Showing posts with label brinsley schwarz. Show all posts
Showing posts with label brinsley schwarz. Show all posts

Friday, January 31, 2014

52 GIRLS

Two Shelleys:
A Nick Lowe Two-Fer

"Shelley My Love" / Nick Lowe

This track, from Nick's great 1994 album The Impossible Bird, is a perpetual mystery to me. On a album full of heartbreak gems like "The Beast In Me," "Where's My Everything?," "Lover Don't Go," and "I Live On a Battlefield," how does this one song of perfect love and harmony fit in? Frankly, it's not one of my favorite Nick Lowe songs, and not only because I wish he were singing it with my name instead.

You see, one of the things I most love about Nick Lowe is his clever storytelling lyrics, and those seem to have deserted him here. I tell myself it's all part of the song's scenario -- he's inarticulate, resorting to clichés, because he's so much in love, safe within the cocoon of simple happiness. But there's no room in there for me. 

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Not only is there no story, we don't even learn much about this Shelley person (honest, I'm not jealous, I swear). All we see is her effect upon him. As soon as she calls his name, he's "all aflame," and "a passion fills my very soul." Now, I know we humans tend to fall back upon poetic clichés when we're in the grip of strong emotion. But I expect more of Nick Lowe.

Okay, there is some creative songwriting structure -- he picks up the second couplet of his first verse and repeats it as the first couplet of the second verse, adding two new lines about how extra-terrestrial and "supernatural" this love is. But that's hardly a villanelle, and again, it's all about his feelings, nothing about the girl who inspires them.

Maybe that's a good thing. Maybe it allows one to imagine that one is oneself the girl Nick is singing to/about. (See, I AM trying here.) That slow two-step tempo is so relaxing, the melody wistful and beautiful as it caresses her name then soars upward. The arrangement is understated and perfect, with just a soft guitar, brushed drums, an exhalation of organ. Nick's singing is exquisitely tender and earnest (though even better is Rod Stewart's surprisingly effective cover version -- who knew?)

I should love it. What's wrong with this picture?

"Shelly's Winter Love" / Nick Lowe, Paul Carrack, and Bill Kirchen

Ah, now this is more like it.

On his 2010 album Word to the Wise, guitar god Bill Kirchen (a.k.a. "Titan of the Telecaster") offers a treasure trove of collaborations. I happen to like Kirchen's singing, but I'll forgive him for tapping ringers when the vocal guest list includes Elvis Costello, Maria Muldaur, Dan Hicks, and these two guys.

There's always a twang in Bill Kirchen's dieselbilly sound, and Nick Lowe needs little encouragement to turn country crooner. Paul Carrack may have played with everyone from Roxy Music to Squeeze to Ringo Starr's All-Starr Band, but after all, he was part of Nick Lowe's Cowboy Outfit in the 1980s. So when these three get together, why not cover a country gem?

And what better than this track from Merle Haggard's 1971 mega-hit LP Hag? It's a fair bet that Bill Kirchen (then in Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen) and Nick (then in Brinsley Schwarz) listened to Hag when it came out. (Could Nick even have been remembering it 20-some years later when he wrote "Shelley My Love"?) They sing this with all the fondness of a long-familiar song.

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In this song, powerful love doesn't render the singer speechless; what it does do is fool him into accepting a less-than-ideal situation. "I know I'm only Shelly's winter love / She only seems to need me now and then. / I know I'm only Shelly's winter love / But she's mine alone till springtime comes again." Apparently a little bit of Shelley is worth the frustration, and he's making the most of the time he does have with her. That easy-ticking tempo is anything but mournful, and both Nick and Paul -- who trade lead vocals -- instinctively revert to the Haggard yodel on that brief triumphant boast "she's mine alone."

So is Shelley a fickle slut? Loyal to the core, that's not how he sees it. She leaves in the spring, it's true, but only when outside forces tempt her -- "When those friends of hers start callin' her from town." (In country terms, "town" is an evil force; in verse two it's her "painted world.") She's just a free spirit, country-music-style. But our hero waits patiently for "Shelly's winter season / When her troubled moments bring her back around." It's not just about the calendar, but the seasons of the heart. It's a weird kind of schadenfreude -- he's secretly happy when she's unhappy, because it drives her back to him.       
 
And who wouldn't return to such a faithful, understanding lover? "These arms of mine she knows are always waiting" -- how comforting that sounds. Yet he's no fool -- he's fully aware, in the second verse's last line, that "she'll leave when love has thawed the winter ground." 
 
I'm bursting with questions about this scenario. Is Shelly just using him? Will there be a day when she stops coming back? Will he finally get fed up? Will she finally realize he's the best thing that ever happened to her?  We'll never know, of course. But for four minutes or so, I'm living in the push-and-pull of their relationship, and registering every break of the singer's voice, every plangent guitar riff and piano fill.
 
That's a song that works.

23 DOWN, 29 TO GO

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.... 

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

My Top Ten Albums of 2012
I'm still in awe of this album -- the best reunion yet.

Graham Parker & The Rumour:
Three Chords Good
"Old Soul"

So here we come to the tenth day of my Top Ten Albums countdown -- and even though I said it was in no particular order, I saved this one for last because it IS my favorite album of the year.

