1. Led Zeppelin – “Your Time is Gonna Come” : From the first Led Zep album, when they still thought they were some kind of blues band, which worked very well for them. Since Robert Plant didn’t think he was some sort of “younge blonde godde” yet, and he was still feeling a little skinny, English and not from Mississippi, he reels it in enough for the rest of the band, especially The God of Drums to shine through. Nice to hear this again, after years away from LZ1. (7/10 – docked at least one point just because we know that “The Song Remains the Same” is in their future, and our past…. argh)
2. Marvin Gaye – “What’s Going On?” : This is the 1960s, to me. You can blab about Haight-Ashbury all you want, and I will give you that a couple of those Santana songs hold up, but this album, to me, is the sound of the world being changed for the better. How could one album be about the dissolution of a marriage, the death of Martin Luther King, emancipation from the heavy hand of Barry Gordy and the Viet Nam war, and STILL be so uplifting? Pure genius. (10/10)
3. Stevie Wonder – “Living for the City” : Oh, man. Possibly my favorite Stevie Wonder song ever. (My wife will tell you that I say that no matter WHAT Stevie Wonder song is playing. It’s not true. If it’s “I just called to say I love you….” well, ok, the 1980s happened to all of us, right?) When I was nine, I had this little avocado colored portable radio. One day, I turned it on, and there were three stations playing Stevie Wonder songs at the same time. I remember for a while that I thought that Stevie Wonder must be like some sort of king that all the other musicians had to obey. I am not sure if that’s not true. “Last call for New York City!” “Hey, bus driver!” Brilliant. (10/10)
4. Mclusky – “Gareth Brown Says…” : Well, ok. They can’t all rule. Mcluskey is a Welsh punk band with a bit of Pixies obsession. Not a bad band, and I would sure enjoy seeing them live, but they broke up, and this isn’t really one of their standout tunes, like “Lightsaber Cocksucking Blues” or “Fuck this Band,” so (6/10)
5. the Kleptones – “Listen” : for the uninitiated, the Kleptones is/are a DJ or several DJs who mash together hip hop songs and Queen songs for “Night at the Hip-Hopera” or hip hop songs and an entire Flaming Lips album in the case of “Yoshimi Battles the Hip Hop Robots.” This track is from the former. You can only find this stuff if you know where to look on the internet, since it’s totally illegal to sell someone else’s work as your own. They do it for the love of music and fun juxtapositions. This is a mashup of The Beastie Boy’s “Root Down” and some song from “Night at the Opera,” though I don’t know that album well enough to know which. Not the Kleptones’ strongest effort, especially compared to the “Slim Shady”/”Bicycle” mashup. (7/10)
6. The Clash – “Clampdown” : Don’t ask me about this album and this song, just ask an expert.
A song like the massive “Clampdown” shifts naturally through three sections: the four huge, descending chords big enough to open a season at Bayreuth; the dancing, pendulous rock of the verses; and the taunting funk of the bridge. The song fades away in a vamp that sounds like disco, so light you might get the impression the band had forgotten everything they’d just sung about: institutional racism, political brainwashing, and the creeping compromise of working life. “You start wearing the blue and brown / You’re working for the clampdown / So you got someone to boss around / It makes you feel big now.” The hectoring is never so simple that you don’t wonder if they’re directing it partly at themselves.
7. Johnny Cash – “Flesh and Blood” : An obscure track by the Man in Black. This isn’t one of those that’s obscure for a reason, fortunately. I have found that occasionally both Johnny and Ray Charles get swamped by their arrangers. This is just the standard Nashville studio band- piano, guitar, bass, drums and the sweet, sweet sounds of the Jordanaires. Still, not Johnny’s best song. However, still Johnny…. (8.5/10)
8. Charlie Chaplain – “Ruffian” : Rubbery bass line, drums dry as a box of thumbtacks, rhythmic and unintelligible chanting? Must be underground dancehall! Don’t ask me why I love this stuff so much, but it’s like crack to me. I can’t give it up. This is a really perfect track for my dancehall needs, too- It’s just got that feel- remote and exotic enough for me to feel challenged and funky enough to make my head bob. (8/10)
9. Babatunde Olatunji – “Jin-Go-La-Ba” Former Nigerian diplomatic functionary turned Yoruba ambassador to America and Europe, Babatunde is sort of the roots and fundamentals teacher to thousands of ethnically curious kids who want to know more about Nigerian drumming. I did some drum clinics with Babatunde back in the early ’90s. This song is the Yoruba chant that got carried across the ocean to Cuba and became a part of the Santaria liturgy. It was later adapted into a rock song by Carlos Santana and called “Jingo.” This version is a little thin sounding, compared to that, and I have never shaken the odd impression I got when I went to one of Olatunji’s clinics, and his whole entourage of players were dreadlocked and vaguely unkempt looking American 20-somethings. Babatunde was the only Nigerian in the room. I dunno… just got an odd feeling about his operation from that day forward. (6/10)
10. Radiohead – “Sail to the Moon” : Just another slice of ice-cream cake from the masters of cold confection, Radiohead. I love this band, and the way that they evoke the “I don’t think these drugs are making me feel better” haze of barely-treated depression. Why do I love these songs so much? I think it’s partly that I can (finally) be a tourist in that world and feel melancholy without feeling like I am going to die from sadness and partly that they are just a fantastic band… (8/10)
My music collection has exploded since I got my iPod. I have been ripping CDs as fast as I can get them out of the drawer and into the powerbook. Plan on some real stinkers popping up at some point. I know they’re in there….