Thursday, November 29, 2012

The Return of the Shuffle!

When life's too mixed-up and muddled-up for blogging, there's always the Shuffle. 

1. In a Space / The Kinks
From Low Budget (1979)
Most likely that Ray Davies wrote this one sheerly for the pun: "in a space" = "inner space," as in the opposite of "outer space." But who cares? By the time he's done, he's managed to deliver an existential commentary on the population explosion. My favorite part is at the end, when Ray goes all Jagger on us ("Well I'm out in inner space / And I'm lookin' at the people . . .").    

2. So Long Dad / Alan Price
From A Price on His Head (1967)
Great Alan Price cover of a Randy Newman song, all ragtime and snarky satire. In fact, coming from a Geordie, the satire works even better: "Home again, but we won't be living here Dad / The smoke makes Jane's eyes tear so bad, and we can't have that / I'll write you where we're at / Janie's uncle owns a bank, I think I'll try my hand at that.. . ."

3. If You Need Me / Tom Jones
From It's Not Unusual (1965)
An ambitious young Tom Jones took on Wilson Pickett, Solomon Burke, and the Rolling Stones when he covered this Pickett song in 1965 -- and he totally nails it. All the more pity that he was seduced by Vegas and American TV and hordes of lingerie-flinging female fans. It would take him another 40 years to finally get back his soul-man cred.

4. Here Comes Flash / The Kinks
From Preservation Act II (1973)
For the uninitiated, Flash is the villain of the Kinks' satiric rock opera Preservation, a master spiv with more than a little of the Kray twins about him. "You'd better run, you'd better fly / Hide your daughters, hide your wives / Lock your doors and stay inside / Here comes Flash!" Yeah, it's a campy slice of theatricality, but you gotta love it.

5. Queen of Hearts / Dave Edmunds
From Repeat When Necessary (1979)
The other half of Nick Lowe's Labour of Lust, recorded at the same time and with the same musicians, a.k.a. Rockpile. Primo rockbilly, written by country guitarist Hank DeVito, and perfect material for Dave Edmunds, with its speedy vocals and clangy guitar strums. If all you know is Juice Newton's hit cover, you MUST check out this original.

6. Fear Is Man's Best Friend / John Cale
From Fear (1974)
What is this, Welsh Night? Tom Jones, Dave Edmunds, now John Cale? (Plus we all know the Davies brothers and Alan Price are really Welsh...). Well, I'll admit I wasn't cool enough to know this album in 1974, but hey, it's not how you start the race, it's how you end it.

7. To Susan on the West Coast Waiting / Donovan
From Barabajagal (1969)
Oh, so now we break the Welsh streak with a Scotsman. The Shuffle really is teasing me tonight. Donovan's fey flower-child persona is the perfect antidote to Cale's art-rock, but that tentative, wistful vocal delivers a punch of anti-war propaganda all the same.    

8. This Empty Place / The Searchers
From The Definitive Pye Collection (1969)
While all the other British rockers were going psychedelic, the Searchers clung to their backbeat roots. Yet there's something brittle and haunting about this track, with its restless bossa nova beat, the low vocal swoops, the sibilant drums and clangy guitars. Love is not going well for this fellow.

9. Time Wraps Around You / Velvet Crush
From Teenage Symphonies to God (1994)
Lovely crunchy psychedelic grunge, from a Rhode Island indie outfit that deserved to be better known. Is that a mellotron in the bridge or just wicked bad feedback?

10. Night Ride to Trinidad / Robyn Hitchcock
From Groovy Decay (1982)
And while we're in the psychedelic groove, here's a gem of jump-jive jazz from the surreal genius of Robyn Hitchcock. Cue up some sassy horns: "Well the worst trip I ever had / Was a night ride to Trinidad." Why Trinidad? Maybe because it rhymes. Any starting point will do, and after that just free-asociate like hell. It's the ride that matters.

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