Tuesday, December 28, 2010

"Play That Fast Thing (One More Time)" / Brinsley Schwarz

Hope you all had lovely holidays !  My favorite presents were a Beatles Trivial Pursuit game (which I won handily, thank you), my own copy of Crazy Heart (loooooove Jeff Bridges), and a vinyl LP of Pet Sounds. That is, if you don't count the Kinks mugs I discovered on eBay while shopping for other things for other people.

But now Christmas is over and it is time to get off that Christmas playlist I've been playing to death.  Time to go for something resolutely non-seasonal -- like this delicious little Brinsley Schwarz number. Later on Nick Lowe got his new band Rockpile to do a very speedy version of this song, which is perfectly nice if you like that sort of thing.  But me, I'm much fonder of the laidback Brinsleys original.

A little background, if you will. Having suffered a bit of a crisis of faith in Nick Lowe lately (too much to go into, but ask Scott Sherman), I recently have discovered (dumb me) that the Brinsleys are not all about Nick Lowe.  There's Bob Andrews, for example, whose lightning-fast keyboard work completely gobsmacked me a few weeks ago when I had the distinct pleasure of seeing most of the Rumour accompanying Graham Parker at a suitably divey East Village bar. (A once-in-a-lifetime gig fer sure.)  And then there is Ian Gomm, whose solo work wasn't well known this side of the pond but is way beyond worth checking out.

So I'm listening to all the Brinsley stuff with new ears -- and this song in question comes out aces.  I can just imagine how much fun this would have been to hear in a North London pub circa 1975.  It's still killing me that I was only a few miles away at the time and had no idea this was going on.  Kick me now.

video 

Look for this track on their 1973 outing, Please Don't Ever Change, by which time the band had figured out that they weren't going to be pop stars and might as well just have as much fun as possible, doing the country-rock thing for their adoring local following. What marks this as a quintessential Brinsley track is the setting -- an evening at the pub ("Hanging out at Frankie's") with a grooved-out ambience ("Everyone was stoned").  Beyond that it's a sort of picaresque tale, circling around over and over to the crowd's demand for the one thing they can count on:  "Play that fast thing one more time / It does something to me that makes me feel so fine."  

Sure, this song is their fast number -- the bravura crowd pleaser the band might pull out for an encore -- but speed isn't its only quality.  With a sneaky bit of irony, the song is deliberately generic, recycling familiar riffs and phrases from the great grab-bag of pop music; even the regulars don't know its name, calling it just "that fast thing."  But they love it all the same, love it because it's familiar, lively, fun -- perfect bar-band music.  It's infectiously boppy, and it does make you feel fine.

The main thing is that boogie-woogie piano capering along.  Yes, there is a charming instrumental break of plain old rock-and-roll guitar (love that descending riff), but that unstoppable piano line is the real point of this song.   I love how it careens up and down the scale, like a rock-and-roll juggernaut. Note that I say "rock AND roll," because there's a playfulness here, a  give-and-take, that perfectly complements the pounding tempo and revved-up energy. The Rockpile version substitutes a rockabilly guitar on that through line, which changes the whole balance, letting the rock overpower the roll. And when guys start showing off how fast they can shred their guitars, I tune out completely.  

I can imagine, of course, that the Brinsleys revved it up when they performed this song live, challenging Bob to peel those riffs off at warp speed.  (Having now seen him play in person, I can testify that he most likely nailed it.)  But whether he hit all the keys correctly is beside the point. A few wrong notes here or there wouldn't spoil this song one bit; it would just confirm that it's being played by real live musicians, not robots. In our age of auto-tuning and studio tinkering, the rambunctious loose spirit of a song like this seems all the more precious.

I think that's Nick singing, although Ian's vocals are so similar, they've fooled me more than once before.  At this point I don't really care -- I'd like to think it was Ian, though the fakey country pronunciations are touchingly Nick-ish.  Ian, if you're out there, please confirm!  (Or Nick, if -- wonder of wonders -- you've finally learned to surf the Interweb.)

