Let’s pay tribute to an artist who has melded genres and wielded considerable influence over the past 20 years, Tricky. Adrian Thaws was part of a crew that evolved into the innovative band Massive Attack. He rapped on Massive Attack’s first album, and then leaped into producing Martina Topley-Bird before striking out on his own with a series of acclaimed solo albums. Since Tricky digs being eclectic, I’m sure he’d dig being honored for his birthday with folks grabbing their iPod or MP3 player, hitting shuffle and sharing the first 10 songs that come up.
Channels — Disconnection Day (Open): J. Robbins is one of those rarities — an artist who basically has one style, and has spent his career as a frontman working on subtle iterations of that style. Channels was a fairly short lived band, but it met Robbins’ high standard of quality, with J.‘s patented blend of angular guitars, powerful rhythms, smart lyrics and strong melodies. This is one of their best songs.
The Marvelettes — Danger Heartbreak Dead Ahead (Beg, Scream and Shout!): A wonderful early Motown single which shows how Berry Gordy and his team quickly mastered their brand of cosmopolitan soul pop. This song sounds like a bridge between girl group pop and more pure R & B, and is not quite as polished as what eventually rolled out of Hitsville U.S.A.
Cheap Trick — Speak Now (Or Forever Hold Your Peace) (Cheap Trick at Budokan): A fantastic live version of a Terry Reid tune that this all-time great power pop band originally recorded for their debut album. This was originally on the Japanese import Budokan II disc and then became part of the issue of the complete Budokan concert. The big change in the Cheap Trick version from the Terry Reid original is that the band adds a really cool Rick Nielsen guitar intro, but then pulls back to a cooler temperature and then lets the song build to a mighty complex with Robin Zander proving that he is one of the 10 best vocalists in the history of rock music.
Best Coast — Honey (Crazy For You): This sounds like a Shangri-La’s song, but with a bit more guitar edge. Bethany Cosentino is, in my mind, the best of the neo-girl group artists proliferating the indie music scene at the moment.
Happy Hate Me Nots — Inside (The Good That’s Been Done): A typically passionate track from this Australian punk band that followed in the R & B inspired footsteps of The Saints. A key difference is that the Hate Me Nots tended to go more for the grand gesture rather than overwhelming power. That they did this without coming off as obvious or watered down is a testament to the strength of their tunes. It’s a mystery to me why these guys weren’t much bigger.
The Who — The Dirty Jobs (Quadrophenia): Not one of the emphasis tracks from this classic double album, but it has all the hallmarks of what The Who were so good at in the ’70s. Keith Moon does not get enough credit for how he was able to rein in his drum style where appropriate, then finding the right places to throw in some ferocious fills, while John Entwhistle’s bass playing is so wonderful and Roger Daltrey really digs into the lyrics. Meanwhile, Townshend’s writing took on a bit of pomp rock art pop vibe, which was mitigated by the power of the playing.
Uncle Tupelo — Nothing (Still Feel Gone): A Jay Farrar compostion that illustrates what I found so compelling about Uncle Tupelo, as powerful guitar rock is juxtaposed by tempo shifts and chord changes in a way that suggests The Minutemen and The Replacements getting together to make slightly country tinged rock.
Lilys — Sammael Sea (Better Can’t Make Your Life Better): A fine track from the band’s most commercially successful album. The best Lilys material comes off like a skewed take on The Kinks classic mid ’60s era, as the fey melodies are offset by angular guitars and sounds that are just a little bit off, but not to the detriment of the pop song underneath.
Terry Reid — When I Get Home (Super Lungs: The Complete Studio Recordings 1966-1969): Hey! Here’s an early track from the aforementioned Reid, who was inspired by the R & B shouters of the ’60s, and he had the lung power to make it work. This song is a pretty simple soul flavored rock tune, which is elevated by Reid’s passionate singing.
The Byrds — Chimes Of Freedom (Mr. Tambourine Man): The original jangle rockers were one of the best interpreters of Bob Dylan, and, unsurprisingly, this is a wonderful version of a great Dylan tune.