Friday, March 27, 2015

Top 100 Songs From the 1990s (No. 72)

72. "Our Frank"
Artist: Morrissey
Year: 1991

If you're asking yourself how I could possibly choose just one song from Moz, then prepare yourself to be disappointed. It wasn't all that difficult. Morrissey was one of the most important voices from my youth, and I thoroughly enjoyed his early solo singles as well. Songs like "Suedehead," "Everyday Is Like Sunday," "Interesting Drug" and "Hairdresser on Fire" led me to believe I would continue to enjoy his work for years to come. Didn't happen. I expect to hear from a few of my blogging pals for this one, but I would only recommend one album from Morrissey in the 1990s. 'Vauxhall and I' was better than the rest. Other than a couple of singles, that's it for me the entire decade.

Morrissey was still quite clever with a lyric. "Beware, I bear more grudges than lonely high court judges" pops into mind, and the tale told in "November Spawned a Monster" is so odd and off-putting that I couldn't help but be fascinated. The band, man, it's the band that I never took too. The music of Alain Whyte and Boz Boorer didn't (and doesn't) do it for me. Still, to completely shut out Morrissey wouldn't be right. I was still hopeful and somewhat content in 1990 and 1991. So, that's where I'm going with No. 72. This one is the opener from 'Kill Uncle,' produced by the team of Clive Langer and Alan Winstanley. Not a great album, but I really like this one. I don't think it's remembered all that fondly by most. It was a minor hit, but the first of several successive singles that didn't burn up the charts like the old days.

I hate that this post comes off so negatively. Morrissey is one of many casualties from a decade I don't rate highly, but I still consider Morrissey one of my favorites. I'm going to put on 'Bona Drag' or something from the Smiths to make myself feel better.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Top 100 Songs From the 1990s (The Bump)

The Bump. "Don't Go Away Mad"
Artist: Little Village
Year: 1992

What a miserable lot. The entire family unit, including myself, is sick. So, I'm presenting something I already had in the hopper. Brace yourselves. I'm giving you an exclusive behind-the-scenes look at the work that went into this riveting list. Thanks to me thinking Superchunk was from 1989, taking it off the list, then bringing it back a day later when I found out I was correct in the first place because it was, indeed, from 1990, my countdown has been a spot off here on the back end since No. 82. This is the song that got bumped during the debacle. Of course, on the front end, all you see is the well-oiled machine that is Top 100 Songs From the 1990s. I'm presenting the one that got bumped with no corresponding number. Back with No. 72 next time.

This supergroup consisting of Ry Cooder, John Hiatt, Nick Lowe and Jim Keltner first played as a unit on Hiatt's 1987 album 'Bring the Family.' If you're choosing between that one and 'Little Village,' go with 'Bring the Family,' by all means, but there were a couple of inspired moments, including "Solar Sex Panel" and this one with Hiatt as frontman. The album was nominated for a Grammy, but not even the participants were all that enthralled with the results. Eight years ago, Lowe told AV Club, "Little Village was really good fun. Unfortunately, the record we did was no good. I suppose on some level, it worked, but Warner Brothers kind of gave us too much time to do it."

That's the quote that gave me the ammunition to choose this one for "The Bump." Righting the ship feels good. Let's keep this one between us, shall we?

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Don't Miss Blur's Performance of New Album

As I'm sure you are well aware, Blur is back, not just on stage, but with new music as well. We have been fed video and audio clips from the impending album, 'The Magic Whip,' for the past month, and you may have heard there was a secret show for 300 fans in a West London club last Friday. The fellas played the new album in its entirety, and it was filmed for the Beats by Dr. Dre YouTube channel. The show will be streamed tomorrow for one day only. A band interview follows the concert, and the Q&A will be available for viewing throughout April. Times are as follows: 8pm GMT, 9pm CET for Europe and 8pm PST/11pm EST here in America. Here's the link:

Blur Show

These are the three new songs heard so far. We have been told there will not be no more song previews before 'The Magic Whip' is released at the end of April. Enjoy the show.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Top 100 Songs From the 1990s (No. 73)

73. "Parallel Horizontal"
Artist: Marine Research
Year: 1999

For a few of reasons, 'Sounds From the Gulf Stream' is probably the least known album in Amelia Fletcher's impressive discography. The name Marine Research was used only for this one record. The band scrapped the well-known moniker Heavenly following the death of the band's drummer (and Amelia's brother), Mathew Fletcher. So, for fans, I think there has always been a certain feeling, a dark cloud, if you will, floating above this brief era.

