The Ongoing Adventures of CAPTAIN ECLECTIC!
Sat down at the ol' indigo iMac last night and noticed that it is full of mp3's that I, along with my son and daughter, have downloaded over the last few years. For my part, usually it's one or two tracks I'm curious about on a new release, or perhaps stuff I can't find easily somewhere else, or a track by an artist I liked, even though I'd never consider buying a full CD by him, her or them. Thinking that it might be a good idea to get some of these off my hard drive, I fired up the CD burner and grabbed a few at random to make a mix disc. And it went something like this:
A Little Less Conversation-Elvis vs JXL
Nice little funky update of a song that was pretty much under the radar of all but the hardcore Elvis faithful.
Girls Girls Girls- Jay-Z and a host of others
Hate to say it, but a little rap goes a long way with me most of the time...but despite the dodgy lyric, the backing track grabs me every time, especially the string-section driven chord change when he launches into each story about one of his "girls girls girls". Maybe a sample of some classic old soul song, I don't know, but it makes this great. In my opinion, of course.
(What A) Wonderful World-Terence Trent D'Arby
The first time I ever saw or heard D'Arby was when he performed this on the British music show that Jools Holland hosted that aired over here for a year or so in the late 80s...don't recall the name. He just sings the hell out of this old Sam Cooke classic, which oddly enough is available only (to my knowledge) on an EP released at the same time his debut Introducing The Hardline was out.
Jive Talkin'-The Bee Gees
Just to demonstrate how much my tastes have changed since 1976. If 16-year-old me knew what 44-year-old me was doing, he'd be deeply ashamed.
The Sweetest Thing-U2
I didn't feel like buying the profit-taking hits collection this was grafted onto, so I downloaded this track, the last one from Bono & Co. to make a positive impression on me. Love the arch tone of it all, and Bono's falsetto vocals. The Godley video didn't hurt, either.
Afterglow-Flo & Eddie
As I've reminded you on many occasions, the album from whence this grand (and somewhat grandiose) pop-rock cut came is not available on CD, but I think it was included on The Best of Flo & Eddie, and someone had it available for file sharing, so here ya go! Great song, great vocal.
'Cos I Love You-Slade
Great stomping glam song with some insane scraping fiddle leads. Completely irresistable melody.
Free As A Bird-Supertramp
Nice little gospelly-sounding breakup song, on an album released a couple of years after Supertramp's salad days. Hard to tell whether Rick Davies is singing this to a wife, girlfriend, or recently departed bandmate Roger Hodgson, who had bolted for a solo career...which didn't exactly go down in pop music history.
This Train Don't Stop Here Anymore-Elton John
Long after I had completely given up on hearing anything worthwhile from John again, he released the Songs From The West Coast album, in which he actually sounded like he (and Taupin) gave a shit about making significant music again. This one's a doleful, self-pitying wallow in which Elton muses on what a prat he was during his heyday- but fortunately it's wedded to a great melody and he sings the heck out of it. This cut and "I Need Love", from the same album, were quite good but I never got the nerve up to pick up the CD proper. Been burned too many times, and that's where this train stops.
Step Inside Love-Cilla Black with Paul McCartney
A mid-60s demo by Brian Epstein's other act, with Paulie accompanying her on acoustic guitar. Nice song (which I think he also gave to Peggy Lee), lovely vocal. Someday I should pick up a best-of by Cilla.
I Saw Nick Drake-Robyn Hitchcock
Robyn musing on the Drake legend, life after death, strawberries, and other stuff. Beautiful, beautiful song. "And when you're gone/you take your whole world with you".
Ordinarily, I have little or no use for this self-important, weepy, boring singer and her songs, but the "we are all innocent" chorus got under my skin and no matter how deeply I dug I couldn't pry it out. Thank God for mp3 technology, that keeps me from buying entire albums by artists I feel this way about...
King Kong by Jean-Luc Ponty with Frank Zappa
Sprightly little jazz-rock instrumental, on an album that's extremely hard to find, and even harder to find at an affordable price. Don't think it's on CD, I may be wrong.
Lucille Has Messed My Mind Up-Jeff Simmons
While we're on the subject of difficult to find albums, here's the title cut from another. Simmons was Zappa's bass player in the early-to-mid 70s Flo & Eddie-era band, and much of the film 200 Motels is given to teasing Simmons about his solo career aspirations. Can't say much else, because this is the only track I've heard by him on his own, but it's a good one- a bluesy workout with excellent guitar by Zappa himself. Rhino should be all over this.
Wichita Lineman-Glen Campbell
Boys and girls, I flat out LOVE those great Campbell/Jimmy Webb hits of the 60s, and this may be the best of 'em all, "By The Time I Get To Phoenix" notwithstanding. Beautiful, surging strings, great guitar solo on the low end of the neck with just a touch of reverb, and Campbell's guileless vocal. My parents, especially my Mom, loved Campbell and his TV show in the 60s. Perhaps my attraction to his 60s hits is nostalgia for my childhood. Who the fuck knows.
Broke Down-Slaid Cleaves
Don't know much about Cleaves, except he has a few albums of no-frills folk-country out on a couple of indie labels. Hear this great song a lot on one of our digital cable system music channels. Acoustic guitar, organ distant in the background, a little slide, and quiet drums back a song about two young people in a dysfunctional relationship. Sounds like country music to me...
Waiting For The Great Leap Forward-Billy Bragg
My friend Ruth (who has a blog called Lil Truthie's, but she never updates it) is a fanatic about Billy Bragg, and a while ago she loaned me 2 or 3 of his albums. They weren't bad, and I liked a lot of stuff on them, but this was the only track that left me wanting to hear it over and over. Weird, huh? Anyway, I think it's the massed chorus vocals on the chorus at the end.
Spring-Song of Innocence-Alan White
The credits are kinda misleading on this cut- it originally appeared on the 1976 solo album by Yes drummer Alan White, called Ramshackled, but it features Jon Anderson on vocals so it's closer to a Yes proper song that any of the other bluesy cuts that appeared on that (after all is said and done) mostly unremarkable album, which I used to own but got rid of because one, the album pretty much sucks except for this cut, and two, the hole in the vinyl was punched slightly off-center, creating an unpleasant wah-wah-wah sound as the tracks played. One advantage the compact disc has over the vinyl LP, I'll concede this much at least. Anyway, this is essentially a William Blake poem set to music, with Anderson piping along in his la-de-da vocal style about sheep and children and whatnot, and the whole thing would be quite embarrassing if not for the fact that it IS a Blake poem, and transcends its subject matter; plus it's given a lovely orchestral arrangement with a great melody that gets it over. My friends all look at me funny when I play this for them, and I don't blame them.
Wrote about Linda a little over a year ago. I've had this mp3 for a long time and I never get tired of hearing this stately piano ballad.
Autumn In New York-Billie Holiday
After watching the Ken Burns Jazz documentaries, I was very impressed with Holiday, and was also impressed by one of the interviewees who spoke at length about his love for this particular track. So I decided to take him at his word and find a compilation with this cut on it. Problem was, it was difficult. I've kinda been rooting around looking for a cheap copy of the Ken Burns Jazz: Billie Holiday CD, which purports to give a decent cross-sampling of her work throughout her entire career and includes this cut, but I haven't really found one yet. So I finally said what da fug and downloaded the file the other day. It's every bit as good as the interview subject said.
And the scary part is...I've got enough files for at least one sequel! Stay tuned...