You are now reading The Books
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. "Yesterday's Paper" — The Week That Was (4:08)
A spin-off band of the English group Field Music. Here they give a crash course on the history of prog rock with tips of the hat to Peter Gabriel and XTC. Very impressive in a field that’s tough to shine in. Should inspire modern bands tampering with this sort of thing. Daunting, at the least. If you’re so inclined, there’s a seven minute-plus version out there.
2. "Can't Get You Out of My Mind" — Sonya Kitchell (4:09)
Although she doesn’t sound a thing like Janis Joplin, Sonya shares the exact same expressiveness that Janis had. Her purer voice makes the difference; it doesn’t seem to be tempered with alcohol, smokes, and drugs the way Ms. Joplin’s obviously was. The dynamics in this track are beautiful - the band is sympathetic to her every word. This would be great late night, perfect lights are low background music. Try it. Doesn’t even matter if you’re alone. (Maybe it’s even better.)
3. "Cello Song" — The Books feat. Jose Gonzalez (3:54)
The Books, an American duo, are kinda like an electronica Steely Dan. Here they collaborate with a Swedish folkie on a Nick Drake cover that was recorded specifically for a charity album supporting HIV awareness. A pleasant listen, well mixed and artfully performed for a good cause.
I remember sometime in the '70's, I was on West 8th Street in New York having my hair cut and this came on the radio. I made the guy stop cutting my hair til it was over. It’s an amazing version of Elvis’s old hit and Billy is playing dual pianos on this which are great in the breakdowns. Always one of my favorites and haven’t heard a better track at the barber's since (although that’s a left-headed compliment.)
5. "Show Your Hand" — Average White Band (4:22)
This is from the dawn of a career - a track from their first album before they signed to Atlantic. You can tell they had done all their homework immediately - classic grooves and standout drumming before the original drummer overdosed and died at a Hollywood party. I’m surprised no one has covered this in all this time. Hint, hint...
6. "Naked" — The Trews (4:00)
This huge semi-metal band from Canada has come knocking on America’s ears so far to no avail. Better than most at what they do, here they tackle a Tracy Bonham composition with astute production by Jack Douglas, who didn’t hurt John Lennon’s last recordings. I reckon it’s just a matter of time; perhaps opening for a similar US band in arena tours would start the neccesary viral ball rolling.
7. "Nothing Else" — Dave Barnes (4:22)
About as pop as I will go. I was moved by the singing and the chord changes actually, but got into it up to my chin after a few more listens. Since this release, Barnes has picked up a large following and has two more albums out and a few duet singles with females. He could go far if he doesn’t get any poppier than this. I’m rootin’ for ya, Dave.
8. "Beautiful Freak" — Phil Roy (2:44)
There’s something perverted about the way he plaintively yearns for his "beautiful freak." Not that it’s a bad thing - think of Sookie on True Blood. Now she’s got her own song. A standout singer/songwriter from the Philadelphia area, Roy claims to be a good cook as well. Has dinner shows at his home. He better watch out some beautiful freak doesn’t do him in as a just dessert.
9. "The Death of Me" — Tony Lucca (2:55)
Meat and potato perfection. Great song, great singer, small trio, and perfect hands-off production - just the former things displayed for all to hear clearly. I love down-to-earth things like this. Shoulda been a hit. Keep your ears on Tony.
10. "Carved in Stone" — The Subdudes (3:15)
It would be an honor for anyone to have this track played at their funeral. A touching lyric and gentle vocal reading. Now this is sensitivity - nice and easy - like one would have liked to have lived one’s life.
Amen, children, see ya next week ... by the grace of God...