If George Harrison was The Quiet Beatle, what would you call John Deacon? The Mute Queen? The Stay in the Background Queen? Of course, with two large personalities in Freddie Mercury and Roger Taylor, and a guitar god in Brian May, there simply wasn’t room for much more than a bass player who could hold the fort, and Deacon did that and then some. Not only did he keep up with all of Queen’s various styles, he set some too, hanging out with Chic during some down time, and then whipping up “Another One Bites the Dust”, he also wrote such beloved Queen songs as “Spread Your Wings” and “You’re My Best Friend”, while remaining perhaps the dweebiest rock star of all-time. So please celebrate Deacon’s b-day by grabbing your iPod or MP3 player, hitting shuffle, and sharing the first 10 songs that come up.
Curve — Ice That Melts The Tips (Doppelganger): Curve melded throbbing post-punk inspired dance music with Toni Halliday’s chilly/sexy vocals and prickly guitars to make music heavy on atmosphere. Luckily, they did a good job translating the groove into catchy songs with just enough melody to cut through the dense soundscape. I think this is one Curve’s better songs.
Teacher’s Edition — I Wanna Be Loved (In Perfect Harmony: Sweet Soul Groups 1968-1977): A wonderful soul song with simple lyrics and an enduring melody. This group, who issued a couple of singles in the early ’70s, got the backing of the renowned Hi Records rhythm section, giving it a certain simmering funk groove, but the performance is more in line with classic Philadelphia vocal groups. Elvis Costello recognized the greatness of the song, and covered it on his Goodbye Cruel World album.
Alexander O’Neal — Fake (Greatest Hits): O’Neal was the lead singer for the band Flight Tyme, a Minneapolis R & B/funk outfit. Then Prince booted him, replaced him with Morris Day, and rechristened the band as The Time. Meanwhile, O’Neal went on to have a pretty nice solo career. He isn’t quite the personality that Day was (but who is?), but he has a powerful voice, well-suited to sing the big choruses of his best tunes. This was his biggest hit and the only one to really impact the pop charts. This is a fine slice of ’80s R & B.
Outkast — Behold a Lady (Speakerboxx/The Love Below): A really nice piece of electrofunk from Andre 3000’s half of Outkast’s smash hit double CD. Mr. Benjamin was clearly influenced by Prince and the sounds of the early to mid-‘80s on this fun tune.
The Finn Brothers — Only Talking Sense (Finn): The opening cut from this gem of a record from Tim and Neil Finn. This project was put off when songs these Kiwi brothers had worked on formed the bulk of Crowded House’s Woodface album. On this second try, they conjured up a batch of songs as strong as that Crowded House classic. This is one of Neil’s songs, and it fits in well with the intelligent guitar pop he’s been doing since forming Crowded House. But the backing is less dense, the percussion is low key but very creative and Tim is an excellent backing vocalist. And album worth seeking out.
Gene Chandler — Rainbow (Beg, Scream & Shout): My iPod is feeling soulful today. Although this is from a Rhino collection of ’60s soul, this number from Mr. “Duke of Earl” is a bit more in line with the ’50s scene from where he came. This is a gospel drenched number that finds Chandler moving closer to deep soul.
Paul Kelly & The Messengers — Adelaide (Gossip): The first album from Paul Kelly is classic Australian music. Heck, this song is named after an Aussie city. Kelly’s music fell somewhere between folky singer-songwriter and pub rockers like Graham Parker. This is a typically warm number with literate lyrics and an engaged performance. Kelly will be in Chicago in September.
Crowded House — Archer’s Arrows (Intriguer): The two post-reunion albums don’t quite retain the amazing quality of the band’s first four albums, but Neil Finn is such a good songwriter, that the hooks eventually sink in. This is a very typical Finn composition, with moody verses opening up into a winning chorus, with a great melodic hook that takes the song back into the next verse. A very strong song.
Ken Stringfellow — Down Like Me (Touched): This is from the first solo album of one of the two voices behind The Posies. This song has a mid-tempo country pop vibe, accentuated by the pedal steel guitar. Both of Stringfellow’s solo releases are full of terrific songs, and, of course, the vocals are very strong.
The Screaming Blue Messiahs — Someone To Talk To (Gun Shy): A sadly forgotten band. The Messiahs mixed a bit of blues and old rock with a more sleek pub and punk rock inspired vibe to come up with some great aggressive guitar rock songs. They benefited from the strong presence of guitarist/front man Bill Carter, whose lyrics sometimes seemed improvised, as his powerful voice rode over the strong riffs and grooves he and the rhythm section put down. This song stitches together a few simple musical ideas, building up to Carter passionately growling out the title in the chorus.