Joshua: I was talking to my friend Jeff King a few weeks ago about this awesome blog and I mentioned that this month we were doing album-based lists. (No doubt you’ve read our first such list.) He mentioned that he has always thought that, as a general rule, track six on any given album has to be good. In his words, it has to be a linchpin to hold the album together, the track that makes sure you listen to the second half of the album. We here at Charm City Jukebox agree, and finding the subject so engaging, decided to write our own track six lists. And look for Jeff’s post on Friday!
“Once in a Lifetime” by Talking Heads, on Stop Making Sense
I’m of the belief this version of this song is the best single thing the Talking Heads has ever done, so I may be a little biased when including this into a list of track 6’s. But for serious. I mean, for realsies , when we talk of “game-changing” tracks on an album, this is the definition. It takes a good album and makes it into something truly special. This track nears live performance perfection simply because every member of the band is firing on all twelve cylinders (the Talking Heads obviously have a huge engine.) and manages to mesh in a way most bands could only dream of.
“Superstition” by Stevie Wonder, on Talking Book
I busted out all of my vinyl this week to create my list, as I felt just looking through my iTunes wouldn’t cut it this time. To my surprise and utter delight, this song is track six off of Talking Book, one of my personal favorite Wonder albums. It may be one of his most popular songs, but it’s freaking amazing. The horn lines alone make the whole album worth listening to over and over. Plus, how often do you get a pop song with a clavinet in the starring role?
“Kashmir” by Led Zeppelin, on Physical Graffiti
Ok, so I may have been a little harsh on this song in a previous post. But let’s be honest with ourselves here: The second side of Physical Graffiti might be the best side of a rock album ever pressed. And it’s wrapped up with one of the best rock opuses (opii? opusss? I got no clue.) ever written. It’s a shot across the bow for Zeppelin fans, signaling the apex of Zeppelin’s musical talent….Mostly because this album is followed by the god-awful In Through the Out Door and then John Bonham’s death.
“Born of a Broken Man” by Rage Against the Machine, on Battle of Los Angeles
A change for the album, as it starts with just one guitar with very few effects and no distortion. Then it crashes into the hook, a violently distorted syncopated line laden with string strums and badassness. It’s easily the most introspective song on the album, the message of the song being aided greatly by the effects laid upon the drum sounds, which sound as though they’re being played underwater two towns over. Many people I’ve talked to about this album seem to think this is the weakest song on the album, but I can’t disagree more vehemently. I think maybe it’s disliked because it’s simply tough to listen to. It’s not easy on the ears or the conscience.
“Fuck Her Gently” by Tenacious D, on Tenacious D
I’m so glad this was a track six. When I pulled out my vinyl copy of this album (yes, jackass, I do have a copy of this album on vinyl. It was a wonderfully thoughtful gift from an ex-girlfriend and I play it all the time. Deal with it.) I was delighted to see it in the six-slot because I get to talk about the song I played on guitar probably more often than any other song combined (besides maybe “Tribute”). It’s hilarious and infectious. If you don’t mind profanity, it’s the song for you. Plus, Jack Black has one of the most precise voices in music, so it’s a vocal treat. And, remember fellas, it’s important to ball your lady discreetly when she wants it.
“Loco de Amor,” by David Byrne, on Rei Momo
Rei Momo is a magical album and like David Byrne himself, it’s aged scary well (Seriously—throw some hair dye and a giant suit at the guy and you’ve got “Stop Making Sense.” And that was 28 years ago.) It’s fun swirling genre-spanning David Bryne madness, and lacks the “attempting esoteric but landing at borderline Lite FM” quality of some of Byrne’s later solo efforts (See “Like Humans Do”). After the first track you’ll know you’re in it for the long haul with this album, and “Loco De Amor” is just more proof, albeit bright happy get-up-and-dance-around-your-office proof.
“Pavlov’s Bell,” by Aimee Mann, on Lost in Space
I’ve learned a really important thing from writing for this blog: I have no idea what any of Aimee Mann’s songs are about. I’ve been listening to her relentlessly for years, bopping my head and hitting replay, muttering her very quotable refrains to myself, relating. And then I started reading her lyrics, which have a Dream Songs level of “here are some images and maybe a theme and a sharp left turn and BAM” quality to them that’s hidden in her charming voice and solid pop predilictions. So here’s a song, I think it’s about drug addiction, or maybe having an affair, but in the end like much of Mann’s work, it’s stuck-in-your-head for days good, so who cares?
“Fu-Gee-La,” by The Fugees, on The Score
Classic Fugees. Tightly packed raps, and Lauryn Hill’s voice drizzled through the refrain like warm honey. If you hit play on this one, expect to spend the next several hours listening to the Fugees. In two days when you’ve done a full circle through the Fugees and The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill and you’re feeling blue, share a moment with Talib and get “Ms. Hill” stuck in your head. He gets it.
“So It Goes,” by Nick Lowe, on Jesus of Cool
A great song from an underrated classic. When I saw Nick Lowe two years ago, all the hipster girls wore cut off Day Glo shirts that read Pure Pop for Now People, the revised US title for Jesus of Cool. I always preferred the title Jesus of Cool, and not just because it’s the original title of the album, and not in a “I know things, girls in Day Glo shirts, I know Lowe things” way, but just because Pure Pop for Now People reeks of New Wave wordplay. Nothing against New Wave (you all know I’m blasting Flock of Seagulls RIGHT NOW) but I see Nick Lowe as something more. A shining example of what pop music could be and usually isn’t. The Jesus of Cool, perhaps?
“I Just Want to Make Love to You,” by Etta James, on At Last!
I was so excited to find out that this song was a Track 6. At Last! is a fascinating album. It was Etta James’ first album of 33 (Live and studio—throw in compilations and it practically doubles), yet almost all of her most iconic songs are on it: I Just Want to Make Love to You, At Last, Sunday Kind of Love. This is one of my all time favorite songs. From the horns at the beginning, to James’ voice that moves from gruff to sweet and back again, to the straight forward seductiveness of the lyrics—it’s another Etta James gem from the very first Etta James masterpiece.