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Heads and senses

November 2nd, 2009 1 comment

iris

Very occasionally a group of people get together on the Touchedmix blog and post mixes on a particular theme. Last week, the theme was HEADS, with their features and their functions. I thought readers of this little corner of the music blogosphere might be interested in the two mixes I banged together.

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OVER MY HEAD MIX
1. Aztec Camera – Head Is Happy (Heart’s Insane) (1985)
2. Crowded House – Pineapple Head (live) (1996/2006)
3. Johnny Cash – Mean Eyed Cat (1996)
4. The Dillards – I’ve Just Seen A Face (1968)
5. The Holmes Brothers – Smiling Face Hiding A Weeping Heart (2006)
6. Paul Anka – Eyes Without A Face (2006)
7. The Undisputed Truth – Smiling Faces Sometimes (1971)
8. Justine Washington – I Can’t Wait Until I See My Baby’s Face (1964)
9. The Flamingos – I Only Have Eyes For You (1959)
10. Mississippi Sheikhs – I’ve Got Blood in My Eyes For You (1938)
11. Robert Mitchum – Mama Looka Boo Boo (Shut Your Mouth-Go Away) (1958)
12. Emile Ford & the Checkmates – Them There Eyes (1960)
13. Lewis Taylor – Blue Eyes (2000)
14. Andrew Bird – A Nervous Tic Motion Of The Head To The Left (2005)
15. Nada Surf – The Way You Wear Your Head (2002)
16. The Sweet – The Lies In Your Eyes (1975)
17. Ben Folds – Doctor My Eyes (2002)
18. Josh Ritter – One More Mouth (2006)
19. Kaki King – Saving Days In A Frozen Head (2008)
20. The Lilac Time – The Darkness Of Her Eyes (1991)
21. Thomas Dybdahl – Pale Green Eyes (2009)
22. Ryan Adams – Halloweenhead (2007)
23. The Cardigans – Give Me Your Eyes (2005)

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Justine Washington is better known as Baby Washington; this is the original version of the song covered to good effect by Dusty Springfield.

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SENSES WORKING OVERTIME MIX
1. David Bowie – Can You Hear Me (1975)
2. Tim Buckley – I Can’t See You (1966)
3. Herman Düne – I Wish That I Could See You Soon (2006)
4. Devics – If We Cannot See (2006)
5. Richard Hawley – Can You Hear The Rain, Love (2001)
6. Scott Walker – You’re Gonna Hear From Me (1967)
7. The Righteous Brothers – See That Girl (1965)
8. Chris Montez – The More I See You (1966)
9. Cass Elliot – I’ll Be Seeing You (1973)
10. Blind Boy Fuller – What’s That Smells Like Fish (1938)
11. Smiley Lewis – I Hear You Knocking (1955)
12. The Supremes – I Hear A Symphony (1965)
13. Jim Messina – Seeing You (For The First Time) (1979)
14. Baby Huey – Listen To Me (1971)
15. The Jesus and Mary Chain – Taste Of Cindy (1985)
16. K’s Choice – A Sound That Only You Can Hear (1995)
17. Mull Historical Society – Watching Xanadu (2001)
18. Ron Sexsmith & Don Kerr – Listen (2005)
19. Rosanne Cash – I Was Watching You (2006)
20. The Magic Numbers – I See You, You See Me (2005)
21. Paul Anka – Smells Like Teen Spirit (2005)

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In the middle of the road: Part 5

November 8th, 2007 6 comments

Big middle of the road update to nearly conclude the series. I still have a handful of suitable tracks in my back pocket, but I think five installments should do for now. I’ll post the others when I can think of something nice to say about Jackson Browne.

Stevie Nicks – Edge Of Seventeen.mp3
Cocaine Rock at its cokest (I take it everybody knows the stories about Nicks’ alleged methods of coke ingestion). A song about the death of Stevie’s uncle in Phoenix, and that of John Lennon, the nervous riff was an obvious sampling choice for that other deeply affecting song about the vagaries of the inevitable mortality that comes to all living things: Destiny’s Child “Bootylicious”. The thing I like best about this song is the clashing cymbals throughout.

Climax Blues Band – Couldn’t Get It Right.mp3
Lyrically, this song — about life on the road — is unremarkable. Musically, it has classic written all over it. The vocals in particular are quite special, with two-octave dual voices and the rest of the sextet joining in the harmonies. So, yeah, one to croon along to.

