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Entries categorized as “Friday MP3 Shuffle” 276 results

Mike Bennett writesiPod/MP3 Friday Shuffle — Happy Birthday Grandmaster Flash

Happy New Year everybody! Not only is it the 10th Anniversary of the Y2K scare, it’s also the birthday of a master of the wheels of steel, one of the first prominent turntablists, Grandmaster Flash. Because Flash is bad, Flash is cool, go grab your iPod or MP3 player, hit shuffle, and share the first 10 tunes that come up.

  1. Descendents — Cool To Be You (Cool To Be You): While I don’t think that the Descendents reunion stuff was as consistently good as their punk-pop heyday in the ’80s, they certainly didn’t disgrace themselves. Anyway, it was all about Milo Aukerman, who is a fine frontman and a sharp lyricist. The melodies are sweet and Bill Stevenson pounds the skins like he’s the Neal Peart of punk-pop.
  2. Ramones — Time Has Come Today (Subterranean Jungle): A pretty straightforward cover of The Chamber Brothers’ psychedelic rock classic. It would have been real cool if the Ramones did the full album length version (which was well over 10 minutes). Or maybe not. A solid but unexceptional cover on a second tier Ramones album (fun, but not essential).
  3. Pet Shop Boys — It Must Be Obvious (Alternative): Alternative is a 2 CD collection of B-sides and other odds and ends from the Boys’ career. The amount of strong material Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe leave on the cutting room floor is pretty astonishing. Each of the discs actually holds up better than a few of their albums. This song was certainly album worthy, with the usually urbane lyrics and dance pop backing.
  4. Michael Nesmith — Listen To The Band (Older Stuff: Best of Michael Nesmith (1970-73)): The wool hatted Monkee was an innovator in country rock and his early solo records are a mix of great singer-songwriter material with some twang and larger band work, where he created veritable country orchestras. This remake of a great tune from The Monkees’ Present album distills the rock flourishes in favor of a more rollicking feel. Nesmith was also such a terrific vocalist — a lot of personality.
  5. Marshall Crenshaw — Brand New Lover (Marshall Crenshaw): Crenshaw’s 1982 debut is a power pop classic. His music was not as indebted to The Beatles, The Who, etc., sounding more like he drew from the same inspirations as those acts, without being overly retro. He then worked the basic themes of longing and rejection that make up 94% of all power pop songs. A lesser track, but it still sounds swell.
  6. The Beach Boys — Don’t Hurt My Little Sister (Today!/Summer Days (and Summer Nights!!)): With Today!, Wilson started taking his Phil Spector influence and really putting his own stamp on it. The album is really a precursor to the brilliance of Pet Sounds. This track starts out in a “Be My Baby”-ish mode, but Wilson adds a couple amazing melodic wrinkles, while still maintaining a basic Beach Boys rock ‘n’ roll feel. Great.
  7. Madness — Night Boat to Cairo (One Step Beyond): One of the classic singles from Madness’ debut album, this ska track was originally intended to be an instrumental, until Suggs insisted on writing some lyrics. This was a good call by the band’s lead singer, as this song doesn’t quite have enough thrust to go the same route as “One Step Beyond”. The mix of the ska beat to cod-Egyptian music is inspired, and the result is a classic.
  8. Liquor Giants — Fifth Wheel Time (Up With People): Ward Dotson left The Pontiac Brothers and fronted this way cool pop band that adapted ’60s and ’70s influences into vehicles for Dotson’s odd lyrical sensibility. The result sounds like something that would burst out of an alternative universe transistor radio. All the elements are familiar, yet something is a bit off. But it’s all undeniably catchy and fun.
  9. Fools Face — Ballet On A Wire (Fools Face): This Springfield, Missouri band was a well-kept Midwestern secret in the early ’80s, releasing three often terrific indie albums of skinny tie new wave/power pop. They moved to L.A., released an EP and then broke up. In 2002, almost 20 years after the band’s last album, they reunited. And other than a bit more muscular sound, it sounded like they picked up right where they left off. If you like candy coated power pop with just a bit of heft, this album is worth a listen.
  10. Tony Christie — (Is This The Way To) Amarillo (Bubblegum Classics V): I love bubblegum music. I really know nothing about Mr. Christie, but this is a bit less teenybopperish than most ’60s bubblgegum. It actually sounds like a cross between Neil Diamond and Tony Orlando, with heavy production. Tony is pining for his Maria and travels to Texas. On the way, he rhymes “Amarillo” with “pillow,” which is pure bubblegum poetry.