Even though I was never lucky enough to see the Brinsleys live, I remember that era well -- remember the euphoria of a night out with your tribe, getting a buzz on and listening to loud music. I'd like to think if I had stumbled into a Brinsley gig, I'd have gotten into the spirit in a nanosecond.  Listening to this track, somehow I still can.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

The Christmas Shuffle

Not Wednesday, sorry! Lately it seems I'm either a day behind or a day ahead of myself at every turn.  Perhaps it's best that I waited until today for this, though -- so you can hold this seasonal collection of tunes in your head all the way through Christmas day.

1. Postcard From London / Ray Davies with Chrissie Hynde
From The Kinks Choral Collection (2009)
Don't worry -- Ray and Chrissie were never in the same room when they recorded this "duet." Nevertheless, it was a brilliant move to have his ex add her vocals to this poignant number. Ray scores an emotional trifecta, wrapping three of his favorite themes -- Christmas, London, and long-lost love -- in one song.

2. I Told Santa Claus / Fats Domino 
From Christmas Is A Special Day (1993)
Mmm, this laidback boogie-woogie is one of my favorite Christmas classics. Fats has one request for the Man In Red -- he wants his baby to marry him. Yessiree -- "We'll have a boy for you / And a ten-pound girl for me," he croons happily. Was life ever this simple? Listening to Fats, you believe it could be.

3. "We Call It Christmas" / Keb' Mo'
From Christmas Calling (2003 various artists compilation)
I love it when Keb' gets his social conscience going, putting the blues on a back burner and reaching into his gospel/protest folk bag. Just listen to him testify about the power of the holiday season -- "It's bringing out the very best in all of us."  Amen, brother!

4. "Merry Christmas Baby" / The Beach Boys
From Christmas With the Beach Boys(1991 re-issue)
Man, did the Wilson brothers love holiday numbers -- maybe it's that seasonal Southern California yearning for snowy climes.  I've got their whole Christmas album in my iTunes, and I can never get enough of it.  Here Mike Love pleading with his ex to make up in time for Christmas -- like "Help Me Rhonda" with a wreath and spray-on snow.

5. "Merry Christmas, Baby" / Charles Brown and Bonnie Raitt
From A Very Special Christmas (2003 various artists compilation)
An entirely different song, Charles Brown's stellar contribution to the contemporary Christmas catalog.  Could this song be any sexier? Here's my original post...

6. "Christmas for Cowboys" / Jars of Clay
From Maybe This Christmas Tree (2003 various artists compilation)
A John Denver song, I think, but I love the way Jars of Clay earnestly lope their way through it.  These guys pretty much own the Christian alt-country niche as far as I'm concerned, and they never let it go corny. 

7. "Valley Winter Song" / Fountains of Wayne
From Welcome Interstate Managers (2005)
Wouldn't you know that FoW -- our great troubadors of suburban pop culture -- would have a Christmas song or two up their sleeves.? Okay, technically not a Christmas song (for that, you'd have to go to their "I Want An Alien For Christmas", from Out-Of-State Plates), but this sweet little song shimmers like a fresh snowfall.

8. "Get Behind Me, Santa" / Sufjan Stevens
From Songs For Christmas (2005)
No surprise that the defiantly unconventional Sufjan would release a five-disc Christmas album, mostly featuring sincere arrangements of traditional carols. But then there's this insanely fun original tune, subject of my very first Christmas song blog.

9. "Sock It To Me Santa" / Marshall Crenshaw
From A Home for the Holidays (1997 various artists compilation)
Add Marshall to that list of artists who really love Christmas novelty tunes -- I've got several MC numbers on my playlist, courtesy of a bootleg disc of Crenshaw rarities.  Here he has some rockabilly fun with a Bob Seger tune, featuring the inimitable James Brown reference,"Christmas ain't gonna be a drag / Santa's got a brand new bag!"  Take my word for it, Marshall's version knocks Seger's down cold.

