For a few years in the ’60s, John Fogerty created a legacy. His mix of blues and country and the swampy vibe he added to it, along with a classic lyrical sensibility, resulted in quintessentially American music. But Fogerty was no flag waver — he commented on the Vietnam War with songs like “Fortunate Son” and “Who’ll Stop the Rain”. He also filled pages in the Great American Songbook, creating a wedding staple with “Proud Mary”. And Fogerty is still performing today, with his equally distinctive voice and guitar playing. Let’s salute Mr. Fogerty by grabbing your iPod/MP3 player, hitting shuffle and sharing the first 10 tunes.
Ed Kuepper — Nothing Changes In My House (The Butterfly Net): Kuepper, the original guitarist for The Saints, left the band after the third album and stuck out to play intelligent high energy rock with The Laughing Clowns and The Aints. When Kuepper is solo, the music is usually acoustic guitar centered and fits somewhere between The Go-Betweens and, oddly enough, the ’80s work of The Saints (led by singer Chris Bailey). Kuepper is simply good at what he does. This is a bouncy little number.
Syd Barrett — Baby Lemonade (The Best of Syd Barrett): The L.A. band who ultimately backed Arthur Lee in the latter day incarnation of Love was named after this song. This is excellent psychedelic pop that is in line with Barrett’s classic Pink Floyd singles like “Arthur Layne” and “See Emily Play”. Barrett’s amelodic vocals were a big influence on Robyn Hitchcock. On this song, I can also hear where Brian Eno might have picked up an idea or two.
Sly & The Family Stone – I Cannot Make It (The Essential Sly & The Family Stone): Not only was Sly Stone a father of funk, but he also was an amazing pop writer with a great ear for melody. This song balances strong melodic passages that could have come from a Four Tops song with rocking proto-funk, punctuated by horns. So many things go into the mix on this track.
Silvery — Revolving Sleepy Signs (Thunderer and Excelsior): With the circus-style organ, this song sounds made for a fairground. When it hits the chorus, it sounds a bit like an old Supergrass track. This is fine over-the-top Brit pop which fell on deaf ears a couple of years. I hope they stick it out.
Jason & The Scorchers — Broken Whiskey Glass (Reckless Country Soul): Original version of song that ended up on the band’s debut album. This song skips the slow weepy country intro verse and goes right to the rocking country. The sophisitication of the song, especially the melodic twist out of the chorus, comes through loud and clear, despite the low quality of the recording.
Elvis Costello & The Attractions — Chemistry Class (Armed Forces): Boy, was Elvis on a roll early in his career. On his third album, he and Nick Lowe went with a more ornate pop direction, and Elvis whipped up songs that were perfect for the concept. This song views romance as fraught with danger, and Elvis plays on chemistry terms as much as he can, and also slips in a reference to Hitler. Yes, he was an angry young man.
The Damned — Looking At You (Machine Gun Etiquette): An energetic, ramshackle cover of a great MC5 tune (I played the original single version of it last week on my show on CHIRP Radio). The band loosens up the arrangement a bit to allow for more guitar theatrics and to give it a feel akin to Damned winners like “Ignite”. I presume this was, at some point, a staple of their live shows.
Montage — I Shall Call Her Mary (Montage): After The Left Banke broke, Michael Brown formed Montage. He purveyed the same style of baroque pop that he used to pen classics like “Walk Away Renee” and “Pretty Ballerina”. Perhaps the music was a tad less ornate, but there are still stylish piano parts and stacked harmony vocals and dramatic touches everywhere. Hard to believe this didn’t succeed.
Bob Dylan & The Band — Going To Acapulco (The Basement Tapes): I love this album, as Bob and The Band are clearly just having a great time writing songs steeped in blues, folk and Americana, but still connected to rock. Robbie Robertson takes the lead on this song, which certainly would have fit in on one The Band’s early albums. Garth Hudson’s organ embellishes this perfectly.
Los Campesinos! — Death To Los Campesinos! (Hold On Now Youngster…): This is classic British indie pop, pumped up with tons of sugar and caffiene. The underlying song is solid and relatively catchy, but nothing amazing. However, the playing and performance take it up two or three notches, between the great vocals to the hopped up rhythm section to the active guitars. One heck of a production.