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Categorized: Friday MP3 Shuffle

Topics: ipod

Mike Bennett writesiPod/MP3 Friday Shuffle — Happy Birthday Lemmy Edition

A special Christmas Eve edition of the shuffle

You can learn a lot of valuable lessons from the movie Airheads. First, Moby Dick is a book. Second, if a mediocre heavy metal band takes over a radio station in an effort to secure a recording deal, the band will have to deal with Judd Nelson (begging the question, is it really worth it?). And, most importantly, you learn that if someone asks you who would win in a wrestling match between Lemmy and God, it’s a trick question, because Lemmy IS God. But who needs a movie to tell you that, when you can plow through the Motorhead catalog, from “Ace of Spades” to “We Are the Road Crew”, and realize that Lemmy is a deity. In Mr. Kilmeister’s honor, please throw up a horned hand, and, with your free hand, hit shuffle and share the first ten tunes that pop up.

  1. Gang Of Four — He’d Send in the Army (Solid Gold): There are some folks who insist that Solid Gold is even better than Go4’s classic debut Entertainment. I’m not one of those folks, but Solid Gold more than stands up on its own. The songs are not quite as consistently awesome, but they are good and the band’s sound thickened up a just a little bit. Here, the band builds tension with quiet interludes consisting of Hugo Burnham brushing his high hat, with small bursts of guitar, before the song hits its lurching groove (the type of groove that clearly inspired The Minutemen).
  2. Cassandra Wilson — Strange Fruit (New Moon Daughter): Wilson is one of the top contemporary jazz singers, with her smoky, insinuating voice. Her music is informed by shades of other styles, and she loves to deconstruct and rearrange songs. This is a funky take on the standard that Billie Holliday owned. Cassandra doesn’t take it away from Billie, but she certainly puts a distinctive (and quite cool) spin on it.
  3. The Streets — Let’s Push Things Forward (Original Pirate Material): No matter how often Mike Skinner disappoints, the first two Streets albums will always provide him some cover. His yobbish ruminations on the geezer life and his melding of hip—hop and garage/2—step/grime still sound so cool. The combination of Skinner’s narration and reggae hook on this cut works very well.
  4. Louis Armstrong — Blueberry Hill (The Essential Louis Armstrong): I intend to spend some more time investigating Satchmo’s early years, with the Hot Fives and Hot Sevens, where his trumpet playing rules. But he was a pretty terrific singer. This is a great interpretation of the Fats Domino classic, despite the backing choral vocals that sound like they were taken from a 1940s musical.
  5. The Boys — Turning Grey (The Boys): The Boys were the least sophisticated of the first wave of poppy punk bands (in comparison to The Undertones and Buzzcocks). But they delivered the goods, and by that, I mean the hooks, one right after another. Most of their songs are power pop songs with an extra burst of adrenalin. If you dig The Exploding Hearts, here are their ancestors.
  6. Montage — Men Are Building Sand (Montage): After Michael Brown left The Left Banke (best known for the ‘60s smash “Walk Away Renee”), he formed this similar baroque pop outfit. Sundazed tracked down the masters and although this doesn’t quite hit the heights of The Left Banke, it’s not too far off. This is a pretty number, though I have no idea what the title means.
  7. The Morells — Eager Boy (Shake And Push): I have a lot Morells on my iPod. This Springfield, Missouri band played a mix of traditional rock and roll with a bit of R & B and country mixed in, while penning some originals and covering contemporaries like Marshall Crenshaw and Ben Vaughn. This is a semi—rockabilly tune with a spirited vocal from D. Clinton Thompson, who also shows off his six—string mastery.
  8. Bad Religion — Million Days (Into The Unknown): Bad Religion is so proud of its second album, that it has never been released on CD and has been out of print for over two decades. Why? Because the band abandoned its hardcore punk for hard rock with definite prog rock overtones. This certainly sticks out like a sore thumb in the band’s catalog. But they have nothing to be embarrassed about, as this is still an entertaining album, as the songs are very well constructed. This is a mid—tempo number and it’s kind of hippy dippy, and the only Bad Religion song, I think, with a section of “la la la la” vocals.
  9. Tom Waits — Midtown (Rain Dogs): This is a brief instrumental on one of Waits’ many essential albums. It’s brassy and jazzy and sounds like it could have been waxed in 1950. Yep, my iPod is feeling very jazzy today.
  10. The Vapors — Bunkers (New Clear Days): Yes, these are the guys who hit big with “Turning Japanese”, fodder for many VH1 One Hit Wonder specials. It’s a shame. Not to knock “Japanese”, which is a fun song, but it wasn’t representative of The Vapors’ sound. Singer David Fenton constructed songs that mixed the percolating rhythms of The Jam (and the Kinks inspired observational lyrics) with some post—punk edge. This song fits in that mold, with a big emphasis on rhythm, as almost every instrument has a percussive edge and the bass playing is rubbery and flowing. Underrated band.

