Wednesday, January 14, 2009
The Hump Day Shuffle: 1988
1. Lucinda Williams - Passionate Kisses - Lucinda Williams
The Mary Chapin Carpenter cover version won Williams her first Grammy, but the original version is far superior. Still, it's as close to the glossy Nashville pop-country sound as Williams ever really got, and for that it sounds a bit out of place with the rest of her catalog. Just on that same album, the songs before and after "Passionate Kisses" - "Changed the Locks" and "Am I Too Blue" - sound much more "Lucinda" to me.
2. Tom Waits - Yesterday Is Here - Big Time
Originally from Frank's Wild Years, this live version is pure theatrical Waits. Coincidentally, I think this is the only Tom Waits song ever covered by both Cat Power and Scarlett Johansson.
3. Arlo Guthrie - East Texas Red - Folkways: A Vision Shared - A Tribute to Woody Guthrie & Leadbelly
This is a pretty sweet tribute album, with an interesting spin of combining Woody and Leadbelly songs. Aside from Arlo, it has contributions from Dylan, Springsteen, Willie Nelson, U2, Taj Mahal and Little Richard with Fishbone. This was the first time I've ever come across "East Texas Red" and from all I could find, I doubt Woody ever recorded it, since it was apparently written in 1963. And the only other person I've ever found to have recorded it is Tom Russell.
4. Camper Van Beethoven - Tania - Our Beloved Revolutionary Sweetheart
Strange gypsy undertones on this tune, which I hadn't heard until shuffle brought it my way. I picked up this album after really liking Telephone Free Landslide Victory, but it's been in the to-listen stack since. The All Music Guide offers up this fascinating tidbit: the song is a sarcastic "love letter" to Patty Hearst, who took the name Tania after her capture.
5. NWA - 8 Ball - Straight Outta Compton
Eazy-E was a legend - all attitude when that was rap's leading currency - and it's clear on this track why. He was the first to perfect the combination of swagger and gangsta legitimacy and turn his street life into rhymes that stopped people dead in their tracks.
6. Dead Milkmen - Punk Rock Girl - Beelzebubba
I can't get enough of this song lately. It's catchy as all hell, funny and manages to marry an accordion into the punk rock family. Hands down the song of the week.
7. Cowboy Junkies - Sweet Jane - The Trinity Session
Slowed-down and spooky, this cover of the Velvet Underground classic got new life on the Natural Born Killers Soundtrack. As mesmerizing as music ever gets.
8. Soul Asylum - Jack of All Trades - Hang Time
Actually a very well regarded band when they were punk, Soul Asylum had become well watered down by the time I heard them, with the MTV hit "Runaway Train." This is much better, but I'm thinking that Soul Asylum is a band you had to catch the first time around. They are neither the first, last, or most notable band to ever be ruined by a major record label, but there's no doubt that even Soul Asylum's early stuff is tainted by that ultimate fate.
9. River Roses - Good Folks Gone Away - Each And All
This long-dead Tucson band took a bit from R.E.M., a bit from the Beatles and a lot from the desert. The songs are way too good for this band to be remembered as little more than a footnote in an out-of-the-way local scene.
10. Sonic Youth - Candle - Daydream Nation
I'm still in the early phase of my Sonic Youth listening, having been alternately attracted and repelled by the alternating melodic and pure noise switches at the core of the band. I can't deny they're legendary for a reason, but neither will I ever stop wondering what a pure guitar pop album from Sonic Youth would sound like. The non-existent wimpy sell-out album, I'm sure, would end up as my favorite Sonic Youth record.
Camper Van Beethoven - Tania
Cowboy Junkies - Sweet Jane
River Roses - Good Folks Gone Away