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Today, we celebrate the birthday of an artist who left us too soon. J. Dilla was a musical prodigy of sorts, into music at a young age, getting his first record at the age of 2 and spinning records in a Detroit park as a child. He really got started with the hip hop group 1st Down and by the mid-90's, he helped form Slum Village. The first Slum Village LP got so much attention, Dilla was in demand, working with Janet Jackson, A Tribe Called Quest, De La Soul and others. By 2001, J. Dilla put out his first solo work, and cemented his reputation as an innovative DJ. He then worked at a fast pace, until a rare blood disease slowed him down, and he eventually passed away. One morning while DJing at CHIRP, I played 10CC’s “Worst Band in the World” and within a minute, a listener instant messaged me – he didn’t know that the tune wasn’t a J. Dilla creation (he sampled it for “Workinonit”). Any DJ cool enough to sample 10CC deserves a birthday tribute. So please grab your iPod or MP3 player, hit shuffle and share the first 10 songs that come up.
Jerry Lee Lewis – When a Man Loves a Woman (Southern Roots): From Jerry Lee’s sort of rock ‘n’ roll comeback album, taking on the Percy Sledge classic. Jerry gives it his all, thought the production is a bit cheesy. Of course, this song gives Jerry Lee ample opportunity to be self-referential.
Minutemen – This Road (What Makes a Man Start Fires?): A nice funky, post punk track with a bit of a Gang Of Four vibe. Mike Watt and George Hurley are both awesome on this tune.
Roxy Music – Chance Meeting (Roxy Music): A ballad from Roxy’s debut, with Bryan Ferry leaning on the vibrato. Some cool saxophone from Andy Mackay on this atmospheric number.
Dolly Varden – Balcony (Dumbest Magnets): Mark Balletto’s pedal steel gets things started on this excellent Steve Dawson composition. The lyrics contain evocative images, and once the full band kicks in, this is an inviting shuffle – the rhythm and melody mesh perfectly.
The Last – I Saw Your Eyes (Confession): This is a great urgent jangle rocker from the first comeback album from this great urgent jangle rock band. Bill Stevenson of the Descendents helped spur The Last to get back together the first time, and he now plays drums for them in their most recent iteration.
The Beatles – Maxwell’s Silver Hammer (Abbey Road): While I loved this song as a kid, it is weaker link on a classic album. But it gave Steve Martin something to sing in the Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band movie.
Sloan – It’s Not the End of the World (Never Hear the End of It): A sweet acoustic guitar tune from what might be Sloan’s best album, chock full of tunes (30 in all). This definitely has a bit of Beatles inspiration.
UFO – Love to Love (Lights Out): I first knew this song from the live rendition on Strangers in the Night. The studio version is pretty good too. This is UFO’s epic ballad, with sweeping power chords and a chorus that really shows off Phil Mogg’s range.
Hellfire Sermons – Not Nailed Down (Hymns: Ancient and Modern): This late ‘80s/early ‘90s Liverpool band seemed to pick up bits of C86 bands, earlier influences like Orange Juice, with a bit of the more contemporary Brit indie rock of the time. This excellent song has slightly dissonant verses melding into a nifty chorus, coming off like a mix of Orange Juice and early James.
The Dave Clark Five – Whenever You’re Around (The History of the Dave Clark Five): Nice harmonies on this sickly sweet love song from the DC5.