10. "Zat You, Santa Claus?" / Buster Poindexter and His Banshees of Blues
From How Cool is Christmas (2006 various artists compilation)
Gotta love Buster's infectiously fun take on the old Louis Armstrong classic. Buster (aka David Johansen, aka Sri Rama Lama Ding Dong) has no shame about being theatrical, which is exactly what this jump-jive number craves. Merry Christmas, Buster!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

WEDNESDAY SHUFFLE

Anybody else watching The Singoff on TV?  I have to admit, it has screwed up my Monday and Wednesday night schedules.  But I can't pass up the chance to watch Ben Folds deconstruct each a capella group's technique (the other night he actually told a bass percussionist that he sounded like James Jamerson).  So yes, the Shuffle's a little late tonight...

1. "Lie Still, Little Bottle" / They Might Be Giants
From Lincoln (1988)
It's probably just aspirin in that bottle, but the Johns make it sound totally wicked and depraved.  I love it when they go finger-snapping jazzy like this.

2. "Wild Honey Pie" / The Beatles
From The Beatles (1968)
Filler?  Sorry, but not one note of this album is filler. I prefer to think of it as an essential segue -- it's impossible for me to hear this sloppy bit of cacophony without expecting the Spanish guitar fill to lead us next into "Bungalow Bill."

3. "Holloway Jail" / The Kinks
From Muswell Hillbillies (1971)
My favorite album from my favorite band, and -- since my middle name is Holloway -- I've always felt a particular connection to this song.  A droll bit of comedy, about a floozy who takes the rap for her no-good lover, but the Kinks absolutely nail that old-timey country sound.  Nail it.  

4. "I Forgot to Remember to Forget Him" / Wanda Jackson
From I Remember Elvis (2006)
Talk about old-timey country -- here's the queen of rockabilly, strutting her sassy way through a tongue-in-cheek kiss-off song. 

5. "Moments" / The Kinks
From Percy: The Soundtrack (1971)
More Kinks? I'll take it -- even though this is one of their lesser albums, it still offers up a few incredible gems, including this winsome track. "We got to learn to share these moments in our lives," Ray warbles, and campy as it is -- dig those movie music strings! -- it also makes me mist up.  

6. "Too Hot" / The Kinks
From Word of Mouth (1984)
No misting up here.  As the mid-80s Kinks impersonated arena rockers, Ray Davies leaned heavily on the social satire -- like here, where he lampoons the fitness craze.  (Remember leg warmers?)  Best part: the steel drums in the middle-eight.

7. "Windfall" / Son Volt
From Trace (1996) 
Back to the country, son, with Jay Farrar's post-Uncle Tupelo act, Son Volt.  Lots of wheeze and twang, with more fiddles than you can shake a stick at, but I love this track's gently rambling valediction: "Let the wind take your troubles away..."  

8. "Artificial Man" / The Kinks
From Preservation Act 2 (1974)
A fourth Kinks track! What a coincidence. Well, here's Ray in campy vocal mode again, and deep into the satire as well.  Preservation is not for the casual Kinks fan, but it goes without saying, it's one of my faves. Even this cobbled-together mess of a track is near and dear to my heart.

9. "I'm Ready" / Muddy Waters
From Fathers and Sons (1970)
One of the reasons I had to buy a turntable again was to listen to this amazing blues album, which brought old masters Muddy Waters and Otis Spann together with a new generation of acolytes like Paul Butterfield and Mike Bloomfield. One of Muddy's iconic tracks, played with reverence and joy.

10.  "Bidin' My Time" / Georgie Fame
From Somebody Stole My Thunder (compilation)
British 1960s pop star Georgie Fame kept defying the hitmakers to indulge his twin passions for soul and jazz -- or rather, for a snazzy fusion of the two. This track's a perfect example, ineffably cool and yet upbeat. "Bidin' my time / My heart is beating faster / Hope it's the time / To make you happy ever after..."  Makes me want to put on a mini-skirt and white lipstick and tease my hair.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

My Holiday Album Buying Guide

Nothing I like better Christmas morning than to find neat little 5-by-6-inch wrapped rectangles under the tree.  (Used to be 12-by-12-inch -- but there, I'm dating myself.)  And if you're like me, you don't want to leave the selection of your new holiday tunes up to chance and the questionable tastes of your friends and family -- you want a readymade list of excellent new CDs to request ahead of time. Why, you might even want a list of CDs to buy for other people, while we're at it! Normally I'm not much of a list-maker -- well, not like Uncle E, at least -- but as a public service, herewith is my end-of-year round-up . . . .

