About a decade ago, I had a recurring feature here called “Five Songs You Need to Hear.” The premise was to offer a peek into what happened to be rocking my world at the moment, with a focus on things that might be slightly off the beaten track for most folks. I was spinning an older favorite cut this morning, and would have shared it enthusiastically on social media if I still used social media, so I have decided instead to return to this occasional blog featurette about “gotta share” songs of the right now, right here. So with no further ado, here’s another edition of Five Songs You Need to Hear!
“Bleeding” by One King Down: Crunchy, riff-fueled hardcore from the Albany/Troy quintet’s 1995 Absolve EP, with original singer Bill Brown on the mic, before the law chased him out of town. OKD went on to achieve some national notoriety in Straight Edge circle in the years that followed with Brown’s replacement, Rob Fusco, doing the jumping and shouting parts, but this one song, for me, stands as their most titanic moment, and is perhaps my favorite hard-music cut from all of my years as a critic of record for the Albany region’s phenomenal hardcore and metal scenes of the 1990s. The song maintains a stately pace, with a six minute run time, giving itself far more room to grow and swell than most tracks by similar genre bands, with an absolutely killer breakdown for the time in which we must do the circle dancing. (Note that the image on the video is from the cover of a later album, the CD of which included Absolve as bonus tracks).
“The Creator Has a Master Plan (Peace)” by Leon Thomas: Pharoah Sanders’ 1969 album Karma dedicates its entire first side to the 19-minute “The Creator Has a Master Plan,” one of the most astounding and electrifying recorded freakouts in the history of jazz, if not music as a whole. It’s one of those songs that I occasionally and literally plan to spin, as it requires full attention, and once you start it, you can’t stop it. That is not allowed! Co-writer and vocalist Leon Thomas offered another version of that titanic cut on his own ’69 album Spirits Known and Unknown, preserving the beautiful core melody and sentiment, but in a more readily digestible four minute arrangement. Lovely!
“I, John” by Elvis Presley: My grandfather had Elvis’ three great gospel albums on eight track tapes, and he played them incessantly at his house in Piedmont Cackalacky, when he wasn’t watching Hee Haw. I know and love them all dearly accordingly, and this is probably my favorite track from the three, a weird apocalyptic counting song with a beat than you can darn near dance to. The King is in fine voice and fettle here, and it’s worth noting that this was released in 1972, the same year as his last great pop hit, “Burning Love.” That’s about as good of an absolute “spirit vs flesh” creative dichotomy as I can come up with in a single year from a major artist’s catalog, Prince possibly notwithstanding.
“Long Island Iced Tea, Neat” by The Coup, feat. Japanther: Boots Riley’s incredible 2018 flick, Sorry to Bother You, had a long and complicated creative gestation. The first public glimmers of the project emerged with a 2012 album of the same name by Riley’s group, The Coup. It’s a bangin’ record, soup to nuts, and the 2018 soundtrack to the film provided a perfect second act of new music to help in telling this craziest of crazy stories. This cut is my favorite from the first album, and it features the late lamented Japanther, a deliriously eclectic duo who made the most exciting and trippy noises with their drums and guitars and voices. It was a match made in heaven. I wish they’d both “feat.-ed” each other more often!
“Heaven and Hell” by William Onyeabor: In my remembrance for Johnny Clegg after his passing a couple of months back, I wrote a bit about what a chore it was to find records and tapes by African artists in the pre-World Music and pre-Internet eras. William Onyeabor was a popular Nigerian musician, label owner and record producer who issued an incredible string of albums in his native country in the late 1970s and early 1980s, thought it was damned hard to get your hands on his stuff States-side. After his 1985 album, Anything You Sow, Onyeabor abruptly ceased recording and refused to speak of his musical career, having undergone a profound religious conversion experience. This cut is from his 1977 debut album, Crashes in Love, though you can more readily find it these days via the Luaka Bop compilation Who Is William Onyeabor? (2013), which annoyingly is now the type of thing that populates the checkout racks at your local Starbucks. Grumble. The lyrics make it clear that William, who passed away in 2017, was already thinking about his eternal soul, long before he walked away from music to protect it.