Well, hot damn! Did Spotify get it right or what? Week 9 nails it on so many fronts. It’s got great tunes almost across the board, plenty of variety and both old and new stuff I have never heard. There are five classic funk and soul tracks from the seventies, four great bands that are new to me, some loopy French pop and wild orchestral psychedelic folk from Korea. Let’s call this week the Goldilocks Playlist. It is just right.
Let’s get right to it.
The list kicks off huge with Brigitte Bardot and Serge Gainsbourg in one of the greatest French pop duets, “Bonnie and Clyde” from 1968. Heavy guitars, crazy hiccuping backup vocals and the simmering vocal interplay between the two leads highlight this gem. The lyrics are based on a poem written by Bonnie Parker weeks before she and Clyde Barrow were gunned down.
Former indie rocker (Six Finger Satellite) John MacLean began dabbling in electronic music and joined former bandmate James Murphy on DFA records and began releasing records as The Juan MacLean. “Running Back to You comes from his 2014 release In a Dream. The slow electronic boogie features Nancy Whang on lead vocals.
New Jersey’s Family Portrait hail from the same circle as Real Estate, Beach Fossils and others. They trade in the same lo-fi garage pop and “Otherside” is a swell track from their 2011 eponymous debut.
Are there any bad Buzzcocks songs? At least not on their original 70s/80s records. The Buzzcocks delivered that manic pop thrill with just about every tune. “Everybody’s Happy Nowadays” was their first single of 1979 and you can find it on the bulletproof Singles Going Steady compilation.
The first Steely Dan album, 1972’s Can’t Buy a Thrill, is a minor masterpiece from a band that was just getting started. Lead singer Donald Fagen had stage fright and the band enlisted David Palmer to handle live performances. Palmer would be gone shortly after they recorded the album, but he left us the incredible “Dirty Work,” his only released studio performance.
Patto’s “The Man” showed up in an earlier Discover Weekly. This slow blues burner comes from the band’s debut album. Perhaps the most notable thing about Patto is drummer John Halsey showed up as Barry Womble in Neal Innes’ Beatles parody The Rutles.
The Moby Grape made one brilliant album in 1967 and were heralded as the next big thing. Superstardom proved elusive but they hung around for four more albums before calling it quits. Their third album, Moby Grape ’69, features a few standout tracks including the country rock crawler “I Am Not Willing.”
Since we’re talking country rock let’s turn to the band that arguably started it all. The Flying Burrito Brothers. Their 1969 debut, The Gilded Palace of Sin, went all in on country rock, from the Nudie suits on the cover to the killer tunes on both sides. “Christine’s Tune (Devil in Disguise)” is a scorcher that leads off side one.
Black Sabbath was known for their bone-crushing proto-metal and 1970s Paranoid was one ot their heaviest and loudest record. “Planet Caravan” was the one ultra-mellow exception with Ozzy’s processed vocals oozing out over producer Tom Allom’s piano and Tony Iommi’s jazzy guitar riffs.
Philly Soul pioneers Gamble and Huff first big hit was The Soul Survivors’ infectious 1967 smash, “Expressway to Your Heart.” Knowing they were on to a good thing, the band stuck with the formula and followed up with lesser hit, “Explosion in Your Soul.”
Let us now praise Curtis Mayfield! Superfly is one of the finest soundtracks ever, plus it stands on its own as a classic album. Here we’ve got the title track in all its funky blaxploitation glory. It was Mayfield’s third studio album and it outgrossed the 1972 film. If you’ve never heard it, listen now!
One man band Abner Jay billed himself as “last working Southern black minstrel.” He traveled the South in a mobile home playing wherever folks would listen. “I’m So Depressed” comes from a posthumous collection and opens with some off-color jokes before he breaks into his wild outsider folk blues.
1972 found Stevie Wonder at the peak of his musical powers and Talking Book was a tour de force across the board. “Maybe Your Baby” is a slow churning funk workout defined by Stevie’s bubbling moog bass and Ray Parker Jr.’s (Ghostbusters) stinging guitar leads. Hot!
“Home” is the closing track from the third and final LCD Soundsystem album, 2010’s This Is Happening. The slowly percolating and lyrically introspective track is a great way for James Murphy to say goodbye.