1. Imaginary Television
Graham Parker 

I  love this record for many reasons, but mostly because it's the album that got me back into Graham Parker, launching a months-long voyage of discovery.

I first blogged about the track "Always Greener"...





2.  Lonely Avenue

 Ben Folds and Nick Hornby

 Well, technically it's just Ben Folds -- British novelist Nick Hornby
 doesn't perform on the records, he just contributed the lyrics.  Just.

Check out my blog post on "Belinda."





3.  No Better Than This 
John Mellencamp 

I won't defend every record John Mellencamp's ever made -- I'll just say that this stripped-down, acoustic, monoaural, back-to-the-roots effort may be the finest thing he's ever done.

Here's my take on "Love At First Sight."




4. The Grand Theater, Volume One
The Old 97s

This Austin-based outfit definitely keeps the alt in alt-country, and I have never yet heard a track by these guys that I didn't like.  This new album is just insanely smart and funny and fun to listen to.

Check out "A State of Texas"... 





5. My Dinosaur Life
Motion City Soundtrack

Neurotic emo-pop is so not my thing -- so why I'm such a fan of this band?  Witty little portraits of slacker angst, amped up with tons o' melody and a mosh-pit tempo.

Exhibit A: "Skin and Bones"




6.  A Word to the Wise
Bill Kirchen

Now for something completely different -- the rumpled musings of veteran musicmaker Bill Kirchen, accompanied by an amazing set of equally experienced guest stars. 

Take a spin with "Shelly's Winter Love" and you'll see what I mean...




7.  Contra 
Vampire Weekend

Okay, so those duelling Subaru and Hilfiger commercials have pretty much ruined the perky world-pop charm of "Holiday." Nevertheless, the fresh sound and lively indie energy of this young band started 2010 out on a very high note for me, and I still grin when any of this album's song rotate up on my shuffle.

Here's where I started, with  . . . yes, I'm afraid it was "Holiday".  But maybe someday we'll be able to enjoy it again!



8. The 88
The 88

I'll admit that Ray Davies' seal of approval gave this L.A. band a huge boost in my estimation.  But there's nothing not to like about this tight, melodic album, which takes pop music back from the schlockmeisters and gives it a good name again. Sorry, I never got around to posting here about this album, but I did review it for Blogcritics.




9. Junky Star
Ryan Bingham and the Dead Horses

Bingham's work on the Crazy Heart soundtrack vaulted him onto my alt-country playlist; this album proved to me that was no fluke.  I've only started listening to this one -- haven' t done a blog post on it yet -- but trust me, there are plenty of dark, nuanced, twangy pleasures to be found here. Townes Van Zant would approve, I suspect.



10. Propellor Time 
Robyn Hitchcock and the Venus 3

I want to resist -- but I can't.  If Robyn Hitchcock's peculiar psych-folk-punk music is a minority taste, then count me in that minority.  The odder his lyrics get, the more off-kilter the melodies become, the happier I am.Inexplicably, I never got around to reviewing any tracks from this album; in lieu of that, may I provide a link to the weird and wonderful video for "Ordinary Millionaire".




11. Brothers
The Black Keys


So who says we have to quit at 10? If we did, I wouldn't be able to mention this album -- another fairly new acquisition that I haven't yet written about -- a deeply, deeply funky artifact by a duo that look like standard-issue Williamsburg hipsters.  Go figure.  All I know is, these tracks put me in a souled-out trance, putting the hip in hypnotic.



