R & B and Dance charts, and it lives on today, at wedding receptions and at ‘80s Nights in clubs across America.  The song’s primary riff was sampled by MC Hammer for his ‘89 concoction “U Can’t Touch This,” and one of the most interesting covers of the tune comes from the L.A.-based music parody band Big Daddy, who slowed it down and gave it an Everly Brothers feel on their ‘88 debut album What Really Happened To The Band Of ’59.  Here is Rick James’ original version:  http://youtu.be/QYHxGBH6o4M


10. The Magnificent Seven -- The Clash.....from the 1980 triple-album set Sandinista!.....The Clash, the fearless punk-rock foursome formed in London in 1976, was comprised of a lead guitarist, a bass player, a drummer, and a Strummer.  The latter was a joe who was a vocalist from the “Spit and Snarl” school of rock, and the band itself was dynamic, irrepressible, and musically quite adventurous.  On this album in particular, they blended political messaging with punk, ska, rock, jazz, reggae, rockabilly, dub, third-world beats and even rap to produce an inspirational stew that ended up ultimately inspiring a large number of questing alternative bands, both peers and progeny.  http://youtu.be/GcHL8efKKPE




Posted 12/2/18.....

Various Artists’ Mix...

1. Stars – Dan Fogelberg.....from the artist’s 1972 debut album Home Free.....I can’t explain why I’ve come to like a couple of numbers by Fogelberg.  Older, mellower?  It’s not nostalgia, because I was never into the man.  When I co-managed a record store in my relative youth, I pushed across the counter a good number of the Netherlands album plus a few other Fogelbergs, but his music never dented me when my co-managing compadre Gary and I deigned to play it on the in-store stereo system.  These days, this track and one other—“The Last Nail” from Captured Angel—are quite easy on the ears and even mesmerizing in a soft ‘70s way.  “Stars” picks up mellow steam about a minute into the track, and at that point really kind of converts you.  https://youtu.be/Xjc15i_T8mI


2. A Girl In The War – Solas.....from The Turning Tide (2010).....I’ve followed this Irish-American band the last fifteen years or so, through their personnel changes and their accomplished excursions into traditional tunes, contemporary self-penned pieces and intuitive covers.  Their craftsmanship (and craftswomanship) is truly exemplary.  The band’s been anchored through the years by founding members Seamus Egan (flute, banjo, mandolin, tin whistle, low whistle, guitars and bodhran) and Winifred Horan (violins and vocals).  On this particular album, the featured female lead vocalist is Mairéad Phelan, who turns in a stirring and sensitive cover here of Josh Ritter’s “A Girl In The War.”  https://youtu.be/QlDuNjcZWDU


3. Warm Shadow – Fink.....from the artist’s 2011 album Perfect Darkness.....Fink (real name Fin Greenall) is a British singer-songwriter who grew up in a household of music, and after leaving the roost he ventured into deejaying, producing, and performing.  “Warm Shadow” is a hypnotic, mildly menacing track from Perfect Darkness, Fink’s fifth album, and its sound is full of portent.  In addition to a warmly expressive vocal, there is some beautifully front-and-center acoustic guitar pickin’ that propels the tune along its moody pathways.  I became aware of Fink through, of all things, The Walking Dead.  Long into a binge one day in front of the teat we call the TV, I literally shifted up from my slouch when this song began somewhere deep within Episode 13 of Season 3.  The song somehow seemed destined for this show; they are both very emotionally gripping...maybe even sweetly sinister.  https://youtu.be/WHrLoYsaZ30


4. Left Of Center – Suzanne Vega.....from the 1986 soundtrack to the John Hughes’ film Pretty In Pink.....Barnard graduate Vega essentially grew up in Greenwich Village, NYC and came up through the coffeehouse/club circuit.  Her largest commercial success through the years was her audio exposé “Luka” which dealt with child abuse and domestic violence; it was her only significant chart-topper in the USA, hitting #3 in Billboard Magazine’s Hot One Hundred in 1987.  “Left Of Center” is credited as being a musical collaboration with singer-songwriter Joe Jackson (no co-vocal, just piano), and it is a nice ode to individuality:  “If you want me / you can find me / left of center / off of the strip / In the outskirts / in the fringes / in the corner / out of the grip.”  https://youtu.be/gjKmrz_nxgI


5.  Dreams Today – Efterklang.....from the album Piramida from 2012.....A few years back, a music-biz friend from Houston, Texas had pointed me toward an NPR piece on this alternative/electronica band from Copenhagen, Denmark.  They had just released a new album, and the background story was captivating—the songs were the product of an initial nine-day stay on a deserted Arctic island where the enterprising Danes sampled, collected, and coaxed out a myriad of sounds from the industrial fragments and leftovers of an abandoned Russian coal mining settlement.  The soundscape tidbits were then subtly integrated into the band’s music, and the organic, sweeping Piramida was the end result.  The song “Dreams Today” lends the listener clues to this larger canvas; the entire album is awash in elegance and imagination.  https://youtu.be/KNpr9XdbRx0 


6.) Darlingside – “Sweet and Low”…..a live performance video from 2016…..I’ve seen Darlingside three times in Pittsburgh in recent times, twice in a club but first as part of Calliope’s alt-country/bluesgrass/etc. series of shows at the prestigious Carnegie Lecture Hall which adjoins the Carnegie Museums of Art & Natural History.  Their music is hard to categorize—folk but a lot of weavings, actually—and these four Williams College alumni manage bass, violin, guitar, cello and kick drum, while harmonizing and accenting while clustered around a single, self-standing microphone.  Mesmerizing stuff…Here, they are recorded live in 2016 in someone’s work garage(?) clustered as described with a guest singer as well—Caitlin Canty, a Nashville artist whose alto was labeled “a casually devastating voice” by the San Francisco Chronicle.  “Sweet And Low” is devastatingly pretty.  https://youtu.be/xr5Adx54SxQ


7.) Pickwick – “Hacienda Motel”…..from the 2013 album Can’t Talk Medicine…..On Halloween night 2016 a small “war party” of my family members, all in Seattle because of an October 29thwedding, dressed up in costume—as various Snapchat options—and ubered downtown to a club for some music.  The band that evening was named Pickwick, who daughter Moira had earlier picked up on from an NPR station back home.  According to Wikipedia, reviews of their next-to-recent album Can’t Talk Medicine said that the band sounds similar to, or could be a brew of, The Black Keys, Alabama Shakes and Sam Cooke. And Allmusic.com describes them as “a blue-eyed soul troupe for a new millennium.”  https://youtu.be/yULM3MMe1mo


8.) James Brown and Luciano Pavarotti – “It's a Man's Man’s Man’s World”…..from 2008’s Pavarotti/The Duets DVD…..Pavarotti did a series of concerts (occasionally, and for a decade or more) of benefit types of things, and invited a slew of interesting guest performers including Sting, James Brown, Bocelli, Bono, Zucchero, The Eurythmics and others.  Pavarotti powered his way along in synch with each of the singers, focusing largely on that singer’s own material.  Here from a 2002 concert is James Brown doing an incendiary yet measured version of “It’s A Man’s Man’s Man’s World” with Pavarotti’s electrifying interludes.  https://youtu.be/gb-B3lsgEfA


9.) Lissie – “Pursuit of Happiness”…..a live performance video from 2010…..Lissie was Annie at age nine in a high school play in her native Rock Island, Illinois, and so from an early age found her calling in music.  Her career trajectory includes opening for Lenny Kravitz and Tom Petty and recording with Snow Patrol, as well as releasing her own albums beginning in 2010. But it is her dynamic interpretations of other people’s material that really shakes the rafters including this song plucked from a concert performance from 2010, a cover of Kid Cudi’s “Pursuit of Happiness.”  You’ll become a believer:  https://youtu.be/PQMJCOT2wlQ

10.) Joss Stone and Melissa Etheridge – “Cry Baby” / “Piece of My Heart”…..live performance segment from the 2005 Grammies…..This is an incendiary teaming-up of the then 18-year-old British soul sensation Joss Stone with the then 44-year-old American rocker Melissa Etheridge, who just a year prior had been diagnosed with breast cancer and consequently underwent surgery and chemo.  Grammy performances often disappoint due to the cheese factor, the show biz taint, and/or simply unwise pairings of performers—but this coupling slays with the two women at the peak of their powers belting out their tribute to Janis Joplin with Stone’s flowing mane and Etheridge’s bald head.  It’s a visual and sonic wonder.  https://youtu.be/xuJ-qXbjtm4





Posted 11/4/18.....

The LOVE Mix…so you can sonically spread some love around.

1.) LOVE and Happiness – Mark Knopfler & Emmylou Harris.....On his 13thsolo album, former Dire Straits ringleader Mark Knopfler invited Emmylou Harris on board and they produced this beautiful collaboration called All The Roadrunning (2006).  They did piecemeal work on the album starting seven years prior, and the wait was worth it. It is a beautiful record with Emmylou’s angelic vocals alongside Knopfler’s, and the guitar work is, unsurprisingly, supple and succulent.  https://youtu.be/cFTgn0RXaKs


2.) Couldn’t LOVE You More– John Martyn.....British-born Martyn’s first record was released in 1967, and he melded and molded styles including folk, jazz and rock into some really great songwriting.  He was initially part of the London folk scene along with peers Ralph McTell, Al Stewart, and Bert Jansch, and after a decade of recording, he produced 1977’s One World after a trip to Jamaica.  It’s a great album that features a lot of flowing textures, capped off by Martyn’s husky and appealing vocals.  https://youtu.be/CyV--s65vGU


3.) Baby I LOVE You– Aretha Franklin.....The album from which this track is taken, Aretha Arrives, hit the record stores in 1967 close on the heels of Aretha’s milestone release I Never Loved A Man The Way I Love You (her Atlantic Records debut which garnered her a ton of r-e-s-p-e-c-t).  Aretha’s on fire here, aided by intuitive producer Jerry Wexler and a lot of Muscle Shoals musicians all cranking underneath.  Also featured on Aretha Arrives:  Some covers including “Satisfaction” and “96 Tears.”  https://youtu.be/KvHBEQsHFAA


4.) Such Unlikely LOVERS– Elvis Costello & Burt Bacharach.....And you thought Bowie & Bing were a cool combo in that Christmas duet video from yesteryear…This pairing of Costello & Bacharach is literate, lilting, and leaves Dionne Warwick in the dust.  Actually, the songwriting and the production are akin to Bacharach’s best works from the 1960s; Costello handles all vocals with the songs co-written by the duo, and Bacharach drives the melodies and the arrangements.  Excellent stuff that brings out the best of both talents.  “Such Unlikely Lovers” is from Elvis Costello’s 21stalbum entitled Painted From Memory released in 1998.  https://youtu.be/MdfxvSGKBW0


5.) (LOVE Is Like A) Heat Wave – Martha Reeves & The Vandellas.....Reeves had a secretarial position in the A & R department of Detroit’s Motown Records in the early 1960s, and when singer Mary Wells was a no-show for a recording session, she got her chance.  Starting in 1963, Reeves and her Vandellas churned out some true Motown monsters like the track listed here (from 1963’s Heat Wave album), and shortly thereafter “Dancing In The Street” and “Nowhere To Run.” The group disbanded in 1972 and Reeves turned to solo work two years later with a Richard Perry-produced album entitled Martha Reeves; on that highly polished and heavily orchestrated album there appears a more-than-satisfying cover of Van Morrison’s “Wild Night.”  https://youtu.be/lFYvVd3ntLA