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Categorized: Friday MP3 Shuffle

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Mike Bennett writesiPod/MP3 Friday Shuffle — Happy Birthday Keith Richards Edition

We’re one week away from Christmas, and if you’re stuck for a gift idea for those you really love, here’s an idea — a 100% blood transfusion, to help clean out the ol’ system, or what those in the transfusion business call The Keith Richards Special. Keith turns 66 today, and doesn’t look a day under 80. This man, who has done more than any one individual to prop up the economies of Colombia, Afghanistan and Jamaica, defies death every day. Perhaps he made a pact with the tortured soul of Robert Johnson to keep the blues alive. Or maybe he’s just lucky. Regardless, Keith keeps rocking on, and so should you. So grab your iPod or MP3 player, hit shuffle, and, in honor of one of the Glimmer Twins, share the first 10 songs that come up with the world.

  1. Smokey Robinson & The Miracles — I Can’t Stand To See You Cry (Anthology): This is one of those heart melting ballads that Smokey mastered (by that I mean perfected, not actually mastering the recording). This is the song that you are supposed to play when you get into a spat with your significant other. Left unsaid in the song is what Smokey did to cause his lady to cry.
  2. Robyn Hitchcock — Do Policeman Sing? (Black Snake Diamond Role): The recent Yep Roc Hitchcock reissues gave me a chance to revisit the bastard child of Syd Barrett, Bob Dylan and John Lennon (not sure how that worked, but I’m sure it happened). And I found that I had been taking Robyn for granted, as he has so many great songs. This is a silly track from Robyn’s second solo album, which doesn’t sound too far away with some of XTC’s material from around the same era. But Andy Partridge wouldn’t write this: “And are policeman gay?/Depends on what you mean/They are not lewd or queer/but they all dig the queen.” At least I don’t think so.
  3. The Dickies — She Loves Me Not (Dawn Of The Dickies): Speaking of silly, they don’t much goofier than this L.A. pop-punk band that has been playing out for over 30 years. This is from their second, and best, album, which combines frothy, somewhat glammy pop tunes with adrenaline bursts of punk aggression (with a smiley face). This is one of those latter songs.
  4. Times New Viking — My Head (Rip It Off): Times New Viking is at the forefront of a number of contemporary artists who are not just low-fi, but in your face low-fi. The band writes simple retro pop songs (somewhere in between Guided By Voices and Ramones, at least on this one) and not only records them like crap, but does so with the needle not merely pushed into the red, but pushed beyond it. This is a fairly decent song which kind of reminds me of Outrageous Cherry and The Like Young. But as an overall aesthetic approach, it’s seems purposeless — if you can’t write a challenging or irritating song, record your simple song in an irritating fashion. It’s debatable if this enhances the song or even meshes well with the composition, as opposed, for example, to the ultra-feedback approach of the Jesus & Mary Chain, where the excess noise was tailored to the track.
