Jane’s Addiction built an audience organically, offering a fresh take on Led Zeppelin-styled hard rock with a compelling, albeit limited, lead vocalist, Perry Farrell. No one could have suspected that Farrell would become a major music entrepreneur. He started the Lollapalooza package tours back in 1991, and they were an immediate hit, cleverly realizing that he could find bands that by themselves might not fill a shed, but together could draw a crowd of alt-rock fans. After that ran its course, Farrell shrewdly picked up on the fact that stand alone festivals were picking up steam and he brought back his brand and planted a flag on the lakefront here in Chicago. For better or for worse, Lollapalooza, combined with the earlier Pitchfork Festival, makes Chicago the center of cool music in the summer. Let’s pay tribute to Perry on his birthday by grabbing your iPod or MP3 player, hitting shuffle, and sharing the first 10 songs that come up.
Cassandra Wilson – Death Letter (New Moon Daughter): A compelling version of the Son House blues tune by one of the greatest jazz singers of this generation. Wilson really transcends genre, inhabiting this song with full but unobtrusive musical backing.
Run-DMC – How’d Ya Do It Dee (Tougher Than Leather): This album isn’t considered up to Run-DMC’s top standard, but I’d take it over King Of Rock. That being said, this is one of the lesser cuts, saved only by the enthusiasm of Run and DMC.
13th Floor Elevators – I Had To Tell You (I’ve Always Been Here): Haunting psych-folk with the quavering voice of Roky Erickson. He was pretty much special from the get go.
Canasta – Imposters (We Were Set Up): This Chicago band once did a gig at the Dark Room where they played a nice set of Belle and Sebastian covers, and that’s certainly a good reference point for their sound. But their literate songs have a lot of things going on, and would appeal to fans of Death Cab For Cutie, Summerteeth-era Wilco and ‘70s art-pop like John Cale. Some of the best Canasta songs take you on a journey, and this song winds on for five and half minutes, with a few different hooky parts (especially the dominant electric piano line), building to a well deserved climax.
Louis Armstrong – Honeysuckle Rose (The Essential Louis Armstrong): Trummy Young sings with Louis on this fine rendition of a Fats Waller song. This is really smooth, in a good way.
Oasis – Don’t Look Back In Anger ((What’s The Story) Morning Glory?): While I think Oasis became bloated rather quickly, I still really dig the first two albums. Here, Noel Gallagher is in ultra homage to John Lennon mode on one of the band’s best songs.
John Cale – The Endless Plain Of Fortune (Paris 1919): When reviewing this album for CHIRP, I learned that Cale was trying to create pop songs that reflected the surrealist movement in the early 20th century, which explains the odd and wonderful imagery in the songs. This is lovely textured song that doesn’t have a big hook, but creates a splendid enveloping atmosphere.
Peggy Lee – You’re Getting To Be A Habit With Me (Miss Peggy Lee): Next to Frank Sinatra, Peggy Lee is my favorite singer of the pre-rock era. Like ol’ Blue Eyes, she radiated attitude and back it up with great phrasing. On this song, there’s a bit of a blues vibe in her vocals on this jaunty ballad.
Shudder To Think – Red House (Funeral At The Movies): Perhaps this DC band’s signature tune, so good, they re-recorded it for their second major label album. Relative to the early part of their career, this was the most accessible piece of music they had recorded. The song is just a slow and steady build, with a constant rhythm and floaty melody, which culminates in an elongated chorus that breaks the building tension. The song then swells anew.
The Sugarplastic – Salmolina (Radio Jejune): One of the best cuts on this L.A. art pop band’s debut. The band always drew XTC comparisons, primarily due to some vocal resemblance to Andy Partridge by Ben Eschbach. But there was so much more going on, as a lot of other post-punk pop filtered through. This is one of the bounciest tunes on the album, with the more melodic verses contrasting with somewhat dissonant choruses.