Friday Five: this and that

“Don’t Wake Me” by the Cinderellas (1964)

“(What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love, and Understanding” by Elvis Costello and the Attractions (1978)

“Death or Glory” by The Clash (1979)

“Baby, I Love You” by The Ramones (1980)

“The Last Song” by Sleater-Kinney (1995)

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Friday Five: Favorites (part 2)

Here are five more favorite songs missing from my “impact albums” listing on Facebook. There’s probably a lot of repeats in here from lists of the past, but so be it:

5. “One” by Metallica (1988)
This song changed my life. From an album that’s about as solid as any the band put out…

4. “Layla” by Derek and the Dominos (1970)
The impact of this song on me is hard to measure. It keeps growing over time.

3. “Galileo” by the Indigo Girls (1992)
The best of what the Indigo Girls do is in the song. It also brings up fond memories of 1992.

2. “I Say a Little Prayer” by Aretha Franklin (1968)
The amazing Aretha Franklin is far more amazing on any number of songs she’s recorded. There’s something about this that always captivated me though.

1. “The Weight” by The Band (1968)
When I first heard it, I felt like I had to hear it again. When I bought the album, I don’t think I got passed this one song for about three days.

Friday Five: Favorites

I’m participating in the “impact albums” meme on Facebook and I struggled while selecting my ten albums (that’s the number in the version I was tagged in).

From the top, I decided to eliminate “greatest hits” or compilations of any sort (including soundtracks). That took away quite a bit, because in my twenties my musical explorations often happened through those kinds of albums. They might not have been the best compilations for those artists either, but they meant a lot to me because they’re the ones I bought.

Then there were the albums that had a few songs that were big in my rotation at a certain point in my life, but had a lot of other songs I didn’t listen to all that much. These were the hard eliminations because while the albums might have been super important to me, not enough of it was in terms of total percentage of content when compared to others. Even if the songs they carried meant more to me than most, I eliminated them based on that percentage, rather than the degree of love I had for them.

That means there are many songs that didn’t make the final cut for me. So here’s a list of five of those:

5. “I Just Don’t Think I’ll Ever Get Over You” by Colin Hay (1998)
I first heard this song on the soundtrack to the movie Garden State (2004). Colin Hay is the former front man for the 80s Australian band Men at Work.

4. “The Joker” by The Steve Miller Band (1973)
In all honesty, I doubt there’s an album I know better than the second volume of Steve Miller’s hits collection, “Greatest Hits 1974-78.” In the 80s and 90s it was not uncommon for the album to pop into the top 100 in terms of sales, probably based solely on college kids buying it through their Columbia House or BMG memberships. In short, he was the drinking music of many a college keg party.

3. “That Feel” by Tom Waits (1992)
This song (a duet with Keith Richards) is the last song on Waits’ 1992 album Bone Machine. The only reason that the album didn’t make my cut was because one of his other albums was more revolutionary for me. Bone Machine was a close second. This was the stand out for me, a song that sounds like two drunk alley cats singing late at night.

2. “What It Takes” by Aerosmith (1989)
My cassette tape of Aerosmith’s 1989 blockbuster album was as well played as any I ever owned, but almost entirely for side 1. Songs like “Janie’s Got a Gun” and “Love in an Elevator” were the hits that made it such a solid seller. My favorite song, however, was the last on side 2. I nearly wore the cassette out just to play it again and again…

1. “Sweet Thing” by Van Morrison (1968)
My first Van Morrison album was his The Best of Van Morrison. I bought it in college and a good chunk of the songs (except for the Christian ones, late in the 21 song collection) were in heavy rotation with me and friends during college. I have a fondness for so many, but “Sweet Thing” (originally from the legendary Astral Weeks) moved me like no other. The slow build up and gradual orchestral feel were among my favorite aspects.

Friday Five: Random

5. “Melody” by The Rolling Stones (1976)
I suppose the album Black and Blue is best known for Ronnie Wood, who became an official member of the band with its release (though they auditioned several potential replacements for Mick Taylor during the album’s recording). What stands out to me are the album’s eclectic sounds. It’s very bluesy at times, but also has nods to reggae and funk and, in this instance, jazz.

4. “What Am I Living For?” by Chuck Willis (1958)
I knew Chuck Willis for his version of “C.C. Rider,” which Elvis used to play in the 70s. When I heard this song I was struck by its sound. It’s got country tips with a soft back rhythm that swings so nice. Turns out it was his last (and biggest) hit, the B-side to the single “Hang Up My Rock and Roll Shoes,” released shortly before his death at the age of 32.

3. “Fade to Black” by Metallica (1984)
This song is from Metallica’s second album, the legendary Ride the Lightning. It’s one of my favorite songs by the band, although I didn’t hear it until the late 80s when I was in high school. It’s a fan favorite in their live shows. It took on another level of legendary on August 8, 1992, when James Hetfield caught on fire while singing it. It was also the last played song when the Long Beach station KNAC (which played heavy metal for LA listeners for a decade) went off the air.

