Robert Downey Jr.
When I'm on the road or in deep production, sometimes I can’t get a column done on time. To prevent quality loss, I thought I’d go back to our first year (2011) and republish some of the better music that didn’t reach the readership we have now. I apologize to the original readers who are still with us, but if you’re anything like me, you won’t mind hearing great music that you probably forgot by now anyway.
1. "My Love Is Real" — Terry Radigan (3:54)
A Greg Garing song done quite well by Ms. Radigan, produced by RS Field maybe 15 years ago. You can’t tell. A great track is timeless — Elvis Presley, Ray Charles, and The Beatles taught us that. So sit back and enjoy some great record-making here.
2. "Zora" — Olu Dara (2:44)
This 70-year-old African-influenced blues jazzer was actually born Charles Jones III in Natchez, Mississippi. His son is a the noted rapper Nas, and dad has appeared playing trumpet on various recordings of his. On this track he is strictly roots with a lovely touch of hard-core Africa thrown in for good measure. This is a great recording and retains a truly live feel sadly usually eschewed by studio surroundings.
3. "Isabel" — BigBang (3:29)
I got scared when I did research on this band. Everything pointed to a Korean boy band evidently with the same name. Finally, I found the perpetrators of this great track. They are Norwegian, but I believe have relocated to Los Angeles. A sort of power trio, they can write a great song and come up with original sounding arrangements. I really like this.
4. "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 and has dinner shows at his home. He better watch out some beautiful freak doesn’t do him in as a just dessert.
5. "If You Don't Come Back" — The Drifters (2:28)
The B side of a rare Drifters' flop “Rat Race” (another great track as well), I used to cover this live back in The Blues Project days although we never did record it. I have always loved this song and the groove sounds like something Becker and Fagen also enjoyed early on. Great lyric, arrangement, and production.
6. "Mr. High & Mighty" — Gov't Mule (4:21)
Warren Haynes and I share a deep love for the departed UK band Free. When this came out a few ago, I knew exactly where Warren’s inspiration lay, and I played this nonstop for a week. One of the reasons Lynyrd Skynyrd let this Yankee produce them was our mutual love of that band, Free. This is a good start but go directly to Free’s “The Stealer” for what made us all diehard fans. Free lives on in spirit, however, in every Gov’t Mule live show.
7. "A Man Like Me" — Robert Downey Jr. (2:34)
I was sorely tempted to use a pseudonym for this artist because this is unexpectedly very, very strong; I think if he had hidden his name this would have been a huge track but in this case, fame worked against him. See if you can judge this just for what it actually is — an original composition, written and sung wonderfully by someone you never thought had a strong talent in the musical arena. I hope he remains undaunted and gives us a second album sooner than later. A first-rate track from a first-rate singer/songwriter/actor. And no — we don't know each other.
8. "Cello Song" — The Books feat. Jose Gonzales (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.
9. "Can I Get a Witness" — Edwin McCain (4:17)
This is one of those bizarre arrangements of a song commonly played the same way as the original every time... but not this time. This hefty arrangement is from an all-American lad named Edwin McCain. Keeping his band together for many years and playing many gigs annually, he has built up quite a following.
I can't put that vocal with this photo. I will have to go see him live in February, 2015 when he plays locally.
10. "The River Bayou" — The Beckies (2:50)
Michael Brown was the writing, arranging, and keyboard brains behind The Left Banke ("Walk Away Renee," "Pretty Ballerina"), Stories ("Brother Louie"), and The Beckies, who had three pretty great tracks on their only album on Sire Records in 1976. Here’s one. The lead vocal is very Left Bankey as is the song. Michael Brown was/is a genius at this kind of music. It just rolls right off his mind.