When Beck Hansen first arrived on the scene, he got attention for his slacker anthem “Loser” and some charming low-fi folk albums. Early on, he seemed like a novelty and footnote in the annals of alt-rock. Of course, that’s not how things played out. Instead, Beck turned out to be an innovator and terrific showman, who is now an elder statesmen, of sorts, in the indie rock world. Who would have dreamed that he would someday produce a Thurston Moore record? If any artist would appreciate a birthday shuffle, it would be Beck, who has mashed together so many styles over his career. So grab your iPod or MP3 player, hit shuffle and share the first 10 songs that come up.
Best Kissers In The World — Miss Teen U.S.A. (Been There): This Washington state band had a minor radio hit with this chunky slice of power pop that was tailor made for alt-rock radio. Throw in a clever video and the foundation for success seemed to be all set. But the band was never able to follow this up and the lead singer later went solo and made a country record. Well, they’ll always have this song, which still sounds swell.
Frank Sinatra — It Happened In Monterey (Classic Sinatra): A smooth, happy little ditty sung impeccably by Ol’ Blue Eyes. His phrasing is the key to his greatness as a singer.
Iron & Wine — Teeth In The Grass (Our Endless Numbered Days): This swampy folk-blues tune foreshadowed the direction that Sam Beam has taken on subsequent Iron & Wine records. His whispery vocals work well with the sinister vibe of the music. He has since added more percussion and layers to this type of song, but this recording shows they are absolutely necessary.
Ron Sexsmith — Riverbed (Whereabouts): The clear highlight of Sexsmith’s fine Whereabouts album. This song sounds like a classic that could have been written decades beforehand. The melody is so simple and evokes the past. The lyrics are typically economical and perfect for his sensitive reading.
The Monkees — Shades Of Grey (Headquarters): Headquarters is the album where The Monkees totally controlled everything. They did the lion’s share of the playing and picked all the material. It is one of their two true classic albums (the other being Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn and Jones). This shows what great ears they had, as it is an excellent Goffin-King ballad with a rousing chorus. Peter Tork gets a rare vocal showcase, handling the second verse with an aching, vulnerable performance. The orchestration is just the cherry on top of a true Monkees’ gem.
The Commodores — Slippery When Wet (The Best of The Commodores): For the first few years of their career, The Commodores concocted some fine funk numbers. This song is akin to The Ohio Players, with a little deep soul thrown in. Yes, Lionel Richie could get funky, just listen to this.
Geminis — A Friend Of Mine (Girl Group Sounds Lost and Found): This Rhino four CD box set is just wall to wall great pop and R & B. This is more on the R & B side and a great tune.
The White Stripes — Effect & Cause (Icky Thump): A jocular acoustic blues tune from Jack and Meg White. I love how Jack clearly loves the classic American music forms but is not afraid to have fun with them. Would love to hear a medley of this and Van Halen’s “Could This Be Magic?”.
Jim Basnight — Tonight (We Rocked & Rolled): Basnight led some great bands during the ’70s and ’80s out in the Pacific Northwest. He specialized in jangly power pop that compared favorably to Dwight Twilley and Tom Petty. This number is particularly Petty-ish.
Big Joe Turner — Flip, Flop And Fly (Loud, Fast and Out of Control): One of the kings of jump blues, along with Louis Jordan. This song is pretty darned similar to Turner’s best known tune, “Shake, Rattle & Roll”. That’s not a problem, as Turner’s presence is so commanding, the music swings, and you can hear the beginnings of rock ‘n’ roll.