Thursday, January 31, 2013

The Thursday Shuffle

The stack of new CDs on my desk is making me feel very guilty, but sorry -- coming off a few days of mild flu, I need to flex my blogging muscles first with a Shuffle. Herewith, the first Shuffle of 2013!

1. "To Be Someone (Didn't We Have A Nice Time?)" / The Jam
From All Mod Cons (1978)
All neurotic guitar strums, power chords, and rat-tat drums, the Jam gave punk rock a snappy urban flair that should have warned us Paul Weller wouldn't be happy for long in a rock straitjacket.  I love how the song evolves from the coaxing first verse ("To be someone must be a wonderful thing" ) through the punchy second verse ("No more swimming in a guitar-shaped pool") to the defiant chorus ("But didn't we have a nice time?"). How does a punk reconcile worldly success with his rebel outsider image?  

2. "She" / Gram Parsons
From Gp (1973)
Ah, so the new music shows up anyway! After years of thumbing past Gram Parsons LPs in record bins while looking for Graham Parker albums, a great article in the recent Uncut (which I only bought for the Ray Davies interview) persuaded me I've been missing something special all these years. And dang, they were right! Plangent and laid-back and oh, so country soulful.

3. "Build Me Up, Buttercup" / The Foundations
From Build Me Up Buttercup (1968)
An all-time feel-good favorite -- everybody knows those opening beats couldn't be anything else.

4. "She Comes Around" / The Fortunate Sons
From The Fortunate Sons (2008)
No, not a Creedence Clearwater tribute band -- these Fortunate Sons happen to be Scotland's answer to the Black Keys, a surprisingly persuasive Delta-blues band from Glasgow that  I fear may have broken up since this debut album was released. "She comes a-rround / To ease my pain, ease my pain" -- whoa, that vocal is just d r i p p i n g with lust.

5. "Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood" / The Alan Price Set
From The House That Jack Built; The Complete 60s Sessions (2005)
In this BBC recording with his new band, Alan Price couldn't resist reinterpreting this Nina Simone song that had been such a hit for his former band, the Animals. (And gave it yet another spin in 2008.) Add some horns, slow down the tempo to a jazzy lope -- though still not as mournfully slow as Nina's -- a perfect declaration of independence. Sadly, this album is an out-of-print import -- grab it if you ever can.

6. "Over the Rainbow" / Israel Kamakawiwoole
From Facing Future (1993)
Yes, the song you've heard in countless movie soundtrack, just a simple ukelele and one heavenly voice singing two old standards that cannot fail to bring a lump to the throat. Call it schmaltz if you will, but it still provides an instant mood lift when it dials up on my shuffle.

7. "I Like It Like That" / Brinsley Schwarz
From Nervous on the Road (1972)
The kings of pub rock, inviting us to a party we don't want to miss. Don't know which of the Brinsleys is singing on this delicious old chestnut, but you can't mistake that roadhouse piano -- that's pure Bob Andrews. I only knew this as a Dave Clarke Five song; who knew it had been co-written by Chris Kenner and Allen Toussaint? How fitting that Bob Andrews now hangs with Toussaint's circle in New Orleans -- serendipity indeed.

8. "You Ain't A Cowboy (If You Ain't Been Bucked Off)" / Corb Lund
From Cabin Fever (2012)
A new favorite, from my end-of-year round-up. Definitely check this guy out!

9. "The Informer" / The Kinks
From Phobia (1993)
Maybe Ray Davies wrote this after seeing the old John Ford movie on late-night TV, but somewhere in there I believe he's also singing it to his brother Dave, as their forever-fraught relationship was on the verge of bringing the band crashing to an end. Poignant, poignant indeed....

10. "Blue Condition" / Alan Price and Georgie Fame
From Fame and Price, Price and Fame Together (1971)
What a lovely, if all too brief, collaboration this was. Georgie's innate jazz chops and Alan's R&B-pop instincts melted into each other like a dream. "I'm in a blue condition, and it's not too good for me / I'm in a strange position, I need you to set me free" -- oh, but there's nothing blue about Price's boppy, syncopated tune. They're having way too much fun here for anybody to feel blue.... 

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