6.) Leash Called LOVE– Sugarcubes.....Up to and including the 1980s, this was the biggest band ever to break out of Iceland onto the global musical map.  The Sugarcubes were part alternative, part funk, and artsy post-punk—and they had a singer by the name of Bjork.  The band existed a short six years (1986-1992), and produced three albums that stirred up college radio play and pockets of fandom. The last record—1992’s Stick Around For Joy—featured the tune listed here, a propulsive and gritty ditty that Bjork sails over top of with her trademark high-orbit utterings.  https://youtu.be/n8lS3e4WfzM


7.) Crazy LOVE– Poco.....Country rock band Poco formed in Los Angeles in 1968, some of them remnants from the recently dissolved Buffalo Springfield (Richie Furay and Jim Messina).  The band went through a number of line-up changes through the 1970s, and by the time their Legend album was released in 1978, the band consisted of Rusty Young, Paul Cotton, Charlie Harrison, Steve Chapman and Kim Bullard.  “Crazy Love” comes from that album Legend, which turned out to be the band’s largest selling record in their then ten-year history.  Trivia (not trivial) tidbit:  The illustration of the horse on the cover of Legend was done by then-graphic artist Phil Hartman, who went on to greater fame and acclaim as a Saturday Night Live cast member beginning in 1986.  https://youtu.be/TuZvvXb7QrY


8.) LOVE Untold – Paul Westerberg.....Westerberg led the influential Minneapolis punk band The Replacements from 1979 until their disbandment in 1991.  He released his first solo album in 1993 and then the one from which this track is taken, 1996’s Eventually.  The album doesn’t proffer punk; Westerberg left that largely behind with The Replacements and instead crafted a path toward solid, still slightly-skewed songs that are a mix of Rolling Stones-style rock and non-cloying ballads. Other notable tracks on Eventually in addition to “Love Untold:”  “Good Day,” “Angels Walk,” and “Time Flies Tomorrow.” https://youtu.be/rj-EZbIWxMc


9.) LOVERS In A Dangerous Time – Bruce Cockburn.....Cockburn has never quite edged out of the circle of general anonymity to became a musical household name, but he’s a trooper of a troubadour.  He has a solid body of work that shines with its mix of folk-rock and world music, some of it exuding Christian mysticism with other parts pointedly political.  This track is more of the latter; it is from Cockburn’s 14thalbum entitled Stealing Fire (1984) which he wrote after visiting Nicaragua and Guatemala, there observing the effects of political upheaval in those two countries.  https://youtu.be/AQCdm-Xhovw


10.) LOVE On A Real Train– Tangerine Dream.....An atmospheric end to the Love Mix, this instrumental stirs visuals for anyone who has ever seen the film Risky Business, and in particular the sweet ride taken by Tom Cruise and Rebecca De Mornay on the Chicago “L.”  Experimental electronic music pioneers Tangerine Dream formed in 1967 in Berlin, and lead Dreamer Edgar Froese charted a course in the 1980s that included a lot of film soundtrack work.  In addition to Risky Business, Tangerine Dream also scored the films Thief (director: Michael Mann), Sorcerer (William Friedkin), Legend (Ridley Scott), Shy People (Andrei Konchalovsky), and Near Dark (Kathryn Bigelow).  https://youtu.be/eaMyqZdvfRY





Posted 10/21/18.....

THE MIX FROM ‘86.....

Reagan was president...“Hands Across America” happened...Smoking was banned in all modes of public transportation (planes, trains and busses)...The space shuttle Challenger disintegrated after launch...Internet Mail Access Protocol is defined which paves the way for e-mail...Top Gun, Crocodile Dundee, and Platoon were on top at the box office...Dynasty, Hill Street Blues, and Cheers reigned on the small screen...And if you are of a certain age, where were YOU in terms of the music you listened to?  Here are ten tunes from albums released that year, which will put you firmly on the path toward creating your own perfect mix from ’86:

1.) Mandolin Rain - Bruce Hornsby.....Hornsby’s a Williamsburg, VA born and raised multiple-threat musician—singer-songwriter, pianist and accordionist—and he first burst into fame with his band The Range via their debut album The Way It Is released in ’86.  In addition to fashioning his own accessible yet compelling mix of rock, bluegrass and jazz, Hornsby has guested on many peers’ records as well as dabbled with The Dead in the Jerry Garcia days, principally between 1988 and 1995.  “Mandolin Rain” comes from Bruce Hornsby & The Range’s debut release.  https://youtu.be/PUWZB5Uoi90


2.) Smoking Gun - The Robert Cray Band.....This first-person tale of a jealous lover was Cray’s breakthrough-to-radio song, and he never again pierced through to such a level, and instead has built a solid career in the blues-rock arena playing and recording with artists such as John Lee Hooker, Eric Clapton and others.  The song “Smoking Gun” hails from Cray’s 5thstudio album entitled Strong Persuader, a consistently fine effort anchored by his emotive, stinging fret work and his soulful, supple voice.  (One trivia—or trivial—note:  Cray can be spotted in the Belushi film National Lampoon’s Animal House as the bass player in the house party scene that features Otis Day & The Knights.  https://youtu.be/VVB6jDaCxGI


3.) Back In The High Life Again - Steve Winwood.....Back in the 1980s, I leapt into righteous indignation when I had heard Winwood sold the use of some of his songs to beer companies for TV commercials—but like the rest of humanity, I’m over it.  We all need to get back to indiscriminate and voluminous consumption, and not let petty issues like “artistic expression versus commercialization” consume us.  Now that my head’s on straight again, I can safely say that “Back In The Highlife Again” stands on its own as a great pop-rock ballad displaying an uplifting message, fine harmony vocals from James Taylor, and one of Winwood’s finest hours at the microphone.  The song comes from the album of almost the same name--Back In The High Life.  https://youtu.be/rMAKik3FcVQ


4.) In Your Eyes - Peter Gabriel.....Britain’s Gabriel reached his critical and commercial peak with the release of the album So in ’86, and “In Your Eyes” stems from that release.  The mid-80s must have been “his time;” MTV was four years old at that point, and Gabriel was doing tremendously innovative song videos which then had incessant play on the channel.  Musically, he was creating albums that sacrificed nothing to commercial considerations yet The Public widely embraced them on their own terms. “In Your Eyes” features South African vocalist Youssou N’Dour on the choruses, and longtime Gabriel musicians David Rhodes, Tony Levin and Manu Katche on (respectively) guitar, bass and drums.  This song fromSo was later famously featured in the 1989 Cameron Crowe film Say Anything, when John Cusack’s character Lloyd Dobson stands defiantly outside of his lost love’s bedroom window, hoisting up a boom box over his head and blaring this tune, seeking strength and another chance, determined to win her back.  https://youtu.be/78U-WMJ7F3E


5.) When I Think Of You - Janet Jackson.....The album Control from which this track is taken is the one that sent Jackson’s career into the stratosphere in ‘86.  It ended up yielding five Top Five singles on Billboard magazine’s Hot 100 chart, and the recording process for this album was like an emancipation proclamation.  She had severed ties with husband James DeBarge and father-and-manager Joseph Jackson, and immediately teamed up with new producers Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis and a new business manager (editorial aside:  When I think of Jackson, it’s not her music that first comes to mind.  I always hearken back to her September 22, 1998 date at Star Lake, and how her artist rider—the part of the contract that spells out the artist’s wants and needs—had a stipulation in it that was somewhat out of the ordinary.  In the rider, we were instructed to provide a brand new toilet seat for the bathroom in her dressing room—and it had to have the factory seal still wrapped around it. I am not sure that this isn’t something that might have run in the family).  https://youtu.be/9VuwCarP2xw


6.) Welcome To The Boomtown - David & David.....David Baerwald and David Ricketts were L.A. musicians who came together for just one album, 1986’s Boomtown, which featured this electrifying rock song.  A real breath of fresh air to FM station listeners across the country, it sounded like little else on the radio back then.  Sonically the song’s a churner with rich, atmospheric layers of guitars and keyboards, and lyrically, it spins a tale of the monied malcontents of Los Angeles. These folks were once well-heeled, and are now soul-deprived and artificially-fueled.  The chorus is telling:  “I say welcome, welcome to the boomtown / pick a habit, we got plenty to go around / welcome, welcome to the boomtown / all that money makes such a succulent sound / welcome to the boomtown.”  https://youtu.be/N3xQfr7Xwk0


7.) There Is A Light That Never Goes Out - The Smiths.....English alternative rock band The Smiths were an exciting and refreshing additive to the overall 1980s music scene, with muscular, jangly alt-pop instrumentation beneath the melancholic wordplay of lead singer Morrissey.  The lyrics by wordsmith Morrissey always seemed to skew toward gloom and doom, but were often at the same time amusing because of their audacity; evidence these lyrics from the track listed here:  “And if a double-decker bus / crashes into us / To die by your side / Is such a heavenly way to die / And if a ten-ton truck / Kills the both of us / To die by your side / Well, the pleasure, the privilege is mine.”  The beauty of The Smiths was that these lyrics sailed above a shimmering sound bed of excellent guitar work and savvy pop constructs, provided by group co-founder Johnny Marr.  “There Is A Light That Never Goes Out” comes from the band’s third album The Queen Is Dead.  https://youtu.be/4WPZMhFa84U


8.) Something So Strong -- Crowded House.....New Zealander Neil Finn (now with Fleetwood Mac) and Aussies Paul Hester and Nick Seymour formed a band in Melbourne in 1985, and after picking up a record deal from Capitol they moved temporarily to L.A. to cut their debut album.  At that time they were known as The Mullanes, but Capitol insisted on a name change—so Crowded House was born, named for the cramped apartment quarters they were asked to lodge in while recording their first record.  “Something So Strong” comes from that self-titled debut album from ’86 and it became a Top Ten hit in America a year later along with one other from the record, “Don’t Dream It’s Over.”  Crowded House’s music is top-o’-the-line pop; strong on melody and boasting smart arrangements that place it miles above most of the glop that now passes for pop on American hit-radio stations.  https://youtu.be/Nq4K6G6QzoI


9.) Diamonds On The Soles Of Her Shoes - Paul Simon.....Simon’s seventh studio album Graceland, from which I’ve plucked “Diamonds,” was largely recorded in South Africa during the cultural boycott that was in place due to apartheid.  Though Simon’s efforts to recruit local musicians and ultimately record there stoked some controversy, the end result brought a heightened awareness of “world music” and nudged a few South African artists like Ladysmith Black Mambazo toward worldwide recognition.  In America, Graceland picked up Record and Album of the Year at the ’86 Grammies and is to this day a highly-regarded milestone of pop music.  Famed former Village Voice critic Robert Christgau—not one usually to gush—called Simon’s album "so strange, so sweet, so willful, so radically incongruous and plainly beautiful.” https://youtu.be/FAb2Mu0CRk4



10.) Living In America - James Brown.....The Godfather of Soul, so famous and aflame in the 50s and 60s, really hit a dry patch in the decade leading up to 1985.  Then came the film Rocky IV—Sly Stallone’s most commercially successful entry in that beaten-but-not-broken boxer series—and this catapulted Brown back in the limelight with “Living In America” (Brown appears in the film performing a bit of this song, and the tune was released as a single as well).  The song appeared both on the Rocky IV soundtrack and on Brown’s 1986 album Gravity.  It was also the final Top Ten Pop hit for this artist, and was his first in that category since 1968 (editorial aside: Local readers of musicasaurus.com can take pride in the lyric shout-out from Brown, when he’s rattling off the names of cities near the tune’s climax and includes “Pittsburgh, P-A”).  https://youtu.be/rpTPaIUR45U





Posted 10/7/18.....