I'll admit I'm a bit biased when it comes to Graham Parker. Okay, more than a bit. But I have to say, this reunion with his original backing band The Rumour has exceeded all my expectations. Live, they are absolutely smoking, as anybody can attest who's seen them on their current tour. And the thing I really love is that they are not just trotting out the old Squeezing Out Sparks hits -- nearly half their set has been drawn from this brand-new album of Parker-penned winners.

So even if you've missed the tour, you don't have to miss all the fun.  If you aren't already on the bandwagon, this album could make a believer of you. These songs are soulful, they're wicked smart, they're funny, they break your heart (but in a good way). They're vintage Graham Parker, in other words.

Here's my original post about my favorite track on the album. Since writing this post, I've been told it's Graham's current favorite song, too. I hope you'll see why.


Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Wednesday Shuffle

It's been raining off and on for a week.  And I've got a wicked cold incubating in my sinuses. So forget the looming book deadline -- let's shuffle! 

1. "Mercury Poisoning" / Graham Parker
From Another Gray Area (1982)
So what do you do on your first album after leaving Mercury Records?  You write a song about how much you hated Mercury Records! "Their promotion's so lame...the geriatric staff thinks we're freaks... I've got a dinosaur for a representative" -- GP pulls NO punches on this mischievously danceable track -- and we can't help but sing along.

2. "You Don't Know Me" / Ben Folds with Regina Spektor
From Way to Normal (2008)
This snappy little duet got a lot of airplay a couple years ago, and why not? Ben and Regina blithely trade zingers, their voices weaving in contrapuntal accusations. Why do we always imagine that our true loves will "get us," when in the end we're always disappointed? Just another lesson in disillusionment from this master cynic.  

3. "Ohio" / Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young
From So Far (1974)
Ah...the days when music and politics walked hand in hand.  The Kent State shootings chilled our generation in May 1970; the next weekend, 100,000 students marched on Washington; this record hit the airwaves 2 weeks later, an amazing feat in that pre-digital era. The righteous indignation shivering through Neil Young's voice still stirs me to the bone, more than 40 years later.

4. "Hold On" / Ian Gomm
From Summer Holiday (1978) (Original US title: Gomm With the Wind)
Sparkly New Wave pop from ex-Brinsley Ian Gomm's debut album. This was the album's big radio hit, rising to #18 on the US charts in 1979 (nearly as good as the #12 scored by ex-bandmate Nick Lowe that same year with "Cruel to Be Kind," a song Gomm and Lowe co-wrote). The chorus is a real earworm hook -- just try to get it out of your head.

5. "Do You Remember Walter" / The Kinks
From The Kinks Are the Village Green Preservation Society (1968)
This should be the theme song of all high school reunions. "I bet you're fat and married and you're always home in bed by half-past eight / And if I talked about the old times, you'd get bored and you'd have nothing more to say" -- a jaunty tune underlaid with despair at the fleeting power of nostalgia. Not coincidentally, that's the theme of this entire album, a neglected masterpiece for sure.

6. "Chasing Forever" / Ron Sexsmith and Don Kerr
From Destinations Unknown (2005)
Wistful folk-pop from my favorite Canadian songwriter. Ron's quite a Kinks fan himself, and this album is its own kind of Village Green, reflecting on nostalgia and preserving an already-lost past in songs like "Lemonade Stand" and "Diana Sweets."  I've surrendered to the inevitability of Ron Sexsmith; might as well buy all the albums, they're all soul-satisfying.

7. "Nutted By Reality" / Nick Lowe
From Jesus of Cool (1978)
That album cover, featuring Nick in six different outfits (twelve if you count the inside shots), clues us in: This album is all about showing how many different musical styles he can master. And this track goes even further -- it's a two-fer!  Adolescent humor rules (a song about castrating Castro -- really?) and if we Americans weren't exactly sure what it means to be "nutted" by reality -- well, it's too catchy for me care. Am I the only person who hears the McCartney parody in all this?     

8. "My Home Town" / Alan Price
From Geordie Roots and Branches (1982)
A brassy updated version of this clever little rag, first heard in the brilliant film soundtrack for O Lucky Man! I'm guessing that this album was never released in CD -- I only have the vinyl, and it's one of my most precious rarities -- it was recorded for a Newcastle charity project as a favor to Alan's former Animals bandmate Chas Chandler, a year before their second reunion tour.  This track isn't nearly as charming as the O Lucky Man! original, but the very fact that I've got it on my iTunes at all brands me as a hopeless Alan Price fangirl.

9. "Bone Tired" / Gomez
From A New Tide (2009)
I like this young-ish English band (debut 1998), but for some reason I can't quite love them.  They've got too many songwriters, and in the name of versatility they dabble in too many styles, so I can never quite find their groove. But hey, I'm still waiting for them to grow on me. Listen and see what you think.   

10. "List of Distractions" / Fionn Regan
From 100 Acres of Sycamore (2011)
On the other hand, the minute I heard this winsome Irish songwriter I knew I loved him. This is his second album, and it's just as charming as his first, The End of History.  Dig his sweetly confiding voice, the truly poetic lyrics, the romantic sweep of his melodies -- I'm a sucker for it all.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Twenty Four Hour Service / Ian Gomm

I'll be honest: this is a test post.  So it made sense to try it out with an artist I've been dying to write about, who doesn't have a ton of YouTube links (the handy resort of bloggers who don't need to get obscure). The sad truth being that I DO need to get obscure sometimes.