Its lack of popularity can also be traced back to the demise of the legendary Sarah Records, the former home to Fletcher's previous bands. Although 'Sounds From the Gulf Stream' was released on K Records here in America (as Fletcher's albums always were), there wasn't a proper outlet for it in the UK.

I won't pretend this was Amelia's best moment, but through all of the personal turmoil, I still think 'Sounds From the Gulf Stream' was a good album, full of all the trademark jangle and catchy hooks we had come to expect, and the two singles, including the song featured here today, were top-notch tunes. The good news for me is with all of these changes in band names, I get to feature most of its members one more time on this countdown.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Top 100 Songs From the 1990s (No. 74)

74. "I'm Gonna Soothe You"
Artist: Maria McKee
Year: 1993

This is the opening track to 'You've Got to Sin to Get Saved,' an album that really grabbed me at the time of its release and has never let go. What's strange is that I was never into her work (solo or with Lone Justice) before this one, and I never bought another album after it either. Sometimes we have these brief moments in time with artists, don't we? When looking her up today for this post, I was struck by her varied body of work and relatively successful run in the UK, at least when compared to here in America. As far as the charts go, she peaked with Lone Justice's "Shelter" in 1986, but across the pond, McKee had a No. 1 hit in 1990 with "Show Me Heaven." I never heard the song until about five minutes ago. Meh. She also wrote Feargal Sharkey's "A Good Heart," another song that went to No. 1 over there. Another meh.

There were other minor hits for McKee in the UK, including the song I have for you today peaking at No. 35. For me, though, I'm perfectly content having her be a one-album wonder (although I have been tempted by 'Life Is Sweet' many times at my local shop). This song, in particular, is pretty powerful. The protagonist is ready to take the reins from a girlfriend who has treated her man so very badly. She's going to take care of everything. McKee really sweeps you in with her "soothing" voice, and I will tell you with a little trepidation and a blushing face that by the time she sings "lay your head on my breast, I'll do the rest," I'm sure McKee has this guy and any other one she wants within earshot.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Top 100 Songs From the 1990s (No. 75)

75. "Uh Huh Oh Yeh"
Artist: Paul Weller
Year: 1992

I feel guilty. No. 75?!? Shameful. He's the Modfather, for cryin' out loud! The man behind two of my all-timers, the Jam and the Style Council. So, why aren't I enamored with Paul Weller's solo work? There have been some fine moments, and I felt nothing but excitement when I heard his first two singles, "Into Tomorrow" and "Uh Huh Oh Yeh." So what if his self-titled debut didn't quite live up to past glories. He was finding his footing. Great albums were sure to follow... Unfortunately, for me, that solo masterpiece never came, at least not yet, although I have continued to enjoy songs from time to time, like "Wild Wood," "You Do Something to Me" and the more recent "Brand New Toy." Like a lemming, I keep buying and hoping.

"Uh Huh Oh Yeh" was a pretty big hit in the UK, peaking at No. 18. Like much of that first album, there's a lot of '60s-inspired soul, funk and R&B in there. For most listeners, however, I imagine this song hinges on whether you like the sample taken from "Hot Rod Poppa," a scorching Marsha Hunt B-side, written by Marc Bolan, that came out in 1969. I do. Oh, yes, I do. If you think I'm way off on Weller's solo work, let me have it. I can take it.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Top 100 Songs From the 1990s (No. 76)

76. "Some Fantastic Place"
Artist: Squeeze
Year: 1993

We all loved Squeeze. By this time, however, I imagine there are quite a few of you out there that had given up on the band. For me, I threw in the towel with the release of 'Babylon and On.' Man, I didn't like that one. I won't deny there were a couple of fine moments on 'Frank' and 'Play,' but I didn't find that out until years after their releases. This is the song that brought me back into the fold. "Some Fantastic Place" is a very personal song about an old friend (I think she was called Maxine) Chris Difford and Glenn Tilbrook knew from their earliest days together. She was Tilbrook's first girlfriend, and the one that made him answer Difford's ad put up in a shop window requesting a guitar player influenced by the Kinks, Velvet Underground and Glenn Miller. She passed away from leukemia, and this beautiful song is a moving tribute to her and her optimistic view, especially in the face of such a grim prognosis. I find this one quite uplifting. So, I'm including all of the lyrics below.