I’m sure there is someone in your life whom you would love to give THE SUN, THE MOON & THE STARS—This is your chance.  Don’t squander it.

1.) Here Comes The Sun – The Beatles.....For music lovers of a certain age, this George Harrison-penned tune will always be remembered as the opening song of side two of the album Abbey Road.  This 1969 album was the last one to be recorded by the band (Let It Be was actually already in the can), and by this point in time, John, Paul, George & Ringo were pretty much recording their parts separately, as fractious business issues and in-fighting were tearing the band apart.  What else or who else might have contributed?  Yoko?  Oh, nohttps://youtu.be/xUNqsfFUwhY


2.) Shoot The Moon – Norah Jones.....Born in NYC in1979, vocalist/pianist Jones is the daughter of India’s sitar superstar Ravi Shankar.  She was raised in Texas by her mother, though, and early on excelled in school as a jazz vocalist.  A pivotal visit to Greenwich Village in the summer of 1999 led to bewitchment from those in the club-and-coffeehouse circuit, and Jones signed with Blue Note Records in early 2001.  This track is from Jones’ 2002 debut album Come Away With Me, a jazz-drizzled pop record produced by Arif Mardin that eventually sold 18 million copies and won the young woman eight Grammy awards. https://youtu.be/jlJX_9FMbp8


3.) Star Bright, Star Light – Curtis Salgado & The Stilettos.....Salgado is singer-songwriter and harmonica player from Portland, Oregon who was weaned on 1950s/1960s African American blues and soul singers such as O.V. Wright and Otis Redding.  He paid blues dues in both Robert Cray’s band and in Roomful Of Blues before sharpening his Stilettos for a very fine self-titled debut album in 1991 (from which this track is taken).  Salgado mixes obscure blues and R & B covers with his own originals, and is a fiery onstage performer; I caught him “live” just one time here on home turf when the group opened up for the Steve Miller Band at Star Lake Amphitheater in July 1992.  https://youtu.be/pEPRHPEOPPw


4.) Into The Sunset – Abra Moore.....“Into The Sunset” is a shimmering reflection of smart pop sensibility and a bold, full, layered sound.  I have glommed on to certain songs by this artist over her spotty recording career, always fascinated with the songwriting and the obvious care, and creativity, that she injects into the production end of things. Moore was born into a musical household in Hawaii in 1969 and her first real foray was joining Hawaiian rock band Poi Dog Pondering at that band’s formation, but she eventually ended up in Austin, Texas to earnestly pursue a solo career.  Moore had one quick brush in 1997 with airplay success, a song called “Four Leaf Clover” that was adopted by public radio and/or adult-alternative stations in a number of cities across the U.S.  The song listed here as part of the “Sun, Moon & Stars” mix hails from the singer-songwriter’s 2007 album On The Way.  It is the opening track of the record, and pulls you right into her world of lush intelligence.  https://youtu.be/e5qxYwfgwL0


5.) Spanish Moon – Little Feat.....The man with the most solid footing in Feat was band co-founder Lowell George, who along with keyboardist Billy Payne started the Los Angeles band in 1969.  George was long the master & commander, contributing the best songwriting in the band’s most revered period of 1972-1977—songs like “Willin’” and “Dixie Chicken”—and in August of 1977 the band recorded their first live album, Waiting For Columbus.  Recorded that month, with songs culled from performances at London’s Rainbow Theatre and Washington, D.C.’s George Washington University (Lisner Auditorium), Waiting For Columbus captured the band in full-throttle funk, backed up by the sizzlin’ horns of Oakland, California’s legendary band Tower Of Power.  Feat fans were sated; finally they had on record—actually on TWO records, as this was a double-album release—the preserved magic of a band that expertly weaved together rock, rhythm & blues, boogie, gospel, funk and even jazz into a captivating stew.  “Spanish Moon” was originally recorded in the studio for the band’s 1974 album Feats Don’t Fail Me Now, but here in the live setting, it’s explosive…propulsive…spine-tingling. https://youtu.be/RhmNK-ANKIw   


6.) Star Of The County Down – Van Morrison.....Truly possessing one of the most unique voices in contemporary music, Morrison scats, scampers, murmurs, growls and grooves his way through songs that are a uniquely-stamped fusion of rock, rhythm & blues, jazz, blues and Celtic music.  I had the good fortune (and spent a fortune) to see Van The Man in concert last month at Key Bank Pavilion near Pittsburgh.  Morrison was part of Willie Nelson’s 2018 Outlaw Music Festival Tour this year, and relief was palpable in the crowd as the artist—known to be a bit mercurial in concert settings—was on his game and in great voice for a thrilling 90-minute set.  The track listed here, “Star of the County Down,” is culled from a 1988 album entitled Irish Heartbeat and all but two of the tracks are Irish traditional tunes (like this one).  Sandwiched between his Poetic Champions Compose record released in 1987, and Avalon Sunset from 1989, this was Morrison’s twentieth overall and his first—and so far only—record with those quintessential Irish ambassadors the Chieftains.  https://youtu.be/6sMZ2bUv9Q4


7.) Lipstick Sunset – John Hiatt.....Hiatt’s been on the music scene since the 1970s and is a prolific Americana-style songwriter whose material has been covered by a slew of interesting artists including Aaron Neville, Bob Dylan, Bonnie Raitt, Eric Clapton, Iggy Pop, Jewel, Jimmy Buffett, Keith Urban—it’s a long, long list.  In terms of his solo recordings, Hiatt suffered through some record label ups & downs especially in the 1970s and early 1980s, but finally in 1987 he hit pay dirt with a critically revered and commercially successful album called Bring The Family.  There was a nice confluence of songwriting talent and musicianship on this one—the other band members were Ry Cooder on guitar, Nick Lowe on bass, and session player extraordinaire Jim Keltner on drums.  The songs were keenly produced and expertly played, and one of Hiatt’s songs from that album, “Have A Little Faith In Me,” has been covered aplenty (it gets on a lot of wedding lists, as well).  Also from that Bring The Family record:  “Lipstick Sunset,” a beautiful ballad with killer Cooder slide.  https://youtu.be/2rJEJXiairM


8.) Rope Ladder To The Moon – Brian Auger & Julie Tippetts.....This song was originally written and recorded by Scottish musician Jack Bruce, best known as 1/3 of 1960s supergroup Cream. Bruce played bass and sang in Cream and when the group disbanded in 1968 he went the solo route, which really peeled back the lid on the musician’s quirky, off-kilter songwriting propensities. “Rope Ladder To The Moon” first appeared on Bruce’s 1969 solo album Songs For A Tailor and then resurfaced nine years later on a record called Encore by fellow Brits Brian Auger and Julie Tippetts (formerly Julie Driscoll).  The remake was in excellent hands—Auger’s on the keyboards—but the standout element of this reworking was the voice of Auger’s musical accomplice Julie Tippetts.  Her singing is awe-inspiring—couldn’t find a better way to sum it up—and here she sails and wails her way into the record books (okay, some music cultists’ record books).  https://youtu.be/iAycBh4-8hM


9.) Star Mile – Joshua Radin.....I had not heard of Radin prior to a few years ago, but then must have stumbled across his music somehow on NPR radio, or through sideways Spotify searches; I don’t recall…He was born in Shaker Heights, Ohio, went to Northwestern and then ended up in NYC.  Radin crossed paths with Zach Braff (auteur of the Garden State movie) who funneled the singer’s music to the creator of the television show Scrubs, and the latter found some open slots in some upcoming episodes’ scenes and plugged a few in.  On this song from 2006’s We Were Here, Radin shares vocals with band-member pianist Priscilla Hartranft and the effect of their combined hushed approach is pretty mesmerizing.  https://youtu.be/whTISQ8ftag


10.) The Sun Hasn’t Set On This Boy Yet – Nils Lofgren.....Prodigy Lofgren learned accordion at age 5, studied jazz and classical music early on, and by 15 had heeded the call of Rock and strapped on a guitar.  At 19 he accepted an invitation to play piano on Neil Young’s After The Gold Rush, but then opted to form his own band rather than journey on with Young.  His spin into new group Grin lasted from 1971-1974 and the following year Lofgren produced the first of his solo efforts, the self-titled album that bears this track.  Though he has churned out a decent number of solo releases since that time—all of them showcasing his fantastically fluid guitar work and pleasing, higher-register vocals—Lofgren is most noted as a member of Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band which he first hooked up with in 1984.  https://youtu.be/xW9mqffccic


11.) Honey And The Moon – Joseph Arthur.....Arthur is a singular talent, originally from Akron, Ohio, and he somewhere got on Peter Gabriel’s radar in the mid-1990s and was signed to Gabriel’s own Real World record label—the first North American artist to be welcomed in.  I once saw Arthur open up for R.E.M. in Pittsburgh at Duquesne University’s A.J. Palumbo Center, and his one-man show was replete with guitar loops and other amplified effects such that the performance seemed the work of an entire ensemble.  On record, his music is rich with sonic touches but they don’t clash with his songs’ other textures; instead they really enhance the finished pieces. “Honey And The Moon” is from Arthur’s third studio album, 2002’s Redemption’s Son.  https://youtu.be/WdWnzfLH7_M


12.) When The Stars Go Blue – Ryan Adams.....Adams is a prolific singer-songwriter and guitarist who doesn’t hearken to boundaries in studio recordings OR in live settings. He writes intriguing songs that sprout from his passion for country legends like Johnny Cash and Merle Haggard, but he also integrates his garage rock bent and punk leanings into the mix to create some quite arresting listening experiences.  Born in 1974 in Jacksonville, North Carolina and a songwriter since the age of 15, Adams formed the alt-country band Whiskeytown in 1994, but by the year 2000 the band was asunder and Adams was off and running on a solo career.  The song “When The Stars Go Blue” (later covered by Irish band The Coors with special guest Bono) is from Adams’ major-label debut Gold, released in 2001.  The harmony vocals here are by singer-songwriter Julianna Raye.  https://youtu.be/Y8E3lXPgodA





Posted 9/23/18.....


1) Put the phone away.

2) Put aside an hour to listen to this mix, devoid of most other stimuli.

3) Light housework or mail sorting is permissible, though gazing out a window while splayed on a beanbag chair is best.

4) Crank it up and really tune into the artistry. With no words at play, this batch of ten instrumentals will take you places—enjoy.

