Ignored, Maligned, and Forgotten Music

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Ring of Fire - Various Artists

In reposting from five years ago, I keep finding playlists that I created in Grooveshark that have all disappeared into an abyss never to be seen again. They included as many as forty versions of or thematically related songs that I spent hours curating. Ring of Fire was one of the first, and it was blessedly short!

Happily, the song and its covers have not paled over time. My family still sings it at full volume when shuffle blesses us with a version. Here's hoping the rest of my recreations go as smoothly! Here's the original post and the new video playlist with the addition of the actual original from Anita Carter and a couple of other great burning covers (don't miss DragonForce and don't look for Coldplay--this is the Not-Pop Jukebox, you know).

I feel that I should start with a disclaimer that I don’t watch American Idol. I do, however, like many of Johnny Cash’s songs and Ring of Fire in particular. It caught my eye that one of the contestants performed a very unusual version of that song last night and the wildly varying opinions led me to watch the video.

While I wasn’t crazy about the arrangement, the many posts and comments that I read expressing the opinion that Johnny Cash was spinning in his grave made me go looking for even more versions of Ring of Fire. I suspect that The Man in Black would have given the contestant a hearty pat on the back for taking such chances rather than being offended by the unusual interpretation. Of all of the country stars whose songs he could have chosen, I think Cash is the most likely to enjoy such a creative rendition.

Consider these versions of Ring of Fire, most of which were recorded while Mr. Cash was still alive (and, for the better-known acts, almost certainly with his permission). Try Grace Jones’ reggae-tinged version, Ray Charles’ soulful cover, or Blondie’s punk-country take on it. I’ve included Johnny Cash himself at the end (he's at the beginning, now), for a reminder of how it originally sounded. There’s a bit of nasty language in the Social Distortion cover, so if that will upset you then you may want to skip it.

The Chicken - Maceo Parker with Nils Landgren Funk Unit

I've posted about the Nils Landgren Funk Unit before and I probably will again. I don't think I've ever waxed adoringly on the funky, jazzy sax prowess of Maceo Parker. As a transition between the two, and as a shining example of why talented people should collaborate, let's have the former playing--nay jamming their faces off--with the latter.

The Chicken has been around a while. James Brown released it as a B side first but Pee Wee Ellis wrote the thing to begin with. As with so many great songs, musicians picked it up and made it their own over the decades. The bones stay the same but the body of the song changes with every player and each solo along the way. Enjoy!

Tubissimo - LaBrassBanda

Oh, my darlings, oh do I have something for you today.  I am, you see, in love.  With five German guys.  Don't tell my husband.

Hyperbole aside, not since I was introduced to Seeed have I geeked out over a new German band this hard. Combine three guys with what appear to be antique brass instruments, a head-banging bassist, and a drummer the drives them through it all and you get LaBrassBanda. One of the band members is listed as "Capt. Yossarian", which makes two literally references in two days if you're following my G+ posts as well! (Yes, blogging in two places about the same things is Catch 22, since you ask. /heavy hint)

In this video, you get the guys having a great time, some heavy-duty brass goodies, a Bavarian gent playing Tubissimo, a bunch of chair-dance-inspiring solos, and part of a Daft Punk cover. What more could you ask from less that seven well-spent minutes of your life? Now enjoy, dears, while I click the next song and see if I can get all their albums on-line.

Drum Trip - Rusted Root

Sometimes, you just want some funky drums. Thanks to Rusted Root, you can take a beat-heavy, Grateful Dead-esque Drum Trip, the first track on their 1994 release "When I Woke". Rusted Root lives in the genre I call "hippies", with the likes of Phish and WookieFoot. They're globally aware, world beat-influenced jam bands, all a mite more esoteric than strictly necessary. Rusted Root is also a lot of fun on songs like Drum Trip, Weave, and their better-known Send Me on My Way.

Sadly, much as I loved their first four albums (and the EP "Evil Ways"), when they took that long break after 2002's "Welcome to My Party" the seem to have lost something.  "Stereo Rodeo", released in 2009, seemed unfocused in comparison.   When they came out with "The Movement" a few years later the first song made me think they were back but, alas, the same dragging, badly-mixed sound dogged the rest of the album.  One of these days I'll post Monkey Pants for you, but for now take a Drum Trip back to Rusted Root's heyday instead.

Narcissist - The Libertines

The Libertines made decent rock, but the whole “sex, drugs, and rock and roll” concept rather went to the heads of some members, or at least to their egos. It's too bad, because songs like Narcissist prove that the group made a solid songwriting team. They actually managed to make a grungy, almost rockabilly song that doesn't wallow.

I like a little social commentary with my pop, so this song won me over to the Libertines' side of the fence (musically speaking, if not politically). While the band did meander into melancholy, The Libertines offered generally interesting, and often smart, lyrics as the cake to hold up their musical icing. They do a very old-school sound, with guitars straight out of the 70s. That's enough to earn them a spot in the jukebox!

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