Illinois has been the home of heavy rockers from Trouble to Big Black. But no one was heavier than Robert Earl Hughes, who for many years was listed as the heaviest man ever at…are you ready for this…1041 pounds. The behemoth of Baylis, in Pike County, Illinois, weighed 200 pounds at the age of six. Let’s honor this record setting Illinoisan in the only way we know — by grabbing your iPod/MP3 player, hitting shuffle and sharing the first 10 tunes.
The Spinners — The Rubberband Man (The Very Best of The Spinners): Silly and addictive ’70s soul-funk from the Detroit vocal group with the Philly sound. This song is so darned catchy. But whenever I hear it, it conjures up an image of The Captain and Tennille performing it on their old variety show, and the cutaways to The Captain (Darryl Dragon) wearing rainbow five-toed socks, stretching a rubberband between his toes and plucking away at it. I hope that show never makes it to DVD.
The Church — Almost With You (Under The Milky Way: The Best of The Church): I guess The Church is a one hit wonder (“Under the Milky Way”), but this Australian band is not as ephemeral as the one hit wonder tag usually implies. Indeed, they are still going strong with their blend of Byrds-y jangle and classic psychedelia. It’s an enduring sound that they do so well. This is more of a straight ahead jangler with a great acoustic guitar solo by Marty Willson-Piper.
The Chills — I Love My Leather Jacket (Kaleidoscope World): One of the quintessential Chills songs, and thus, one of the quintessential Kiwi indie rock songs. Like so much New Zealand music from the ’80s, the influence of The Velvet Underground looms large. Chills leader Martin Phillips brings a unique melodic sensibility to the bouncy drone pop, along with a low key vocal charm. This is a laid back anthem.
Myracle Brah — Action Reaction (Life on Planet Eartsnop): From the Brah’s classic debut, this is one of the 20 short, sharp shots of power pop perfection on this platter. The song works a Beatles/Badfinger styled riff with psychedelic undertones, keyed by a prominent bass line that the guitar seems to tether to. Andy Bopp doesn’t waste a note on this song, leaving one never more than 30 seconds away from a hook.
Pulp — Trees (We Love Life): The final Pulp album was appropriately produced by Scott Walker, one of the few artists with a firmer sense of the dramatic than Jarvis Cocker. However, the album only has a couple of songs that take it to the hilt. Instead, most of the album is measured. On this song, which was a single, the layers of acoustic guitars and keyboards create a sense of resignation as Cocker sings of how he should have seen that his heart was going to be broken. A lovely and sad record.
The Streets — Blinded By The Light (A Grand Don’t Come For Free): I suppose that it’s unfair to wonder if Mike Skinner can ever equal this album. On his second full length, he had perfected his blend of hip-hop with modern British minimalist dance sounds, and his tale of a geezer who has found a woman to love at the same time that he has lost 1,000 pounds is well rendered. This song has a pulse beat that Massive Attack might appreciate, while Skinner gets stuck in a club, waiting for his mates.
Missy Elliot — The Rain (Supa Dupa Fly) (Respect M.E.): This is not as earth shattering and innovative as Missy’s best work with Timbaland, but any song that uses Ann Peeble’s “I Can’t Stand the Rain” as the hook and lays down a mellow groove for Elliot to lay down her attitude has to be a good one.
Jawbox — Send Down (Novelty): Not as angular as later Jawbox, this is more of an explosive guitar number with J. Robbins singing just loud enough to be heard above the din. In some respects, this song manages a combination of melody and muscle in the rhythm guitar playing that is reminiscent of Mission Of Burma and Naked Raygun.
Loretta Lynn — Little Red Shoes (Van Lear Rose): Lynn frequently tells stories in concert with her band providing some musical accompaniment. Producer Jack White thought it would be cool for Loretta to record one of those stories. Hence, this song. There’s something remarkable about this, as Lynn is so conversational. This was an inspired decision by White and it makes a great album that much greater.
Rockpile — You Ain’t Nothin’ But Fine (Seconds Of Pleasure): The sole album by this long running band that featured both Dave Edmunds and Nick Lowe is perhaps a step shy of classic, but the mix of Lowe’s pure pop and Edmunds’ ’50s rock mojo made for a fun LP. This is a pure rock ‘n’ roll song, Chuck Berry style. Some critics found the band too laid back, but their relaxed approach works because drummer Terry Williams really had a good sense of swing.