1. Someday We Will – Pete Carr.....Carr can be heard as a session guitarist on such signature songs as Bob Seger’s “Mainstreet,” Paul Simon’s “Kodachrome” and whole lot more, but I recently rediscovered this guitarist’s two fine solo albums from the mid-late 1970s.  “Someday We Will” comes from Carr’s second release entitled Multiple Flash (1978)and the song hooks you immediately with the artist’s Roy Buchanan-esque nimble and fluid lead lines. Cool piece of trivia here: Carr was in the band Hour Glass with Duane and Gregg Allman in 1968, right before that group went asunder; the siblings then reconvened a year later to form the Allman Brothers Band and asked nineteen-year-old Carr to join them.  He passed on the opportunity due to his emerging love of session work—and so the second lead guitar slot went to Dickey Betts.  https://youtu.be/aYwtbmIQb_g


2. Molo – Ketil Bjornstad.....Oslo-born Norwegian jazz musician Bjornstad is a man of notes and letters—a classically-trained pianist and an accomplished poet and novelist.  It may be hard to classify Bjornstad’s musical approach, as he was schooled in classical, had his head turned upside down by Miles Davis’ “In A Silent Way,” and has also delved into folk music just as passionately.  Since the 1970s he has been at the forefront of European jazz, and has produced albums that cross-pollinate styles and bring his boundary-pushing accompanists to full flower.  The song “Molo” comes from Bjornstad’s 1990 album Odyssey, and it features an arresting mix of piano, electric guitar, accordion, bass & drums.  https://youtu.be/fh5Mbzf2Qq4


3. Peaches En Regalia – Frank Zappa.....The mother of all zippy, trippy, psychedelic-circus tunes, “Peaches En Regalia” is a fun and frenetic piece of jazz fusion infused with a rock ‘n’ roll playfulness—you can ruminate on that a while, or just consider it indescribably delicious.  The track hails from Zappa’s 1969 solo album Hot Rats which also sports one of the coolest album covers coming out of the ‘60’s.  Google it up; it’s an infrared photo of Miss Christine of the L.A. groupie band GTOs, rising up only to eye level out of an empty lily pond at an abandoned house somewhere in Beverly Hills.  https://youtu.be/Ur9SYEtlsS0


4. Walk, Don’t Run – Kazumi Watanabe.....“Walk, Don’t Run” is an instrumental first written and performed in the mid-‘50s, and popularized as a “surf song” by The Ventures in 1960.  The version listed here is from Mobo 1, guitarist Watanabe’s 1983 release.  The album is a solid jazz-rock outing, and chief among the successes is this tune, a well-cushioned and compelling bit of slow, sly funk.  Watanabe is a gifted electric guitarist that holds back in service to the song; he’s not especially flashy here, but his accents are cool as hell.  The sinewy rhythm section is composed of drummer Robbie Shakespeare and bassist Sly Dunbar, two Jamaican producers and hired guns who have appeared on many top-notch reggae recordings and others outside that field.  https://youtu.be/wFh7ZSeORJk


5. Spindrift – Tom Scott .....The album Tom Scott & The L.A. Express came out in 1974 and the line-up included Tom Scott (saxophones), Max Bennett (bass), John Guerin (drums), Larry Carlton (guitar), and Joe Sample (keyboards).  This seasoned-through-sessions unit also factored heavily into the sound and sweet success of Joni Mitchell’s Court And Spark album from around that same time period.  “Spindrift” (from the aforementioned Scott album from ’74) is lilting and lovely, with some nods to rock in its instrumental swagger; two of the members—Carlton and Sample—were also part of the 1970s line-up of jazz band The Crusaders.  https://youtu.be/JJyv_8X4Jcs


6. Love Thing – Joe Satriani.....A moderately paced yet still sizzlin’ rock ballad from Satriani’s 1998 album Crystal Planet.  This artist has a wah-wah-wonderful way with a guitar, and “Love Thing” is quite a pretty piece and is a very nice entrée into the Satriani songbook.  This ax slinger’s been at it since 1986, and peppered throughout his catalogue are nirvanic nuggets like this one—mid-tempo melodies that showcase his mastery, imagination and precision.  https://youtu.be/6d5hvC3YGCg


7. First Winter At Plymouth Colony– Sumner McKane.....Atmospheric beyond belief, this is mind-on-vacation music; lovely, evocative and—best of all—unpredictable.  McKane is Maine-based and describes himself as a “composer, multi-instrumentalist and filmmaker.”  Indeed, this cinematic track from 2008’s What A Great Place To Be helped bring that CD to # 2 in the annual “Top Twenty Essential CDs” list as ranked by NPR’s ambient music program Echoes.  John Diliberto, that program’s longtime host, said that “McKane's landscapes are tinged in ambient atmospheres and pulled by an undertow of psychedelia that makes them some of the most unassumingly mind-bending music of the decade.”  https://youtu.be/xndJHH7WAv4


8. Homeward Strut – Tommy Bolin.....Guitarist Bolin, just like Jimi Hendrix, died very prematurely and didn’t fulfill his promise; he died of a drug overdose in 1976 at the age of 25.  And when a talented rocker like this shuffles off to Rock and Roll Heaven, there is usually some serious mining going on back here on Earth.  Enter guitarist and producer Greg Hampton, who has overseen Bolin’s from-the-crypt releases and newly-culled recordings including the 2011 album Teaser Deluxe, which features various outtakes from the very same studio sessions that culminated in Bolin’s original Teaser LP back in 1975.  “Homeward Strut” is different here; it’s a tight rocker like the original, but the playing and the arrangement are somehow more loose and liberating.  One thing’s a constant—that galvanizing guitar.  In his short lifetime, Bolin played in settings and scenarios that called for blues, near-heavy metal, reggae, jazz fusion, and more—and all were handled with aplomb, and a killer sense of how much to showboat and how much to hold back in order to make every note count.  https://youtu.be/jPg2i9kh5zc


9. Campanas de Invierno (Bells Of Winter) – Seawind.....Hawaiian jazz fusion band Seawind developed a small but intensely loyal following in the mid-to-late 1970s, especially with its first two albums on the CTI label. Fronted by Hawaiian native and lead singer Pauline Wilson, the band’s usual repertoire was jazz fusion with traces of funk & soul and some Christian message underpinnings in the lyrics. This 7-piece unit also had a trio of accomplished horn players, including Jerry Hey on trumpet & flugelhorn and Kim Hutchcraft on saxophone, both of whom step forward for intuitive, sensual solos on the instrumental track listed here.  “Campanas de Invierno” stems from Seawind’s second album Window Of A Child, released in 1977. https://youtu.be/bPKuo-3a86U


10. Slow Blues– Mick Taylor.....Muddy Waters once wrote a song called “The Blues Had A Baby And They Named It Rock N’ Roll.”  Guitarist Mick Taylor might fit that bill; he grew up idolizing the “Kings” of the Blues, Albert and Freddie, and was still just a pup in 1967 (age 18) when John Mayall wooed him into his band The Bluesbreakers.  Two years after that, The Rolling Stones took him on board to replace the departing (soon to be dearly-departed) Brian Jones.  Taylor contributed mightily to some classic Stones albums, among them Let It Bleed, Get Your Ya Ya’s Out, Sticky Fingers, and Exile On Main Street.  He then departed the band in 1975 to pursue new musical interests and guested on other artists’ albums, and in 1979 produced his first solo album entitled Mick Taylor.  “Slow Blues” from that record is a nice mid-tempo blues cruise, with fine fretwork and fireworks; Taylor may still be one of the best in terms of blending blues and rock.  https://youtu.be/xSTXx1gulJ4




Posted 9/9/18.....

A mix of alt-country, jazz, old R & B, Third World and more...

1. Dinner For Two -- David Byrne & St. Vincent.....from the 2012 collaborative album Love This Giant.....This head Head and Tulsa-born singer-songwriter & multi-instrumentalist combined forces in 2012 for an album and a tour, and this representative track, “Dinner For Two," is literally brassy (pumped through with horns) as well as classy.  The song sounds a bit more Byrne than Vincent, though on her own releases, she spins different influences into arresting compositions that are part pop, chamber music, cabaret, indie rock, electronica and more.  http://youtu.be/elpS-uX7Mdk


2. Lickin Stick -- George Torrence and The Naturals.....from an R&B / Soul collection released in 2010 entitled Dr. Boogie Presents Wasa Wasa (Fabulous Rhythm ‘n’ Blues Shakers On The Dancefloor 1952-1968).....“Lickin Stick” is a gritty soulful slice of funk originally released as a single (45 rpm) in 1967, and musicasaurus.com tracked down the roots-rich compilation that now houses it on iTunes recently.  Torrence was a Washington, D.C. singer who started out in doo-wop around 1958.  Through the next decade he morphed from the group harmony thing to more James Brown-inspired work, and “Lickin Stick” is his swan song recording before leaving the music business full-time.  He eventually founded his own church in Duncan, Oklahoma in 1992, and is pastor as well as sidelines singer, occasionally releasing some of his own gospel music CDs.   http://youtu.be/gk1STeEwTQs


3. Be Still My Heart -- Peter Bradley Adams.....from the artist’s 2011 release Between Us.....I first discovered this song on a compilation CD, the Nashville Indie Spotlight 2014.  Adams has several things going for him:  An understated, breathy vocal style; good songwriting instincts; and far-from-overblown, spot-on production that serves each song.  Consider him an alternative Americana artist worth checking into...   http://youtu.be/kbjnF8gHGDU


4. Space -- Chick Corea’s Elektric Band II.....from Paint The World (2010).....When I need a break from earthbound concerns because I’m mired in mental lists of what I have to do and where I have to be, I unplug and give myself “Space.”  Keyboardist Corea played with Miles Davis in the 1960s and then forged his own pathways into more expansive jazz-rock-fusion, creating the legendary Return To Forever ensemble in 1972 that also had as its members bassist Stanley Clarke, Brazilian vocalist Flora Purim and ubiquitous jazz-scene percussionist Airto Moreira.  In 1986 Corea formed his first Elektric Band that carried through to 1991, and then he and saxophonist Eric Marienthal spun off to form Elektric Band II.  Some jazz fusion is tough to swallow--too challenging to do much more than stir “appreciation” in the listener--but the tune included here is such a melodic and flowing piece that most will find it both accessible and hypnotic.   http://youtu.be/Yw4ooKt6N0w


5. Look Out For My Love -- Linda Ronstadt.....from the artist’s 1980 release Mad Love.....After her string of 1970s critical and commercial triumphs including Prisoner In Disguise, Hasten Down The Wind, Simple Dreams, etc., Ronstadt went all punk on us but stayed rock-and-pop rooted, of course--enough to make this particular release her seventh consecutive million-selling album.  On Mad Love, Ronstadt worked with Mark Goldenberg of The Cretones, an L.A. band that had been recently riding the New Wave, so this latest from Linda contained that punkish edge on some tracks.  Here on “Look Out For My Love”, Ronstadt lends a needed bit of grit to this Neil Young composition, originally recorded for the latter’s Comes A Time album.   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fYWIJDVEiiE


6. Miles End -- Gomez.....from the group’s third album In Our Gun (2002).....Indie band Gomez is hard to pigeonhole; they are British and three of the five members (all still intact since their 1996 formation) sing vocals, and four of the five contribute to songwriting.  Their music varies greatly so a Gomez tune isn’t necessarily easy to spot by its lonesome--but as different as they are, the songs are largely compelling, warm and unpredictable.  In 2006 the band signed with Dave Matthew’s record label ATO, and they also toured as his opener on some DMB tours...Fetching stuff for ears that crave not the same old thing.   http://youtu.be/_cJNSPGGArs


7. Emajer -- Tinariwen.....from the 2014 album Emmaar.....Tinariwen is a band--really, a politically-born musical collective--from the Saraha regions of Mali.  They are part of the Tuareg, a nomadic people who stem from the Berbers of North Africa, and the band has experienced much upheaval in their homeland as well as growing recognition beyond their borders (beginning in the 2000s) for their intoxicating musical style.  The music hews to their traditional Tuareg melodies but is influenced by the guitar styles of West African music, other Malian musicians like Ali Farka Toure (who had recorded with Ry Cooder), and even some Western artists (such as Santana and Hendrix) whose bootleg recordings made their way into the collective’s collections many years ago.  “Emajer” is a treat--an uplifting, rhythmically alive tune.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fIknRjiTFIA&list=PLJ7QPuvv91Jsf2mEnwtCaVyxkuLMkRJF6&feature=share&index=9


