Neverending Randomplay #91-#100
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 17,573 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.Last|NextNeverending Randomplay appears every Wednesday night/Thursday AM.
91. XTC: Season Cycle ****
XTC, led by guitarist Andy Partridge and bassist Colin Moulding, was one of the best British bands of the 80's. A post-punk pop group whose music recalled that of the Beatles and the Kinks, but also sounded contemporary, XTC weren't big sellers, but have maintained a healthy cult on both sides of the Atlantic. In 1982, Partridge collapsed on-stage; after that, the band no longer played live, citing Partridge's stage fright. As a result, their music became intricately studio-based. Their 1986 album, Skylarking, produced by fellow studio obsessive Todd Rundgren, was the high point of their long career. The album has the feel of a concept album, although there is no theme or plotline; rather each song works as its own little mini-epic, drawing heavily from the psychedelic 60's pop of the Beatles and Beach Boys. The lyrics are sophisticated and adult, as are the arrangements; it is perhaps the most elegant album from the mid-80's. "Season Cycle" is not one of the best tunes on the album, but everything on the album is pretty great, including this one. Lush, complex, airy, and catchy. Skylarking is essential listening.
92. Finn Brothers: Nothing Wrong With You **** iTunes
"Nothing Wrong With You" is from the New Zealand-born Finn Brothers' 2004 album, Everyone Is Here. Both brothers, Tim and Neil, have been making music since the early 70's; both were members of Split Enz (although not always at the same time), and Neil Finn went on to lead Crowded House. Their first album as a duo was released in 1995; nine years passed before the follow-up (both had released solo albums in the interim). Everyone Is Here is a subtly textured album with an overarching domesticated, pastoral feel to it; lyrically, it is a celebration of brotherhood in some respects. "Nothing Wrong With You" is one of the standouts on the album, a good sample of the brothers' latter-day elegiac tunefulness.
93. Blind Faith: Can't Find My Way Home ***** iTunes
Perhaps the best cut from the lone Blind Faith album, released in 1969. "Can't Find My Way Home" is an acoustic based Steve Winwood number, with a vaguely Celtic feel; Eric Clapton and Winwood both pick on classical guitars, while Rick Grech's bass hits only the root notes; Ginger Baker plays a jazzy shuffle underneath. Winwood's vocal is atmospheric and lost-sounding; the entire package benefits from Jimmy Miller's shrewd unencumbered production. Blind Faith lasted only seven months; an American tour was beset with problems, and the band members clashed. Clapton would leave to work with Delaney and Bonnie; Winwood rejoined Traffic.
94. Paul McCartney: What's That You're Doing? ****
McCartney's 1982 solo release, Tug Of War, had a lot riding on it. Much had happened since his previous disc, McCartney II, released in 1980. Wings had been officially disbanded in the wake of McCartney's arrest and brief imprisonment in Japan for marijuana possession. John Lennon was killed by a deranged fan in December, 1980. McCartney's critical reputation had been on the wane since the mid 70's, and his albums had always been received with suspicion. Tug Of War reunited him with Beatles producer George Martin, and much of the album is very lushly produced; McCartney's arrangements are more inventive than they had been in years. Still, it was a very spotty album, containing some of McCartney's better songs, and some of his weakest. It featured two collaborations with Stevie Wonder, the simpleminded "Ebony and Ivory", and this one, a pretty good slice of funk that recalls Wonder's mid-70's music.