Though honestly, folks -- why should Ian Gomm be obscure? When Brinsley Schwarz dissolved (I refuse to say "broke up") in 1975, while most of the group re-formed as the Rumour (as in Graham Parker and the), both bassist/singer/songwriter Nick Lowe and rhythm guitarist/singer/songwriter Ian Gomm headed off to try solo careers.  And they had every reason to. Nick's career took off, sorta-ish, and thanks to his serendiptitous meeting with Dave Edmunds, with whom he formed Rockpile, managed to get some traction.  But we forget that Ian Gomm did pretty well out of  the gate as well, charting a #18 hit with "Hold On" in 1979. Yeah, Nick produced for Stiff Records and Elvis Costello, but Ian produced the Stranglers and Alec Korner at his studio up in Wales. Now that we're in the throes of this Nick Lowe renaissance, maybe we need to take a second look at the very talented Ian Gomm as well.

Okay, let's backtrack. Ian Gomm was a late addition to Brinsley Schwarz, joining them I think in September 1970 (please, Ian or Will, correct my research) -- early enough to join all but their first two albums, but late enough to completely escape responsibility for the Fillmore East debacle. This is a good thing.

Once Ian showed up, Nick Lowe wasn't the band's only songwriter any more -- which, given the congenial pub rock culture, meant collaboration as well as competition.  Okay, quick quiz:  Who wrote Nick Lowe's only bona fide hit single, "Cruel to Be Kind"?  People tend to forget that this was a co-write job, and Ian Gomm never gets the credit he deserves.

Check out this addictive track from Ian's first solo album, 1978's Summer Holiday. (Originally titled Gomm With the Wind in the US.) 

http://www.divshare.com/download/17573014-044

What's not to love about this track? That upward bubbling rhythm line, the confiding lyrics of the verse, exploding into a joyful profusion of snappy horns -- this is a feel-good track indeed. (Got to love the Presley-like low voice as he sneaks in the "twenty-four.")  Now that we actually live in a 24-hour service economy, we should pay homage to this prescient track. This came out back when it was actually special, and kind of exciting, to offer around-the-clock service -- sad that it's become a jejeune thing.

And if Nick Lowe is currently producing some of the best work of his career, I direct your attention to Ian Gomm's 1997 Crazy for You or 2002's Rock 'n' Roll Heart. C'mon, folks, expand your horizons!

And please let me know if this method of linking worked for you.  Because I need to get back in the game with those obscure tracks we all want to know about!

Monday, October 10, 2011

The Columbus Day Shuffle

Doncha just love 3-day weekends?  Started out with my birthday on Saturday, then John Lennon's birthday yesterday, and now we have yet another day to chill and hang out.  Time for music!

1. Fourth of July / Dave Alvin
From King of California (1994)
Another lonesome, plangent tune by the wonderful Dave Alvin, the King of Downey, California. Dave Alvin seems to have a pipeline into the weary lives of working-class Westerners.  "On the stairs I smoke a cigarette alone / Mexican kids are shooting fireworks below" -- shoot this in black-and-white and you'd have a California version of The Last Picture Show.  Devastatingly sad and tender, great stuff.

2. Rockin' the Suburbs / Ben Folds
From Rockin' the Suburbs (2001)
From the authentic to the deliciously snarky in one fell swoop. "Let me tell y'all what it's like / Being male, middle-class and white...All alone in my white-boy pain / Shake your booty while the band complains."  And those perky synths -- skewer 'em, Ben!

3. Don't Lose Your Grip on Love / Brinsley Schwarz
From Nervous on the Road (1972)
Authentic at one remove, the Brinsleys channel the Band, with Bob Andrews doing a quite respectable Garth Hudson homage.  They almost get it right -- "Why do you despise this travelin' man? /  Even though he's doing the best that he can" -- until Nick Lowe betrays his English boarding school roots: "Working for peanuts, as is his wont --"  SCREECH! Gotta love it. This is the same man who rhymes "bona fide" with "coincide" in "Cruel to be Kind," or who describes himself as "a feckless man" in "Hope For Us All" -- he's an English major's dream.  Well, this English major's dream, anyway...

4. Sole Salvation / The English Beat
From Special Beat Service (1982)
Oooh, great sax, and those earnest Dave Wakeling vocals -- these guys never fail to please. The ska revival of the early 80s was right up my alley; I fell in love with the Specials first, but the English Beat kicked in right after, adding a little pop honey to the mix.  Yeah, it's Sole Salvation or Soul Salvation, whichever you want, the groove goes on.       

5.  Shting Shtang / Nick Lowe
From Party of One (1989)
There are days when this neglected beauty is my favorite Nick Lowe album, even this throwaway rockabilly riffer.  These guys are just having so damn much fun -- who needs Rockpile?


6. The Story's Over / The Lodger
From Grown-Ups (2006)
I think iTunes is prejudiced towards this indie-pop band from Leeds, because their music cycles up SO OFTEN on my shuffle, even though I only have five tracks downloaded. (Thanks, Justin.) Not that that's a bad thing -- their stuff's fun. 

7. Eine Kleine Middle Klasse Musik / The Rutles
From Archaeology (1996)
The brilliant Neil Innes (he of the Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band) masterminded the Beatles parody The Rutles, along with ex-Python Eric Idle; a few years later, when the Beatles Anthology was all over the place, Neil jumped in with this wonderful take-off of Sgt. Pepper's. Except that it's not really a take-off, IMHO, just extending the Beatles' legacy with all the songs they would have written if they had had time.   

