Five Songs You Need to Hear (Part the First)

One of the things I like best about Facebook is the ability to quickly post links to music that’s rocking my world at any given moment. On a recent Facebook post of that ilk, a dear old friend (read that as “dear friend from long ago,” not “dear friend who is aged”) asked why I didn’t write for a music magazine, or have an all-music blog. Which is a good question, given my music geek tendencies. The answer to her question is: because I wrote so many concert and record reviews for so long in print and online that I really have pretty much completely exhausted the music critic lobe in my brain housing group, and I really feel like I’ve used every adjective you can use to describe music at this point, and I get little to no satisfaction out of pondering music reviews any more. Which is a point of mild guilt, I should note, since a lot of my friends have put albums out over the past few years, and I feel like I should review them, but I just can’t muster the intellectual energy necessary to do so. I’d rather just enjoy listening to them.

But the point behind the question (“Why don’t you share more of the music you know about and like?”) is a valid one, so with this post, I institute a new, planned-to-be-recurrent feature on this blog: Five Songs You Need to Hear. I won’t review them, or explain much about them, but will instead link you to five things that I think are incredible and awesome, and I’ll leave it up to you to give them a spin (metaphorically speaking) and decide whether you agree with me that they are essential listening. Since I am a pretty stringent believer in the importance of artists receiving proper remuneration for their in-print works, and don’t encourage music theft, I’ll generally pick items that are either desperately out of print or in the public domain, or pick links to videos or tracks that the artists have put into the public domain themselves. I’ll try to cover the generally eclectic range of stuff I listen to.

And with that as preamble, here are Five Songs You Need to Hear, based on what I’m listening to this week: mostly relentless grind music, organ boogie rock, and some African folk and gospel thrown in as leavening. Tune in next time, when it will all change dramatically, as I flit from genre to genre as the whim carries me.

1. “Health and Efficiency” by This Heat (Seminal post-punk/post-prog/post-everything from 1980, especially notable for the way that the clangorous punk-pop melodies of the first part of the song morph into the most thundering, relentless, atonal riff ever recorded around the 2:10 point, after which the trio beats it into submission for another six minutes).

2. “What Are They Doing in Heaven Today” by Washington Phillips (Recorded in 1928 by an inspired gospel preacher, who accompanied himself on a mysterious zither-like instrument).

3. “$10 Bill” by Cop Shoot Cop (A brilliant New York City band featuring a drummer, two bass players, and two samplers, from 1993, and one of the great music videos of its era).

4. “Tubuke Ku Kaya Kwa Mwankenja,” by an unknown Tanzanian mbira player and singer (Recorded in 1950 in Tanganyika by the extraordinary ethnomusicologist Hugh Tracey).

5. “That’s My Love For You,” by Toe Fat (Fabulous boogie choogle from a Uriah Heep precursor band featuring the Heep’s Ken Hensley and Lee Kerslake, the late John Glascock of Jethro Tull, and ’60s R&B singer Cliff Bennett of the Rebel Rousers, with a disturbing album cover by Hipgnosis).

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