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Sunday, March 22, 2009

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

*The Who

*James Brown

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.

Let's see...

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'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.


Blogger Winona said...

The bottom two were difficult to choose - more surprisingly so for James Brown.

Elvis Costello: "Veronica"
Supremes: "You Can't Hurry Love"
Who: "I Can't Explain" ("The Real Me" was in a very close second)
James Brown: "It's a Man's Man's Man's World"

5:50 AM, March 23, 2009

Anonymous Jonathan said...

Elvis Costello: cover of "Seven Day Weekend" (with Jimmy Cliff)

Supremes: "Come See About Me" (and the cover of this song by the Afghan Whigs is the greatest cover ever, imho)

The Who: "Sally Simpson" (Tommy Soundtrack version)

James Brown: (Get Up I Feel Like Being A) Sex Machine -- but only if this is a pean know...

7:57 AM, March 23, 2009

Anonymous Joyce said...

EC- "Veronica" (but really my favorite song by him is "My Brave Face"..which would explain "Veronica" being my choice, I guess)

Supremes- "Back in My Arms Again"

The Who- "My Generation"

James Brown- "Papa's Got a Brand New Bag"

10:14 AM, March 23, 2009

Anonymous Duck said...

Elvis Costello: Can I have two Who songs?? No? Then this is going to be painful. I swear I've listened to clips of most of his singles on youtube and I don't recognize any of them. I suppose (The Angels Wanna Wear My) Red Shoes is the best of what I've just heard.

The Supremes: You Can't Hurry Love. Hell, even Phil Collins couldn't ruin that.

The Who: I'll go to my grave arguing that Who's Next is one of the top five albums of all time, and as good as everything is on there, The Song Is Over is my favorite.

James Brown: Night Train! Especially his kicking live versions.

12:36 PM, March 23, 2009

Blogger Bob Purse said...

Okay - three easy ones and a hard one.

Elvis Costello: Oliver's Army is one of the best records anyone has ever made. I like a lot of Elvis' stuff, but he's never come close to matching this gorgeous melody, great vocal, and outstanding band performance (not to mention production). Few other performers or groups have matched it, either.

The Supremes: Not a fan, and my favorite Supremes record "The Happening" is the most un-supremes-like tune in their hit parade. Almost a Tin Pan Alley creation (the songwriting style, not the song-poem label), and produced as if it were being recorded by a faceless white group, but the results have always appealed to me, and always get me turning the radio up and singing along.

The Who: I just don't get it. Never have. While there are a few really good songs amongst their 20 years of material, I couldn't even fill a 40 minute album with the Who songs I want to hear again. I'll pick "Cobwebs and Strange" - I like them better as an ersatz Bonzo Dog Band than as a rock band.

James Brown: this is tougher. I wish I had a list of his songs in front of me. I think I'll go with the fairly obscure "Get Up Offa That Thing" from the mid '70's, which has always rung through my head, ever since I first heard it on a scratchy 45 in the late '80's.

Thanks 4 asking!

2:45 PM, March 23, 2009

Blogger Jennifer Kelley said...

Elvis Costello: "Veronica" wins it for me, so sad and yet so joyful at the same time.

Supremes: "Love Child," because that's what I am. And, I remember (vaguely) them singing that on Ed Sullivision. I connected the song w/ myself even then, not knowing until some 20-odd years later that I was more right than I suspected.

The Who: "Substitute" has always been my favorite; I even use it as a theme song of a fictional character of mine.

James Brown: "It's A Man's, Man's, Man's World" both for the nice blusey feeling and for the parody of the song title.

6:25 PM, March 23, 2009

Blogger JamesFinnGarner said...

Elvis Costello: Although it is certainly overwrought, I'm going to give the nod to "Man Out Of Time" from "Imperial Bedroom." I love the images of espionage, corruption and betrayal in this love-ended song, and his weary, resigned tone. This is what a SONGWRITER does!

Supremes: Although I love the innocent songs like "Where Did Our Love Go?", I'm gonna vote for "Love Child" too. Great orchestration, nice tension building through guitar and ghostly backing vocals--and I love late 60s Motown songs that sort of try and be protest songs.

