1. Tom Waits – Emotional Weather Report
(Nighthawks At The Diner)
You’re in a dark, smoky club, somewhere in New York. Or, at least, that’s the feel of the tune (the whole album, actually). The place is packed! Master of storytelling, captivating the audience, Tom Waits reels ’em in with this one. It’s actually the second track on the album, but now you’re hooked! It’s a live performance, and according to the album’s producer, for this very cool, low-down jazzy number, Waits “turned around to face the band and read the classified section of the paper while they played.” Only, the forecast was just letting you know what kind of a night you were in for. One of my favourite lines from the tune is, “When the thunderstorms start increasing over the southeastern, south-central portions of my apartment, I get upset.”
2. The Flaming Lips – A Spoonful Weighs a Ton
Sometimes I really wish popular music sounded more like The Flaming Lips! Their style of rockish/popish/psychedelic craziness is not only weird and bold, but it’s also catchy as hell! This tune has all the elements of good music, in my opinion. It’s not boring and repetitive, but it has simple themes mixed together in a musically complex way that makes you forget you’re listening to rock & roll. This tune also tells a story, only complimented by the changing forces in the music, from flute sounds and strings to the HUGE bassy synth chorus-sort-of-thing. I love music that can’t quite be classified and can still be very pleasing to listen to!
3. The Doobie Brothers – Takin’ It To The Streets
(Takin’ It To The Streets)
Now this is good rock & roll! Rhythm and blues, a little bit of funkiness with a Motown feel, even some gospel and topped off with a saxophone solo! Gotta have a saxophone solo! This is just a great tune! Another catchy-as-hell number, very typical of the Doobie Brothers’ style, this tune will be stuck in your head for a long while. Heck, I even have the chorus from this as my cell phone ring tone (nerdy, but awesome – I know).
4. Pharoah Sanders – The Creator Has A Master Plan
This is such a cool tune! Definitely not for the weak of heart (it’s 32 minutes and 48 seconds of free jazz), but I think it’s just fantastic! The feel of the tune changes a few times, and definitely has several themes going on throughout, but it’s interesting to note; despite the screeching saxophone and overload of percussion, despite the strange vocal noises, despite the huge walls of sound, you can actually walk away after this tune humming the main riff. Diving deep into those dark waters of ’60s experimentation, The Creator Has A Master Plan features Eastern influences and probably smells of incense and some other kind of smoke.
5. The Dave Brubeck Quartet – Take Five
There are a great many jazz tunes that we call “standards”, but only a few of those tunes are so instantly recognizable to everyone who has ever heard a jazz standard that they go on to become a definition of the very term “jazz”. Take Five is definitely one of those few. Written by saxophonist Paul Desmond and performed by Dave Brubeck’s already popular ensemble, Take Five also came to define the group, becoming their biggest hit. One of the things that makes Take Five so good, in my books, is that it’s catchy and it’s played really really well. The thing that makes it so catchy is largely its unusual feel. It’s written in 5/4 time (counted 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 1, 2, 3, etc.) rather than the far more popular 4/4 time (1, 2, 3, 4, 1, 2, etc.) found in most modern music. The other thing is its curious-sounding, easily hummed or whistled melody. This is another one of those tunes that you won’t be able to get out of your head for a while. But it’s so good, why would you want to?