Another week older, and yet no wiser....
1. "Pictures in the Sand" / The Kinks
From The Great Lost Kinks Album
Ray Davies in music hall mode -- all he needs is a straw boater, striped blazer, and cane. No wonder this catchy little bit of nonsense ended up on The Great Lost Kinks Album, a collection of odds and ends that Ray never intended to be released. (He even had to sue the record company to get them to withdraw it from the stores.) But we Kinks fans are nothing if not completists; TGLKA is a must-have in any Kinks Kultists kollection.
2. "People Are Talking" / Alan Price
From Travellin' Man (1986)
Again, I am outed for my music geek obsessions -- yes, I did buy this obscure Alan Price vinyl LP on eBay and transfer it to digital. Wanna make something of it? It's a lovely romp, full of old rock 'n' roll covers and new songs that sound like old rock 'n' roll covers, and Alan is clearly having a blast. "People are talking / About me and you / The things they are saying / Are making me sad and blue" -- fill in the gaps with boogie woogie piano and you've got the idea.
3. "I Saw Her Standing There" / Jerry Lee Lewis and Little Richard
From Last Man Standing (2006)
Well, at least we're getting to a well-known song, though not the obvious rendition. But that's the point of this duet album, giving all these classic songs fresh life in the hands of Jerry Lee and a surprising roster of collaborators. This track is an irresistible example -- once you've heard Little Richard's trademark yelp after the line "How could I dance with another?," it'll never again sound right without it.
4. "Scar Tissue" / The Red Hot Chili Peppers
From Californication (1999)
Man, do I love this album. That lounging funky rhythm, the drawling vocals -- "With the birds I’ll share this-a lonely view" -- existential poetry married to a soaring rock riff. This song always gets me where I live, and I have no idea why.
5. "'Till We're Nude" / The Replacements
From All For Nothing/Nothing at All (compilation)
Existential? Soaring? Nope, it's just the Replacements, blasting out angsty punk-ish rock and roll in their grungy basement. "Me and you, we ain't through / We ain't through until we're nude" -- sometimes that's as much of a social contract as you need.
6. "A-OK" / Motion City Soundtrack
From I Am the Movie (2003)
I refuse to call these guys an emo band. It's true that most of their songs consist of Justin Pierre parsing and probing the fine shadings of his own neuroses. So what? With that thrashing beat and the hyperkinetic guitars, it's impossible to feel mopey. "Someday you'll understand / That everything is A-OK" -- so she insists, but he's not buying it.
7. "Dear God (Sincerely M.O.F.)" / Monsters of Folk
From Monsters of Folk (2009)
When I first got this heady album, I pored over it, trying to pin down which song sprang from which musician in this "super-group" -- M. Ward? Yim Yames (a.k.a. My Morning Jacket's Jim James)? Bright Eyes' Conor Oberst? But this swirly, synthy first track made it easy -- they each sing one verse!
8. "It's Alright" / The Kinks
From The Kinks (1964)
Jump back 45 years in time (!!) to this early Kinks track, stripped-down and primitive rock and roll. (In glorious mono!) The Kinks never were quite convincing as a blues band, but it's fun to hear them give it a go, wheezy mouth harp and all.
9. "Oxford Comma" / Vampire Weekend
From Vampire Weekend (2008)
Back into the indie world, with a vengeance. Something about these guys I've loved since my first listen....
10. "American Pie" / Don McLean
From American Pie (1971)
Might as well end the evening with the entire history of rock and roll, packed into one grab-bag of pseudo-cryptic lyrics -- a fluky classic, but a classic nonetheless. Scroll down here to get the lowdown.