Gino Vanelli – I Just Want To Stop.mp3
Here’s a bit of trivia: Gino Vanelli was the first white singer to appear on Soul Train. The Canadian veered between creating fusion and straight soul-infused rock which was similar to the sound of the great Boz Scaggs. This soaring ballad, from 1978’s excellent Brother To Brother album, falls in the latter genre. You just have to dig the saxophone solo, but what I really like is the short pause when our man sings the title’s line (for example at 2:04), with the drum beat virtually accentuating the letter p in the word “stop”.

Larsen-Feiten Band – Who Will Be The Fool Tonight.mp3
Neil Larsen and Buzz Feiten were better known as session musicians, highly respected in jazz fusion circles especially, than as recording artists in their own rights. As far as I know, they released only one album, whence came this pretty funky track. Guitar and bass guitar enthusiasts may recognise Buzz’s name from the tuning system he invented.

Loggins & Messina – Danny’s Song.mp3
As I mentioned a couple of episodes ago, Jim Messina is generally regarded as the second banana in this duo, unfairly so. Fact is that Messina — a sound engineer, former drummer of Buffalo Springfield and then of Poco (which he co-founded) — was brought in to help out the budding talent Kenny Loggins, who was struggling getting his debut album together. One thing leading to another, the two decided to form a duo. The best work on the Sittin’ In, from which “Danny’s Song” comes, album is Messina’s. This ballad, a Loggins composition, is the sweetest song, though. Dude is newly-wed and sings about all the bliss and chains of love and there being a family where there once was none et cetera. On my mix-CD in the car, I follow “Danny’s Song” with Gram Parsons’ version of “Love Hurts”, just to remind myself that “Danny” is just a dreamy idealist whose heart is bound to be broken when Mrs Danny goes fogelberging elsewhere.

Hall & Oates – Rich Girl.mp3
How incomplete this series would be without a bit of Hall & Oates. Amid the collective memory of Hall’s mullet and Oates’ moustache, it’s easily forgotten just how good they were back in the day. The trilogy of “Rich Girl”, “Sara Smile” and “She’s Gone” should dispel any notions of our two friends being as naff as their hair suggests. Of these three tracks, I used to like “She’s Gone” the best, until I saw the mindbogglingly, hilariously bad video (even for its time). Instead, here’s “Rich Girl”, which Hall intended as a jibe at an ex-boyfriend of his then girlfriend (the Sara of the smile). Hall’s vocal performance here is quite excellent.

Poco – A Good Feelin’ To Know.mp3
Ah, the harmonies of West Coast country-rock, a genre Poco helped invent. I love the chord changes, and check out the drumming. It seems nobody told the drummer that this was supposed to be a mid-tempo wind-in-the-hair kind of number, because he plays this as a hard rock song. And it works very well, giving the song a bit of edge. Along with Jim Messina, a founding member of Poco was Randy Meisner. He left the group in 1969, unhappy with the musical direction it was taking, presumably the country rock thing. So who did Meisner find fortune and fame with? The Eagles. Of course. Meisner was replaced by Timothy B Schmitt. And when Meisner left the Eagles, guess who replaced him there.

Al Stewart – Year Of The Cat.mp3
More trivia: Al Stewart was the first singer to commit the f-word as part the lyrics of a recorded song, the line “Love being more than a fuck” on “Love Chronicles” in 1969. Soon after, Jefferson Starship used the word “motherfucker”, the first intentional use of an expletive on record (disregarding swearing in the background, as the drummer in the beginning of “Louie Louie”). Anyway, so much for the idea of Al being a little prissy. Fair enough, he did very little to advance the punk revolution, and his music was mild-mannered. It was consistently beautiful though, and at times quite at odds with the lyrics. And any song that references the great Peter Lorre deserves my vote. Though I prefer the Time Passages album, this song is rightly regarded as Stewart’s masterpiece.

Elvin Bishop – Fooled Around And Fell In Love.mp3
He was through about a million girls??? Not disputing Elvin’s charm, sex appeal and stamina here, but I think he’s not levelling with us. Usually the guys who count their conquests in six figures or more actually are still virgins. Anyway, Elvin Bishop doesn’t really sing this. The blues guitarist handed the vocal duties for this West Coast pub song to Mickey Thomas, the singer in Bishop’s band. This is one of those songs you crank up the volume for and sing along to, possibly aggressively out of tune.

