To my godson:
This compilation continues the grand tradition (initiated at the request of your father) of selecting songs that (hopefully) thrill us all. To that end I whipsaw between songs with content I wholly approve of, and songs with content that, frankly, makes me nervous when I give it serious consideration. I happen to think one gift the arts offer us is a safe “play-zone” in which we can give license to, and take full responsibility for, our most primal impulses and haunting questions, before we have to return to the dinner table and talk nicely to each other. God knows we need that. Enjoy!
1. Reverend Dan Smith speaks — you'll have to do some scrounging to find this guy, but he was the real deal when he opened his mouth. A Bluesman-turned-Gospel Singer, if Reverend Dan Smith didn't believe it, he didn't sing it. (A)
2. R.L. Burnside, “Someday Baby” (feat. Lyrics Born) From A Bothered Mind. (A, e)
3. David Wilcox, “The Natural Edge” — the Canadian Rodney Dangerfield of kick-ass rock. From Greatest Hits Too.
4. Ted Nugent, “Wang Dang Sweet Poontang” — oooh, I never thought I'd ever include something from “The Nuge” but you can't argue with a song this, um, “meticulously crafted.” It's also the embodiment of what made Kurt Cobain's dress such a deliriously welcome sight.
5. wax.on wax.off, “The Night That Joey Died” — my elder daughter loves this track (thank you, DV). A surprisingly fitting tribute to the first Ramone to leave us. (A, e)
6. The Trashmen, “Surfin' Bird” — a song I will forever associate with Full Metal Jacket, which lends it a disturbing air.
7. Dropkick Murphys, “Famous For Nothing” — I don't think these lyrics would work if these boys didn't take their Catholicism very seriously. Still, you'll want to be judicious about playing this song around certain family members. (A)
8. “The Green Hornet” — TV theme-songs are usually a signal that we're about to change gears.
9. Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass, “A Taste Of Honey” (e)
10. Jimmy McGriff, “The Bird” (wp)
11. The Stranglers, “Skin Deep” — I recently heard this song in a mall, and had to wonder if its original success didn't change the direction of music almost as much as “Smells Like Teen Spirit” did. (A)
12. Len, “Steal My Sunshine” — an omnipresent pop song, for good reason.
13. R.L. Burnside, “Nothin' Man” — from I Wish I Was In Heaven Sitting Down. Just remember my caveat about taking full responsibility, please. (A, e)
14. Mavis Staples, “Eyes On The Prize” — a heartening corrective to the previous track. (A, A)
15. Tom Waits, “Way Down In The Hole” — from Big Time. This has been my favorite Tom Waits song since long before The Wire was even a concept. (A)
16. Johnny Cash, “Tennessee Stud” — for your dad (mostly). (A)
17. AC/DC, “Hard As A Rock” — the Young Brothers' post-Bon Scott ability to cook up an honest-to-God Rock song is debatable. But “catchy” they can do.
18. Major Lazer, “Hold The Line” — here's to music without borders! (e, A)
19. Sarah Vaughn, “Fever” (Adam Freeland Remix) — just when I think this song is desperate for retirement, someone comes along and forces me to rethink.
20. Ashley Cleveland, “You Gotta Move” — for the past several decades Blind Willie Johnson (w) seems to have given the most desperate of us a reason to believe. Performers like Ms. Cleveland make the world a better place. (e, A)
21. wax.on wax.off, “(I Know I'll End Up Being The School's) Janitor” — there may come a day when I no longer sing along to this song. You might try to avoid that fate. Or not.
22. Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band, “Reason To Believe” — ibid.
23. Reverend Dan Smith, “Down Through The Years”
24. Jane's Addiction, “Ripple” — I love the way Jane's covered other people's songs (the Grateful Dead in this case). As pointedly debauched as Perry Farrell could be, I believe he followed the Reverend Dan Smith code: if he didn't believe it, he didn't sing it.