Just One Song, Part 5
The winner of the Just One Song Part 4 contest is....Larry Epke! As a prize for sharing his opinions on this blog, he will receive, by U.S. Postal Service, a specially recorded compilation CD.
This time around, for part five, I'm going to pick artists who have a very large body of work from which to select. It's going to be a little torturous for me to choose just one song by these artists, but maybe that's the point.
Here are our four artists for Just One Song, Part 5:
*Elvis Costello, with or without the Attractions
*The Supremes, with or without Diana Ross
So before we recess so that you can consider your votes, I'll give you my choices for "just one song," at least the just one song I'd choose today, at this hour, on this computer.
Elvis Costello & the Attractions: There are so many possibilities here, but I'm going to go with I feel is the single most astonishing song Costello ever did: "Beyond Belief."
The leadoff track on 1982's Imperial Bedroom has a sonic universe entirely its own; a dramatic, foreboding lyric; a riveting, unwinding melodic progression that never repeats; and a spectacular performance by both singer and backing musicians. Pete Thomas' drumming, in particular, is amazing...It apparently came on a first magical take after a long night out.
The track doesn't sound like anything Elvis ever recorded, and in fact doesn't sound like anything anyone has ever recorded.
For those of you who don't know it, here it is.
Picking a song by the Supremes is really an interesting exercise. Like other Motown acts in the 1960s, many of their album tracks were simply covers of other Motown artists' hits. But there are occasional great Supremes songs that aren't often heard. "He's All I Got," the b-side to 1966's "Love is Like an Itching in My Heart," is superb, a bright shiny melody, interesting backing, and excellent trio performance.
But I'll go with "You Keep Me Hangin' On," a rapid-fire bolt of lightning also from 1966. Its unique Morse Code-like guitar intro sets an immediate sense of danger and impending terror, and the rushed, almost breathless pace and amazing on-the-one beat lend an emotional impact to the song. The Supremes themselves are also outstanding on this record.
Moving on to The Who...it's almost like they were a different band every album, so picking their best song could be seen as a referendum on which iteration of the Who one likes the best.
But although my favorite album of the band's is Sell Out, my favorite Who joint is "Bargain," from Who's Next. Roger Daltrey is a star here, and the band is hot, mastering both the heavy and quiet sections; Townshend's vocal on the bridge is one of his best ever. There's a lot of competition for the best Who song, and some other faves would include "Out in the Street," "Run Run Run," "The Kids are Alright," "Sunrise," "Summertime Blues," and "Glow Girl."
It's not quite so hard for me to pick a favorite James Brown song. While "Sexy Sexy Sexy," "Hot Pants," and "Cold Sweat" are great, the one I like the best, by a good margin, is "Licking Stick--Licking Stick" from 1968. There's something about his interaction with Maceo Parker that just shines, and the beat is fearsome. My friends Carlos and Andie had it played at their wedding, and that's good enough for me.
So...looking forward to hearing your opinions! Peace. In a couple weeks, I'll select a lucky winner from all the responses.