Today, let’s celebrate the birthday of the frontman of a band that produced one of the best albums of the ‘60s. Arthur Lee was born in Memphis, but moved to Los Angeles when he was five and by high school, he met Johnny Echols and they played in bands together. He was soon writing songs, and one of his songs was recorded by a local R & B singer, with Jimi Hendrix playing guitar on the session. Love came together in 1965, with Echols and Bryan McLean, among others. The band soon became a top live attraction and garnered a local hit with their radical rearrangement of Burt Bacharach’s “My Little Red Book”. This led to a deal with Elektra Records. Love was a perfect band for the psychedelic age, mixing all sorts of genres together, but this didn’t yield any hits. Nevertheless, their first three albums are great, with Forever Changes one of the most essential albums of the era. Lee later went solo and then dealt with various substance abuse and legal (i.e. jail time) issues. In the early ‘90s, he got himself back together and began touring as Love with mega-fans Baby Lemonade backing him up. I saw this edition of Love twice, and Lee was fascinating and the music sounded great. Let’s honor Lee by grabbing your iPod or MP3 player, hitting shuffle and sharing the first 10 songs that come up.
Creedence Clearwater Revival – Lodi (Green River): Americana wasn’t a genre term when CCR was around, but they have to be one of the inventors of it. This song seems to be right at the intersection of blues, country and folk and is yet another example of the brilliance of John Fogerty.
Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark – Julia’s Song (Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark): More than other contemporaries, early OMD songs often sound like they were written for a guitar band, but played on synths. This mid-tempo number relies on a prominent synth-bass part, with lots of other layers. This somehow mixes a bit of a Latin feel with a some drone and garage rock, but at a more dragging tempo.
Ben Folds – Still Fighting It (Rockin’ The Suburbs): I like the pretty and overly sentimental Ben Folds to the smartass Ben Folds and this song is totally of the former stripe. This is pure craftsmanship, building a hook a la Billy Joel.
Jools Holland & Joss Stone – Bei Mir Bist Du Schon (The Golden Age of Song): Every few years, Jools gets his band together with some great singers and plays some old tunes. This is a creative reggae adaptation of the Yiddish ‘30s song that the great Sammy Cahn wrote English lyrics for. The title stands for “If I Would, I Could” and was the first big hit for The Andrews Sisters.
Suede – Pantomime Horse (Suede): A slow burning epic from Suede’s debut album. This song is a good example of how they melded their glam rock influences with bits of classic rock and post-punk for maximum dramatic effect.
The Psychedelic Furs – Soap Commercial (The Psychedelic Furs): There are no bad tracks on the Furs first album. This song highlights the strong rhythm section, which provides a great foundation for lots of guitar color with a gap in the sound for Richard Butler to rant. And these guys were so good at hooky bits.
David Bowie – (You Will) Set The World On Fire (The Next Day): A really nice tune from Bowie’s album from last year. But for the slight weathering of his voice, this sounds like it was recorded around 1981 or so.
Julian Cope – A Crack in the Clouds (Saint Julian): An epic journey of a song from Julian Cope’s most commercially successful album in America. This song mixes a bit of an Eastern vibe with a wee bit of acoustic psychedelia, then adding in some rock power as the tune moves along.
Bee Gees – Tomorrow Tomorrow (Tales From The Brothers Gibb): This 1969 single was a minor hit and the first thing that Barry and Maurice recorded after Robin left to go solo. This never ended up on an album, but it’s a fine slice of baroque pop, though not top flight Bee Gees.
The Beatles – If I Fell (A Hard Day’s Night): When Ringo is sulking at the TV studio in A Hard Day’s Night, John Lennon starts playing this song, and that’s all it takes to get Mr. Starkey to turn his frown upside down. You see The Beatles’ music had that effect even on The Beatles themselves.