1. The Legendary Marvin Pontiac | Runnin' Round
I love Lurie’s Music and much of what he did with The Lounge Lizards, but this is from my favorite Lurie record, his character Marvin Pontiac. Humor, groove, the way parts talk to each other, are all things very Lurie, but often overlooked is John Lurie’s social context. He is incredibly aware and smart of what is going on, and operates from heart. This song feels like him to me, in Manhattan, looking out his window, wondering what's happening to us and him and if it has any meaning. It's Lurie’s blood Blues, to me at least, he would probably disagree. I had the night of a lifetime playing this song at Town Hall at a celebration of Lurie, he actually came and played. He was so incredibly sweet to me, always has been. I was very nervous with all the musicians that were there, and playing in Town Hall. I'm used to playing at little clubs there in NYC and hustling to get anyone out. My guitar was out of tune and, after I played the opening riff and the bass came in, there was this chorus effect between the two of us that sent me into panic. But we made it anyhow and we got to the point of the arrangement where there was this little guitar solo with Medeski on organ and all I wanted to say just flew out of fingers at the same time. I don’t know how anyone else felt it, but it was a really special moment for me. At the end of the show we played with Lurie, another tune from the record, and it was this giant celebration of all these hero musicians of mine. Flea was up there, Doug Wieselman, Steven Bernstein. I was there because I fell in love with this record and wrote John a Love note about it.
2. Skip James | Hard Time Killing Floor Blues
You know that people... They are driftin' from door to door... But they can't find no heaven... I don't care where they go. This song moves everything every time. It's about everything and born from a Blues tradition that birthed Modern Music. It's what The Rolling Stones wish they could do.
3. John Zorn/The Dreamers | A Ride On Cottonfair
I love lots of Zorn, but this song is much of what he does that gets overlooked. Beautiful melody that dictates meter changes, it's smart and heady and human all together. Zorn destroys genre and the desperate idea that one can, and should, do one thing in Music. He does Music. Great musicians making great Music composed and performed with Wonder. It's simple but not common.
4. Les McCann & Eddie Harris | Compared To What (Roberta Flack Cover)
Jazz when it does what it can. Trying to make it real. That's something to be celebrated, trying to make something real through where you are directed. It's a fight and it's the good one. Les McCann and Eddie Harris had it on this performance, though neither wrote the song. The way the trumpet spits through the Silence on the stop time parts, it's the yell all of us want to howl but worry it's not right to. I have driven across many countries and tours listening to this song, through Northern Calirfornia where you feel like you are seeing the answer to the song’s question, or through Mexico City or past the shopping malls where you feel like you are yelling the chorus at the perpetrators. It's about what's happening, and it makes something new happen. Music when it's about Truth, the Soul’s way to fight back.
5. Wilco | Spiders (Kidsmoke)
Summer Anthem. This is what Modern Rock, Funk, Folk, Don’t Care Music could sound like. Made by white guys from Chicago, which is great. The feel and groove are colored by these Avant World Sounds and detuned bursts of guitar, it is a magic conversation happening in the Music. Webs and patterns and nothing overstated, just told, some Wonder Poetry spun over the big circle that turns and turns until it creates the energy to transcend itself and explode into whatever happens at 3:58 of this song, then again later. It's brave writing, but in the end it just feels like something I want to live.
6. Sly And The Family Stone | In Time
This whole record, Fresh, is incredible. It's like what Nature sounds like when at its best. Little calls tall out the trees, a wave hits your feet, something's chasing something, and the whole time it's just your heart beating you are hearing, but you’ve forgotten about that. The beat is you. It grooves so hard it's already in your blood.
7. John Coltrane | A Love Supreme: Part 1 - Acknowledgement
I lived in the South Baja in Mexico and was trying to get sober on my own. It ultimately didn’t work, but I would have a few good days at times, like being really awake, to a giant beautiful color dream and a treacherous war-life where you can’t breathe. But I would walk the beach at night, I remember at least a few instances, and listen to A Love Supreme... And, for moments, I could reflect on what was happening to me, how I had gotten so far down, and through that think about getting up.
8. Elliott Smith | Son Of Sam
Elliott Smith did so many things so beautifully with his Music. He was brilliant with melody and harmony and displaying and singing, but what's easily overlooked in the talk of Sadness and Suicide and Being a Musical Genius is that his Music was really talking about Time and Place and How We Feel. All his Music was just an extension of this experience that we are having in this weird society we have created that can ostracize the greatest in us. Checking into a small reality is a line from the song. I think of that every time I'm in traffic. And I see people yelling at their windows to get to a place they don’t want to go. Then the Happy Holidays section comes and there is this directly defiant, hopeful, knowing he’s a fighter Elliott that comes and the Music takes over. You see a big wide Hope there, a smart Hope. The idea that we know better, and we suffer but suffer more from knowing that we shouldn’t be. And then, better sell it while you can, and that's it. Because you won’t get away with this bullshit forever. That's what it's meant to me anyhow. I don’t know what it meant to Elliott. But I know it was about being real with what you see and feel. You cannot clothe what is really happening into a diluted song.
9. Curtis Mayfield | (Don't Worry) If There's A Hell Below We're All Going To Go
I learned about Life from Curtis Mayfield. This is powerful in all the senses of the word. It's what Music is when it reaches it's potential. Artists are so afraid of talking about what's really happening now because they are all just racing to get a piece. Curtis gave too much of a fuck to give a fuck about that. To me this is where Hip Hop came from, and I mostly lament where it has gone, but this is the Urban Experience of America, post Stevie Ray Vaughan whitening the Blues and turning it into Guitar Heroic Hollow Social Message Music. There was Funk. Funk didn’t just mean it grooved, it meant you believed in telling shit real and dancing it off. It's the same feeling I have when I hear Skip James, or Kerouac when he was really on. It's Sincerity at all costs.
10. Air | La Femme D’Argent
I heard this record, Moon Safari, for the first time when I was in High School. I feel like I've been trying to recreate it unknowingly since then. It's blue and dances, but has all these elements that could seem New Agey but I feel them like horn lines. It's the same arranging we’ve been doing from Duke Ellington to The Beach Boys, but this record was modern. It felt new and it made sense for the time. There’s this sense of the Digital Dark, like we are in this Age of Complete Anonymity and the Impossibility of Anonymity at the same time. You just drive or walk or move or whatever you do and there is this soundtrack playing. There’s Hope to it, like we don’t know all of it, or “they" don’t know all of it. That's Music’s great song - Possibility. You can’t politic it or pay it, educate it to death, it comes back and kicks the shit of people who do that.