Neverending Randomplay #111-#120
Neverending Randomplay is a weekly Wednesday night/Thursday AM feature in which I let my J-River Media Center choose what we get listen to. My collection currently stands at 17,797 titles. The lion's share are rock of all genres, with a mix of pop, blues, country, pre-rock, jazz, reggae, soul, electronic, avant-garde, hip-hop, rap, bluegrass, trance, Afrobeat, J-Pop, trip-hop, lounge, worldbeat, commercial jingles, etc. filling it out. I don't influence the track selection in any way; whatever comes up, comes up. Jam Tags, 1-5 stars, follow each track. iTunes links, when available, are included for your convenience.Last|Next
111. John Oswald/Grateful Dead: Pouring Velvet ****
This isn't really a song, but a snippet from Grayfolded 1969-1996, the work of Toronto-based sound collage artist John Oswald using tapes of a mutitude of live recordings of "Dark Star", the Grateful Dead's ultimate signature live tune. Using a technique he called "plunderphonics", he folds and layers the "Deep Star" tapes on top of one another, creating an avant-garde recording that resembles a 1 hour 55 minute version of "Dark Star", but one that morphs, transmogrifies, reaches odd, ghostly crescendoes, breaks into space, and reassembles itself. At times, there are literally dozens of Grateful Deads playing at once. You'd almost assuredly need to be a Grateful Dead maniac to sit through a nearly 2 hour long "Dark Star", but fans of avant garde and sound collage music may find this interesting, too. "Pouring Velvet" isn't much on its own; you really need the whole album or nothing. It begins a minute into the album, and sounds like a cross between a multitude of the band tuning and meandering in space.
112. Brian Eno: Back In Judy's Jungle **** iTunes
"Back In Judy's Jungle" is a staccato number with eccentric percussion, with odd effects like whistling in the background and processed guitar on the solo that resembles synthesizer. Eno sings, in a vocal that somewhat recalls David Bowie, and the lyrics are a story-song in the service of the album's overall concept; a loose story involving espionage. This is from Taking Tiger Mountain (By Strategy), realeased in 1974, Eno's second solo album after leaving Roxy Music. In some respects it's a transitional album, but a good one; it represent Eno's mastery of the pop song structure, which he would abandon more or less forever with his next release, Another Green World, which is where is genre-defying experiments with synthesizers and electronic music really begins.
113. Jimi Hendrix Experience: Stone Free ***** iTunes
"Stone Free" appeared on the U.K. version of Are You Experienced?, the 1967 debut from the Jimi Hendrix Experience, but was left off the original U.S. pressings, which boasted a significantly different track lineup. Stongly r&b influenced, it opens with a great cowbell driven groove, and eventually reaches metallic proportions with some of Hendrix'a heaviest riffing and a classic solo. It is of similar quality to the rest of the album, one of the essential albums of the 1960's, and indeed rock music in general. "Stone Free" was also a personal favorite of Hendrix's, part of his stage setlist from 1966-1970. Its first American appearance was as the B-side to "Hey Joe"; it was included on the 1969 compilation, Smash Hits.
114. 10,000 Maniacs: Don't Talk **** iTunes
One of the best songs from 10,000 Maniacs' best album, In My Tribe, from 1987, this benefits from an excellent hooky chorus, prominant drums, and a latticework of guitar with a nice, spare, melodic solo at the end. The band never had the reputation of being rockers; this perhaps comes the closest they came on In My Tribe, with an overall beefiness that works. Lyrically, Natalie Merchant takes on another topical subject, as she has thoughout her career, sometimes with embarrassing results. Here the topic is alcoholism, and while there's a danger of sounding preachy inherent, Merchant escapes it, sounding believable and sympathetic. Her tendency to preach reached its nadir with the band's third album for Elektra (5th overall), Blind Man's Zoo in 1989; In My Tribe keeps things a little vaguer, and was one of the better albums of the 80's.
115. The Beatles: Love Me Do (Ringo-on-drums version) ****
The very first single from the Beatles (not including a couple of 1961 sides backing Tony Sheridan), "Love Me Do" actually exists in two versions; the one most familiar to Americans used to be the one on The Early Beatles album and the "Red Album" compilation; this version was issued as the British single on EMI in 1962. This one has Ringo Starr on drums; producer George Martin was unhappy with the sound and brought in Andy White to drum, handing the dejected Ringo a pair of maraccas for the version that became better known in America. The differences between the two versions are minimal, but present; the Ringo-on-drums version is a little looser sounding, with a slightly less crisp harmonica solo. Starr would drum throughout the rest of the Beatles' U.K. debut album, Please Please Me. "Love Me Do" peaked at #23 in England; legend has it that its odd up-down-up chart action was due to manager Brian Epstien buying up copies himself to boost the band's profile. It wasn't a hit in America until Beatlemania hit in 1964, when Vee Jay records reissued it to compete with their Capitol singles; it reached #1.