Fly Golden Eagle’s “Tangible Intangible” from their second album, the double deluxe 26 track Quartz, is all slinky psychedelic with high lonesome vocals. These guys are from Nashville and brand new to me. They’ve got my attention and I want to hear more.
Courtney Barnett broke big in the wake of “Avant Gardener” and even bigger with this year’s Sometimes I Sit And Think, Sometimes I Just Sit. “History Eraser” comes from last year’s The Double EP: A Sea Of Split Peas. Not only does it name check The Triffids, it captures everything that makes her great, from her sprawling stories to her shambling folk-rock and her wonderful singing drawl.
Drummer Buddy Miles played with Hendrix on Band of Gypsys, was a founding member of The Electric Flag and had a solid solo career. His 1970 album, Them Changes, had a hit with the title cut, but also featured a stellar funky jazzy version of Neil Young’s “Down By the River.” Yes!
The Moody Blues seem to have been erased somewhat from classic rock history, but they deserve better. They cranked out a clutch of solid, if somewhat lightweight, prog-rock albums and scored a handful of big hits. “Ride My Seesaw” is one of their harder rocking cuts from 1968’s In Search of a Lost Chord.
“Love and Mercy” was the lead single from Beach Boy Brian Wilson’s eponymous 1988 solo debut. It had been years since Brian had released music and he was warmly welcomed back. Initially. his then round-the-clock therapist was credited as songwriter, but that has been removed on reissues. The song is classic Brian WIlson with gorgeous harmonies in spiritual cry for love and mercy.
Shin Joong Hyun was a South Korean musician and producer who found a college student, Kim Jung Mi, in 1973 and transformed her into a psychedelic folk singer. “Haenim” from her stunning debut LP Now is a lush orchestral dreamscape with her delicate vocals leading the way. Wow!
“96 Tears” is a true one hit wonder. You’ve heard the farfisa organ driving one of the catchiest garage rock singles of the mid-sixties. ? and the Mysterians burst onto the scene in 1966 and went straight to the top. There was nowhere to go but down and they never achieved similar success. That one song cemented their place in rock’n’roll history.
“Night Drive” is this week’s earworm. I want to hear it on repeat. Released in 2013 on PDA, the second album from Part Time, it is a wonderful New Order/M83 knock off that is captures the essence of both of those bands and stands on its own. Love it!
The seductive jazzy funk of The Lafayette Afro Rock Band has been sampled countless times. Nothing quite like going straight to the source and hearing “Darkest Light” from 1975. They never got the recognition they deserved, so check out the 1999 compilation Darkest Light – THe Best of the Lafayette Afro Rock Band. Superb!
The Talking Heads reached their pinnacle with 1980’s Brian Eno produced Remain In Light. Their jittery new wave combined with funk and layers of percussion made for a paranoid, polyrhythmic masterpiece. “Born Under Punches (The Heat Goes On)” opens the album superbly with David Byrne’s ranting and preaching vocals.
The Slits 1979 cover of the Whitfield/Strong classic, “I Heard It Through The Grapevine,” only gets better as the years pass. Ari Up’s incredible vocals and Viv Albertine’s skeletal guitar are anchored by Budgie’s drums. Dennis Bovell produced. So so good!
Garland Jeffreys was poised to be the next big thing in 1977. His album Ghost Writer got huge buzz, “Wild in the Streets” was a tough catchy single of teen anger, and then…..crickets. It’s a shame because the song is a classic and the album is just as good.
ESG is short for emerald, sapphire, and gold. They played minimalist funk with only drums, bass and vocals. “You’re No Good” is the lead song from their 1981 self-titled debut EP. Highly recommended.
What a great playlist! It started with the crazy Brigitte Bardot/Serge Gainsbourg duet and ended with the slamming ESG track. Plus there were two brilliant covers from The Slits and Buddy Miles. My only quibble, there were THREE repeats. Leonard Cohen, Thirteenth Floor Elevators and Patto. Spotify, I promise you won’t run out of songs. The only problem is now that everything is just right the three bears will come home.
I debated a couple of months ago about who would would win my monthly subscription fee, Spotify or Apple Music. Just a couple of days ago, i cancelled my subscription to Apple Music. Spotify has been winning my heart just a little more every week.
As always I wonder what Monday morning has in store.