8.  Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown) -- The Beatles.....from 1965’s Rubber Soul.....The classic Lennon-McCartney tune, sung by John with sitar by George...The song was reportedly written mostly by Lennon with the subject matter a marital affair, and McCartney apparently added the fuel to the fire at song’s end (“And when I awoke I was alone / This bird had flown / So I lit a fire / Isn’t it good Norwegian wood?”).  Also, this was the first appearance of a sitar on a Western pop song, and Harrison continued his interest in Indian music and instruments as the band went on to record their next few albums Revolver (check out “Tomorrow Never Knows”) and Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (“Within You Without You”).  https://youtu.be/Y_V6y1ZCg_8


9.  Only Lies -- Robert Ellis.....from the 2014 album The Lights From The Chemical Plant.....Present day formula country music leaves musicasaurus.com cold cold cold, but Ellis is of the new breed, I think.  In “Only Lies," a steel guitar sweeps the listener along a la some of Whiskeytown’s sweet, sinewy works (like “Jacksonville Skyline”), so Ellis joins the ranks here as one of my current alt-country favorites. The album is also indelibly aided by Chemical Plant’s producer Jacquire King, who has lent his ideas of space, touch and tone to other artists such as Tom Waits and Kings of Leon.  But it’s also Ellis’ lyrics that are far above the norm; they deal incisively with Life’s small moments and big stakes.   http://youtu.be/Pq_-NBq_hZ8


10.  Me And Baby Jane -- Leon Russell.....from the 1972 album Carney.....I’ve run into people that can’t abide Russell due to his voice, but who still love some of his material nonetheless, like the classic tune “A Song For You” that’s been covered by artists ranging from Andy Williams and The Carpenters to Amy Winehouse and Simply Red, and “My Masquerade”, covered by many but most notably by George Benson on his pop crossover sales behemoth Breezin’ from 1976.  “Me And Baby Jane” is from Carney, Russell’s third solo studio album, which in addition to “My Masquerade” featured the signature tune “Tight Rope."  After this album, Russell’s chart success faded a bit but his legendary band ringleader skills--for Joe Cocker’s Mad Dogs & Englishman tour and album, and George Harrison’s Concert For Bangladesh event and album--preserve his status as one of the most accomplished members of 1970s rock royalty.   http://youtu.be/4hQIhWasQRM




Posted 8/26/18.....

Summer’s still here and the time is right for rock fest tunes in Building A Mixtery…Here are ten songs by artists that were part of signature festivals in the late ‘60s/early ‘70s: Atlantic City Pop Festival, Woodstock, Altamont, Isle of Wight and Watkins Glen…

1. Lothar And The Hand People – Appeared at the August 1-3, 1969 Atlantic City Pop Festival – “Space Hymn” from the 1969 album of the same name…..They were the opening act of the festival, a psychedelic rock band and one of the first to popularize the use of the theremin and the Moog synthesizer.  In fact, the band’s moniker starts off with the nickname of their theremin, and the Hand People represent the five male band members.  They formed in Denver in 1965 and relocated to New York in 1966.  They only produced two albums in their short career; I had the second and final one, and I remember being entranced by the album cover because, of course, I was sixteen and they had long hair and spacey music—a perfect prescription for a young lad in the late ‘60s trying to find his own place on the planet.  This might be tough sledding for you to listen to, but flashback to sixteen and enjoy one of the earliest of moog and space explorations. https://youtu.be/7gqnu__c8vk


2. Tracy Nelson And Mother Earth – Appeared at the August 1-3, 1969 Atlantic City Pop Festival – “Down So Low” from their 1968 debut album Living With The Animals…..Mother Earth came together in San Francisco in 1967, and featured a Wisconsin transplant fireball of a front woman, Tracy Nelson.  The music was bluesy and rootsy and might well fit in with today’s public radio stations, those that still traffic in Americana, folksingers and occasional blues belters.  The band performed a lot in the late ‘60s at Bill Graham’s Fillmore West alongside now household names like Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix.  After Mother Earth’s debut album in 1968, the band moved to Nashville and toured and recorded out of there. That lasted until 1977 though by that time Nelson had already started a solo career, hewing to the ballsy, full-throated attack of the much better known Janis Joplin.  Notable footnote:  Boz Scaggs was a member of Mother Earth when the band recorded their 1969 album Make A Joyful Noise.  https://youtu.be/Ns2qEVkhJfo


3.The Keef Hartley Band – Appeared at the August 15-17, 1969 Woodstock Music & Art Fair – “The Time Is Near” from the group’s third album of the same name (1970)…..Hartley was a Englishman who emerged early in the ‘60s rock scene, starting out as a drummer in Rory Storm and the Hurricanes (replacing Ringo Starr, who was exiting for The Beatles).  Hartley also played with fellow Brit John Mayall for a spell, and then cobbled together a band of his own which produced a not-quite-timeless mix of blues, rock and jazz—but it was adventurous and fresh to the ears back then.  The Keef Hartley Band had its moment in the sun at Woodstock, landing a slot between John Sebastian and The Incredible String Band on Saturday afternoon’s line-up.  https://youtu.be/WMaa7TCBiKQ


4. Bert Sommer – Appeared at the August 15-17, 1969 Woodstock Music & Art Fair – “Jennifer” from the artist’s 1968 release The Road To Travel…..Folk singer Sommer was strumming around the edges of success in the late ‘60s, for a brief time a member of New York baroque pop band The Left Banke.  The latter had a hit with “Walk Away Renée” in 1967 but Bert was not on this particular pop gem.  His circling around the scene eventually netted him a Friday evening man-and-his-guitar slot on the Woodstock line-up—yes, Sommer luckier than others—and he reportedly garnered a decent audience reaction from the still-fresh-in-the-experience crowd of several hundred thousand.  After Woodstock, Sommers was cast in the original Broadway production of famed flowerchild musical Hair, and reportedly it was his head o’ hair on the actual playbill.  https://youtu.be/9IqAGrdOTNc


5. Tim Hardin – Appeared at the August 15-17, 1969 Woodstock Music & Art Fair – “If I Were A Carpenter” from Tim Hardin 2, released in 1967…..Hardin was a late ‘60s/early ‘70s American folk singer-songwriter who had a troubled personal life—a stint in Vietnam led to a monkey on his back—but he also produced at least two very memorable tunes: “If I Were A Carpenter” (covered by scores of other artists including Dylan & The Band, Bobby Darin, The Four Tops, and Robert Plant), and “Reason To Believe” (indelibly crooned by Rod Stewart, and part of Rod’s 1971 album Every Picture Tells A Story).  Like Bert Sommer, Hardin netted a Friday evening slot at Woodstock—but back to that monkey.  Heroin claimed him in 1980, about seven years after his last record was released.  https://youtu.be/6PkzX4xDJtE  


6. Jefferson Airplane – Appeared at the December 6, 1969 Altamont Speedway Free Festival – “Lather” from the group’s fourth album, 1968’s Crown Of Creation…..This San Francisco psychedelic rock band formed in 1965 and dotted the festival landscape throughout the late ‘60s, appearing at Monterey Pop, Isle of Wight, Woodstock AND Altamont.  Grace Slick replaced original female lead singer Signe Toly Anderson in 1966 and the band soared to great success on the new FM radio playlists and on AM radio “hit countdowns” as well.  Their albums were spotty in terms of great material, but the musicianship was stellar with Jorma Kaukonen on guitar and Jack Casady on rumbling bass, and the two individuals who shared vocal leads and harmonies, Grace Slick and Marty Balin.  The Airplane was downright sloppy at times during live performances, but when they DID lock into oneness it was mesmerizing.  This is the studio version of the song.  https://youtu.be/0q8fRDQ0S3I 


7. The Rolling Stones – Appeared at the December 6, 1969 Altamont Speedway Free Festival – “Under My Thumb” from the group’s sixth American album, 1966’s Aftermath…..This song is killer—or at least it was for Meredith Hunter, a troubled fan in front of the stage who had the misfortune of brandishing a gun around a pack of Hells Angels security.  Hunter was more than touched by an Angel—in fact, he was knifed and pool cued—and so he went to the join the real ones in heaven right then and there.  https://youtu.be/gtJp350jtmY


8. Shawn Phillips – Appeared at the August 26-30, 1970 Isle Of Wight Festival – “The Ballad Of Casey Deis” from the artist’s album Second Contribution (1971)…..Far from a  household name, Texas-born Phillips got his start aiding Donovan in the latter’s fifteen minutes of fame with ‘60s chart successes including “Mellow Yellow” and “Sunshine Superman.”  Phillips then spun into a long but commercially hollow stretch of solo albums, largely unheralded except for those already securely in his cult.  Now and again, there are nuggets to appreciate; a few are invaded by funkified horns like “Do You Wonder” from the 1975 album of the same name, but his stock-in-trade reflective numbers make deeper impressions like “The Ballad Of Casey Deis.”  https://youtu.be/MDWb5u1hehI


9. Lighthouse – Appeared at the August 26-30, 1970 Isle Of Wight Festival – “One Fine Morning” from the band’s album of the same name, released in 1971…..Lighthouse, at least in commercial terms, was a one-hit wonder from Canada who got swallowed up in the ‘60s by their similar-sounding mates to the south—the USA’s Blood, Sweat & Tears and Chicago Transit Authority.  The group formed in Toronto in 1968 with the idea of melding rock, jazz and classical music, and initially sported thirteen members—eight of ‘em on horns or strings, and the remaining five holding down the traditional positions of guitarist, bassist, keyboard player, drummer and vocalist.  The band played a few festivals in that late ‘60s time period including Newport and Monterey, and even pulled a bit of a coup at Isle Of Wight—they were the only other artist besides the electrifying Hendrix who were asked to perform a second night, an honor not achieved by other more prominent bands including Miles Davis, The Who and The Doors.  https://youtu.be/UXTWbkfwjiE 


10. Grateful Dead – Appeared at the July 28, 1973 Summer Jam At Watkins Glen – “Wharf Rat” from the second live double album entitled Grateful Deadbut commonly called Skull and Roses (1971)…..I respect the Dead but concentrate on the living, and by that I mean having a life.  Unlike a few others in my wider circle of peers and compatriots, I made a decision (way back when) not to spend my mini-vacations following the band around the country.  I also whisked away all thought of ever combing through archives and song catacombs to possess their every audio indulgence.  That said, I do love certain tracks by the band that feature Jerry prominently; to me, Garcia’s the cherry on top.  https://youtu.be/l_pH-RWHLyo





Posted 8/12/18.....


