Monday, March 22, 2010

This Too Shall Pass

I've been in somewhat of a funk lately. I'm not going to bore you with all of the details as after all, we've all got our problems and while mine might seem more serious than some, everyone's problems are always the most serious to them. Suffice it to say that unemployment, inactivity, ennui, stress and depression have been getting the better of me these past few weeks. One of my mother's favorite expressions is "This too shall pass" and I have been reminding myself a lot of that lately. Sometimes slowly, occasionally all of a sudden, things have a way of working themselves out. At some point things will turn around - for me and hopefully for all of us who have been whupped upside the head by the events of the past 2 years - be it the economy, natural disasters or whatever else. But right now I am in a more contemplative state of mind and my musical tastes of late have been somewhat reflective of that. So while I hope to be in more of a rockin' & rollin' frame of mind next time around, I hope that some of you will find some gems in this latest playlist of mine.

The Craig - I Must Be Mad
Luckily it hasn't happened too often but there have certainly been a few times over the years when I have been driven to this level of obsession over a love interest I thought I'd die if I had to live without. Now if I could only remember their names....
Felt - My Darkest Light Will Shine
I have trouble making out all of the lyrics but despite that, there is something I find very sad and reassuring about this song at the same time. When he sings "It's just a price we pay for such a lovely day" I'm reminded of how transient life's pleasures can be and how nothing can be taken for granted. "No gain without pain" as I seem to remember hearing somewhere.
Laura Nyro - Lazy Susan
While she is more remembered as a songwriter, having penned a number of hit records for artists like Three Dog Night, Blood Sweat & Tears and The Fifth Dimension in the late 60's, Laura Nyro was also an excellent singer. This song comes from her first album (where all of those aforementioned hits first appeared) and I really can't imagine anyone else singing this.
The Replacements - September Gurls (Customer)
The Box Tops - Neon Rainbow
As most of you readers know only too well by now, Alex Chilton died of a heart attack last week. So much has been written about him that there is really not much left to say. One of the best tributes was written by Paul Westerberg who was more than just a fan. "September Customer" was recorded one drunken night in 1984 at CBGB's . It's The Replacements' "Customer" sung to the tune of "September Gurls". Pure genius which I am sure Mr. Chilton quite appreciated. "Neon Rainbow" is my favorite song by Alex's first band The Box Tops, recorded when he was still a teenager. Thankfully I was able to find this mono mix which is way superior to the stereo which is what appears on all of the Box Tops compilations I've heard.
The Hi Numbers - Heart Of Stone
You try and try to get the love of your life to feel the same way about you but no matter what you do he/she still treats you like shit and it hurts like hell. Nobody said life was fair but on the bright side, if love didn't hurt so much, think of all the great songs that would never have been written. Like this one.
Mose Allison - I Don't Want Much
One of the things I've always loved about Mose Allison is his understated appreciation of the absurdities of life. Listening to him I get the sense that he knows life is unfair, that things are not going to go his way but what the hell, all you can do is laugh. One of my favorite quotes is from author Tom Robbins, "You can't change reality but you can change your perception of it" and Mose's music seems to embody that attitude.
Muddy Waters - I Won't Go On
My appreciation of the Blues is mainly where it turns into Rock & Roll and while I'm not quite sure which side of the fence this falls on, Muddy Waters has always had such a powerful voice that it really doesn't matter.
The Germz - No Easy Way Down
If we're lucky we get to experience a few streaks in our lives where things are going just about as perfectly as they can and we can do no wrong. But unfortunately Mama's maxim "This too shall pass" works in reverse too and nothing good lasts forever. Sometimes that downward spiral can be mighty painful.
The Music Machine - Trouble
"Trouble" is one of a handful of originals on the first Music Machine album and as much as I love the song "The People In Me", I always thought this would have been a better choice for their second single.
Gerry & The Pacemakers - Don't Let the Sun Catch You Cying
Permit me my 2-plus minutes of wallowing here. This is as perfect a late night crying-in-your-beer (or in my case, crying in my Hagen Daz) song as anything Dean Martin ever recorded.
Warren Zevon - Looking For The Next Best Thing
There are times when, as the song goes, you just can't get what you want so you have to settle for what you can. Sometimes second best is as good as it gets.
Maxine Brown - One Step At A Time
Although she is revered in Northern Soul circles, Maxine Brown never really got her due as her talent warranted. Despite having 15 records that made Billboard's Top 100, she only cracked the Top 20 one time. "One Step..." made it to number 55 in the summer of 1965.
Roky Erickson - Starry Eyes
Except to state that in my opinion "Starry Eyes" is one of the best 'love from afar' songs ever, there's not a whole lot to say about it as this song pretty much speaks for itself.
The Syndicate - She Haunts You
These guys definitely got it bad (and that ain't good - but that's another song). I'm willing to bet that whoever wrote this song never got anywhere near first base with his phantom lady love but, as I said before in not so many words, there's nothing like some serious frustration to produce some great Rock & Roll or in this case, some cool moody garage.
Sonny Criss - Early And Later Part 1

