Saturday, April 27, 2013

#659: Hits Galore!

Here's what I've been listening to lately....

Harvey Danger -- Flagpole Sitta.
Rascals -- THE VERY BEST OF: See, Carry Me Back, Glory Glory, I Ain't Gonna Eat My Heart Out Anymore, Good Lovin', You Better Run, I've Been Lonely too Long, Groovin', A Girl Like You, How Can I be Sure, A Beautiful Morning, People Got to be Free.
Kirsty MacColl -- GALORE best-of: They Don't Know, A New England, There's a Guy Works Down the Chip Shop Swears He's Elvis, He's on the Beach, Fairytale of New York (with The Pogues), Miss Otis Regrets (with The Pogues), Free World, Innocence, You Just Haven't Earned it Yet Baby, Days, Don't Come the Cowboy With Me Sonny Jim, Walking Down Madison, Titanic Days, Caroline, Perfect Day.
Bachman Turner Overdrive -- Blue Collar, Roll on Down the Highway, Hey You.

Harvey Danger's "Flagpole Sitta" is great obnoxious fun, with hilarious lyrics & great singalong choruses -- even though I didn't know what it was for years, & even though (like millions of others, apparently) I thought it was actually sung by Green Day. Great loud weekend music, & needless to say I haven't played the rest of their CD yet ... Because with a song this good, who needs the rest of the album...?
I was never a big Rascals fan back in my youth -- thought they were OK but not stunning. Then found their SEE album second-hand in the middle of nowhere in Wyoming & latched onto the title song, which I still think is their best track ever.
But when you line-up all their hits one after the other, they're pretty tough to deny. "Good Lovin'" is a frat-house-party classic, & these guys were the laid-back kings of their time ("Groovin'," "A Beautiful Morning," "I've Been Lonely Too Long," "A Girl Like You," "People Got to be Free").
About some of the rest I remain unconvinced. "How Can I be Sure" is just a touch too mushy, more fitting for Liza Minnelli or the Partridge Family. Pat Benatar(!) does a better version of "You Better Run," even though I wish there were more upbeat rockers on The Rascals' Rhino/Atlantic best-of. "Carry Me Back" is pretty great until they get to those silly lines about missing their old Kentucky home -- I thought these guys were from Long Island...?
But "See" still sounds great, with some marvelous psychedelic poetry & awesome keyboards. & these guys always had great backing vocals, keyboard & horn work, & even some rockin' harmonica!
For the hits & "See" & "Carry Me Back," well worth your time. They were always cool, but they've gained in coolness over the years -- at least for me.
Ever trip over an artist you think would be right up your alley -- but you never actually get around to hearing them? I did that with British singer-songwriter Kirsty MacColl -- knew she sang with The Pogues & wrote Tracey Ullman's sweet hit "They Don't Know" (& Tracey's cute non-hit "You Broke My Heart in 17 Places"), & I remember seeing ads for her albums KITE and ELECTRIC LANDLADY, & thought I should probably see what was up.
Then she was killed in a tragic accident off of Cozumel, Mexico in 2000 -- saving one of her sons before being hit by a boat & dying instantly.
Well, I never did look into her albums ... 'til I got a copy of her GALORE best-of in the mail last week. & I've been playing it pretty-much non-stop ever since.
It's patchy -- but the best stuff is REALLY good. You probably shouldn't listen to it in order, though, like I did. Because it opens with a kind of flat version of "They Don't Know," which doesn't take off until she hits that loud "BAY-BEE!" near the end. By then it's clear that Tracey Ullman's producer borrowed the arrangement, backing vocals & even the guitar solo from here wholesale -- & just punched them up a bit. & Tracey had the hit because her vocal was a lot more lively.
Which sort of defines the best stuff here -- the songs that work best are those where Kirsty could mouth-off a little. "There's a Guy Works Down the Chip Shop Swears He's Elvis" is a rockabilly-style classic in which Kirsty can't take anything her date says Seriously. The Pogues' "Fairytale of New York" is a hilarious Christmas song that I'm happy to see has become a holiday classic. "You Just Haven't Earned it Yet Baby" is a hilariously self-pitying cover of a song by The Smiths -- who I've never heard but now might have to look into. "He's on the Beach" is a charming, bouncy lost-love number. "Caroline" is another charming, bouncy upbeat tune -- this time narrated by The Other Woman. "Innocence" is also bouncy, upbeat, nice.
Some of the others I'm not sure about. "A New England" adds the epic chiming guitar chords from Pink Floyd's "Run Like Hell" to a fairly standard love story. "Miss Otis Regrets" is an old Cole Porter tune, & even though there's a murder in it, I couldn't get through it.
Some of the other tracks seem to me flat or slow or dated. Kirsty does a pleasant but kind of flat version of The Kinks' klassic "Days" -- which just makes me want to hear Ray Davies' original again. "Don't Come the Cowboy With Me Sunny Jim" is Cute but TOO Country, & not in a good way.
Best of all is "Free World," which comes on as a speedy throwaway at first -- then the lyrics kick in, & the guitar is pretty ferocious. At first I thought it was a kiss-off to some rich boyfriend, but Wikipedia says it was at least partly intended as a criticism of Margaret Thatcher -- & it works in the U.S., too. Kirsty's lyrics are bitter & angry -- it's freaking GREAT. & it's over with WAY too soon. It's an absolute Must Hear. I wouldn't mind an endless loop of this playing over&over in my brain, right now....
I wouldn't tell you if I didn't care....

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