He was the brawling tough guy who cleaned up real well when The Who became the ultimate Mod band. He has always been a rocker who provided balance to the sensitive artist side of Pete Townshend. And while he was not the best of the bluesy British Invasion singers, he came into his own as The Who shifted into a bigger arena rock sound, with his scream in “Won’t Get Fooled Again” being one of the signature moments of ‘70s rock. Moreover, Daltrey is a fan and seems fairly in touch with his working class roots. One of my favorite moments in the documentary on Brian Wilson’s revival of Smile is Daltrey visiting Brian backstage before the first performance, clearly in fanboy mode. Let’s pay tribute to one of the first true rock god frontmen by grabbing your iPod, hitting shuffle, and sharing the first 10 songs that come up.
Poor Luther’s Bones – Everyday People Gonna Rule The World (Jukes ‘n’ Junk): A fine track from the Pennsylvania group led by Garth Forsyth that has touched upon rock, psychedelia, Beefheart/Tom Waits turf, folk and country to varying degrees on a bunch of fine albums. This album came out last year, and Forsyth is in a lite psych-rock mode. This song has three basic ideas that blend together well, somewhat baroque subdued garage rock verses moving into a more straightforward bridge into a guitar rock chorus. My description doesn’t do this justice, but there’s a lot of cool stuff going on here and Forsyth pull it off seamlessly.
Captain Beefheart & The Magic Band – Frownland (Trout Mask Replica): Yeah, this album isn’t for everyone. I think it is the apex of the good Captain’s career, but I wouldn’t say it’s my favorite album to listen to of his. I do like it, and this song is typical on the blend of gutter blues, free jazz and Don Van Vliet artiness that really shows how dissonance can be a very effective technique.
The Go-Betweens – Finding You (Ocean Apart): A pretty tune from the final album from this great Aussie band. The last album is the best of the LPs they put out once Robert Forster and Grant McLennan got back together. This is very representative of their work, a McLennan tune that has one foot in the Velvet Underground, but with a certain pop/melodic aspect that puts a distinct stamp on it.
Sam Cooke – The Tennessee Waltz (Portrait Of A Legend): A fingerpoppin’ version of the tune immortalized by Patti Page. Cooke’s cool, soulful rendition serves to highlight the virtues of the song, while totally recasting the mood of the tune.
Split Enz – Betty (Frenzy): Frenzy was the first album where Tim Finn fully controlled the band, while his kid brother Neil, began to make some contributions. The LP finally kindled Split Enz’s commercial prospects, due to the new wave-y single, “I See Red”. But this laid back acoustic number is much more in line with the band’s original art pop approach, and serves as a nice showcase for Tim’s great singing.
The dB’s – Tearjerkin’ (Stands For Decibels): The debut dB’s album crackles with excitement. The recording is probably best described as mid-fi, compressed in just the right amount, which suits Chris Stamey’s quirky tunes, augmented by the Farfisa organ. Stamey had a big Radio City-era Big Star jones, concocting some marvelous arty power pop songs with amazing arrangements. This tune would fall apart without the great Will Rigby on drums, as he handles all the tempos and shifts without breaking a sweat, driving the tune to it’s deft chorus.
Lulu featuring David Bowie – The Man Who Sold The World (Dynamite: The Best of Glam Rock): I think Bowie’s playing saxophone on Lulu’s cover of one of his first great tunes. Lulu sings this in her pop star style and the tune is definitely polished with hopes of ‘70s AM radio play. The sax is a cool addition to put a specific stamp on this version.
The Turtles – Elenore (Solid Zinc: The Turtles Anthology): This sublime slice of pop was a #6 hit for The Turtles. It relies on dynamics similar to their biggest hit, “Happy Together”, and showcases their fantastic harmony vocals. A classic.
Led Zeppelin – Black Mountain Side (Led Zeppelin I): The folky side of Zep was there from the beginning, as Jimmy Page picks a mean acoustic on this instrumental. It has a slight Eastern undertone, but there is a place where English folk has a drone that melds well with Indian music.
Tymon Dogg – Lose This Skin (The Irrepressible Tymon Dogg Collection 1968-2009): Tymon was a long time buddy of Joe Strummer’s who played in the final edition of Joe’s Mescaleros. Before that, Dogg appeared on Side 5 of The Clash’s Sandinista! album, applying his distinctive warble to this careening, aggressive folk rocker. When Rev-Ola compiled a bunch of Dogg’s recording, he took another crack at his best known tune. The voice isn’t quite as powerful, but it still is very evocative. This version is a bit more compact than the original, but has all the same virtues, including Dogg’s rocking violin.