1. "Chance" - James Maddock (3:42)
What a natural, perfect track this is. Can't for the life of me understand why this wasn't #1. It was in MY house - I'm still playing it but most of all, I walk around singing it all the time, just not as well as James Maddock (who has the best aspects of Rod Stewart and The Boss in his throat)!
2. "Make Me Over" - Keyshia Cole (3:06)
I usually don't like obvious dance tracks, but this one puts its hook in you and will not let you walk away. Besides being a natural foot-mover, this is a great listen as well although the lyric is not Shakespeare; not even Sly Stone. But you rarely can have everything...
3. "Lovin' You Is Sweeter Than Ever" - Donna Gardier (3:46)
A song that's been done well by the Four Tops AND The Band should probably be left alone. But Donna took it a bit slower than her predecessors, and ignored their trademark licks and did it just for herself and I kinda dig its honesty.
4. "Ragamuffin Girlfriend" - Chapter 11 (4:23)
This has many Al no-nos - rapping, primarily white reggae band, etc. But listening usually removes any stupid prejudices that sneak through my warning system. This is a great reggae track/band that has done their homework, hailing from Long Beach, California - not exactly Trenchtown. But forget all that baloney and have a pleasureable listen to well-crafted reggae. "An MP3 is worth a thousand words."
5. "Roses On My Grave" - Papa Roach
Now this is powerful stuff. Walking an extremely fine line between sensitivity (lyrics) and raw power (arrangement), this track sometimes evokes memories of Led Zep in their orchestra mode. Jacoby Shaddix's lead vocal is totally believable. This song is a paean to the recent death of the patriarch the band is named for. They are approaching their 20th year and with good reason.
6. "Beaut" - Brooke Waggoner (3:31)
This impressed me on a level with Joni Mitchell and Laura Nyro. If you liked Eli and the Thirteenth Confession, this will rattle your cage. This is a Nashville product but has nothing to do with country music. I would hope this makes your day musically as much as it made mine the first time I heard it. Brilliant arrangement and composition. Dig a little if you do get this - there's more...
7. "Your Blue Door" - The Honeydogs (3:20)
I heard this band for the first time a few years ago at SXSW in Austin, TX. They are a Minneapolis band that writes great songs and plays them that way as well. It's the two brother syndrome with the roles being filled by the lead singer/guitarist and the drummer. This is one of my faves by them. They make recording sound effortless.
8. "Shut Your Eyes" - Snow Patrol (3:15)
This is a comparatively famous Irish band now residing in Glasgow. They have sold millions of CDs all over the world but just in case you haven't heard this track, here I am. The chorus has the same chords as the Stone's "Satisfaction" but with more of a stutter beat as opposed to Charlie's four on the floor with Keith's prominent fuzztone. This is a refreshing sound with just a hint of the past.
9. "The River" - Toby Lightman (3:52)
This has a lovely semi-electronica instrumentation that is cleverly arranged. The one steady heart of the instrumentation is an electric piano hopefully played by Ms. Lightman. If ONLY iTunes had credits. I don't think it's too much to ask. Nice song composition, great arrangement topped off with a purrfect vocal. And that pesky piano (in a good way).
10. "Natural Woman" - Me First & The Gimme Gimmes
A sense of humor is right up there with musical abilities in this band. Their concept is to take songs that would never go that way and turn them into speed metal mosh pit masterpieces. It took me a half hour to pick one for you to hear - they are all great. These guys are the Andy Warhols of heavy metal. They are musician enough to play ANY genre; the fact that they dedicate themselves entirely to this is an art form in itself. Have fun!