What’s the iPod/MP3 Shuffle? It’s just a way to get people to share music and foster some discussion. I started doing this on my Facebook page a while back and it’s been great seeing friends exchange comments on each others lists. Every Friday, I get out my 120 GB iPod (which has about 24,000 songs now), hit shuffle and write about the first 10 songs that come up. Sometimes the 10 songs are kind of conventional, sometimes there’s a lot of obscure stuff. So check mine out and please add your own shuffle or discuss other people’s shuffles!
Hey everyone! Let’s a wish a happy birthday to the late Jonathan Harris, the actor who portrayed the diabolical, and downright creepy, Dr. Smith on the cheesy ’60s sci-fi “classic” Lost In Space. In his honor, go grab your iPod/iTunes/MP3 player, hit shuffle and share the first ten tunes that come up.
Supergrass — The Return Of… (Diamond Hoo Ha): These ’90s Britpop standard bearers still make good music, but they never seemed to hit the next level. The first two albums were wonderful, and from there, they’ve blundered around, never making a stinker, but not really hitting a home run either. I think that frontman Gaz Coombes has plenty of musical ideas, but can’t always imbue them with much meaning. That being said, he had a way to make a melody simultaneously peppy and melancholy, which works well on this mid-tempo track from an album that came out last year.
Bruce Woolley & The Camera Club — Goodbye to Yesterday – Reprise (English Garden): Woolley was a Bowie inspired new wave dude, who co-wrote “Video Killed the Radio Star” and had a band that included future one-hit wonder Thomas Dolby. His music was a bit of synth-pop and a bit of angular guitar rock. It’s too bad he never made a follow up to this album, as it is quite good. This isn’t really a prime track, being a variation on an earlier cut on the album. This sounds like something in the vein of early Ultravox mixed with early XTC, though the chord progression is actually standard blues-rock fare.
The Smugglers — Invitation Only (In The Hall Of Fame): “Most of the time I think you’re an idiot/most of the time I think you suck.“ This Vancouver band is a personal favorite of mine. They are a mix of punk (more on the glammy side, a la The Dickies), old fashioned rock and roll and garage rock with a smart ass streak a mile wide. Their first full length pulled together tracks from a variety of singles and other releases, but it plays like a consistent album. This is a mid-tempo rocker with a strong hook in the chorus.
Al Green — Love and Happiness (Greatest Hits): What more can you say about this? Not as overplayed as some of Reverend Al’s classics, but just as good. Willie Mitchell and the Hi Records studio cats lock into that sexy groove and Green’s voice rides all over it. The genius of Al Green is how he always held just a little back, never getting into full soul shouting mode, making his music so tantalizing.
The Pretty Things — The Letter (Parachute): This is from The Pretties’ 1970 concept album, the follow up to the psych-rock classic S.F. Sorrow (arguably the first rock opera). Rolling Stone actually named this the best album of 1970. And I’ve owned it for years, and I still can’t get into it like I get into Sorrow. Which isn’t to say it’s bad, but it’s so much lower key. This track is typical of this mellow approach. It’s an appealing acoustic ditty, but it doesn’t hang around long enough to really resonate. Still, it’s too bad this album didn’t break, as the band’s career would have turned out a whole lot differently.
Duke Ellington — The Minor Goes Muggin‘ (The Centennial Edition — Highlights From 1927-1973): I am slowly but surely trying to learn more about jazz, and one of the best places to start is with the Duke. I don’t know what I can really say about this awesome big band swing number, other than it has what so many Ellington songs have — a great compositional structure that is accessible and appealing, but then played by musicians who are really trying to push things. These numbers were, of course, recorded live, and the excitement just jumps out of the speakers. Seeing any of Ellington’s bands in the ’30s or ’40s must have been one of the most incredible experiences anyone could have.
Paul Kelly & The Coloured Girls — Somebody’s Forgetting Somebody (Gossip): Kelly is true troubadour. This singer-songwriter mixes rock, folk, country and blues with aplomb. After his first few records, I lost the thread, but I’m not surprised that he’s still out there, fighting the good fight. This country tinged lament is from his debut, which is an excellent album.
Sector 27 — Total Recall (Sector 27 Complete): When the Tom Robinson Band dissolved, Tom formed Sector 27. The band was a little less trad rock than TRB, with a slight post-punk influence, and a number of songs that integrated some reggae and ska elements. This added a certain tense atmosphere to his songs, which became less sloganeering while remaining very socially aware. Sadly, this didn’t take off, so the band only made one excellent album. This isn’t one of the best cuts on the album, but it mixes some pulsing bass and moody verses with an oddly jaunty chorus.
Stevie Wonder — Love’s In Need Of Love Today (Songs In The Key Of Life): Songs In The Key Of Life was the culmination of one of the most amazing creative runs in pop music history. That Stevie never came close to this artistic peak isn’t a knock on him. Very few artists have come close to something this amazing. This is the first song on the album. The main melody of the song is typical Stevie, but the arrangement, the massed wordless backing vocals, and the passion of Stevie’s passionate performance elevate this song to the heights. On most albums, this would be the easy highlight. There are at least four or five songs that are markedly better than this one, two of them on the same album side.
The Four Tops — Bernadette (The Singles): One of the things that sucks about oldies radio is that it often reduces great artists to two or three songs that get played and played to death. That’s certainly true for The Four Tops. This was a hit for them, but, for whatever reason, it hasn’t had the same staying power as songs like “Reach Out (I’ll Be There)”. This is a classic Holland-Dozier-Holland song, in the tradition of “You Keep Me Hangin’ On” and “Nowhere to Run”. It crackles with urgency, and no one could possibly convey that urgency better than the amazing Levi Stubbs.