2. “Nobody Told Me” by Vintage Trouble (2011)
I first saw Vintage Trouble when they were on Austin City Limits, back in 2016. I’ve been a fan ever since. There’s not a thing they do that I don’t like, and when you listen that’s not a surprise. They intentionally draw on some of the best in 50s and 60s R&B, mixed with so much more. Here’s a live version of the above, which showcases some of their talents better than the studio version can.

1. Zombie by the Cranberries (1994)
The best thing about this last week was when the Bad Wolves cover of this song came on the radio. The kids knew the song, which led to us talking about the Cranberries, the early death of Dolores O’Riordan, and the glories of the 90s. I made a little playlist of the greatest hits of Dolores and Crew, and the kids couldn’t get enough of her Irish brogue and vocal honesty. Here’s a live version of the song from 1994.

Friday Five: Happy

5. “Happy Idiot” by TV on the Radio (2014)

4. “Happy Together” by the The Turtles (1967)

3. “Only Happy When It Rains” by Garbage (1995)

2. “Happy” by The Rolling Stones (1972)

2. “Happy Everafter in Your Eyes” by Ben Harper (2006)

Friday Five: I got the funk

Let’s take a journey through some of the funky sounds of the 60s and 70s. The dynamism of African American politics, the consciousness shaped by the Black Freedom Struggle and a heightened awareness of the injustices the movement targeted, all fed an equally dynamic culture.

Let’s visit some expansive jams that captured the times, and served as the roots for so many more times to come.

5. “Darkest Light” by Lafayette Afro Rock Band (1975)
They were from Long Island but they came together as a band in France. This song is from their third album, 1975’s Malik, and features saxophonist Leon Gomez. It’s a famously and frequently sampled piece of music, ranging from Public Enemy to Jay-Z.

4. “Apache” by The Incredible Bongo Band (1974)
This is a cover, but it’s really so much more than the original. The band is a makeshift rhythm band put together to score a B-movie in the 70s. What they produce here has been called the national anthem of hip hop.

3. “Let A Woman Be A Woman – Let A Man Be A Man” by Dyke and the Blazers (1969)
A short-lived band that ended with the 1971 murder of founder and leader Arlester Christian.

2. “Rock Steady” by Aretha Franklin (1971)
From one of my favorite albums by the First Lady of Soul (Young, Gifted and Black), this is a funk masterpiece. While I’m only projecting (since I wasn’t born until the year after), I’ve always felt like it was one of those songs that captured the feeling of the times.

1. “Funky Drummer” by James Brown (1970)
It don’t get much more funky than this, James Brown directing the great Clyde Stubblefield on the drums as he produces a back beat that is the groove of so much later hip hop.

Friday Five: Clapton the Guest

I watched the 2017 documentary Eric Clapton: Life in 12 Bars on Showtime this week. I enjoy just about anything related to Clapton, and this was a mix of both interesting, sad, and even sadder aspects of his life and career. It’s mostly a story of addiction, really, and you’re left wondering what could have been if one of the world’s greatest guitarists wasn’t constantly at war with himself and his talent.

Anyway, there were some great stories related to Clapton playing guest guitar on amazing recordings by other people. Looking up a bit more of his history as a guest guitarist, I thought it would make an interesting Friday Five.

5. “Here in the Dark” (Taj Mahal, 1996)
Taj Mahal and Clapton–what’s not to like?

4. “That’s the Way God Planned It (Parts 1 & 2)” (Billy Preston, 1969)
Billy Preston was charmed. He doesn’t just have has Eric Clapton on guitar. He has George Harrison (guitar), Keith Richards (bass), Ginger Baker (drums), and Doris Troy (vocals) backing him, too.

3. “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” (The Beatles, 1968)
Undoubtedly, this is Clapton’s most famous guest appearance, on a song written and sung by his most famous friend for whom he played with and recorded for often. (I don’t know how long this video will be up.)

2. “Wang-Dang-Doodle” (Howlin’ Wolf, 1970)
This might be a bit of a cheat since Clapton was one big reason this album got made. Counted as a “super session” album, Clapton, Steve Winwood, Bill Wyman, and Charlie Watts (among others) brought the blues master into Olympic Studios in London and got to play blues with him. Here, Howlin’ Wolf sings a classic from the great Willie Dixon. It’s a treat from one of the best blues albums you can buy.

1. “Good to Me as I Am to You” (Aretha Franklin, 1968)
This recording is the inspiration for this list. It’s covered well, in context, in the documentary. What they don’t mention is that this is from the Lady Soul album, the giver of “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman,” “Chain of Fools,” and (Sweet, Sweet Baby) Since You’ve Been Gone.” It’s a masterful work–for both Aretha and Eric–on a masterful work of an album.