Today is the birthday of a giant in the music industry, Quincy Jones. Jones showed musical aptitude at an early age, getting a scholarship to the forerunner of the Berklee School of Music at 18. He left school a year later to tour in Lionel Hampton’s band. Within a few years, he was producing and arranging. For example, at the age of 22, he was producing Louis Jordan, trying to help the jump blues king adapt to the rock ‘n’ roll age (a project that was artistically successful, although a commercial flop). Having worked with a who’s who of jazz legends, by the time he was 31, he was an executive at Mercury Records. He worked on film scores, made his own records, produced Leslie Gore and did tons of other things. This set the pattern for his career. Make a few records, do some soundtracks and work with major artists such as Frank Sinatra. Of course, his legacy was cemented with his work with Michael Jackson on Thriller. In honor of Mr. Jones, please grab your iPod or MP3 player, hit shuffle and please share the first 10 songs that come up.
The English Beat – Jackpot (I Just Can’t Stop It): A nice mid-tempo ska number from the debut of this fine band. The song is not an incredible composition, but the band sounds great and it’s just so much fun.
The Pretty Things – Photographer (Get A Buzz): From a compilation of the Pretties’ early years, this is a foray into pop. The song is somewhere between music hall Kinks and psychedelia, with some really unusual sounding horns that give this a freaky sound.
Willie Nelson – Bandera (Red Headed Stranger): A typically economic cut from the concept album that was Willie’s commercial breakthrough. This is a very nice instrumental, with some pretty piano playing.
Too Much Joy – Sin Tax (Mutiny): While known as a smart ass band, which is certainly justified, Too Much Joy did a lot of observational social commentary. This song’s lyrics could have been a bit sharper, but it’s not often bands take on how we tax behaviors that we keep legal even though they are harmful.
Brakes – Why Tell The Truth (When It’s Easier to Lie) (Touchdown): British band that was called Brakes Brakes Brakes here in the United States. They remind me a little bit of Nada Surf crossed with...The Fratellis? Del Amitri? Clever lyrics and hooky tunes always work for me, and this is a good one.
King Crimson – Fallen Angel (Red): This was originally supposed to be the final King Crimson album. It didn’t quite work out that way. This is a very accessible cut, starting out like a melodic AOR song. The guitars kick in and the song takes a different journey, with a blues jazz breakdown, and the song then moves between the sweeter verses and the cool rock/jazz noodling.
Judas Priest – Love Bites (Defenders of the Faith): A Judas Priest song and a Buzzcocks album title. This is a standard issue hammer-and-tongs Priest ‘80s number, with a very 1984 drum sound.
The Congos – Nicodemus (Heart of The Congos): A great track from one of the most essential reggae albums. Lee Perry’s hazy production meshes perfectly with the beautiful tenor harmonies of The Congos.
They Might Be Giants – Stand On Your Own Head (Lincoln): A quick deep cut from the pen of John Linnell with groaning word play and a banjo.
Tom Robinson Band – I’m Alright Jack (Power in the Darkness): A punchy punky tune from TRB’s debut album. This would be a cool band for a garage band to cover and add ‘60s style gloss to it.