12. Soulsville
Huey Lewis & the News

Let's make it an even dozen, then, and throw in my old boyfriend Huey Lewis, who delivers a heartfelt tribute to the vintage soul numbers that inspired his own career. A guilty pleasure, perhaps, but it is full of that patented Huey Lewis genial charm, and if it's not a groundbreaking, it is listenable as hell.

I did blog about this one, homing in on "Respect Yourself."




Still got room for a few more stocking stuffers?  Let's throw in Jon Lindsay's Escape From Plaza-Midwoodand Edward O'Connell's Our Little Secret, my two great slush-pile finds of the year.  Of course we're already looking forward to 2011 for the US release of Ray Davies' See My Friends and Greg Trooper's Upside-Down Town (no Amazon link yet but I'll keep you posted). The music never ends!

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

WEDNESDAY SHUFFLE

Dedicated to the memory of John Lennon, who left us 30 years ago today.

1. "Like Humans Do" / David Byrne
From Look Into The Eyeball (2001)

Funny, I was just talking about the Talking Heads this morning with my dog-walking friend Dan. I so loved them once, but then David Byrne jumped the shark for me. I have no idea where this song came from -- I actually think it's an iTunes sample track -- but I have to admit, it's an utter groove.  Makes me feel guilty that maybe I dropped David B too hastily...

2. "Senses Working Overtime" / XTC
From English Settlement (1982)
"And I've got one two three four five! / Senses working overtime" -- I'm rarely sure what XTC songs are about, but who cares, so long as they're larded with koan-like statements ("tryin' to taste the difference 'tween a lemon and lime / Pain and the pleasure and the church bells softly chime ") and surreal images ("And all the world is football-shaped" -- well I guess that makes more sense if you're from the land of round footballs...) 

3. "Long Road Ahead" / Jim Ford
From Sounds of Our Time (2007 compilation)
The album tells me this track is from 1969, but considering how little of Jim Ford's music ever hit the mainstream, I'll have to take it on faith.  Nick Lowe vouches for this guy -- the epitome of country soul, with a trailer-park stoner groove -- and that's good enough for me.

4. "Nothing To Say" / The Kinks
From Arthur, Or The Decline and Fall of the British Empire (1969)
A generation gap face-off from Ray Davies, intoned in a stagey old-man voice (at least the father's half is).  So many great songs from this criminally neglected album. This is the first rock song I ever heard that mentioned chilbains -- and come to think of it, it's still the only one. 

5. "Bring the Old You Back" / Jon Lindsay
From Escape from Plaza-Midwood (2010)
Lindsay again? He must have rigged my iTunes. But it's so snarky and melodic, I won't complain.

6. "Young Conservatives" / The Kinks
From State of Confusion (1983)
Another blast of Kinksian satire, from later in their career when Ray Davies worked a little harder to churn out topical numbers.  Hate to tell you, Ray, but they're still with us, only older -- and now they're running Congress.

7. "Ashgrove" / Dave Alvin
From Ashgrove (2004)
The album's title track is a tasty bit of blues from the ex-Blasters brother Dave, a tribute to a seminal music club where he first fell in love with music.  Heard this once live, and it was killer.

8. "Frida" / Sanseverino
From Le Tango des Gens (2001)
A toe-tapping treat from Paris, a sassy track of modern swing-jazz (go figure!), sent to me years ago by a fellow Kinks fan. Wickedly addictive.

9. "Take Me In Your Arms and Love Me" / Alan Price
From Songs from Top of the Pops (bootleg compilation)
No link, sorry, as this is a fan recording, capturing Price's many appearances on the late beloved British weekly music show.  It's true that Gladys Knight and the Pips did this song better, but those of us who have a weak spot for Alan Price -- and I'm one -- enjoy his rendition just fine.

10. "George Jones Talkin' Cell Phone Blues" / Drive-By Truckers
From The Fine Print (2009 rarities compilation)
Please listen to this one -- it couldn't be more fun.  An oddball scenario (aging country music star wrecks his car while chatting on his cell), with a refrain that cracks me up every time: "If you don't change your ways, my friend / You'll be singing duets with Tammy again." 