1. Blues for T.J. – Larry Carlton…..Throughout the mid-‘70s and early ‘80s Carlton was revered by the rock cognoscenti because of his countless “sessions player” appearances on many major artists’ signature albums, including four of Steely Dan’s and five of Joni Mitchell’s.  Carlton’s solo album Friends, coming five years after his solo debut on Warner Brothers, featured this intoxicating instrumental tune backed by the acclaimed L.A.-based rhythm section of Jeff Porcaro on drums and Abraham Laboriel on bass.  “Blues for T.J.” melds grit with sweet technique, as Carlton digs deep into the blues with guest B.B. King riffin’ along for the ride. The tune is not low-down-and-dirty (in the style of our blues forefathers) but sweet and stinging, showing off Carlton’s finesse and feeling in this realm.  https://youtu.be/NtXiPSSr2ys


2. ‘Fore Day Rider – Jay McShann .....Blues, jump & swing were McShann’s thing.  He was a pianist and bandleader born in Oklahoma in 1916 who moved to Kansas City in his early twenties and formed a big band which at one point counted Charlie Parker as a member.  McShann’s career ebbed a bit after the 1940s but perked back up in the 1970s (his appeal at that point was based on his jazz circuit appearances as a much-in-demand pianist/singer).  I first found McShann while leafing through the “M” section of a record store in the mid-‘80s, happening upon his 1978 release called The Last Of The Blue Devils.  This particular album included tune treasures like “ ’Tain’t Nobody’s Bizness If I Do,” Count Basie’s “Jumpin’ At The Woodside,” “Kansas City” (the Leiber-Stoller classic), and the track listed here, “’Fore Day Rider” which can kinda transport you into a smoky old blues club, somewhere on a Saturday night.  https://youtu.be/-ao2_u3sFLY


3. Grits Ain’t Groceries – Little Milton.....Mississippi born Milton was an African American soul, blues, and R & B musician whose first commercial break came from legendary Sun Records producer Sam Phillips, but Milton achieved his widest success after joining up with Chess Records subsidiary Checker Records in the mid-1960s. “Grits Ain’t Groceries” hails from that time period, and is also the title tune of a 1969 album from the artist.  It is a kick-ass rhythm & blues song, punched up by horns and some gritty, lived-the-life blues belting by Milton.  There are great opening lyrics as well that set the song in motion:  “If I don’t love you baby, grits ain’t groceries, eggs ain’t poultry, and Mona Lisa was a man”... https://youtu.be/cWEwYNBZt30


4. Fire – Etta James.....The song listed here comes from an incendiary collection of soul scorchers and blues tunes all performed by James in the mid-to-late 1960s.  At the time, she was sort of a blues queen in residence at the famed Muscle Shoals, Alabama recording studio, and her powerful vocal performances were backed by crack house musicians (editor’s note:  Uh, that’s “crack house musicians”, not “crack house musicians”).  The compilation, entitled Tell Mama - The Complete Muscle Shoals Collection, was released in 2001 on the Geffen record label and contains 22 classic performances from James during this particularly fertile and unfettered period of her largely troubled life.  On this song in particular, the brass and background singer sass add a nice dimension, but every song on the album is rooted by that deep and passionate wellspring of a voice that courageously cried the blues.  https://youtu.be/CPLRam7zREU


5. She’s Tuff – The Fabulous Thunderbirds.....This four-man outfit formed in 1974 and later became the house band at Antone’s in Austin, Texas, but also religiously and relentlessly toured the country for many years, hitting the bars and brandishing the blues.  Lead vocalist Kim Wilson mouthed a mean harp, and Stevie Ray Vaughan’s brother Jimmy wielded rhythm guitar; widespread success eluded them until 1986’s Tuff Enuff album, and an MTV video of “She’s Tuff” from this album helped cement their success.  https://youtu.be/ywzPSNHqCTM


6. Smoking Gun – The Robert Cray Band.....This first-person tale of a jealous lover was Cray’s breakthrough-to-radio song, and he never again pierced through to such a level, but instead has built a solid career in the blues-rock arena, playing and recording with artists such as John Lee Hooker, Eric Clapton and others.  The song “Smoking Gun” hails from Cray’s 5th studio album entitled Strong Persuader (1986), a consistently fine effort anchored by his emotive, stinging fret work and his soulful, supple voice.  One trivia—not trivial—note:  Cray can be spotted in the John Belushi film National Lampoon’s Animal House as the bass player in the house party scene that features Otis Day & The Knights.  https://youtu.be/VVB6jDaCxGI  


7. I’ve Got The Same Old Blues – Freddie King.....Part of the appeal of digging into bluesmen like Freddie King—who spun out a mix of Texas-style AND Chicago blues in the late 1950s through the early 1970s—is to find out who their mentors and eventual disciples were.  King early on revered the likes of Muddy Waters, Elmore James, Howlin’ Wolf and T-Bone Walker; his own recorded works subsequently inspired, among others, Stevie Ray Vaughan and guitar-slinging sibling Jimmie Vaughan, Jerry Garcia, Eric Clapton, and formative Brit guitarist and Fleetwood Mac-founder Peter Green.  “I’ve Got The Same Old Blues”, written by JJ Cale, comes from King’s release Burglar, which came out in 1974 (two years before his death at the age of 42).  https://youtu.be/vp0R2pepvd0


8. You Got Me Hummin’ – Cold Blood.....Pint-sized vocalist Lydia Pense has been compared to Janis Joplin with regard to her intensity and her raw and rippin’ vocal delivery, and in fact Joplin was the one who referred this at-the-time fledgling band to San Francisco promoter and rock club entrepreneur Bill Graham, who ended up signing them to his Fillmore record label.  “You Got Me Humming” from the band’s 1969 self-titled debut album is a blistering, flat-out funked-up phenom, first popularized three years earlier by ‘60s rhythm & blues singers Sam & Dave.  https://youtu.be/_quMD61F43I


9. This Love Of Mine – Frankie Miller.....British blue-eyed-soul singer Miller mined the English pub circuit through the early 1970s, but never really broke out of the pack to climb to widespread fame.  This particular track from Miller’s 1977 album Full House was actually a song co-written and performed by Frank Sinatra in 1941.  Miller’s impassioned vocals remind one of Otis Redding in their focus and intensity; on this horn-charted, basic blues lament, he really wails and nails it.  https://youtu.be/dc-fHLPgxyk


10. The Sky Is Falling – James Cotton.....Cotton is one of the legendary American blues masters who is in that prized circle of key influencers, inspiring musicians like Steve Miller, Boz Scaggs, Paul Butterfield, Bonnie Raitt and many more.  He was born in Mississippi in 1935 and early on was schooled in Howlin’ Wolf’s band, playing blues harp; by the mid-1950s, he had moved on to Muddy Waters and then formed his own band around 1966.  On Taking Care Of Business (1970) the rock quotient is increased a bit compared to most of his other output, thanks to guests and contributors including album producer/player Todd Rundgren, Michael Bloomfield, David Sanborn (at the time, with Paul Butterfield’s band) and Johnny Winter.  “The Sky Is Falling” is the leadoff track on the album and has those key moments you hope for in a blues-rock record—band sailin’; harp wailin’.  https://youtu.be/yOt0KjLZHjo





Posted 7/29/18.....

Ten tunes including alt-pop, folk, older-era Fleetwood Mac, jazz and Johnny Cash…

1. When I Die (live)– The Waifs.....A joyous performance captured live at the Telluride Bluegrass Festival, and included on a 2005 CD compilation entitled Telluride Bluegrass Festival: Thirty Years.  Aussie sisters Vicki and Donna Simpson started the band back in 1992 and the group built up a fervent following from constant touring, via their emphasis of going after gigs at folk and bluegrass festivals all over the United States and Canada.  (sound quality, meh…but the spirit of the sisters shines) https://youtu.be/-iI1GVE5RlQ


2. The Sweet Part Of The City – The Hold Steady.....The band formed in 2004 in New York City, though some key members have strong roots in Minneapolis.  The Hold Steady has a heartland rock sound tinged with alternative, though this tune is actually a bit more reminiscent of the Stones from their Exile On Main Street era.  “The Sweet Part Of The City” is the leadoff track from the band’s fifth studio album Heaven is Whenever (2010).  https://youtu.be/Q1ZPD7hwnoQ


3. Morning Rain – Fleetwood Mac.....This track is from the 1971 album Future Games and features a line-up consisting of guitarist Bob Welch along with Danny Kirwan, Christine McVie, and mainstays Mick Fleetwood and John McVie.  This band has weathered many personnel changes through the years; they formed in Britain in 1967 as a blues rock band (with Peter Green), then edged into classic rock with Welch and Kirwan, and ultimately became a million-selling behemoth in 1975 with personnel switch-outs that brought them vocalist Stevie Nicks and guitarist Lindsey Buckingham.  Currently, of course, Lindsey is out and two new members have been shoehorned in—ex-Petty guitarist Mike Campbell and ex-Crowded House member Neil Finn. https://youtu.be/O1HoLcWkU98


4. Dog Days Are Over – Florence + The Machine.....The band formed in England in 2007, propelled by the BBC taking the new group a bit under wing.  They played major UK festivals and topped British charts, but didn’t really dent the USA until 2009 when their full-length debut album Lungs was released. Stateside in 2009 they hopped on David Letterman and then hit Saturday Night Live, Ellen DeGeneres and The MTV Video Music Awards the following year.  Florence cites the Jefferson Airplane’s lead vocalist Grace Slick as an inspiration, and critics have compared her to the Kates (Bush and Nash); her songs really cut their own swath in popular music, and Lungs especially was heralded by critics for its unique song structures, lyrics and passionate performances.  https://youtu.be/9kWec4VlXMk


5. Best Western – John Scofield.....Guitarist Scofield has a lot of “jazz cred” having played through the years with the likes of Gerry Mulligan, Chet Baker, Charles Mingus, Miles Davis, the Gary Burton Quartet, Billy Cobham & George Duke, and many more.  On this track from his 1984 Electric Outlet album, he plays beautifully on a fairly soothing mid-tempo jazz excursion that is fascinating—even for wary ears that only infrequently approach this idiom.  https://youtu.be/dS2EYCh5WoI


6. Dead Man’s Will – Calexico and Iron & Wine.....An interesting and fulfilling collaboration between art & film school grad Sam Beam (he IS Iron & Wine) and Tucson’s Calexico, a band steeped in the American Southwest and particularly inspired by Ennio Morricone (the composer for spaghetti westerns such as Fistful of Dollars which were directed by Sergio Leone).  Iron & Wine is indie folk-pop with hushed vocals and a literary sophistication; on this In The Reins album from 2005, the collaboration with Calexico brings more muscle, more edge, and many more musical colors to the party (trumpets, vibraphone, and pedal steel, in particular).  https://youtu.be/rbY1Vau_yt0


7. Winterlight – Roman Candle.....Roman Candle is a quintet of indie rockers who are alt-country with the accent on “alt.” Brothers Skip and Logan Matheny anchor this Chapel Hill, NC unit that blends a rock ‘n’ roll sensibility (in songwriting and production) with country music, topped with tinges of alternative. This is just a killer track, and it first was on a 2002 release entitled Says Pop;all of the tunes on that record were later reworked with another producer, and the album was rereleased in 2006 under the title The Wee Hours Revue.  https://youtu.be/JnxmlrmXh84


8. One – Johnny Cash.....Cash’s career is eons long and legendary, of course.  This cover of the U2 classic comes from one of a series of six recordings that Cash did in the period between 1994 and 2002 with producer Rick Rubin, a noted rock & hip-hop producer.  These American Recordings were largely stripped-down acoustic affairs which lent great weight and resonance to the proceedings.  This particular tune comes from 2000’s American III: Solitary Man, and it’s just 68-year-old Cash and his acoustic guitar.  The stark reading makes this song a memorable addition to The Man in Black’s legacy of great works, and it’s hard to fathom that any other artist could approach this particular song and pull it off in the way that he does.  https://youtu.be/CGrR-7_OBpA


9. It Can Be Beautiful (Sometimes) – World Party.....Welsh-born Karl Wallinger IS World Party—the multi-instrumentalist was a member of Mike Scott’s Waterboys in 1984-1985, but then left to carve out a solo career under the World Party moniker.  The first two albums are both commendable, yet the second album—Goodbye Jumbo—is the gem of the two.  The particular track listed here is from the first record, though, 1987’s Private Revolution.  World Party creates sonic tapestries to back up some very sound songwriting, and on this song, the chimes and trumpets are aswirl and amazing.  Wallinger’s voice, too, is a vital instrument in the process; he’s been compared to Mick Jagger, but I hear some solo album-era Robbie Robertson in there as well.  https://youtu.be/ULtIOuu2Pdg


10. Too Many People – Glen Hansard.....Hansard is a singer-songwriter and guitarist who founded the Irish rock band The Frames in 1990, appeared the next year in the Alan Parker film The Commitments, and later on comprised half of the successful duo The Swell Season (which sprang from the on-screen musical partnership portrayed in the acclaimed 2006 film Once).  The song “Too Many People” comes from the album The Cake Sale, a charity album recorded in 2006 by a group of Irish and international musicians to raise funds for the charity Oxfam Ireland’s Make Trade Fair campaign.  https://youtu.be/zA9-JzfDvHg





Posted 7/15/18.....

