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Mike Bennett writesFriday iPod/MP3 Shuffle—Happy Birthday Todd Rundgren Edition

He’s a pop star, a cult figure, an innovator, a classicist, and some say he’s God. Todd Rundgren first got a share of the spotlight writing songs and playing guitar for The Nazz in the ’60s, and then rose to prominence in the ’70s, with classic hit singles, highly revered albums and production work for an amazing variety of artists. His talents behind the mike and behind the boards are unassailable, but Todd has remained an unpredictable artist who, on any given day, produce a perfect pop tune, a self-indulgent mess, or something that points to the future. His idiosyncrasies probably diminish the respect he now gets, which is a big mistake, as his legacy (well captured in Paul Myers’ book A Wizard, A True Star) is extremely impressive. Let’s pay tribute to the man who produced the first Sparks album by grabbing your iPod or MP3 player, hitting shuffle and sharing the first 10 songs that come up. 

  1. The Long Ryders — Harriet Tubman’s Gonna Carry Me Home (The Long Ryders Anthology): One of the leading lights of the ’80s country rock movement, The Long Ryders were nothing if not ambitious. This song is about the Underground Railroad, and written in the style of a folk spritual. They band brings the right amount of gravity to this, without it coming off as too heavy handed.
  2. The Pretty Things — Grass (Parachute): A mid-tempo tune with slight psychedelic overtones from the record that Rolling Stone named the best album of 1970, which did not turn around the fortunes of one of the more unlucky bands of the ’60s and ’70s. While some claim Parachute is a better album than the prior S.F. Sorrow, I’m not in that camp. Parachute is a good album, but it lacks a couple of killer tunes, which S.F. Sorrow has plenty of.
  3. Andy Partridge — Bumper Cars (Fuzzy Warbles Vol. 4): A somewhat bubblegummy ditty from the frontman for XTC, from his fabulous collection of demos. This displays his usual flair for weaving dissonant sounds with superior melodies. This is similar enough to other songs that he ultimately released on XTC albums that I can see why it never made it past the demo stage. But it’s pretty good.
  4. Big Audio Dynamite — Sorry (This Is Big Audio Dynamite): Big Audio Dynamite found Mick Jones exploring some of the same aspects of funk and hip hop that he had on his final album with The Clash, Combat Rock. At its best, BAD was able to mix Jones’ way with a pop hook with these more urban sounds, which was a challenge, as Mick’s thin voice was not ideally suited for this task. Some consider Big Audio Dynamite’s first album a classic. I think it’s a good album, with a number of songs like this one, with cool rhythm tracks, but the songwriting isn’t top notch.
  5. The Duckworth Lewis Method — Coin Toss (The Duckworth Lewis Method): This is the introductory track of this collaboration between Neil Hannon of The Divine Comedy and Thomas Walsh of the band Pugwash. The album is comprised solely of songs about cricket, and is cracking good fun. Thus, the need for a coin toss, just like at the beginning of a cricket match. This is one of the better pure pop records of the ’00s.
  6. The Cramps — Drug Train (Bad Music For Bad People): The band that created psychobilly, living up to billing on this track. The rhythm is just relentless on this tune.
  7. Led Zeppelin — Since I’ve Been Loving You (Led Zeppelin III): Here’s Zep at their bluesiest. I know a few Zeppelin albums very well, and others not so much, and this is in the latter category. That being said, this has some great keyboard work from John Paul Jones and Robert Plant is on, if you know what I mean.
  8. Jerry Lee Lewis — No More Hangin’ On (A Whole Lotta Jerry Lee): A track from the excellent new career spanning Jerry Lee Lewis box set. The bulk of the set covers his career as a charting country artist. While this isn’t why he’s a legend, his country sides show off Lewis as one ot the great interpretive singers of all time. Lewis has such an expressive voice and stamps his personality on everything he sings (and he loves to drop his name into the lyrics). This is a great weepy ballad, where Jerry seems to vacillate from resignation to defiance.
  9. Chris Hickey — Faraway (Frames Of Mind, Boundaries Of Time): This California singer-songwriter writes melodic folk-pop songs that are often bare bones, letting his expressive, plaintive vocals carry the weight of the track. His songwriting is very economical, making his material all the more affecting. This is one of many killer tunes on his debut album.
  10. The Party Of Helicopters — Cover Me (Please Believe It): This arty punk band reminds me a cross between Shudder To Think and King Crimson or some similar proggy act. This song is very typical, as it relies on a rangy lead guitar line and a precise rhythm section. Most proggy stuff isn’t played with such vigor, which makes this music sound really fresh.

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Categorized: Friday MP3 Shuffle

Topics: ipod, mp3

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