Alas, not a single Lennon track, or even a Beatle song, but such an eclectic sequence, even John might have gotten a kick out of it.  I'd like to think so!

Monday, December 06, 2010

"Days / This Time Tomorrow"

Ray Davies and Mumford and Sons

Just a little taster from Ray Davies' new duets album, See My Friends. It's not out in the States yet (sorry to tantalize you all), but impatient fangirl that I am, I managed to order a copy from amazon.fr and have been listening to it all day. 

Now, normally I am constitutionally opposed to duets albums.  To my mind, they are even lower on the opportunism scale than best-of compilations -- most often a cynical late-career grab for new market share, wherein a veteran musician lines up "collaborations" with younger artists in order to jump-start awareness of his old hits.  I had thought Ray Davies was above such shenanigans, but apparently not. (Although Ray's notion of "younger artists" seems to include Bruce Springsteen, Lucinda Williams, and Bon Jovi -- go figure.)

Translation: this album was not made for the hardcore fans like myself, who presumably already possess seven or eight versions of songs like "You Really Got Me" (performed this time with, I regret to say, Metallica) or "Waterloo Sunset" (performed with -- wait for it -- Jackson Browne, of all people).  Well, actually, I really like the duet with Jackson Browne, but you get my point. We the Kinks faithful do not need this adulterated product. Which makes it even more galling that it is selling like hotcakes over in Europe, giving Ray Davies the chart success that by all rights should have been won by his recent solo albums, Other People's Lives and Working Man's Cafe.  Don't you just hate it when the marketing people are right?

But Ray being Ray, this shameless hustle -- like his equally shameless recycle of old Kinks hits, The Kinks Choral Collection -- turns out to have several very lovely tracks.  And even the kalloused souls of Kinkdom generally confess that this track, where Ray collaborates with the hot young UK indie band Mumford and Sons, is a wonderful thing indeed.


Now, if you're going to perform a cover of a classic rock song -- and especially if you are going to perform that cover with the living legend who actually wrote it -- I believe you need to bring something fresh to the table.  On that score, this track succeeds brilliantly. 

First and foremost, they don't just do one song, they do a medley, yoking together two songs: the 1968 single "Days" with the 1970 album track "This Time Tomorrow" (from Part One: Lola Versus Powerman and the Moneygoround). Iconic songs, both of them -- you've got to admire the Mumfords' nerve -- and it was a stroke of genius to combine them. 

"Days" is surely Ray's most wistful break-up song ever, a gentle valediction for an ex-girlfriend, while "This Time Tomorrow" is part lonely meditation on the road, part philosophical musing on the mutability of human relationships.  In both songs, however, Ray Davies is playing with memory. "Days" tenderly recalls the happy moments of this ended love affair, but then it also projects into the future, reflecting on how those happy memories will sustain him in the days to come. (Typical Ray Davies write-off.)  "This Time Tomorrow" time travels more consciously -- "This time tomorrow / Where will we be" -- but as it depicts the jet travel of the touring musician as a sci-fi scenario of space flight, it deftly projects that "tomorrow" eons into the future. Which is probably how the lonely, disconnected touring musician feels, right? In its own way, it's just as poignant and wistful as "Days."

The contrast in tempo between the two songs -- "Days" gentle and folky, "This Time Tomorrow" a banjo-fueled hoedown -- works better than I could ever have imagined (it's also perfect for the Mumfords, who feature virtuoso banjo stylings on all their own tracks).  The song choices also allow the Mumfords to show off their gorgeous vocal harmonies -- for once, I don't miss Dave Davies' harmonies.

I love the Kinks' versions of both these songs, but this is one case where I don't at all mind Ray recycling his classics.  It proves one thing for sure -- your duets album can only be as good as the artists you invite to duet with you.  I suspect that the marketing people wanted Ray to line up artists like Bruce and Bon Jovi who could deliver their own audiences. Of course, that does make marketing sense.  But screw marketing sense:  I'd rather have the enthusiasm and energy that the Mumfords bring to this track.  Watch Ray performing with them -- doesn't he seem invigorated, too?   God bless his little heart.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

WEDNESDAY SHUFFLE

Wait, it's December already? Wait, it's Wednesday already?