Ten tunes including a cinematic instrumental, some outlier music, folk, classic ‘60s R&B/soul and more…

1. Hardscrabble Elegy – Dickon Hinchliffe…..This is a sweet and tender instrumental from 2010’s Winter’s Bone, a sometimes brutal, evocative movie about tribal and family fealty in Appalachia.  The film is notable for the star-making turn of the then 20-year-old lead actress Jennifer Lawrence.  The song, written by British multi-instrumentalist and indie soundtrack contributor Dickon Hinchliffe (a founding member of the English indie rock band Tindersticks), is all acoustic guitar and plaintive fiddle…sweeeethttps://youtu.be/uJ9g8Y9czVY


2. All I Want To Know – The Magnetic Fields.....This and other songs by New York singer/songwriter Stephin Merritt (this time out, with his band the Magnetic Fields) may be an acquired taste, but the acquisition is worth it.  He writes wryly, and the end results are quirky and winning.  “All I Want To Know” hails from the 2003 film Pieces of April, a very cool little alt-comedy/drama with Katie Holmes and Patricia Clarkson.  Note that the Magnetic Fields just stopped in Pittsburgh recently, playing the Carnegie Music Hall in Oakland on two consecutive nights (6/19 & 6/20) as part of an only-three-cities tour that chronicled the fifty years of Merritt’s life with one song per year.  The band played songs 1-25 the first night and songs 26-50 the next.  https://youtu.be/o7vT14NnkCc


3. Stop This Train – John Mayer.....From Mayer’s 2006 album Continuum.....“Stop This Train” doesn’t have a loco motion; it is a gentle shuffle of rumination, a piercingly honest and heartfelt look at aging and the fervent wish to halt its hurtling pace.  The chorus of the song is an appeal to anyone who will heed it: “Stop this train / I want to get off and go home again / I can’t take the speed it’s movin’ in / I know I can’t, but honestly won’t someone stop this train.”  The latter lyrics shift slightly toward the end of the song, as Mayer’s father weighs in with sage advice about the inevitable rush of time.  Poignant and very possibly lump-in-the-throat material.  https://youtu.be/2UiX4dUUjWc


4. Talk Walk Drive – Julia Fordham.....Beautiful British songstress Fordham has a distinctive, full-throated voice which she employs in rich sonic settings that are a far cry from formula.  The ballad “Talk Walk Drive” comes from her 1991 album Swept, and although wide public acclaim has long escaped her, she’s a “find” for any mix tape or playlist.  For music fans who like to dig deep into album credits (where you can find ‘em), the listing of contributing musicians on Swept is impressive.  There are several sidemen and sidewomen that really help bring the sheen and the spark to this album’s songs, including guitarists Dean Parks (Steely Dan), David Rhodes (Peter Gabriel) and Dominic Miller (Sting); keyboardists David Sancious (early Bruce) and Larry Klein (Joni Mitchell); bassist Pino Palladino (The Who); and background vocalist Valerie Carter (Jackson Browne/James Taylor).  https://youtu.be/KDWGwnea9f4


5. Terra Pura – Gabin.....A very nice slice of electronica and—refreshingly—it is not too cool and cerebral; instead, it is a quite engaging piece of music.  Gabin is actually a duo, a collaboration between two Italian musicians: Fillippo Cary, a prominent DJ from Rome and its large-venue “chill rooms,” and jazz bassist Max Battini.  The sound on “Terra Pura”—on Gabin’s 2002 self-titled release—is lush, sensuous, and textured.  Sipping something at a sidewalk table late one night at a Parisian café just might be the optimum environment in which to sample this one... https://youtu.be/VT-CnL42YTc


6. The First Song – Band of Horses.....This Northwest indie rock group puts forth music that seems a cross between Neil Young’s Crazy Horse and more recent rockers like The Shins and My Morning Jacket.  Ben Bridwell’s lead vocals are reminiscent of Neil Young, but perhaps Jon Anderson as well (the latter was the longtime front man for the classic prog-rock band Yes).  Bridwell’s reverb-soaked voice is set amidst chiming and churning tunes that are rhythmically dense and delicious.  The song listed here is from the band’s first full-length album entitled Everything All The Time which was released in 2006.  https://youtu.be/7OB5-J7M9wI


7. While You See A Chance – Steve Winwood.....From Winwood’s second solo album Arc of a Diver released in 1980.....The song became a Top Ten hit in the USA in April of 1981, and FM radio was all over it as well.  The lyrics spin a positive message of survival and dedication to task, and Winwood handles all vocal tracks and plays all of the instruments—acoustic & electric guitars, bass, drums, percussion, keyboards, and synthesizers.  Oh, and he also produced, engineered and mixed the album (WTF, Steve—no time to do the album cover design too?)  https://youtu.be/rufFzG1WWcM


8. Hands Across The Water – Kieran Kane.....Better known in traditionalist country circles as one-half of the O’Kanes duo who were active in the mid-to-late 1980s, Kieran Kane came ‘round to this interesting alt-country approach that features banjo and baritone sax. This track, from 2009’s Somewhere Beyond The Roses, is elegant and moving; his baritone sax player and singing partner is Deanna Varagona, who had previously played in the Nashville band Lambchop.  https://youtu.be/ipXHuI6ggSk


9. Please Don’t Leave Me – The Chambers Brothers.....George, Willie, Lester and Joe Chambers were all part of a sharecropping family in Missouri, and first formed a group back in 1954.  They were schooled—“churched”, really—in blues, folk and gospel in the local Baptist choir and in the mid 1950s relocated to Los Angeles.  It took about ten years and an eventual move to New York City for career combustion to kick in.  Their first record was released in 1965, but it was really 1967’s The Time Has Come that put them on the map and on the radio.  A tune from that album, “Time Has Come Today,” is an eleven-minute mix of soul and psychedelia that became a mainstay in those heady days of early FM radio ascendance.  The track listed here, “Please Don’t Leave Me,” is from that same 1967 album and it is a more traditional rhythm & blues and soul tune, featuring a finger-poppin’ feel and a great blend of brotherly voices.  https://youtu.be/gAwX1SdCjZs


10. Both Sides Now – Joni Mitchell.....This is a poignant performance of a song that was first recorded by Mitchell for her 1969 Clouds album.  She returned to it thirty-one years later to record it anew—older, wiser, and having travelled many, many more miles through love and its landmines. The song is from Mitchell’s 2000 release Both Sides Now, and it is just amazing to hear this treatment of it, now backed by an accomplished and intuitive orchestra.  Especially now, Mitchell’s voice conveys many truths; her impeccable phrasing is world-weary...melancholic...and masterful. https://youtu.be/7cBf0olE9Yc





Posted 7/1/18.....

It’s a dream mix (in musicasaurus’ opinion, of course)…

1. Dreams – Allman Brothers Band.....The classic Allmans tune that was a signature song on their 1969 self-titled debut album.  And damn it, that’s IT for this first-song “recap" because I’m kinda irked right now. Allow me to explain:  One of my Butler (PA) Senior High School classmates Chris Romney reminded me a while back that I was on the school’s concert committee, and was pestering the living shit out of our teacher-advisor to let us book this brand new band called the Allman Brothers—for just $3,000.  To gain student support I talked my way onto the public address system one morning before classes, and there I gave an impassioned plea to the student body, saying things like “Ya know, this is NOT the Osmond Brothers we’re talking about here; it’s the Allman Brothers.”  The concert committee’s teacher-advisor eventually nixed my idea—and we ended up with the Jaggerz instead.  https://youtu.be/LaQjcbo4kUg


2. Dreams Come True – Marcia Ball, Angela Strehli & Lou Ann Barton.....This trio of Austin treasures teamed up for a “dream” album of Texas roadhouse rhythm & blues, and cut to cut, it’s a loose and inspired gem. This track is the title cut from the record, which was released in 1990.  Each of these ladies brings a lot to the game—Ball with her barrelhouse piano style; Strehli not straying, but bringing in a bit of rock bluster to her blues; and Barton a pure gas with her sensuality and sass.  Dr. John leads the studio band of veteran Texas musicians on this album and is the producer of the record as well.  https://youtu.be/bHd-_UCe7UE


3. Put Your Dreams Away (For Another Day)– Frank Sinatra.....From Sinatra’s Sinatra, an album released in 1963...Sinatra had signed to Reprise Records ‘round about then and, witnessing his former record labels Columbia and Capitol doling out “hits” packages of his older material, he then re-recorded versions of twelve of his favorite songs for new label Reprise.  The resulting album, arranged and conducted by Nelson Riddle, sported classics such as “Witchcraft,” “I’ve Got You Under My Skin” and “Young at Heart;" the track listed here is lesser known, but let’s be frank—it’s right up there with the others.  https://youtu.be/E4WImvKo5I8


4. Street Of Dreams – Oysterband.....Oysterband formed in England in 1981 and the band members pooled, and pulled in, influences from English folk music of the 1970s, polishing it with a punkish edge. For their first few years they toured relentlessly and self-released some records, but it was their first commercial album from 1987, Step Outside, that brought them full and countrywide acclaim.  The band is a talented lot, masterminding a mix of accordion, trumpet, and cello with the requisite guitar-bass-drums.  This particular track is from Oysterband’s ninth commercial release issued in 1999, Here I Stand.  One can detect shades of the Moody Blues mixed with the Pogues; the album is good overall, but “Street of Dreams” may be the pearl of the Oysterband.  https://youtu.be/rmdZ7YyfU_o


5. Boulevard Of Broken Dreams – Green Day.....This trio bashed out a blistering debut record called Dookie in 1994, and successfully brought to a new generation’s ears the spirit of late 1970s punk.  Drawing upon that spirit, they in turn influenced a number of up-and-coming bands who were themselves plunging into all the permutations of punk music.  Green Day’s 2004 album American Idiot, from which this track is taken, is a true modern day rock opera that was a surprise success; the group modeled their opus after bands like The Who (Tommy) and Husker Du (Zen Arcade), but Green Day put a post-911 spin on this record that resonated resoundingly with the public.  It laid bare some of the anger, depression, loss of faith, and bewilderment of living in America after that fateful September 11th.  https://youtu.be/gYCTXzOTnXg


6. Dreams – The Cranberries.....In 1990 at the age of nineteen, Irish lass Dolores O’Riordan answered a band’s advertisement for a new lead singer; she then lingered and latched on for the ride.  With a producer that had previously worked with The Smiths and Morrissey, the band crafted and released their debut album Everybody Else Is Doing It, So Why Can’t We in the Spring of 1993 (“Dreams” is from that record).  The album was initially sluggish on the English charts; it took a Summer and a Fall of touring in America as an opening act plus MTV’s embrace of the track “Linger” before the Brits opened their ears to this delectable blend of jangly, dreamy pop music.  It is Dolores’ voice that is the band’s linchpin.  She’s great on record and (used to be) electrifyin’ live—O’Riordan passed away in January of this year at the age of 46.  https://youtu.be/kwijvxRTmlQ