Elkie Brooks – Fool If You Think It’s Over.mp3
You wouldn’t guess it, but Elkie Brooks is one of the most successful female British singers of all time. To be honest, I can think of only three songs by her which I’d recognise: “Pearl’s A Singer”, “Only A Fool” and this one. Oh, but the Chris Rea-penned “Fool” is a fine song, with its rich orchestration and gently swinging chorus.

Journey – Who’s Crying Now.mp3
Great keyboard intro, enter Steve Perry, set the song up for the sing-along chorus. Perfect. Randy Crawford covered this song to great effect (Randy Crawford covers any song to great effect). The story has it that guitarist Neal Schon disliked this song so much that, when called to play a guitar solo at the end, he cobbled together what he thought was the most hackneyed bit of guitar wankery, hoping it would offend enough for excision. As it turned out, the other band members liked it so much that it was retained. With Journey you want a bit of cliché CocRock, so the solo is absolutely perfect.

Bad Company – Feel Like Makin’ Love.mp3
Don’t let the torture that moron Kid Rick inflicted upon this great song undermine your enjoyment of it. In its original incarnation, it is near-perfect. I starts out as a West Coast track of the sort the Eagles would have been proud of — remarkable in itself, since Bad Company was an English blues-rock band. Suddenly, as the chorus approaches, the heavy rock guitars kick in, and Paul Rodgers (him of Free) repeatedly roars out the song’s title, before it goes all Eagles again. Marvellous stuff for the long road. The song is from the band’s second album, titled Straight Shooter, the sort of cliché used by people who claim to have fogelberged about a million women.

Andy Gibb – I Just Want To Be Your Everything.mp3
Admittedly, including this song in this series is a bit of a stretch. It’s really a pop song — and one of the finest of the ’70s. Andy’s career, if not his entire life, suffered from living in the shadows of his older brothers (hence the dancing, ho ho). His career certainly was not helped by the reputation the Bee Gees earned when they became the supposed “Kings of Disco”: those who liked the Bee Gees’ disco stuff regarded Andy as Bee Gees Lite; those who hated it would not give Andy a fair shot. Yet, “I Just Want To Be Your Everything” is an exquisite song which swings beautifully and evokes sunshine. A very happy song from a very unhappy man.

Steve Miller Band – The Joker.mp3 (link fixed)
Can one still sing along to this song without launching into a Homer Simpson parody? Recorded in 1973 (it really doesn’t sound as old as that), it is as self-referencing a song as they come. Other Steve Miller Songs were called “Enter Maurice”, “Space Cowboy” and, of course, “Gangster Of Love”. The song caused a bit of a mystery over the lyric “the pompatus of love”. the mystery is solved here. Listen to “The Joker”, and then play “Two Princes” by the Spin Doctors to hear a most shameless rip-off.
Homer Simpson – The Joker.mp3

In the middle of the road: Part 3

October 26th, 2007 3 comments

And more music from the middle of the road, the yacht club, the West Coast, the adult-orientated radio. More music to play while driving with the warm win in your hair.

Blue Öyster Cult – (Don’t Fear) The Reaper.mp3
Ah, that guitar riff. And the great drums in the outro! I imagine that this song would be one of the few in this series to unanimously pass the Taste Police test (perhaps because the Pixies ripped off the riff?). You can bet that this track will feature in many Halloween collections next week, which will be a spectacular piece of point-missing, akin to those clowns who play James Blunt’s “You’re Beautiful” at weddings because the title says “You’re beautiful” and the bride is, you know, beautiful. “The Reaper” is about love transcending death. And, FFS, it is not about suicide.

Asia – In The Heat Of The Moment.mp3
A fine example of Cocaine Rock, presaging the advent of Big Hair Rock. “Heat Of The Moment” came out in 1982. It was like punk never happened as a supergroup of hoary ’70s rockers from groups punk was supposed to kill — Yes, ELP, King Crimson — set the scene for the success and/or survival of all those acts that would proceed to populate crappy soundtrack albums.