'Some Fantastic Place' was the first album without Gilson Lavis. In his place on drums was Pete Thomas from the Attractions. Jools Holland was absent as well, but Paul Carrack made a triumphant return on keyboard for the first time since 'East Side Story.' Difford and Tilbrook have gone on record that this is their favorite Squeeze song. Oh, and for those of you that did lose track of Squeeze, you might be surprised to learn both Difford and Tilbrook have put out some excellent solo albums this millennium.

She gave to me her tenderness
Her friendship and her love
I see her face from time to time
There in the sky above

We grew up learning as we went
What a voyage our life could be
It took us through a wilderness
Into the calmest sea

Her smile could lift me from the pain
I often found within
She said some things I won't forget
She made a few bells ring

So simple her humility
Her beauty found in grace
Today she lives another life
In some fantastic place

She showed me how to raise a smile
Out of her bed of gloom
And in her garden sanctuary
A life began to bloom

She visualized a world ahead
And planned how it would be
She left behind the strongest love
That lives eternally

I have the hope that when it's time
For me to come her way
That she'll be there to show me round
Whenever comes that day

Her love was life and happiness
And in her steps I trace
The way to live a better life
In some fantastic place

Seems Like Old Times

I have four albums by the Monochrome Set... the first four. Love 'em, but this means my most recent album is 30 years old. There is a new one out this week, the third since reuniting (again) about four years ago. Most reviews I have seen of 'Spaces Everywhere' have been mixed (at best). I would have just left it at that and enjoyed an evening listening to 'Eligible Bachelors' in complete contentment, but then I watched the video for "Iceman" the other day. As I listened, it felt like three decades just disappeared. Wouldn't this song have fit in quite nicely on 'The Lost Weekend?" Thanks to Lester, Bid and the rest of the bunch. I'm all in... again.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Top 100 Songs From the 1990s (No. 77)

77. "History of Lies"
Artist: The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion
Year: 1993

After yesterday's song from Brighter, I'm figuring you're ready for something with balls, or "a glorious racket," as a more articulate blogger would say. (See, Swede, I told you I was going to steal that!) I worked in a record store for much of 1993, and it's no coincidence so many of the songs on this list come from that year. Pavement was the "it" band of the moment (rightly so!), and those fellas almost single-handedly put Matador Records on the map a year earlier. Given that track record, we always opened a copy of the latest release from the label to play in the shop. A couple of Matador's memorable moments that year were 'Exile in Guyville' from Liz Phair and this one, 'Extra Width' from the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion.

Album opener "Afro" was the one and only single from 'Extra Width,' but I preferred the next song on the tracklist, "History of Lies," even more. I don't know who Spencer is singing to, but the words and delivery drip with all sorts of conflicting emotions, and the tension is palpable. I don't know if the following piece of trivia is true, but I want to believe it. When the band signed with Caroline Records in 1992, they had an unusual rider in the deal. The fellas wanted the new 10-disc Jerry Lee Lewis box set. They reportedly never got it, and they left the label after one album. When the band signed with Matador the following year, they asked for the nine-disc Stax-Volt Complete Singles 1959–1968 box as part of the agreement. Matador made good with the request. The band went on to enjoy a decade-long partnership with the label. Just sayin'... OK, now turn this one UP!

If you have a moment while you're listening, this show review appears on the inner sleeve of 'Extra Width.' It's a great read that captures the band perfectly. If those eyes are going, you can click on the image to make it a little bigger... old man.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Top 100 Songs From the 1990s (No. 78)

78. "Does Love Last Forever?"
Artist: Brighter
Year: 1990

The following goes against everything you know about Sarah Records. Brighter's "Does Love Last Forever?" should have been a bona fide radio hit. Truth be told, my favorite moment from the band is the trio's debut single, the four-song "Around the World in Eighty Days." Sarah 19 is solitary, introspective and oh-so Sarah. The calendar, however, precludes it from making this list by a handful of months. That's quite alright. The followup single is wonderful too.

