Wednesday, February 27, 2013

February's Picks

February has been a rough month. We lost Donald Byrd, Reg Presley, Tony Sherdian, Tandyn Almer, Kevin Ayers and closer to home the 11 month old daughter of a fellow record buff/acquaintance, little Ana Cru who never got the chance to live the life any of us have been privileged to have. On a personal note I've been recovering from hernia surgery, which has been no picnic that's for damn sure. But as my high school vice principal (who'd lost two sons and somehow kept a positive exterior) wrote in my yearbook "upon us all a little rain must fall". So I'm breaking the rules and listing more than 10 tunes. Read on McDuff...

1. THE JAM-"This Is The Modern World"
I was watching the brilliant documentary on the making of "All Mod Cons" and came across this clip of the good old Jam bashing this out on "T.O.T.P" and it sent me back to rediscover this bitter little pill of angst and cynicism.

2. MR. LOCO-"Hombre Religioso"
From the soundtrack of Jack Black's hysterical flick "Nacho Libre" this melodic little ditty is so catchy and simplistic that I haven't been able to shake it from my brain after watching it over the weekend for the first time in ages, but I'm a sucker for any good pop song with a decent string section (and the rest of the soundtrack isn't bad: Alan Hawkshaw, Esqiuvel, Caetano Veloso, John Cameron, etc).

3. THE PRETTY THINGS-"What's The Use"
For me and The Pretties we part ways after "S.F. Sorrow", that was until I was watching a documentary of Netflix instant view about the 14 Hour Technicolor Dream and a jangly tune was playing in one segment which thanks to the beauty of the Shazam program on my phone I was able to ascertain the title of and what do you know it was The Pretties from their 1970 LP "Parachute. Just goes to show you can be wrong about things!

4. DONALD BYRD-"Cristo Redentor"
R.I.P. Donald Byrd.  This is my fave track because it was the first I ever heard back in the 90's on a public radio station's jazz show and it's probably the only song that really grabs me on this unusual album. With it's chorus and stellar trumpet they don't get any smoother than this AND it's from his LP which boasts the coolest cover ever.

5. THE SUGARBEATS-"Alice Designs"
From the pen of the late Tandyn Almer, my fave track he wrote (right up there with "Shadows & Reflections" but I like this even more, if you can believe that?!?!). Cut by a U.K. band who previously issued a Beach Boys cover it's wrapped in some amazing harmonies with hints of trippy/exotic '67 stuff (subtle flute, tabla etc) and unearthed c/o one of the usually mediocre "We Can Fly" volumes.

6. TEN YEARS AFTER-"Losing The Dogs"
With it's 1967 release date and trippy looking cover you'd mistake Ten Years After's debut LP to be psychedelic.  Nothing of the sort.  This number has this Delta blues via Mick Green guitar style (later so beloved of Dr. Feelgood) combined with a plonky knees up style barrel-house piano (quite reminiscent of the ivory tinkling on label mate David Bowie's B-side "Did You Ever Have A Dream?", and no surprise as it was co written by Gus Dudgeon who produced most of Bowie's Deram stuff). It all makes for an amazing tune with some silly lyrics ("sittin' in my cell yeah thinkin' bout my wife, last time I saw her she was layin' on my knife..").

7.THE TAGES-"Have You Seen Your Brother Lately"
Easily one of my fave tracks by Sweden's Tages from their 1967 masterpiece pop psych opus album "Studio".  It's woodwinds and strings are propelled along by some Macca-esque bass lines giving it a perfect dreamy/pop-sike "period" feel without sounding derivative or forced.

8. SPOOKY TOOTH-"Sunshine Help Me"
Obscure 60's U.K. mod/r&b quartet The V.I.P.'s got psych and became Art, who then mutated into Spooky Tooth who delivered this brilliant debut 45 on the Island label (home of the V.I.P's and Art as well).  A perfect melding of soulful Small Faces style psych/pop and the heavier stuff (ala Hendrix).  Sadly it went downhill from there.

9. WILLIAM SHATNER-"Mr. Tambourine Man"
Oh what madness! At times Shatner sounds like he's mutating into an Irish brogue before the 5th Dimension/Jimmy Webb style orchestration/backing sweeps him away and begins with yet another exasperated sounding persona!

10. TONY SHERDIAN-"Shake It Some More"
I learned of this track via The Jay Jay's killer version of it c/o my pal Keith Patterson.  I turned my friend John Jorgensen onto it and his band The Swingin' Neckbreakers began covering it.  It came full circle when John came upon some VHS tapes of episodes of "Beat! Beat! Beat!" containing Tony doing the original, less raw than The Jay Jay's but equally rocking and hands down Tony's best tune.

11. KEVIN AYERS-"Oh! Wot A Dream"
 I was never a fan of Soft Machine bar their debut 45 but upon hearing Ayers solo material for the first time via a care package cassette comp from a thoughtful friend in 1990 during a stint in the Army during the great oil war I was suitably drawn to find out what it was all about. I was most pleased. Written about and for Syd Barrett.

12. REGGIE KING-"Merry Go Round"
From the out of print Circle records 10" E.P. of unreleased Reggie King post Action solo cuts ("Missing In Action") comes this delightful piece of music that would not sound out of place among tracks by The Action's "Brain/Rolled Gold" "albums" (not unsurprising as most of his ex-band mates were in on the sessions). Fear not fans, this track (along with many other "Missing in Action" cuts) are included on the brand new Reggie King CD "Looking For A Dream", which oddly enough is available here in the States on iTunes!!

13. THE YARDBIRDS-"Only The Black Rose"
Rest in peace little Ana Cru, wherever you are, shine on, brightly.

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