New Music for Old People: Big Star, Ryan Adams, Allen Stone, and More

By , Columnist

Nickel Creek

This column is like the title says - its intention is to fill the gap for those of us who were satiated musically in the '60s and then searched desperately as we aged for music we could relate to and get the same buzz from nowadaze. iTunes was the answer for me in 2003 and I have been following the new releases every Tuesday ever since I realized there was an endless stream of music I could enjoy there.

I also include older items that I felt were obscure originally and might not have been heard back then. The reason I am writing this column is to make sure others don't miss this wonderful music. These are not top ten items; but they SHOULD'VE been!

Below is a jukebox containing all the songs I picked this week. After you read about them below, go back and listen to whatever you like by just clicking on that title in the jukebox, or stream the whole playlist by clicking on the "play" icon at the top. It's free and it's the entire song. We're not selling anything. We're just in the business of hopefully making your days better by listening to great music.

TMR1125 by Lisa on Grooveshark

1. "When My Baby's Beside Me" — Big Star (2:48)

Obviously influenced by Buffalo Springfield, Moby Grape, and maybe The Yardbirds, this is a perfect track for its time (early '70s). It’s always been a mystery why this band didn’t have top ten singles with its healthy yield of power pop from their first two albums, including this gem from the album #1 Record, which wasn’t. In later years, they did get the recognition they deserved but there is only one original member left alive today. If only today’s bands could sound as authentic as this.

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2. "I Love You But I Don't Know What to Say" — Ryan Adams (3:41)

From his latest, just released, alleged new-style album, Ryan takes a lovely step forward with this track. Reminiscent of Adele’s version of Dylan’s "Make You Feel My Love" mood-wise, the singer is totally exposed with bare backing and the song is king, which is rare nowadays. This is the track that stuck out to me and I think it’s a great direction for Adams. Whadda YOU think?

3. "Contact High" — Allen Stone (2:36)

Add another name to the growing list of blue-eyed soul singers appearing out of nowhere with creditable albums and voices. Stone is from Washington state and the son of a pastor. Along with Mayer Hawthorne, you would never guess the voice that comes out of the person by just their physical appearance - check out what happens after the organ solo (4:00) in this video from his parents' living room!

A 24-year-old force to be reckoned with!

4. "Somebody More Like You" — Nickel Creek (2:24)

Chris Thile is a unique singer-songwriter-instrumentalist. He fears no chord changes or subject matters in his compositions. This breakup song is pretty vicious lyrically but there is an underlying attempt to be civil that admittedly fails. The harmonies are fabulous as they always are in their discography and this group is sorely missed after their 2007 possibly temporary breakup.

5. "Shine Through It" — Terrence Howard (2:58)

This is an interesting follow-up to the latter song as there are opposite similarities that sound like they heard each other's songs, but I seriously doubt that — a cowinkydink I’m sure. This is more of a classic R&B track from the singer better known for his thespian activities. After intense research I couldn't find ANYTHING out about Terrence the singer so I am assuming they are one and the same person. Good for him — this is a highly listenable track.

6. "Alive" — Daniel Lemma (3:03)

Here’s another blue-eyed soul singer, this time from Sweden. Allegedly he is singing in English. This is what the first four lines sound like to me:

Well the time is right but the mike do say
Your wife is properly clean
I’m oh so bright I could eat all night
Shines on me my friend...

Reminds me of this captioned video of Joe Cocker at Woodstock:

Otherwise, I love this track.

7. "Hearsay" — The Soul Children (3:11)

Here’s some SERIOUS brown-eyed soul I have always loved from the ‘70s. The words are much easier to understand than the above Daniel. Sounds like Booker T & The MGs providing the backup on this Stax Volt/Memphis oldie but goodie.

8. "Temporarily Forever Mine" — Paul Thorn (3:00)

The more I hear Paul Thorn, the more I realize what a true American treasure he is as a singer-songwriter. Born and still living in Tupelo, MS, he has sort of a Randy Newman southern sound rendition on this wonderful lyric about an old girlfriend. I wish I could write lyrics as fresh and thought-provoking as this as well as many of his other songs. If you share my feelings, tell your friends to tell their friends. He is worth seeking out and a really humorous live performer as well. Tell him Al sent ya...

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9. "Tricycle" — Flim & The BB’s (4:20)

Back in the old days, music had this sound called dynamics. That’s where there were really soft parts and really loud parts all in the same song. This catchy instrumental track was one of the first recorded on digital audio when CDs first came out in 1982. A pioneer digital producer, Tom Jung had a label specifically for CDs recorded digitally. No overdubs — just play it and put it out. The label was called DMP — Digital Music Products. Flim is Jimmy Johnson, bassist extraordinaire, now James Taylor’s music director. Billy Barber plays keyboards and Bill Berg plays drums. I guess that makes them the BB’s. They all wrote the song and the first time I heard it was the mid-'80s as a demo for high-end speakers in an audio store. I went from the audio store to Tower Records and bought the CD. I still listen to it. It is dexterous playing by all... and Lord, those dynamics!

10. "I've Had Enough" — New York City (3:17)

Thom Bell was probably the black Burt Bacharach. He wrote, arranged, and produced memorable tracks by The Spinners, Delfonics, Elton John, Stylistics, etc. Lotsa hits! This group evaded stardom but their albums were as good as any of the other acts I mentioned. A singing group from Harlem, with an amazing lead singer, they got great use of Thom Bell — his songs, arranging, production, and mixing. Here’s another great example of their collaborations usually rarely heard. And what a great title for the last song on Thanksgiving weekend!

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Legendary musician (Bob Dylan, Blues Project, Super Session, Blood Sweat & Tears), producer (Lynyrd Skynyrd, Nils Lofgren, The Tubes) and author (Backstage Passes & Backstabbing Bastards), Al is happy to join the staff of The Morton Report in an effort to help his fellow listeners stay in tune!

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