8. Back on My Feet / Al Kooper
From New York City (You're A Woman) (1971)
I am absolutely always delighted when an Al Kooper track cycles up on the old shuffle.  The first true rock chicks I ever knew -- two girls who called themselves Toots and Babs -- turned me onto this stuff at yearbook camp when I was maybe 15, and it runs insanely deep in my musical DNA.  (The full story here.) Truly, it's like going home for me.  I have a huge grin on my face right now. 

9. Loaded  / The Wood Brothers
From Loaded (2008)
You really must, really must, listen to the Wood Brothers.  Please? I just found them by accident and they're one of my great discoveries: I love them madly.  Put together blues and folk and jazz, and mix it up with top-drawer musicianship and mesmerizing vocals and sharp songwriting -- well, what's not to like? 

10. Space Oddity / David Bowie
From Space Oddity (1969)
Sigh.  One of the greatest tracks ever.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

SATURDAY SHUFFLE

Can't shuffle during the week these days, with electric drills and hammering going on all day every day.  (I HATE this renovation.) Thank god for the weekend!

1. Mean Mr. Mustard / The Beatles
From Abbey Road (1969)
One problem with the shuffle: It's always jarring to hear one isolated section of the great Side Two medley on this album. (Read my You Never Give Me Your Money post for the full version of how much I love this "musical mosaic"). Every time I hear John sing that Mr. Mustard is a "dirty old man," I think of Paul's grandfather -- "such a clean old man" -- in A Hard Day's Night.  And "his sister Pam" -- is that Polythene Pam, whose song we'll get next?  (And is Polythene Pam the roommate of Lovely Rita Meter Maid?) Yeah, I know, I listen to too much Beatles music. But I love that Mr. Mustard "keeps a ten bob note up his nose" -- perfect Lennonesque detail. 

2. Why Why Why Why Why / Brinsley Schwarz
From Nervous on the Road (1972)
Another throwaway Nick Lowe country rock gem, featuring one of his standard lonely losers.  Miserable in love, miserable out of love, moping around the house -- sound familiar?

3. The Thrill / Alan Price
From Alan Price (1977)
The cynical side of Alan Price, the side that made his O Lucky Man! soundtrack so brilliant. "Oh I just love the thrill of rock and roll / It gives release unto the darkest soul / The thickest yob can get a job / Rock and roll can keep you off the dole."  And is it sung like a rock anthem? No indeed -- it's a chirpy little music hall ditty, sung over a ragtime piano. So there!

4. Space Oddity / David Bowie
From Space Oddity (1969)
One of the great eccentric rock songs of all time, inspiring one of my earliest posts here.

5. I Wish I Felt This Way At Home / Dolly Parton
From Just Because I'm a Woman (1968)
Adultery, one of the great themes of country music. That tremble in Dolly's voice is super-saturated with guilt and desire; yet she still has an innocent, forthright quality. (This is from her first solo album, when she was still Porter Waggoner's "girl find.") She really does wish she felt this way about her husband, that's the kicker.  She means to be good... 

6. Pressure / The Kinks
From Low Budget (1979)
This album marked the Kinks' US comeback with a vengeance.  Just to prove they weren't British Invasion fossils, here comes this proto-punk anthem, given Ray Davies' special fragile neurotic twist: "Pressure, pressure, I've got pressure! / Oh, yeah, oh yeah, oh yeah..."  Was Ray mocking punk, or trying to keep up with the times?  Both, no doubt. 

7. You're Wondering Now / The Specials
From The Specials  (1980)
Ah, the lo-fi charms of the Specials! That knock on the door, the muffled "You can't come in!" And then the mopey shuffling reggae begins, brooding over how he's going to get by now that he's on his own. At last the instruments pack up, and he's singing alone, still wondering how... 

8. She's Going / The English Beat
From Special Beat Service (1982)
Perfect segue!  So it's going to be a ska Saturday -- I can live with that. Hear how the English Beat jacked up the ska tempo, made it more frantic, more urban.  Different drugs, I guess.

9. Take the Money and Run / Steve Miller
From Fly Like An Eagle (1976)
The tempo just got laidback again; we're far away from the Brixton streets, loping around in sunny Texas.  Yahoo! I wasn't living in the US in 1976, so I missed the radio overload of this song, thank goodness. Remember all those anarchistic 70s movies about wild young couples on crime sprees? Badlands, The Getaway, Sugarland Express (with True Romance and Natural-Born Killers their 1990s offspring)?  This song should have been the soundtrack for all of them.

10.  Hey Jude / The Beatles
From Past Masters, Vol, 2 (compilation)
So we begin and end with the Beatles -- that's fitting. Does this song go on too long?  Maybe, but I always, always, end up singing along with the "la la la la-la-la-las," which I'm sure was what Paul McCartney intended. My private theory: this is Paul's comeback to "All You Need Is Love"; he wanted the swaying crowds to be chanting along to his song, dammit.  And now they are.

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.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

WEDNESDAY SHUFFLE

My son told me yesterday that when he hears me say I like someone's music, he automatically assumes it's someone English. Hmmm -- am I that transparent? Let's consult the shuffle and see...

1. "When It Sings" / Elvis Costello
From North (2003)
If I'd still been listening to Elvis Costello in 2003 -- which I wasn't -- I too might have been baffled by this tender album of jazz-drenched ballads. But finding it retrospectively, after Elvis' marriage to Diana Krall, it all made perfect sense. And doesn't Elvis live in Vancouver now? Does he still qualify as English?

