It’s another Friday, and this time, we celebrate the birthday of the late character actor, who appeared in countless Westerns full of menace, and a lazy eye. In ol’ Jack’s honor, grab your iPod/iTunes/MP3 player, hit shuffle, and share the first 10 tunes that come up.
Morphine — The Jury (Yes): This Boston’s trio’s film noir music has aged really well. The late Mark Sandman was like Tom Waits’ Boston cousin, and the combination of Sandman’s two string bass, cocktail drums and saxophone made for late night decadent magic. This is a particularly atmospheric outing, with Sandman narrating instead of singing over disembodied sax wailing.
Slow Jets — Up The Country (Good Morning, Stars): More oddball oblong rock along the lines of Big Dipper and Archers of Loaf, with a bit of a Wire influence creeping in. Catchy, in a real offbeat way.
The Rascals — Carry Me Back (Anthology 1965-1972): Why have these guys fallen off the radar when great ’60s bands are discussed? The Rascals were a terrific white R & B band. “Good Lovin’” and “Groovin’” were just the tip of the iceberg. This is a gospel inflected workout that a young Reginald Dwight probably studied a whole lot before changing his name to Elton John.
*The Hollies — Searchin’ (30th Anniversary Collection): Speaking of great ’60s bands, while The Hollies deserve their glory for the amazing harmony laced pop hits they unleashed a year or two after this Coasters cover, they were a pretty fun British Invasion rock ‘n’ roll band before hitting their stride.
Neko Case — Soulful Shade of Blue (The Tigers Have Spoken): Neko’s work has been so consistently high quality, evaluating her most recent albums is a matter of noting incremental progress. On this live effort, what is most noticeable is that things twang just a bit more than the more Western type sounds on her last couple of studio efforts. This isn’t a bad thing at all. It’s nice to know that she won’t abandon the country tuneage that she made her reputation on.
Split Enz — Wail (Corroboree): Early Split Enz had a bit of a prog-pop vibe, with influences such as Roxy Music (whose Phil Manzanera produced the second album) and Genesis. Even as the band went to a more overtly pop sound that dovetailed nicely with the whole New Wave thang, they never totally abandoned some grander sounds, primarily thanks to keyboardist Eddie Rayner, who composed this instrumental. Generally, I find instrumentals to be time wasters between the “real” songs with vocals, but Rayner’s contributions never disrupted the flow of the Enz’s albums.
Betty Wright — Clean Up Woman (Can You Dig It?: The ’70s Soul Experience): This was a swell ’70s soul hit with a bright vocal by Ms. Wright. She sings of the perils of neglecting her man — the clean up woman swept in and swept him away. The syncopated bluesy lead guitar licks and horns sound fantastic.
Cheap Trick — If You Want My Love (One On One): Cheap Trick was in the most peculiar position in the early-‘80s:* they were a big hit rock band with roots in The Beatles, The Who and The Move, surrounded by the likes of REO Speedwagon, Journey and Foreigner. It’s no wonder they couldn’t sustain their commercial success. While crap like Journey’s “Faithfully” and REO’s “Keep on Loving You” hit big, this substantially less overblown ballad (in the vein of ELO and John Lennon) couldn’t dent the charts. This has two or three distinct melodic hooks and is one of the first exhibits in the “Robin Zander is one of the greatest rock vocalist ever” file, as he shows off his range and power, without ever showing off.
The Sun — Demons (Did Your Mother Tell You?): This Ohio band put out two really good EPs of indie pop-rock back in the early part of this decade, before releasing their debut on DVD, which had to be one of the dumbest ideas ever. Stylistically, their music was mix of scruffy Replacements rock, garage rock, The Clash with a bit of lighter melodic material, like this tender acoustic guitar number. The band didn’t have a distinctive personality, but everything it did, it did quite well. Until they put out their first full length on a DVD.
Tangiers — Your Colour (Never Bring You Pleasure): This Canadian duo put their own twist on post-punk revivalism, falling somewhere in between The Strokes and Spoon with tense songs that resolve in memorable choruses. The Velvet Underground’s inspiration looms over everything, but I can also hear Modern Lovers, Pixies, Comsat Angels, Elvis Costello & The Attractions and others lurking in the mix. This is the second of the band’s three albums, and the band’s best, where every song offered something extra.