Three weeks in and I am still impressed with my Discover Weekly playlist on Spotify. Each week has expanded upon the previous, delving deeper into my musical history and digging up even more unique artists and forgotten favorites. This week is another compelling mix of old, new, hits, misses and never-weres. While previous weeks had a certain flow from popular to obscure or grouped songs together loosely along decades or genres, this week leapfrogs around with delightful unpredictability. The only theme seems to be an overwhelming number of songs form 1967. While a few segues are jarring and there are a few clunkers, this week might be the best yet.
Opening the set is “Multi-Family Garage Sale (Bargain-Bin Mix)” from the wonderful and almost forgotten Land of the Loops. This was in heavy rotation on my Sony DiscMan way back when. What a joy to hear the cut-and-paste magic of this track from 1996’s Bundle of Joy.
Jumping back almost 30 years we get Neil Young’s stellar Buffalo Springfield Again opener “Mr. Soul,” a classic song from a classic album. So much talent (and ego) crammed into one group. It’s no wonder they imploded.
Then we get what might be the biggest clunker from three weeks of curated music. Daniel Lanois is a brilliant producer, but “The Maker” from 2008’s Acadie is a perfect example of music for people who don’t like music, but don’t want anyone to know.
However, we get right back on track with Uncle Acid & The Deadbeats with the dark garage stomp of “I’ll Cut You Down” from 2011’s Blood Lust. Never heard ’em before, but sign me up for more.
From Animal Collective’s 2004 album, Sung Tongs, it’s “Leaf House,” the mesmerising opening track. They got better with later releases, but this track shows their early promise and brilliance.
Hard to believe it’s been almost 30 years since we first heard The Pixies, but ‘Caribou” from their debut, Come On Pilgrim, is still a gripping introduction to one of the finest bands of their time.
While their brand new release is promising, Wilco seemed to lose the plot a long way back, but “Handshake Drugs” from 2004’s A Ghost is Born is one of my favorites from Tweedy and company.
Wow! Finally a little bit of classic 70s instrumental soul funk with Billy Preston and “Outa Space.” Spotify delivered on my wish for a broader, more diverse selection. Baby steps, people, baby steps.
I missed out on most of Van Morrison’s 80s output and when I hear songs from that era I am amazed at how damn good he has remained for a half century. “Cleaning WIndows” from 1982’s Beautiful Visions is a keeper.
It’s easy to remember The Lovin’ Spoonful as a mid-sixties hit factory that churned out a handful of Top 40 songs, but “Darling Be Home Soon” is largely forgotten. This lush production with strings, horns and a delicate John Sebastian vocal was featured on the soundtrack to Francis Ford Coppola’s You’re A Big Boy Now in 1966.
Parquet Courts made their name with Pavement influenced rock, but they are much more than imitators. “Uncast Shadow of a Southern Myth” from 2014’s Content Nausea is a slow burner until the final cathartic explosion of screaming and guitars. The epic 30 second fadeout is a great touch.
Now we are on a roll. The Brian Jonestown Massacre delivers with “Straight Up and Down.” (If you haven’t seen Dig!, the documentary following the parallel careers of TBJM and The Dandy Warhols, stop what you’re doing, seriously.) Anton Newcombe’s musical trainwreck delivers on every album and this song from 1996 is genius. There is an even better 11 minute version out there kicking around as well.
Jim James, the beautiful voice from My Morning Jacket, offers up “Know ‘Til Now,” the lead single from his 2013 solo album. Channeling an old sixties soul vibe, he veers far away from the roots rock of his band.
Then we segue perfectly into the classic white boy soul rave-up “I’m a Man’ from Steve Winwood and The Spencer Davis Group. Hard to believe Winwood was still a teenager when he tracked this 1967 masterpiece.
The Strawberry Alarm Clock’s “Incense and Peppermints” is frozen in the acid-laced amber of 1967. What started as a B-side became their defining legacy. It’s a one hit wonder that captures the hippy zeitgeist at its absolutely goofiest.
“I Looked Away” leads off the classic Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs from Derek and the Dominos. 45 years on this 1970 album stills kills it with great songs by arguably one of the finest bands ever assembled.
Arthur Russell, who defies easy definition and leaped from style to style gives us the quietly beautiful “Close My Eyes’ from 2008’s posthumous compilation of unreleased material, Love is Overtaking Me. Folk, classical, disco, jazz, Mr. Russell could do it all.
“Ride Me High” is a delightful, understated 1976 cut from JJ Cale’s 4th album, “Troubador.” Drawing on blues, rockabilly and a bit of country, Cale makes every track sound easy, but under the hood his songs are wildly inventive.
Devo could do no wrong for their first four albums and their commercial peak was 1980’s Freedom of Choice. “Girl U Want” treads the fine line between their early herky-jerky guitar driven songs with their increasing use of synthesizers.
Smith is a band I knew from the inner sleeves of old ABC/Dunhill LPs, but I never knew their 1969 Top 10 cover of Burt Bacharach’s, “Baby It’s You from the A Band Called Smith album. This one’s a scorcher with a kick ass lead vocal from Gayle McCormick.
“Itchycoo Park” from 1967 is one of the biggest Small Faces’ hits with the unforgettable psychedelic guitar flanging. This was a blockbuster single in the UK and the lead cut off their second album, There Are But Four Small Faces, in the US.
From 1967’s Surrealistic Pillow by The Jefferson Airplane, the acoustic “Embryonic Journey” is a showcase of guitarist Jorma Kaukonen’s talents and a single listen is all you need to confirm his status as one of the great players of the late 60s and beyond.
Galaxie 500 only released 3 studio albums but their legacy and influence have endured since their 1991 breakup. “Strange” from 1989’s On FIre captures their essence perfectly with Dean Wareham’s fractured, vulnerable lead vocals and the band’s dreamy guitar pop. Wonderful.
Slint largely devised the template for post-rock over the course of two albums. All rising guitar tension and no catharsis, “Good Morning Captain” is the masterful closing track from 1991’s Spiderland (and showed up a few years later on the soundtrack to Kids).
From the first notes of fuzzed out guitar The Count Five’s (yes, they wore Dracula capes on stage) “Psychotic Reaction” is one of the great garage classics from 1966.
The Damned’s “Neat Neat Neat,” is their second single and the opening track on debut album, Damned Damned Damned. From Barney Bubbles’ (RIP) cover art to the 12 songs within, you can’t do better than this classic example of 1977 British punk.
Cass McCombs’ songs always take repeated listens for the music to take hold and carry the listener away. 2007’s “That’s That” from Dropping the Writ is no exception. Each listen draws you in and slowly reveals its quiet magic.
Then, we’ve got Supertramp’s “Bloody Well Right” from 1974’s Crime of the Century. This was likely the first song many heard from this oft-maligned band. I might not have included it on the playlist, but the list will completely change by Monday. Onward!
The penultimate song is The Jam’s “That’s Entertainment,” one of the most powerful moments from a band that delivered dozens of powerful moments across five years and six albums. Ending side one of 1980’s Sound Affects, the song counters a bright acoustic attack with an ironic look at the difficult lives of the British working class.
Closing out the set is Widespread Panic’s cover of JJ Cale’s “Travelin’ Light.” I prefer the original and the whole laid back jam band vibe doesn’t really cut it. However, if I hadn’t seen the band name first, it might have been different. Widespread Panic caused me to, um, panic.