It's 3AM and there's no one left in the bar besides the bartender and a trio of drunks with bad hairpieces in the corner singing Jimmy Buffett songs. Sometimes you just got to know when to say when but what the hell, just one more couldn't hurt.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Back In The Loop

Last week my Mac was in the repair shop for a few days. It was amazing how disoriented I felt without it. No emails, no chatting, no blog surfing, no Facebook - I felt so cut off from everything. It's amazing and kind of frightening to think of just how much these little machines have changed our lives and our way of relating to the rest of the world. When they called me last Thursday to let me know that my computer was ready to be picked up, I didn't care how much it was snowing and raining outside, nothing was going to stop me from retrieving my lifeline.

Dave Davies - Picture Book
"Picture Book" originally appeared on the Kinks' "Village Green Preservation Society" but this is a live version by Dave Davies recorded at the Bottom Line in New York City about 10 years ago.
Esquerita - I Need You
Although Little Richard may have held the title of the "all time queen of rock & Roll", as proclaimed by Leon Russell back in 1971, in his prime Esquerita would have surely given him a run for his money.
The Spliffs - You Know What They'll Say
These guys released a few singles back in the early 80's but this one is their most sought after, commanding pries of around $160. Way too rich for my blood but luckily it was included on Volume 6 of the fabulous "Shake Some Action" compilation series.
The Rumblers - I Don't Need You No More
The Rumblers were mainly an instrumental group, best known for their semi-hit "Boss" which was released on Downey Records and then picked up by Dot for national distribution in 1963. "I Don't Need..." was the B-side and is of much more interest to 60s garage fans. Oddly enough, when a Rumblers best-of CD was issued in 1997 this song was not included.
The Icicles - Whirling
With the organ in the background laying a gentle haze over the proceedings and those slightly melancholic vocals, I find this song to be incredibly comforting and relaxing. I can hear it being played in the background of some movie where the heroine wakes up safe and sound from a really scary dream.
Bob Dylan - It Takes A Lot To Laugh, It Takes A Train To Cry
I'm guessing this was recorded at the LA Forum in 1965 or 66 by Dylan and his touring group which included most of the members of The Band.
Alvin Robinson - Down Home Girl
Like almost everyone I know, I first heard this song when it was covered by The Stones on their "Now" album, but this was the original that inspired them.
Stiff Little Fingers - Gotta Gettaway
A few weeks ago my friend Naz who runs the Bleedin' Out blogsite did a little write-up on SLF and it reminded me of how much I loved their first few albums. I remember seeing them when they got back together about 20 years ago and while my most vivid memory is of skinheads starting fights with random members of the audience, I also remember that the band positively smoked.
The Smoke - High In a Room
The Smoke are mainly remembered for their single "My Friend Jack" but they actually had a rather extensive discography. This was their second single, the follow up to "...Jack".
Robert Parker - Sneaking Sally Through the Alley
I first heard this song when it was done by Robert Palmer on his first album but I'm sure this was the original version. With all due respect to Mr. Palmer, this one is so much better.
The Fleshtones - Killing By Degrees
This is from "The Angry Years 1984-86" album which for some odd reason was not released until a number of years after. Nonetheless, this is pure Fleshtones - a little soul, a bit of garage/psych and a touch of punk all melted together into a sound that is so familiar yet is uniquely theirs. Amazingly, these guys have been playing together for around 25 years and they're still going strong.
The Scots Of St. James - Tic Toc
I don't know much about these guys except for what I could find on Soybomb's garage database, which is that this Glasgow combo had at least one other single. I just noticed that the rip of this song is messed up so I've reposted it and at a higher bit rate.
The Uptowns - Here She Comes Again
I just ordered an original copy of this on Gemm Music and was surprised to learn that this originally was released by Laurie Records who were not really known for releasing a whole lot of R&B singles.
The Outlets -Not Too Late
I first heard "...Late" back in the late 80's when my friend was given a cassette of the "Let's Breed" compilation that we played over and over again while driving to and from shows in his olive green Oldsmobile. I'm sure this song serenaded us more than once on our numerous 3 AM White Castle runs.
Unknown Cambodian Group - Gloria
It always makes me feel good to realize how widespread the influence of Rock & Roll was back in the mid to late 60's. Probably due no doubt to the U.S. military presence in Southeast Asia. While it's hard to do a 'bad' version of "Gloria" these unknowns add a few exotic touches of their own to this 3-chord standard.