  5. The Who — The Real Me (Quadrophenia): This is probably my second favorite Who album (The Who Sell Out being the first). As a story, the thing is a mess, but here, Pete Townshend’s proggier aspirations were held in check by the obvious empathy he had for the semi-autobiographical protagonist, Jimmy. The end result is gigantic, important songs that manage to fall one step shy of self-indulgence. It helps that Roger Daltrey is in prime form, Keith Moon finds a way to shoehorn his maniac tendencies in a more controlled environment (creating some real teacher) and John Entwhistle outdoes himself. Indeed, The Ox’s bass playing on this song is amazing.
  6. Bobby Womack — Lookin’ For A Love (Can You Dig It? The ’70s Soul): A nifty soul gem from the well-respected Bobby Womack. His voice is a bit gritty while the backing is a tad more urbane. This was later covered by The J. Geils Band, and was an FM radio staple in the ’70s.
  7. King Missile — The Boy Who Ate Lasagna and Could Jump Over a Church (The Way To Salvation): I wonder if John S. Hall, the poet/singer for King Missile, ever hung out with Robyn Hitchcock. Hall would sometimes sing, but usually, as on this song, he would narrate a poem in a matter of fact matter while his mates provided sufficient backing. The title of this song is halfway deceptive.
  8. Hank Williams — I’d Still Want You (The Complete Hank Williams): This song is in the same vein as a number of Hank’s classics, both structurally and melodically. Williams writes in simple four line verses, getting right into the chorus. There’s a pithy middle eight after the second and third choruses. It’s all so economical and perfect. And he even provides a little bit of that ol’ Hank moan. This is a good song to play after the Smokey tune, as it’s a song of total devotion.
  9. Squeeze — Pulling Mussels (From a Shell) (Argybargy): Around 1982 or so, there were critics who mentioned Chris Difford and Glen Tilbrook in the same breath as Lennon-McCartney. Yeah, that was a bit over the top. But at their peak, Difford and Tilbrook wrote literate songs full of creative melodies and crammed with hooks. This song is a vaguely new wavey pub rock number with a great guitar solo followed by a nifty turn at the piano by the one and only Jools Holland. This is textbook pop songwriting.
  10. The Dambuilders — Delaware (Encendedor): During the height of the alternative rock frenzy, major labels signed any band who might appear to have credibility. The Dambuilders never equaled the quality of this major label debut. This song, like a lot of the band’s work, mixed indie pop sensibilities with some burst of guitars, with the added bonus of Joan Wasser (a/k/a Joan As Policewoman) on violin. While certain aspects of this record are pure early ’90s, this sounds, for the most part, like it could have come out this year.

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Categorized: Friday MP3 Shuffle

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Mike Bennett writesiPod/MP3 Friday Shuffle — Happy Birthday Brenda Lee Edition

After four years in retail, I developed Christmas Music Aversion. An overload of festive cheer generally has made me a Scrooge when it comes to the holiday tunes. But a few songs are so good, they break down my resistance. One of those songs is from Little Miss Dynamite, the classic “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” by Brenda Lee. So I thought it would be a great idea to honor Miss Lee on her birthday, for making this season a little more tolerable. If everyone could grab his or her iPod/MP3 player, hit shuffle and share the first 10 tunes that come up, maybe there really could be peace on earth and good will to men, in a new old fashioned way.

