Your musical playlist is different from mine, no doubt. Like my playlist, yours is influenced by taste, by mood, by a particular artist, by some trusted review, genre and/or perhaps current fads or trends. Tell me the kind of music a person likes and I can tell you a lot about that person. I'm surprised a field of psychology hasn't developed revolving around an individual's musical profile. Music soothes the savage beast and sometimes defines the beast within as in Nick Lowe's song The Beast In Me. But the psychologists might have a harder time analyzing me through my playlist. I'm more of an album guy. Remember those? And there used to be such a thing as "concept albums", consisting of songs held together by a particular theme. American Songwriter publishes monthly contributions from readers soliciting albums to take to the grave. There are always some interesting choices there. But let's face it, most albums consisted of a few "radio friendly" tunes and the rest of the LP consisted of bland filler material. When the digital revolution came along, fans could just pay for the individual songs they desired thus dooming the album's importance. My listening habits would also confound those would be psychologists because my tendency toward word association. For example, listening to jazz pianist/singer-songwriter Mose Allison might lead me to punk rocker/big band crooner/roots musician/whatever he is now Elvis Costello singing his song Alison. But for now, currently playing…
Alabama 3 – Exile On Cold Harbor Lane(1997)
Well as far as I can tell, there are more than three band members and they're not from Alabama. They are actually from London,England and they describe their music as "sweet country acid house music". Call it what you will, it's great! And while you might not know the band, if you're a Sopranos fan, you know their music from the opening theme song – Woke Up This Morning. Cold Harbor Lane was the group's debut album and it deals with a spiritual quest as a man suffers through various temptations and addictions to booze, drugs, cults, personalities…you name it. Woke Up This Morning appears on this album in its full version performed by group mainstays Larry Love and The Reverend D Wayne Love. But perhaps the album's most brilliant song (Mao Tse Tung Says) contains snippets of a sermon from a deranged preacher backed by a rhythmic, pulsating dance track countered by a D Wayne Love rap. And just before you find yourself cheering this off the wall clergyman, you discover it's the voice of Peoples Temple cult leader Jim Jones. The song is disturbingly funny, creepy, and highly provocative. There are only a few artists that rise up to this level of emotional and intellectual import – Randy Newman, Warren Zevon, and Loudon Wainwright III come to mind. Other standout tracks exhibiting not so subtle humor include Ain't Going To Goa, and She Don't Dance To Techno Anymore. This just might be one of those albums to take to the grave…or recovery – whichever comes first.
Hall & Oates – Live At The Troubadour (2008)
This pop/rock duo that lean toward soul and R & B have been performing together for over 40 years now. They still sound as great as ever and this performance at LA's famed Troubadour club catches them in fine form. Sure they perform their obligatory hits – Sara Smile, Maneater, She's Gone, just to name a few but also sing lesser known gems like Getaway Car. But don't expect the three minute radio versions. These are extended jams and I love it. For this performance they are rejoined by the great T. Bone Wolk (he was once bandleader at SNL) who recently passed away. Daryl Hall's current project is his television show Live At Daryl's House which is probably one of the best music themed shows on television.
Glen Campbell - Ghosts On The Canvas (2011)
This album is the follow-up to Campbell's 2008 Meet Glen Campbell which marked a comeback for this popular entertainer and introduced him to a new generation of fans. It's an album I raved about at the time of its release and after several listens of Ghosts On The Canvas, I deem it just as good if not better than its predecessor. A lot of credit for these albums success has to go to producer Julian Raymond who was able to create a recording that is vital and fresh. Unfortunately while recording the album, Campbell was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease and it was announced that this would be his final studio recording. Any Trouble written by Paul Westerberg could perhaps serve as Campbell's valedictory song. And I must admit, you might get a little misty eyed when hearing it.
Ken Nordine – The Best of Word Jazz, Vol. 1 (1957)
My playlist doesn't always consist of songs. Ken Nordine was one of the great Hollywood voice over talents – commercials, movie trailers, television, and radio. But he also made a number of recordings he called "word jazz" which consisted of clever, sometimes humorous spoken word riffs on any number of off the wall subjects over jazz arrangements. He can make rummaging through the refrigerator in the middle of the night sound cool. Not many people can do that. He is clearly one of my influences. Also doing similar stuff at about the same time were the Jack Kerouac/Steve Allen combo and Lord Buckley.
Willie Nelson – Teatro (1998)
What would my playlist be without a little Willie Nelson? Teatro has to be one of Willie's darkest albums. Recorded in an old movie theater in Oxnard, California, the album evokes long drives on long stretches of desert highway perhaps in the 50's and 60's with the radio playing the most heartbreaking, loneliest songs imaginable. In fact most of these songs were written early in his career. With songs like I Never Cared For You, Darkness On The Face of the Earth, and Somebody Pick Up My Pieces you begin to sense the despair of the beleaguered singer and his sparse arrangements. The harmonies of Emmylou Harris only help to intensify Nelson's emotional frailties.
There's my playlist. Enjoy. Just don't ask me to be your D.J., I don't take requests.