95. Katrina & The Waves: Goin' Down To Liverpool ****
Katrina & The Waves enjoyed brief mass success in the early 1980's on the strength of this single and "Walking on Sunshine". The band was formed in England by guitarist Kimberley Rew, formerly of the Soft Boys, and was fronted by American singer/guitarist Katrina Leskanich. Rew was originally lead singer, but moved the charismatic Leskanich to that spot early in the band's career. "Goin' Down To Liverpool", originally recorded in 1983, occupies a space somewhere between power pop and jangle pop; it was later covered by the Bangles on their 1984 debut album. Katrina and the Waves' hit version was actually a re-recorded version, included on the 1985 album Katrina & the Waves. After their initial success, the band faded into relative obscurity, but came back with a surprise hit in 1997 with "Love Shine A Light"
96. Buckner & Garcia: Pac-Man Fever **
Jerry Buckner and Gary Garcia were a pair of Atlanta-based advertising jingle writers who reached #9 with this novelty tune, and ode to the then-popular video arcade game, Pac-Man. CBS requested an albums' worth of songs after the success of the single, so the duo quickly hit up the arcades, researching the other video games out there, and came up with an 8-song album including titles like "Froggy's Lament", "Do The Donkey Kong", and "Ode to a Centipede" among others. The album managed to reach #24, although the second single "Do The Donkey Kong" sputtered. The sound effects on the album pre-date sampling; they were recorded live in real video arcades.
97. The Kinks: The Contenders *****
Lola vs. the Powerman & the Money-Go-Round, Pt. 1 briefly returned the Kinks to the charts in America after several years of relative obscurity; in England, their late-60's albums had remained fairly good sellers. It provided a new direction for the band, who originally rode the British Invasion to international stardom in 1964. On Lola, the band's sound is a cross between folk and ragged hard rock; "The Contenders" kicks off this concept album with a kick of adrenaline. The "concept" of the album, thankfully, doesn't get in the way of the music, as their later concept albums would; most of the songs sound just fine as stand alones, including this one. Despite its relative success in America, reaching #35, the Kinks would again seemingly fade away until Sleepwalker in 1977, which marked a major commercial renaissance for the band that lasted into the 1980's.
98. James Taylor: You Can Close Your Eyes **** iTunes
Mud Slide Slim and the Blue Horizon was the third album from singer/songwriter James Taylor, released in 1971, and is essentially a repeat of the formula of his 1970 breakthrough album Sweet Baby James. The lyrical concerns had changed; the previous album had dealt mainly with Taylor's demons from his past, whereas the follow-up brought the listener into the current state of Taylor's head. He still seemed ill at ease with the world at large, and the songs have a distrustful insularity about them. One exception is the big romantic ballad "You Can Close Your Eyes", later covered in an arguably superior version by Linda Ronstadt on her 1974 high-point, Heart Like A Wheel. Taylor's self obsessions have garnered him his share of negative reviews, but the simplicity of this tune is winning; it's one of his best.
99. Sleater-Kinney: You're No Rock 'n' Roll Fun ***** iTunes
Sleater-Kinney, an all-female trio from Olympia, WA, was formed by members of Heavens to Betsy and Excuse 17, both among the original riot grrrl bands. All Hands on the Bad One from 2000 is arguably their best album, with a brighter, more accessable sound than their earlier work, and "You're No Rock 'n' Roll Fun" is an instant winner, bouncy and funny, featuring great harmonies and some seriously crunchy guitar work. Lyrically, it takes the air out of self-important scenesters and hangers on who miss the point of what rock 'n' roll is all about, making it one of the best songs about rock 'n' roll in recent years. Their most recent release, The Woods, came out in 1985.
100. Pearl Jam: Do The Evolution ***** iTunes
Pearl Jam have managed to make the transformation from second-biggest grunge band in the world, to the biggest grunge band in the world, to a respected post-grunge band, to something of elder statesmen among the Generation X bands. "Do The Evolution" is from the semi-muted 1998 album Yield, and stands out as the heaviest, most raucous cut on the album. It features a manic 60's garage band feel to it, and the guitars of Mike McCready and Stone Gossard propel it into noise heaven, getting even louder and more clanging and cacophonous with each chorus as Eddie Vedder bellows on top. The result is one of Pearl Jam's best post-grunge songs ever, a good example of how the band was able to take on styles beyond grunge and make them their own. Yeild is a better album than its usually credited with being; worth a second listen for those who may have dismissed it the first time.