Alessi – All For A Reason.mp3
One of the great telephone songs. I never know whether to laugh or cry when the girl hangs up on this guy pleading at her with such sincerity, and he goes “hello?…hello?” Which person who has experienced the pain of lost love cannot empathise with our hero, even if he comes across like a bit of a stalker? Still, it is sweetly pathetic that he still blabbers on about his love when “Ann” clearly is not only uninterested in his shtick, but is also very rude about it (possibly due to the time of night the drunk fool is calling her). For goodness’ sake, Ann, dude just hit you with a line like “can’t you see I’m just a man in love and it’s driving me insane”, and you put the phone down on him? What luxury, and how harsh! The song itself is a lovely slice of ’70s AOR, and far superior to the twin brothers’ big hit, “Oh Lori”. I tend to sequence “All For A Reason” with that other great telephone song by England Dan & John Ford Coley.

Eddie Rabbitt – Suspicions.mp3
A smooth country-rock classic to be filed alongside Rupert Holmes’ “Him”. I can’t say I know much of Eddie Rabbitt’s music (other than “I Love A Rainy Night”), but this song is great. It has a flute in it, so it has to be. Tim McGraw covered “Suspicions” on his latest album, doing a fine job. Poor Eddie had a tough time of it when his career began declining. First his little son died, and in 1998 Ed followed, of lung cancer, at the age of 56.

Jim Messina – Love Is Here.mp3
In a classic episode of The Simpsons, Lisa makes friends with a girl who eclipses all of her prodigious talents. Friendship turns to rivalry as Lisa feels as though she is living in Alison’s shadow. In one sequence, Lisa imagines herself on stage at a concert of the second bananas in famous duos,. including Garfunkel, Oates and Jim Messina. Stupendously funny though the gag is, it’s a little unfair on poor Messina. His 1979 Oasis album is far superior to anything Kenny Loggins has done. “Love Is Here” is a joyous ode to, well, finding love, scored by a bouncy sound Boz Scaggs would kill for, and a fantastic duel between guitar and saxophone.

Bobby Caldwell – What You Won’t Do For Love.mp3
When “What You Won’t Do For Love” first appeared in 1978, promotion for the song would show Caldwell only in silhouette to obscure the man’s race — it was as though if it became known that the cat was white, black radio would not play this soul-rock number. Whatever the case, this is one catchy toe-tapper with a great keyboard-, sax- and basslines, judicious use of Stax style strings, and a brilliant delivery. The song has been frequently covered and sampled, sometimes to good effect (Natalie Cole & Peabo Bryson), sometimes competently (Go West), sometimes uselessly (Boyz II Men), and sometimes weirdly (sampled in 2 Pac’s “Do For Love”).

Toto – Georgy Porgy.mp3
And another funky kinda song which combines the best of soul and AOR. The female backing vocals are Cheryl Lynn’s (she of “Got To Be Real”, possibly the greatest disco song ever). Everything works in this song; it’s as tight as spray-on jeans. Bobby Kimball sounds like Boz Scaggs (on whose albums Paich, Hungate and Pocarco played), allowing Lynn to steal the show. Which she does, and then some. And the ending to the song is just fantastic.

Carly Simon – You’re So Vain.mp3
Put-downs have rarely come as good as this. The double-edged insult of being told: “you’re so vain, you probably think this song is about you” is like a slap in the face followed by a backhander. Carly Simon has never let on who the song addresses. As a consequence, fingers of suspicion have pointed at anyone Carly had had affairs with before its release in 1972: Warren Beatty, Cat Stevens, Kris Kristofferson and Mick Jagger (who does backing vocals on the track). Personally, I picture Beatty sauntering on to the yacht. Of course, the song needn’t be about anyone in particular…

The Eagles – I Can’t Tell You Why.mp3
Here’s a group due some rehabilitation. The legacy of the bloated and overplayed “Hotel California” has soiled the Eagles’ whole career. “I Can’t Tell You Why”, from their final studio album before hell froze over, is a tender song about a relationship hanging by the thinnest thread of love. Don Felder’s guitar solo that plays out the song is utterly lovely.

Nazareth – Love Hurts.mp3
This song makes me laugh. To begin with, it is entirely unrepresentative of Nazareth’s hard rock sound. The man’s hammy vocals sound like he had lost a bet to sing this. The Gram Parsons & Emmylou Harris version is, of course, infinitely better. But that isn’t the point: the Nazareth version is a whole lotta overwrought fun. It was also brilliantly placed in one of my favourite movies, Dazed And Confused.

Journey – Wheel In The Sky.mp3
More CocRock! Released in 1978, “Wheel In The Sky” helped shape the template for all that rubbish radio rock of the ’80s, of which Journey and Steve Perry would become frequent perpetrators themselves. Oh, but what a great song this is.