2. "The Things We Never Said" / Thea Gilmore

From Rules for Jokers (2002)
Ha! Thea isn't English; she's from Scotland. A wonderful singer-songwriter, by the way.

3. "London Look" / Herman's Hermits
From The London Look EP (1968)
Not only a song by an English band, a song about London from an English band -- I am not doing so well here. What's worse, the Hermits did this song exclusively for a promo EP, sponsored by Yardley Cosmetics (remember the cologne Oh! De London? I wore nothing else for a year.) The basic idea is to stuff in as many London place names as possible. Who cares? It's a delightful, delicious little track.

4. "Nervous on the Road (But Could Not Stay Home)"/ Brinsley Schwarz
From Nervous on the Road (1972)
Despite the affected country drawl on this romping picaresque number about a touring musician, Nick Lowe is English, it's true.

5. "Don't Be Ashamed of Your Age" / Jerry Lee Lewis and George Jones
From Last Man Standing (2006)
Aha! Nobody's more American than that old rockbilly devil Jerry Lee and the king of country music George Jones. Normally I hate duet albums; this odds-defying LP is the exception to the rule. Listen to these two sly old dogs twiddling through this Bob Wills chestnut.

6. "Saint Beneath the Paint" / Nick Lowe
From Radio Daze (1984)
Not just one but two Englishmen -- the aforementioned Nick Lowe and his sometime colleague Paul Carrack, on particularly juicy bootleg live album. This obscure track from Nick's obscure LP The Abominable Showman (for that title alone he ought to be hung) is greatly improved with harmonies by Paul and a little boogie-woogie piano.

7. "Fool for a Lonesome Train" / Ben Harper & the Innocent Criminals
From Life Line (2007)
Another American -- whew! -- singing a trumpery bit of country blues. I still haven't quite figured out the riddle that is Ben Harper, but I keep on trying -- that voice can make any song sound better than it should.

8. "Rivers of Babylon" / The Melodians
From The Harder They Come (1972)
Do Jamaicans count as English (being former colonials) or American (being in the same hemisphere)? Like most American kids my age, Jimmy Cliff's Jamaican gangster movie was my introduction to reggae, and I played it so often, it's still hard-wired in my memory. "And let the words of my mouth / and the meditations of my mind / be acceptable in your sight" -- I still sing this song under my breath whenever I hear that blessing in church.

9. "Queen of Sheba" / Nick Lowe
From Nick the Knife (1982)
Not this one again! (Like I mind.)

10. "Knapsack" / Amy Rigby
From Diary of a Mod Housewife (1994)
Well, at least we're ending with an American -- not only an American, but a country punk female (talk about defying cliches). Fantasizing about the guy who checks her bags at the bookstore -- I picture the old Shakespeare and Company on the Upper West Side -- that's enough to fuel this Mod housewife's daydreams for week.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

WEDNESDAY SHUFFLE

Sitting in my hotel room...but my iPod seems haunted by Nick Lowe again! Yikes!


1. "Alone in the Summer" / Tom Gallagher
From Age of the Wheel (unreleased)
Lurchy, angst-ridden rock & roll from the late Tom Gallagher, a fellow Kinks fan whose musical gifts sadly escaped the recognition he deserved.

2. "Ireland" / Greg Trooper
From Between a House and a Hard Place (2010)
Ooh, another of my special guys! Here's a live acoustic performance of one of Troop's most euphoric love songs, a lilting rhapsody about a girl from ( -- wait for it -- ) Brooklyn. It's dizzying how over-the-moon he is -- "When I'm with you, it feels so right / My wallet's full on Friday night / My ship has docked, and my kingdom's come / And my heart's unlocked and overrun" -- 000h, that's love for you.

3. "What's Shakin' On the Hill" / Nick Lowe
From Party of One (1989)Here he is again. Wistful reflections from a misfit loner -- and yet he's still the Jesus of Cool.

4. "Nearer to You" / Elvis Costello & Allen Toussaint
From The River in Reverse (2006)
Okay, so it's more Elvis than Allen. Still, Elvis (a.k.a. Nick Lowe's most famous protege) is spilling his heart out in classic R&B mode, all dressed up with AT's rippling piano riffs -- and if it ain't New Orleans proper, it's still a fine thing.

5. "Big Hair" / Nick Lowe
From Pinker and Prouder Than Previous (1988)
All roads lead back to Nick. "Big hair, where you going to?" One of my favorite driving songs ever, a rockabilly romp with a ton of car puns and a sexy subtext. Nick at his worst -- which still means it's wonderful.

6. "Summer Is Over" / Fred EaglesmithFrom Milly's Cafe (2006)
The country vibe continues with this twangy little waltz, perfect for the waning days of August, with a slightly scruffy carnival wheeze. Think Springsteen's "4th of July, Asbury Park," filtered through Tom Waits' lowlife sensibility, with a little Kerouac thrown in for good measure. There's no trumped-up melancholy here, though -- Eaglesmith's a genuine man of the people. Check him out; you'll love him.

7. "Star Ship" / Brinsley Schwarz

From Despite It All (1970)
Why, what a surprise -- Nick Lowe again! (Really, it's all coincidence, I swear.) Another waltz, a little more uptempo but just as twangy. A deservedly neglected track, from the days when Nick Lowe churned out imitative country-rock by the boatload.

