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Mike Bennett writesFriday iPod/MP3 Shuffle—Happy Birthday Brian Wilson Edition

He was two years old when he heard “Rhapsody in Blue”, and it resonated with him. This toddler with sophisticated taste soon joined family members in creating the most commercially successful American rock ‘n’ roll band, The Beach Boys. Brian Wilson got the songwriting bug early on, co-writing the first Beach Boys hit, “Surfin’”, in 1961. He grew by leaps and bounds as a composer, producer and arranger. In 1962, he wrote the sublime “Surfer Girl” and with each Beach Boys album, and they were quite prolific, he mixed old time rock ‘n’ roll, California style with introspective songs with increasingly complex structures. This culminated in one of the signature moments in pop music, the Pet Sounds album. Perhaps no album creates such emotional resonance just with the music, with lyrics just adding to what Wilson had brilliantly portrayed in sound. After Pet Sounds, Brian was still capable of brilliant work and he has had a new career touring with his band. This led to the actual completion of his other masterwork Smile. I saw Wilson on that tour at the Auditorium Theater, and it is certainly one of the best concerts I have ever attended. In honor of this musical genius, please grab your iPod or MP3 player, hit shuffle, and share the first 10 songs that come up.

  1. Roy Wood – When Gran’ma Plays the Banjo (Boulders): A slice of whimsy from the former leader of The Move and early member of Electric Light Orchestra. It’s a country shuffle with some fine pickin’.
  2. David Bowie – Scary Monsters (& Super Creeps)(Scary Monsters): The title cut from what I believe is Bowie’s last fully great album. After his Berlin-era, he came back to rock music, and unlike other veteran rockers, he fit in perfectly well with the post-punk and new wave stuff that was grabbing attention. This song is pure momentum with a ominous edge.
  3. Del Shannon – From Me to You (Greatest Hits): While best known for his classic “Runaway”, Shannon was a terrific and versatile rock singer. This is a very faithful remake of the early Beatles’ hit. It’s fun here him incorporate his falsetto in a couple of parts.
  4. The Angels – Alexander (Dark Room): Just a few weeks ago, Angels lead singer Doc Neeson died of cancer. Hearing this song from the last fully great Angels album reminds me yet again how great he was. He had one of those raspy, sore throat vocal styles that was very commanding. He may not have had much range, but he could handle a melody quite well. This is a mid-tempo rock tune with a simple riff in the verse and a nice sing-a-long chorus.
  5. Louis Jordan – Reet, Petite and Gone (Five Guys Named Moe: Original Decca Recordings): I think I have four Jordan compilations. This jump-blues artist was one of the first major black crossover artists and he is one of the biggest influences on early rock ‘n’ roll. This is a typical groovin’ jazz tune with Jordan’s syncopated rhyming almost a forerunner of rap.
  6. House of Freaks – Crack in the Sidewalk (Monkey On A Chain Gang): Before The White Stripes, this was the standard for two man rock ‘n’ roll bands. They never failed to make worthwhile records, but they never beat this debut. This was one of the tracks that got some airplay. Drummer Johnny Hott really could fill the sonic space, here laying down an insistent beat, while Bryan Harvey mixed twangy leads with beefy rhythm parts, and he knew how to throw in a melodic chorus. Great tune.
  7. Julianna Raye – My Tribe (Something Peculiar): Raye is related to a higher up at Warner Brothers records, but she deserved her record contract on talent. Jeff Lynne produced her debut, and her warm, strong vocals mix well with his Beatle-y/ELO-y production. If you’re a fan of Lynne’s work with George Harrison, look for this CD in the dollar bins.
  8. The Beta Band – Broke (Hot Shots II): I’m a late convert to these guys, but I love it when they come up on a shuffle. Their electronic hazy psych-rock always sounds so cool. This track is a bit more trip-hoppy than I normally think of their music, but the use of sonic space is outstanding, and the arrangement on this track is very creative.
  9. Maximo Park – Now I’m All Over the Shop (A Certain Trigger): These guys are coming a lot in my shuffle lately. From their excellent debut, this is a rollicking rocker that reminds me a bit of early XTC, mixed with a little early Joe Jackson or Elvis Costello.
  10. The Equals – Lonely Rita (Black Skin Blue Eyed Boys: The Anthology): I think Eddy Grant heard The Beatles’ “Lovely Rita” and decided he could write a better song using the name. The song grafts a cool psychedelic chorus with Bo Diddley inspired verses. The two parts shouldn’t fit together, but it works very well.

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Categorized: Friday MP3 Shuffle

Topics: brian wilson, ipod, mp3

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