New Music for Old People: Jermaine Jackson, Neil Young, Toni Childs, and More

By , Columnist

Recording artists t.A.T.u.

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.

1. "Let’s Get Serious" - Jermaine Jackson (4:22)

Chronologically after "Superstition," Stevie Wonder wrote this gem and gave it away (as he almost did "Superstition" with Beck, Bogert & Appice before coming to his senses and releasing his version before theirs came out). In this case he gave the track to Jermaine Jackson and merely took his voice off and replaced it with Jermaine’s. What he did do was lose a tremendous follow-up to "Superstition," as Jermaine’s version barely penetrated the pop charts and I’m guessing there’s barely a reader here who’s even heard it. That’s what I’m here for - check this out and NOW you can make it your follow-up to "Superstition," unfortunately, decades later. Better really late than NEVER, however... Hey, maybe Steveland will start playing it live!

2. "Strange Foreign Beauty" - Michael Learns to Rock (4:37)

For my taste, this English-speaking Danish group, formed in 1988, chose one of the lamest group names I’ve ever encountered. As time passed they became known as MLTR. No matter. Over the years they have won every award in Scandinavia, India, Singapore, China, but not in America, ironically. They are actually like a cross between the Bee Gees (singer Jascha Richter remarkably brings to mind various Gibb brethren on this track fer sure) and ABBA. I like the production on this song and the vocal is eerily Bee Gee-esque. Shoulda woulda coulda ... but didn’t.

3. "All the Things She Said" - t.A.T.u. (2:44)

Two strong Russian female singers shown in the videos with their hands and lips all over each other carved a niche in the dance charts in 2002. Produced gigantically by Trevor Horn in obvious emulation of ABBA, it’s a charging aural assault; however, I think the video had a dramatic hand in the subsequent sales. If it wasn’t such an obvious dance mix, I think it would have had a longer life. Most dance mixes are easily replaced within a year, especially with the current viral and DJ attack of electronica. The Veronicas, who sound similar, will probably outlive them in history/memory.

4. "Coupe de Ville" - Neil Young (3:04)

For his return to Reprise Records in approximately 1989, Neil shape-shifted into his version of a horn-driven blues band. This caught my attention and I treasured this album (This Note’s For You) as if it was for me. This is vintage Neil Young, but with a rarely heard horn section, playing tastefully throughout. A gem.

5. "Granddaddy" - Beep Beep (2:16)

An Omaha band formed in 2001, they have survived the replacement overhauls and endured with kind of a post-punk sound. This track has great uninhibited falsetto moments in it; kinda like how brave Buddy Holly was at first with his singing hiccups and histrionics. Like this band, it never seemed forced - only sensitive. This caught my ear and remained in there for quite awhile. Only a coupla years old.

6. "Ring of Fire" - Ray Charles (3:09)

Johnny Cash’s wife-written essay of heartbreak will always remain the top version of this song. He had inside information. Ray Charles changed the arrangement. He sings the same words and somehow with his inflections and little melody ‘fixes,’ he makes this a humorous discourse on what’s between a woman’s waist and knees. When HE sings "...and it burns, burns, burns, that ring of fire" you don’t exactly see the same imagery you did when Cash sang those words. And so Ray reminds us of the importance of location... location... location. Priceless — especially the ending.

7. "I Keep Forgettin'" - Chuck Jackson (2:41)

One of the cleverest arrangements in the history of R&B. Produced and written by Leiber and Stoller and arranged by Teacho Wiltshire ("Twist & Shout"), this track was just too hip for the room when it was first released in the early '60s.There was an unfortunate incident where Michael McDonald co-wrote and released a song with more than just the same title and he was roundly sued by Leiber and Stoller, but his record ironically had some chart action. When Leiber and Stoller produced Procol Harum, the band asked to cover this song on their album Grand Hotel. Nobody mentioned here would deny that this version is still the one to play and emulate.

8. "Cathedral Song" - Tanita Tikaram (2:48)

Tanita was born in Germany in 1969 to Malysian and Indo-Fiji parents, but was raised primarily in the UK. She burst onto the scene at age 19 in 1988 with a hit single, "Twist in My Sobriety" and then, despite a maximum effort, became a one-hit woman. This was her third single and it deserved a better fate than it received. Produced by Rod Argent (Zombies), it created a cinematic mood infused by her guitar playing. Her vocal entrance could easily have been mistaken for a male, but I like things like that. And by the way, happy birthday, Tanita (August 12).

9. "Avenging Annie" - Andy Pratt (4:17)

This is a special track. Out of Boston in 1973 came Pratt’s self-titled debut Columbia LP with this lead-off single. Pratt’s piano and bass playing stand out musically and the vocal tracks just on this song (all by Pratt) took 500 hours to complete. In addition, this self-written song (based on Woody Guthrie's lyric for "Pretty Boy Floyd") is sung from the female aspect, something rarely done in pop music at the time. It became an underground classic and has endured over the years to an unfortunately comparatively small audience. I never get tired of listening to it as it is masterfully produced by Jon Nagy and the local Boston musicians play like first rate studio pros. Best on headphones, by the way.

10. "I’ve Got to Go Now" - Toni Childs (4:17)

This remarkable woman has given every inch of herself to her art and remains a viable force. With a standout, unique vocal sound and strong songwriting skills, she burst on the scene in 1988 with a hit single from her first album, Union, called "Don’t Walk Away." This track is from her second album, Houses of Hope, and lyrically deals with a husband’s (hopefully fictional) domestic and alcohol abuse. It is a strong lyric and was hopefully an inspiration to women in similar situations. As a singer and songwriter, I remain tremendously impressed with Ms. Childs, and secretly aspire to work with her before I leave the planet. However, I live in Boston and she lives in Hawaii BUT hey, I gotta go now...

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