8. "Show Me" / Lulu
From It's Lulu (1969)
Lulu pulls out the Big Production Values -- horns, strings, Latin percussion, and 60s-era sizzle worthy of a James Bond theme song. But beneath it all is a snappy R&B number from the pen of Joe Tex (remember Rockpile's version of his song "If Sugar Was As Sweet As You"? Another Nick connection. . . .) "Show me a woman that's got a good man / And I'll show you a woman doing all she can / To make life happy for her lovin' man / So worry don't cross his mind." It IS that simple, folks.

9. "Jack Shit George" / Ian Dury & the Blockheads
From Mr. Love Pants (1998)
Oh, ye modern rappers, look at how the Cockney master did it. Leading off Dury's final album -- which reunited him with the Blockheads after 15 years -- this snappy litany skewers all the ills of modern education and their dire consequences, spooling out over a background of deeply, deeply funky jazz. "What did you learn at school today? / Jack shit / The minute the teacher turns away / That's it / How many times were you truly intrigued? / Not any / Is boredom a symptom of mental fatigue? / Not many. . . ." (Oh, and guess who performed on the Live Stiffs Tour with Ian Dury?)

10. "Bowie" / Flight of the Conchords
From Flight of the Conchords (2008)
(Weren't we just talking about this number?) On the TV show, the spectacle of Jemaine tricked out like Ziggy Stardust, floating into Brett's dream, was one of the funniest comedy bits I've seen in ages. And of course the musical parody is spot-on. "Do you have one sequined jumpsuit in space, Bowie, or do you have ch-ch-changes?" The Nick connection? Just look at this David Bowie single's sleeve --

Now look at the single Nick Lowe released immediately after:


So you see, Nick Lowe likes to make fun of David Bowie too. There, I knew I'd find something!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

WEDNESDAY SHUFFLE

Okay, so it's late AGAIN. But give me a break -- I was out listening to rock and roll all evening. Hey, I have my priorities straight!

1. "Cruel To Be Kind" / Marshall Crenshaw
From Labour of Love: The Music of Nick Lowe (2001)
Too perfect -- because it was Marshall Crenshaw I went out to see tonight, at a Gulf Coast benefit tribute concert to Alex Chilton (how's that for mashing together causes?). I'll say this right now: I prefer Marshall's version of Nick's big hit record to Nick's own -- MC just nails the plaintive, wounded, clueless quality of Nick's persona here. He just sounds like a guy who'd let this chick walk all over him, and then buy her excuses.

2. "I Take It On Home" / Charlie Rich

From Behind Closed Doors (1973)
Another country artist I just don't know enough about. I grew up knowing his two big hits, the coy "Behind Closed Doors" and the smarmy "Most Beautiful Girl in the World," so I never gave him a chance. I recently started to trawl through his back catalog, however, and -- HELLO! This song is even on the same album as those two; it was written by Kenny O'Dell, who also penned "Behind Closed Doors." Go figure. It's a honey.

3. "Summer Song" / Chad and Jeremy
From Yesterday's Gone (1964)
Mushy sentimental pop-folk -- but it was British mushy pop-folk, which made it all okay to my little pre-teen heart in 1964. These guys were so darn cute . . .

4. "Wonderful Feeling" / Lulu and Alan Price
From Shout!: The Decca Years (compilation)
Now here's some sassy British pop, circa 1964, with the gritty edge of Lulu's powerful girl voice matched by Alan Price's own Geordie gruffness. Alan had quit the Animals by then and was forging a more mainstream pop course with the Alan Price Set; how perfect to match him up with Lulu, who was treading her own fine line between pop and R&B. Alan wrote this song; produced the track, too. It's completely infectious pop, swinging horn section and all.

5. "Jenny Wren" / Paul McCartney
From Chaos and Creation in the Backyard (2005)
Paul trying to find his inner folkie. I've got to love it, because it's Paul (who by the way tonight received the Gershwin Award for Contemporary Music at the White House -- toss it in the drawer with all the other citations and medals, Pauly!). If I didn't harbor a sneaking suspicion he was just trying to re-do "Mother Nature's Son" . . .

6. "Moving the Goalposts" / Billy Bragg
From Don't Try This At Home (1991)
I feel a Billy Bragg post coming on. Bragg's deft political satire (which comes off extra-spiky in those Cockney vowels) sometimes overshadows his brilliant relationship songs. Here we've got both in one song, as he name-checks Gennady Gerasimov (former Soviet ambassador to Afghanistan), then side shifts into a tender, and incredibly sexy, depiction of him and his girl, occupying new territory in their own love affair. He draws this little vignette with so few details; we have to connect the dots . . . but it's all there. Stunning, really.

7. "It's Not Hard" / Alan Price
From Based on a True Story (2002)
And now here's Alan Price much later in his career -- on this obscure self-released album that contains some of his finest stuff in years. Who knew?

8. "Now's the Time" / Brinsley Schwarz
From The New Favourites of Brinsley Schwarz (1974)
Because there always must be something by Nick Lowe, even if it's a completely callow throwaway track -- not even a Nick composition, but an old Hollies song, written by' Graham Nash and Gene Clarke, issued as the B-side to their 1963 hit "Stay." Nick's not even singing the lead (is that Ian Gomm instead? or Brinsley?). And yet it's on my iTunes, and it's adorable.

