Her theatrical art-pop songs took England by storm during the frenzy of the post-punk years. When you can succeed even though you are totally out of fashion, that’s a sign of a major talent. And Kate Bush was an artist who commanded attention from the moment “Wuthering Heights” came out. She was the complete package, a dazzlingly original songwriter who controlled all aspects of her work, leading to watershed albums such as The Dreaming and The Hounds of Love, and elaborate live shows. Sadly, she has a fear of flying, so other than a single appearance on Saturday Night Live early in her career, she has never played live in the States. However, if we all pay tribute to this influential artist by grabbing the ol’ iPod/MP3 player and hitting shuffle and sharing the first 10 tunes that come up, maybe she’ll have a change of heart and come across the pond to amaze us.
Robert Palmer — Sailin’ Shoes (The Very Best of the Island Years): I’m a fan of Palmer’s low key blues and R & B inspired rock. This is a really nice cover of the Little Feat track, and I believe that Little Feat actually backed him on this track. This has a funky New Orleans vibe and Palmer’s lead vocals are a bit more aggressive than usual. This is actually a medley with the song “Hey Julia”, but on this compilation, it cuts off midway through.
Lou Reed — The Last Shot (Legendary Hearts): A great slice of matter-of-fact decadence from Uncle Lou. This is from the follow up to Lou’s amazing Blue Mask album. It’s not as fiery, but it’s a tight mid-tempo rock tune with the great line, “shot a vein in my neck and coughed up a Quaalude.” Reed does black humor very well, making fun of addiction while taking it seriously at the same time.
Cheap Trick — Big Eyes (In Color): One of a dozen near perfect power pop songs on Cheap Trick’s second album. This song is centered around Bun E. Carlos’ insistent drumming and Tom Peterson’s beefy bass. The Move was certainly an influence on this song. But what puts this song over the top is the amazing instrumental break that simply soars into the atmosphere, setting up an economical Rick Nielsen guitar solo.
Pernice Brothers — Endless Supply (The World Won’t End): This Pernice tune has a fantastic ’70s mellow gold vibe. The use of mellotron compliments Joe Pernice’s quiet vocals. The only thing that separates this from America or England Dan and John Ford Coley is that the Pernice boys don’t pump the chorus to epic dimensions. Instead the song is more intimate and thus, more insinuating.
The Mysteries — Give Me Rhythm And Blues (The Girls’ Scene): A fantastic slice of British ’60s girl pop. These gals aren’t the best singers, so the producer wisely added a slight bit of echo to their voices. The song is a trifle but has a bit of a haunting quality. This would be a good song for bands in the Vivian Girls mode to cover. In fact, the Hollows would absolutely kill this song.
The Jesus & Mary Chain — It’s So Hard (Psychocandy): Other have tried to capture the amazing sound of the the JMC’s debut, and no one has quite succeeded. The mix of cotton candy melodies, Velvet Underground rhythms and reverberating guitars that sound like the album was recorded in an auto plant is still compelling to this day.
Split Enz — Albert of India (Corroborree): A stately instrumental track that showcases Eddie Rayner’s keyboard skills. This song sounds like a throwback to the band’s early art-rock days.
Bruce Woolley & The Camera Club — Video Killed the Radio Star (English Garden): The Buggles had the big hit with this tune, which Woolley co-wrote with Trevor Horn. Unlike the fey and ornate Buggles version, this recording is more of a rock number, though the overall arrangement is fairly similar. This version just shows what an indelible song this is, though I’ll concede that The Buggles’ version is definitive.
The Merry Go Round — On Your Way Out (The Merry Go Round): Another slice of ’60s pop magic from Emitt Rhodes’ original band. This song is more in the vein of The Byrds, with folk rock jangle. The Youngbloods (of “Get Together” fame) would also be a good comparison.
Big Black — Stinking Drunk (The Rich Man’s Eight Track Tape): A pretty typical slice of noise and aggression from this legendary Chicago post-punk band. The drum machine is set on rapid fire, Santiago Durango plays slicing lead guitar parts while Steve Albini shouts out lyrics ripped from the underbelly of life. The band’s use of dynamics is effective and Durango throws in some suprisingly melodic bits amongst the requisite fury.