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8:35 a.m. - September 28, 2007
A Mix! For Someone! For Reals!
I’m taking another trip back home this weekend, but I thought I’d leave all y’all with a mix. Well, it’s a mix I’ve made for a friend here in the Cities, and it’s actually multiple CDs, but I’m taking some from each of them to highlight here as a preview.

This person helped me out last weekend, so it’s the least I could do.

Shall we begin? Oh, why not.

1. Make It Better (Forget About Me) – Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers. I recall when Southern Accents came out that some wags and some fans were a bit off-put because there was no song that was like “The Waiting” or “Refugee”, even though Petty had already moved a bit beyond that. Who really wants formulaic rock? Oh, yeah, AOR fans in the 80’s (hello, Journey)! Petty’s always been a bit adventurous for someone who makes his money in the mainstream, and this has a bit of a swing to it with a prominent organ, soulful backing vocals, and some horns adding support (just like Stax’s heyday). This whole album is about his southern roots, and this shows his love for southern soul, before a retro move like that would be called hip. Well played, Mr. Petty!

2. Big City Nights – The Scorpions. Yeah, they were kind of hacks all-in-all, but they were long-lasting hacks, and once in a while they could rip off a good riff or two. Plus, Klaus Meine’s vocals showed the way for those silly hair-band screamers later in the 80’s. I don’t know if that’s a good thing or a bad thing. Do you want to be the one responsible for the screeching of Cinderella?

3. Hiroshima Mon Amour – Ultravox. Stateside fans of metal perhaps remember Alcatrazz’s mid-80’s cover more than this original from John Foxx and the original incarnation of Ultravox. In the late 70’s, they were led by John Foxx and featured Stevie Shears on guitar. Mr. Shears was fond of feedback and he melded with the electronics of the synthesizer that foreshadowed industrial music in the 80’s and 90’s. Lots of squall in this one, which is the alternate mix. The mix on the album Ha! Ha! Ha! is a bit more subdued and cool. Within two years they shed any punk rock veneer they had when Midge Ure jumped on board and they started to crank out cold, distant, Europop synth hits.

4. Angel From Montgomery – John Prine. How many male songwriters can write a first person song in the guise of an old woman and make it a masterpiece? I think the answer may be contained on your index finger. It is weird to hear Prine’s croaky tenor sing a song from an old woman’s perspective, but that’s what makes this track even more compelling, I believe.

5. 15 – Rilo Kiley. Oh, the indie rock community is all abuzz because Rilo Kiley decided to update their sound. Well, you know what? They can stuff it. The question is not whether a band fits a preconceived notion. The question is, “Are the songs any good?” And yes, the songs are good. Jam bands get stuck in a rut and don’t grow musically because they need to feed the fan base. But intelligent fans can deal with change, you know. (Not that Rilo Kiley were a jam band, but they had a sound that definitely could have been expanded, and they did it.) Here endeth the lesson.

6. Don’t Worry Kyoko – Plastic Ono Band. Yeah, I decided to brave it and have a little of the Yoko Ono experience in my ears. One of the infamous Yoko tracks from Live Peace In Toronto was supposed to be ear-shatteringly outrageous. But you know, it’s not really that God-awful. Yes, Ono cannot sing, but here, her wailing is in a bit of context. The band featured Lennon, Eric Clapton, Klaus Voorman and Alan White, so they were pretty good even though they hadn’t really rehearsed. Cut Ono some slack on this one, just this once, OK?

7. Dino’s Song – Quicksilver Messenger Service. Dino Vanelli, a wild child if there ever was one, wrote this song for Quicksilver, and he was supposed to be in the band. However, at this time he was in the hoosegow for drugs, and Quicksilver became the little hippie cousin of the Airplane and Dead, selling some records and getting some acclaim, but not really breaking through no matter how much the San Francisco scene lovers tried to push them to stardom. (You may know this by the refrain “All I ever wanted to do was love you…”)

8. Everybody’s Trying To Be My Baby – Carl Perkins. You say you want some real rock-and-roll? Download a Carl Perkins album (preferably the Dance Album or an honest-to-goodness Sun collection). That’s rock-and-roll. Go, cat, go!