9. "Holly Would" / Jackie DeShannon
From Laurel Canyon (1969)
Did I download this track because it has my name in it? Oh, probably. A little character study of a sort of free spirit, very post-Summer of Love Southern California.

10. "A Slow Song" / Joe Jackson
From Night and Day (1982)
There are only a few albums that I have loaded in their entirety onto my iTunes. (Make that only a few non-Nick Lowe albums.) Night and Day is one of them. I just love how desperately Joe throws his earnest, cracking voice into this plaintive waltz. This entire album seems to me to dance on the knife edge of a love affair that could go down the tubes at any minute. So why not dance real close while you still can?

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

WEDNESDAY SHUFFLE

Today's blog is dedicated to Rafaela Filippi, a fellow Kinks fan, who just passed away Monday night. So what if the shuffle isn't all Kinks music? That wouldn't have bothered Raf. With her generous smile and open heart, she was a music lover of wide enthusiasm. I'll miss you!

1. "Yakety Yak" / Phantom Planet
From The Mumford Soundtrack (1999)
When I was a kid, we inherited a box of 45s from our older cousins, one of which was the original 1958 "Yakety Yak" by the Coasters (written by Leiber and Stoller, I now learn). How cool, then, to find it covered on this excellent soundtrack to a sweet little 1999 indie film, and by Phantom Planet, one of my favorite alt bands. Back then, Phantom Planet had only one album out and Jason Schwartzman (yes, that adorable indie actor, one and the same) was still their drummer. I love how Phantom Planet stays true to that old platter's charm, including the cheeky sax and the stern baritone retort to "Yakety yak!" -- "Don't talk back."

2. "The Wreck of the Barbie Ferrari" / John Hiatt
From Perfectly Good Guitar (1993)
My pink plastic Barbie Sportscar wasn't a Ferrari, but I get the picture. "It ain't the end of the world, it's just the wreck of the Barbie Ferrari" -- Hiatt plays it for comedy, with the frustrated family man opening fire on a box full of toys while the wife and kids are off at church. Still, underneath that satire lies a lot of repressed rage -- a LOT. I love Hiatt, our great rock chronicler of the ebbs and flows of family life, but this song misses the mark for me.

3. "A-Punk" / Vampire Weekend
From Vampire Weekend (2008)
I guess there are words to this song, but I never catch more than a word here and there. The main thing is the tight collage of sounds, a frantic ukelele-like strum alternating with a surge of synths, dense as cotton-wool, punctuated with Ezra Koenig yelping "Ay! Ay! Ay!" It doesn't sound like it should work, but somehow, magnetically, it does.

4. "Next Time You See Me" / Sir Douglas Quintet
From Soul Jam (2000 compilation)
A CD I picked up for $1 on a binge in a used-record store in Amherst -- and I'll never regret it. (Do we ever really regret those bargain-bin splurges?) In my opinion, Doug Sahm could do whatever he damn well pleased, and here we find various incarnations of his band whipping out note-perfect covers of old soul classics, with a lazy funky groove that just does not quit. On this track, they work their magic on a 1957 Junior Parker classic that's been covered by everybody from Frankie Lymon to the Grateful Dead.

5. "Western Union Man" / Al Kooper
From I Stand Alone (1968)
Must be Soul Covers Night. This was one of my most-played LPs in college, and I loved this track long before I ever heard Jerry Butler's honey-dripping original. In the grand old tradition of Letter Songs, this one's too urgent for standard delivery -- no, we gotta reach that girl now, and damn the cost. (Somehow a text message just doesn't have the same flair.) Al punches it up a little, but it's still a loose-limbed seduction, underlaid with a funky bass and steamy horns. My favorite part: When the back-up singers and Al rat-tat-tat, in offbeat staccato: "Send a tel-e-gram, send a tel-e-gram!"

6. "I Worry 'Bout You Baby" / Brinsley Schwarz
From What IS So Funny 'Bout Peace Love and Understanding? (1973)
Ah, the Brinsleys, bringing their conception of a lazy Nashville stroll to the pubs of North London -- blissfully genial and more than a bit stoned. This track is totally, and I mean totally, derivative, but it is nevertheless feel-good music of the highest quality.

7. "All In Good Time" / Ron Sexsmith
From Time Being (2006)
I highly recommend this album for times of trouble. Canadian singer-songwriter Ron Sexsmith has a knack for philosophizing without sounding preachy, especially on this album -- a gently rocking meditation on mortality and acceptance. A perfect song for me to hear tonight.

8. "Both Ends Burning" / Richard Thompson
From Hand of Kindness (1983)
I love how Thompson grafts together bluegrass, Cajun swamp, and Celtic folk song in this rollicking two-step, a shaggy dog tale -- or rather shaggy horse tale, about a broken-down nag turned racehorse. The story's just a pretext, though, for this spicy gumbo of sassy guitar licks, chipper accordion, and finger-wagging sax.

9. "Man of a Fool" / Nick Lowe
From The Abominable Showman (1983)
Nick Lowe's commentary on the battle of the sexes: "For every woman who ever made a fool of a man / There's a woman made a man of a fool." If Nick hadn't yet gone full country, there's still a certain Nashvillian snappiness to this track. A forgettable Nick track, from an odd mishmash of an album -- but it's still a pretty fab, fun bit o' music.