7. All That You Dream – Little Feat.....Wherever I tread in my many musical journeys, I always rely on my Feat.  This band captures the essence of southern-styled rhythm & blues and rock ‘n’ roll; they’re gritty, adventurous, and their songwriting and execution are peerless.  This track hails from the band’s 1975 album The Last Record Album, and the record’s title was prescient: The reining, driving force of the band, Lowell George, was becoming increasingly distant and uninvolved, and the band had resolved to put other Feats forward, specifically second guitarist Paul Barrere and keyboardist Billy Payne.  This album was essentially one of transition, away from the major George influence to the more jam-based exploratory predilections of Barre and Payne. https://youtu.be/ImqIqQsVs30


8. Dreaming Of Places – Grasshopper Takeover.....This Omaha pop-rock three-piece band reportedly got their name from a vision that vocalist Curtis Grubb had while flattened from a hunting accident in his home state of Nebraska.  As he lay on the ground, eyes closed and ears roaring and ringing, he suddenly popped open his orbs to witness a swirling black mass in the sky—and then he passed out.  When he came to, he wondered if he had seen the start of a grasshopper invasion of Earth. Debuting in 1997, the band issued a self-titled release that subsequently set the stage for a number of appealing pop-rock explorations.  The track listed here is actually from a 2007 compilation record of band B-sides called, appropriately enough, GTO B-sides and Grubb Solos; it is a mid-tempo excursion that is pretty and pretty damn infectious.  https://youtu.be/4kd8jBZDvEk 


9. Dreamville – Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers.....Petty had always been on the battle lines with regard to artists’ rights, starting over three decades ago when his record company at the time wanted to raise the list price of his upcoming album Hard Promises from the standard $8.98 to $9.98.  Petty threatened not to release the record at all, and then vowed to make the title $8.98 if it was released at the higher price.  The record company capitulated, and the album eventually hit the stores with the name Hard Promises instead.  Flash forward a couple of decades, and Petty was at it again in 2002, releasing a themed album entitled The Last DJ.  With songs like “Money Becomes King” and the title track, Petty seemed to be pondering modern life where corporate avarice was running rampant, radio stations were further restricting playlists, and musical expression was increasingly stifled, gagged & bound.  “Dreamville” from that record, though, is a pretty and contemplative piece, a mid-tempo ballad about being young during the 1950s and 1960s—living the small town life, buying guitar strings at the local music store, and listening to the radio where, as the song says, “there was rock ‘n’ roll across the dial.”  https://youtu.be/ViczcWEHgaY


10. Lost in the Dream – The War on Drugs…..Principal songwriter, vocalist and guitarist Adam Granduciel (born in Dover, Massachusetts in 1979) started tinkering quite young, and by junior high was immersed in the guitar and in the rudiments of the recording process, squirreled away in his bedroom at every opportunity.  At the age of 26 in Philly he encountered a like-minded soul named Kurt Vile, and the two of them launched the indie-rock band War on Drugs in 2005.  Their debut album Wagonwheel Blues hit in 2008 and Vile then left to carve his own path as Kurt Vile & The Violators.  Granduciel continued on with WOD, issued another album in 2011 (Slave Ambient), and in 2014 came out with Lost in the Dream,which Rolling Stone said “finds Granduciel tugging looser on the fabric of heartland rock” compared to the band’s two earlier efforts, and the magazine also noted that “Granduciel’s vocals, with their Dylan-esque elocution and Lindsey Buckingham-worthy yen, have grown more robust with lyrical heft.” With influences including Bob Dylan, Nick Drake, and Neil Young, and songwriting that sometimes brings forth touches of Springsteen, Petty, The Waterboys, Dire Straits and early-‘80s Roxy Music, Granduciel is bringing forth these days some majestic work, all with an intriguing contemporary feel courtesy of the warm, rich sounds he cobbles together and captures while in the producer’s chair.  https://youtu.be/K3HqnHUohOo





Posted 6/17/18.....

TEN TUNES FOR YOUR EXPLORATION…Dreamy, spacey, luscious, lush, folky, funky—lil bit of everything…

1.) Lose You – Pete Yorn.....Not too long out of Syracuse University, Yorn headed to L.A. in 2000 where he began to write music for film & television.  One of his compositions from the Farrelly Brothers film soundtrack Me, Myself & Irene filtered into some modern rock radio playlists, which led to his signing with Columbia Records.  The downbeat yet very appealing “Lose You” is from Yorn’s 2011 debut Musicforthemorningafter, an album showcasing his blend of alternative-skewed pop songwriting, nicely brought to form through a combination of guitar-bass-drums and occasional piano & strings.  https://youtu.be/OdLPePKLx4E


2.) Beauxsong – The Mandrake Project.....This is a tune you might imagine hipsters of all ages playing some Sunday morning over their lattes and New York Times…Like a lot of the material produced by this band, “Beauxsong” is an instrumental exploration, a soothing swarm of lush textures and varied instruments (in this particular case, violin and electric piano) that take off on short solos that puzzle-fit perfectly rather than detract from the enveloping, hypnotic wash.  The Mandrake Project is a musical collective first formed by ringleader Kirk Salopek in Pittsburgh in 2002.  They pull inspiration and ideas from prog-rock, jam, jazz, and electronic & ambient works as well.  A year-and-a-half or so after the release of their 2007 album A Miraculous Container they got on the radar of John Diliberto, host of the nationally syndicated radio show Echoes, and snagged a live performance slot of this song on Echoe’s Livingroom Concert Series.  Here is the studio version of “Beauxsong” … https://youtu.be/16wjSKu8b-0  


3.) Poison & Wine – The Civil Wars.....Folk-rock-and-pop duo John Paul White and Joy Williams comprise The Civil Wars, who first pricked up ears and picked up fans via a digital album entitled Live at Eddie’s Attic in 2009.  Two years afterward, their first full-length studio album Barton Hollow was released.  If you like amazing harmonies woven into the purest of tapestries—and you like your relationships on the rocks—you’ll love this particular track from that album. Some critics dubbed this duo America’s own Swell Season because of the music’s beautiful restraint and hushed, mesmerizing vocal blends, but things didn’t go so swell for them as the end of 2012 rolled around.  Those damn “irreconcilable differences” led to an official split of White and Williams in 2014.  https://youtu.be/uz6-SKGCrnQ


4.) Work To Make It Work – Robert Palmer.....Crank this one up.  The opening to this tune is like some kind of funky chain gang chant, with vocalist Palmer layering his own harmonies over top of his lead.  The song kicks in with Palmer’s always passionate blue-eyed-soul testifyin’, and crisp horns nip at the chorus.  “Work To Make It Work” is a song from British-born Palmer’s second album called Pressure Drop (1975),and the album is quite a feat overall; Lowell George and the rest of Little Feat provide solid backing the whole album through.  https://youtu.be/L1Uqq0QE7mA


5.) The Man In Love – Nick Lowe.....Lowe is a singer-songwriter and producer who’s travelled the musical miles as solo driver, carpool coordinator, and shotgun-seat producer.  He’s been in formative bands such as the rockabilly-leanin’ Rockpile (with Dave Edmunds) and in gloriously-regarded one-offs like the sole album from the cult superstar concoction Little Village (with Ry Cooder and John Hiatt).  Lowe also helmed as producer some pivotal releases across genres including Elvis Costello’s My Aim Is True and Armed Forces, Graham Parker & The Rumour’s Howlin’ Wind, UK punk band The Damned’s Damned Damned Damned (my circuitry didn’t stick there, don’t worry), step father-in-law Johnny Cash’s Rockabilly Blue, and John Hiatt’s Riding With the King.  The song included here, “The Man In Love,” is from Lowe’s 2007 solo album At My Age.  https://youtu.be/DdjPfGGxMSQ


6.) Miles Away – Fleetwood Mac.....This track is from the Bob Welch-era Fleetwood Mac (1971 through 1974) when this American guitarist contributed mightily to the band’s repertoire prior to the general public feeding frenzy that began with the Big Mac (the Buckingham & Nicks era, beginning in 1975).  At its best, the Welch incarnation of the band adds driving rock and wily, weaving lead-guitar lines over the band’s longstanding solid rhythm section of John McVie and Mick Fleetwood.  “Miles Away” is from the 1973 album Mystery To Me, and it is a perfect “deep cut” (like that album’s other highlight, “Hypnotized”) that is a sheer pleasure to hear on any self-respecting terrestrial or extraterrestrial radio station. https://youtu.be/Hjlu3K-VnGM


7.) World Of Two – Cake.....The recipe for Cake: Take alternative rock and sprinkle it liberally with bits of other genres; add in lyrics that are laden with sarcasm, non sequiturs and pop-culture nuggets; and then top it off with the sometimes spoken, sometimes sung vocalizations of frontman John McCrea.  The band formed in 1992 in Sacramento and by 1995-1996 were topping college and commercial alternative station charts with songs from two of their most recent albums, Motorcade of Generosity and Fashion Nugget.  The song “World of Two” from 2001’s Comfort Eagle release is a clever and catchy alt-ballad with a slight circus feel; something akin to sleigh bells show up amidst the usual guitar-bass-keyboards combination, and there’s a chorus that repeats “You...There’s only room for you...in your world of two…”  https://youtu.be/ErcKR1zKiGM


8.) Chalkhills and Children – XTC.....This British band formed in the mid-late 1970s and early on had that herky-jerky edge of new wave.  That wave gave way to more ambitious explorations into pure pop, rendered on record through superior arrangements and production.  Chief songwriters Andy Partridge and Colin Moulding channel bands like The Beatles (circa their most adventurous periods), The Kinks and The Beach Boys to produce sonic concoctions that are almost CDC-level infectious.  The track “Chalkhills and Children” comes from the double album Oranges and Lemons released in 1989, and it is crystalline and layered with harmonies—intelligent, quirky, lush and luscious.  https://youtu.be/OYU4CE2WQmA


9.) Bring Me My Queen – Abigail Washburn.....What a gem.  Singer-songwriter and banjo player Washburn has produced in this one lone tune a beautiful alt-folk classic, crafted with intelligence and performed with quiet assurance.  This is a small triumph of composition, arrangement, execution, and production. Washburn’s vocals are occasionally gravelly and hushed, but always “spot on” to serve the song.  Through her instrument and in her song arrangements, she is bold in her steps to artfully incorporate a wide range of influences—folk, rock, jazz, bluegrass and blues, and also mixing into this melting pot some touches from the British Isles, the Far East, and beyond.  “Bring Me My Queen” hails from Washburn’s 2011 release City of Refuge.  https://youtu.be/F44LtKJ_O5c


10.) The Kingdom – Icehouse.....Australia’s Icehouse never really “broke big” in the United States.  They were most prominent and active in the 1980s, yet listening to this particular track today doesn’t necessarily evoke ‘80s excesses; it still sounds fairly fresh and not locked into that decade.  “The Kingdom” is a nice little slice from Icehouse’s 1987 release Man of Colours, and features the warm Paul Carrack-like voice of lead singer Iva Davies; the electric guitar accents are quite appealing as well.  Caveat: I’m only recommending this particular track, mind you; the rest of the band’s output may not settle in with you nearly as well.  https://youtu.be/P_n5CoTQQ0U