12/02/2021: “Away With Your Fussing And Fighting” by Junior Delgado

“How can we have some fun? When rebel a buss dem gun?”

70s Jamaica was often a conflict ridden place. But people were just trying to live their lives – and some of the best music and soundsystems are from that decade.

Junior Delgado is legendary Roots artist, and he speaks powerfully on the troubles of his surroundings.

The version has all kinds of subtle touches. The guitar skanks pulse and flash with vibrancy and fluidity, the backing vocals and horns add colourful stridency, the percussion trills. And, of course, the bass is punchier than Mike Tyson.

The song was released on Augustus Pablo’s Rockers label in 1979. Pablo also produced the track, accounting for the sheer musicality of the cut!

01/02/2021: “Do The Strand” by Roxy Music

What an opening. The tension builds from the start, as the ominous piano vamp strains into the launch.

From that point, you’re treated to some arty singing from Bryan Ferry, a blast of sax goodness, and some brilliant guitar shredding.

It’s a wall of sound, from the punchy bassline to the squealing synths. But it’s all still marshalled together elegantly.

Released in 1973 as a single, the song appears on For Your Pleasure.

30/01/2021: “Party Of Special Things To Do” by Captain Beefheart and The Magic Band

Captain Beefheart is weird. Maybe that’s why he often created music which nobody else had thought of before.

His distinctive gravelly voice spells out a psychedelic vision of a party, half Alice in Wonderland, half Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.

I’ve got no clue what he’s on about, to be honest. However, when accompanied by the intensely bluesy backdrop on this track, it all becomes strangely pleasant.

A lazy drum groove sets the languid pace, as the funky bass cavorts happily with the guitar. It’s a masterclass in syncopated cool…

Released in 1974 on Bluejeans & Moonbeams, the song is one of the better tracks on an album largely considered to be directionless. Although it still inspired Kate Bush. Not a bad achievement!

The White Stripes released a suitably abrasive cover of the song in 2000, all distorted guitar and face slapping snare hits. In classic Stripes style, it is brilliant.

29/01/2021: “Satisfy My Soul” by Bob Marley

Out of a long and distinguished body of work, this remains one of Bob Marley’s most enduring songs.

It’s obvious from the lyrics that the track is derived from ‘Don’t Rock My Boat’, from Soul Revolution, released 1971.

The recording here is rich, with crisp horns and a tight bassline, as opposed to the rawer, perhaps more soulful original.

But what the newer version does have is a spiritually soothing easiness. It’s like sonic vicks, clearing bad vibes with every note.

The song appears on 1978’s Kaya, Bob’s 10th studio album. Even the title track of that LP is also from Soul Revolution, but I love both the clean, mellow update, and the original gritty roots standard.

20/01/2021: “Earth” by Joe Henderson featuring Alice Coltrane

Anything Alice Coltrane touches is usually pretty brilliant. That cosmic outlook on life and music soaks into every note!

Despite being supremely talented herself, a high quality collaboration never goes amiss. You could certainly say Joe Henderson is high quality, and his composition skills are ably augmented with Coltrane’s playing abilities.

And his own, of course. Henderson is one of the most important sax players of post-war Jazz, and his skill is obvious here as he deftly blazes over the Eastern inspired backdrop.

Unusually for a jazz song, but not unusually for a work of this experimental scope, the drums are genuinely groovy – it’s a sick swinging beat!

You can find the piece on 1974’s classic The Elements. The whole affair is a journey through time and space, my favourite kind of jazz!

19/01/2021: “Slow Death” by The Flamin’ Groovies

Does it get more classic than this? Everything about this song is pure rock gold.

The hyperactive bassline, splashing drums and ‘rockstar’ vocals are all great, sure.

But they’re all window dressing to that smashing guitar riff!

The song was released in 1972 as a single, then re-recorded for the 1986 album One Night Stand. The Dictators covered the tune in 1978, adding an edge, but I much prefer the original.

14/01/2021: “Born To Lose” by Johnny Thunders & The Heartbreakers

American Punk Rock icon Johnny Thunders rose to fame with the New York Dolls.

It’s a shame that his major project after that, The Heartbreakers, was beset with difficulties and fizzled out. Not least their album, L.A.M.F., released in 1977. Malcolm McClaren, naturally, was involved…

The sound, even by the standards of Punk, was roundly slammed for being badly mixed and muddy.

To be honest though, this one is still a raucous, foot stomping punk rock classic.

The furious guitar work, ranging from rock ‘n’ roll riffing to punk shredding, elevates the piece, while the vocals add extra energy and passion.

11/01/2021: “Wizard Of Finance” by Parliament

This is a cute song. The lyrics say that if the singer was a rich man, he’d blow it all on buying flowers for the woman and ‘invest my life in you’.

That’s an adorable sentiment. And, because this is a Parliament song, there’s obscene quantities of funkiness to back it up!

The squelchy bassline is a stunner, and the trademark P-Funk squeals give it that Parliament flavour. There’s a lot of saxophone work on the track too, adding to the romantic vibe.

The song came out in 1977 on Funkentelechy vs The Placebo Syndrome.

09/01/2020: “Me And My Woman” by Shuggie Otis

“Me And My Woman” is the only song on 1971’s Freedom Flight not credited to Shuggie Otis. It was written instead by Gene Barge, a sax player.

The song is driven funky monster, with a boogieing keyboard bassline and hyperactive guitar. It’s about an up and down relationship, full of highs and lows.

The song is elegant and smartly performed, defying easy pigeonholing. Is it funky blues, or bluesy funk?

The maddest thing is that, apart from playing a wide selection of instruments throughout the album, Otis was 15 when it was released!

30/12/2020: “Marquee Moon” by Television

In the 70s, the golden age of classic rock, you could do a 10 minute song and not raise too many eyebrows.

If the Arctic Monkeys or another modern rock band made a habit of releasing 10 minute tracks, they’d probably be panned as grandiose and prententious – times have changed.

But, key in the 70s as now, is having enough coherent material to fill the time convincingly. That’s what sets the epics from the slogs.

Funnily enough, the wider album, Marquee Moon, released 1977, is often cited as a seminal post-punk work. But to me, this song is more like prog rock. Certainly, the band were musically trained to degrees the average punk outfit would spit at!

Lyrically, I can’t understand what he’s saying. Don’t care really, as the guitar is what gives the song its flavour.

There’s catchy pop riffs, sprawling solos, sly hooks. The particular ‘step’ of the bassline makes the song almost danceable, rare for an undertaking of this kind…

The band sparked reams of florid critical praise for the album, but for me, this is the standout track.