I've got no excuse. Well, I do -- but I hate making excuses. So sorry, and at least I got around to it this week!
1. Love Train / Keb' Mo'
From Big Wide Grin (1998)
One thing I love about Keb' Mo': his creative covers, always total reinterpretations of the original. Take this old O'Jays classic, subtract the sexy soul groove (sacrilege, right?), and add a ticking bluegrass tempo and some banjo picking -- and voila, you've got a surprisingly persuasive peace-and-love anthem. Suddenly I hear afresh lines like, "All of your brothers over in Africa / Tell all the folks in Egypt and Israel too" -- it's totally topical.
2. Hello? Oh... / The Cribs
From The New Fellas (2005)
I like everything I've heard from this trio of brothers from Yorkshire. Crunchy guitars, loping beat, a casually raucous upbeat vibe -- addictively fun.
3. Monday Monday / The Mamas and the Papas
From 16 Greatest Hits (compilation)
Bah dah, bah da-dah dah... Those dense a capella harmonies are just heavenly. And when Denny and Cass start to weave and overlap in the bridge -- "Every other day (every other day) every other day (every other day of) the week is / Fine, (Fine) yeah!!)" How could you not sing along?
4. Poor Little Fool / Ricky Nelson
From A Ricky Nelson Anthology (compilation)
I can just picture him singing this on Ozzie and Harriet: One blink of those sincere blue eyes, one pout from that lower lip, and Elvis Presley was wiped off the planet for me. This smooth-as-buttermilk rockabilly stroll is quintessential Ricky, absolutely divine.
5. Happy Jack / The Who
From Happy Jack (1966)
Though my feelings about the Who are conflicted, I do love a good Pete Townshend comic turn -- and there's none better than this ditty about a simpleton vagrant on the Isle of Man. (In 1966, when this was all over the radio, I had no idea that was a real place.) I love those chanting childlike harmonies, that stellar bass line, and -- best of all -- Moonie's absolutely insane bursts of drumming.
6. To the River / John Mellencamp
From Human Wheels (1993)
Would you buy a Chevy from this man? I would.
7. Rollin' Like a Pebble in the Sand / Alan Price & the Electric Blues Orchestra
From A Gigster's Life for Me (1995)
So what was Alan Price doing all those years when I'd lost track of him? Enjoying himself, getting back into the blues and R&B idiom that the Animals first bonded over. This whole album is full of great covers, like this old Rudy Toombs song, sung with just the right weary creak in Alan's voice -- and wait for the barrelhouse piano in the middle eight!
8. Where's My Everything? / Nick Lowe
From The Impossible Bird (1994)
From Nick Lowe's "lovable loser" category, a gently comic rockabilly plaint. He's ticking off a laundry list of things society "owes" him -- home and family, fame and happiness -- cluelessly wondering why they haven't just magically appeared. But as always with Nick, it's got just enough of an edge, filtering all the bafflement and pain of a disappointed life. The man's craft still astounds me.
9. Switchboard Susan / Nick Lowe
From Labour of Lust (1979)
Yeah, I know Mickey Jupp wrote this one -- but it might as well have been Nick himself, in his punning lyric prime. "When I'm with you, girl, I get an extension / And I don't mean Alexander Bell's invention" -- who else could pull off something that juvenile? But this gives me a perfect opportunity to inform you (if you don't already know) that YepRoc is finally reissuing this classic album, Nick's second solo effort, which has for years been inexplicably out of print (I know!).
10. Heat Dies Down / The Kaiser Chiefs
From Yours Truly, Angry Mob (2007)
It's loud, it's fast, it's angry -- and that rollercoaster tempo is pretty hard to resist.
Bonus track (couldn't resist):
11. Up to Our Nex / Robyn Hitchcock & the Venus 3
From Goodnight Oslo (2009)
Featured on the soundtrack to the Jonathan Demme film Rachel Getting Married. (Robyn's even in the film, reason enough to Netflix the thing.) The loose-limbed groove of this track is so seductive, you're drawn into its hazy, unfocused spell. "We're up to our necks in love / So bad / We're up to our necks in love / Blame Dad." (Except Dad was played by Bill Irwin, and who could blame him?) "Forgive yourself / And maybe / You'll forgive me" -- well, there's the movie for you in a nutshell. Now go watch it.