Top 5: Too Long in Exile
Regular readers of this blog (if such there be) have probably given me up for lost, what with no new posts for almost two weeks--but I'm not. I know exactly where I am--in another hotel room. I'm getting a new appreciation for Jackson Browne's "The Load Out," although what I'm traveling for is nothing so glamorous as a concert tour. But like Browne's road, mine seems to stretch out forever, with many more miles than there are interesting ways to pass them. Like Browne, I rely on music to get me through. Here are five more notable musical moments from the current trip:
Too Long in Exile/Van Morrison. For the first half of this album, it's business as usual for Van--a song about getting back to his roots, another about how the music business has screwed him--and then, long about track seven, an entirely different album breaks out. There's a guest appearance by John Lee Hooker on two tracks (including "Gloria," Morrison's 60s classic with Them, and knowing how Van usually feels about his old songs, this 1993 rerecording of it is nothing short of a miracle) and several straight jazz tunes, including a positively charming version of "Moody's Mood for Love." At 15 tracks, this album goes on a bit too long, but take the top eight or nine and you'd have an absolutely essential Van Morrison album.
"I Do the Rock"/Tim Curry. This tune barely scraped into the low 90s on the Hot 100 at the end of 1979, at a time when Curry was known only as Dr. Frank N. Furter from The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Curry name-checks dozens of celebrities, from Dizzy Dean to Anwar Sadat to "Governor Brown and Linda," in an odd and indeterminate accent. If you remember this at all, you share my sickness.
Alive in America/Steely Dan. This album documents the group's 1993 American tour--inspired, as Donald Fagen claims, by his desire to hear what "Babylon Sisters" sounded like live. Like most live albums, this isn't essential, but you may dig the key tracks: "Kid Charlemagne" and a version of "Reeling in the Years" with horns.
Straight Up/Badfinger. This is the best Beatles album of 1971. The phased sound of the opening track, "Take It All," is right out of the White Album era, and "Flying" sounds like John and Paul in an alternate universe. George even plays on a few tracks, including the magnificent "Day After Day." That Badfinger was good enough to create "Day After Day" and "Baby Blue" on the same album without becoming superstars in the process is nothing short of tragic.
"Nowhere to Run"/Martha and the Vandellas. The Motown rhythm section was more than capable of moving the earth, as they do here--but it's Funk Brother Jack Ashford who steals the record. He's the tambourine player. Listen to it: You will never hear another record where the tambourine snaps and sizzles with the kind of menace Ashford puts into it on this one.
This trip's just begun, and I have miles to go before I run out of tunes, so watch and listen for more.