10. "May You Never" / John Martyn
From Solid Air (1973)
Another album I played the grooves off of in college, and especially this jazzy acoustic track, Martyn's rueful take on a traditional Celtic blessing. "May you never lay your head down / Without a hand to hold / And may you never make your bed out in the cold." Words of wry wisdom, and a fitting benediction in memory of a dear friend lost.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Wednesday Shuffle

I did get a new iPod Shuffle this week -- an absurdly tiny device, in neon green metal, that only holds about 500 songs. Half of the thing consists of a steel clip (engraved with my name!) on the back, a definite clue that it was developed mainly to carry gym music. So yeah, I loaded all my uptempo tracks on there -- but don't worry, today I'm spinning tunes from the full library, just like always...

1. "I've Got to See You Again" / Norah Jones
From Come Away With Me (2002)
Steamy slow samba about an affair, probably illicit, and definitely with an older man. (Older than Norah, that is.) The main thing is the refrain, "I can't help myself / I've got to see you again." I love how she groans, just a little, on that line -- it's simply dripping with desire.

2. "Laurel Canyon" / Jackie DeShannon
From Laurel Canyon (1968)
Was Jackie DeShannon America's answer to Dusty Springfield? No way, but I do enjoy her California soul take on the late 60s, with hippieism just beginning to creep in. ("I'm sewing flowers on my blouse...") The laidback boogie of this ode to her hip L.A. neighborhood paints a pretty inviting portrait -- almost enough to make me want to move there. Almost.

3. "Grass" / XTC
From Skylarking (1986)
Ah, the sublime Andy Partridge. I sure do dig this slidey melody (and how the guitars and synths slide around too). Even though he sings, "Over and over let us flatten the clover," I suspect I know which kind of grass this song is about. Bird effects at the end, too -- how springlike!

4. "White Blank Page" / Mumford & Sons

From Sigh No More (2010)
Though these guys are from London, they sure remind me of the Wood Brothers or Fleet Foxes or the Avett Brothers -- must be the banjo, the fiddles, and the saturated harmonies. Their homespun folky sound sure works for me, though this album is kinda heavy on downer songs. There' s plenty of passion to rescue this tune about an affair gone sour -- it simply aches with love denied.

5. "Oh Me Oh My (I'm Fool For You Baby)" / Lulu
From New Routes (1969)
This was probably the only other Lulu song we ever heard in States, after "To Sir With Love," and its R&B sound was so authentic, I always thought it was a cover. (Maybe because Aretha sang it a couple years later.) Turns out it was written for Lulu by a songwriter from her native Glasgow -- go figure. At least they recorded it at Muscle Shoals. "I'll stage a ballet on a tabletop" is a great line, but even better is the next verse, "We'll blow a genie from a cigarette / And then we'll take a magic carpet ride." Why, Lulu!

6. "Love Song" / Brinsley Schwarz
From Despite It All (1970)
Vintage Brinsley tune, a quite serviceable imitation of forgettable country-rock (Brewer & Shipley, anyone?). But hey, it's written by Nick Lowe, so you know it's loveable. "This here is a love song / I got to get back to my baby's heart again / This here is a love song / I got to sing it till I get back home." By the last verse, we find out she's broken up with him, but this does not seem to dim his conviction one bit. Hang in there, Nick!

7. "Back to the War" / John Hiatt

From Two-Bit Monsters (1980)
We just had early Nick Lowe, now we've got early John Hiatt -- from the days when he was being promoted as "the American Elvis Costello." Trying to live up to that comparison, John let no metaphor go unexplored, and all relationships were by definition nasty and contentious. "I've got this dynamite / I know you're sitting tight / Waiting for news / Well, I'm lighting the fuse." I didn't discover Hiatt until much later, when he'd settled into his own groove, but as a sophomore effort this still ain't bad.

8. "Keep It Simple" / Keb' Mo'
From Keep It Simple (2004)
"Two cars, three kids, six loans / A whole lot of confusion in my home / Six hundred channels on my TV screen / Six hundred versions of the same damn thing." Oh, sure, Keb's music sounds like the most ancient dirt-caked Delta blues -- but do not be misled. It's sly, funny, and totally perceptive social commentary, just topped off with a little pedal steel. "Decaff latte cappucino, said the cashier / Gimme a small cup of coffee, I said, and get me outta here!"

9. "Everything But a Heartbeat" / The Searchers
From Play For Today (1980)
Though it's late Searchers, the sound is solid British Invasion gold, in the jangly-guitar vein of their classic "Needles and Pins," thanks to songwriter Will Birch (of Kursaal Flyers and the Records), who also penned "Hearts In Her Eyes" for them. It's a skewering Bad Girlfriend song, from a guy who's fully prepared to twist the knife (a Will Birch specialty). She's got a great smile, a great way of walking, all the pop cliches -- "But I want to tell you what she's all about / She'll wind you up and then she'll spit you out." Ouch.

10. "Ashes to Ashes" / Steve Earle
From Jerusalem (2002)
No, not the Bowie hit -- a pity, because that's the one I really like. Instead, this is a twangy sort of talking blues, as Steve Earle slouches towards Bethlehem, spewing political aspersions and dark apocalyptic visions. I know Steve Earle is supposed to be a great songwriter. Hell, he probably is, I just haven't heard the right tracks. Why is this one even on my iTunes?

Pity it had to end on that note -- the next track would have been Wanda Jackson's "I Forgot to Remember to Forget Him", a much more appropriate sign-off for this chick-lit cluster of songs. Oh, well, the Shuffle genie apparently had other plans...