116. The Ramones: Surfin' Bird ***** iTunes
This is an inspired cover version of the Trashmen's 1964 hit "Surfing Bird", given standard Ramones treatment at the peak of their powers. While most of the Ramones' most well-known numbers were originals, they were an excellent covers band as well, usually including one or two early 60's classics on their albums. Rocket to Russia, from 1977, had two; this one and Bobby Freeman's "Do You Wanna Dance?", which was also a hit for the Beach Boys. In essence, these two tracks very nicely sum up most of what went into the Ramones; a mix of Beach Boy exhuberance and harmony, pre-Beatles pop ambience, a hint of surf music here and there, and absurd lyrics, which "Surfin Bird" has in spades. Both songs are good cornerstones to Rocket To Russia, which many consider their best album. Incidentally, the Trashmen were from Minnesota, thousands of miles away from the nearest surf.
117. Umahlathini Nabo: Qhude Manikiniki (Fair Fight) *****
Soweto, South Africa-based Umahlathini Nabo was included on the seminal 1986 compilation, The Indestructable Beat Of Soweto, an apartheid-era classic that helped popularize a number of black South African performers in the U.S. Among them were Ladysmith Black Mambazo, Moses Mchuno, and Mahlathini; Ladysmith Black Mambazo would back Paul Simon on his 1986 Graceland album, which borrowed heavily from mbaqanga, a South African township style of electric music that dominates this album. Umahlathini Nabo's "Qhude Manikiniki (Fair Fight)" is one of the strongest cuts on the album, which is itself essential listening for any worldbeat fan. While some of the performes have gone on to recognition and sustained careers, others have vanished. Very little is known about Umahlathini Nabo's further adventures.
118. Papas Fritas: Wild Life ***** iTunes
Formed by students at Tufts University in Massachusetts, Papas Fritas originally consisted of guitarist Tony Goddess, drummer Shivika Asthana, and bassist Keith Gendel; the trio had been friends in Delaware before attending college. They recorded demos on a four-track, mainly for their own amusement, until they were approached by the tiny Sunday Driver label, who released their first single in 1994. Their debut, Papas Fritas, was issued on the Minty Fresh label in 1995; it contains this absolute gem of power-pop, which is reminiscent of 20/20, Joe Jackson, and the Replacements to a degree. The guitars crunch like good power pop should, Gendel's bass provides real propulsion, the lyrics are funny, and the vocals are ragged but tuneful. There's also a considerable amount of studio inventiveness on the song and album; any fan of 70's power-pop will like this sophisticated 90's indie take on the genre.
119. Lulu: The Boat That I Row ****
Lulu is best known for her 1964 British Invasion version of the Isley Brothers' "Shout!", recorded when she was 16, and her international smash "To Sir With Love", the theme from the 1967 film of the same name. Her initial string of hits in the U.S. petered out in 1970, but she has popped up since then a few times in the 80's and 90's. In England, she has remained fairly popular throughout her very long career. Much of it has to do with her voice, which is capable of a convincingly gritty r&b delivery; some of it has to do with the producers she's worked with, some of it her choice of material. "The Boat That I Row" was a Neil Diamond tune, and was included on the surprisingly good To Sir With Love album in 1967; the album featured Mickie Most production and future Led Zeppelin bassist John Paul Jones as musical arranger. It's a fairly tough little pop number, with a good vocal that recalls Dusty Springfield, and fairly beefy instrumentation. Fans of the Swinging London sound of the mid-60's would probably appreciate this little nugget.
120. Dave Mason: Only You Know And I Know **** iTunes
Dave Mason originally came to prominance as a member of Traffic; he came to record his first solo album in 1970 via Delaney and Bonnie, with whom he toured in 1969. Delaney and Bonnie's band, which featured a large roster of very notable names in rock turned up in various configurations on three albums in 1970; this one, Joe Cocker's Mad Dogs and Englishmen, and Eric Clapton's solo debut. All three albums, consequently, share a certain sound; anyone who likes the other two would probably like this one, too. "Only You Know And I Know" opens the album with a kick; it's a hard-rock boogie that has remained on classic rock radio ever since. Delaney and Bonnie released their own version of it in 1970 as well. The album peaked at #22, the single at #42. Mason's career at this point was at its all time high; he was among the top names in the business; his star has incrementally fallen with each passing year; his last charting album appeared in 1980.
Neverending Randomplay appears Wednesday Night/Thursday AM