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The CHIRP Blog

Mike Bennett writesFriday iPod/MP3 Shuffle—Happy Birthday James Brown Edition

Today we pay tribute to one of the giants of American music, James Brown. A juvenile delinquent, Brown was paroled after serving time for armed robbery and joined a band called the Famous Flames. By the late ‘50s, Brown was in charge, and his incredible string of R & B chart hits. At first, he was a testifying soul shouter, who crossed over with his Live at the Apollo album. Brown was the ultimate road house trouper, with his dynamic live show. As his bands got tighter and tighter, the first seeds of funk were planted. Combining syncopation with precise guitar parts and simple vocal lines, Brown broke down his music into the simplest of elements, but put them together in complex combinations. The reverberations of funk are still being felt today, around the world. I go could on and on about Brown’s political songs, how he stopped a riot, and many other things, but I only have so much time. He’s right up there with Duke Ellington, Bob Dylan, Brian Wilson and Hank Williams among the most important figures in American. In his honor, grab your iPod or MP3 player, hit shuffle and share the first 10 songs that come up.

  1. The Kingbees – Shake-Bop (The Kingbees): This West Coast band was ahead of the curve on the rockabilly revival, putting out albums in 1980 and 1981. They weren’t as slavish as later revivalists. Indeed, the music seemed to cover rockabilly through early Beatles type music. This song here wouldn’t have sounded out of place on Marshall Crenshaw’s first album.
  2. The Morells – Your Ma Says You Cried In Your Sleep Last Night (Morells Anthology Live): Thankfully, there are now a handful of full Morells concerts on CD, so folks can here one of the all-time great bar bands. This is a fun rendition of Kenny Dino’s 1961 hit (his only Top 40 hit), which a lot of people may have heard performed by Robert Plant.
  3. The Pretty Things – Balloon Burning (S.F. Sorrow): One of the best tracks on this seminal rock opera, it has a driving rhythm and lead guitarist Dick Taylor races along with a sustained guitar line, while spectral harmonies ride on top of this controlled frenzy. A great arty psych-rock tune.
  4. Terry Reid – Speak Now Or Forever Hold Your Piece (Terry Reid): While Cheap Trick’s cover of the song on their debut album is definitive, Terry Reid’s original is pretty damn fine. Cheap Trick didn’t mess with the basic structure of the song, and Reid, as per usual, sings the hell out of it.
  5. Hawksley Workman – Lethal and Young ((Last Night We Were) The Delicious Wolves): Some piano whimsy that provides a respite from the more caffeinated material that dominates Workman’s second and best album.
  6. Graham Parker – Not If It Pleases Me (Howlin’ Wind): Parker’s debut album is a classic, with his working class take on Van Morrison and R & B fueled rock. This ditty provides a lighter moment, as it has a nice New Orleans lilt, and shows that Parker wasn’t always an angry young man.
  7. Jimmy Cliff – She Does It Right (Jimmy Cliff): Jimmy Cliff’s debut album is simply one sunny reggae gem after another. His angelic voice, the reggae rhythms and strong R & B inspired melodies make for great pop music.
  8. B.B. King – You Upset Me Baby (The Roots of Rock ‘n’ Roll): King breaks out Lucille right away on this swinging number, with bouncing piano and horn accompaniment. This is a more urbane version of the blues, closer to Louis Jordan than the Mississippi Delta, and things are getting closer to Chuck Berry turf.
  9. Jim Croce – Tomorrow’s Going To Be A Brighter Day (You Don’t Mess Around With Jim): A typically nice slice of folk-pop from Jim Croce’s debut album. This has some finger picking guitar and shows off Croce’s nice mix of melody and rhythm in his singing.
  10. Yo La Tengo – Tears Are In Your Eyes (And Then Nothing Turned Itself Inside-Out): A gentle number sung by Georgia Hubley. This seems to find a midpoint between an early Velvet Underground/Nico number with a hint of Americana pop. Very sweet.

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Categorized: Friday MP3 Shuffle

Topics: ipod, james brown, mp3

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