1.  "Changed the Locks" / Lucinda Williams  
From Lucinda Williams (1998)
I think I'd like Lucinda Williams more if all you male music fans weren't always slobbering over her brassy-babe act.  Okay, yes, the rootsy squawk and drawl of this song is appealing, and yes, it should be satisfying to hear a sister wash that man right out of her hair.  It's just that I wouldn't trust her with my man for five seconds.   

2. "This Empty Place" / The Searchers
From It's the Searchers (1965)
British Invasion bands sure did like to cover Burt Bacharach-Hal David songs.  This was a hit for Cilla Black and Dionne Warwick, and the lyrics are really better for a girl singer -- borderline dopey Brill Building sentiments.  But that cha-cha beat is beguiling, and I love the octave swoops in the lead vocal (either Frank Allen or Chris Curtis, in the Searchers' revolving door of personnel). The Searchers never quite got their due, IMHO -- they never had a compelling enough image or a distinctive enough sound to compete in that very crowded field -- yet they turned out a surprising number of great tracks, and this is one of my faves.       

3. "One Bright Star" / Paul Weller
From 22 Dreams (2008)
A tango -- a tango! -- from the former Jam front man, whose music gets more eccentrically eclectic with every album. 

4. "Hollywood Bed" / The Blasters
From Testament: The Complete Blasters Collection (compilation)
Back to classic rock and roll sound, though the track dates only to 1981.  I came late to the Blasters, via Dave Alvin (Nick Lowe's Yep Roc label mate), who long ago played in this band with his brother Phil.  That revved-up tempo, the hectic joy of this song -- this was SO not the sound of the 80s for me, but I'm glad I eventually found it.

5. "Whistle for the Choir" / The Fratellis
From Costello Music (2007)
A charming little shuffle of a song by one of my favorite young BritIndie bands. Melody is alive and well and living in Scotland.

6. "Don't Let Me Down" / The Beatles
From Past Masters Vol. 2 (compilation)
1969, and we knew the Beatles were pretty much kaput --for the first time, John Lennon was taking full songwriting credit for a song. And -- ouch! -- he's singing to Yoko, "I'm in love for the first time / Don't you know it's gonna last / It's a love that last forever / It's a love that has no past."  Well, I knew what he was getting at, but I cringed for Cynthia's sake.  Am I the only one who hears a veiled threat in this song, shades of "Run For Your Life"?  Johnny, we hardly knew ye.... 

7. "My Blue Angels" / Jon Lindsay
From Escape from Plaza-Midwood (2010)
Hello, what have we here?  Yesterday's brand-new find. Honest, I didn't rig this; I am NOT being paid to promote this kid, I swear.  But seriously, you should check him out.

8. "Blank Expression" / The Specials
From The Specials (1980)
Aw, what a great album. It wasn't just ska, it was political ska with a low-fi punk edge.  I love how the voices are just slightly out of synch as they sing, "Where did you get that / [blank] Blank expression on your face?"  This lyric runs through my mind whenever I walk through hipster Williamsburg.

9. "Making Whoopie" / Ben Sidran
From Old Songs for the New Depression (2002)
Jazz -- because sometimes you've just got to.  Ben Sidran sneaks on here as an acolyte of the divine Mose Allison, who slipped onto my radar courtesy of Georgie Fame and Van Morrison.  It's just Ben and a piano, taking this silly old show tune through all its changes.  Dee-lish. 

10. "Beautiful Night" / Paul McCartney
From Flaming Pie (1997)
That searing solo John, and now some throwaway solo Paul. (Don't worry, I'll never switch allegiances.) Well, it is a beautiful night -- as Paul tells us (I've counted) thirty-nine times.  A charming simple little tune which Paul then runs into the ground for the last minute and a half.  Man oh man, this dude so needs me to help him edit his music . . . along with any other services I'd be happy to provide...