Okay, so it's late AGAIN. But give me a break -- I was out listening to rock and roll all evening. Hey, I have my priorities straight!
1. "Cruel To Be Kind" / Marshall Crenshaw
From Labour of Love: The Music of Nick Lowe (2001)
Too perfect -- because it was Marshall Crenshaw I went out to see tonight, at a Gulf Coast benefit tribute concert to Alex Chilton (how's that for mashing together causes?). I'll say this right now: I prefer Marshall's version of Nick's big hit record to Nick's own -- MC just nails the plaintive, wounded, clueless quality of Nick's persona here. He just sounds like a guy who'd let this chick walk all over him, and then buy her excuses.
2. "I Take It On Home" / Charlie Rich
From Behind Closed Doors (1973)
Another country artist I just don't know enough about. I grew up knowing his two big hits, the coy "Behind Closed Doors" and the smarmy "Most Beautiful Girl in the World," so I never gave him a chance. I recently started to trawl through his back catalog, however, and -- HELLO! This song is even on the same album as those two; it was written by Kenny O'Dell, who also penned "Behind Closed Doors." Go figure. It's a honey.
3. "Summer Song" / Chad and Jeremy
From Yesterday's Gone (1964)
Mushy sentimental pop-folk -- but it was British mushy pop-folk, which made it all okay to my little pre-teen heart in 1964. These guys were so darn cute . . .
4. "Wonderful Feeling" / Lulu and Alan Price
From Shout!: The Decca Years (compilation)
Now here's some sassy British pop, circa 1964, with the gritty edge of Lulu's powerful girl voice matched by Alan Price's own Geordie gruffness. Alan had quit the Animals by then and was forging a more mainstream pop course with the Alan Price Set; how perfect to match him up with Lulu, who was treading her own fine line between pop and R&B. Alan wrote this song; produced the track, too. It's completely infectious pop, swinging horn section and all.
5. "Jenny Wren" / Paul McCartney
From Chaos and Creation in the Backyard (2005)
Paul trying to find his inner folkie. I've got to love it, because it's Paul (who by the way tonight received the Gershwin Award for Contemporary Music at the White House -- toss it in the drawer with all the other citations and medals, Pauly!). If I didn't harbor a sneaking suspicion he was just trying to re-do "Mother Nature's Son" . . .
6. "Moving the Goalposts" / Billy Bragg
From Don't Try This At Home (1991)
I feel a Billy Bragg post coming on. Bragg's deft political satire (which comes off extra-spiky in those Cockney vowels) sometimes overshadows his brilliant relationship songs. Here we've got both in one song, as he name-checks Gennady Gerasimov (former Soviet ambassador to Afghanistan), then side shifts into a tender, and incredibly sexy, depiction of him and his girl, occupying new territory in their own love affair. He draws this little vignette with so few details; we have to connect the dots . . . but it's all there. Stunning, really.
7. "It's Not Hard" / Alan Price
From Based on a True Story (2002)
And now here's Alan Price much later in his career -- on this obscure self-released album that contains some of his finest stuff in years. Who knew?
8. "Now's the Time" / Brinsley Schwarz
From The New Favourites of Brinsley Schwarz (1974)
Because there always must be something by Nick Lowe, even if it's a completely callow throwaway track -- not even a Nick composition, but an old Hollies song, written by' Graham Nash and Gene Clarke, issued as the B-side to their 1963 hit "Stay." Nick's not even singing the lead (is that Ian Gomm instead? or Brinsley?). And yet it's on my iTunes, and it's adorable.
9. "Holly Would" / Jackie DeShannon
From Laurel Canyon (1969)
Did I download this track because it has my name in it? Oh, probably. A little character study of a sort of free spirit, very post-Summer of Love Southern California.
10. "A Slow Song" / Joe Jackson
From Night and Day (1982)
There are only a few albums that I have loaded in their entirety onto my iTunes. (Make that only a few non-Nick Lowe albums.) Night and Day is one of them. I just love how desperately Joe throws his earnest, cracking voice into this plaintive waltz. This entire album seems to me to dance on the knife edge of a love affair that could go down the tubes at any minute. So why not dance real close while you still can?