  1. Eggstone — The Dog (Somersault): An amazing modern power pop track from this Swedish band. A lot of ’90s power pop showed some influence from Husker Du (loud melodic guitars) and Pixies (dynamics). That’s evident on this song, which mixes chirpy verses with explosive guitar fueled choruses, and then moves on to a whimsical sing-song middle eight, a killer twang guitar solo and then a pretty instrumental coda to bring it to a close. Of course, they never equaled this on either of their albums.
  2. John Lee Hooker — Tease Me (The Legendary Modern Recordings): Boy, my iPod is in love with this John Lee Hooker compilation. I won’t complain about that.
  3. Buck Owens — Nobody’s Fool But Yours (The Buck Owens Collection): This was not a major Buck Owens hit, but it is sure cut from the same cloth. Yep, maybe some of Buck’s honky-tonk songs were forumulaic, but his expressive voice that is sunny on top, wtih heartbreak underneath, and Don Rich’s pithy lead guitar parts and perfect harmony vocals always sound great.
  4. The Wonder Stuff — Unbearable (Eight Legged Groove Machine): In the late ’80s, The Wonder Stuff were an aggressive Brit pop band with an ultra-sarcastic lyrical stance:* “I didn’t like you very much when I met you/and now I like you even less.” Lead singer Miles Hunt could really craft a hook and the band was really tight and this debut album holds up pretty well today.
  5. The Negro Problem — Father Popcorn (Welcome Back): There was a great L.A. pop scene in the mid-‘90s, featuring creative bands like The Wondermints, Cockeyed Ghost and The Negro Problem. This band was led by Stew, who went on to win a Tony Award for his semi-autobiographical musical Passing Strange. Stew’s music encompassed a lot of territory, from classic songwriters like Burt Bacharach and Jimmy Webb, to some of Love’s hippier stuff, with just the right amount of muscle. This song showcases Stew’s expressive voice, which is a bit gruff but more than able to handle his fantastic melodies.
  6. The Shangri-Las — Right Now And Not Later (The Best Of The Shangri-Las): I love the classic ’60s girl group sound and The Shangri-Las were to the girl group sound what The Sonics were to garage rock. With Mary Weiss on lead vocals, they were the baddest girls on the block. This is a proto-feminist song with Weiss demanding that her guy commit to her, and if not, she’s finding someone else.
  7. Yello — Swing (You Gotta Say Yes To Another Excess): Unfairly pigeonholed as a novelty act due to the ubiquity of “Oh Yeah” (featured in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and many other movies, subsequently), Yello started off as a really bizarre synth-rock act on Ralph Records, and graduated to being a quirky synth-pop act on a major label. I’d give 2-1 odds that The Cure’s Robert Smith listened to this song before penning “Love Cats”, as there are some foundational similarities. This is a cool faux-jazz head bopper with a debonair vocal by the always debonair Dieter Meier.
  8. Happy Hate Me Nots — When I Die (The Good Thats…): Dale Gardner introduced me to this smoking Aussie punk band. They put their own twist on the R & B fueled punk sounds of The Saints, developing a distinctive sound. The Happy Hate Me Nots simply explode out of the speakers, the urgency and passion of their music evident with every note.
  9. Uncle Tupelo — Postcard (Still Feel Gone): The evolution of Uncle Tupelo from a rocking band with some rootsy influences into alt-country standard bearers is a great story. But I wish they could have stayed in their rock phase for an album or two longer. This Jay Farrar song does a great job balancing aggressive guitars with quieter country moments. Although the band’s identity morphed a great deal, there was never a point where they weren’t distinctive, and part of that is due to Farrar’s great voice (and that Tweedy fellow wasn’t too bad either, as I recall).
  10. Jethro Tull — Locomotive Breath (Aqualung): I became a Jethro Tull fan when a friend of mine was able to get me some stray promos of some of the band’s older albums. I had no real opinion on Tull one way or another before then, that I recall. Listening to these scattered albums, I was struck by how whatever Ian Anderson did, he was usually working with basic English folk song structures, in a way I found appealing. On Aqualung, these motifs are married to some terrific guitar riffs, while Anderson, when he’s not rocking the flute, rants about the evils of organized religion. This is second tier classic rock staple and Anderson’s anger and disgust is palpable.

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Categorized: Friday MP3 Shuffle

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Mike Bennett writesiPod/MP3 Friday Shuffle — Happy Birthday Tyra Banks Edition

Let’s give it up for the supermodel who’s become a super talk show mogul. The one and only Tyra Banks. In honor of the woman who will pull almost any stunt to get people to watch her show (as the accompanying picture shows), you go girls (and boys) and get your iPod/MP3 player, hit shuffle and share the first 10 tunes that come up.

