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.
Songs named after places are common, but great ones are standards, i.e. "I Left My Heart in San Francisco," "Moonlight in Vermont," etc. As usual we have a little bit of everything here in the first edition of this concept. I think each track is a contender regardless of title but the common thread is like listening to an atlas. A hip atlas. So take your January vacation while sitting in a chair at work or home and ALL bags are free, natch, and all music is first class. Part 2 will be here in a few months so we don’t wear this concept out.
1. "I Left My Heart in San Francisco" — Bobby Womack (2:02)
Tony Bennett would LOVE this because it doesn’t impinge on his personal territory. This is Womack’s turf and he kinows every nook and cranny. His rhythm guitar playing is as good as it gets (ask Keith Richard) and his vocal is unexpected yet amazing. A rarely heard masterpiece.
2. "Moonlight in Vermont" (1957 version) — Billie Holiday (3:45)
The original Joplin/Winehouse shows you where everybody studied. With Barney Kessell on guitar, Jimmy Rowles on piano, and the great Ben Webster taking a benny good solo, Lady Day is in great company. I can never get enough of that voice, however...
3. "Chicago, City of Shoulders" — Andy Davis (3:24)
I know I used this in one of my earliest columns, but it just fits so well here and it is one of my all time faves for its originality. This guy has got the goods, but his presence in the marketplace has been very limitted. This is the real deal. The squeaky acoustic guitar is off-putting, but all the other accomplishments make up for it. I promise to never use it again, so file it somewhere if you like it as much as I do.
4. "Tennessee Blues" — Tracy Nelson (3:18)
Originally from Wisconsin, Tracy was one of the pioneers of the San Francisco sound with her band Mother Earth and was one of the first non-Southerners to make Nashville her home in the ‘70s. She’s still living there. For me, she is the Sarah Vaughn of the blues. She has an amazing expressive voice and makes note choices that no other singer would dare. I want her to outlive me so she can sing “Down So Low” at my funeral. Whatta woman!
5. "Gonna Send You Back to Georgia" — Timmie Shaw (2:22)
This was a single in the early ‘60s that came out in the US on the Scepter label, home to Chuck Jackson, Maxine Brown, The Kingsmen, and Dionne Warwick. I don’t believe there was ever a Timmie Shaw album on Scepter, but many musicians fed on this single. The Animals changed Georgia to Walker and cut it in 1964. I always liked the original version myself. It sounds like great studio guitarist Jimmy Spruill havin’ a go here as well. A classic obscure single with great lyrics.
6. "Vienna" — Ultravox feat. Midge Ure (4:23)
If “Like A Rolling Stone” is one of the foundations of folk/rock music, then this track is one of the first evidences of electronica back in the '80s. With an amazing vocal by Midge Ure (who wrote it), I still have no idea what this song is about, but I never get tired of listening to it. I am including a YouTube video of a live version so you can see how far ahead this band was in its day. Also far more artistic than the “fun-fun-fun of the auto-bahn,” doncha think?
7. "Hackensack" — Fountains of Wayne (2:41)
Without FOW, this New Jersey city would have had no chance of being the title of a song. For that reason, I include it as well as my love for lyrics like “I saw you talkin’ to Christopher Walken...” These guys write, play, and sing great with an always intellectual comedic edge.
8. "Lost in Germany" — KingsX (3:53)
These heavy rockers always go an extremely melodic way, probably inspired by The Moptops of yesteryear. Here they chronicle a particularly annoying touring incident without REALLY letting us know exactly wot happened in Germany. I don’t think it was pleasant being their bus driver during this tour. But they do have a driving thang goin’ on with great guitar and bass figures. Very influential band in its time.
9. "Lake Charles" — Lucinda Williams (3:29)
When I lived in Nashville, prior to Lucinda’s gravelly breakout from there, I would marvel watching her sit in bars and successfully out-drink every male musician who dared to sit at her table. I quit drinking years ago because of ulcers at 19, so I quite enjoyed watching her win every single imbibing contest and was dutifully impressed. When her ‘overnight’ success began, I quite enjoyed listening to her as well and watched her quit the bar escapades and take her career seriously. This is one of my favorites from her now-voluminous catalogue — a tribute to a probably departed player who loved Lake Charles, LA.
10. "Postcard from Holland" — Adrian Belew (1:21)
Clever fellow he is. There is one other ‘postcard’ song and that is ‘from the Moon’; I’ll stick with Holland and I am sure this was probably a real postcard he sent his wife from the road. It’s quite short, but so are postcards. My postcard says: See ya next week!