"Does Love Last Forever?" (Sarah 27) is like a cool slice of summer. There's lots of catchy jangle, and the added distortion sounds a lot like label mate Another Sunny Day at Harvey Williams' loudest. In a nutshell, the song is downright upbeat, but as the second song on the B-side of "Noah's Ark," it's as buried as a tune can be on a 7". In direct contrast to the sleeve of a beach, I'm sure it didn't help that the single was released in the winter either. Oh, well. That's Sarah, and I'm sure Clare Wadd and Matt Haynes weren't exactly thinking this was the one that would bring them fortune and fame. Still, I have always felt this was an opportunity squandered, but now it's a hit on my countdown!

Sadly, Matinée Recordings' wonderful compilation 'Singles 1989-1992' is now out of print, but I highly recommend trying secondary markets for that one. On a "brighter" note, you can still get 'Out to Sea,' which includes the 'Laurel' mini-album and many rarities. Absolutely essential.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Top 100 Songs From the 1990s (No. 79)

79. "Everything You've Done Wrong"
Artist: Sloan
Year: 1997

Do your time to pay the price
For every thing you've done wrong baby
In your life, you get so high
There's nowhere left to go but down

Don't believe that no one cares
'Cause we're here waiting for you, baby
Do your time, and then come home for good

There is something about prison songs set to pop music that seem so wrong, and that's probably why I like them so much. My all-time favorite is the Zombies' "Care of Cell 44," but this one about a girl on her way to serve a sentence is right there. It's full of hand claps, jangle and a couple of trumpets to boot. Like I said, so wrong. I don't know why these Canadians never quite made it, but the same lineup from nearly a quarter of a century ago continues to pump out power-pop nuggets for the faithful lucky enough to have found them. Not long ago, as a big thank you to their fans, several of their vital singles were made available as a free download. Check it out below. Apparently their label agrees everyone should have a copy of "Everything You've Done Wrong" and "The Good in Everyone." I should think you'll hear a lot of Big Star and Teenage Fanclub in this lot.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Top 100 Songs From the 1990s (No. 80)

80. "Maria"
Artist: Blondie
Year: 1999

First Chrissie, now Debbie. Female rock royalty... represent. Before today, I had no idea what a smash "Maria" was in other parts of the world. Exactly twenty years after the band's first of six No. 1 hits with "Heart of Glass," Blondie grabbed the top spot again in the UK. It's a wonder I even caught the song at all over here. First of all, "Maria" is actually higher on my list than it ever registered on the Billboard Hot 100 (No. 82). Second, this was the busiest time in my life, and I wasn't following the music scene at all. One night after another late one at work I flipped on the car radio. Blondie was so off the radar that when I caught the tail end of this song I thought to myself that some new singer sure sounded an awful lot like Debbie Harry. Maybe a week later I heard "...and not only is it Blondie, but it's actually really good..." as two people passed my office. (Yes, this was the one time in my life I had my own office.) Anyway, I put two and two together and headed to the record shop.

This reunited Blondie wasn't just Harry and Chris Stein either. Clem Burke and Jimmy Destri were there too. Only Gary Valentine was missing from the classic lineup. 'Parallel Lines' is an absolute all timer for me. So, this was exciting stuff. Well, 'No Exit,' the first Blondie album since 1982, was no 'Parallel Lines,' but this song was such a nice distraction at a time when I really needed it. By the way, across the pond, Blondie released two more relatively successful singles from the album after "Maria." Interesting how much bigger Blondie was over there.

In case you're late to the party, I'll recap the countdown every 20 spots or so.

100. Die Funf Fruende - JETZT!
99. Save Ferris - Come on Eileen (Night Mix)
98. World Party - Put the Message in the Box
97. Gorky's Zygotic Mynci - Merched Yn Neud Gwallt Eu Gilydd
96. The Ocean Blue - Sublime
95. Puffy Ami Yumi - Wild Girls on Circuit
94. The Muffs - Oh Nina
93. Smoking Popes - Need You Around
92. The Feelies - Sooner or Later
91. Luscious Jackson - Naked Eye
90. The Lemonheads - Into Your Arms
89. fIREHOSE - Disciples of the 3-Way
88. The Sugargliders - Letter From a Lifeboat
87. Brian Wilson and Van Dyke Parks - Orange Crate Art
86. Vegas - Walk Into the Wind
85. k.d. lang - Miss Chatelaine
84. Robert Crenshaw - All I Want to Do Is Be With You
83. The Pretenders - I'm Not in Love
82. Jeffrey Foskett - Thru My Window
81. Superchunk - Slack Motherfucker