  1. Guided By Voices — The Official Ironmen Rally Song (Under The Bushes, Under The Stars): Sure, Robert Pollard has released way too much material, but boy, he certainly had a ton of great songs. This majestic mid-tempo song, which was also released as a single, is nearly up there with GBV classics like “Motor Away” in the hierarchy of Mid-Fi Arena Rock Classics.
  2. Queen — Killer Queen (Sheer Heart Attack): This was the song that broke Queen big as a pop act. They had devoted a lot of their first two albums to being a poofier, sleeker alternative to Led Zeppelin, with some success. But this led them to being one of the biggest bands in the world. On this playful pop number, Queen shows off the influence of Roxy Music and Sparks, but the campy flash and high energy is just dialed down a little bit.
  3. The Hives — Main Offender (Veni Vidi Vicious): The Hives aren’t the best garage band around, but they are really good and very few bands have as much flair or personality. This song sounds like the New York Dolls meet The Move, and that’s fine with me.
  4. The Young Nashvillians — Follow That Girl (The Sad Smiles Of The Young Nashvillians): A second appearance from this rag tag group of college students from, you guessed it, Nashville, who recorded in the mid-‘80s. This is one of their later recordings, as evidenced by the polished. This is goofy retro pop, with a prominent Farfisa organ and alternatively scratchy and twangy guitars in the vein of early XTC and The B-52s.
  5. Sagittarius — Artificial Light (Of All The Living Lies) (Present Tense): This ’60s studio band was the brainchild of Gary Usher, who co-wrote songs with Brian Wilson and produced The Byrds and Simon & Garfunkel. He collaborated on this awesome psychedelic soft pop effort with Curt Boettcher. The result is something akin to The Free Design, The Association and The Beach Boys, but with unique dense arrangements, and a general trippier vibe. Listening to the myriad instruments on headphones, perfectly placed in the mix, is a real treat.
  6. The Hollies — You Need Love (Evolution): This is a proto-power pop number from one of the underrated bands of the ’60s. They may have been the best harmony vocalists of all of the British Invasion, with Graham Nash always stacked on top with an angelic voice. If you are in a power pop band, and have some good singers, cover this number. You’ll be glad you did.
  7. The Rolling Stones — Lies (Some Girls): I’d rather listen to Some Girls than Exile On Main Street. On Some Girls, the band established a new type of groove that carried them for about five or six years until it was impossible to stop the rot. This is not one of the stellar tracks from this album, but it still sounds good. Charlie Watts effortlessly taps out a beat that is metronomic, and yet it still swings, while Ron Wood and Keith Richards just fill the track with cool blues guitar tomfoolery.
  8. The dB’s — Working For Somebody Else (The Sound Of Music): Peter Holsapple has such a great hangdog voice and it is perfect for this bitch session about having to have a job. After all, as someone smarter than me once asked, if work is so great, why do they have to pay you to do it? This song has a wobbly R & B foundation, while Holsapple’s melody pushes him near the top of his range. There’s lots of great guitar business going on here, but this song would work if it were just Peter on an acoustic.
  9. The Merry-Go-Round — On Your Way Out (The Merry-Go-Round): This ’60s band was led by Emmit Rhodes, who went on to become a cult figure in pop/power pop circles for McCartney-esque solo albums. On this band’s sole LP, Rhodes showed proficiency for melodic folk-rock in the vein of The Byrds and The Youngbloods. I think there is a best of for these guys, and Rhodes was a really good songwriter, so if you like this sort of stuff, look for the compilation.
  10. Myracle Brah — Hearts On Fire (Plate Spinner): What started as a side project for Baltimore’s Andy Bopp (of Love Nut) became a favorite of the power pop underground in the late ’90s/early ’00s. Bopp mastered the canon of The Beatles, Badfinger and Cheap Trick, and then created bittersweet gems by the fistful. He’s vacillated from more classically retro material and attempts to take power pop into more contemporary directions without losing its roots. He did that latter thing quite well on Plate Spinner, which had creative production and compositions and arrangements that connected dots. This sounds like Paul McCartney fronting Radiohead in an “Eleanor Rigby”-“Karma Police” mash up. Great tune.

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Categorized: Friday MP3 Shuffle

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