Today, let’s celebrate the birthday of one of the all-time great sidemen in rock and soul history, saxophonist Maceo Parker. When he joined James Brown’s band in 1964, he was basically a throw-in – James really wanted Maceo’s brother, Melvin, who played drums. Maceo turned out to be quite the bonus, playing on countless great sides with the Hardest Working Man in Show Business. Having been around for the invention of funk, it makes sense that George Clinton would want Maceo to play with Parliament-Funkadelic. And during the ‘70s, Maceo began recording his own records as well. He’s recorded 11 albums on his own and recorded with everyone from De La Soul to Prince. He’s one of the greats. Let’s pay tribute to Maceo by grabbing your iPod or MP3 player, hitting shuffle and sharing the first 10 songs that come up.
Lolas – Something You Ought To Know (Something You Ought To Know): Another melodic gem from this Alabama power pop band that had a keen ability to write songs that sounded like lost ‘70s AM radio hits. This song certainly exemplifies this, a sweet mid-tempo tune, with Tim Boykin’s friendly vocals.
The Undertones – Billy’s Third (Radio Sessions 1978-1982): A rawer version of this fine punk-pop tune from the pride and joy of Derry, Northern Ireland. These radio sessions aren’t as crisp, but the energy is great and that distinctive Undertones guitar sound is still there.
Pere Ubu – Fire (Cloudland): After edging towards accessibility on The Tenement Years, Pere Ubu truly met pop halfway on Cloudland and the result is one of my all-time favorite albums. This song has the usual nervous Pere Ubu energy, with an actual R & B based riff and bass line that drives most of the song. Yep, a bit of a groove oriented tune.
James Brown – Sexy, Sexy, Sexy (The 50th Anniversary Collection): This 1973 track from the soundtrack to Slaughter’s Big Rip Off is an example of the Godfather recycling – he sped up the backing track to the 1966 single “Money Can’t Change You” and wrote new lyrics. Maceo has a nice little solo on here – maybe I won the shuffle this week!
The 5th Dimension – Carpet Man (The Very Best of): Fine sunshine pop from The 5th Dimension, with a cautionary message to a guy getting taken advantage of by his lady. This is a fine Jimmy Webb composition with a cool middle eight.
Café Tacvba – Eo (Cuatro Caminos): A silly bit of ping-ponging rock whimsy from this great Mexican rock band. This sounds like an homage to Mano Negra and Mano Chao.
The Wonder Stuff – Mission Drive (Never Loved Elvis): On their third album, The Wonder Stuff went from cheeky power poppy material to ostensibly more sincere, rootsy rock. And, on this album, it worked pretty well, finding a midpoint between their old sound and bands like The Waterboys. This song builds up very nicely.
These New Puritans – H. (Beat Pyramid): A 29 second snippet from this post-punk band. Nothing music you can say about what is essentially ambient found sound.
British Sea Power – Baby (Valhalla Dancehall): A subdued slow burner from this British post-punk band. The song pretty much stays in the same place, and it’s not A-grade BSP, but I like it nonetheless.
The Intelligence – Universal Babysitter (Fake Surfers): The Intelligence are a slightly arty garage band. This song is an echoey surf rock number than would appeal to fans of Thee Oh Sees and Sonny and the Sunsets.