15 Songs of the Month! (February 2017)

‘Neon Shuffle’ – XTC, White Music (1978) – Getting into XTC, it seems like they – early on – wanted to mix it all: Punk, new wave, even a bit of the weird and spacey. The result is infectious beyond all belief, and has an absolutely cool bridge. Not messing around on their debut album, for sure. My exposure to them was back in fall 2015 via a song called ‘I Remember the Sun’, I’m excited to hear more.

‘I’m Chief Kamanawanalea (We’re the Royal Macadamia Nuts)’ – The Turtles, The Turtles Present the Battle of the Bands (1968) – The Turtles unnoticeably were actually one of the 60s weirder acts. Members Flo and Eddie would later go on to work with none other than Frank Zappa for a brief period! 1968’s LP The Turtles Present the Battle of the Bands was a unique concept album: With each song, the band pretends they’re a different band, thus we get a smorgasbord of genres… For this tribal-sounding cling-clang with a sneaky title, they have a fun time – even if it lasts a scant minute and a half.

‘Here Comes My Baby’ – The Tremeloes, Here Come The Tremeloes (1967) – To think The Tremeloes, formerly known as Brian Poole & The Tremeloes, were what Decca Records chose over The Beatles on that legendary New Year’s Day audition… With all due respect, the Tremeloes were no slouches, as evidenced by the lively 1967 beat hit, keeping the genre going strong in an area of psychedelic whiz-bangery.

‘Nothing Natural’‘Nothing Natural’ – Lush, Spooky (1992) – Another confession… I didn’t know these folks, either. Lush they certainly are… The song is layered, and I mean LAYERED. It definitely evokes the psychedelic trickery of the 60s that I so love. It’s like they’re singing and playing through air or something!

‘Up, Up, and Away’ – The 5th Dimension, Up, Up, and Away (1967) – Soaring psychedelic soul that’s never too short, never too long. Everything about this one is perfect.

‘It’s a Beautiful Day Today’ – Moby Grape, Moby Grape ’69 (1969) – By early 1969, Moby Grape had suffered greatly… Their downfalls are legendary, and the band had lost one of its key voices before this album was fully underway – one Skip Spence. The album eschewed the psychedelia and experimentation of the previous record, and the sheer energy of their eponymous debut album. Anyways, it’s not without melodic gems like this one, which is a quintessential kick-back “everything is fine” ditty.

‘I Only Have Eyes For You’ – The Flamingos, Flamingo Serenade (1959) – A doo-wop classic for sure, delicate and slow, layered with good harmonies, I can’t get enough of its “sh-bop, sh-bop”s.

‘Vivaldi’ – Curved Air, Air Conditioning (1970) – Italian baroque on steroids and speed, Curved Air was ambitious and unique amongst the progressive rock rush of the late 60s/early 70s, employing a violinist of all things! Their prowess is on full display in this tribute to the musician of the same name.

‘Istanbul (Not Constantinople)’ – The Four Lads, 1953 single, The Four Lads’ Greatest Hits (1958) – A fun and catchy novelty tune with a nicely weird twang to it.

‘Treason’ – The Teardrop Explodes, Kilimanjaro (1980) – Yet another band that I’m completely new to… This post-60s psychedelic band apparently was pretty good-sized in England. From this track, they take advantage of the 80s production techniques and create a surreal wave, not to mention it’s very, very catchy… “it’s just a story.”

‘Rocker’ – AC/DC, T.N.T. (1975) – If you’ve ever seen the original Mad Max, you’ll recognize this one from the opening lyrics. Makes sense, for AC/DC is an Aussie band that did this song in the mid-70s, and Mad Max is an Aussie film that was made in the late 1970s. Anyways, in the film’s thrilling opening chase scene, the psychotic criminal the Night Rider yells the lyrics to this as he evades the MFP. The song itself? It’s AC/DC doing an energetic, uptempo assault on you, what more could you want?

‘She Sings Hymns Out of Tune’ – Harry Nilsson, Pandemonium Shadow Show (1967) – Harry Nilsson is pretty much the American Beatle, and he had the opportunity to work with the various Beatles. He did an album with John, contributed work to Ringo’s albums, and has all worked with Paul and George. His Beatle fanboying is all over his proper debut album, and this song definitely has shades of ‘Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)’ throughout, but with an expected circus flair.

‘Red Red Wine’ – UB40, Labour of Love (1983) – A little 80s synths with some reggae-pop. A bit lengthy, but nonetheless enthralling.

‘Sweet Painted Lady’ – Elton John, Goodbye Yellow Brick Road (1973) – Such a sprawling album with many hits, ‘Sweet Painted Lady’ was probably one of the few that slipped right through the cracks. Single or not, it’s quite lovely. One of many good examples of Elton John’s songwriting abilities.

‘You Need to Be With Me’ – Susan Tedeschi, Just Won’t Burn (1998) – A different flavor of blues, this was early Tedeschi, a few years before she married Derek Trucks. It honors the masters, and kicks ass in its own way.

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