It’s the Day After Thanksgiving! So please do your patriotic duty and go shopping! There may be a $10 DVD player or a Jonas Brothers robot set that you have to get! When you take a break from rampant consumerism, please grab your iPod or MP3 player, hit shuffle and share the first 10 songs that come up. Yes, the gift of music is always the best!
Curtis Mayfield and the Impressions — I Loved and I Lost (The Anthology 1961-1977): One of Chicago’s soul greats, Mayfield mastered so many different aspects of soul. This is superb tender ballad, with Mayfield emotionally rendering the lyrics with his falsetto, but never oversinging. The horn arrangements are really sweet on this track.
Sloan — Live the Life You’re Dreaming Of (Never Hear The End Of It): This Canadian power pop band may not have peaked yet. One of the few bands that has managed to carry four songwriters without any of those dreadful “artistic differences,” and, more amazingly, maintain its core sensibility, Sloan may have reached a peak on this 2006 album. The band churned out 30 songs which displayed every facet of the band from hard rock to pop on par with XTC and The Beatles to tender ’70s singer-songwriter type material, like this song, one of the few numbers on the disc that runs past four minutes.
Split Enz — Ghost Girl (Corroboree): Two weeks in a row for this Enz album. This is a mid-tempo tune from the pen of Tim Finn and showcases his wonderful voice. This number is heavy on the atmosphere with some alternating spooky and lacerating lead guitar from brother Neil and an ominous bass part.
The Shazam — Gonna Miss Yer Train (Godspeed The Shazam): These guys are the Southern Cheap Trick, playing hard power pop influenced by The Who, The Move and, of course, the Tricksters themselves. In keeping with the title, this song chugs along, driven by a heavy bass line. Like the best early Cheap Trick the heavy rock is leavened by some strong melodies, particularly coming out of the chorus.
Fleetwood Mac — Storms (Tusk): In some circles, this 1979 album, a million dollar double album that took two years to come to fruition, was considered an overstuffed mess. Over time, some folks claim that this is the Mac’s best moment. Certainly, this is where Lindsey Buckingham was able to unleash his inner Brian Wilson, and there are a lot of inspired tracks. That being said, the overall product lacks a bit of cohesion. Which isn’t the worst thing in the world, as the quality of some songs was revealed over time. This is a good example, a gentle Stevie Nicks ballad, with a very (and appropriately) restrained performance from Stevie.
The Beatles — For No One (Revolver): A devastating break up song from the pen of Paul McCartney. This is a brilliant construction, with Macca’s elegant melody riding on top of the ebbing, percussive piano. On top of that, his lyrics are economical, yet they tell a full story. This is pretty close to a perfect song.
Peter Brown — Dance With Me (Fantasy Love Affair): Brown was a D.I.Y. disco artist who managed two Top 40 hits — this tune and “Do You Wanna Get Funky With Me?”. I remember that he was featured on 60 Minutes, which was investigating the disco phenomenon. It turned out he recorded the bulk of this album in his bedroom. The song is a mid-tempo disco tune with strings, a prominent bass and that pea-soup beat. And the best part of the song is the middle eight, with soulful backing singers doing a choral “Row Row Your Boat” thing with the phrase, “You gotta keep dancing, because you’re making me high, you gotta keep, keep dancing, keep making me high.“ Or something like that. Over 30 years later, this song still sounds pretty cool.
Danny Wilson — Girl I Used To Know (Meet Danny Wilson): Suave Scottish pop from the band who had a hit in the ’80s with “Mary’s Prayer”. If you like that song, chances are you’ll dig the tunes on their debut, as they all exude that passionate romanticism. This song manages to mix the falsetto vocals and swirling keyboard sounds with a shuffling rhythm that could have come off of a contemporary Smiths record.
Shoes — Will You Spin For Me (Silhouette): The pride of Zion, Illinois! These power pop legends could not find an American label after being dropped by Elektra in the mid-‘80s. Hence, this album was originally only an import. Their earnest harmony laced guitar pop having fallen on deaf ears, the band threw scads of keyboards into the mix in an attempt to be more contemporary. It didn’t work over the course of the album, but on this track the electronics enhanced the tune, rather than worked against it.
John Lee Hooker — Wednesday Evening (The Legendary Modern Recordings): What a commanding performer. There are only three elements in this ‘arrangement.‘ Hooker’s guitar, which plucks out bent notes and reverberating rhythmic strums, his wounded voice, and the constant sound of his foot tapping a rhythm on the floor. Even if you can’t fully grasp the lyrics, you know this dude is in trouble, and you can only hope the song he is singing is going to save him.