9. Long Legged Girl (With The Short Dress On) – Elvis Presley. You remember the movie Double Trouble? It’s the one where Elvis has some wacky love hijinks of some sort and sings a few songs. This was the single from it. You remember it, right? RIGHT? Well, fortunately (?) it’s less than 1:30.

10. Some Velvet Morning – Nancy Sinatra & Lee Hazlewood. This hit the top 30 in 1968, and it’s about as over the top as “Macarthur Park”, yet much shorter. It makes as much sense, really. Hazlewood’s dusky voice is a total contrast to Nancy’s. What do you think Frank thought of this when he heard it? “What is this hippie crap? Peter, Sammy, Joey, Dino…let’s take care of this Hazlewood creep…”

11. Ninety-Nine And A Half (Won’t Do) – Wilson Pickett. Yeah, this mix is full of oldies, but dang, these aren’t radio oldies are they? Good God, you need to listen to this man SING, people. This was originally released on an album called The Exciting Wilson Pickett - and that’s truth in advertising. The shame is that this only hit #53 on the pop chart, but it did much better (of course) on the soul charts. You got to have 100!

12. Got To Be Real – Cheryl Lynn. Sometimes one hit is all you need. Oh, disco has a bad rap but the backing is funky and her voice is tremendous, especially when she lays into “TO BE REAL”. Somehow, she never had another vehicle that suited her, though she had five charting albums and some other singles that tried to make it. The extended ending of this song is perfect for the dance floor, since you can mix it easily with another tune if you had the mad skillz. Yo.

13. Mr. Pitiful – Otis Redding. This is an early single from Redding, but it shows what kind of performer he was going to become in a short amount of time. Actually, really, he arrived by this time (1965) – it just took some time for the rest of the world to catch up.

14. Here I Am (Come And Take Me) – Al Green. Yes, you have heard the UB40 version. Compared to this its unfathomably lame. Green has soul – real soul- but you knew that. What’s even worse is that their version hit higher on the pop charts than the original (#7 vs. #10), and there’s a generation of college kids who will think that it’s a UB40 song, not an Al Green soul masterpiece. Sometimes God has to do some explaining, you know. I’d like to borrow an hour with him.

15. Dancing In The Sheets – Shalamar. There were SIX (count ‘em) top 40 hits on the Footloose soundtrack. Wow. This hit #17, and was their second biggest hit. It definitely sounds like the 80’s, too. It’s those synth drums, vocoder, and early sequencer sound that make it a dead giveaway. (Heh…)

16. Tablescrap – Stolen Babies. Definitely not from the 80’s, that’s for sure. Yeah, it’s in the punk rock / ska mode with an accordion and synths and a vocalist that sounds nice, and then sounds like she’s a demon from hell. Later they do the Metallica / Ginger Baker double bass drum thing deal bit. It’s definitely interesting and keeps you riveted to the iPod wondering what’s going to happen next.

17. D-Rings – The Embarrasment. Back the oldies. Well, okay, obscure post-punk from Wichita, circa 1983. I guess it’s old, but not an oldie. It’s also very quirky, unusual, and odd – all at once, even. I recommend it highly, but you know I’m insane.

18. Avalon Highway – ZZ Top. They haven’t remastered all of Tejas yet to get rid of those God-awful 80’s drum sounds that some genius decided to re-record the drums with when they mastered these for CDs the first time, but I couldn’t help NOT having this song even if the drums sound cold, distant, and recorded in an empty basement three towns away. And that’s all one sentence and besides telling you it rocks, that’s all I need to say.

19. Less Talk More Rokk – Freezepop. I wondered how Freezepop wound up in the Guitar Hero video games, and then I found that one of the members worked for the company that made them. How conveeeenient! Anyway, looking at the song list for those games, they’re pretty well hip, especially in the bonus tracks. Anyway, they’re good fun and that’s all you need sometimes. Ok, most of the time.

20. Three Of A Perfect Pair – King Crimson. Say what you will about King Crimson (and many an ink-stained wretch have wasted a lot of typewriter ribbons and / or bandwidth on them in their lifetime), they really were excellent musicians that rose above their pretensions most of the time to make interesting music. It’s complex, and not danceable, really, but it’s very interesting and complex.

Well, that’s just a taster and a tease. I’ve got a lot of new tunes I’ve been grooving to up here in Minnesota, and now I’m hoping things have calmed down enough that I can start making some more mixes. Well, until it gets crazy again.


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