The Who: Although it's way overplayed, "Behind Blue Eyes," because it holds off so long to bring in the drums and guitar, and when they do come in, it's phenomenal. Perfect song for Windmills! Close behind: The Kids are All Right, and The Real Me.

James Brown: "Cold Sweat", because no one has mentioned it yet.

1:16 PM, March 24, 2009

Blogger Tom Shea said...

"High Fidelity."
"Stoned Love."
"Won't Get Fooled Again."
"Get Up (I Feel Like Being a) Sex Machine."

3:06 PM, March 25, 2009

Blogger Derek See said...

these are tough ones, for sure!

Elvis Costello: Beyond Belief

Supremes: Love Is Like An Itching In My Heart (You Keep Me hangin On is a close second!)

The Who: Relax

James Brown: Talkin Loud And Sayin Nothin' (King Records 'rock" version)

8:11 PM, March 25, 2009

Blogger larryepke said...

Thank you, thank you! And I want to thank all the little people...

I'm glad you decided to ask about The Who, but I have to admit you landed on three other artists who I am very "ho-hum" about.

Elvis (the little one) - He's one of those people like Bruce Springsteen who’s been lauded to high heaven for years. I appreciate his abilities, but he doesn't get to me anywhere near he obviously gets to others, Brother Shea included. I’ll give my props to “(The Angels Wanna Wear My) Red Shoes,” an early piece, and honorable mention to “Veronica.”

The Supremes have always represented Motown’s most schlocky side, but I always liked “The Happening” probably because it sounds just different enough from their usual sound.

James Brown – I remember seeing his closing bit on TV with the three capes and being impressed. Then I saw it again and realized it was all shtick (hey, I was pretty young then). Just off the top of my head I’ll give the honors to “Cold Sweat” – but tomorrow it could well be different. In a sense, that’s why I'm so un-crazy about him; his stuff all tends to sound alike to me.

And now – The Who. They’ve had dozens of terrific songs, and that comes from one who thinks “Tommy” is one of the most awful ideas in rock history. But for years the only recording of theirs I owned was a 45 of “I Can See For Mile” and that’s the song I want to plug. It’s Keith Moon’s greatest moment – he's all over the drums, with rhythms that no one else would ever attempt, AND THEY WORK! As a drummer of sorts, I continue to be amazed by that one, and it’s my pick to click in this category.

Thanks in advance for the CD and for the fun!

2:24 PM, March 26, 2009

Anonymous plasticsun said...

EC - "Man out of Time"
Supremes - "My World is Empty without You"
Who - "Tattoo"
James Brown - "Lost Someone"

1:56 PM, March 27, 2009

Blogger Brian Marshall said...

Elvis Costello: (What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding - I know it's a cover but EC and the Attractions really make the song cook.

The Supremes: Come See About Me - Hands down, my favorite Supremes song and one that doesn't wear out its welcome like so many other Supreme songs have.

The Who: The Kids Are Alright - I could pick a bunch of songs but I really prefer the Who before "Tommy" much better and this song I think represents what the Who were really all about: Energy, youth and speed.

James Brown - Get Up, Get Into It and Get Involved. Again, this is a very tough choice, so I went with this. Not only was it one of the first records I ever picked up at age 7, but it's got a blastin' energetic groove that I like that never lets up for over 7 minutes.

3:45 PM, March 28, 2009

Blogger Amy said...

D.P.A MacManus aka Elvis Costello - So man good songs!! It's a tossup for me between "I Want You" (which still gives me the chills) and "...This Town"

Supremes - "Up the Ladder to the Roof". There is something very joyful and catchy about this track.

The Who - "Love Reign O'er Me" comes to mind first. I really adore the cinematic Who. The darn near orchestral guitar work is absolutely stunning on this track and it never loses it's punch - even after thousands of listens.

James Brown - Not as familiar with his stuff so I'll pick one that's been in rotation on my ipod. "Hot Pants" !

11:28 AM, March 30, 2009

Blogger sexy said...

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5:48 AM, April 01, 2009


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